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South African Legal Research Guide

This is a general guide to help you research all aspects of South African Law. See also the South Africa page on our Human Rights Law Research Guide.

Country information

The modern Republic of South Africa comprises the four former provinces that became the Union of South Africa in 1910: two former British colonies (Natal and Cape Colony) and two former Boer republics (Transvaal and Orange Free State). 

South Africa has a population of 56.4 million (2018 figures). It has 11 official languages: Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu. Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans and English are the most commonly spoken first languages. 

The country has three capital cities: the administrative capital / seat of government is Pretoria, the legislative capital is Cape Town, and the judicial capital is Bloemfontein. 

The President is the Head of State and governs with a Cabinet comprising Ministers and Deputy Ministers who head the various national government departments.

South Africa is a unitary state comprising nine provinces; Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West, and Western Cape. Each province is headed by a Premier and an Executive Council.

South Africa is a member of the Commonwealth and the United Nations. 

For general information on South Africa, including geography, population, history and economic information, see eg:

  • CIA - The World Factbook (open access)
  • Country Brief - South Africa  - Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) (open access)
  • South Africa Country Review  - EBSCO (UniMelb staff & student access) 2000 to date
    • Each Country Review includes a detailed annually updated summary of demographic, political, economic, business, cultural and environmental information. Includes information on human rights and the status of women.
  • Europa World Plus - South Africa (UniMelb staff & student access)
    • Includes a country profile, statistics, and information on government and politics, both historical and contemporary (including the legal system), society and media, and business and commerce.