Area: 1,300.000 sq km
Population: more than 44 million
Capital: Pretoria : administrative, Cape Town : legislative
Geography: The Republic of South Africa lies at the southern end of the African continent. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and is bordered to the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland and totally encloses Lesotho. South Africa has three major geographical regions, namely plateau, mountains and the coastal belt. The high plateau has sharp escarpments which rise above the plains, or veld. Despite two major river systems, the Limpopo and the Orange, most of the plateau lacks surface water. Along the coastline are sandy beaches and rocky coves, and the vegetation is shrublike. The mountainous regions which run along the coastline from the Cape of Good Hope to the Limpopo Valley in the northeast of the country are split into the Drakensberg, Nuweveldberg and Stormberg ranges.
Government: Republic. Gained independence from the UK in 1910. Head of State and Government: President Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki since 1999.
Language: The official languages are Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Xhosa, Zulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Siswati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga.
Religion: Most inhabitants profess Christianity of some form and belong to either Catholic, Anglican and other protestant denominations, Afrikaner Calvinist churches or African independent churches. There are also significant Hindu, Muslim and Jewish communities, and traditional beliefs are still practised widely, sometimes in conjunction with Christianity.
general, South Africa has a perennially sunny climate, but the sun can
be extremely fierce. The use of a hat and sun screen is recommended. Midwinter
occurs in July, midsummer in December and January. Climate ranges from
Mediterranean in the Cape Peninsula to sub-tropical on the Kwazulu-Natal
coast and in the North-Eastern interior, temperate conditions prevail
on the Highveld. Days of sunshine range from 265 days a year in Johannesburg
to 197 days in Durban.
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