U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Republic of South Africa, February 1998
Released by the Office of Southern African Affairs, Bureau of African 

Official Name: Republic of South Africa 



Area: 1.2 million sq. km. (470,462 sq. mi.). 
Cities: Capitals--Administrative, Pretoria; legislative, Cape Town; 
judicial, Bloemfontein. Other cities--Johannesburg, Durban, Port 
Terrain: Plateau, savanna, desert, mountains, coastal plains. 
Climate: moderate; similar to southern California. 


Nationality: Noun and adjective--South African(s). 
Annual growth rate (1997 est.): 1.51%. 
Population (1997): 38 million. 
Composition: black 75%; white 14%; colored 9%; Asian (Indian) 2%. 
Languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, 
Tswana, Venda, Xhsa, Zulu (all official languages). 
Religions: Predominantly Christian; traditional African, Hindu, Muslim, 
Education: Years compulsory--7-15 years for all children. The Schools 
Bill, passed by Parliament in 1996, aims to achieve greater educational 
opportunities for black children, mandating a single syllabus and more 
equitable funding for schools. 
Health (1997 est.): Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births)--53.2. 
Life expectancy--58 yrs., women; 54 yrs., men. 


Type: Executive--president; bicameral parliament. 
Independence: The Union of South Africa was created on May 31, 1910; 
became sovereign state within British empire in 1934; became a Republic 
on May 31, 1961; left the Commonwealth in October 1968. Nonracial, 
democratic constitution came into effect April 27, 1994; rejoined the 
Commonwealth in May 1994. 
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state) elected to a five-year 
term by the National Assembly. Legislative--bicameral parliament 
consisting of 490 members in two chambers. National Assembly (400 
members) elected by a system of proportional representation. National 
Council of Provinces consisting of 90 delegates (10 from each province) 
and 10 non-voting delegates representing local government. Judicial--
Constitutional Court interprets and decides constitutional issues; 
Supreme Court of Appeal is the highest court for interpreting and 
deciding nonconstitutional matters.
Administrative subdivisions: Nine provinces: Eastern Cape, Free State, 
Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, North-West, Northern Cape, Northern 
Province, Western Cape. 
Political parties: African National Congress (ANC), National Party (NP), 
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Vryheidsfront/Freedom Front (FF), 
Democratic Party (DP), Pan-African Congress (PAC), African Christian 
Democratic Party (ACDP), United Democratic Movement (UDM), Azanian 
People's Organization (AZAPO), and Conservative Party (CP). 
Suffrage--Citizens and permanent residents 18 and older.

GDP (1997 proj.): $115.5 billion. 
GDP growth rate (FY 1997-98): 1.5%-1.7%. 
GDP per capita (1997 est.): $3,040. 
Unemployment (1997 est.): 30%.
Natural resources: Almost all essential commodities, except petroleum 
and bauxite. Manufacturing (1997): About 24% of GDP. A world leader in 
the areas of railway rolling stock, synthetic fuels, and mining 
equipment and machinery. 
Industry: Types--minerals, automobiles fabricated material, machinery, 
textiles, chemicals, fertilizer. 
Trade (1996): Exports--$29.3 billion: gold, other minerals and metals, 
agricultural products. Major markets--United Kingdom, U.S., Germany, 
Italy, Japan, East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa. Imports--$30.1 billion: 
machinery, transport equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, textiles, 
scientific instruments. Major suppliers--Germany, U.S., Japan, United 
Kingdom, Italy.
GDP composition (1997): Agriculture 5%, services, 58%, industry 37%; 
world's largest producer of platinum, gold, and chromium; also 
significant coal production. 
Exchange rate (Jan. 31, 1998.): 4.94 rand=U.S.$1.

