South African Republic
South African Republic
Motto: Eendragt maakt magt
Anthem: Volkslied van Transvaal
Location of South African Republic
|Recognised regional languages||English, others|
|Government||Unitary semi-presidential republic|
• State President of the South African Republic
Staatspresident der Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek
• Prime Minister of the South African Republic
Premier der Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek
|Cornelius J. Botha|
|17 January 1852 Idependence of Transvaal Republic|
|27 February 1884 Creation of the South African Republic|
|11 January 1902|
|549,495 km2 (212,161 sq mi)|
• Water (%)
• 2019 census
|27.74/km2 (71.8/sq mi)|
|GDP (PPP)||2017 estimate|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2017 estimate|
• Per capita
The South African Republic (Afrikaans: Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek), also known as ZAR, is an indpependent state located in Southern Africa. It borders Basutoland to the south, the Republic of Good Hope to the southeast and the east, Botswana and Zimbawe to the North, and the Indian Ocean, Mozambique and Swaziland to the east. Within the territory of the South African Republic are also the Prince Edward Islands located in the subantarctic Indian Ocean.
The origins of the nation are due to the migrations of the population of Dutch origin towards the interior of the continent when the British took control of the Cape Colony. These Boer settlers crossed the Vaal River and settled in the area. The South African Republic came into existence on 17 January 1852, when the British signed the Sand River Convention treaty with about 40,000 Boer people, recognising their independence in the region to the north of the Vaal River. From its independence until the middle of the 20th century, the South African Republic lived in troubled times with numerous wars against British and natives first, and later with the Republic of Good Hope. The nation's current borders date back to the Great War I when they fought against the expansion of Marxism-Landoism after the independence of the Republic of Good Hope.
The South African Republic is a country enormously rich in mineral resources of all kinds, highlighting coal, iron, copper, lead, gold, diamonds and precious metals. It also has significant Uranium reserves and its proven reserves of natural gas and oil have recently been increased recently. Mineral wealth has allowed the Republic the greatest economic and industrial development in all of southern Africa.
The South African Republic came into existence on 17 January 1852, when the British signed the Sand River Convention treaty with about 40,000 Boer people, recognising their independence in the region to the north of the Vaal River.
The first president of the ZAR was Marthinus Wessel Pretorius, elected in 1857, son of Boer leader Andries Pretorius, who commanded the Boers to victory at the Battle of Blood River. The capital was established at Potchefstroom and later moved to Pretoria. The parliament was called the Volksraad and had 24 members.
War with Mapela and Makapaan, 1854
Hendrik Potgieter was elected at the assembly of 1849 as commandant general for life and it became necessary, to avoid strife, to appoint three commandants general all possessing equal powers. Commandant General Andries Pretorius became commandant general of the Potchefstroom and Rustenburg districts. On 16 December 1852, Commandant General Potgieter died and his son, Piet, was appointed in his stead as commandant general of the Lydenburg and Zoutpansberg districts.
There were some disputes over cattle which Mapela was raising on behalf of Potgieter and earlier Commandant Scholtz had confiscated a large number of rifles and amounts of ammunition, rifle repair equipment and materials of war from the home of English missionary, The Rev Mr Livingstone. Livingstone admitted to storing these for Secheli and by this he was acting in breach of the Sand River Convention of 1852, which prescribed that neither arms nor ammunition should be supplied to the natives. In 1853, Herman Potgieter was called to Mapela to come and cull the elephant population.
When Herman arrived, Maphela took Herman, his son, his groom and a few other burghers to show them where the elephants were. On the way, Mapela and hundreds of natives attacked the Potgieter party. They killed Herman's son, Andries, and then dragged Herman up a hill, where they proceeded to skin him alive. They stopped once they had torn the entrails from his body. At the same time of these events, the Ndebele chief Magobane (known to the Boers as Makapaan) attacked and killed an entire convoy of women and children traveling to Pretoria. The two chiefs had concluded an agreement to murder all the Europeans in their respective districts and to keep the cattle that they were raising for the Europeans.
