Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/480

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[General Features
South Africa

which run in lines parallel to the coast, approach close to the sea, as at Table Bay. In the south-east, in the Drakensberg, they attain heights of 10,000 to 11,000 ft., elsewhere the highest points are between 8000 and 9000 ft. They form terrace-like steps leading to a vast tableland (covering about 900,000 sq. m.) with a mean elevation of 4000 ft., the highest part of the plateau—the High Veld of the Transvaal—being fully 6000 ft. above the sea. In its southern part the plateau has a general tilt to the West, in the north it tilts eastward. This tilt determines the hydrographical system. In the south the drainage is to the Atlantic, chiefly through the Orange River, in the north to the Indian Ocean through the Zambezi, Limpopo and other streams. A large number of smaller rivers rise on the outer slopes of the mountain ramparts and flow direct to the sea. In consequence of their great slope and the intermittent supply of water the rivers—except the Zambezi—are unnavigable save for a few miles from their mouths. The central part of the interior plateau, covering some 120,000 sq. m., is arid and is known as the Kalahari Desert. The western region, both plateau and coast lands, specially that part north of the Orange, is largely semi or wholly desert, while in the Cape province the terrace lands below the interior plateau are likewise arid, as is signified by their Hottentot name karusa (Karroo). The southern and eastern coast lands, owing to different climatic conditions (see infra) are very fertile.

The geological structure is remarkably uniform, the plateau consisting mainly of sedimentary deposits resting on crystalline rocks. The Karroo system (sandstones and marls) covers immense areas (see Africa, § Geology). Intrusive dikes—locally known as ironstone—by preventing erosion are often the cause of the flat-topped hills which are a common feature of the landscape. The Witwatersrand series of the Transvaal includes auriferous conglomerates which have been worked since 1886 and constitute the richest gold-mines in the world. The diamondiferous areas at Kimberley and in the Pretoria district are likewise the richest known. Coal beds are widely distributed in the eastern districts while there are large copper deposits in the west, both at the Cape and in German territory.

Climate.—The general characteristics of the climate are determined

more by the physical conformation of the land than its proximity to the equator. The eastern escarpments (the Drakensberg, &c.) of the plateau intercept the rain-bearing winds from the Indian Ocean, so that over the greater part of the interior the rainfall is slight (5 to 24 in.). This, added to the elevation of the land, makes the climate in general dry, bracing and suitable for Europeans, notwithstanding that the northern part is within the tropics. Temperature is high, the mean yearly average lying between 60° and 70° F. Only along the south-eastern coast and in some of the river valleys is the climate of a markedly tropical character; here the rainfall rises to 50 in. a year and the coast is washed by the warm Mozambique current. The Cape peninsula and the western coast receive the cold currents from the Antarctic regions. Except in southern and western Cape Colony and along the Atlantic coast, summer is the rainy season.

Flora and Fauna.—In consequence of the deficient rainfall over the greater part of the country the flora is not luxuriant and there are no large forests. Coarse grasses are the characteristic vegetation of the tableland. On the plains where grasses cannot find sufficient moisture their place is taken by “bush,” composed mainly of stunted mimosas, acacias, euphoria, wild pomegranate, bitter aloes and herbaceous plants. Forest patches are found in the kloofs and seaward sides of the mountains; willows often border the watercourses; heaths and bulbous plants are common in some areas. In the semi-tropical regions south-east of the Drakensberg, i.e. the coast lands of Natal and Portuguese East Africa, the vegetation is abundant, and mangroves, palms, baobab and bombax trees flourish. Here, and also in the upper Limpopo valley, cotton, tobacco, and rubber vines are found. Among the timber trees are species of pine, cedar, ebony, ironwood, stinkwood and sneezewood. Flowering plants include numerous species of terrestrial orchids, the socalled arum lily (Richardia Africana), common in low-lying moist land, and the white everlasting flower, found abundantly in some regions of Cape Colony. Of non-indigenous flora are the oak, poplar, bluegum, the Australian wattle, the vine, and almost every variety of fruit tree and European vegetables. In suitable regions tea, coffee, sugar and rice, as well as tobacco and cotton, are cultivated. In the western districts of the Cape viticulture is largely followed. The cereal most grown is maize (known in South Africa as mealies); kaffir com, wheat, barley and oats are also largely cultivated. The soil is everywhere rich, but the lack of perennial water and the absence of irrigation works on a large scale retards agriculture. Most of the veld is divided into huge farms devoted to the rearing of cattle, sheep, goats and horses. On the Karroo are numerous ostrich farms. Lucerne is very largely grown as fodder for the cattle.

