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Some interesting and useful information regarding
South Africa

  South Africa: General
South Africa: Tourism
African Customs and cultures

South Africa: General

National Anthem: Sikelel’ iStem

Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika  (God bless Africa)
Maluphakanyisw' uphondo lwayo,  (
May its horn be raised)
Yizwa imithandazo yethu, (Hear our prayers)
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo. (Lord bless us, its
Africa’s children)
Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso, (Lord bless our nation)
O fedise dintwa la matshwenyeho,
(And stop all wars and suffering)
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso, (Preserve it (preserve it) our nation)
Setjhaba sa South Afrika - South Afrika. (Preserve our South African nation)

Uit die blou van onse hemel,
Uit die diepte van ons see,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
Waar die kranse antwoord gee.

Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom,
In South Africa our land.

The National anthem is a combination of the original anthems, Nkosi SikeleliAfrica (written by Enoch Sontonga in 1897) and Die Stem / The Call of South Africa (A poem written by CJ Langenhoven in May 1918)

Shosholoza - "The battle cry" (Sports Song) 


Ku lezontaba
Stimela si qhamuka e South Africa

Stimela se qhamuka e South Africa

Wena u va baleka
Wena u ya baleka
Ku lezontaba
Stimela se qhamuka e South Africa

Verse 1 

Work, work, working in the sun
We will work as one
Work, work, working in the rain
'Till there's sun again

Sithwele kanzima, sithwele kanzima (ooh aah!) x 5

 National Flag 

The new National Flag of the Republic of South Africa, which was taken into use on 27 April 1994, replaces the previous National Flag that flew over South Africa from 31 May 1928 to 26 April 1994.

The design and colours of the new National Flag are a synopsis of the principal elements of South Africa's flag history, from the earliest days to the present time. 


National Coat of Arms


The new national Coat of Arms replaced the old one on the 28 April 2000 and was designed by Iaan Bekker.

A national coat of arms, or State emblem, is the highest visual symbol of the State.

All important documents such as, birth, marriage, death and school certificates and passport, are all endorsed by the Coat of Arms.  


The Motto
The motto is: !ke e: /xarra //ke, written in the Khoisan language of the /Xam people, literally meaning: diverse people unite.

It addresses each individual effort to harness the unity between thought and action. On a collective scale it calls for the nation to unite in a common sense of belonging and national pride - Unity in Diversity.

The ears of wheat
An emblem of fertility, it also symbolises the idea of germination, growth and the feasible development of any potential. It relates to the nourishment of the people and signifies the agricultural aspects of the earth.

Elephant Tusks
Elephants symbolise wisdom, strength, moderation and eternity.

The shield
It has a dual function as a vehicle for the display of identity and of spiritual defence. It contains the primary symbol of our nation.

The human figures
The figures are derived from images on the Linton stone, a world famous example of South African Rock Art, now housed and displayed in the South African Museum in Cape Town.
The Khoisan, the oldest known inhabitants of our land and most probably of the earth, testifies to our common humanity and heritage as South Africans and as humanity in general. The figures are shown in an attitude of greeting, symbolising unity. This also represents the beginning of the individual's transformation into the greater sense of belonging to the nation and by extension, collective Humanity.

The spear and knobkierie
Dual symbols of defence and authority, they in turn represent the powerful legs of the secretary bird. The spear and knobkierie are lying down, symbolising peace.

The Protea
The Protea is an emblem of the beauty of our land and the flowering of our potential as a nation in pursuit of the African Renaissance. The Protea symbolises the holistic integration of forces that grows from the earth and are nurtured from above. The most popular colours of Africa have been assigned to the Protea - green, gold, red and black.

The secretary bird
The secretary bird is characterised in flight, the natural consequence of growth and speed. It is the equivalent of the lion on earth.
A powerful bird whose legs - depicted as the spear and knobkierie - serve it well in its hunt for snakes symbolising protection of the nation against its enemies. It is a messenger of the heavens and conducts its grace upon the earth, in this sense it is a symbol of divine majesty.
Its uplifted wings are emblem of the ascendance of our nation, whilst simultaneously offering us its protection.
It is shown in gold, which symbolises its association with the sun and the highest power.

The rising sun
An emblem of brightness, splendour and the supreme principle of the nature of energy, it symbolises the promise of rebirth, the active faculties of reflection, knowledge, good judgement and willpower. It is the symbol of the source of life, of light and the ultimate wholeness of Humanity.

