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South Africa

South Africa is located in the southern part of the African continent, at the southern tip.
It is surrounded by two oceans: Atlantic in the west and Indian in the east.
In the north it borders Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe and in the north-east Mozambique and Swaziland.
South Africa’s population is of 47 million people: 76% black, 14%white, 10% coloured of mixed origins. The African majority includes different ethnic groups.
There are 11 official languages so there are 11 official names for South Africa, one in each language. The most spoken languages are English and Afrikaan which derives from Dutch. They are mostly the languages of commerce.
South Africa is such a mix of races and languages that it is called “The Rainbow Nation”. This definition is a hope and a promise of union: different people who can live together.
The national flag has six colours on it (green, red, gold, black, white, blue). It represents the idea of Union in Diversity: a “V” sign which converges in one line, like “one road”.
The country has been a Republic since 1961. There are three capital cities: Cape Town (legislative – seat of Parliament), Pretoria (administrative), Bloemfontain (judicial). An other big and important city is Johannesburg.
South Africa is one of the world’s major producers and exporters of gold, diamonds and platinum.
There are beautiful National Parks (like Kruger National Park, Kalahari Gemsbok Park) where you can see wild animals in their natural environment. The best time to visit for a safari is from May to August when it is easier to see animals (the Big Five: lion, African elephant, African buffalo, leopard, black rhinoceros).
The climate varies from region to region buti it is generally temperate and dry.
History hints: South Africa has been important for Europen countries since the 16th century because it was on the route to India. The Cape of Good Hope, in fact, was so called because it represented a promise of riches, wealth in India.
First arrived the Dutch and settled in lands which were already inhabited by native African tribes. The descendants of Dutch people were called Boers or Afrikaners.
In 1806 the British arrived and founded a colony in the area of Cape Town. There were conflicts between the Europeans and the native populations and also between the British and the Boers when gold and diamonds were found.
The British ruled until South Africa got independence in 1948.

The Apartheid system

The people of South Africa have been victims of the most abominable regime based on ratial discrimination. The life of an individual was determined by his skin.
Apartheid means “separation”. This system of laws was adopted in South Africa after the independence in 1948 by the Afrikaner National Party: the rights of black people were not the same as the rights of white people.
According to the Apartheid laws each coloured group had separate institutions, lived in separate areas, went to separate schools, worked in separate places. Blacks lived in separate “slums” created by the government. Mixed marriages were illegal. Only whites could vote.
Blacks were the 80% of the population but lived in only the 15% of the land while the Whites were the 20% of the population but occupied the 80% of the area. If you were living in the “wrong”area, you had to move. Blacks had to carry with them a pass (for identification) when they crossed a white area. If they didn’t they could be imprisoned.
Nelson Mandela was a strong opponent to Apartheid laws. He was born in South Africa in 1918 from a Tembou tribe which was an important, aristocratic native tribe but when the British arrived it was deprived of its rights and of its land.
Mandela studied in South Africa and became a lawyer in 1942. He was a political activist for the African National Congress (ANC), a party which opposed Apartheid.
Mandela was inspired by Gandhi in his non-violent policy against Apartheid. For his opposition to the regime he was put in prison and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964.
He stayed in prison for nearly 30 years and during that time he was supported by South African people but also by lots of people all over the world who were against Apartheid. The protest grew stronger and stronger until he was released from prison in 1990.
In 1994 he was elected 11th President of South Africa with the first multi-ratial elections in the history of this country (1994 -1999). He received the Nobel Prize in 1993.
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