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South Africa - The Rainbow Nation

South Africa's rich history is overshadowed by its colonial heritage and the Apartheid era. South Africa has a dominant historical, social, economic, political background. A long racial conflict between the white minority and the black majority has played a major role in South Africa's history and politics. It has experienced a different history from other nations in Africa because of early immigration from Europe and the strategic importance of the Cape Sea Route.


People have inhabited southern Africa for thousands of years. Members of the Khoisan language groups are the oldest surviving inhabitants of the land, but only a few are left in South Africa today--and they are located in the western sections. Most of today's black South Africans belong to the Bantu language group, which migrated south from central Africa, settling in the Transvaal region sometime before AD 100. The Nguni, ancestors of the Zulu and Xhosa, occupied most of the eastern coast by 1500.

European immigration began shortly after the Dutch East India Company founded a station at what would become Cape Town, in 1652. The closure of the Suez Canal during the Six-Day War highlighted its significance to East-West trade.

South Africa is often called the "Rainbow Nation", a term coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and later adopted by then President Nelson Mandela. Mandela used the term "Rainbow Nation" as a metaphor to describe the country's newly developing multicultural diversity after segregationist apartheid ideology. By 2007, the country had joined Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, and Spain in legalizing same-sex marriage.

South Africa is ethnically diverse, with the largest Caucasian, Indian, and racially mixed communities in Africa. Black South Africans, who speak nine officially recognised languages, and many more dialects, account for nearly 80% of the population.

South Africa's emergence from global isolation in the 1990s parallels its political and economic reorganization, as it works to eliminate vestiges of the notorious system of apartheid. That system provoked international condemnation and deprived society of much of its human potential, and coping with its legacies has complicated the process of establishing a new system based on nonracial norms. An interim constitution, first implemented in April 1994 to govern the political transition, is being replaced by a new constitution, intended to protect legal equality for individuals regardless of racial identity after 1999.

Regular elections have been held for almost a century; but the majority of South Africans were not enfranchised until 1994.

The South African economy is the largest in Africa and 24th largest in the world. Due to this it is the most socially, economically and infra-structurally developed country on the continent.

Last Updated on Wednesday 29th December 2010