South Africa


The Republic of South Africa occupies the southern tip of Africa, with a 2,798 km coastline on the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans which meet at the southwestern cape. To the north it shares borders, from west to east, with Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe; to the east lie Mozambique and Swaziland; while Lesotho is an independent small mountainous country wholly surrounded by South African territory. South Africa with a total area of 1,219,912 km2 including Prince Edward Islands is the ninth largest country in Africa accounting for 4 per cent of the land mass. Most of the country is a vast inland Karoo plateau rimmed to the east south and west by the Great Escarpment that separates it from the generally narrow coastal plain. The highest mountain range is the Drakensberg bordering Lesotho and Njesuthi at 3408 m is the highest peak. The Central Plateau is drained by two major rivers, the Limpopo bordering Botswana and Zimbabwe, which drains into the Indian Ocean, and the westward-draining Orange River (with its tributary, the Vaal). The Great Escarpment slowly loses altitude into the northwestern areas of the Central Plateau where it merges with the Kalahari Desert.  Open rolling grasslands of the temperate Highveld (1250-1750m) in the Free State Province give way further north and to the east with the drop in altitude to the Lowveld (or Bushveld). 


Large parts of the country are underlain by Precambrian rocks incorporating the Kaapval Craton and  including the Barberton and Murchison belts, the Limpopo Mobile belt and the Witwatersrand Supergroup all of Archean age. A Paleoproterozic age has been assigned to the Transvaal Supergroup, the Bushveld Complex, the Vredefort Dome (meteorite impact) and the Waterberg (Mokolian) Supergroup. The Namaqualand metamorphic province is of Mesoproterozoic age. The Lower Paleozoic is characterised by sediments and granites that were folded into the Cape Fold belt. About two thirds of South Africa’s surface is covered by the Paleozoic to Mesozoic Karroo Supergroup, comprising mainly continental clastic sediments and volcanics. Several late Mesozoic alkaline complexes, carbonatites and kimberlites have intruded the Precambrian and Karroo strata. Cenozoic terrestrial and freshwater sediments, mainly sands of the Kalahari Group, cover large parts of north-western South Africa.