South Africa 2 Essay, Research Paper
South Africa is the southernmost part of the continent of Africa. It is one of the earth’s oldest and stable landmasses. This is why there are no folded mountain ranges. The only mountain ranges that are similar to that kind of range, would be those in the southern tip. The rest of the country has been slightly pitted so that interior lakes like the Okovango Delta have no outlet to the sea.
Most of the country is at an elevation of 3,000 to 6,500 feet above sea level. South Africa lies north of 35 S latitude and is surrounded on three sides by the Indian and Atlantic oceans. In the winter a belt of depressions moves northward to bring rains to the south. During the summer moist tropical air masses migrate southward, bringing frequent thunderstorms. There are not many rivers in South Africa, and those few are not navigable. The unpredictable rainfall makes drought in the areas a very common problem. The towns and cities cannot depend on a consistent source of water for the year. Water supplies for both the town and the country must be very well planned, so there is no drought. Wells are usually the source for irrigation and general water supply in the countryside, however the urban and industrialized areas need the use of dams. On the major rivers of South Africa it is easy to see many dams that have been built. Many of the dams provide hydroelectric power to the national electricity grid. Located on the upper Orange River are two of the largest dams in South Africa.
In spite of the amount of land that South Africa encompasses, surprisingly only 15% of the land is arable. Even so, South Africa exports any of its crops including wine, fruits, vegetables, corn, and cane sugar. Natural vegetation has been changed greatly through overgrazing, seasonal burning, and introducing new species. Grasslands and exotic trees have displaced subtropical forests nurtured by spring and summer rains. Only one area of the Southern cape has a perennial rainfall, the Knysna and George districts. This rainfall has a true hardwood temperate forest in which many species of hardwood survive.
Farther westward, the natural tree life fades and the grassy upland, otherwise known as the Highveld, prevails. As one travels further west the rainfall decreases and the thorn-tree country begins. Thin grasses and sparsely covered areas become more prevalent. These areas are commonly called the Kalahari Desert and the bare Namib Desert. The Western Cape province has a Mediterranean type of climate, referred to as a “summer dry” climate. The vegetation is found to be shrubs, pine, and oak trees. Northwest of this region are low scrub, cactus, and aloes. These plants dominate the areas of Little and Great Karroo. It is quite obvious that the areas change very much by each mile because of the unsteady amount of precipitation, and South Africa’s climate.
Significant deposits of iron ore are mined for local use and export. Immeasurable reserves of bituminous coal are exploited for thermo-electric power and for worldwide export. There is a singular nuclear power plant at Koeburg that supplies the west with electric power, because this area is very far from the coalfields. South Africa does have a lack of petroleum, however it has built the wold’s only plants that create oil from coal. These three plants supply 70% of South Africa’s gasoline needs and a large volume of the petrochemicals that are used in industry. There was a large find of natural gas near Mossel Bay that has been changed to gasoline production.
The animal life in South Africa is very rich in animals from the “Old World.” It has large cats, such as lions, leopards, and cheetahs. These cats roam freely in parts of South Africa and feed on the many species of antelope and monkey. A large variety of reptiles that include crocodiles, iguanas, and snakes are found in the countryside. Large quantities were reduced in large numbers during the 19th century for gaming purposes. Hunters killed large numbers of elephants, rhinoceros, and other animals in search of trophy. Unfortunately there were not many animals to survive this hunting. To protect these animals, four different game reserves were established in Natal in 1897 and the Kruger National Park in 1898. There are ten major reserves today, and strenuous efforts are being made to save these endangered animals.
The many peoples of South Africa are put into many categories. These groups include blacks, whites, Coloreds, and Asians (sometimes referred to as Indians). The largest group to represent South Africa is the blacks. Their languages that are represented in South Africa today by Nguni, Sotho, Venda, and Shangaan Tsonga, are easily distinguished.
