South Africa was first founded in 1652 by Dutch traders, who founded the city of Cape Town to serve as a stop on the trade route from the Netherlands to the Far East. In 1806, the British seized the Cape of Good Hope and displaced many of the Dutch settlers further north. The discovery of diamonds and gold by the British resulted in their stronger grasp on the region and forced the Boers (Dutch) to resist English rule. This resistance escalated into the Boer War (1899-1902), in which the Boers were defeated. However, in 1910, the British and the Boers together ruled the Union of South Africa, which became a republic in 1961. The National Party came into power in 1948 and developed a policy of apartheid. Such policies were unjust and favored the white minority over the black majority. The African National Congress (ANC), led by Nelson Mandela, led the opposition to apartheid. The accumulation of protests, insurgency and boycotts eventually led to a peaceful transition to majority rule. The first multi-racial elections were held in 1994 and apartheid was ended under the new ANC-led government. Jacob Zuma, the current president of South Africa, was elected in April 2009.
Although South Africa is an ethnically diverse country, it remains mostly black, with 79% of the population as such. 9.6% are white, and 8.9% are colored. South Africa is home to many languages, with the largest three being Zulu, Xhosa and Afrikaans. South Africa is predominantly Christian, with most identifying as Protestant.
South Africa also has the largest population of people of European descent in Africa, the largest Indian population outside of Asia, and the largest Colored community in Africa.
South Africa has a very large mining industry, and is the world’s largest producer of platinum, gold and chromium. South Africa has a middle-income, emerging economy and is well-developed. It has an abundant supply of natural resources and the 18th largest stock exchange in the world. Even in light of the numerous economic improvements, many issues remain from its apartheid era; specifically poverty and a shortage of public transportation.
South Africa has military along the border to apprehend the thousands of people fleeing the economic dysfunction and political persecution in Zimbabwe. South Africa has large numbers of refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Burundi, and other African nations.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the 63-year-old South African home affairs minister, has been elected to lead the 54-nation bloc known as the African Union. She is the first woman to hold the post and is the ex-wife of South African president Jacob Zuma. She is expected to deal with a wide variety of issues, the most glaring of which are the recent coups in Mali and Guinea-Bissau.