South Africa profile – BBC News

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South Africa has one of the largest and most developed economies on the continent.

For approximately 40 years, the country was ruled by a white minority government, when the National Party came to power in 1948 and imposed its policy of apartheid, which legally institutionalized existing racial segregation.

After decades of international isolation, armed opposition and mass protests, discriminatory laws began to be repealed starting in the late 1980s. The country held its first universal elections in 1994.

Democratically elected leaders encouraged reconciliation and set about correcting social imbalances, but the economy struggled.

In 2022, the World Economic Forum warned that South Africa was at risk of state collapse, with record levels of unemployment, high crime rates, unsustainable public spending, poorly managed institutions and corruption.

REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA: FACTS

  • Capital: Pretoria (executive), Cape Town (legislative), Bloemfontein (judicial)
  • Area: 1,221,037 km²
  • Population: 60.6 million
  • LANGUAGES : Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, English, Sepedi, Swazi, Sesotho, Setswana, Xitsonga, Tshivenda, Ndebele
  • Life expectancy: 60 years (men) 67 years (women)

CHIEF

President: Cyril Ramaphosa

Image source, Getty Images

Cyril Ramaphosa was elected president by Parliament in February 2018 after the resignation of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, following allegations of corruption.

A successful but sometimes controversial businessman, Mr Ramaphosa was chosen as leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) a few months earlier.

He inherited a struggling economy, a divided party and a deep-rooted corruption problem.

Unlike many senior party officials of his generation, Mr Ramaphosa was not forced into exile for opposing apartheid.

He fought the injustices of the white minority in South Africa, notably defending the rights of black miners as leader of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

He was heavily involved in negotiations to end apartheid and played an important role in drafting South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution.

After failing to become President Nelson Mandela’s deputy, Mr Ramaphosa withdrew from active politics to concentrate on business.

He returned as vice president in 2014, before eventually taking over as CEO from scandal-wracked Mr. Zuma. He passed his first test when the ANC won the May 2019 parliamentary elections, although its vote share of 58% represented its narrowest margin of victory since the end of apartheid.

Image source, Getty Images

South Africa is the continent’s leading media player, and its media and press reflect the diversity of its population.

Established national public and commercial television, with hundreds of thousands of viewers subscribing to satellite and cable. MultiChoice, based in South Africa, markets satellite pay television in dozens of African countries.

CHRONOLOGY

Image source, Getty Images

Legend,

South Africa’s white minority government has resisted popular protests against its rule for many years.

Some key events in South African history:

4th century – Migrants from the north settle, joining the indigenous San and Khoikhoi peoples.

1497 – Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama arrives on the coast of Natal.

1652 – Jan van Riebeeck, representing the Dutch East India Company, founded the Cape Colony at Table Bay.

1795 – British forces capture the Cape Colony in the Netherlands. The territory was returned to the Dutch in 1803; ceded to the British in 1806.

1816-1826 – Shaka Zulu founds and expands the Zulu empire, creates a formidable fighting force.

1835-1840 – The Boers leave the Cape Colony during the “Great Trek” and found the Orange Free State and the Transvaal.

1867 – Diamonds discovered in Kimberley.

1877 – Great Britain annexes the Transvaal.

1879 – The British defeat the Zulus in Natal.

1880-81 – The Boers rebel against the British, sparking the First Anglo-Boer War. The conflict ends with a negotiated peace. The Transvaal is restored as a republic.

1880s – Gold is discovered in the Transvaal, sparking a gold rush.

1899 – Start of the Second Anglo-Boer War.

1902 – The Treaty of Vereeniging ends the Second Anglo-Boer War. The Transvaal and the Orange Free State became self-governing colonies of the British Empire.

1910 – Formation of the Union of South Africa by the former British colonies of Cape and Natal, as well as the Boer republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State.

1912 – Creation of the Native National Congress, later renamed African National Congress (ANC).

1913 – Introduction of a land law to prevent black South Africans, except those living in the Cape Province, from purchasing land outside reserves.

1914 – Foundation of the National Party.

1919 – After the First World War, the former German territory of South West Africa, today Namibia, came under South African administration.

1948 – Policy of apartheid (separation) adopted when the National Party (NP) took power.

1950 – Population classified by race. The Group Areas Act was passed to separate blacks and whites. Communist Party banned. The ANC responded with a campaign of civil disobedience, led by Nelson Mandela.

1960 – 69 black demonstrators killed in Sharpeville. The ANC is banned.

1961 – South Africa is declared a republic and leaves the Commonwealth. Mandela leads the new military wing of the ANC, which launches a campaign of sabotage.

1960s – Start of international pressure against the government, South Africa excluded from the Olympic Games.

1964 – ANC leader Nelson Mandela sentenced to life in prison.

1970s – More than three million people forcibly resettled in black “homelands”.

1976 – More than 600 dead in clashes between black demonstrators and security forces during the uprising which began in Soweto.

1984-89 – Township revolt, state of emergency.

1989 – FW de Klerk replaces PW Botha as president. Desegregated public facilities. Many ANC activists were released.

1990 – End of the ban on the ANC. Nelson Mandela released after 27 years in prison. Namibia becomes independent.

1991 – Start of multi-party talks. De Klerk repeals remaining apartheid laws and international sanctions are lifted. Major fighting between the ANC and the Zulu Inkatha movement.

1994 – The ANC wins the first non-racial elections. Nelson Mandela becomes president and leads a government of national unity. Commonwealth membership was restored and remaining sanctions lifted. South Africa takes seat in the UN General Assembly after 20 years of absence.

1996 – The Truth and Reconciliation Commission chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu begins hearings into human rights crimes committed by the former government and liberation movements during the apartheid period.

1998 – The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report describes apartheid as a crime against humanity and declares the ANC responsible for human rights violations.

2010 – South Africa hosts the FIFA World Cup.

2013 – Nelson Mandela died at the age of 95.

2014 – Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius – nicknamed the “Blade Runner” because of his prosthetics – is sentenced to five years in prison for the murder of his girlfriend.

2018 – President Zuma resigns under pressure from the ruling ANC following accusations of corruption, which chooses veteran trade unionist and businessman Cyril Ramaphosa as his successor.

2022 – The World Economic Forum warns that South Africa’s state is at risk of collapse due to unsustainable government spending, high unemployment and crumbling infrastructure.

Image source, Getty Images

Legend,

Nelson Mandela, icon of the struggle against apartheid, was released after 27 years in prison and became a revered statesman.

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