South Africa is an exhilarating and complex country. With its post-apartheid identity still in the process of definition, there is undoubtedly an abundance of energy and a sense of progress about the place. Travellers are returning to a remarkable land that has been off the trail for way too long. Read more...
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Cities and Destinations in South Africa
South Africa is an exhilarating and complex country. With its post-apartheid identity still in the process of definition, there is undoubtedly an abundance of energy and a sense of progress about the place. Travellers are returning to a remarkable land that has been off the trail for way too long.
South Africa has 10 international airports, the two major ones being Cape Town International and OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg . Regular flights arrive from major centres throughout Africa including: Blantyre , Cairo , Gaborone , Dar es Salaam , Harare , Lilongwe , Livingstone , Luanda , Lusaka , Kinshasa , Maputo , Manzini , Maun , Mauritius , Nairobi , Victoria Falls and Windhoek .
Direct flights also arrive from major Europe European centres, including: Amsterdam , Athens , Madrid , London , Paris , Frankfurt , Munich , Zurich and Lisbon . There are also direct flights from Abu Dhabi , Bangkok , Dubai , Doha , New York (city) New York , Atlanta , Washington, D.C. , Buenos Aires , Mumbai , Hong Kong , Kuala Lumpur , Sao Paulo , Singapore , Sydney and Perth (Australia) Perth .
You may also want to have a look at Discount airlines in Africa .
Should you be entering from one of the other countries in Southern Africa you might want to do so by car. South Africa operates a number of land border posts between itself and immediately neighbouring countries. The more commonly used ones are:
Skilpadsnek +27 (0)18 366-1469 On the N4, 54km from Zeerust. Open 6AM to 10PM
Maseru Bridge +27 (0)51 924-4004 15km from Ladybrand on the N8 towards Maseru. Open 24 hours
Ficksburg Bridge +27 (0)51 933-2760 Just outside Ficksburg Open 24 hours
Sani Pass +27 (0)51 430-3664 In the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg park. 8AM to 4PM
Lebombo +27 (0)13 790-7203 On the N4 between Nelspruit and Maputo 6AM to 10PM
Kosi Bay +27 (0)35 592-0251 R22 between Hluhluwe and Ponta do Ouro 8AM to 4PM
Nakop +27 (0)54 571-0008 132 km from Upington on the N10 towards Ariamsvlei Open 24 hours
Vioolsdrift +27 (0)27 761-8760 On the N7 north of Springbok Open 24 hours
Oshoek +27 (0)17 882-0138 120km from Ermelo on the N17 towards Mbabane 7AM to 10PM
Beit Bridge +27 (0)15 530-0070 On N1 approximately 16 km north of Messina Open 24 hours
Open times are often extended during South Africa n holidays..
For a full list of entry ports or any additional information see the South African Border Information Service http://www.rsaborders.co.za/ or contact them on +27 (0)86 026-7337.
Most of the larger cruise lines, such as Princess Cruises http://www.princess.com/ports/CPT_X.html offer Cape Town as one of their destinations, but you can also try something different
RMS St Helena http://www.rms-st-helena.com/ phone +44 0207 575 6480 This passenger/cargo ship is the last working Royal Mail Ship and stops at Cape Town on it's way to Saint Helena (island) St Helena .
South Africa has a well established domestic air travel infrastructure with links between all major centres.
One drives on the left-hand side of the road in South Africa. All measurements are done using the metric system; distances on road signs are in kilometre and fuel is sold by the litre.
To get a car in South Africa there are basically three options, you can hire a car, buy one or use the so-called buy-back option. Hiring a car is fairly easy and bookings can be made online and in all major cities. Buying a car takes a bit more work (Roadworthy license, registering the car, insurance), but there is a lively used car market in South Africa. The third option is a combination of both, as you buy a car with a guarantee that the rental company will buy-back your car at the end of the contract. Most cars in South Africa have manual transmissions and the selection of second-hand automatics may be limited.
