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South Africa Country Profile

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South Africa at a Glance

Location:Southern Africa, at the southern tip of the continent of Africa
Climate:mostly semiarid; subtropical along east coast; sunny days, cool nights
Terrain:vast interior plateau rimmed by rugged hills and narrow coastal plain
Resources:gold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas
Hazards:prolonged droughts
Population:49,052,489




A Brief Profile of South Africa

Dutch traders landed at the southern tip of modern day South Africa in 1652 and established a stopover point on the spice route between the Netherlands and the East, founding the city of Cape Town. After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch settlers (the Boers) trekked north to found their own republics. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Boers resisted British encroachments but were defeated in the Boer War (1899-1902); however, the British and the Afrikaners, as the Boers became known, ruled together under the Union of South Africa. In 1948, the National Party was voted into power and instituted a policy of apartheid - the separate development of the races. The first multi-racial elections in 1994 brought an end to apartheid and ushered in black majority rule under the African National Congress (ANC). ANC infighting, which has grown in recent years, came to a head in September 2008 after President Thabo MBEKI resigned. Kgalema MOTLANTHE, the party's General-Secretary, succeeded as interim president until general elections scheduled for 2009.






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