General Piet Potgieter set out with 100 men from Zoutpansberg and Commandant General Pretorius left Pretoria with 200 men. After the commandos met up, they first attacked Magobane and the natives were driven back to their caves in the mountains where they lived before. The Boers held them at siege in their caves and eventually hundreds of women and children came out.
Orphan children of the native tribes were booked in strictly controlled by legal process, at appointed Boer families to look after them until they came of age. The administration was similar to the system of indentured workers, which was simply another form of slavery, with the exception that children so registered had to be released at age 16. The commando would return all such children to the nearest landdrost district, for registration and allocation to a Boer family.
As there were slavers and other criminals dealing in children, any burgher found in possession of an unregistered minor child was guilty of a criminal offence. These children were also often called "oorlams" in reference to being overly used to the Dutch culture, and in reference to a hand-raised orphan sheep, or "hanslam". These children, even after their 16th birthday, and being free to come and go as they please, never re-connected with their own culture and own language and except for surviving and being cared for in terms of food and shelter, were basically forcefully divorced from their native tribe forever.
Among the casualties of this war was Commandant General Potgieter. The natives were armed with rifles and were good shots. The general was killed by native sniper on the ridge of a trench and his body recovered by then commandant Paul Kruger whilst under heavy fire from the natives. What remained of the joint commando, now under command of General Pretorius focussed their attention on Mapela. By the time the commando had reached Mapela, the natives had fled. A few wagons, bloody clothes, chests and other goods were discovered at a kop near Mapela’s town. Mapela and his soldiers escaped and with their rifles and ammunition intact and Mapela was only captured much later, in 1858.
Civil War, 1861–1864
The so called Tansvaal Civil War was a series of skirmishes during the early 1860s mainly in the South African Republic but also in areas of the Free Orange State. After the independence, the Boers divided into numerous political and religious factions that fought against each other. It only ended in 1864 when an armistice treaty was signed under a Karee tree south of the site of the later town of Brits.
Sekhukune War, 1876
In 1876, a war between the ZAR and the Bapedi broke out over cattle theft and land encroachment. The Volksraad declared war on the Pedi leader, Sekhukune, on 16 May 1876. The war only began in July 1876. The president of the ZAR, Burgers led an army of 2000 burghers and was joined by a strong force of Swazi warriors. The Swazis joined the war to aid Mampuru, who was ousted from his position of chieftain by Sekhukune.
One of the early battles occurred at Botsabelo Mission Station on 13 July 1876, against Johannes Dinkwanyane, who was Sekhukune’s brother. The Boer forces were led by Commandant Coetzee and accompanied by Swazi warriors. The Swazi warriors launched a surprise and successful attack while the Boers held back. Seeing this, the Swazis refused to hand over to the Boers any spoils from the battle, thereafter leaving and returning to Swaziland. Dinkwanyane’s followers also surrendered after this campaign.
The unpopular presidency of Thomas F. Burgers came to a head with his campaign against the Bapedi under Sekhukune. The republic close to bankruptcy and his siege of Sekhukuneœ’s stronghold failed because commando members objected to Burgers's theology, calling him a heretic, and abandoned the siege in droves. Burgers, having failed to eliminate the threat off the Bapedi, resigned and left the country. A. N. Pelzer writes: "Although [Sekhukune] made overtures for peace, he was not defeated and this fact, together with the shaky financial position, gave Sir Theophilus Shepstone the pretext he required to annex the republic [as the Transvaal, a British colony,] on 12 April 1877."
Sir Garnet Wolseley, High Commissioner for South East Africa, declared war on Sekhukune, and with the aid of British troops and allied troops – including the Swazis who had supported Burgers – and in 1879 defeated him and imprisoned him in Pretoria. With the threat of Sekhukune removed, the burghers were no longer so amenable to British rule.
On 12 April 1877, the British issued the "Annexation of the S. A. Republic to the British Empire." In it, the British stated that the country was "unstable, ungovernable, bankrupt and facing civil war", though in reality they wished to annex it merely for its strategic position, using the skirmishes merely as a poor excuse to justify this. The unsuccessful annexation apparently would not suspend self-government, but nonetheless attempted to convert the ZAR into a colony of the British Empire.
