South Africa is a natural paradise, with its spectacular coastline, soaring mountains, vast plains, enormous variety of plants, and wide range of exotic wildlife. It is also blessed with rich mineral resources including diamonds, platinum, gold, manganese, and chromium.
Game preserves throughout the country allow visitors to observe lions, elephants, leopards, and other animals in their habitats - an unforgettable experience.
The South Africans are governed under a provisional constitution with a president, a bicameral National Parliament including a 400-member National Assembly elected by popular vote, and a 90-member Senate chosen by the nine regional parliaments.
As a result of the end of apartheid - a movement which officially separated the racial communities, by institutionalizing white supremacy - South Africans and their government are faced with the huge challenges required to improve the lives of non-white citizens. Unfortunately, benefits have not trickled down to the working man, even a decade later.
The country remains dramatically divided by race, with whites enjoying a comfortable level of wealth, education, and health care, while most blacks live in conditions of poverty. Increasing crime in the major cities is a source of great concern.
Despite these difficulties, South Africa's economy continues to be one of the strongest in Africa, at one point accounting for 75 percent of the GDP of the South African region. The peaceful transition of power in democratically held elections has brought South Africa back into the world economy. Sanctions were lifted in the early 1990s, and investors have since returned.
The country's per capita income ranks it among the middle-income, semi-industrial countries of the world. Its infrastructure is well developed - roads are in good condition, electricity rates are low, and there is clean water in the cities.
Difficult problems from the apartheid era still remain, including high unemployment, poverty, and corruption. These problems have been exacerbated by an influx of refugees from the rapidly worsening political and economic situation in neighboring Zimbabwe. In addition, the government's policy of easing restrictive labor laws and accelerating privatization of industry have met with strong opposition from organized labor. The widespread infection of AIDS - one in five South Africans is HIV positive - is also a major concern.
The fact that South Africa has been able to make the transition from apartheid to a democratic government and from a white minority rule to a black majority rule without tremendous upheaval and violence is astonishing and encouraging. Expatriates will find a general feeling of optimism among the people, who have confidence in the future of South Africa.