The roads within South Africa, connecting most major cities, and between its immediate neighbours are very good. There are many national and regional road connecting the cities and larger centres, including the N1 running from Cape Town through Johannesburg and Pretoria up to Harare , Zimbabwe , the N2 running from Cape Town to Durban , which passes through the world-famous Garden Route near Knysna , and the N3 between Durban and Johannesburg .
Some portions of the national roads are limited access, dual carriage freeways (the N3 between Johannesburg and Durban is freeway almost all the way) and some sections are also toll roads with emergency assist telephones every couple of kilometers.
All the large fuel companies have rest stops every 200km to 300km along these highways where you can full up, eat something at a restaurant, get takeaways, do some shopping or just stretch your legs. Restrooms at these facilities are well maintained and clean. Most (but not all) of these rest stops also have ATMs.
Toll roads generally have two or more lanes in each direction.
Some of the main roads have only one lane in each direction, especially where they are far from urban centers. It is customary to flash your hazard lights once, after passing a truck or other slow vehicle that has moved onto the hard shoulder to let you pass. This is considered a thank you and you will most likely receive a my pleasure response in the the form of the slow vehicle flashing its headlights once.
South Africa has a high rate of traffic fatalities, and you may want to avoid driving at night except in urban areas. Watch out for unsafe drivers (minibus taxis), poor lighting, and pedestrians (who are the cause of many accidents, especially at night). When driving outside of the major cities you will often encounter animals, wild and domestic, in or near the roadway. The locals tend to herd their cattle and goats near the road. If you see an animal on or by the road, slow down, as they are unpredictable. Do not stop to feed wild animals!
Make sure you understand the road signs. A special kind of crossing is the 'four way stop' where the car that stops first has right of way. You will not encounter many traffic circles, but when you do, take special care as the general attitude of South African drivers is that traffic circles do not constitute a traffic management roadway structure, and do not use their indicators in a safe and predictable fashion. In general, South Africans tend to speed excessively and are prone to selfish or aggressive driving behavior, such as tailgating and hooting. On multi-lane roadways, the principle of keep-left, pass right, is often not adhered to.
Left turn on Red at traffic lights are illegal, except for traffic lights that have an accompanying yield sign explicitly permitting it.
Fuel stations are full service with lead free petrol, lead replacement petrol and diesel available. Pump attendants will offer to wash your windscreen and check oil and water in addition to just filling up the car. It is usual to tip the attendant approximately R5. Almost all fuel stations are open 24 hours a day.
Speed limits are clearly indicated. Generally speed limits on highways are 120km/h, major roads outside build-up areas are 100 km/h, major roads within build up areas are 80km/h and normal town roads are 60 km/h.
Speed law enforcement is usually done by portable or stationary, radar or laser cameras. Fines will be sent to the registered address of the vehicle you are driving.
Non camera portable radar and laser systems are also used and you may be pulled over for speeding and given a written fine.
Should you find yourself waiting at a red traffic light late at night in an area where you do not feel safe, you can cross over the red light after first carefully checking that there is no other traffic. If you receive a fine due to a camera on the traffic light you can normally have it wavered by writing a letter to the traffic department or court explaining that you crossed safely and on purpose, due to security reasons. Do not make a habit of this.
When stopped at a traffic light at night always leave enough room between your car and the car in front of you so you can get around them. It is a common hijacking manoeuvre to box your car in. This is especially prevalent in the suburbs of Johannesburg.
South Africa currently does not have a merits system and does not share traffic violation information with other nations.
The N1 between Gauteng and Cape Town and the N3 between Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal can become very busy at the start and end of Gauteng school holidays, due to many people from Gauteng spending their holidays at the coast. If you are planning on using these two highways, it is wise to try and avoid the two days after schools break up and the two days before they open again. School holiday calendars for South Africa can be found here. http://www.info.gov.za/aboutsa/schoolcal.htm
The N3 normally have a Highway Customer Care line during busy periods, ph: 0800 203 950, it can be used to request assistance for breakdowns, accidents or general route information. Current toll fees, road and traffic condition can also be found on the N3 website http://www.n3tc.co.za/ .