The ZAR recognised this proclamation as an act of aggression, and resisted. Instead of declaring war, the country decided to send a delegation to the United Kingdom and the United States to protest. This unfortunately did not have any effect, and the First Boer War formally broke out on 20 December 1880. The First Boer War was the first conflict since the American Revolution in which the British had been decisively defeated and forced to sign a peace treaty under unfavourable terms.
It would see the introduction of the khaki uniform, marking the beginning of the end of the famous Redcoat. The Battle of Laing's Nek would be the last occasion on which a British regiment carried its official regimental colours into battle. The Pretoria Convention of 1881 was signed on 3 August 1881 and ratified on 25 October 1881 by the ZAR, where the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek is referred to by the name "Transvaal Territory". The Pretoria Convention of 1881 was superseded in 1884 by the London Convention, and in which the British suzerainty over the South African Republic, was relinquished.
The ZAR became fully independent on the 27 February 1884, when the London Convention was signed. The convention was signed in duplicate in London on 27 February 1884, by Hercules Robinson, Paul Kruger, Stephanus Jacobus du Toit and Nicolaas Smit, and later ratified by the South African Republic Volksraad. The country independently also entered into various agreements with other foreign countries after that date. On 3 November 1884 the country signed a postal convention with the government of the Cape Colony and later a similar convention with the Orange Free State.
In November 1859, the independent Republics of Lijdenburg and Utrecht merged with the ZAR. On 9 May 1887, burghers from the territories of Stellaland and Goosen (sometimes referred to as "Goshen") were granted rights to the ZAR franchise. On 25 July 1896 the burghers that took part in the battle at Zoutpansberg, were granted citizenship of the ZAR. In the beginning of 1896 the Boer republic of Natal decided to merger with the ZAR given the Republic direct acces to the Indian Ocean.
Mining and industrial development
In 1885, rich gold reefs were discovered, fact that motivated the arrival of numerous European immigrants and also immigrants of British origin from the Cape Colony. Unlike the "gold rush" in the North American west, the ZAR's gold deposits, although enormously rich, were deep underground, in some cases very deep, which led to the creation of large mining companies before the impossibility of small-scale mining. The mining of gold, diamonds and other metals meant enormous economic growth for the newly created ZAR. In the last decade of the 19th century, banks, mining companies and industrial factories were created. Some of them still endure today. In a few years the country went from being an agricultural country to an incipient industrial nation. Part of the numerous investments made came from European countries: Germany and the United Kingdom mainly, but also from other countries such as Sweden, France or Portugal.
The first steel mill in the country was created in 1898 with German investment. Tool factories were established to service mining companies, and a railway network began to be built to deliver mining products to European and Asian markets.
New crisis with the British Government
Despite the peace signed after the London Convention, tensions between the ZAR and the British never ceased. On the one hand the suspicion of the Boers who never trusted the British and on the other hand the British resentment for having been humiliated in the war, as well as the need to keep their piece in the rich economic pie of the ZAR, motivated that Relationships remained tense during these years.
In 1882 a railway line from Pretoria to Lurenço Marques in Portuguese Monzambique was opened and the ZAR was able to export its minerals without using British ports, which was a serious blow to the British interests. At the end of the 19th century, tensions escalated spurred by some powerful British industrialists in the Cape Colony who saw them lose their power in ZAR against their German, Dutch and Swedish counterparts. The accusations of unequal treatment became strong and finally the British governor of the Cape Colony threatened the ZAR with retaliatory actions if access by British industrialists was not guaranteed on equal terms.
The ZAR government responded by nationalizing some British companies and banning the use of English in public life (as the British authorities had previously done with the Dutch in the Cape Colony), which led to further exacerbation of tensions.
