Thesis: Global Inequality South Africa

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Global Inequality

South Africa is a large nation comprising the southern tip of the African continent. Its capital city is Pretoria, but Johannesburg and Cape Town both have larger populations. The region is rich in natural resources including precious metals, gems, and salt. Mining is the nation's largest industry and South Africa is the world's largest producer of platinum, gold, and chromium (CIA 2009). South Africa is a Republic that consists of nine provinces: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North-West, and Western Cape. South Africa shares borders with six other nations: Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. Although South Africa enjoys an expansive coastline, the nation has few sources of fresh water. The nation has no major lakes or rivers; its lands are dry and semi-arid and droughts are common. Only 12% of South Africa's land is classified as arable (CIA 2009). The total population of South Africa is estimated at about 50 million as of this year.

The largest ethnic group by far in South Africa is indigenous black African people, who comprise about 80% of the nation's population. Less than 10% of the population of South Africa is white. During the British colonization of India, laborers from the subcontinent migrated to South Africa and currently comprise about 2.5% of the population there (CIA 2009). The majority of South Africans would define themselves as Christian, although no one sect of Christianity is a majority religion. South Africa is linguistically and culturally diverse: the most common first language spoken is IsiZulu but it is spoken by less than a quarter of the population. English is the first language of less than 10% of the population. South Africa has eleven official languages (BBC 2009).

South African history has been indelibly characterized by colonization. Dutch Boers first settled South Africa in 1652, establishing the city of Cape Town as a "stopover point" for trade between Europe and Asia (CIA 2009). Great Britain seized the Cape of Good Hope in 1806, which drove the Boers north where they founded new republics (CIA 2009). The British continued to pressure the Boers, however, resulting in the Boer War between 1899 and 1902. South Africa's rich natural resources became even more important than its geographic position during the nineteenth century, which is why European colonial powers held fast to the region. The Boer War did not drive out the Dutch. Rather, both British and Dutch Boer settlers co-ruled the Union of South Africa during the twentieth century. Boers became known as Afrikaners.

The first and most apparent form of social inequality in South Africa is based on race. In 1948, the government under the National Party established apartheid. Apartheid was an extreme form of institutionalized racism. For example, the Group Areas Act made it legally possible to force blacks off their land or out of their communities (Ashall & Hillier 2007). The Population Registration Act of 1950 established a race-based classification system for residents. Residents were classified as white, black, or "colored," a nebulous category that could have referred to East Indians as well as to persons of mixed background ("The History of Apartheid in South Africa"). Appearance was the main means of determining access to wealth, political power, or social status under apartheid.

Forced resettlement programs, conceived as "social engineering schemes," affected hundreds of thousands of people in South Africa and in neighboring regions (BBC 2009). Mandatory segregation was also an important component of apartheid, with separate communities and facilities for blacks and whites in South Africa. To enforce apartheid, the government resorted to violence as well as intimidation. Blacks were forced to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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