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A country occupying the southernmost part of the continent of Africa; population 54,500,000 (estimated 2015); eleven official languages: English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, Sepedi or Northern Sotho, Sesotho or Southern Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Tsonga, and Venda; administrative capital, Pretoria; seat of legislature, Cape Town.
Inhabited by Khoisan people in the south and south-east and various Bantu-speaking peoples in the eastern, central, and northern areas, the region was settled by the Dutch in the 17th century, the area of the Cape coming under British administraeasttion in 1806. There followed inland expansion and British dominance of local populations, culminating in victory in the Zulu and Boer Wars at the end of the 19th century. The colonies of Natal, the Cape, Transvaal, and Orange Free State joined to form the self-governing Union of South Africa in 1910. In 1961 South Africa became a republic and left the Commonwealth. From 1948 it pursued a policy of white minority rule (apartheid), which led to international diplomatic isolation. A gradual dismantling of apartheid began in 1990 following the release of the African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela. Majority rule was achieved after the country's first democratic elections in April 1994, won by the ANC. South Africa rejoined the Commonwealth in 1994
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