During the 1890s, the ZAR had managed to arm itself on the fringes of the British. Rifles and cannons from Germany and Sweden had been secretly acquired and by 1900 the ZAR was able to mobilize a well-equipped and organized army superior to the British forces in the Cape Colony but unable to cope with a mobilization of British troops on a large scale from the metropolis.
At the end of 1899 war seemed inevitable, although both the British and the ZAR were aware of the disastrous consequences of a war for everyone. For the ZAR government a war would jeopardize the great economic, industrial and commercial growth experienced in recent years and for the British, with problems already in other parts of the empire and with an arms race that was beginning to develop in Europe, a war that he would need the mobilization of large resources was not an attractive scenario.
Orange Raids 1900
Britain's expansionist ideas (notably propagated by Cecil Rhodes) as well as disputes over inmigrants political and economic rights resulted in the failed Jameson Raid of 1900. Dr. Leander Starr Jameson, who led the raid, intended to encourage an uprising of the uitlanders in Johannesburg. However, the uitlanders did not take up arms in support, and Transvaal government forces surrounded the column and captured Jameson's men before they could reach Johannesburg. Similar attacks were carried out in the Orange Free State where the atackers got part of the immigrants of British origin to join.
Both the ZAR and Orange Free State governments protested to the British authorities in the Cape Colony, but the response was that the British had nothing to do with these attacks. The justification obviously did not satisfy the attacked parties that responded by signing a defensive alliance. Troops from the ZAR entered the Orange Free State to put an end to the pro-British revolts and took the opportunity to seize some Griqua lands in the north.
Free Orange State integration
After the attacks of 1900, the inhabitants of the Orange Free State began to ask for an integration into the ZAR. The government, which initially rejected this point, proposed in early 1901 an integration agreement to the ZAR that although ending its independence was the only way to deal with British expansionism and keep the Boer heritage safe. The integration agreement was signed in March 1901 and was ratified by both parliaments.
German mediation and the Berlin Convention
With a new war about to break out, the ZAR government sent a diplomatic legation to Europe with the aim of gathering support, especially from Germany. During the previous years Germany had become an important trading partner and numerous German businessmen had strong mining and industrial interests in the ZAR. Furthermore, at that time Germany had become an important ally of the British Empire and its mediation seemed to be the only way to avoid a conflict in which the Germans also had a lot to lose in economic terms. The ZAR embassy got a promise from the German government that it would try to mediate the conflict and a few months later negotiations began. In addition, the South Africans managed to sign important trade agreements with the Danish, Swedish, Austrian and Portuguese governments, which helped increase international pressure to arouse the conflict.
After several months of negotiations, a new treaty was signed the 11th March 1902, at the Berlin Convention whereby the British and South Africans pledged to respect borders and to remove all economic and trade sanctions in force. This new agreement meant a relaunch in economic exchanges between the ZAR and the Cape Colony and the arrival of new emigrants of British origin to the ZAR.
1900 to 1930: The building of the nation
With the threat of the war already extinguished and the recent trade agreements with the European powers, the ZAR was heading for a long period of growth and prosperity. The European, and to a lesser extent worldwide, arms race in the years prior to the Great War I served to make the ZAR one of the world's largest exporters of iron ore and coal, as well as steel and industrial goods as national indutry grew.
During the first decades of the 20th century cities were founded, a vast network of railroads was built, factories were built and culture and art flourished in the young republic which, as it consolidated, lost its Dutch or British character to form a new Afrikaner nationality.
Constitution an laws
The 1885 Constitution of the South African Republic was legally interesting for its time. It contained provisions for the division between the political leadership and office bearers in government administration. The legal system consisted of higher and lower courts and had adopted a jury system. The constitution was ammended in 1904 to establish a unicameral parliament and incorporate other elements. With some amendments over the years, the Constitution of the South African Republic is one of the oldest in the world that is still in force.
Also on 1904, the Magistrates Court powers were extended to increase the civil ceiling amounts and to expand criminal jurisdiction to include all criminal cases not punishable by death or banishment. Also established were municipal government, District Courts and the High Court of the South African Republic. Laws were enforced by the South African Republic Police (Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek Politie) ZARP which were divided into Mounted Police (Rijdende Politie) and Foot Police (Voetpolitie).
