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. Encarta © "South Africa" © Emmanuel Buchot and Encarta
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