The Republic of South Africa is the country at the southern tip of Africa. It borders the Atlantic and Indian oceans and Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Lesotho, an independent enclave surrounded by South African territory. South Africa is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, and is widely regarded as the most socially and economically developed country on the continent.
South Africa has experienced a different history from other nations in Africa because of early immigration from Europe and the strategic importance of the Cape Sea Route. European immigration began shortly after the Dutch East India Company, in 1652, founded a station at what would become Cape Town. The closure of the Suez Canal during the Six-Day War exemplifies its significance. The country's relatively developed infrastructure made its mineral wealth available and important to Western interests, particularly throughout the late nineteenth century and, with international competition and rivalry, during the Cold War. South Africa is ethnically diverse, with the largest white, Indian, and racially mixed communities in Africa. Black South Africans, who speak nine officially recognised languages and many more dialects, account for slightly less than 80% of the population.
Racial strife between the white minority and the black majority has played a large part in South African history and politics, culminating in apartheid, which was instituted in 1948 by the National Party (although segregation existed before then). The laws that defined apartheid began to be repealed or abolished by the National Party in 1990, after a long and sometimes violent struggle (including economic sanctions from the international community) by the Black majority as well as many White, Coloured, and Indian South Africans.
Several philosophies and ideologies have developed in South Africa, including ubuntu (the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity) and Jan Smuts's holism.
Regular elections have been held for almost a century; but the majority of South Africans were not enfranchised until 1994. The economy of South Africa is the largest and best-developed on the continent, with modern infrastructure common throughout the country.
South Africa is often called the "Rainbow Nation", a term coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and later adopted by then President Nelson Mandela. Mandela used the term "Rainbow Nation" as a metaphor to describe the country's newly developing multicultural diversity after segregationist apartheid ideology. The country's socially progressive policies are rare in Africa. By 2007, the country had joined Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, and Spain in legalising same-sex marriage.