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Africa, South Africa

South Africa, southernmost country in Africa, bordered on the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland; on the east and south by the Indian Ocean; and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. Lesotho forms an enclave in the northeastern part of the country.

South Africa has a diverse and dramatic landscape. Most of the interior is covered by high plateaus, which are separated from the country’s long coastline by chains of tall mountains. South Africa is rich in minerals such as gold and diamonds, and its industrial base grew up around the mining industry.

Black Africans comprise three quarters of South Africa’s population, and whites, Coloureds (people of mixed race), and Asians (mainly Indians) make up the remainder. Among the black population there are numerous ethnic groups and 11 official languages. Until recently, whites dominated the nonwhite majority population under the political system of racial segregation known as apartheid. Apartheid ended in the early 1990s, but South Africa is still recovering from the racial inequalities in political power, opportunity, and lifestyle. The end of apartheid led to the lifting of trade sanctions against South Africa imposed by the international community. It also led to a total reorganization of the government, which since 1994 has been a nonracial democracy based on majority rule.

South Africa is divided into nine provinces. These provinces are Gauteng, Northern Province, Mpumalanga, North-West Province, Free State, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal. The country has three capitals: Cape Town is the legislative capital; Pretoria, the executive capital; and Bloemfontein, the judicial capital.

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