South Africa: fast facts

South African facts at your fingertips. Get information on the country’s population, languages, geography, climate, system of government and more.

The flag of South Africa. (Image: South African Tourism)

Compiled by Mary Alexander

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Key facts

  • Official name: Republic of South Africa
  • Population: 51.8-million (Census 2011) • 56.5-million (2017 mid-year population estimates)
  • Currency: Rand (ZAR). One rand (R) = 100 cents
  • Time: Two hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)
  • Measures: metric system
  • Internet domain: .za

Geography

  • Capital cities: Pretoria (administrative), Cape Town (legislative), Bloemfontein (judicial)
  • Land area: 1,219,090 square kilometres
  • Coastline: 2,798 kilometres
  • Neighbouring countries: Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho
  • Oceans: Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean
  • Climate: Temperate

Population

According to the most recent census, Census 2011, South Africa’s population stands at 51,770,560 people. The 2017 mid-year population estimate puts it at 56.5-million.

CENSUS 2011
Population groupNumber% of total
African41 000 93879.2%
Coloured4 615 4018.9%
White4 586 8388.9%
Indian/Asian1 286 9302.5%
TOTAL51 770 560100%

Source: Statistics South Africa


Languages

South Africa’s Constitution recognises 11 official languages, to which it guarantees equal status.

SOUTH AFRICAN LANGUAGES 2011
LanguageNumber of speakers*% of total
Afrikaans6 855 08213.5%
English4 892 6239.6%
isiNdebele1 090 2232.1%
isiXhosa8 154 25816%
isiZulu11 587 37422.7%
Sepedi4 618 5769.1%
Sesotho3 849 5637.6%
Setswana4 067 2488%
Sign language234 6550.5%
SiSwati1 297 0462.5%
Tshivenda1 209 3882.4%
Xitsonga2 277 1484.5%
Other828 2581.6%
TOTAL50 961 443**100%

* Spoken as a home language
** Unspecified and not applicable are excluded
Source:
Census 2011

Provinces

South Africa has nine provinces, which vary considerably in size.

PROVINCES BY LAND AREA
ProvinceArea% of total
Eastern Cape169 580 km²13.9%
Free State129 480 km²10.6%
Gauteng17 010 km²1.4%
KwaZulu-Natal92 100 km²7.6%
Limpopo123 910 km²10.2%
Mpumalanga79 490 km²6.5%
Northern Cape361 830 km²29.7%
North West116 320 km²9.5%
Western Cape129 370 km²10.6%
TOTAL1 219 090 km²100%

 

PROVINCES BY POPULATION
CENSUS 2011
ProvincePopulation% of total
Eastern Cape6 562 05312.7%
Free State2 745 5905.3%
Gauteng12 272 26323.7%
KwaZulu-Natal10 267 30019.8%
Limpopo5 404 86810.4%
Mpumalanga4 039 9397.8%
Northern Cape1 145 8612.2%
North West3 509 9536.8%
Western Cape5 822 73411.3%
TOTAL51 770 560100%

Source: Statistics South Africa

Democracy

  • Government: Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic
  • National legislature: Bicameral Parliament elected every five years, comprising a 400-seat National Assembly and a 90-seat National Council of Provinces.
  • Electoral system: List-system of proportional representation based on universal adult suffrage.
  • Elections: National elections were held in 1994, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014. The next national election will take place in 2019.
  • Head of state: The President is elected by the National Assembly. Under the Constitution, the President is permitted to serve a maximum of two five-year terms.
  • Highest court: Constitutional Court

Education

School life spans 13 years or grades, from grade 0, otherwise known as grade R or “reception year”, through to grade 12 or “matric” – the year of matriculation.

Under the South African Schools Act of 1996, education is compulsory for all South Africans from the age of seven (grade 1) to age 15, or the completion of grade 9.

According to Census 2011, the percentage of people aged 20 or older who have higher education increased from 8.4% in 2001 to 12.1% in 2011 The number of those who matriculated increased from 20.4% to 28.5%. Those who had no schooling at all decreased from 17.9% to 8.6%.

Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See Using Brand South Africa material. Source: South Africa gateway