The Republic of South Africa is the most Southern country in Africa and occupies the larger part of Africa south of the tropic of Capricorn. South Africa has two capital cities of Cape Town and Pretoria. Other major cities include Johannesburg, Durban and Bloemfontein.
South Africa has 11 official languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu. English is widely spoken throughout South Africa. The currency in South Africa is the Rand broken into 100 cents (US$/Rand).
The country consists of nine provinces, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, North West, The Eastern Cape, The Free State, The Northern Cape, Northern Province and the Western Cape.
South Africa has a variety of climates as the country is so large and contains many geographical features. The Western Cape has a Mediterranean climate, Kwa-Zulu Natal has a sub-tropical climate, Gauteng’s central highveld has a temperate climate and in the karoo region is an arid semi-desert climate.
Within the country’s borders are the Independent republic of Lesotho and Independent Swaziland.
In 1994 South Africa gained political independence from the apartheid government and with that, the subsequent normalisation of the country’s external relations.
South Africa’s economy is based largely on the abundant mineral and energy resources found in the country. Mining forms the basis for much of the manufacturing industry, and gold and diamonds dominate the export industry. South Africa is a middle income country with good infrastructure and developed transport, water and electricity networks. Numerous dams have been built on the rivers to provide water for irrigation, industrial and domestic use.
There are also developed professional services and one of the largest stock exchanges in the world. Unemployment and crime have however hampered the economic growth of the country. Despite being a middle income country, however, the income disparities are amongst the largest in the world. Further economic growth now rests on the government’s goals of increasing overall living conditions, cutting unemployment and promoting exports. Through its macro-economic policies, the South African government has shown its commitment to privatisation, free trade and a favourable investment situation. Despite the government’s intentions to boost exports through its GEAR policy, the majority of exporting companies exported less in the first quarter of 1999 than in the same period in 1998. Total exports for 1999 had however increased R17bn on the previous year.
The dialling code is +27 and the standard time is GMT +2. Cape Town and Johannesburg have international airports that serve most cities in South Africa, and most international cities. South African Airways is the national carrier servicing most international countries. Many international airlines fly to South Africa on a regular basis.
All visitors to South Africa require a valid passport and visa. Passport holders of certain countries are exempt from visa requirements. Enquiries should be directed to South African diplomatic representatives abroad or the Department of Home Affairs in Pretoria. Visas are issued free of charge. Those who plan to travel to neighbouring countries and return to South Africa should apply for multiple entry visas. Travellers must have valid international health certificates. Travellers from the yellow-fever belt in Africa and the USA, as well as those who travel through or disembark in these areas, must have inoculation certificates. Precautions must be taken when travelling to parts of KwaZuluNatal, Mpumalanga and the Northern Province, as Malaria is endemic to these regions. The most prevalent disease is tuberculosis, and the incident rate is amongst the highest in Africa. AIDS is also a major problem and it is advised to take precautions against contracting this disease.
Value-added Tax (VAT) can be redeemed at the point of exit from the country provided that the value of the items purchased exceeds R250.
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Black economic empowerment, the involvement of black people at all levels of business management in South Africa, is a hot topic in post-apartheid South Africa. Political freedom was eventually achieved in 1994, with the country’s first democratic elections. Economic freedom is proving more elusive. The majority of South Africans do not have a stake in the economy, and business is still largely dominated by white businessmen.
The news is not all bad, however. There are a number of black-controlled groups on the JSE, and several JSE stockbroking firms are black-owned. Major black empowerment acquisitions include JCI and Johnnic from Anglo American and Zenex Oil from the Zenex Trust. Failures include New Age Beverages, a partnership with Pepsico International, which went into liquidation.
Another form of black empowerment is the appointment of high profile black personalities to senior positions both in parastatal organisations and the corporate world. Within the black community, there are those who feel proud of the notable achievements of prominent black businessmen such as Dr Nthato Motlana of Corporate Africa, the controlling company of New Africa Investments Ltd (Nail), and Mr Don Ncube of Real Africa Investment Ltd (Rail), while others feel that such successes represent the pursuit of self-interest before the interests of one’s brothers, leaving the vast majority of black South Africans as economically disadvantaged as they were before South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.
Affirmative action continues to be a thorny issue. There are some companies which have well thought out programmes, with processes which are designed to correct the inequities of the past and accelerate the development of historically disadvantaged employees to a position where they can compete on equal terms with their white counterparts. Others, in an attempt to be ‘politically correct’, make affirmative action appointments which leave their incumbents very well-paid (between 30% and 50% more in some fields) but often protected from real decision making. The latter practice is exacerbated by the relative scarcity of skilled black candidates, and leads to frustration for all involved. As a result of the high demand for qualified black managers and professionals, salary packages have risen fast and there has been very high job mobility.