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An Introduction to South Africa
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Willie Seth, An Introduction to South Africa
ISBN  9780981425801
 
 

Introduction


THIS book is a general introduction to South Africa. It is intended for tourists, students and other people going to South Africa for the first time.

It's also intended for anybody who wants to learn some basic facts about South Africa.

It can even be used as an introductory text for students in high school and college who want to learn about this country.

Even those who know a lot of things about South Africa may find this book to be useful.

Nobody knows everything. Even South Africans themselves don't know how some of their fellow countrymen live. They know mostly about their own cultures, customs and traditions.

The work focuses on the land and the people of South Africa more than anything else.

It's also a comparative study, drawing comparisons between the cultures as well as languages of black South African ethnic groups and other tribes outside South Africa; for example, the Nyakyusa – also known as BaNyaKyusa or Wanyakyusa with whom I spent many years – and the Fipa or Wafipa of Tanzania.

Readers are going to learn about the provinces of South Africa and their natural resources, including crops and minerals. They are also going to learn about the different ethnic and racial groups in all the provinces.

One of the most important aspects of the book is its focus on the cultures of the different ethnic groups in South Africa.

If you want to have general knowledge of South Africa, and if you want to learn about the different cultures of the people of South Africa and how they live, this book may be for you.

 

Part I:


The Land


SOUTH AFRICA is a union of nine provinces. The current provincial structure was created after the end of apartheid when some of the former provinces, whose boundaries were drawn during the era of white minority rule, were divided to create more administrative units which became the new provinces.

There were four provinces before the end of apartheid: the Cape Province, Natal, Transvaal, and the Orange Free State.

We are going to look at each of the nine provinces in the new South Africa starting with the Free State.



Free State Province


The Free State was formerly known as the Orange Free State. Its current name is therefore simply a contraction of its original name.

The area of what came to be known as the Orange Free State was inhabited mostly by the Tswana in the early part of the 19th century. The Tswana still live in South Africa but many of them migrated north and settled in what came to be known as the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, what is Botswana today.

From the 1820s, Afrikaner farmers, people mostly of Dutch descent also known as Boers, moved into the Orange Free State – before it was named that – and their numbers increased after 1835 following a large migration known as the Great Trek. This large migration of Afrikaners into the region led to the establishment of a Dutch colony in the Orange Free State.

Established as a Boer state, it has throughout its history been a centre of Afrikaner culture and a monument to Afrikaner nationalism which eventually evolved into apartheid.

The Orange Free State became a self-sustaining colony and later an independent Boer republic in the 1850s. But it lost its independence in 1902 after the Dutch (Boers) were defeated by the British in the Boer War, also known as the South African War, of 1899 – 1902. It was the bloodiest conflict in the continent's colonial history up to that time and remains one of the most important events in the history of South Africa.

It later became a British colony and then a province of the Union of South Africa in 1910.

The capital of the Orange Free State (republic) was Bloemfontein. And it is still the capital of the Free State today in post-apartheid South Africa.

It was officially founded by the British in 1846 but Bloemfontein has historically been a predominantly Afrikaner town.

It was originally founded as a fort by the British army, built on dry grassland in an area inhabited by the Basotho, one of the African ethnic groups in South Africa. And in 1910, it became the judicial capital of South Africa. That was also the same year in which the Union of South Africa was founded.

The African National Congress (ANC), which led the struggle against apartheid until this abominable institution was abolished in the early 1990s, was also founded in Bloemfontein in 1912, only about two years after the Union of South Africa was formed by the British and the Dutch under British rule.

The city is located in central South Africa on the southern edge of the Highveld in a region of flat land, rolling plains and grassland and crop fields with some hills, hot summers and dry winters. The area also gets some snow.

And apart from being the judicial capital of South Africa, Bloemfontein also has many schools and private hospitals and is one of South Africa's most well-known cities. It is also the country's most central city where major routes intersect.

The country's main national road which connects the provinces of Gauteng, the Western cape and the Eastern Cape, passes through the middle of th Free State. And the road network density of the province is the third-highest in the country.

Institutions of higher learning in Bloemfontein include the University of the Free State and the Central University of Technology.

Provincial boundaries were redrawn in 1994 when black homelands known as Bantustans – given nominal “independence” by the apartheid regime – were abolished and re-incorporated into the provinces of South Africa. One of the exceptions was the Orange Free State. Its boundaries remained the same.

The Free State Province is the third-largest province in South Africa with an area of 49,992 square miles.

It occupies about 10.6 per cent of the country's land area and is only slightly bigger than the Western Cape Province. But it has the second-smallest population and the second-lowest population density in the country.

The region has rich soil and a pleasant climate, making it highly productive in terms of agriculture. In fact, the Free State produces more than 70 per cent of grain in the entire country. It is the nation's granary and is known as South Africa's breadbasket.

Almost the entire province is at high elevation. It is mostly a plateau. Low areas are in the west at 4,000 feet above sea level. The elevation then rises gradually up to 6,000 feet in the east but there are higher points in the Drakensberg Mountains in the southeast.

The Free State also has a lot of minerals, including gold and diamonds, mostly in the northern and western parts of the province. In fact, the country's largest gold-mining complex is in the Free State. It is known as the Free State Consolidated Goldfields. And South Africa is, of course, the world's largest producer of gold. That shows how important the Free State is in gold production, not only in South Africa but in the entire world.

The Free State has 12 gold mines and produces 30 per cent of the nation's output, making the province the fifth-largest producer of gold in the world. And the only two gold refineries in South Africa, the Harmony Gold Refinery and the Rand Refinery, are located in the Free State.

Gold mines in the Free State are also a major source of silver in the country. And significant amounts of uranium found in the gold-bearing conglomerates of the gold fields are also extracted as a byproduct.

Bituminous coal is also mined in the province and converted to petrochemicals at Sasolburg. Oil refined from coal is one of South Africa's most important products and the country is leader on the continent in the conversion of coal to petroleum products.

The Free State also produces high-quality diamonds from its kimberlite pipes and fissures, and the country's largest deposit of bentonite is found in the Koppies district in the province.

There are other minerals found in the province in smaller quantities.

And although agriculture is major part of the economy in the Free State, the mining sector provides most of the jobs in the province. Still, the economy is mainly agricultural.

But the economy of the province has undergone major structural changes since 1989....

 

Source:

Willie Seth, An Introduction to South Africa

     ISBN  9780981425801