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South Africa-Religion and Apartheid





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South Africa Index

Dutch Reformed Churches

Christianity became a powerful influence in South Africa, often uniting large numbers of people in a common faith. In the twentieth century, however, several Christian churches actively promoted racial divisions through the political philosophy of apartheid. The largest of these denominations was the Dutch Reformed Church (Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk--NGK), which came to be known as the "official religion" of the National Party during the apartheid era. Its four main branches had more than 3 million members in 1,263 congregations in the 1990s.

The Dutch Reformed Church arrived in South Africa in the seventeenth century, after Calvinist reforms in Europe had entrenched the idea of predestination, and the Synod of Dort in the Netherlands had proclaimed this church as the "community of the elect" in 1619. The church gained recognition as the state religion in 1651, and the Dutch East India Company, as an extension of the state in southern Africa, established the first Dutch Reformed Church at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652.

Church members in South Africa generally resisted liberal trends that arose in Europe in the nineteenth century, but rifts occurred in the church in 1853 with the formation of the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk (also translated, the Dutch Reformed Church), and in 1859, with the formation of the Gereformeerde Kerk van Suid-Afrika (the Reformed Church of South Africa). The NGK is generally referred to as the Dutch Reformed Church, and these two newer churches are also referred to as Dutch Reformed churches.

All of the Dutch Reformed churches share similar Calvinist beliefs and presbyterial organization. Their doctrines assert that God is eternal, infinite, wise, and just, and the Creator of the universe. He has planned the life and the fate of each individual on earth; the "chosen" are saved, as long as they adhere to the church's teachings. The Bible--both the Old Testament and the New Testament--is the final authority on religious matters.

The presbyterial organization of the Dutch Reformed churches means that the functioning of each congregation is governed, in part, by that community, whereas decisions concerning policy and discipline are generally handled by regional synods. A general synod is responsible for the denomination as a whole. In South Africa, a national synod and nine regional synods oversee the operation of the Dutch Reformed congregations.

As black Africans and people of mixed race converted to the religion, church members debated the question of racial separation. Pressures grew for racially separate congregations, and the issue was complicated by the demands of some black church members for their own churches and congregations. In 1881 the Dutch Reformed Mission Church (Sending Kerk) established a separate coloured church. In 1910, when black South Africans made up about 10 percent of the community, the synods established the NGK in Afrika, as it became known, for black Africans. (An Indian Dutch Reformed Church was formed in 1951.)

Racial separation was only widely accepted in the church in the early twentieth century, as many Afrikaners came to believe that their own survival as a community was threatened, and as the belief in racial separation was gaining acceptance among white South Africans in general. Social and spiritual survival became intertwined in church philosophy, influenced in part by the early twentieth-century persecution of the Afrikaners by the British (see British Imperialism and the Afrikaners, ch. 1). Church leaders refused to condemn Afrikaner rebellions against the British, and their followers gained strength by attributing divine origins to their struggle for survival.

As the system of apartheid was called into question throughout the country in the 1970s and the 1980s, church leaders were, in general, more committed to apartheid than many of their followers, and the church became an impediment to political reform. A few Dutch Reformed clergy opposed apartheid. The best known of these, Reverend Beyers Naude, left his whites-only church in the late 1970s and joined a black parish within the Dutch Reformed church. The efforts of other church leaders who worked to reduce the church's racist image were often constrained by the fact that parish finances were controlled by the church's highest authorities, who supported apartheid.

Data as of May 1996



BackgroundDutch traders landed at the southern tip of modern day South Africa in 1652 and established a stopover point on the spice route between the Netherlands and the Far East, founding the city of Cape Town. After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch settlers (the Boers) trekked north to found their own republics. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Boers resisted British encroachments but were defeated in the Boer War (1899-1902); however, the British and the Afrikaners, as the Boers became known, ruled together beginning in 1910 under the Union of South Africa, which became a republic in 1961 after a whites-only referendum. In 1948, the National Party was voted into power and instituted a policy of apartheid - the separate development of the races - which favored the white minority at the expense of the black majority. The African National Congress (ANC) led the opposition to apartheid and many top ANC leaders, such as Nelson MANDELA, spent decades in South Africa's prisons. Internal protests and insurgency, as well as boycotts by some Western nations and institutions, led to the regime's eventual willingness to negotiate a peaceful transition to majority rule. The first multi-racial elections in 1994 brought an end to apartheid and ushered in majority rule under an ANC-led government. South Africa since then has struggled to address apartheid-era imbalances in decent housing, education, and health care. ANC infighting, which has grown in recent years, came to a head in September 2008 when President Thabo MBEKI resigned, and Kgalema MOTLANTHE, the party's General-Secretary, succeeded him as interim president. Jacob ZUMA became president after the ANC won general elections in April 2009.
LocationSouthern Africa, at the southern tip of the continent of Africa
Area(sq km)total: 1,219,090 sq km
land: 1,214,470 sq km
water: 4,620 sq km
note: includes Prince Edward Islands (Marion Island and Prince Edward Island)
Geographic coordinates29 00 S, 24 00 E
Land boundaries(km)total: 4,862 km
border countries: Botswana 1,840 km, Lesotho 909 km, Mozambique 491 km, Namibia 967 km, Swaziland 430 km, Zimbabwe 225 km