Until 1991, South African law divided the population into four major 
racial categories: Africans (black), whites, coloreds, and Asians. 
Although this law has been abolished, many South Africans still view 
themselves and each other according to these categories. Africans 
comprise about 75% of the population and are divided into a number of 
different ethnic groups. Whites comprise about 14% of the population. 
They are primarily descendants of Dutch, French, English, and German 
settlers who began arriving at the Cape in the late 17th century. 
Coloreds are mixed race people, primarily descending from the earliest 
settlers and the indigenous peoples. They comprise about 9% of the total 
population. Asians descend from Indian workers brought to South Africa 
in the mid-19th century to work on the sugar estates in Natal. They 
constitute about 2% of the population and are concentrated in the 
Kwazulu-Natal Province.
Education is in a state of flux. Under the apartheid system, schools 
were segregated, and the quantity and quality of education varied 
significantly across racial groups. Although the laws governing this 
segregation have been abolished, the long and arduous process of 
restructuring the country's educational system is just beginning. The 
challenge is to create a single nondiscriminatory, nonracial system 
which offers the same standards of education to all people. 

People have inhabited Southern Africa for thousands of years. Members of 
the Khoisan language groups are the oldest surviving inhabitants of the 
land; however, only a few are left in South Africa today, and they are 
located in the western sections. Most of today's black South Africans 
belong to the Bantu language group, which migrated south from central 
Africa, settling in the Transvaal region sometime before AD 100. The 
Nguni, ancestors of the Zulu and Xhosa, occupied most of the eastern 
coast by 1500. 

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach the Cape of Good Hope, 
arriving in 1488. However, permanent white settlement did not begin 
until 1652, when the Dutch East India Company established a provisioning 
station on the Cape. In subsequent decades, French Huguenot refugees, 
the Dutch, and Germans began to settle in the Cape. Collectively, they 
form the Afrikaner segment of today's population. The establishment of 
these settlements had far-reaching social and political effects on the 
groups already settled in the area, leading to upheaval in these 
societies and the subjugation of their people. 

By 1779, European settlements extended throughout the southern part of 
the Cape and east toward the Great Fish River. It was here that Dutch 
authorities and the Xhosa fought the first frontier war. The British 
gained control of the Cape of Good Hope at the end of the 18th century. 
Subsequent British settlement and rule marked the beginning of a long 
conflict between the Afrikaners and the English. 

Beginning in 1836, partly to escape British rule and cultural hegemony 
and partly out of resentment at the recent abolition of slavery, many 
Afrikaner farmers (Boers) undertook a northern migration which became 
known as the "Great Trek." This movement brought them into contact and 
conflict with African groups in the area, the most formidable of which 
were the Zulus. Under their powerful leader, Shaka (1787-1828), the 
Zulus conquered most of the territory between the Drakensburg Mountains 
and the sea (now Kwazulu-Natal). 

In 1828, Shaka was assassinated and replaced by his half-brother 
Dingane. In 1838, Dingane was defeated and deported by the Voortrekkers 
(people of the Great Trek) at the battle of Blood River. The Zulus, 
nonetheless, remained a potent force, defeating the British in the 
historic battle of Isandhlwana before themselves being finally conquered 
in 1879. 

In 1852 and 1854, the independent Boer Republics of the Transvaal and 
Orange Free State were created. Relations between the republics and the 
British Government were strained. The discovery of diamonds at Kimberley 
in 1870 and the discovery of large gold deposits in the Witwatersrand 
region of the Transvaal in 1886 caused an influx of European (mainly 
British) immigration and investment. Many blacks also moved into the 
area to work in the mines. The construction by mine owners of hostels to 
house and control their workers set patterns that later extended 
throughout the region.

Boer reactions to this influx and British political intrigues led to the 
Anglo-Boer Wars of 1880-81 and 1899-1902. British forces prevailed in 
the conflict, and the republics were incorporated into the British 
Empire. In May 1910, the two republics and the British colonies of the 
Cape and Natal formed the Union of South Africa, a self-governing 
dominion of the British Empire. The Union's constitution kept all 
political power in the hands of whites.

In 1912, the South Africa Native National Congress was formed in 
Bloemfontein and eventually became known as the African National 
Congress (ANC). Its goals were the elimination of restrictions based on 
color and the enfranchisement of and parliamentary representation for 
blacks. Despite these efforts, the government continued to pass laws 
limiting the rights and freedoms of blacks. 