If your drivers license is in any of South Africa's 11 official languages (e.g. English) and it contains a photo and your signature integrated into the license document, then it is legally acceptable as a valid drivers licence in South Africa. However, some car rental and insurance companies may still insist that you provide an International Driver's Permit.
It is generally best practice to acquire an International Driver's Permit in your country of origin, prior to starting your journey, regardless of whether your license is legally acceptable or not.
National rental agencies
Avis http://www.avis.co.za firstname.lastname@example.org +27 (0)11 923-3660 0861 113 748
Budget http://www.budget.co.za/ email@example.com 086 101 6622 +27 (0)11 398-0123 +27 (0)11 398-0124
Hertz https://www.ecom.hertz.co.za/ firstname.lastname@example.org +27 (0)21 935-4800 +27 (0)21 935-4801
Imperial http://www.imperialcarrental.co.za/ email@example.com 0861 13 1000 +27 (0)11 574-1000
Thrifty Car Rental http://www.thrifty.co.za/ firstname.lastname@example.org +27 (0)11 230-5201 086 100 2111 +27 (0)11 230-5170
National Roads Agency, http://www.nra.co.za/roadtoll.html, has latest toll tariffs and road condition reports.
South African Automobile Association, ph: +27 (0)83 843 22, http://www.aasa.co.za/
With the abundance of caravan parks available in South Africa, motor homes are becoming ever more popular with international visitors. It gives you the freedom to move around as well as a place to stay wherever you are.
A number of companies offer motor home rentals
Bobo Campers http://www.bobocampers.com/ +27 (0)11 395-4621 +27 (0)11 973-4555 email@example.com From R900 to R1500 per day depending on camper size Branches in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Windhoek, Namibia.
Kea Campers http://sa.keacampers.com/ +27 (0)11 230-5200 phoneextra= +49 (211) 2297 5440 (European contact number) firstname.lastname@example.org Branches in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Windhoek, Namibia.
Maui http://www.maui.co.za/ +27 (0)11 396-1445 +27 (0)11 396-1757 email@example.com 173 Tulbagh Road, Pomona, Kempton Park, Johannesburg
By offroad vehicle
Should you want to wander off the beaten path, a 4x4 or other high clearance vehicle might be required. Often it is possible to have camping gear included with the vehicle rental allowing you to combine your transport and accommodation requirements in one.
Bushlore http://www.bushlore.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org +27 (0)11 792-5300 +27 (0)11 792-3947 Unit A5,
Sanlam Industrial Park, Masjien Road, Randburg, Johannesburg Branches in Johannesburg , Cape Town , Kasane , Victoria Falls and Windhoek
Bush Trackers http://www.bushtrackers.co.za/fourbyfour.asp email@example.com +27 (0)11 465-5700 +27 (0)11 465-5700
Kea Campers http://sa.keacampers.com/ +27 (0)11 230-5200 phoneextra= +49 (211) 2297 5440 (European contact number) firstname.lastname@example.org Branches in Johannesburg , Cape Town and Windhoek, Namibia.
There are scheduled bus services between Cape Town , Johannesburg , Durban and other cities (with stops in between), as well as connections to neighbouring countries. The main bus companies are:
Greyhound +27 (0)83 915-9000 http://www.greyhound.co.za/
Intercape Mainliner +27 (0)21 380-4400 http://www.intercape.co.za/
SA Roadlink +27 (0)11 333-2223 http://www.saroadlink.co.za
Booking for the above can also be done via Computicket http://www.computicket.co.za .
An alternative is the Baz Bus http://www.bazbus.com/ . It offers a regular hop-on-hop-off service on some of the most interesting routes for the tourist ( Cape Town to Durban via the Garden Route ; Durban to Johannesburg via Swaziland ; Durban to Johannesburg via the Drakensberg). Baz Bus picks you up and drops you off at many hostels along the route, so you don't have to hang around at a downtown bus stop at night.
