Facts About South African Culture, Geography, and History
South Africa is the southernmost country in Africa. It is bordered by five countries – Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Namibia. The 12 interesting facts introduce you to one of the richest countries in the world.
12. Nelson Mandela is known by six different names in South Africa.
Mandela, considered the father of the new democratic Republic of South Africa, is fondly renowned in six different names. His birth names as given by his clan were Rolihlahla Mandela. On his first day in school, his teacher named him ‘Nelson’ as part of the widespread European cultural colonialism tradition in Africa where Africans were imposed with a ‘European’ or ‘Christian’ name.
At the age of 16, during the traditional rites of passage, he was named ‘Dalibhunga’ which meant “creator or founder of the council”. As a towering national figure, Mandela was named by his clan as ‘Madiba’ which loosely translates to ‘the great one’. Later on after retiring from politics, he became fondly known as ‘Tata’ (daddy, father) or Khulu (elder).
11. Table Mountain, one of the iconic landmarks of South Africa, is one of the oldest mountains in the world.
Table Mountain is a magnificent piece of sculptured landscape that overlooks Cape Town. It has a rich flora that boasts of over 1,500 species with about 70% of them being endemic. The multicolored array of flowers makes it a rainbow heaven to view.
10. A South African fish migration is so huge it can be seen from space.
The Sardine Run is the world’s largest annual ritual of fish migration. Each shoal covers 15000m long, 3500m wide and 40m deep. This takes place between the months of May and July when millions of silver fish migrates from northern Eastern Cape to southern KwaZulu-Natal.
This migration is triggered by the move from cold waters to the warm waters. Like the Mara-Serengeti Wildebeest migration, this becomes a boon for predators to enjoy their Christmas. Predatory sea birds, whales, sharks, dolphins, and other predators lay their mouths and beaks to feast.
9. South Africa has three capital cities: Cape Town, Pretoria, and Bloemfontein.
The three legs of South African government are spread across these three cities. Cape Town is the Parliamentary Capital where the Legislative leg of government is anchored.
Pretoria is the Administrative Capital where the Executive leg of government is established. Bloemfontein is the Arbitration Capital where the Judicial leg of Parliament is dug. This makes South African seat of government to be fairly distributed.
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8. Bones found in South Africa help support the theory that modern humans originated in Africa.
South Africa is home to the highest and most ancient concentration of Dinossaurs. The South African rocks have preserved fossil bones of the hominids, the precursor to the current human species.
The fossil bones found in the Sterkfontein Caves, that lie about 50km northwest of Johannesburg, data back to between 2.5 million and 4.5 million years ago. Also there is evidence of the earliest human civilization from the stone tools that date back to 2 million years ago and fire tools that date back to 1.5 million years ago.
7. The aboriginal people of South Africa are the San and the Khoi.
While South Africa is currently dominated by the Bantu speaking people, they are more likely to have settled there less than two millenniums ago. The original inhabitants of South Africa are the Khoi and San people of South Africa (collectively known as the Khoisan).
While the Khoi were pastoralists, the San were agrarian (first as hunters and gatherers). The Khoisan are of small population and widely spread across southern Africa.
6. The swimming pool vacuum cleaner is a South African invention.
South African inventor, Ferdinand Chauvier, created the ‘KreepyKrauly’ swimming pool vacuum cleaner that pulls leaves and other dirt from the pool using hydraulic pressure. This hydraulic suction pressure device became a revolutionary tool in keeping swimming pools clean.
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5. For nearly 50 years, there was a state of apartheid – white minority rule – in South Africa.
After British rule, South Africa got ‘independence’ and fell to the Afrikaaner Nationalist Party which introduced ‘Apartheid’, the officially sanctioned racist regime that segregated Whites from Blacks and setup homelands for Blacks.
The Blacks were forcefully pushed and confined to the homelands with few only licensed to work as labor slaves for the White economy in the mines and urban centers. Their lands were stolen with them being forced to become laborers and squatters. Africans picked up liberation struggle to protest against this criminal barbaric rule.
Many were massacred and others detained. Among those detained were Nelson Mandela who had to spend 27 years in prison becoming the world’s longest-serving political prisoner. He was released in 1990 after successful series of protests, boycotts, international sanctions and isolation.
Nelson Mandela won the first truly multiparty elections where he was inaugurated as the first Black president of his black motherland that had been stolen for close to 300 years pushing Blacks to slavery. His inauguration was conducted on 27th April, 1994 which is now commemorated as the Freedom Day.
This day marked the end of the 300-year-old pain of a foreigner invading your land, grabbing your wealth, forcing your into slavery, imprisoning you, and ruling you by force. Africa for once felt a collective spirit of freedom.
4. The South African flag was used for the first time on Freedom Day 1994.
The majority black South Africans had a long struggle to liberate themselves from almost 300 years of White colonial rule. The 27th April, 1994, marked a turning point of a win by the natives over their invaders, settlers and colonizers.
On the Freedom Day, a new South African flag was unveiled with a significant ‘V’ pattern marking victory over the Apartheid’s criminal racial discrimination and opening up South Africa to the future of a Rainbow nation – a truly multiracial Republic where human rights and human dignity is equal to all.
3. South Africa, in 2006, was the first African country and the fifth country in the world to recognise same sex marriage.
The highly liberal Constitution that came up after the end of Apartheid marked a turning point after which all elements of society were recognized and their diversity appreciated. This included the not so likable gays and lesbians.
South Africa went farther to recognize same-sex marriage. None other than Freedom icon and Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s daughter took this advantage to marry her long-term female companion in the same-sex marriage. Though seemingly displeased, the father had to accept her marriage.
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2. South Africa has hosted the Football (2010), Cricket (2003) and Rugby (1995) world cups.
South Africa became the first country in the world to hold the world’s most popular and prestigious games – Rugby, Cricket, and Football world cups within a span of two decades. It’s record only matches the England record for hosting these three games.
1. South Africa is the only country in the world to build and then decide to dismantle the whole of its nuclear weapons programme.
South Africa is the first only country in Africa to have had successful nuclear weapons program. However, after the end of Apartheid, South Africa dismantled its nuclear weapons program which it was alleged to have created in order to scare away African States from liberating their own long-suffering brothers and sisters under the barbaric claws of Apartheid.
South Africa is a Rainbow nation. It is not just rainbow in terms of racial diversity but also in terms of the diversity of its wealth ranging from a rich cultural history, magnificent flora and fauna, spectacular landscape, and dreams and hopes. The welcoming people of South Africa accompanied by their soul-searching songs beckons every person to visit South Africa, the land of Madiba.