In 1948, the National Party (NP) won the all-white elections and began 
passing legislation codifying and enforcing an even stricter policy of 
white domination and racial separation known as "apartheid" 
(separateness). In the early 1960s, following a protest in Sharpville in 
which 69 protesters were killed by police and 180 injured, the ANC and 
Pan-African Congress (PAC) were banned. Nelson Mandela and many other 
anti-apartheid leaders were convicted and imprisoned on charges of 

The ANC and PAC were forced underground and fought apartheid through 
guerrilla warfare and sabotage. In May 1961, South Africa relinquished 
its dominion status and declared itself a republic. Later that year, it 
withdrew from the Commonwealth, in part because of international 
protests against apartheid. In 1984, a new constitution came into effect 
in which whites allowed coloreds and Asians a limited role in the 
national government and control over their own affairs in certain areas. 
Ultimately, however, all power remained in white hands. Blacks remained 
effectively disenfranchised. 

Popular uprisings in black and colored townships in 1976 and 1985 helped 
to convince some NP members of the need for change. Secret discussions 
between those members and Nelson Mandela began in 1986. In February 
1990, State President F.W. de Klerk--who had come to power in September 
1989--announced the unbanning of the ANC, the PAC, and all other anti-
apartheid groups. Two weeks later, Nelson Mandela was released from 

In 1991, the Group Areas Act, Land Acts, and the Population Registration 
Act--the last of the so-called "pillars of apartheid"--were abolished. A 
long series of negotiations ensued, resulting in a new constitution 
promulgated into law in December 1993. The country's first nonracial 
elections were held on April 26-29, 1994, resulting in the installation 
of Nelson Mandela as President on May 10, 1994.


Following the 1994 elections, South Africa was governed under an Interim 
Constitution. This constitution required the Constituent Assembly (CA) 
to draft and approve a permanent constitution by May 9, 1996. After 
review by the Constitutional Court and intensive negotiations within the 
CA, a revised draft was certified by the Constitutional Court on 
December 2, 1996. President Mandela signed the new Constitution into law 
on December 10, and it entered into force on February 3, 1997. 

The Government of National Unity (GNU) established under the Interim 
Constitution remains in effect until the next national elections in 
1999. The parties originally comprising the GNU--the ANC, the NP, and 
the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)--shared executive power. On June 30, 
1996, the NP withdrew from the GNU to become part of the opposition. 

The Parliament consists of two houses--the National Assembly and the 
National Council of Provinces--which are responsible for drafting the 
laws of the republic. The National Assembly also has specific control 
over bills relating to monetary matters. The current 400-member National 
Assembly was retained under the new Constitution, although the 
Constitution allows for a range of between 350 and 400 members. The 
Assembly is elected by a system of "list proportional representation." 
Each of the parties appearing on the ballot submits a rank-ordered list 
of candidates. The voters then cast their ballots for one party. Seats 
in the Assembly are allocated based on the percentage of votes each 
party receives. In the 1994 elections, the ANC won 252 seats in the 
Assembly, the NP 82, the IFP 43, the Vyheidsfront/Freedom Front (FF) 9, 
the Democratic Party (DP) 7, the Pan-African Congress (PAC) 5, and the 
African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) 2. 

The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) consists of 90 members, 10 from 
each of the nine provinces. The NCOP replaced the former Senate as the 
second chamber of Parliament and was created to give a greater voice to 
provincial interests. It must approve legislation that involves shared 
national and provincial competencies as defined by an annex to the 
Constitution. Each provincial delegation consists of six permanent and 
four rotating delegates.

The president is the executive head of state. Following the April 1994 
elections, the National Assembly elected Nelson Mandela president. In 
addition, both the largest and second largest parties--the ANC and NP--
chose one executive deputy president each. With the withdrawal of the NP 
from the GNU, the ANC's Thabo Mbeki is currently the sole executive 
deputy president. The president's responsibilities include assigning 
cabinet portfolios, signing bills into law, and serving as commander in 
chief of the military. The president must work closely with the 
executive deputy president and the cabinet. There are 27 posts in the 
cabinet, 24 of which are currently held by the ANC and 3 by the IFP.