National Fauna and Flora

National flower – King Protea - Protea cynaroides

The Giant King Protea is one of the most widespread of the Cape proteas, occurring in many parts of the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces, from the Cedarberg to just east of Grahamstown.

The early collectors referred to the artichoke-like flower heads of the King Protea. This resemblance gave rise to the specific name ‘cynaroides’, meaning ‘like cynara’ (the globe artichoke).


National Tree – Yellowwood - Podocarpus latifolius

The Yellowwood Family is ancient and was the most important source of timber of the early settlers at the Cape. Yellowwood was used for building, furniture, and wagons and in later years, railway sleepers. The pale yellow timber is still considered to be one of the loveliest of our indigenous furniture woods.

National bird – Blue Crane - Anthropoides paradisia


This large and elegant crane, standing about one metre in height, occurs only in Southern Africa.
The plumage of the Blue Crane is almost entirely pale blue-grey, only the main wing feathers being blue-black.
The crown of the head is white, the bill pinkish and the long legs greyish. What appear to be long tail streamers are in fact elongated wing feathers that trail gracefully to the ground when the bird is standing.
Males and females are identical in appearance except that the male has a slightly longer bill.
The Blue Crane has a loud, nasal trumpeting call that carries far, but mostly they are silent. The Blue Crane frequents open grassveld and also lays its two eggs on the ground. It feeds on vegetation including seeds, insects and small reptiles.


National Animal - Springbok - Antidorcas marsupialis


This graceful gazelle has since at least 1906 been considered to be South Africa’s national animal. Both sexes have horns but those of the ram are thicker and coarser than the ewes. Springbok breed throughout the year and do not have a fixed breeding time and lambs are born throughout the year.

They eat both grass and shrubs and can survive without drinking water because they obtain sufficient water from the succulent leaves they select. They will also dig up succulent roots.

Springboks have a shoulder height of approximately 75 cm, an average mass of 40 kg and a gestation period of 6 months.


National Fish - Galjoen - Coricinus capensis

The suggestion to make the Galjoen South Africa’s national fish came from the late Margaret Smith who was a Director of the JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology in Grahamstown.
In 1950 her husband published a book, The Sea Fishes of Southern Africa and said: “Probably the first typical fish to be noticed by the earlier settlers. It might well be selected as a marine emblem to rank with the Springbok and the Protea.”

The ANC (African National Congress) has been in political power since the 1994 elections.
Our president is Mr. Thabo Mbeki.

Size and population
The country covers an area of 1 227 200 square km, about one eighth the size of the USA and nearly five times the size of the United Kingdom.
South Africa is home to a population of an estimated 43 million people.

Provinces and major cities
The country is divided into nine provinces: -


Eastern Cape

Port Elizabeth

Free State



Tshwane (Pretoria)





Northern Cape


Limpompo (Northern Province)

Polokwane (Pietersburg)

North-West Province


Western Cape

Cape Town

Languages: South Africa has 11 official languages. 




 North Sotho

 South Sotho










Average Temperature

Average rainfall


 Summer 29,0

 Winter 18,5

 559 mm

 Cape Town

 Summer 24.0

 Winter 22.6

 515 mm


 Summer 25,5

 Winter 22,6

 1009 mm


 Summer 24,7

 Winter 18,0

 713 mm


 Summer 32,0

 Winter 20,0

 414 mm


 Summer 28,5

 Winter 23,0

 747 mm


 Summer 27,5

 Winter 21.0

 674 mm

VAT (Value Added Tax)
Currently set at 14%. Foreign visitors may claim refunds when the total value exceeds R250 per item and refunds may be claimed at airports, various harbours and customs offices.

The currency unit is the rand, denoted by the symbol R, with 100 cents = R1.
Foreign currency can be exchanged at some commercial banks or Bureaux de Changes.


Public holidays 

 New Year’s Day



 Human Rights Day



Good Friday


Friday before Easter Sunday

Family Day


Monday after Easter Sunday

Freedom Day



Worker’s Day



Youth Day



National Women’s Day



Heritage Day



Day of Reconciliation



Christmas Day



Day of Goodwill



South Africa: Tourism

General on Tourism
Most people have heard of our scenic splendour, our incomparable climate, and the great diversity of our wildlife and the richness of our cultural heritage. 

South Africa also offers a wide variety of Hotels, Game Farms, Guest Houses / farms, Country Houses, Health Hydros, Self-contained cottages, etc.


