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South Africa is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations,
and is widely regarded as the most socially and economically developed
country on the continent.
||The Republic of South Africa is
the country at the southern tip of Africa. It borders the Atlantic
and Indian oceans and Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique,
Swaziland, and Lesotho, an independent enclave surrounded by
South African territory.
South Africa has experienced a different history from other nations
in Africa because of early immigration from Europe and the strategic
importance of the Cape Sea Route. European immigration began shortly
after the Dutch East India Company, in 1652, founded a station at
what would become Cape Town. The closure of the Suez Canal during
the Six-Day War exemplifies its significance. The country's relatively
developed infrastructure made its mineral wealth available and important
to Western interests, particularly throughout the late nineteenth
century and, with international competition and rivalry, during
the Cold War. South Africa is ethnically diverse, with the largest
white, Indian, and racially mixed communities in Africa. Black South
Africans, who speak nine officially recognised languages and many
more dialects, account for slightly less than 80% of the population.
Racial strife between the white minority and the black majority
has played a large part in South African history and politics, culminating
in apartheid, which was instituted in 1948 by the National Party
(although segregation existed before then). The laws that defined
apartheid began to be repealed or abolished by the National Party
in 1990, after a long and sometimes violent struggle (including
economic sanctions from the international community) by the Black
majority as well as many White, Coloured, and Indian South Africans.