Coastline(km)2,798 km

Climatemostly semiarid; subtropical along east coast; sunny days, cool nights

Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Njesuthi 3,408 m
Natural resourcesgold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas
Land use(%)arable land: 12.1%
permanent crops: 0.79%
other: 87.11% (2005)

Irrigated land(sq km)14,980 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources(cu km)50 cu km (1990)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 12.5 cu km/yr (31%/6%/63%)
per capita: 264 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazardsprolonged droughts
Environment - current issueslack of important arterial rivers or lakes requires extensive water conservation and control measures; growth in water usage outpacing supply; pollution of rivers from agricultural runoff and urban discharge; air pollution resulting in acid rain; soil erosion; desertification
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - noteSouth Africa completely surrounds Lesotho and almost completely surrounds Swaziland
Population49,052,489
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2009 est.)
Age structure(%)0-14 years: 28.9% (male 7,093,328/female 7,061,579)
15-64 years: 65.8% (male 16,275,424/female 15,984,181)
65 years and over: 5.4% (male 1,075,117/female 1,562,860) (2009 est.)
Median age(years)total: 24.4 years
male: 24.1 years
female: 24.8 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate(%)0.281% (2009 est.)
Birth rate(births/1,000 population)19.93 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)16.99 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)-0.13 migrant(s)/1,000 population
note: there is an increasing flow of Zimbabweans into South Africa and Botswana in search of better economic opportunities (2009 est.)
Urbanization(%)urban population: 61% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 1.4% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 44.42 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 48.66 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 40.1 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 48.98 years
male: 49.81 years
female: 48.13 years (2009 est.)

Total fertility rate(children born/woman)2.38 children born/woman (2009 est.)
Nationalitynoun: South African(s)
adjective: South African
Ethnic groups(%)black African 79%, white 9.6%, colored 8.9%, Indian/Asian 2.5% (2001 census)

Religions(%)Zion Christian 11.1%, Pentecostal/Charismatic 8.2%, Catholic 7.1%, Methodist 6.8%, Dutch Reformed 6.7%, Anglican 3.8%, Muslim 1.5%, other Christian 36%, other 2.3%, unspecified 1.4%, none 15.1% (2001 census)
Languages(%)IsiZulu 23.8%, IsiXhosa 17.6%, Afrikaans 13.3%, Sepedi 9.4%, English 8.2%, Setswana 8.2%, Sesotho 7.9%, Xitsonga 4.4%, other 7.2% (2001 census)

Country nameconventional long form: Republic of South Africa
conventional short form: South Africa
former: Union of South Africa
abbreviation: RSA
Government typerepublic
Capitalname: Pretoria (administrative capital)
geographic coordinates: 25 42 S, 28 13 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
note: Cape Town (legislative capital); Bloemfontein (judicial capital)
Administrative divisions9 provinces; Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North-West, Western Cape
Constitution10 December 1996; note - certified by the Constitutional Court on 4 December 1996; was signed by then President MANDELA on 10 December 1996; and entered into effect on 4 February 1997

Legal systembased on Roman-Dutch law and English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage18 years of age; universal
Executive branchchief of state: President Jacob ZUMA (since 9 May 2009); Executive Deputy President Kgalema MOTLANTHE (since 11 May 2009); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Jacob ZUMA (since 9 May 2009); Executive Deputy President Kgalema MOTLANTHE (since 11 May 2009)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
elections: president elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 6 May 2009 (next to be held in 2014)
election results: Jacob ZUMA elected president; National Assembly vote - Jacob ZUMA 277, Mvume DANDALA 47, other 76