The native fauna was formerly very rich in big game, a fact sufficiently testified by the names given by the early European settlers to mountains and streams. The lion, elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, giraffe, buffalo, quagga, zebra and other large animals were, however, during the 18th and 19th centuries driven out of the more southern regions (though a few elephants and buffaloes, now carefully preserved, are still found at the Cape), the quagga being totally exterminated. In the Kalahari and in the eastern lowlands (from Zululand to the Zambezi delta) most of these animals are still found, as well as the eland, wildebeest and gemsbok. The leopard (called a tiger in South Africa) is still fairly common in all mountainous regions. Spotted hyenas and jackals are also numerous. The kudu is now the most common of the larger antelopes, the duiker and klipspringer are among the smaller antelopes still existing in large numbers. Baboons are common in some districts. Birds include the ostrich, great kori bustard, the eagle, vulture, hawk and crane, francolin, golden cuckoo, loorie, scarlet and yellow finches, kingfishers, parrots (in the eastern regions), pelicans and flamingoes. There are thirty varieties of snakes. Locusts are conspicuous among the common plagues of the country. In Rhodesia and on the east coast the tsetse fly is found and termites are widely


Inhabitants.—The aborigines of South Africa are represented by the Bushmen and Hottentots, now found in any racial purity only in the Kalahari and in the southern part of German South-West Africa. All the other natives, popularly called Kaffirs, are members of the Bantu-negroid family, of whom they here form three distinct branches: (1) the Zulu-Xosas, originally confined to the south-east seaboard between Delagoa Bay and the Great Fish River, but later (19th century) spread by conquest over Gazaland, parts of the Transvaal, and Rhodesia (Matabeleland), (2) the Bechuanas, with the kindred Basutos, on the continental plateau from the Orange to the Zambezi, and ranging westwards over the Kalahari desert and the Lake Ngami region; (3) the Ova-Herero and Ova-Mpo, confined to German South-West Africa between Walfish Bay and the Kunene River.

Population (1904).
Area in
sq. m.
White. Coloured. Total.
British South Africa:
Union of South Africa Cape of Good Hope 276,995  579,741  1,830,063  2,409,804
Natal (with Zululand) 35,371  97,109  1,011,645  1,108,754
Orange Free State 50,392  142,679  244,636  387,315
Transvaal 111,196  297,277  972,674  1,269,951
Southern Rhodesia 148,575  12,623  600,000¹ 612,623
Basutoland 10,293  895  347,953  348,848
Bechuanaland Protectorate 225,000¹ 1,004  119,772  120,776
Swaziland 6,536  898  84,586  85,484
Total British 864,358  1,132,226  5,211,329  6,343,555
German S.W. Africa 322,450  7,110² 200,000¹ 207,110
Portuguese East Africa (southern part of) 145,000¹ 10,000¹ 1,700,000¹ 1,710,000
Total South Africa 1,331,808  1,149,336  7,111,329  8,260,665

¹ Estimates.    ² 1907.

All these mixed Bantu peoples are immigrants at various periods from beyond the Zambezi. The Bechuanas, who occupy by far the largest domain, and preserve the totemic tribal system, were probably the first arrivals from the north or the north-sea coast lands. As early, probably, as the 8th century A.D. Arabs had formed a settlement on the coast at Sofala, 130 m. south of the mouth of the Zambezi, but they got no further south nor do they appear to have penetrated inland, though they traded for gold and other articles with the inhabitants of the northern part of the plateau-the builders of the zimbabwes and other ruins in what is now Rhodesia (q.v.) The Asiatic inhabitants of South Africa of the present day are mainly Indian