The state and church were not separated in the constitution; citizens of the ZAR had to be members of the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk – a breakaway of the Dutch Reformed Church. In 1858, these clauses were altered in the constitution to allow for the Parliement to approve other Dutch Christian churches. Later in 1908 the Zuid-Afrikaansche Hervormde Kerk was created as a merger of different Dutch Reformed Churches and became the State Church of the ZAR.
The constitution promoted racism as it treated European people differently from native people. Although slavery was illegal in the constitution and foreigners were discriminated against, black foreigners had fewer rights than their white counterparts. Black and Asian foreigners could never become citizens of the ZAR; at this time in history, this was very similar to many European countries as well as some states in the New World. Although the laws were not different from those that governed the British Cape Colony, their application was stricter in the ZAR, which carried out a policy of expansion of the Afrikaner culture that caused many natives to emigrate to the Cape Colony in the first decades of the 20th century.
Although racist laws were relaxed in the first decades of the 20th century, it was not until 1968 that they were completely eliminated. At that time the native population was around 30% and this percentage remained constant more or less until today.
In the 1910s, the fight for the rights of the Griqua people was important, culminating in the acceptance of full citizenship for those who could prove an ancestor of European origin. Since then, the Griqua have been integrated into the life and culture to become an important part of the modern ZAR society.
Although the first decades of the ZAR meant a constant fight against the natives, especially the Zulus, the ZAR had a peaceful coexistence with other groups such as the Swazi and the Bashuto who on numerous occasions fought on the Boer side. In 1903 a protectorate was established on the Swazi lands that would extend until their independence in 1958. On the other hand, in the agreements of the Berlin Conference, the ZAR pledged with the British to maintain the British protectorate over the Bashuto lands.
South African Republic in the previous years of the Great War I
The ZAR begins the 1930s with an established economic and commercial development, fully recognized internationally and with solid internal structures. The profits from the trade in raw materials had financed economic, industrial, social and military development. Since the British granted autonomy to the Cape Colony in 1910, relations with the colony had improved markedly, and also with the British who had invested in South African development and imported large quantities of ore for their industry.
In the mid-1930s Marxist-Landoist ideas had reached the south of the African continent. These ideas had their development in the industrial zones of the ZAR, but above all, mixed with problems of a racial nature, they caught on in the Cape Colony. In 1936 strikes took place in the ZAR mines and factories, which were severely repressed by the police and the authorities prohibited any Marxist-Landoist demonstration. The political parties that displayed these ideas were abolished and in practice the fight against this ideology became a "matter of state". In 1939 the situation had normalized internally while the Cape Colony was in a state of civil war.
The South African Republic has been a semi-presidential representative democratic republic since the ratification of the ammendment of the Constitution of the South African Republic in 1904, with Pretoria as its capital. The Constitution grants the division or separation of powers among four bodies referred as "organs of Sovereignty": the State President, the Government leaded by a Premier, the People's Council and the Courts of Justice.
The State President, who is elected to a five-year term, has an executive role. Current State President is Leonard Bekker. The People's Council is a single chamber parliament composed of 173 deputies elected for a four-year term. The Government is headed by the Premier (currently Cornelius J. Botha) and includes Ministers and Secretaries of State. The Courts of Justice are organized into several levels, among the judicial, administrative and fiscal branches. The Supreme Court is the High Court and also Court of Appeal.
The South African Republic operates a multi-party system of competitive legislatures/local administrative governments at the national, district and local levels. The Assembly of the Republic, District Assemblies and local municipalities have been traditionally dominated by two political parties, the National Party and the Social Democratic Party, in addition to the Center Democratic Party, the Left Bloc and the Boer Party.