If you're really in a pinch, you can use minibus taxis. They are poorly maintained and rarely comply with safety standards. They also require patience as they make many detours and changeovers at the taxi rank (hub) where the driver will wait for passengers to fill up the bus. But they cover many routes not covered by the main bus service and are quite cheap (25 cents per kilometre per person on the main routes).
Warning: Many buses are removed from service by the police, due to lack of legal road-worthiness. Seek up-to-date advice on which companies are more reputable. Occasionally, the driving can be rather wild, and if you're prone to motion sickness, be prepared.
Spoornet http://www.spoornet.co.za/SpoornetWebContentSAP/html/passengers.htm is the national rail operator. There are budget passenger services between major South African cities (known as Shosholoza Meyl http://www.spoornet.co.za/ShosholozaMeyl ) as well
as a Premier Class http://www.premierclasse.co.za service between Johannesburg and Cape Town .
Spoornet Central Reservations (for both Shosholoza Meyl and Premier Class) can be contacted as follows :
To book tickets, phone Central Reservations on one of the numbers given above and make your booking. You can pick up and pay for the tickets later at any train station.
There are also commuter trains in larger cities ( Johannesburg , Pretoria , Cape Town , Durban , Port Elizabeth and East London ) ; these are run by MetroRail http://www.metrorail.co.za . Most services are perfectly safe, but certain routes are overcrowded and not always safe.
Bushveld Train Safaris +27 (0)14 736-3025 email@example.com http://www.boon.co.za Offers rail Safaris across South Africa
Shongololo Express +27 (0)11 781-4616 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.shongololo.com Rail Safaris across South Africa
Blue Train +27 (0)12 334-8459 phoneextra= Cape Town:+27 (0)21 449 2672, UK: +44 1403 24 3619, central Europe:+44 2089 245126, USA:+1 305 864 4569 BlueTrain@Spoornet.co.za http://www.bluetrain.co.za This world famous luxury train operates between Pretoria and Cape Town .
Rovos Rail +27 (0)12 315-8242 http://www.rovos.co.za/ Offers luxury rail travel throughout Southern Africa . Destinations include Cape Town , Pretoria , Durban , George , Swakopmund in Namibia , Victoria Falls Vic Falls in Zimbabwe and Dar es Salaam in Zanzibar .
Hitchhiking in South Africa is not so hard, but most people will think you are catching a ride with the local taxis and thus expect you to pay. I suggest you tell them you are looking for a free ride before climbing aboard. The main issue is crime: some drivers may hijack you and your belongings. Hitchhiking is generally frowned upon and considered unsafe. Drivers are also wary of potentially criminal hitchhikers. Don't hitchhike at night.
Cycling is probably the best way to experience the country, as you really get to admire the views and get the opportunity to mingle with the locals. While it could be considered unsafe to cycle through the cities, because of crime and reckless drivers, there are many farm/dirt roads throughout South Africa. Locals and Farmers are generally willing to provide you with food and a place to sleep, as long as you are willing to talk.
The Freedom Trail +27845674152 email@example.com http://www.freedomchallenge.org.za The Freedom Trail
There are plenty of tour operators offering tours from day tours to longer overland safaris.
Package Tours South Africa +27 (0)21 8828372 http://www.packagetours.co.za great budget adventure holidays arranged for you around Southern Africa . Destinations include Cape Town , Pretoria , Durban , George , Swakopmund in Namibia , Victoria Falls Vic Falls in Zimbabwe and Dar es Salaam in Zanzibar .
FindTours South Africa http://www.findtours.co.za/ Adventure tours, Wildlife and Wine Tours in Southern Africa . Destinations include Cape Town , Knysna , Kruger Park , Garden Route and Victoria Falls Vic Falls .
When to go
South Africa has a high rate of violent crime (the world's highest for rape, and second-highest for murder), which calls for extra precautions. Do not accept offers from friendly strangers. Do not wear jewellery or expensive watches. Do not use iPods/mp3 players. Do not wear a tummy bag with all your valuables. Distribute your valuables in inside pockets and other pockets. Do not carry large sums of money. Do not walk by night in deserted places. Don't make it obvious you are a tourist - conceal your camera and binoculars. Do not leave your valuables in plain sight when driving in your car, as smash and grab attacks do sometimes occur at intersections, and keep your car doors locked, and windows closed. Know where to go so that you don't have to reveal you're lost or need a map -- simply all the obvious I am a tourist signs.