The third arm of the central government is an independent judiciary. The 
Constitutional Court is the highest court for interpreting and deciding 
constitutional issues, while the Supreme Court of Appeal is the highest 
court for non-constitutional matters. Most cases are heard in the 
extensive system of High Courts and Magistrates Courts. The 
Constitution's Bill of Rights provides for due process, including the 
right to a fair, public trial within a reasonable time of being charged 
and the right to appeal to a higher court. The Bill of Rights also 
guarantees fundamental political and social rights of South Africa's 

Challenges Ahead

The new Government of South Africa has made remarkable progress in 
consolidating the nation's peaceful transition to democracy. Programs to 
improve the delivery of essential social services to the majority of the 
population are underway. Access to better opportunities in education and 
business is becoming more widespread. Nevertheless, transforming South 
Africa's society to remove the legacy of apartheid will be a long-term 
process requiring the sustained commitment of the leaders and people of 
the nation's disparate groups. 

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), chaired by 1984 Nobel 
Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has helped to advance the 
reconciliation process. Constituted in 1996 and due to finish its work 
in 1998, the TRC is empowered to investigate apartheid-era human rights 
abuses committed between 1960 and May 10, 1994, to grant amnesty to 
those who committed politically motivated crimes and to recommend 
compensation to victims of abuses. The TRC's mandate is part of the 
larger process of reconciling the often conflicting political, economic, 
and cultural interests held by the many peoples that make up South 
Africa's diverse population. The ability of the government and people to 
agree on many basic questions of how to order the country's new society 
will be a critical challenge stretching into the 21st century.

One important issue continues to be the relationship of provincial and 
local administrative structures to the national government. Prior to 
April 27, 1994, South Africa was divided into four provinces and 10 
black "homelands," four of which were considered independent by the 
South African Government. Both the Interim Constitution and the new 1997 
Constitution abolished this system and substituted nine provinces. Each 
province has an elected legislature and chief executive--the provincial 
premier. Although in form a federal system, in practice the nature of 
the relationship between the central and provincial governments has yet 
to be determined and is the subject of considerable debate, particularly 
among groups desiring a greater measure of autonomy from the central 
government. A key step in defining the relationship came in 1997, when 
provincial governments were given more than half of central government 
funding and permitted to develop and manage their own budgets.

Although South Africa's economy is in many areas highly developed, the 
exclusionary nature of apartheid and distortions caused in part by the 
country's international isolation until the 1990s have left major 
weaknesses. The economy is now in a process of transition as the 
government seeks to address the inequities of apartheid, stimulate 
growth, and create jobs. Business, meanwhile, is becoming more 
integrated into the international system, and foreign investment has 
increased dramatically over the past several years. Still, the economic 
disparities between population groups are expected to persist for many 
years, remaining an area of priority attention for the government.

Human Rights

The new Constitution's Bill of Rights provides extensive guarantees, 
including the following: equality before the law and prohibitions 
against discrimination; the right to life, privacy, property, and 
freedom and security of the person; prohibition against slavery and 
forced labor; and freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and 
association. The legal rights of criminal suspects also are enumerated, 
as are citizens' entitlements to a safe environment, housing, education, 
and health care. The Constitution provides for an independent and 
impartial judiciary, and, in practice, these provisions are respected.
Since the abolition of apartheid, levels of political violence in South 
Africa have dropped dramatically. In some areas, such as parts of 
KwaZulu-Natal Province, tensions remain extremely high. Political and 
extrajudicial killings continue to occur. Violent crime and organized 
criminal activity is at high levels and is a grave concern. Partly as a 
result, vigilante action and mob justice sometime occur.

