South Africa has one of the continent’s biggest and most developed economies. Up until 1994, it was ruled by a white minority government, which enforced a separation of races with its policy called apartheid.
The apartheid government eventually negotiated itself out of power after decades of international isolation, armed opposition and mass protests. The democratically-elected leadership encouraged reconciliation and set about redressing social imbalances, but the economy has struggled.
Cyril Ramaphosa was elected president by parliament in February 2018 after his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, resigned over corruption allegations.
He was heavily involved in the talks to end apartheid and played an important role in the drafting of South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution.
After missing out on becoming the then President Nelson Mandela’s deputy, Mr Ramaphosa withdrew from active political life, switching focus to the business.
He returned as deputy president in 2014, before finally taking the top job from the scandal-plagued Mr Zuma. He passed his first test when the ANC won the May 2019 parliamentary elections, although its 58% share of the vote was its lowest margin of victory since the end of apartheid.
South Africa is the continent’s major media player, and its broadcasters and press reflect the diversity of its people.
Established state-run and commercial TV broadcast nationally, and hundreds of thousands of viewers subscribe to satellite and cable. South Africa-based MultiChoice markets satellite pay-TV in dozens of African countries.
Some Key Events in South Africa’s History
1910 – Formation of Union of South Africa by former British colonies of the Cape and Natal, and the Boer republics of Transvaal, and Orange Free State.
1912 – Native National Congress founded, later renamed the African National Congress (ANC).
1948 – The policy of apartheid (separateness) is adopted when National Party (NP) takes power.
1960 – Seventy black demonstrators killed at Sharpeville. ANC banned.
1976 – More than 600 killed in clashes between black protesters and security forces during the uprising which starts in Soweto. The challenge to white rule escalates over the years.
1991-1994 – Negotiated end to apartheid leads to first non-racial elections and formation of a Government of National Unity under Nelson Mandela.