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South Africa

  • 2,780,400 kmē
  • 34°00'S
  • 64°00'W
  • 2,736,690 kmē
  • 43,710 kmē
  • 9,861 km
  • 4,989 km
  • 15,500 kmē
  • 41,769,726
  • Buenos Aires
  • 9 July 1816
South Africa Map
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South Africa Map

South Africa is a land of great scenic beauty with dramatic cloud-topped mountains, steep-sided valleys and vast, dusty plains. In its national parks endangered species such as elephants and rhinoceroses are actually increasing in number. Along the east coast are sandy bays and above them pineapples, oranges and mangoes flourish in the warm, sunny climate. In the south are forests of cedar, while on the northwest borders parched scrub gives way to desert. Cape Town, South Africa's legislative capital and oldest city, lies at the foot of Table Mountain. Pretoria is South Africa's administrative capital. The country attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists from around the world every year.

A wealth of minerals is buried in rocks of South Africa. It was the discovery of diamonds and gold that attracted a rush of European fortune- hunters in the 1800's. The Europeans conquered the African peoples or bought their lands. They dug mines and made South Africa the richest and most highly developed country in the continent. Yet the wealth has benefited only a minority because in 1950 the white government brought into force the policy of apartheid (racial segregation). This separated blacks from whites and refused them equal rights. Almost the whole world spoke out against the cruelty of this regime, which left millions of people in abject poverty. The democratic elections of 1994 gave South Africa a majority black government, which brought hope and a new sense of co-operation to all its ethnic groups.

For many visitors the first sight of South Africa is the beautiful city of Cape Town. Right at the tip of the continent, it shimmers beneath the dramatic backdrop of Table Mountain. Most of the coast is overlooked by mountains, the towering Drakensberg range rising steeply in the east. The wilderness of the Namib Desert borders the mighty northwest coast.