Some members of the police commit abuses, and deaths in police custody 
and as a result of excessive force remain serious problems. The 
government has taken action to investigate and punish some of those who 
commit such abuses. In April 1997, the government established an 
Independent Complaints Directorate to investigate deaths in police 
custody and deaths resulting from police action.

Although South Africa's society is undergoing a rapid transformation, 
discrimination against women and the disabled continues, and violence 
against women and children is a serious problem.

Principal Government Officials
State President--Nelson Mandela (ANC) 
Executive Deputy President--Thabo Mbeki (ANC) 

Foreign Affairs--Alfred Nzo (ANC) 
Justice--Dullah Omar (ANC) 
Defense--Joe Modise (ANC) 
Finance--Trevor Manuel (ANC)
Home Affairs--Mangosuthu Buthelezi (IFP)
Safety and Security--Sydney Mufamadi (ANC) 
Trade and Industry--Alec Erwin (ANC) 
Agriculture and Land Affairs--Derek Hanekom (ANC) 
Health--Nkosazana Zuma (ANC) 
Welfare and Population Development--Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi (ANC) 
Education--Sibusiso Bengu (ANC) 
Labor--Tito Mboweni (ANC) 
Art, Culture, Science and Technology--Lionel Mtshali (IFP) 
Water Affairs and Forestry--Kader Asmal (ANC) 
Environment Affairs and Tourism--Pallo Jordan (ANC) 
Mineral and Energy Affairs--Penuell Maduna (ANC) 
Transport--Mac Maharaj (ANC) 
Provincial Affairs and Constitutional Development--Mohammed Valli Moosa 
Housing--Sankie Mthembi-Mahanyele (ANC) 
Posts, Telecommunications, and Broadcasting--Jay Naidoo (ANC) 
Public Works--Jeff Radebe (ANC) 
Public Enterprises--Stella Sigcau (ANC) 
Public Service and Administration--Zola Skweyiya (ANC) 
Sport and Recreation--Steve Tshwete (ANC) 
Correctional Services--Sipo Mzimela (IFP)

The Republic of South Africa maintains an embassy in the United States 
at 3051 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008; tel. (202) 232-

South Africa has a productive and industrialized economy that 
paradoxically exhibits many characteristics associated with developing 
countries, including a division of labor between formal and informal 
sectors--and uneven distribution of wealth and income. The formal 
sector, based on mining, manufacturing, services, and agriculture, is 
well developed.

The transition to a democratic, nonracial government, begun in early 
1990, stimulated a debate on the direction of economic policies to 
achieve sustained economic growth while at the same time redressing the 
socioeconomic disparities created by apartheid. The Government of 
National Unity's initial blueprint to address this problem was the 
Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP). The RDP was designed to 
create programs to improve the standard of living for the majority of 
the population by providing housing--a planned 1 million new homes in 5 
years--basic services, education, and health care. While a specific 
"ministry" for the RDP no longer exists, a number of government 
ministries and offices are charged with supporting RDP programs and 

In June 1996, the government announced a new market-driven economic 
plan--"Growth, Employment and Redistribution: A Macroeconomic Strategy" 
(GEAR). The GEAR emphasizes a private sector/market-based approach; 
parastatal privatization; and conservative fiscal and monetary policies 
to facilitate economic growth, job creation, and accelerated trade 
liberalization. South Africa aims to maintain an attractive business 
environment and encourages both foreign and domestic investment.

Financial Policy
South Africa has a sophisticated financial structure with a large and 
active stock exchange that ranks 19th in the world in terms of total 
market capitalization. The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) performs 
all central banking functions. The SARB is independent and now operates 
in much the same way as Western central banks, influencing interest 
rates and controlling liquidity through its interest rates on funds 
provided to private sector banks. Quantitative credit controls and 
administrative control of deposit and lending rates have largely 

The South African Government has taken steps to gradually reduce 
remaining foreign exchange controls, which apply mainly to South African 
residents. Private citizens are now allowed a one-time investment of up 
to 200,000 rand in offshore accounts and are free to hold foreign 
currency accounts in South African banks. In January 1998, the Finance 
Ministry removed the ceiling on foreign exchange holdings for commercial 

Trade and Investment
South Africa has rich mineral resources. It is the world's largest 
producer and exporter of gold and also exports a significant amount of 
coal. The value-added processing of minerals to produce ferroalloys, 
stainless steels, and similar products is a major industry and an 
important growth area. The country's diverse manufacturing industry is a 
world leader in several specialized sectors, including railway rolling 
stock, synthetic fuels, and mining equipment and machinery.