State President of the South African Republic
Main article: State President of the South African Republic
The State President of the South African Republic (Staatspresident der Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek) is the Head of State, elected to a five-yeaer term by direct and universal suffrage. He or she has also supervision and reserve powers. Presidential powers include the appointment of the Premier and the other members of the Government (where the President takes into account the results of legislative elections); dismissing the Premier; dissolving the People's Council (to call early elections); vetoing legislation (which may be overridden by the People's Council); and declaring a state of war or siege. The State President is also the ex officio Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
The President is advised on issues of importance by the Council of the South African Republic, which is composed of six senior civilian officers, any former Presidents, five-members chosen by the Assembly, and five selected by the president.
The Government is headed by the presidentially appointed Premier (Premier der Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek), also including one or more Deputy Prime Ministers, Ministers, Secretaries of State and Under-Secretaries of State. The Government is both the organ of sovereignty that conducts the general politics of the country and the superior body of the public administration.
It has essentially Executive powers, but has also limited legislative powers. The Government can legislate about its own organization, about areas covered by legislative authorizations conceded by the People's Council and about the specific regulation of generalist laws issued by the People's Council.
The Cabinet – under the presidency of the Premier (or the State President at the latter's request) and the Ministers (may also include one or more Deputy Prime Ministers) – acts as the government. Each government is required to define the broad outline of its policies in a programme, and present it to the People's COuncil for a mandatory period of debate. The failure of the People's Council to reject the government programme by an absolute majority of deputies confirms the cabinet in office.
Main article: People's Council of the South African Republic
The People's Council of the South African Republic (Volksraad), located in Pretoria, is the national parliament of the South African Republic. It is the main legislative body, although the Government also has limited legislative powers.
The People's Council is a unicameral body composed of up to 173 deputies. Elected by universal suffrage according to a system of closed party-list proportional representation, deputies serve four-year terms of office, unless the State President dissolves the People's Council and calls for new elections.
The Constitution of the South African Republic is the supreme rule of law in the country. The primary sources of South African law are Roman-Dutch mercantile law and personal law with English Common law, as imports of Dutch settlements and British colonialism. The first European based law in the South African Republic was brought by the Dutch East India Company and is called Roman-Dutch law. It was imported before the codification of European law into the Napoleonic Code and is comparable in many ways to Scots law. This was followed in the 19th century by English law, both common and statutory.
According to the constitution, the laws are approved and modified by the Parliament and their application is regulated and supervised by the Courts of Justice. The judicial system is organized around the District Courts as the lowest instance, the Provincial Courts as the intermediate instance, and the Supreme Court as the highest instance. The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal and its functions include that of exercising also as a Constitutional Court.
Main article: South African Police
South African's main police organization is the South African Police – SAP (Suid-Afrikaanse Polisie), a gendarmerie, wich also has judicial police duties under the orders of the Prosecutor's Office. In addition, each of the districts also has its police force with limited jurisdiction within the district.
Main article: Foreign relations of the South African Republic
Since its independence and subsequent affirmation of its sovereignty, the South African Republic has always been an active participant in international politics, actively engaging in matters related to the Southern African region. During the decolonialization of neighboring areas, the ZAR always tried to influence the creation process of the new nations. Sometimes encouraging and supporting dissident factions and sometimes openly participating in decolonialization wars.
Traditionally close to the Netherlands, Germany and Skandinavia, relations with the United Kingdom normalized in the decades following independence. During the GWI and the years of decolonization, the ZAR collaborated with the British in numerous regional conflicts.
After the end of GWII, the ZAR came under international pressure for its policy towards black minorities. Partly as a result of these pressures, the Constitution was changed in 1968 giving all citizens equal legal rights.
Main article: South African Defence Force
The South African Defence Force - SADF (Suid-Afrikaanse Weermag) are subject to civilian control exercised by the State President through the Minister of Defense. The Sate President is the Commander in Chief and supreme military leader and has the authority to appoint and relieve the Military High Chief of Staff.
The SADF is organised to perform a triple mission: to counter possible insurgency in all forms, to maintain a conventional military arm which could defend the republic's borders making retaliatory strikes as necessary and to defend the interest of the South African Republic abroad . As the military expanded during the 1970s, the SADF general staff was organised into six section: finance, intelligence, logistics, operations, personnel, and planning; uniquely, the South African Medical Service (SAMS) was made co-equal with the South African Army, the South African Navy and the South African Air Force.