Star Grading System

South Africa has introduced an official star grading scheme for the hospitality industry, under the auspices of the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA.)  This is a voluntary scheme and accommodation establishments are currently registering and being graded. The scheme grades establishments from one to five stars in various categories

Self Catering
Bed and Breakfast
Guest House
Country House

Guidelines for the TGCSA star ratings are:

1-Star: Fair to good (acceptable/modest) quality in the overall standard and functional accommodation.
2-Star: Good quality in the overall standard of furnishings, service and guest care.
3-Star: Very good quality in the overall standard of furnishings, service and guest care.
4-Star: Superior comfort and quality with a high standard of furnishings, service and guest care.
5-Star: Exceptional quality and luxurious accommodation. Highest standard of furnishings, flawless service and meticulous guest care.

There are many different criteria’s. For instance, a guesthouse and a bed and breakfast get rated very differently.  A guesthouse, to quality for 4 stars or more, must have a bath in every bathroom. If one bathroom only has a shower and not a bath, that guesthouse cannot be graded more than a 3 star. On the other hand, a bed and breakfast, can obtain 5 stars without having one bath.

Most insurance policies do not extend their coverage over our boarders. Some banks offer free travel insurance if you purchase airline tickets with your credit card.

Visas: permits
Should you want to travel outside South Africa, enquire at the embassies of the countries you wish to visit for requirements regarding visas and permits.

Before touring South Africa or neighbouring states, make sure that you have taken precautions against possible diseases.  You may enquire at the Department of Health or the S. A. Embassy as to possible danger areas.

You may need vaccination / preventive medicines for the following: Malaria / Bilharzia / Yellow fever / Cholera / Rabies (for pets).

Customs and cultures: African

     Traditional customs

     Ethnic groups

South Africa is a unique and wonderful country, rich in cultures and customs.


Traditional customs

Although traditional customs are not practised with the same intensity as some years ago, they will always be part of the past, present and future.

Social structures

The social organisation of the Africans in their ethnic state is best likened to a triangle, with the superior chief at the apex. The name of the ethnic group is usually the same as the surname of this man, whose position is hereditary.

The great chief rules over a number of lesser chiefs, each in charge of a group of families.  The whole conglomeration of families constitutes the ethnic group.

The father is the head of the family unit and all members are answerable to his rule, even as he is answerable to his headman, the headman to the petty chief, and the petty chief to the great chief.

The law of the ethnic group is based on custom and tradition.  These were honoured by the group's ancestors who are still, as spirits, watches over them. It is the duty of every living member of the ethnic group to observe these laws and customs, even as their forefathers observed them.  There is a curious mystic sense of ethnic belonging: each individual is part of a continuous pattern stretching back into the forgotten past.

Behaviour, manners and ethics are all ethnic and to sin against the interests of the group is to sin indeed.  There are no absolutes in the sense of right and wrong, and therefore no spiritual ideal to pursue.

Modesty is charmingly evident in ethnic girls and women, but is expressed in prescribed behaviour and posture, rather than in covering the body.

Life cycle
In the traditional African society, each individual has an established position from the cradle to the grave and beyond. The position may change, for example, through marriage.
Polygamy is an accepted state, and the duties of men and women are clearly defined.  Women do not work with cattle (except after the death of a husband - a strong woman may then take over this task).  Woman's work is in the fields, or preparing food and caring for children and the home.  Men are soldiers and attend to the affairs of state, law and trading. Women must remain at home in their family groups, each working for the good of the whole and each with a well- defined status: that of a wife in the care of a man according to ethnic law.

Traditionally, marriage between a man and a woman is cemented by the husband presenting Lobolo (a gift, usually cattle) to the father of his bride: not as payment, but as a token of gratitude to the parents for rearing the girl; to compensate them for the loss of a daughter; in honour of her status; and as assurance that she will be well treated. Should she run away, the Lobolo is not returned.  The size of the Lobolo indicates the bride's status and her chastity. Lobolo marriages are recognised under South African law and are therefore entirely legal.

Puberty, the time of physical awakening for the young, is to the Western mind a "difficult time". The African people, however, usher in this state with pride and celebration, and with seclusion in "schools", where the young are taught the arts and behaviour of adulthood, particularly the art of married life.  When the initiate is through this school, he or she is welcomed as an adult.

Ancestral spirits
When trouble comes to individuals or the ethnic group, the first question to be asked from one another is whether the ancestors are angry and are punishing them.
In the case of an ancestral spirit being angry, a spiritual ceremony will be held, sacrificing an animal to regain the approval of the angry ancestor.