Legislative branchbicameral Parliament consisting of the National Council of Provinces (90 seats, 10 members elected by each of the nine provincial legislatures for five-year terms; has special powers to protect regional interests, including the safeguarding of cultural and linguistic traditions among ethnic minorities) and the National Assembly (400 seats; members are elected by popular vote under a system of proportional representation to serve five-year terms); note - following the implementation of the new constitution on 4 February 1997, the former Senate was disbanded and replaced by the National Council of Provinces with essentially no change in membership and party affiliations, although the new institution's responsibilities have been changed somewhat by the new constitution
elections: National Assembly and National Council of Provinces - last held on 22 April 2009 (next to be held in April 2014)
election results: National Council of Provinces - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - ANC 65.9%, DA 16.7%, COPE 7.4%, IFP 4.6%, other 5.4%; seats by party - ANC 264, DA 67, COPE 30, IFP 18, other 21

Judicial branchConstitutional Court; Supreme Court of Appeals; High Courts; Magistrate Courts

Political pressure groups and leadersCongress of South African Trade Unions or COSATU [Zwelinzima VAVI, general secretary]; South African Communist Party or SACP [Blade NZIMANDE, general secretary]; South African National Civics Organization or SANCO [Mlungisi HLONGWANE, national president]
note: note - COSATU and SACP are in a formal alliance with the ANC
International organization participationACP, AfDB, AU, BIS, C, FAO, G-20, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, MONUC, NAM, NSG, OPCW, Paris Club (associate), PCA, SACU, SADC, UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNITAR, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
Flag descriptiontwo equal width horizontal bands of red (top) and blue separated by a central green band that splits into a horizontal Y, the arms of which end at the corners of the hoist side; the Y embraces a black isosceles triangle from which the arms are separated by narrow yellow bands; the red and blue bands are separated from the green band and its arms by narrow white stripes

Economy - overviewSouth Africa is a middle-income, emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources; well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors; a stock exchange that is 17th largest in the world; and modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region. Growth was robust from 2004 to 2008 as South Africa reaped the benefits of macroeconomic stability and a global commodities boom, but began to slow in the second half of 2008 due to the global financial crisis' impact on commodity prices and demand. However, unemployment remains high and outdated infrastructure has constrained growth. At the end of 2007, South Africa began to experience an electricity crisis because state power supplier Eskom suffered supply problems with aged plants, necessitating "load-shedding" cuts to residents and businesses in the major cities. Daunting economic problems remain from the apartheid era - especially poverty, lack of economic empowerment among the disadvantaged groups, and a shortage of public transportation. South African economic policy is fiscally conservative but pragmatic, focusing on controlling inflation, maintaining a budget surplus, and using state-owned enterprises to deliver basic services to low-income areas as a means to increase job growth and household income.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$492.2 billion (2008 est.)
$477.4 billion (2007 est.)
$454.2 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$276.8 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate(%)3.1% (2008 est.)
5.1% (2007 est.)
5.3% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$10,100 (2008 est.)
$9,900 (2007 est.)
$9,500 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 3.3%
industry: 33.7%
services: 63% (2008 est.)
Labor force17.79 million economically active (2008 est.)

Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 9%
industry: 26%
services: 65% (2007 est.)
Unemployment rate(%)22.9% (2008 est.)
24.3% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line(%)50% (2000 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: 1.3%
highest 10%: 44.7% (2000)
Distribution of family income - Gini index65 (2005)
59.3 (1994)
Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)23.2% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budgetrevenues: $77.43 billion
expenditures: $79.9 billion (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)11.3% (2008 est.)
6.5% (2007 est.)

Stock of money$44.66 billion (31 December 2008)
$58.49 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money$124.1 billion (31 December 2008)
$141.9 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit$214.8 billion (31 December 2008)
$254.9 billion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares$491.3 billion (31 December 2008)
$833.5 billion (31 December 2007)
$715 billion (31 December 2006)
Economic aid - recipient$700 million (2005)

Public debt(% of GDP)31.6% of GDP (2008 est.)
45.9% of GDP (2004 est.)
Agriculture - productscorn, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables; beef, poultry, mutton, wool, dairy products
Industriesmining (world's largest producer of platinum, gold, chromium), automobile assembly, metalworking, machinery, textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizer, foodstuffs, commercial ship repair

Industrial production growth rate(%)1% (2008 est.)