Visiting the townships is possible, but don't do it alone unless you really know where you're going. Some townships are safe while others can be extremely dangerous. It's best to go with an experienced guide. Some tour companies offer guided visits to the townships, and this is perfectly safe.
South Africa has very few earthquakes, cyclones, tornadoes, floods, terrorist incidents or contagious diseases (with the notable exception of HIV).
Please also note that taking an evening stroll, or walking to venues after dark can be very risky! It simply is NOT part of the culture there, as it is in Europe, North America or Australia. It is best to take a taxi (a meter cab - not a minibus taxi) or private vehicle for an evening out . The same applies to picking up hitchhikers or offering assistance at broken-down car scenes.
One of the main reasons travelers visit South Africa is to experience the outdoors and see the wide range of wildlife.
When driving in a wildlife reserve, always keep to the speed limits and stay inside your car at all times. On game drives or walks, always follow the instructions of your guide.
Ensure that you wear socks and boots whenever you are walking in the bush; do not wear open sandals. A good pair of boots can stop snake and insect bites and avoid any possible cuts that may lead to infections.
In many areas you may encounter wildlife while driving on public roads, monkeys and baboons are especially common. Do not get out of the vehicle to take photos or otherwise try to interact with the animals. These are wild animals and their actions can be unpredictable.
Sometimes you might find yourself in the open with wild animals (often happens with baboons at Cape Point). Keep your distance and always ensure that the animals are only to one side of you, do not walk between two groups or individuals. A female baboon may get rather upset if you separate her from her child.
Always check with locals before swimming in a river or lake as there may be crocodiles or hippos.
Most major beaches in KwaZulu-Natal have shark nets installed. If you intend to swim anywhere other that the main beaches, check with a local first. Note that shark nets may be removed for a couple of days during the annual sardine run (normally along the KwaZulu-Natal coast between early May and late July). This is done to avoid excessive shark and other marine life fatalities. Notices are posted on beaches during these times.
It is best to avoid public hospitals where possible. Private hospitals (such as the Netcare Group http://www.netcare.co.za/) are of world class standard.
Municipal tap water is safe to drink throughout the country. In the Western Cape mountain water is safe, even if it has been stained brown due to vegetation. A strong risk of Tropical diseases bilharzia exists for still-standing water.
Many activities in South Africa are outdoors, see the Sunburnandsun_protection sunburn and sun protection travel topic for tips on how to protect yourself.
there is about 15% of water in S. Africa
HIV and AIDS
South Africa has one of the largest HIV infection rates world-wide. 5.4 million people out of a population of 48 million are HIV-positive (South African Medical Research Council http://www.mrc.ac.za/).
The HIV infection rate in the total population older than 2 years varies from around 2% in the Western Cape to over 17% in KwaZulu-Natal (Avert and all together 18.8% of South Africans over 15 years of age are HIV-Positive (UNICEF [http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/southafrica_statistics.html#25 http://www.avert.org/safricastats.htm(http://www.avert.org/safricastats.htm)),] ). One in four females and one in five males aged 20 to 40 is estimated to be infected (Avert http://www.avert.org/safricastats.htm(http://www.avert.org/safricastats.htm)).
Only about 10% of the world's population lives in Sub-Sahara Africa, but the same population includes 70% of the world's HIV infected individuals (CDC http://www.cdc.gov/nchstp/od/gap/countries/southern_africa.htm).
For your own safety, DO NOT HAVE UNPROTECTED SEX.
The north-eastern areas of the country (including the Kruger National Park and iSimangaliso Wetland Park St. Lucia and surrounds) are seasonal malaria zones, from about November to May. The peak danger time is just after the wet season from March to May. Consult a physician regarding appropriate precautions, depending on the time of year you will be travelling. The most important defences against malaria are:
using a Mosquitoes DEET-based mosquito repellent
covering your skin with long-sleeved clothing, especially around dusk; and
using mosquito nets while sleeping.
