Republic of South Africa southernmost country in Africa referat

Republic of South Africa southernmost country in Africa, bordered on the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland; on the east and south by the Indian Ocean; and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. Lesotho forms an enclave in the northeastern part of the country. South Africa has a diverse and dramatic landscape. Most of the interior is covered by high plateaus, which are separated from the country’s long coastline by chains of tall mountains. South Africa is rich in minerals such as gold and diamonds, and its industrial base grew up around the mining industry. Black Africans comprise three quarters of South Africa’s population, and whites, Coloureds (people of mixed race), and Asians (mainly Indians) make up the remainder. Among the black population there are numerous ethnic groups and 11 official languages. Until recently, whites dominated the nonwhite majority population under the political system of racial segregation known as apartheid. Apartheid ended in the early 1990s, but South Africa is still recovering from the racial inequalities in political power, opportunity, and lifestyle. The end of apartheid led to the lifting of trade sanctions against South Africa imposed by the international community. It also led to a total reorganization of the government, which since 1994 has been a nonracial democracy based on majority rule.

South Africa is divided into nine provinces. These provinces are Gauteng, Northern Province, Mpumalanga, North-West Province, Free State, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal. The country has three capitals: Cape Town is the legislative capital; Pretoria, the executive capital; and Bloemfontein, the judicial capital.

LAND AND RESOURCES  South Africa stretches for some 1500 km (950 mi) from east to west and 1000 km (640 mi) from north to south. It has an area of 1,219,090 sq km (470,693 sq mi). A ridge called the Great Escarpment forms a boundary between the interior plateaus and the coastal regions.

Natural Regions  The interior plateaus occupy about two-thirds of South Africa, reaching their greatest height in the southeastern Drakensberg Mountains, part of the Great Escarpment. Champagne Castle, a peak of the Drakensberg, is the highest point in the country at 3375 m (11,072 ft). The plateau region consists of three main areas: the High Veld, the Middle Veld, and the Bush Veld. The High Veld, the largest of the three areas, is the southern continuation of the great African plateau that stretches north to the Sahara Desert. In South Africa it ranges in elevation from about 1200 to 1800 m (about 4000 to 6000 ft) and is characterized by level or gently sloping terrain. Land use varies from cattle grazing in the west to mixed farming (both crops and livestock) in the center to growing grain, especially maize (corn), in the east. The northern boundary of the High Veld is marked by the gold-bearing reef of the Witwatersrand, which became the industrial heartland of South Africa in the 20th century.

West of the High Veld is the Middle Veld, which lies mainly at an elevation of 600 to 1200 m (2000 to 4000 ft). The Middle Veld is part of the larger Kalahari Basin that extends north to Botswana and Namibia and contains the southernmost portion of the Kalahari Desert. Surface water is rare in the Middle Veld because the soils, which consist largely of unconsolidated sand, quickly absorb rainfall. Plant life in this arid place is limited to drought-resistant grasses, bushes, and shrubs. Much of the area is used for sheep grazing. North of the High Veld is the Bush Veld (also called the Transvaal Basin). This region averages less than 1200 m (4000 ft) in elevation. It is broken into basins by rock ridges, and slopes downward from the Transvaal Drakensberg in the east to the Limpopo River in the west. The Bush Veld receives more rain than the High Veld or Middle Veld and includes large areas of intensive cultivation as well as mixed-farming and cattle-grazing districts.

Between the edge of the high central plateau region and the eastern and southern coastline the land descends in a series of abrupt steps. In the east an interior belt of hill country gives way to a low-lying plain known as the Eastern Low Veld. In the south two plateaus, the Great, or Central, Karoo and the Little, or Southern, Karoo, are situated above the coastal plain. The plateau of the Great Karoo is separated from the lower Little Karoo by the Swartberg mountain range. A second range, the Langeberg, separates the Little Karoo from the coastal plain. Both the plateaus and the coastal plain are areas of mixed farming.

The southwestern edge of the central plateau region is marked by irregular ranges of folded mountains which descend abruptly to a narrow coastal plain, broken by the isolated peak of Table Mountain. The lower parts of this southwestern region are the centers of wine and fruit industries.

