Top 50 interesting facts about South Africa and Africans
South Africa is a country in Southern Africa, washed by the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, which shares many similarities with its neighbours. But at the same time – it is a unique country, with its own customs, history and culture. In our article, we have collected 50 fascinating facts about this country and its people, which will help to form a first impression and interestingly plan your holiday in South Africa.
50 most interesting facts about South Africans and South Africa
So, let’s begin our journey through the history, traditions and sights of this amazing country.
1. The oldest people appeared on the territory of the country 1-2 million years ago. This is the age of findings of Australopithecus skeleton parts in South African caves.
2. Bushmen tribes began to develop these lands 25 thousand years ago, and the Bantu people appeared in the V century AD.
3. It is believed that the first South African lands were discovered by Phoenician navigators, and it happened in the VI century BC.
4. The first Europeans to reach the southern tip of Africa were the Portuguese. This was done in 1488 by Bartolomeo Dias, who discovered the Cape of Good Hope.
5. In 1652, Dutch merchants founded Cape Town, marking the beginning of European colonization of the region.
6. In 1795, the country came under British rule. Soon the richest deposits of diamonds and gold were discovered here.
7. At the end of the XIX century, there were two Anglo-Boer wars, which marked the beginning of South Africa as an independent state.
8. In 1910, the Union of South Africa was established, which remained a British dominion but had its own government.
9. After World War II, apartheid, a policy of white racial supremacy, which the UN called African «fascism», flourished in South Africa.
10. In 1994, Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black president and the apartheid policy was ended.
South Africa today
11. South Africa is now a dynamic developing country, a member of the UN, BRICS and many other international organizations.
12. the country’s population in 2023 exceeded 60 million people, making South Africa the 60th largest country in the world.
13. The capital of South Africa is considered to be Pretoria, where the government is located. But the cities of Cape Town, where the parliament is located, and Bloemfontein, where the Supreme Court is located, are also called capitals.
14. South Africa is a multinational country, but the exact number of nationalities inhabiting it is unknown. In fact, in the last census, residents were asked to indicate their membership of only five racial groups: black, white, mulatto and Asian. The fifth item was «other».
15. South Africa is the only African country with a white, European population of about 10 per cent.
16. The country has 12 official state languages. South Africa is second only to India and Bolivia in this indicator.
17. The country is divided into 9 provinces. The largest is the North Cape Province, and the smallest, but the most economically developed – Gauteng with the city of Johannesburg.
18. An overwhelming number of the country’s citizens practise various forms of Christianity. Although many African tribes continue to cultivate paganism, an ancestral faith.
19. The currency unit of the country is the rand, which consists of 100 cents.
20. The time zone of South Africa is UTC +2, which means it is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
21. The country’s iconic landmark is the Kruger National Park, founded in 1926. It is a favourite safari destination. The park is located in the east of the country, near the border with Mozambique.
22. The most recognizable symbol of South Africa is Table Mountain near Cape Town. Its height is 1085 metres and there is a cable car to the top.
23. In Cape Town there is also the Fortress of Good Hope – the best preserved fort of the Dutch, built in 1652. Now the fortress has been turned into a museum.
24. Near Johannesburg there is the Cradle of Mankind – a group of caves where the remains of relict people were found, turned into a museum. There is also a tourist Lesedi Cultural Village, which introduces tourists to the life of local tribes.
25. Johannesburg Zoo is also a local attraction. It was founded in 1904 and covers an area of 80 hectares. The zoo contains 2,000 animals of 320 species.
26. One of the country’s most popular amusement parks is called Gold Reef City. It is located near Johannesburg and is in the style of the gold rush. In addition to the rides, you can check out the gold mining museum.
27. In the central region of the country is the famous Big Hole kimberlite pipe, the largest open pit mine dug by man. 2.7 tonnes of diamonds have been mined here.
The character and customs of South Africans
28. The customs of the urban population of South Africa do not differ much from those of Europeans. People here wear modern clothes, drive cars and go to work.
29. The difference between the richest and poorest people in the country is huge. Every city is surrounded by slums where the poor people live. There is a very high crime rate here.
30. The Zulus are the most widespread people in South Africa and have a rich cultural tradition. The Zulus themselves call themselves the Sky People and believe that they were created by the demiurge god Unkulunkulu.
31. Magic occupies an important place in Zulu life. There are many sorcerers among them, especially women. A sorcerer is chosen by the special signs given at birth – birthmarks.
32. Zulus are very fond of music, in which rhythm, melody and harmony play an important role. Their favourite musical instrument is the wooden drum.
33. The traditional Zulu warrior dance is an obligatory element of many celebrations in South Africa. It is performed by men with weapons and shields.
34. Zulu boys and girls exchange love messages using beads. Each bead, its position and colour mean something different, understood only by young lovers.
35. The Basuto, another large nation in South Africa, are known for their strict upbringing customs. Boys are taught to withstand hardship and punished with sticks, girls are taught to keep house.
36. But the Basuto also have a rich epic, consisting of tales and legends, with which children are necessarily familiarized in the process of upbringing.
37. A distinctive feature of the Basuto man’s image is a conical hat woven from grass. According to legend, it is made in the shape of Mount Kiloan, sacred to the tribe.
38. Another major South African tribe is the Scythe. Among this people, the traditions connected with initiation are still preserved. Boys go through several stages of initiation to become a male warrior. Circumcision plays an important role among them.
39. As in most other tribes, it is customary for the Kos to pay bride price. In the past it was necessarily cattle, but nowadays, it is more and more often demanded in money.
40. Beaded jewellery plays an important role in Kos culture. Beads are used to determine a person’s social status, age and gender. The Kos believe that beads help to establish a link between the living and the dead.
41. The Tsonga tribe living in the east of South Africa is known for its belief in spirits that inhabit a person and endow him with various diseases or skills.
42. The Tswana tribe from the north of the country is characterized by the fact that married women of this people always wear a chequered blanket, which is called Magogolwane.
Nature of South Africa
43. The country is located in several natural zones: subtropical on the coast, temperate in the central parts, and arid tropical climate in the north-west.
44. The main mountain system of the country is the Dragon Mountains. They turn to the north into the veld plateau, and to the west into the Cape Mountains.
45. The highest peak in South Africa is Ndjesuti in the Dragon Mountains. Its height is 3,410 metres.
46. The mountains of South Africa are very old, they are 360 million years old. There are many caves in them, the most famous and largest of which is Kango. It is a complex of caves of three chambers, more than 4 kilometres long.
47. Hundreds of rivers flow through the country. The largest of them are the famous Limpopo (flows into the Indian Ocean) and the Orange (flows into the Atlantic Ocean).
48. The most common natural disaster in South Africa is floods. They are associated with cyclones and storms that bring heavy rainfall. The worst flooding occurred in September 2023. It was called the «Flood of the Century».
49. The springbok or springbok antelope, which is endemic to the region, is the symbol of South Africa. It is distinguished by its high jumps and can reach speeds of 90 kilometres per hour.
50. Another symbol of the country is the true yellow tree. It is a coniferous tree and is distinguished by the yellow colour of its young needles.
Friends, if you know any more interesting facts about the tribes of South Africa and the country itself, please share them in the comments. This country is full of amazing stories, culture and traditions, and many people would be happy to learn something new. We will be very grateful to you!