Tabbard and Peacefull Sleep are commonly used mosquito repellents and can be bought almost anywhere.
Also read the Malaria and Mosquitoes travel topics.
Except for pubs, smoking is banned in all enclosed public spaces, these include airports, shopping malls and theaters.
Most restaurants do have smoking sections, either ventilated indoor areas or outdoor open areas.
Although the nomadic San (also known as Bushmen) have possibly lived in Southern Africa since around 100,000 BC, they didn't reach the Cape of Good Hope until about 2000 years ago. Because of the close relationship between the San and the Khoikhoi peoples, who intermarried and coexisted, both are often referred to as Khoisan. By the 15th century most arable land had been settled by encroaching Bantu pastoral tribes.
Southern Africa became a popular stop for European crews after Vasco de Gama opened the Cape of Good Hope spice route in 1498, and, by the mid-17th century, scurvy and shipwreck had induced Dutch traders to opt for a permanent settlement in Table Bay on the site of present-day Cape Town. The mostly Dutch burghers pushed slowly north, decimating the Khoisan with violence and disease as they went. Towards the end of the 18th century, with Dutch power fading, Britain predictably jumped in for another piece of Africa. It was hoped that British settlers would inhabit a buffer zone between skirmishing pastoral Boers and the Xhosa, but most of the British immigrant families retreated to town, entrenching the rural-urban divide that is evident in white South Africa even today. Although slavery was abolished in 1833, the division of labour on the basis of colour served all whites too well for any real attempt at change.
Upheaval in black Southern Africa wasn't only generated by the white invaders. The difaqane ('forced migration' in Sotho) or mfeqane ('the crushing' in Zulu) was a time of immense upheaval and suffering, a terror campaign masterminded by the Zulu chief, Shaka. This wave of disruption through Southern Africa left some tribes wiped out, others enslaved and the lucky ones running. Into this chaos disgruntled Boers stomped on their Great Trek away from British rule in search of freedom. Most of the pastures the Boers trekked through were deserted or inhabited by traumatised refugees. The Zulus were no pushovers, however. They put up strong and bloody resistance to the Boers before eventually ceding to superior firepower. Boer republics popped up through the interior, and were annexed one by one by Britain in a chaotic kerfuffle of treaties, diplomacy and violence through the middle part of the 19th century. Just when it looked like the Union Jack was going to fly from Cairo to the Cape, diamonds were discovered in Kimberley, and the Dutch resistance became suddenly stronger.
The first Anglo-Boer War ended in a crushing Boer victory and the establishment of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek. The British backed off until a huge reef of gold was discovered around Johannesburg and then marched in again for the second Anglo-Boer War, dribbling with empiric greed. By 1902 the Boers had exhausted their conventional resources and resorted to commando-style raids, denying the British control of the countryside. The British quashed resistance with disproportionate reprisals: if a railway line was blown up, the nearest farmhouse was destroyed; if a shot was fired from a farm, the house was burnt down, the crops destroyed and the animals killed. The women and children from the farms were collected and taken to concentration camps - a British invention - where 26,000 died of disease and neglect. The Boers were compelled to sign an ignominious and bitter peace.
Soon after the Union of South Africa was established in 1910, a barrage of racist legislation was passed restricting black rights and laying the foundations for apartheid. After a last flutter with military rebellion during WWI, the Afrikaners got on with the business of controlling South Africa politically. In 1948 elections the Afrikaner-dominated and ultra-right National Party took the reins and didn't let the white charger slow down until 1994. Under apartheid, every individual was classified by race, and race determined where you could live, work, pray and learn. Irrespective of where they had been born, blacks were divided into one of 10 tribal groups, forcibly dispossessed and dumped in rural backwaters, the so-called Homelands. The plan was to restrict blacks to Homelands that were, according to the propaganda, to become self-sufficient, self-governing states. In reality, these lands had virtually no infrastructure and no industry, and were therefore incapable of producing sufficient food for the black population. There was intense, widespread suffering and many families returned to squalid squatter camps in the cities from which they had been evicted. Chief Mangosouthu Buthelezi was pivotal in the Inkatha movement, a failed attempt to unite Homeland leaders. Black resistance developed in the form of strikes, acts of public disobedience and protest marches, and was supported by international opinion from the early 1960s, after 69 protesters were killed in Sharpeville and African National Congress (ANC) leaders, including Nelson Mandela, were jailed.
