Introduction to South Africa and its People

South Africa

South Africa is known as the “Rainbow Nation”, and it is indeed such a country, considering her vast cultural and ethnic diversity. It has one of the most complex populations in the world. The total count of people in South Africa is 51.7 million, with more than 41 million black, 4.5 million white, 4.6 million colored, and 1.3 Indians. There are four major ethnic groups: Nguni, Sotho, Shangaan-Tsonga, and Venda. Within these groups are many other subgroups, including Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, and Swazi.

The white population is comprised of about 60% Afrikaans descent and 40% British or European origin. The colored community, on the other hand, has not specific lineage. They are usually linked to the genes of indigenous Khoisan genes mixed with African slaves who came from different parts to work for the whites.  

South Africa is one of the most developed African countries. Having just gone through the harsh apartheid rule a few years ago, it is quite amazing to see the people of Msanzi with a strong will and pride for their land. According to Statistics South Africa, there are five racial categories by which people classify themselves. The majority and South African, Black with 76.1% followed by the whites at 9.1%, colored people are 8.8% the Asians take 2.1% and other/unspecified group is at 0.5%. The report omitted the unspecified/other groups because the responses were negligible. This is a different figure from the first census of 1911, where whites made up 22% of the population, dropping to 16% in 1980.

Black People of South Africa

This is the major category of native South Africans classified as Black people of South Africa, African or Black South African. Even those they fall under these names, they are not culturally or linguistically homogenous. There are different subgroups among them, the major one being Zulu, Xhosa, Bapedi, Ndebele, Basotho, Vanda, Tsonga, Swazi, and Batswana. Each group speaks South African Indigenous Language associated with them.

Black people are the natives of the whole region, and they are evenly distributed across the south part of the African continent. They are not only in South Africa, but many are found across the borders in the neighboring countries of Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. The density of black South Africans extends to 29km square.

The White

The majority of people from European descent in South Africa are Dutch, German, French Huguenots, English, and European settlers. They are divided into two with one group speaking Afrikaans, called Boers, and the other speaking English. Because of the low birth rate, the white population has been on a constant decrease over the past few decades. Other factors to this include a high crime rate and discriminatory policies from the country that has forced many to emigrate. Even though there are a huge number of emigrants, there are still a large number of European settlers with the 2011 census showing about 500, 000 people. Some European emigrated from Zimbabwe from 2007, making the number grow after many political and economic problems hit their nation. The recent decades have seen quite a good number of white settlers come in despite the challenges mentioned above.

The Colored People of South Africa

This is the major population in the Cape region. They came from intermarriage between different ethnic groups such as the indigenous South Africans with Whites, Griqua, and Asians. Note that this is not by default a multiracial group. They are many multiracial people from the other groups as well; they are identified as colored South Africans. Even though they are accustomed to the South African Culture, this group does not have a specific language or race to identify with. Most of them, however, speak Afrikaans or their first language. They are descendants of indigenous African people like the Khoisan, South Bantu, and South African; not of African descent, like Whites and Asians.

The Asians of South Africa

These are people of South Africa, mostly from India. They are majorly referred to as Indians in the country; many have descended from the indentured workers who were brought in from the nineteenth century as sugar plantation laborers. Today, there is a significant group, large enough to form and ethnic group of South Africa. A few others come from the Chinese, Vietnamese, Japan, Korean, and Pakistani descent.

The Culture of South Africa

South Africa has been identified as an ancient kingdom. The early human fossils were found at Sterkfontein and many other sites. Among the modern inhabitants, the Khoisan is classified as the first inhabitants. This group is divided into two sub-groups; the San (Bushmen), who were hunter-gatherers, and the Khoi (Hottentot), who were livestock keepers. There are also the Bantu-speaking clans who brought in the Nguni (today is known as Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi, and Ndebele. Another significant group is the Twana-Sotho language groups who occupy Botswana and Lesotho, respectively. These Bantu groups migrated from east Africa from as early as the eleventh century to settle here.

The late eighteenth century saw the invasion of European settlers as colonists started taking on the region from Cape Town. At this time, the indigenous Khoi people were enslaved, drove off, or wiped out by European merchants and soldiers. Even though the white dominance was entrenched in 1834 with the abolition of the slave trade, a considerable number of the Khoisan had been wiped out, nearly annihilating them.

Despite these challenges, South Africa has remained a center for cultural pride in the whole of the African continent. It is a multi-lingual and diverse country with no ‘single culture.’ With eleven official languages and many others, the country forms the epicenter of southern African.

Unity is one of the major slogans of the Southern people. Immediately after the lifting of apartheid rule, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of the Anglican Church coined it with the term “Rainbow Nation” to echo the unity of her people amidst different races or people. President Nelson Mandela further elaborated the term but stating that each person is intimately attached to this fertile soil. Ever since South African has seen better peaceful days with different languages and cultural groups coming together to share their cultures in solidarity with the peaceSouth Africa, they so yearn for. 


1030 Words


Mar 12, 2020


3 Pages

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