South Africa grows to 51.7-million

30 October 2012

South Africa’s population grew by 15.5%, or almost 7-million people, in the space of 10 years to reach a total of 51.7-million in 2011, according to the country’s latest national census.

The results of census 2011, released in Pretoria on Tuesday, show the country’s population standing at 51 770 560 in October 2011, when Statistics South Africa deployed over 150 000 enumerators, co-ordinators and supervisors in the country’s third population count since democratic elections were first held in 1994.

The 2001 census had counted 44.8-million South Africans, a 10.4% increase over the 40.5-million counted in 1996.

Population by province

Gauteng province, the country’s geographically smallest but economically busiest province, has both the biggest and the fastest growing population, according to census 2011, with 12.2-million people counted in 2011 – a 33.7% increase over 2001, more than double the national average increase.

In terms of population size, Gauteng is followed by KwaZulu-Natal (10.2-million people), the Eastern Cape (6.5-million), the Western Cape (5.8-million) and Limpopo province (5.4-million).

In terms of rate of growth, however, the second-fastest growing province is the Western Cape, with a 28.7% increase over 2001, followed by Mpumalanga, whose population grew by 20% to 4.0-million in 2011.

South Africa’s largest province by land area, the arid Northern Cape, is the country’s smallest by population size. However, the province did reverse its negative growth rate of -2% between 1996 and 2001, growing by 15.5% to 1.1-million people in 2011.

Population groups

According to census 2011’s breakdown by population group, there was little change from 2001, except for the white population decreasing from 9.6% to 8.9% of the total.

Black South Africans constituted 79.2% of the country’s total population in 2011 (up from 79.0% in 2001), coloured South Africans made up 8.9% of the total (unchanged from 2001), and Indian/Asian South Africans made up 2.5% (unchanged from 2001). “Other” population group, not counted in 2001, made up 0.5% of the total in 2011.


When it comes to languages, isiZulu remains the most common home language, spoken by nearly 22.7% of South Africans (down from 23.8% in 2001), census 2011 found.

IsiXhosa was the second-most spoken home language at 16.0% (down from 17.6% in 2001), followed by Afrikaans at 13.5% (up from 13.3%) and English at 9.6% (up from 8.2%).

Sepedi is the home language of 9.1% of South Africans (down from 9.4% in 2001), followed by Setswana at 8.0% (down from 8.2%), Sesotho at 7.6% (down from 7.9%), and Xitsonga at 4.5% (down from 4.4%).

SAinfo reporter