South Africa

Map of South Africa

South Africa’s most prominent feature is its diversity: nine provinces stretching from forest to desert, eleven national languages, three national capital cities and well over 50 million people belonging to diverse ethnic and cultural groups. In terms of world history, South Africa features significantly. South Africa delivered archaeological discoveries pointing to man’s oldest ancestors some 2,5 million years ago and continued to make history on political grounds more recently – this country with its rainbow nation has captured the world’s attention for several reasons.

The provinces in South Africa are:

Population – South Africa

South Africa is widely described as one of the countries in the world with the most diverse population, all living within the borders of one single country. South Africa’s major cultural groups include the Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, Swazi, Sotho-Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, Afrikaners, English, Coloured, and Indian. Added to this list are several minority cultural groups.

In South Africa’s earlier history, English and Afrikaans were the country’s two official languages. However, after the country’s first ever democratic election in 1994, it was decided that the country should have eleven official languages – giving credit to all major cultural groups. Today, South Africa’s population is described as the rainbow nation, but for many years, this population diversity has been a cause of several strives, battles and wars for freedom, peace and cultural independence.

South Africa – From slave economy to modern commerce

South Africa’s early economy relied on slaves. Ships carrying slaves arrived at the then Cape Colony from the East as well as the rest of Africa. The Cape Colony quickly expanded with the abundance of slave labour, but with this expansion, conflict between the settlers and government became apparent. Eventually, settlers left the Cape Colony in search of freedom, claiming new land along the way.

The Great Trek as it became known, sprouted the country’s development but also caused even greater conflict as precious gold and diamonds were discovered and conflict with indigenous cultures in northern South Africa arose. Yet, the Great Trek gave rise to the establishment of new South African provinces, establishing new economies and commercial centres. Although scarred by several major wars, colonies were ended to some extent and the Union of South Africa became established in 1910. The next major political happening was the establishment of a democratic government in 1994, which also contributed to the country’s current economy in various ways.

South African law

With descendants from European nations and local tribes among prominent immigrations, it was a given that South Africa’s law would develop in line with its cultural diversity. The country’s legal system is described as a hybrid system and features three major branches. South Africa’s civil law has its origin in Roman-Dutch law, while its common law originated from British law. The third branch of South African law is customary law, which developed from indigenous African law. South Africa’s hybrid law system has therefore taken prominent features form English, Roman-Dutch and indigenous law and this amalgamation are clearly observed in the Constitution of South Africa.

South Africa’s court system has also developed on a hierarchical basis, with the national court system featuring the Constitutional Court at the highest level of legal authority, followed by the Supreme Court of Appeal, High Courts and at the lowest hierarchical level, the Magistrates’ Court. The South African court system applies throughout all nine provinces without variances.

South Africa – Moving forward from a challenging past

Although South Africa’s history has been plagued by social, ethnic and political challenges, the country’s government is quick to point out the modern-day South African maxim: Unity in Diversity. And although many South African cultural groups still face cultural challenges, it is exactly this, the country’s cultural diversity, which has made the rest of the world take notice.

words by Fran V.