South AfricaSouth Africa
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. This is where the north-south ranges meet an east-west range in the Paarl area. 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. Two large high-pressure areas control the weather in South Africa brought over by both of the 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 of the plus 360 dams that have been built. These are easily found on the Orange, Vaal, Limpopo, and the Tugela rivers. 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. The Lesotho Highlands Water Project was developed to supply water to the Transvaal industrial area by mid 1990’s. Even though there are an abundant amount of dams in the country, the populations of both city and town must persevere intermittent water rationing.
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. Dairy and beef cattle are raised in many different areas, including sheep and Angora goats to provide wool and mohair. Natural vegetation has been changed greatly through overgrazing, seasonal burning, and introducing new species. Subtropical forests nurtured by spring and summer rains have been displaced by grasslands, exotic trees; east of the Drakensburg escarpment. 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 the species such as stinkwood, sneezewood, yellowwood, and ironwood 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 shrubby with waxy leaves, and 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.
Gold mining produces as by-product called uraninite. This product is then converted into uranium oxide for local use and export. Gem-quality and industrial diamonds are both mined in large quantities and sold on world markets. 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 white rhinoceros is one of the many animals trying to be saved today. Some of the reserves have become tourist attractions.
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. The blacks originated in the area of the Cameroons and emigrated southward, eventually spreading over Central and Southern Africa. They are easily distinguished by their (Bantu) languages that are represented in South Africa today by Nguni, Sotho, Venda, and Shangaan Tsonga. 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. The people that originate from these reservations, today, large numbers of the men travel to various mines (gold, platinum, diamond, and coal.) 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. These people are descendents of the Boers, who were the earliest white settlers. These people migrated northward from the Cape Colony into the interior, this was because the farmers and cattlemen started competing with Bantu tribes for the rural pastoral lands. 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. Eventually they came for the industry and commerce. The rural Afrikaners began to migrate to the areas that included mining and industry. This happened around 1920 and today are moving English-speaking businessmen. Afrikaans and English have equal status as official language. However, intermarriage is slowly mixing the two groups.
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. Here they enslaved some of these people, the rest fled northward to the Kalahari desert to seek refuge from the settlers. The company had much trouble trying to enslave the Africans, so they imported Malay, Malagasy, East Indian, and Javanese slaves. The Asian slaves, Khoisan, and white settlers intermarried during the next century and produced a Cape Colored community. When freed, they stayed in the in the southwestern Cape area as tradesmen and agricultural workers, speaking Afrikaans and practicing religion. Many of the Cape Coloreds still continue to live in the southwestern cape. The intermarriage between the black and whites resulted in this colored group. There were laws enacted to prevent the mixed marriages, however the numbers still increased. The laws were abolished in June of 1985.
The Asian community is mostly made of East Indians. Brought to the coast of Natal between 1860 to 1895, 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 stayed for work in Natal as industrial workers or market gardeners, which eventually led them to taking jobs as businessmen. 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. They came as shopkeepers to the Transvaal gold-mining area in the beginning of the 20th century. There are a few hundred Chinese that are descendents of the indentured laborers that were brought from Canton to work in the mines.
The low-income groups of any and all races acquire medical, dental, and regular health services. Unfortunately, the qualified staff shortages and the mass rural isolation have delayed the full coverage for many communities. For the rest, there are copious amounts of private services throughout South Africa. The medical training in the country is very high quality. The first heart transplant was preformed in South Africa. The Baragwanath Hospital neat Johannesburg is the largest hospital in Southern Hemisphere of the world. It runs 12 independent clinics in the black township of Soweto (mentioned earlier.) Malaria is very commonly found in the northeastern part of South Africa, however there are intermittent epidemics in some rural areas. A disease that was a past threat, however presently poses none, was yellow fever. Usually in areas of rural poverty diseases such as tuberculosis, typhoid, and cholera are found quite often. There is a very common water disease, with the name of Bilharzia, is found in all rivers flowing eastward. This poses a threat for many residents that drink, bathe, and cook with the water because it cannot be very easily destroyed. This is because the piped water supplies are very lacking in the countryside, and it would be a very expensive problem to fix. 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.
Teri’s Hometown: Johannesburg
The city from which Teri is from is called Johannesburg, South Africa. Johannesburg happens to be one the largest cities in 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(Teri referred to this earlier.) 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 (small hill) Reserve, to keep the history of South Africa in tact.
The principal population groups in the cosmopolitan city are English and Afrikaans (speaking whites and African Blacks) 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 located in the environs. 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.