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South Africa:
Geography

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South Africa Page


Background
Definition
Dutch traders landed at the southern tip of modern day South Africa in 1652 and established a stopover point on the spice route between the Netherlands and the East, founding the city of Cape Town. After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch settlers (the Boers) trekked north to found their own republics. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Boers resisted British encroachments but were defeated in the Boer War (1899-1902); however, the British and the Afrikaners, as the Boers became known, ruled together under the Union of South Africa. In 1948, the National Party was voted into power and instituted a policy of apartheid - the separate development of the races. The first multi-racial elections in 1994 brought an end to apartheid and ushered in black majority rule.
Location
Definition
Southern Africa, at the southern tip of the continent of Africa
Geographic coordinates
Definition
29 00 S, 24 00 E
Map references
Definition
Africa
Area
Definition - World rank and map
total: 1,219,912 sq km
land: 1,219,912 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: includes Prince Edward Islands (Marion Island and Prince Edward Island)
Area - comparative
Definition
slightly less than twice the size of Texas
Land boundaries
Definition
total: 4,862 km
border countries: Botswana 1,840 km, Lesotho 909 km, Mozambique 491 km, Namibia 967 km, Swaziland 430 km, Zimbabwe 225 km
Coastline
Definition
2,798 km
Maritime claims
Definition
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to edge of the continental margin
Climate
Definition
mostly semiarid; subtropical along east coast; sunny days, cool nights
Terrain
Definition
vast interior plateau rimmed by rugged hills and narrow coastal plain
Elevation extremes
Definition
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Njesuthi 3,408 m
Natural resources
Definition
gold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas
Land use
Definition - World rank and map
arable land: 12.1%
permanent crops: 0.79%
other: 87.11% (2005)
Irrigated land
Definition
14,980 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources
Definition
50 cu km (1990)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
Definition
total: 12.5 cu km/yr (31%/6%/63%)
per capita: 264 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards
Definition
prolonged droughts
Environment - current issues
Definition
lack of important arterial rivers or lakes requires extensive water conservation and control measures; growth in water usage outpacing supply; pollution of rivers from agricultural runoff and urban discharge; air pollution resulting in acid rain; soil erosion; desertification
Environment - international agreements
Definition
party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note
Definition
South Africa completely surrounds Lesotho and almost completely surrounds Swaziland


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