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South Africa

executive capital, Coloureds, end of apartheid, majority rule, Limpopo Province

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South Africa, southernmost country in Africa, a land of diversity and division in its geography, people, and political history. Physically, tall mountain ranges separate fertile coastal plains from high interior plateaus. The grassland and desert of the plateaus hide pockets of amazing mineral wealth, particularly in gold and diamonds.

Black Africans comprise more than 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 the 1990s, 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 a total reorganization of the government, which since 1994 has been a nonracial democracy based on majority rule.

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

The country is divided into nine provinces. These provinces are Gauteng, Limpopo Province (formerly 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.


For younger readers

Bowden, Rob. South Africa. Raintree, 2002. For readers in grades 5 to 7.

Canesso, Claudia. South Africa. Chelsea House, 1999. A history for middle school readers.

Mandela, Nelson. Mandela: An Illustrated Autobiography. Little Brown, 1996. An abridged version for young readers of Mandela's memoir, Long Walk to Freedom.

Nagle, Garrett. South Africa. Heinemann, 1999. For middle school readers.

Rosmarin, Ike. South Africa. Benchmark, 2003. For readers in grades 5 to 8.


Berry, Ian. Living Apart: South Africa under Apartheid. Forwd. Desmond Tutu. Chronicle, 1996. Photographic record of South African race relations under apartheid.

Eades, Lind Michie. The End of Apartheid in South Africa. Greenwood, 1999. A study of the end of apartheid and the movement toward a government of national unity.

Edelstein, Jillian. Truth and Lies: Stories from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. New Press, 2002. A photographic journal of the author's four years of attendance at the hearings.

Gaines, Ann Graham. Nelson Mandela and Apartheid in World History. Enslow, 2001. Timelines, references, and insights into history, culture, politics and personal courage. For middle-school readers.

Krog, Antjie. Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa. Crown, 2000. A deeply moving account of the horrors of apartheid, as voiced through the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Mulholland, Rosemary. South Africa 1948-1994. Cambridge University Press, 1998. Examines the critical years in the struggle to end apartheid; for younger readers.

Scheub, Harold. The Tongue Is Fire: South African Storytellers and Apartheid. University of Wisconsin Press, 1996. South African storytellers, poets, performers, and others.

Thompson, Leonard. A History of South Africa. 3rd ed. Yale University Press, 2001. Essential reading for understanding the historical context behind South Africa's apartheid policies.

Tutu, Desmond. The Rainbow People of God: The Making of a Peaceful Revolution. Ed. John Allen. Doubleday, 1994. Collection of the archbishop of Capetown's sermons, speeches, and letters from 1976 to 1994; includes his Nobel Peace Prize speech.

Waldmeir, Patti. Anatomy of a Miracle: The End of Apartheid and the Birth of the New South Africa. Rutgers University Press, 1998. An illuminating study of Mandela and de Klerk.

Boer War

Evans, Martin. Encyclopedia of the Boer War. ABC-CLIO, 2000. An alphabetical reference that covers all aspects of the Boer War.

Pakenham, Thomas. The Boer War. Random House, 1979, 1994. Thorough examination using many previously unpublished sources and recollections of combatants. A classic.

Plaatje, Sol T. Mafeking Diary: A Black Man's View of a White Man's War. Ed. John Comaroff, Brian Willan, and Andrew Reed. Ohio University Press, 1973, 1990. Account of the 217-day siege of Mafeking.

Van Hartesveldt, Fred R. The Boer War. Sutton, 2000. The story of how amateur farmer solders embarrassed the British Empire.

Wilson, Keith., ed. The International Impact of the Boer War. Palgrave Macmillan, 2001. A collection of essays that, for the first time, places the South African Boer War in its international context.

South Africa

Davenport, T. R. H., and Christopher Saunders. South Africa: A Modern History. St. Martin's, 2000.

Goodwin, June, and Ben Schiff. Heart of Whiteness: Afrikaners Face Black Rule in the New South Africa. Scribner, 1995. The views of white Afrikaner nationalists on their place in South Africa under black majority rule.

Green, Jen. A Family from South Africa. Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1997. Daily life for a family in South Africa, for younger readers.

Massie, Robert Kinloch. Loosing the Bonds: The United States and South Africa in the Apartheid Years. Doubleday, 1997. America's relationship with South Africa since 1945 and the affinities that place the two nations in symbolic counterpoint.

McCord, Margaret. The Calling of Katie Makanya: A Memoir of South Africa. Wiley, 1998. The life story of an ordinary yet extraordinary black South African woman who died in 1955 at age 83. Winner of the Johannesburg Sunday Times/Alan Paton Prize for Non-Fiction.

McKee, Timothy. No More Strangers Now: Young Voices from a New South Africa. DK Publishing, 1998. Post-apartheid South Africa through the voices and faces of 12 young adults, ranging in age from 13 to 19.

Mountain, Alan. Vanishing Cultures of South Africa: Changing Customs in a Changing World. Rizzoli, 1998. Photographs convey the ceremonial customs and ways of South Africa's indigenous groups.

Pakenham, Thomas. The Boer War. Random House, 1979. Reprint, Avon, 1992. Vivid narrrative of the war between Britain and the Afrikaners from 1899 to 1902.

Ross, Robert. A Concise History of South Africa. Cambridge University Press, 1999. A synthesis of South African history from its agrarian beginnings to the time of Nelson Mandela.

Saunders, Christopher C. Historical Dictionary of South Africa. Scarecrow, 1999. A comprehensive resource for scholars and students.

Sparks, Allister. Tomorrow is Another Country: The Inside Story of South Africa's Negotiated Revolution. Hill and Wang, 1995. A portrait of South Africa's negotiated revolution that brought about the transition from apartheid to democracy.

Welsh, Frank. South Africa: A Narrative History. Kodansha, 1998. South Africa's history from the Portuguese landing in 1488 to the evolving nation's first democratic election in 1994.

Worden, Nigel. The Making of Modern South Africa: Conquest, Segregation, and Apartheid. 3rd ed. Blackwell, 1995, 2000. An overview of the history and politics of South Africa from colonial conquest to the 1994 elections.


Lemon, Anthony, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. University Lecturer, Oxford University. Fellow and Tutor in Geography, Mansfield College, Oxford University. Author of Apartheid in Transition and Apartheid: A Geography of Separation.

O’Meara, Patrick, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Dean for International Programs and Professor of Political Science, Indiana University. Coeditor of Twenty-Five Years of African Independence and Southern Africa in Crisis.

Winchester, N. Brian, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Director of the Center for the Study of Global Change, Indiana University. Coauthor of chapters in Revolutions in the Late Twentieth Century and The South African Quagmire: In Search of a Peaceful Path to Democratic Pluralism.

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Article key phrases:

executive capital, Coloureds, end of apartheid, majority rule, Limpopo Province, Bloemfontein, black population, Black Africans, Northern Province, Mpumalanga, enclave, political power, Eastern Cape, Pretoria, political history, Free State, Western Cape, Northern Cape, official languages, Atlantic Ocean, Asians, Cape Town, remainder, whites, Indian Ocean, Indians, people, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Swaziland, desert, Mozambique, gold, Botswana, South Africa, geography, opportunity, division, lifestyle, west, government

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