|Republic of South Africa Former name (1910--61): Union of South Africa a republic occupying the southernmost part of the African continent: the Dutch Cape Colony (1652) was acquired by Britain in 1806 and British victory in the Boer War resulted in the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, which became a republic in 1961; implementation of the apartheid system began in 1948 and was abolished, following an intense civil rights campaign, in 1993, with multiracial elections held in 1994; a member of the Commonwealth, it withdrew in 1961 but was re-admitted in 1994. Mainly plateau with mountains in the south and east. Mineral production includes gold, diamonds, coal, and copper. Official languages: Afrikaans; English; Ndebele; Pedi; South Sotho; Swazi; Tsonga; Tswana; Venda; Xhosa; Zulu. Religion: Christian majority. Currency: rand. Capitals: Cape Town (legislative), Pretoria (administrative), Bloemfontein (judicial). Pop: 45 214 000 (2004 est). Area: 1 221 044 sq km (471 445 sq miles)|
Officially the Republic of South Africa, a nation at the southern tip of Africa spanning the Cape of Good Hope where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean. It is bordered by Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe to the north, and Mozambique to the northeast. Its capitals are Pretoria for its administrative government and Cape Town for its legislature. (See also Johannesburg.)
Note: Dutch settlers, known as Boers, were the first Europeans to migrate in large numbers to the territories that now make up South Africa. Britain was granted the territory surrounding the Cape of Good Hope at the Congress of Vienna, and friction between the British and Dutch remained a constant in the region. Tensions were increased by the discovery of gold and diamonds in the late nineteenth century and came to a head in the Boer War (1899–1902), in which the British defeated the Dutch-descended Afrikaners.
Note: South Africa's policy of apartheid, the aggressive separation of the races and enforcement of the inferior political status of all nonwhites, was the hallmark of its internal political system. South Africa's race policies became the subject of international protest and economic sanctions.
Note: Black South Africans, who constitute approximately seventy percent of the nation, protested the racist policies of the white minority through organizations such as the African National Congress (ANC), headed by Nelson Mandela, who spent much of his life in jail as a political prisoner.
Note: Under President F. W. De Klerk, the white minority government released Mandela from jail in 1990 and repealed some of the major laws establishing apartheid. In 1994, the ANC triumphed in elections and Mandela became president. As president, Mandela appointed a truth commission to document human-rights abuses under apartheid.