Current account balance-$20.98 billion (2008 est.)
-$20.78 billion (2007 est.)
Exports$86.12 billion (2008 est.)
$75.92 billion (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities(%)gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment
Exports - partners(%)Japan 11.1%, US 11.1%, Germany 8%, UK 6.8%, China 6%, Netherlands 5.2% (2008)
Imports$90.57 billion (2008 est.)
$81.66 billion (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities(%)machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, scientific instruments, foodstuffs
Imports - partners(%)Germany 11.2%, China 11.1%, US 7.9%, Saudi Arabia 6.2%, Japan 5.5%, UK 4% (2008)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$34.07 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$32.94 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external$71.81 billion (31 December 2008)
$75.28 billion (31 December 2007)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home$120 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$110.4 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad$63.57 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$65.88 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Exchange ratesrand (ZAR) per US dollar - 7.9576 (2008 est.), 7.05 (2007), 6.7649 (2006), 6.3593 (2005), 6.4597 (2004)

Currency (code)rand (ZAR)

Telephones - main lines in use4.425 million (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular45 million (2008)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: the system is the best developed and most modern in Africa
domestic: combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity exceeds 110 telephones per 100 persons; consists of carrier-equipped open-wire lines, coaxial cables, microwave radio relay links, fiber-optic cable, radiotelephone communication stations, and wireless local loops; key centers are Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, and Pretoria
international: country code - 27; the SAT-3/WASC and SAFE fiber optic cable systems connect South Africa to Europe and Asia; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean and 2 Atlantic Ocean)
Internet country code.za
Internet users4.187 million (2008)
Airports607 (2009)
Pipelines(km)condensate 11 km; gas 908 km; oil 980 km; refined products 1,379 km (2008)
Roadways(km)total: 362,099 km
paved: 73,506 km (includes 239 km of expressways)
unpaved: 288,593 km (2002)

Ports and terminalsCape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Richards Bay, Saldanha Bay
Military branchesSouth African National Defense Force (SANDF): South African Army, South African Navy (SAN), South African Air Force (SAAF), Joint Operations Command, Military Intelligence, South African Military Health Services (2009)
Military service age and obligation(years of age)18 years of age for voluntary military service; women are eligible to serve in noncombat roles; 2-year service obligation (2007)
Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 11,622,507
females age 16-49: 11,501,537 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 7,641,557
females age 16-49: 6,518,793 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 511,616
female: 510,540 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures(% of GDP)1.7% of GDP (2006)
Military - notewith the end of apartheid and the establishment of majority rule, former military, black homelands forces, and ex-opposition forces were integrated into the South African National Defense Force (SANDF); as of 2003 the integration process was considered complete
Disputes - internationalSouth Africa has placed military along the border to apprehend the thousands of Zimbabweans fleeing economic dysfunction and political persecution; as of January 2007, South Africa also supports large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (33,000), Somalia (20,000), Burundi (6,500), and other states in Africa (26,000); managed dispute with Namibia over the location of the boundary in the Orange River; in 2006, Swazi king advocates resort to ICJ to claim parts of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal from South Africa

Refugees and internally displaced personsrefugees (country of origin): 10,772 (Democratic Republic of Congo); 7,818 (Somalia); 5,759 (Angola) (2007)
Trafficking in personscurrent situation: South Africa is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for forced labor and sexual exploitation; women and girls are trafficked internally - and occasionally to European and Asian countries - for sexual exploitation; women from other African countries are trafficked to South Africa and, less frequently, onward to Europe for sexual exploitation; men and boys are trafficked from neighboring countries for forced agricultural labor; Asian and Eastern European women are trafficked to South Africa for debt-bonded sexual exploitation
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - South Africa is on the Tier 2 Watch List for a fourth consecutive year for its failure to show increasing efforts to address trafficking; the government provided inadequate data in 2007 on trafficking crimes investigated or prosecuted, or on resulting convictions or sentences; it also did not provide information on its efforts to protect victims of trafficking; the country continues to deport and/or prosecute suspected foreign victims without providing appropriate protective services (2008)
Electricity - production(kWh)240.3 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 93.5%
hydro: 1.1%
nuclear: 5.5%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption(kWh)215.1 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports(kWh)14.16 billion kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports(kWh)10.57 billion kWh (2008 est.)
Oil - production(bbl/day)195,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption(bbl/day)583,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports(bbl/day)128,500 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports(bbl/day)490,500 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves(bbl)15 million bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production(cu m)3.25 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption(cu m)6.45 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)27.16 million cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)18.1% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS5.7 million (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths350,000 (2007 est.)
Major infectious diseasesdegree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
water contact disease: schistosomiasis (2009)
Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 86.4%
male: 87%
female: 85.7% (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)(years)total: 13 years
male: 13 years
female: 13 years (2004)
Education expenditures(% of GDP)5.4% of GDP (2006)








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