I wrote before about how South Africa is known as the Rainbow Nation.  This is due to its incredible diversity.  The geography, flora, fauna, cuisine and cultures are exceptionally varied.

According to Statistics South Africa‘s (Stats SA) Census 2011 results, released in October 2012, there are 51,8 million people living in South Africa, of whom 79,2% is African, 8,9% coloured, 2,5% Indian and 8,9% white. The male-female split is quite equal with approximately 51,3% of the population being female. 

Twenty nine percent (29%) of the population is aged younger than 15 years and approximately 5% is 60 years or older.

The South African population consists of many different tribes and races.

Nguni cattle


The Nguni (comprising the Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele and Swazi people) are a people who migrated from the north to the Great Lakes region of sub-equatorial Central/East Africa.  They migrated southwards over many centuries, with large herds of Nguni cattle, probably entering what is now South Africa around 2,000 years ago in sporadic settlement.



The Sotho-Tswana, who include the Southern, Northern and Western Sotho (Tswana people), who still practice a traditional Shamanist type religion, based on devotion to ancestors – as intermediaries to God (a person is said to exist for as long as his “shadow” is still felt on earth by living relatives).  Each small settlement had its traditional herbalist healers (dingaka), who also function as shamans, spiritual counsellors and protectors against evil spirits and black magic.  The Tswana people are also renowned for their unique cultural dance.

tswana woman; south africa, rainbow nation

Tswana woman


tsonga woman, south africa, rainbow nation, face scarring

Tsonga woman

The Tsonga, who like most bantu cultures, have a strong acknowledgment of their ancestors, who are believed to have a considerable effect on the lives of their descendants. Polygamy exists amongst the Tsonga and face-scarring is considered a sign of beauty. 

venda people, south africa, rainbow nation, crocodile




The Venda people whose culture is built on a vibrant mythical belief system.  Water is an important theme to the Venda and there are many sacred sites within their region where the Venda conjure up their ancestral spirits.  They believe zwidudwane, (water spirits), live at the bottom of waterfalls. The Venda people have a very special relationship with crocodiles. The area where they live is filled with these dangerous reptiles. They believe that the brain of the crocodile is very poisonous; therefore they are given right of way by the Venda who do not even hunt them for food.


Afrikaners are a South African ethnic group whose native tongue is Afrikaans: a Germanic language which derives primarily from 17th century Dutch, and a variety of other languages. During the seventeenth century, Dutch colonists from the Netherlands (known as Boers) settled there. Over the next 200 years, British, French, and German settlers joined them. At first, they settled along the coast, but eventually settlers moved inland. These settlers developed a unique cultural identity and language and became known as Afrikaners. Their language, Afrikaans, began as a spoken dialect, but developed into a written language, too.

The term Coloureds (also known as BruinmenseKleurlinge or Bruin Afrikaners in Afrikaans) refers to an heterogeneous ethnic group who possess ancestry from Europe, various Khoisan and Bantu tribes of Southern Africa, as well as peoples of West Africa, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaya, India, Mozambique, Mauritius, and Saint Helena.

Indians make up a large portion of the population in South Africa and mostly live in and around the city of Durban, making it ‘the largest ‘Indian’ city outside India’.  Many Indians in South Africa are descendants of migrants from colonial India (South Asia) during late 19th-century through early 20th-century.

And these are only the most prominent groups.  As you can imagine with that many different races and tribes, there are quite a lot of differnet languages spoken.  Which is why there are 11 official languages in South Africa!