The blacks are usually sheepherders and cultivators. During the 19 century the British colonial government placed the various tribes in reservations after they were defeated in war. In these reservations the men herded livestock, and the women cultivated corn and sorghum. In these mines they work as migrant laborers, that live in the mining compounds only to return home periodically. Other people work in the fast growing industrial cities accompanied by their families. These people at first lived in shantytowns in the outskirts of town. Over time the government replaced many of the shantytowns with rented low income housing in separate areas. However, immigration from reservations in the surrounding areas has completely besieged any of the planned development. The occupants can now buy the houses. An example of a black city would be Soweto, on the edge of the city of Johannesburg, has an estimated 2 million or more residents. It does have primary and secondary schools, also technical colleges. The people that live in Soweto transport to work by bus, train, taxi, and privately owned automobiles.
The white population has two main segments. There are the descendents of the Dutch or British immigrants, and then there are the Afrikaners. The Afrikaners speak Afrikaans, this is a language that is resultant from the Netherlandic, Dutch, and Flemish. The British immigrants that spoke English started to inhabit the cities from 1820 and on. They were reinforced by the others that became attracted by the diamond, gold, coal, and platinum mines. Afrikaans and English have equal status as official language.
Another colored group resulted from the enslavement of the San hunters and Khoi-Khoi farmers and herdsmen. In 1652 the Dutch East India Company officials arrived in Table Bay. The company had much trouble trying to enslave the Africans, so they imported slaves. The Asian slaves, Khoisan, and white settlers intermarried during the next century and produced a Cape Colored community. Many of the Cape Coloreds still continue to live in the southwestern cape. The Asian community is mostly made of East Indians. Brought to the coast of Natal, they were made to become indentured servants. The large need for laborers was because of the large sugar plantations and many black men refused to work them. So they basically took people for slaves that did not have a defense. The Indians were insured a free passage back to their native country of India, however the bulk chose to stay in South Africa. They abandoned their homeland languages to learn their new native language of English or Afrikaans. The other Asians that make up the population are East African Arabs. There are a few hundred Chinese that are descendents of the indentured laborers that were brought from Canton to work in the mines.
There are an abundant amount of environmental health problems, two of which are malnutrition and major pollution. These do receive extra attention from the medical and social-welfare authorities, especially when the crops fail. Johannesburg is one the largest cities and the capitol of South Africa that is not placed on a coast, a lakeshore, or a river. It lies on a prairie in the southern part of the Transvaal province, which happens to be a major center for international air travel and for an extensive network of rail lines. The city is sometimes called the “city of gold”, because gold was found there in 1886. The gold-bearing reef is commonly called the “Rand”. The city has a moderately mild climate, with summer temperatures averaging 50 degrees F and winters averaging 68 degrees F. The rainfall averages about 30 inches a year. The effects of all of the developers and damage to this land have left it with little remains of the original plant and animal life. However, work has been done to create reserves, such as the Melville Kopje Reserve, to keep the history of South Africa in tact.
The principal population groups in the cosmopolitan city are English and Afrikaans who speak Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, Venda, and Tswana. The population of Asians includes Japanese, Chinese, and Indians. The European population includes Germans, Hungarians, Italians, and French. A large number of blacks from the rural areas set up squatter camps and shantytowns because of the city’s rapid urbanization and industrialization between the two world wars. Johannesburg underwent a large slum-clearance program because of the tremendous pressure that they exerted on the city’s services. (Including water, transportation, and health.) Johannesburg’s narrow downtown streets are towered over by its tall buildings, the suburban streets are much more spacious and tree lined. The city is the administrative headquarters of the gold mining companies. A financial center, that houses the Stock Exchange, several banks, and insurance companies, was established in 1887.
Education in Johannesburg includes many primary and secondary schools. It also has various technical colleges and research institutions. The University of Witwatersrand is for English-speaking students, and was founded in Johannesburg in 1922. The Rand Afrikaans University gives higher education in Afrikaans, the Transvaal College of Education is for Asians, and the Rand College of education is for coloreds.
South Africa is considered to be a very diverse country with many interesting areas in it s history, society, and culture. With such differences, there are also many problems finally being resolved today.