South Africa Population and Languages

By | December 11, 2021

The first population census took place in 1911, the year after the South African Union was granted the status of autonomous dominion within the British Commonwealth. But the data of the various successive censuses up to 1991 are not very reliable, due to the distortions linked to the apartheid policy, which excluded from the official census the black population, who lived confined to the Bantustans., comprising just over 13% of the country’s total area. Furthermore, the townships (ghetto cities), vast and very poor settlements built on the outskirts of the large industrial and urban districts, were practically inaccessible to official surveyors, so much so that the 1991 census, which took place in a period of riots and particular social turbulence, he used aerial photographs and sample surveys to count the residents. In that year the population was estimated at 30.967.000 residents, Including the residents of the 4 Bantustans (Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei) declared independent by the Pretoria regime between 1976 and 1981. In 1994, after all 10 existing Bantustans (a total of 15.5 million residents) were reincorporated into the state, the South African government estimated at 40,400. 000 the total of the national population. Finally, in 2009, the population was estimated to be around 49 million. The annual rate of increase, which averaged 1.2% per year in the five-year period 2000-05, tends to drop below 1% (0.828 in 2008), mainly due to the emergency linked to diffusion AIDS: according to United Nations data, patients (mostly blacks) in 2008 ranged from 15.5 to 20.5% of the population.

In the complex picture of ethnic and racial differentiations, the component that maintains the highest growth rate is the Bantu one (79% of the total population). Whites represent 9.6% (they were 21.4% in 1911 and 17.5% in 1970); the coloureds (descendants from the unions between whites, Africans and Asians, mainly present in the Cape region) 8.9%. Asians (mostly Indians in Natal, descendants of workers brought in from the Asian colonies during the early years of the British administration) 2.5%. The Bantu are divided into some very different peoples for cultural heritage and sense of ethnic belonging, which have fought each other in the past and which tend to preserve their autonomy within the current state order. The Bantu-speaking populations are divided into Zulu, Swazi, Tsonga,Northern Sotho and Southern Sotho or Seshoeshoe, Tswana and some minor groups: the most numerous and with a greater ethnic awareness are the Zulu, who represent 24% of the total black population. The white populations, who clearly dominate the economic and cultural life of the country and who before the provisional Constitution of 1994 also completely controlled the political one, are mostly descendants of the Boers, who arrived in the Cape region in the 17th century. from the Indies Dutch first, and then from Europe, from French Huguenots who escaped religious persecutions, from German and English colonists who arrived in large numbers after 1820. To these first colonizers were added, in the 20th century, Europeans of different origins and, after the end of colonization in Africa, many settlers of the territories became independent.

The official languages ​​of the state are 11, as after the abolition of apartheid to Afrikaans and English, a legacy of the Boer and British colonization, the various Bantu languages, specific to each ethnic group, were also joined. Whites, in common usage, mostly (54%) use Afrikaans, while English is usually spoken only by 34% of the population of European origin; the colored use mostly Afrikaans, while the Indians are mainly English-speaking. The non-Bantu minorities of the Western pre-desert spaces (Hottentots, Bushmen, Bergdamara) speak Khoi-San languages. From the religious point of view, he is Protestant, of various confessions, the majority of whites and colored, and about 50% of Africans; among the latter traditional animist cults are still widespread. The Catholic minority is estimated at around 2.5 million units. For South Africa religion and languages, please check

The distribution of the population (average density 40.2 residents/km2) is highly unequal in the territory, as a result of both the different climatic and pedological conditions, and the concentration, in some regions, of immense mineral riches. Even the historical events of the century. 19th and 20th centuries, characterized by fierce clashes and wars between tribal groups, and by the continuous pressure from European groups, have helped to concentrate the population in some areas: Johannesburg (3,288,000 residents In 2005), located in the basin gold-bearing of the Witwatersrand, at about 1700 m of altitude, which is the greatest financial center and the main hub of exchanges and communications; Cape Town (3,375,000 residents), Legislative capital; Pretoria, administrative capital and important cultural center (2,450,000 residents).

South Africa languages