The SADF has in 2020 around 140,000 active military personnel from which 60% are professionals and 40% are conscrips. Since 2000 the government has implemented policies to professionalize the SADF, although there are no plans to abolish conscription in the short term.
The SADF are the most powerful military forces in the region and have actively participated in numerous conflicts both in the region and in other parts of the world.
The South African Republic has been one of Africa's most stable and prosperous nations from the 1970s leading African nations in human development, competitiveness, income per capita, economic freedom and low perception of corruption. The country enjoys a developed market economy with the state still retaining some interests in strategical sectors. South Africa has the highest degree of economic freedom in Africa, owing to its independent and efficient judicial system and prudent public finance management. The South African Republic has the second largest economy in Africa and the highest nominal GDP per capita in the continent. National currency is the South African Rand (ZAR) and nation's central bank is the South African Reserve Bank. The city of Durban is considered the finnancial capital of the country and is where the country's main stock market, the Durban Stock Exchange, is located. The DSE is the biggest stock market in Africa.
Sound economic policies, maintained consistently since the 1980s, have contributed to steady economic growth in the ZAR and have more than halved poverty rates. The ZAR began to experience a moderate economic downturn in 2005. The economy remained sluggish until 2009, when it began to show clear signs of recovery, achieving 4.0% GDP growth. The South African economy finished 2012 with growth of 6 percent and has been between 4.5% to 6% until 2019. Standard & Poor's gives the South African Republic a credit rating of AA+. In 2019 public debt only accounted for 13.9 percent of GDP. Low unemployment rates below 6% have led to labor shortages in some sectors such as mining and specialized industry.
The South African Republic has signed free trade agreements (FTAs) with a whole network of countries all around the world. Although traditionally its trade relations have been closer with the countries of Europe and North America, it has always maintained exchanges with Asia that have been strongly increased in recent years.
Mining makes up 20% of South African GDP and 40% of exports and the ZAR. It has vast reserves of coal, iron, copper, zinc and gold, as well as diamonds, lead, uranium, and lithium. Since the late 1980s, oil and gas reserves have begun to be exploited, with offshore exploration becoming increasingly important. The ZAR currently produces 40% of the oil it needs and almost 70% of the gas.
Main article: Demographics of the South African Republic
According to the 2018 census, the total population was 15,247,315. Age distribution in 2018 was 12.3% over 65 years old, 64.6% between the ages of 15 and 64 years old and 23,1% under 15 years old. The fertility rate of 2.41 children per woman is over the replacement rate of 2.1, and is one of the lowest in Africa. By 2050 the population is expected to reach approximately 20.3 million people.
The Census Office asks people to describe themselves in the census in terms of five racial population groups. The 2018 census figures for these groups were: White at 47.4%, Black African at 26.2%, Coloured at 21.7%, Asian at 4.2% and Other/Unespecific at 0,5%. Within the white population, 63% are Afrikaners, 31% are of British origin and 6% of other European origins. In recent years, around 300,000 whites have migrated to the ZAR from other neighboring countries, fleeing attacks against white minorities in those countries.
The ratio of White to Black population has been more or less constant since the end of the segregation laws in 1959, however the population classified as Coloured has increased considerably mainly due to the growth of mixed marriages.
Currently, the ZAR enjoys a good general harmony between the different populations with hardly any conflict of ethnic origin. According to the 2019 general survey, 83% of respondents claimed to feel South African above all other ethnic considerations and only 8% considered their ethnic affiliation above South African citizenship. In 2001, during a conference at the University of Oxford, former president Violet Simons (first female and first non white to reach the Presidency) was asked by a student about how the ZAR society had managed to overcome the segregationism without implementing positive discrimination laws and without social conflict. Simons looked at the student smiling and said, "It was very simple. The Constitution said that all South Africans were equal and had the same rights, and that was what we did. Comply with the law."