Interesting facts about South Africa
1. Table Mountain in Cape Town is believed to be one of the oldest mountains in the world.
2. The world is divided into six floral kingdoms. All these kingdoms encompass several countries, and in some cases, several continents. South Africa, which has a floral kingdom wholly contained within the country, is the one exception. The Cape Floral Kingdom has 9,600 plant species, 70% of which are not found anywhere else in the world.
3. Table Mountain alone has over 1,500 species of plants, more than the entire United Kingdom.
4. South Africa is the second largest exporter of fruit in the world.
5. South Africa has the longest wine route in the world.
6. Kruger National Park supports the greatest variety of wildlife species on the African continent.
7. South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique are tearing down fences between the countries’ game parks to create a 13,500 square mile game park, which will become the largest conservation area in the world. It will be bigger than Switzerland, Belgium or Taiwan.
8. South Africa has a penguin colony, which thrives thanks to the cold Antarctic currents on the west coast near the Cape.
9. South Africa is rated 3rd in the world in supplying safe, drinkable tap water.
10. The Palace of the Lost City resort hotel is the largest theme resort hotel in the world as well as the largest building project undertaken in the southern hemisphere.
11. Walt Disney serves South African wine exclusively at its 73-acre Animal Kingdom Lodge in the United States.
12. South Africa has the cheapest electricity in the world.
13. The deepest mine is a gold mine in South Africa. in 1977 the Western Deep Levels Mine reached a depth of 11,749 feet. Most mines descend to about 3,300 feet.
14. South Africa is the only country in the world to voluntarily abandon its nuclear weapons program.
15. South Africa has 19,004 miles of railway track – 80% of Africa’s rail infrastructure.
16. South Africa generates two-thirds of Africa’s electricity.
17. The Tugela Falls is the second highest waterfall in the world, where the water tumbles down 2,789 feet. First place goes to the Angel Falls in Venezuela at 3,212 feet.
18. Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world – and the largest green one. The Grand Canyon in the U.S. is the biggest, and the Fish River Canyon in Namibia the second, but both are very dry.
19. South Africa is home to the world’s smallest succulent plants (less than 0.39 inches) and the largest (the baobab tree).
20. Kimberley may have the biggest man-made hole in the world, but did you know that the southern Free State town of Jagersfontein has the deepest vertical man-made hole?
21. The only street in the world to house two Nobel Peace prizewinners is in Soweto. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both have houses on Vilakazi Street in Soweto.
22. South Africa is the world’s largest producer of macadamia nuts.
23. South Africa has the third highest level of biodiversity in the world.
24. South Africa is the world’s leader in mining and minerals. It has nearly 90% of the platinum metals on earth, 80% of the manganese, 73% of the chrome, 45% of the vanadium and 41% of the gold.
25. South Africa was the first country in Africa to host the prestigious FIFA World Cup.
26. South Africa has the oldest meteor scar in the world, just across the Vaal River near Parys, called the Vredefort Dome. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
27. South African grasslands have approximately 30 species per square kilometer, greater than the biodiversity of rainforests.
28. South Africa is the sole producer of the Mercedes Benz C Class, right-hand drive vehicles .
29. General Motors South Africa was the only manufacturing site outside of the United States to build the Hummer H3 vehicle. Production ceased in 2010.
30. South Africa is one of the most generously endowed geographic solar hotspots in the world, soaking up just over half of the world’s highest category of solar wattage per square yard of land.
31. South Africa has deserts, mountains, escarpments, plateaus, grasslands, bush, wetlands and subtropical forests.
32. Most of the world’s proto-mammalian fossils are found in the Karoo region.
33. Dr. Christiaan Barnard, at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, performed the first human heart transplant in the world in 1967. He was also the first to do a “piggyback” transplant in 1971, and he was the first to do a heart-lung transplant.
34. The vast majority of South African coal exports are shipped through the Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT). With the capacity to export 79.4 mmst annually, RBCT is the world’s largest coal export facility.
35. The world’s largest diamond was the Cullinan Diamond, found in South Africa in 1905. It weighed 3,106.75 carats uncut. It was cut into the Great Star of Africa, weighing 530.2 carats, the Lesser Star of Africa, which weighs 317.40 carats, and 104 other diamonds of nearly flawless color and clarity. They now form part of the British crown jewels.
36. There are about 280,000 windmills on farms across South Africa, second in number only to Australia.
37. Three of the five fastest land animals live in South Africa – the cheetah (63 miles per hour), the wildebeest, and the lion.
38. The oldest remains of modern humans were found in Klasies River Cave in the Eastern Cape. They are well over 100,000 years old.
39. In eastern South Africa, scientists have found traces of blue-green algae dating back 3,500 million years. This is some of the earliest evidence of life on Earth.
40. There are more than 2,000 shipwrecks, dating back at least 500 years, off the South African coast. More than one of these, including the Waratah, simply vanished without a trace.
41. The Karoo region is home to some of the best fossils of early dinosaurs.
42. Although Pretoria is considered to be the capital of South Africa, the country actually has three capitals: Pretoria (executive), Cape Town (legislative), and Bloemfontein (judicial).
43. In its eastern part, South Africa entirely surrounds another country – Lesotho, an independent constitutional monarchy.
44. Approximately 900 bird species are found in South Africa alone, which represents 10% of the worlds total bird species.
45. South Africa has the most luxurious train in the world, The Rovos Rail.
46. South Africa has the highest commercial bungi jump in the world (710 feet).
47. Mossel Bay is in the Guinness Book of records as having the second most moderate climate in the world.
48. Pietermaritzburg’s city hall is the largest red brick building in the Southern Hemisphere.
49. Hippos are susceptible to sunburn, and spend most of their days with just their noses out of water. Their noses have special flaps that close when submerged, and they can stay under water for 25 minutes.
50. South Africa has the oldest wine industry outside of Europe and the Mediterranean, featuring Chardonnays, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cinsault, Riesling, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage varietals.
Post Apartheid South Africa
South Africa’s first democratic election was held on 26, 27 and 28 April 1994, with victory going to the ANC. Nelson Mandela was sworn in as President on May 10 with FW de Klerk and the ANC’s Thabo Mbeki as Deputy Presidents.
Mandela’s presidency was characterised by the successful negotiation of a new constitution; a start on the massive task of restructuring the civil service and attempts to redirect national priorities to address the results of apartheid; and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up primarily to investigate the wrongs of the past.In the country’s second democratic election on 2 June 1999 the ANC marginally increased its majority and Thabo Mbeki became President. The New Nationalist Party, previously the official opposition, lost ground and ceded that position to the Democratic Party, which later became the Democratic Alliance.In 2004 South Africa’s third democratic election went off peacefully, with Thabo Mbeki and the ANC again returning to power, and the Democratic Alliance retaining its position as official opposition.Then, three years later, Mbeki lost the presidency of the ANC to his former deputy, Jacob Zuma, and power within the ruling party shifted away from Mbeki.After nearly 10 years as president, Mbeki resigned in September 2008, with Kgalema Motlanthe appointed as “caretaker” president by the National Assembly.In the 2009 elections – democratic South Africa’s fourth – the ANC won 65.9% of the vote and Jacob Zuma was elected as president. The Democratic Alliance strengthened its position as opposition, winning 16.7% of the vote as well as the Western Cape.In the 2014 elections – democratic South Africa’s fifth – the ANC won 62.1% of the vote, down from the 2009 election, and Jacob Zuma was elected as president. The Democratic Alliance increased its share of the vote from 16.7% to 22.2%, while the newly formed Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) obtained 6.4% of the vote.