Welcome to South Africa

Welcome to South Africa

Exploring Johannesburg

“We're Basetsana Shakane (15) and Precious Mokubedi (14). Welcome to South Africa. We're proud to be South African and we invite you look around our beautiful country.

This is the first time that we've visited Johannesburg, home to our hero, Nelson Mandela.”

Basetsana and her friend Precious live in the Mamelodi township, a few kilometres to the north of Johannesburg. They live in SOS Children's Village Mamelodi, and are cared for by their SOS Mother, along with her other children.

SOS Children's Village Mamelodi

SOS Children's VillagesBasetsana and Precious live in a special community for children who can no longer live with their own family.

Find out more about SOS Children's Village Mamelodi

A day of ‘firsts’

Today is the first time they’ve eaten in the type of restaurant which borders Nelson Mandela Square – restaurants visited by business people and tourists.

It’s the first time they’ve seen so many new books together, row after row in the department store’s bookshop.

It’s the first time they’ve been on an escalator, taking them through floor upon floor of luxuries and gifts arrayed under neon lights.

A natural performer

Talent competition

Talent Competition

Basetsana has been approached in Mandela Square to enter a talent competition by a car manufacturer, to promote one of its brands.

“I am going to sing,” declares Basetsana.

Without fear or hesitation, and as if she is singing to her hero, Basetsana sings with all her heart, ‘Holy Spirit Must Come Back’.

For a girl who has never been to a place with restaurants and fashionable shops, crowded with tourists and businessmen, Basetsana shows true courage and spirit and wins the talent competition.

Basetsana’s smile stretches from ear to ear.

Discover South Africa

South Africa is best known for its battle to end apartheid, resulting in multi-racial democratic elections in 1994 which were won by Nelson Mandela.

It is a truly inspiring country that has put centuries of racial hatred behind it.  It has a government comprising all races and is often referred to as the ‘rainbow nation’ – a term that Archbishop Desmond Tutu used to describe post-apartheid South Africa.

But there is more to this country than just its remarkable journey from apartheid.  Here are some interesting facts:

In 2009, just over half of black candidates passed their school-leaving ‘matriculation’ exam, compared with 99 per cent of white children, 92 per cent of Indians and 76 per cent of children from mixed race families.

In the country as a whole, around 5.5 million people currently live with HIV/AIDS (more than one in 10) and the epidemic has already caused the deaths of 3 million, mainly adults in their prime.

The vast crater at Vredefort Dome is one of the oldest and largest meteorite sites, created two billion years ago (long before dinosaurs roamed the planet).

Cape Agulhas is the southernmost point of the country. Here, Portuguese sailors discovered their compass needles were not affected by the earth’s magnetism and pointed true north, so they called this place Cabo das Agulhas, the ‘Cape of Needles’.

Curiously, the tradition of beaded jewellery in African culture relied on European beads.  These were brought by traders to barter for African goods such as ivory. Initially, large beads were exchanged, but a century later European traders introduced tiny glass beads which could more easily be strung on threads or sewn onto leather.

On the open fires of many villages, South Africans make potjiekos or stews.  These meals are prepared in traditional three-legged cast iron pots (potije), so the dish literally means ‘small pots of food’.