Rivers and Lakes  The chief rivers are the Orange, Vaal, and Limpopo. The Orange is the longest, stretching about 2100 km (about 1300 mi). It rises in Lesotho, where it is called the Senqu, and flows northwestward to the Atlantic, forming the boundary with Namibia along the river’s westernmost section. The Vaal rises in the northeast, near Swaziland, and flows southwestward to its confluence with the Orange. The Limpopo rises further north, flowing northeastward to the Botswana border and then eastward along the Botswana and Zimbabwe borders until it enters Mozambique, where it empties into the Indian Ocean. Many shorter rivers flow south to the Indian Ocean, including the Sondags, Great Fish, and Kei in the Eastern Cape, and the Tugela in KwaZulu-Natal.

Most of South Africa’s rivers are irregular in flow and are dry during much of the year. Consequently, they are of little use for navigation or hydroelectric power, but of some use for irrigation and water supply. The Orange River Project, begun in 1962, transfers water from the Orange River to the Great Fish and Sondags river basins. In the late 1970s, water began to be pumped from the Tugela to the Vaal to meet the growing needs of the Witwatersrand industrial region. This is supplemented by the major Lesotho Highlands Water Project, begun in 1986, which diverts water from the Senqu and other rivers. With the exception of Fundudzi Lake, which was formed by a huge landslide in the northeastern Soutpansberg Range, South Africa’s only notable lakes are artificial, including those created by the Vaal Dam and Gariep Dam on the Orange River.

Plant and Animal Life South Africa has remarkably diverse plant life for a country of its size, comprising about 22,000 different species, many of them native. Grasslands cover most of the plateau areas, resembling a prairie on the nearly treeless High Veld. The Bush Veld is characterized by savanna vegetation, consisting of mixed grassland with trees and bushes such as the baobab tree in Northern Province and the mopani tree in the central Bush Veld. On the Great Karoo and Little Karoo, the grasslands are sparse. Vegetation consists of coarse desert grasses that grow in tufts and become green only after rain. The semidesert Northern Cape is transformed after spring rains with blooming wildflowers in the Namaqualand region.

Areas on the Cape Peninsula, and about 70,000 sq km (about 27,500 sq mi) of southern Western Cape Province, contain the distinctive Fynbos biome, an ecological community. Although relatively small in area, this region constitutes one of the six recognized floral kingdoms of the world. It includes 8500 plant species, of which more than 6000 are indigenous. This biome is home to the protea, an evergreen shrub for which South Africa is renowned.

The only significant forests in South Africa lie along the coasts of Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces, although there are patches of protected rain forest in the Eastern Low Veld. Hardwood species such as yellowwood, ironwood, and lemonwood trees are found in these areas, but softwoods are scarce; coniferous pines from Europe and North America have been planted to provide timber and wood pulp.

Numerous large mammals, including lions, elephants, zebras, leopards, monkeys, baboons, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, and antelope, are indigenous to South Africa. For the most part such animals are found only on game reserves. Much of Kruger National Park, the oldest game reserve, was a protected area as early as 1898. It covers an area of 19,485 sq km (7523 sq mi) along the Mozambique border. Kruger National Park includes nearly every species of indigenous wildlife and is particularly noted for the small black rhino population built up by the National Parks Board. Other notable reserves include Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in the northwest; Addo Elephant National Park, near Port Elizabeth; and Mountain Zebra National Park, near Cradock. Bird life is abundant and includes the larger birds: ostrich, francolin (a type of partridge) quail, guinea fowl, and grouse. Snakes are common in most of the country.

Natural Resources  Only 12 percent of South Africa’s land area is cultivated and only 7 percent is forested, but the country is rich in mineral resources. South Africa is the world’s largest producer of gold, with almost all of it coming from the Witwatersrand. Gold is mined to depths below 3000 m (10,000 ft), making production expensive. Uranium is also extracted commercially in the Witwatersrand. Vast, easily worked coal seams occur between Lesotho and Swaziland, and South Africa has become a leading coal exporter.

The Bush Veld Igneous Complex, a highly mineralized area of 50,000 sq km (20,000 sq mi) located mainly in Northern Province and Mpumalanga, contains a high proportion of the world reserves of several important minerals. It contains 69 percent of world reserves of chrome ore, 45 percent of vanadium, and about 90 percent of andalusite, as well as platinum, nickel, and fluorspar. Diamonds are another important source of South Africa’s mineral wealth. Most of South Africa’s diamond fields are located in the Kimberley area of Northern Cape; this province also has the largest known manganese deposits in the world.

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