Agriculture accounts for about 5% of the gross domestic product. Major 
crops include citrus and deciduous fruits, corn, wheat, dairy products, 
sugarcane, tobacco, wine, and wool. South Africa has many developed 
irrigation schemes and generally is a net exporter of food.

South Africa's transportation infrastructure is well developed, 
supporting both domestic and regional needs. The Johannesburg 
International Airport serves as a hub for flights to other Southern 
African countries. The domestic telecommunications infrastructure 
provides modern and efficient service to urban areas, including 
widespread access to cellular and internet services. In 1997, Telkom, 
the South African telecommunications parastatal, was partly privatized 
and entered into a strategic equity partnership with a consortium of two 
companies, including a U.S. telecommunications company. The South 
African Government pledged to reinvest $1 billion of the purchase price 
into to Telkom to facilitate network modernization and expansion into 
unserved areas.

South Africa's GDP is expected to increase gradually during the next few 
years. Annual GDP growth since 1994 has fluctuated between an estimate 
of 1.5% and 3.4%. The government estimates that the economy must achieve 
growth at a minimum of 6% to offset unemployment, which is officially 
stated to be about 30%. In an effort to boost economic growth and spur 
job creation, the government has launched special investment corridors 
to promote development in specific regions, and also is working to 
encourage small, medium, and microenterprise development. One of the 
great successes of the ANC government has been to get CPI inflation, 
which had been running in the double digits for over 20 years, under 
control. By December 1997, inflation had fallen to 6.1%. The government 
also has made inroads into reducing the fiscal deficit and increasing 
foreign currency reserves. Several factors could impact on this positive 
direction, including repercussions from financial crises in other areas 
of the world, low prices for minerals and metals, particularly gold, and 
continued lack of fiscal accountability by South Africa's provincial 

Exports and imports account for 44% of the GDP. South Africa's major 
trading partners include the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, 
and Japan. South Africa's trade with other Sub-Saharan African 
countries, particularly those in the Southern Africa region, has 
increased substantially. South Africa is a member of the Southern 
African Customs Union (SACU) and the Southern African Development 
Community (SADC). In August 1996, South Africa signed a regional trade 
protocol agreement with its SADC partners. While the agreement has yet 
to be ratified, negotiations continue to finalize tariff bindings and 
move the region toward economic integration.

South Africa has made great progress in dismantling its old economic 
system, which was based on import substitution, high tariffs and 
subsidies, anti-competitive behavior, and extensive government 
intervention in the economy. The new leadership has moved to reduce the 
government's role in the economy and to promote private sector 
investment and competition. It has significantly reduced tariffs and 
export subsidies, loosened exchange controls, cut in half the secondary 
tax on corporate dividends, and improved enforcement of intellectual 
property laws. It is in the process of drafting a new competition law. A 
U.S.-South Africa bilateral tax treaty went into effect on January 1, 

South Africa is a contracting party to the Generalized Agreement on 
Tariffs and Trade and is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). 
U.S. products qualify for South Africa's most- favored-nation tariff 
rates. Many South African shipments to the United States receive U.S. 
Generalized System of Preferences treatment. South Africa still 
maintains a list of restricted goods requiring import permits. 
Nevertheless, the government remains committed to the simplification and 
continued reduction of tariffs within the WTO framework and maintains 
active discussions with that body and its major trading partners.

