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South Africa Factbook

South Africa has nine provinces, each with its own legislature, premier and executive council – and distinctive landscape, population, economy and climate. Before 1994, South Africa had four provinces: the Transvaal and Orange Free State, previously Boer republics, and Natal and the Cape, once British colonies.

Under South Africa’s new democratic constitution, South Africa was consolidated into into nine new provinces.

Easter Cape Province

The Eastern Cape, lying on the southeastern South African coast, is a region of great natural beauty, particularly the rugged cliffs, rough seas and dense green bush of the stretch known as the Wild Coast.

Eastern Cape: quick facts

  • Capital: Bhisho
  • Major city: Port Elizabeth in Nelson Mandela Bay
  • Languages: 78.8% isiXhosa, 10.6% Afrikaans, 5.6% English
  • Population: 6 562 053 (Census 2011)
  • Share of total South African population: 12.7%
  • Area: 168 966 square kilometres
  • Share of total SA area: 13.9%

Free State Province

The Free State is a region of flat, rolling grassland and crop fields rising to sandstone mountains in the northeast. In the southeast the mountain kingdom of Lesotho nestles in the hollow of its bean-like shape.

Free State: quick facts

  • Capital: Bloemfontein
  • Languages: 64.2% Sesotho, 12.7% Afrikaans, 7.5% isiXhosa
  • Population: 2 745 590 (Census 2011)
  • Share of South Africa’s population: 5.3%
  • Area: 129 825 square kilometres
  • Share of total South African area: 10.6%

Gauteng Province

With only 1.4% of South Africa’s land area, the tiny province of Gauteng punches way above its weight, contributing around 34% to the national economy and some 7% to the GDP of the entire African continent.

Gauteng: quick facts

  • Capital: Johannesburg
  • Languages: 19.8% isiZulu, 13.3% English, 12.4% Afrikaans, 11.6% Sesotho
  • Population: 12 272 263 (2011)
  • Share of South Africa’s population: 23.7%
  • Area: 16 548 square kilometres
  • Share of South Africa’s total land area: 1.4%

Kwazulu-Natal Province

Along western KwaZulu-Natal runs the dramatic Drakensberg mountains, a range topped by several peaks well over 3 000 metres above sea level. The Drakensberg has been awarded Unesco World Heritage status for its dramatic natural beauty and the wealth of San Bushman art found in its caves .

KwaZulu-Natal: quick facts

  • Capital: Pietermaritzburg
  • Major city: Durban
  • Languages: 77.8% isiZulu, 13.2% English
  • Population: 10 267 300 (2011)
  • Share of South Africa’s population: 19.8%
  • Area: 94 361 square kilometres
  • Share of South Africa’s total land area: 7.7%

Limpopo Province

Limpopo is South Africa’s northernmost province, the gateway to the rest of Africa, lying in the great curve of the Limpopo River. It is a region of contrasts, from  bushveld to majestic mountains, indigenous forests, unspoilt wilderness and patchworks of farmland.

Limpopo: quick facts

  • Capital: Polokwane
  • Languages: 52.9% Sepedi, 17% Xitsonga, 16.7% Tshivenda
  • Population: 5 404 868 (2011)
  • Share of South Africa’s population: 10.4%
  • Area: 125 755 square kilometres
  • Share of South Africa’s total land area: 10.3%

Mpumalanga Province

Mpumalanga – “the place where the sun rises” – is a province of spectacular scenic beauty and an abundance of wildlife, lying in the northeast of South Africa.

Mpumalanga: quick facts

  • Capital: Mbombela
  • Languages: 27.7% siSwati, 24.1% isiZulu, 10.4% Xistonga, 10.1% isiNdebele
  • Population: 4 039 939 (2011)
  • Share of South Africa’s population: 7.8%
  • Area: 76 495 square kilometres
  • Share of South Africa’s total land area: 6.3%

Northern Cape Province

The vast and arid Northern Cape is South Africa’s largest province – around the size of Germany – and takes up nearly a third of the country’s land area. Yet it has the smallest population, only 1-million people, and a population density of just three people for every square kilometre.

Northern Cape: quick facts

  • Capital: Kimberley
  • Languages: 53.8% Afrikaans, 33.1% Setswana
  • Population: 1 145 861 (2011)
  • Share of South Africa’s population: 2.2%
  • Area: 372 889 square kilometres
  • Share of South Africa’s total land area: 30.5%

North West Province

North West is home to Sun City resort and the world’s richest platinum reserves, so tourism and mining dominate. It lies in the north of South Africa on the Botswana border, with the Kalahari desert to the west, Gauteng province to the east and the Free State to the south.

North West: quick facts

  • Capital: Mahikeng
  • Major city: Potchefstroom
  • Languages: 63.4% Setswana, 9% Afrikaans
  • Population: 3 509 953 (2011)
  • Share of South Africa’s population: 6.8%
  • Area: 106 512 square kilometres
  • Share of South Africa’s total land area: 8.7%

Western Cape Province

The Western Cape is one of South Africa’s most beautiful provinces, attracting the lion’s share of foreign tourists. It is a region of majestic mountains, colourful patchworks of farmland set in lovely valleys, long beaches and, further inland, the wide-open landscape of the semidesert Karoo.

Western Cape: quick facts

  • Capital: Cape Town
  • Languages: 49.7% Afrikaans, 24.7% isiXhosa, 20.2% English
  • Population: 5 822 734 (2011)
  • Share of South Africa’s population: 11.3%
  • Area: 129 462 square kilometres
  • Share of South Africa’s total land area: 10.6%