After withdrawing from the British Commonwealth in 1961, South Africa became increasingly isolated. Paranoia developed through the 1960s and 70s, as the last European powers withdrew from Africa and black, often socialist, states formed around South Africa's northern borders. South Africa's military responses ranged from limited strikes (Mozambique, Lesotho) to full-scale assault (Angola, Namibia). When Cuba intervened in Angola in 1988, South Africa suffered a major defeat and war looked much less attractive. As the spirit of Gorbachev-style detente permeated Southern Africa, Cuba pulled out of Angola, Namibia became independent and a stable peace was finally brokered in 1990.
The domestic situation was far from resolved. Violent responses to black protests increased commitment to a revolutionary struggle, and the United Nations finally imposed economic and political sanctions. But in the mid-1980s, black-on-black violence in the townships exploded. Although bitter lines were drawn between the left-wing, Xhosa-based ANC and the right-wing, Zulu-dominated Inkatha movement, such distinctions are simplistic in the context of the massive economic and social deprivation of black South Africa. There were clashes between political rivals, tribal enemies, opportunistic gangsters, and between those who lived in the huge migrant-workers' hostels and their township neighbours. President PW Botha detained, tortured and censored his way to 1989, when economic sanctions began to bite, the rand collapsed and reformist FW De Klerk came to power. Virtually all apartheid regulations were repealed, political prisoners were released and negotiations began on forming a multiracial government. Free elections in 1994 resulted in a decisive victory for the ANC and Nelson Mandela became president. De Klerk's National Party won just over 20% of the vote, and the Inkatha Freedom Party won 10.5%. South Africa rejoined the British Commonwealth a few months later.
Despite the scars of the past and the enormous problems ahead, South Africa today is immeasurably more optimistic and relaxed than it was a few years ago. The international community has embraced the new South Africa and the ANC's apparently sincere desire to create a truly non-racial nation. It will be some time before the black majority gain much economic benefit from their freedom, as economic inequality remains an overwhelming problem. However, the political structure seems strong enough to hold the diverse region together. There are huge expectations for the new South Africa.
In 1999, after five years of learning about democracy, the country voted in a more normal election. Issues such as economics and competence were raised and debated. There was some speculation that the ANC vote might drop with the retirement of Nelson Mandela. The ANC's vote didn't drop - it increased, putting the party within one seat of the two-thirds majority that would allow it to alter the constitution. Thabo Mbeki, who took over the ANC leadership from Nelson Mandela, became president in the 1999 elections.
In November 2003 the government finally approved a major program to treat and tackle HIV/AIDS. Prior to that time, the government had refused to provide anti-AIDS medicine through the public health system. In April 2004 the ANC won another landslide election victory, garnering 70% of the vote and ensuring Mbeki being in power until 2009.
In 2010 South Africa will be the first African nation to ever host FIFA's World Cup.
Articles and Stories about South Africa
Quick Facts about South Africa
43,647,658 (July 2002 est.)
[11 Official Languages]: English, Afrikaans, isiZulu, isiXhoso, Sesotho, Setswana, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Pedi, isiNdebele, seTswana
Country Dialing Code
The National Tourism Information and Safety Line +27 (0)83 123-2345 Operated by South African Tourism
From a fixed line
107 - Emergency
10111 - Police http://www.saps.gov.za/
10177 - Ambulance
From a mobile
112 - All Emergencies
082911 - Netcare911 (http://www.netcare911.co.za) and The National Sea Rescue Institute (http://www.nsri.org.za)
(You only need to dial 911 from Vodacom mobile phones)