As a result of a November 1993 bilateral agreement, the Overseas Private 
Investment Corporation (OPIC) can now assist U.S. investors in the South 
African market with services such as political risk insurance and loans 
and loan guarantees. In July 1996, the United States and South Africa 
signed an investment fund protocol for a $120 million OPIC fund that 
will make equity investments in South and Southern Africa. The Trade and 
Development Agency also has been actively involved in funding 
feasibility studies and identifying investment opportunities in South 
Africa for U.S. businesses.

South Africa's Government is deeply concerned about managing the 
country's rich and varied natural resources in a responsible and 
sustainable manner. It 1997, it ratified the United Nations Framework 
Convention on Climate Change. Numerous South African non-governmental 
organizations are engaged in the public policy debate on climate change, 
habitat conservation, and sustainable development.

South African forces fought on the Allied side in World Wars I and II 
and participated in the post-war UN force in Korea. South Africa was a 
founding member of the League of Nations and in 1927 established a 
Department of External Affairs with diplomatic missions in the main West 
European countries and in the United States. At the founding of the 
League of Nations, South Africa was given the mandate to govern South-
West Africa, now Namibia, which had been a German colony before World 
War I. In 1990, South Africa granted independence to Namibia with the 
exception of the enclave of Walvis Bay, which was reintegrated into 
Namibia in March 1994. After South Africa held its first nonracial 
election in April 1994, most sanctions imposed by the international 
community in opposition to the system of apartheid were lifted. On June 
1, 1994, South Africa rejoined the Commonwealth, and on June 23, 1994, 
its credentials to the UN General Assembly were accepted. South Africa 
also joined the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
Having emerged from the international isolation of the apartheid era, 
South Africa has become a leading international actor. Its principal 
foreign policy objective is to develop good relations with all 
countries, especially its neighbors in the SADC and the other members of 
the OAU. In August 1998, South Africa assumes the chair of the Non-
Aligned Movement. 

The United States has maintained an official presence in South Africa 
since 1799, when an American consulate was opened in Cape Town. The U.S. 
Embassy is located in Pretoria, and consulates general are in 
Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town. Americans and South Africans also 
have many non-governmental ties; for example, black and white American 
missionaries have a long history of activity in South Africa.
From the 1970s through the early 1990s, U.S.-South Africa relations were 
severely affected by South Africa's racial policies. However, since the 
abolition of apartheid and democratic elections of April 1994, the 
United States has enjoyed an excellent bilateral relationship with South 
Africa. During President Nelson Mandela's October 1994 state visit to 
the United States, the U.S.-South Africa Binational Commission was 
created. The Commission, which meets biannually, is designed to promote 
cooperation between the two countries in such areas as trade and 
investment, agriculture, human resources development and education, 
conservation and the environment, energy and technology, and defense. 
Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the 
United States also provides assistance to South Africa to help it meet 
its development goals. Peace Corps volunteers began working in South 
Africa in 1997. 

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--James A. Joseph
Deputy Chief of Mission and Minister-Counselor--Robert M. Pringle 
Commercial Minister-Counselor--Millard W. Arnold, Jr. 
Economic Minister-Counselor--Ann R. Berry
Political Counselor--Reed Fendrick
Administrative Counselor--Michael J. Hinton
Public Affairs Officer--Thomas Hull
Defense Attache--Col. Keith Betsch, USA
USAID Director--Aaron Williams
Agricultural Attache--Dr. Besa L. Kotati
Consul General Cape Town--April Glaspie
Consul General Durban--Frederick C. Hassani
Consul General Johannesburg--Gregory W. Engle

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day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. 
to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-
225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate 
of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648) 

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers 
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 
(404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization 
recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water 
safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information 
for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is 
available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 
20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and 
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to 
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's 
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal 
Government Officials" listing in this publication). 

U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas 
are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country 
(see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). 
This may help family members contact you in case of an emergency.
Further Electronic Information: 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, 
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy 
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, 
the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; 
Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign 
service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at 

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published annually by the U.S. 
Department of State, USFAC archives information on the Department of 
State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of official foreign 
policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact the Superintendent 
of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, 
Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of 
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information. It is 
available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the 
NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information. 
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