Traditional healer (sangoma)
No individual can solve his own troubles by intuitively discovering, or simply guessing, the mood of the spirits.
The Sangoma is the mouthpiece (diviner) of the spirits and may be either a man or a woman.
There are two types of sangomas: the herbalist, who usually has a remarkable knowledge of nature and herbal remedies; and the clairvoyant, who sees into the future.  Both may, however, throw bones and divine the future, and both may administer herbs.
In the hands of these healers lie the solutions to all of life's riddles and troubles, and a troubled person may get new strength by eating or drinking potions obtained from them.

Trouble is brought about not only by dissatisfied ancestors, but may also be caused by human beings who wish others ill and employ wizards to cast evil spells.
A wizard is a secret being who poses as an ordinary human being.  It is one of the functions of the accepted sangoma to smell out a wizard.  This is a terrifying ordeal for all, as anyone is liable to be named as wizard and driven out, or, as was traditional, killed.


Ethnic groups


Region - The Kalahari. 

Although three centuries have passed since the first contact between white settlers and Bushmen took place at the Cape, ethnologists have failed to produce proof of their origin.  Some plausibly, others unconvincingly, maintain that the Bushmen once inhabited the northern reaches of Africa, but were driven out of their haunts by warring African ethnic groups.

Moving slowly southwards, they split into two main groups: 
The rock engravers:
following a route through the central regions of the continent, and

The rock painters:

choosing a more westerly path before veering eastwards.

Bushmen hunters are renowned for their rock drawings/engravings, their extraordinary skill in tracking, stalking and snaring game, and for their fleet- footedness and seemingly inexhaustible stamina.

The Koisan

Region - Richtersveld of northern Namaqualand.

They called themselves Koikoi, meaning, "man der manne".  The people arriving in the Cape in 1488 heard them shouting "hautitou" while they were signing and dancing. The Europeans thought this was their name and called them "Hottentotte". Today they are once again called Koisan.

Origin of most African groups

Most of the African groups known today originate from the Nguni, Sotho, Tsonga and Venda. From these, other culture and language groups were formed. 


Xesibe, Fingo, Pondo, Bhaca,






Southern- Ndbele:
Ndzumdza and Manala


Northern Ndebele:

Moletlane and GaMashashane


Region - KwaZulu- Natal

The Zulu were originally one of many small clans scattered throughout what is now known as KwaZulu- Natal.  One of the sons of Malandela and Nozinjan, who stayed in this area, was named Zulu, meaning "heaven".  In the early nineteenth century, under the leadership of King Shaka, the Zulus rose to power, subdued their neighbours and imprinted the name of their clan upon all the ethnic groups, which today occupy KwaZulu- Natal.  The present king, King Goodwill Zwelithini, is a descendant of Shaka.


Region - Eastern Cape

The Xhosa - a general term for a diversity of ethnic groups - are people of Nguni origins who migrated from North- East Africa and first settled in KwaZulu- Natal, were later scattered by ethnic wars, and finally migrated to the Eastern Cape.

Subgroups: - Cele, Xesibe, Fingo, Pondo, Bhaca and Hlubu


Region - Swaziland

The Swazi, named after a powerful chief of former days, are near neighbours of the Zulu and akin in custom, dress and language.

Ngwane I led the Swazis over the Lebombo Mountains in the middle of the 18th century to the area now known as Swaziland. In 1968 Swaziland became an independent kingdom, which is now ruled by King Mswati III.

Their king is known as Ingwenyama (the lion).  The queen mother, Inhlovukhati (she- elephant), custodian of the rain- making medicine, also occupies a strong position in their government. In matters of dress, the Swazi favour animal skins and bright cotton cloths.

About one third of the Swazi ethnic group stays outside Swaziland in the Eastern Transvaal (KaNgwane), on the borders of Swaziland and in Mozambique.

Subgroup: - Ngwane.


Region - Zimbabwe, Limpopo (Northern Transvaal ) and Gauteng.

There are three Ndebele groups, originating from Nguni origins. The first two groups moved to the northern and southern Transvaal in about 1600.  

Nearly two decades later a third group fled from Shaka into Zimbabwe. They are sometimes referred to as the Matabele. 

The Ndebele of the Transvaal are frequently confused with the Sotho, since they took up the Sotho language.

Some groups were later named after Mapoch, a chief who claimed their devotion and loyalty. 

The Southern- Ndebele speaks a language still slightly related to Zulu. They live near Pretoria and are known for their houses, which are beautifully decorated with brightly painted wall art.

