Hard Facts and Figures
IsiZulu 22.7%, IsiXhosa 16%, Afrikaans 13.5%, Sepedi 9.1%, English 9.6%, Setswana 8%, Sesotho 7.6%, Xitsonga 4.5%, siSwati 2.5%, Tshivenda 2.4%, isiNdebele 2.1%, other 1.6% (2011)
Black African 79.2%, White 8.9%, Colored 8.9%, Indian/Asian 2.5%, Other 0.5% (2011)
Zionist Christian 11.1%, Pentecostal/Charismatic 8.2%, Methodist 6.8%, Dutch Reformed 6.7%, Anglican 3.8%, Catholic 7.1%, Muslim 1.5%, other Christian 36%, other 2.3%, unspecified 1.4%, none 15.1% (2001)
93% (2011 est.)
GDP/PPP (2013 est.): $595.7 billion; per capita $11,500. Real growth rate: 2%. Inflation: 5.8%. Unemployment: 24.9%. Arable land: 9.87%. Agriculture: corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables; beef, poultry, mutton, wool, dairy products. Labor force: 18.54 million (2013 est.); agriculture 9%, industry 26%, services 65% (2007 est.). Industries: mining (world's largest producer of platinum, gold, chromium), automobile assembly, metalworking, machinery, textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizer, foodstuffs, commercial ship repair. Natural resources: gold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, rare earth elements, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas. Exports: $91.05 billion (2013 est.): gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment. Imports: $99.55 billion (2013 est.): machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, scientific instruments, foodstuffs. Major trading partners: U.S., Japan, Germany, China, India, Saudi Arabia (2012).
Telephones: main lines in use: 4.03 million (2012); mobile cellular: 68.4 million (2012). Radio broadcast stations: AM 14, FM 347 (plus 243 repeaters), shortwave 1 (2007). Radios: 17 million (2001). Television broadcast stations: 556 (plus 144 network repeaters) (1997). Televisions: 6 million (2000). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 4.761 million (2012). Internet users: 4.42 million (2009).
Railways: total: 20,192 km (2008). Highways: total: 364,131 km; paved: 62,995 km (including 254 km of expressways); unpaved: 301,136 km (2002). Ports and harbors: Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Richards Bay, Saldanha Bay. Airports: 566 (2013).
South Africa has placed military units to assist police operations along the border of Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique to control smuggling, poaching, and illegal migration; the governments of South Africa and Namibia have not signed or ratified the text of the 1994 Surveyor's General agreement placing the boundary in the middle of the Orange River.
The climate in South Africa ranges from desert and semi-desert in the north west of the country to sub-tropical on the eastern coastline. The rainy season for most of the country is in the summer, except in the Western Cape where the rains come in the winter. Rainfall in the Eastern Cape is distributed evenly throughout the year. Winter temperatures hover around zero, summers can be very hot, in excess of 35° Celsius (90°F) in some places.
The South African Weather Service provides up-to-date weather information, forecasts and satellite imaging. SAWS has also implemented a network of high-resolution Doppler radars to improve the quality of its forecasts. Unfortunately, SAWS radar imaging is not syndicated to commercial news services and is thus difficult to find online.
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The public holidays in South Africa are:
New Year's Day (1 January)
Human Rights Day (21 March)
Easter weekend (4-day long weekend in March/April) - Consisting of "Good Friday", "Easter Saturday", "Easter Sunday", and "Easter Monday", the dates are set according to the Western Christian tradition.
Freedom Day (27 April)
Workers Day (1 May)
Youth Day (16 June)
Woman's Day (9 August)
Heritage Day (24 September)
Day of Reconciliation (16 December) - see Bloodriver.
Christmas Day (25 December)
Day of Goodwill (26 December) - Often referred to as 'Boxing Day'.
If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, then the Monday following will be a holiday
School holidays occur early December to middle January, early in April, middle June to middle July and late September. Most South Africans go on leave during these times and accommodation will be harder to find.
Regions of South Africa
Pretoria the administrative capital of the country. Johannesburg is the seat the provincial government, also the economic heart of Africa and the most common entry point into Southern Africa.
Cape Town, the mother city, the legislative capital and seat of Parliament, with famous landmarks as Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope. The winelands near Stellenbosch, the Whale Coast along the Overberg, Agulhas where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meet and the Cape Floral Region. The Garden Route, one of the top destinations, running along the Southern Coast from Mossel Bay to Port Elizabeth, with cities like Knysna and ostrich capital Oudtshoorn.
The remainder of the Garden Route, known as the Tsitsikamma. The former homelands, the Wild Coast, spectacular coastlines without the tourist crowd. Superb beaches in Port Elizabeth, East London and Jeffreys Bay, the surfing mecca of South Africa. Great parks like Addo Elephant National Park and Tsitsikamma National Park.
Capital Kimberley, famous for its diamonds and the "Big Hole". Biggest province with fewest people, Upington is the second big city, a good base when exploring the Kalahari desert, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and the Augrabies Falls on the Orange River. Also Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park and the semi-desert Karoo.
Capital Bloemfontein which also hosts the Supreme Court of Appeal, the highest court in non-constitutional matters (the Constitutional Court is in Johannesburg since 1994). The world heritage site Vredefort Dome, remnants of the largest and oldest meteorite impact crater.
Durban, the largest city in the province and second largest in South Africa and popular coastal holiday destination for South Africans. The Drakensberg mountain range, if you like hiking and also the Tugela Falls, the world's second highest waterfall.
Rustenburg, famous for Sun City and Pilanesberg Game Reserve.
Capital Nelspruit, gateway to Mozambique and southern section of the Kruger National Park. The Drakensberg Escarpment with the Blyde River Canyon is the third largest Canyon in the world.
Capital Polokwane (formally known as Pietersburg) a good jump off point for visits to the northern parts of the Kruger National Park and Zimbabwe.