Southern- Ndebele: - Subgroups: Ndzumdza and Manala
- Ndebele: - Subgroups: Moletlane and GaMashashane. 


Northern- Sotho


Southern- Sotho






Most of the Sotho- speaking people live north of the Orange River and west of the Drakensberg.

Three groups originated from Sotho, namely the North- Sotho, South- Sotho and Tswana ethnic groups.

Northern- Sotho


Region - The Steelpoort River valley, Lebowa, Mpumalanga (Eastern Transvaal) and Sekukuniland (Lebowa).   Pedis are well known for their metalwork.  Their general style of dress resembles that of the Tswana.  Blankets and shawls are favoured wear for cold weather, in the manner of the Sotho. 

In Sekukuniland, a branch of the Pedi derived their name from that of the powerful Pedi chief, Sekukuni.


BaLobedu means People of the rain Queen. This smaller, although well known, group live in Duiwelskloof (BoLobedu or Modjadji).

Their history begins with the daughter of a king of the Karanga  (people of Zimbabwe), who fled the wrath of her father because she was to bear the child of her brother.

With her went the stolen rain magic, comprising sacred beads and the secrets of the BaLobedu.  Later, history reveals the mysterious figure of a queen as ruler of the BaLobedu. This is Mujaji - ruler of the day, a four- breasted rainmaker. 

Mujaji, the rainmaker, was reputed to be white and even today female BaLobedu with pale skins are said to be of royal blood. 

A Mujaji has ruled since 1800 and the ritual of the stolen magic has never been disclosed.

Other subgroups: - Batlokwa, Bantwane, Bantoane, Bakopa and Bakone.


Formerly termed Basotho, they are a mountain people of the Maluti range, inland from the escarpment of the Drakensberg. They lived for decades in Lesotho and neighbouring areas. One of these areas is presently known as QwaQwa, which lies on the Free State side of Lesotho.

The South-Sotho are known as being people on horseback, wrapped in brilliant blankets and wearing either man’s conical hat known as the "rain hat", or the open mesh sun hat which is worn by all ages and both sexes.

Subgroups: Bahlakoana, Batlokwa, Bakwena and Bataung.


The Tswanas moved to the Western Transvaal and split into two groups:


Region - Northwest province
Named after their chief, Morolong, which means "metalworker".


Region - Northwest province
Bafokeng means "people of the dew". 

Today most of the Tswanas live in the Northwest province.
Bophuthatswana means "those who united the Tswana nation".

Other subgroups: - Butlokoa, Bantwane, Bataung, Bakwena, Bahlaping and Bakgatla.



Region - KwaZulu- Natal

Tongaland is bordered by Northern KwaZulu- Natal, Mozambique, Swaziland and the Indian Ocean (North- east KwaZulu- Natal).  It is a wild country of beautiful trees and crocodile- infested lakes and rivers.  A common sight is the so- called "fever tree" of brilliant green leaves and sulphur- yellow limbs. The Tsonga of the Shangane- Tsonga group are scornfully referred to as "fish- eaters" by the Zulu, who consider fish to be as unpalatable as a snake. Their dress is of mixed Zulu- Swazi style.

Region - Northern- Transvaal Lowveld: Duiwelskloof area and north of Naboomspruit

Five decades ago the Tsongas stayed in Mozambique. In 1820 they were partially overcome by Soshangane, leader of the Ndwandwe ethnic group.
Some of the Tsongas became followers of Soshangane and settled themselves as Shangane in the Transvaal Lowveld: Duiwelskloof area and north of Naboomspruit. 
The men are well known on the mines of the Reef for their dancing prowess.





Region - Northern Province (Venda).  

The VaVenda people are the descendants of the Rozvi- Karanga people, reputed builders of the Great Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe, who moved southward in approximately 1700 AD, and settled in the chain of mountains known as the Soutpansberg, in the Northern Transvaal.

Venda is also known for the "Domba python dance".  This dance forms part of the initiation when a chief's daughter reaches puberty, and her age group must prepare her for marriage.


Venda is also known as "The land of mystics".  Deep in the mountains is a crocodile- infested lake named Fundudzi.  This lake has no outlet and is a place of fear, it being the heart of Venda folklore and secrets. 
Close to Fundudzi is a waterfall named Phiphidi and here, in a deep, dark pool, Gubukuvho, dwell the spirits of the ancients. 

(In memory of Reginald Nemokando)



Above information from
Get Wise!
Life-skills in South Africa
Author and publisher - Tia Young


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