The People of South Africa

Passionately know as The Rainbow Nation due to our diverse population and culture that all live together in one country

South Africa People

For 2019, Statistics South Africa estimates the mid-year population at 58,78 million. Approximately 51,2% (approximately 30 million) of the population is female. The black African population is in the majority (47,4 million) and constitutes approximately 81% of the total South African population.

The white population is estimated at 4,7 million, the coloured population at 5,2 million and the Indian/Asian population at 1,5 million.

The province of Gauteng is the smallest province but comprises the largest share of the South African population, with approximately 15,2 million people (25,8%) living in this province. KwaZulu-Natal is the province with the second largest population, with an estimated 11,3 million people (19,2%) living in this province. With a population of approximately 1,26 million people (2,2%), Northern Cape remains the province with the smallest share of the South African population.

About 28,8% of the population is aged younger than 15 years and approximately 9,0% (5,3 million) is 60 years or older. Of those younger than 15 years of age, the majority reside in Gauteng (21,5%) and KwaZulu-Natal (21,1%). Of the elderly (those aged 60 years and older), the highest percentage 23,9% (1,27 million) reside in Gauteng. The proportion of elderly persons aged 60 and older is increasing over time.

South Africa has 11 official languages.

The country is multilingual and each of the languages is guaranteed equal status. Most South Africans are multilingual and able to speak at least two or more of the official languages.

  1. Sepedi (also known as Sesotho sa Leboa)
  2. Sesotho
  3. Setswana
  4. siSwati
  5. Tshivenda
  6. Xitsonga
  7. Afrikaans
  8. English
  9. isiNdebele
  10. isiXhosa
  11. isiZulu

According to Stats SA’s Community Survey of 2018, nationally, just over one quarter (25,3%) of individuals spoke isiZulu at home, while 14,8% of individuals spoke isiXhosa, and 12,2% spoke Afrikaans. English was spoken by 8,1% of individuals at home, making it the sixth most common home language in South Africa. English is, however, the second most commonly spoken language outside the household (16,6%) after isiZulu (25,1%), and preceding isiXhosa (12,8%).

The Indian/Asian population group was the most monolingual with 92,1% who spoke English at home. More than three-quarters (77,4%) of coloured individuals spoke Afrikaans at home while 20,1% used English. More than three-fifths (61,2%) of white South Africans spoke Afrikaans and 36,3% spoke English. By comparison, black Africans spoke a much larger variety of languages. Besides the two most commonly spoken languages, isiZulu (31,1%) and isiXhosa (18,2%), notable sub-groups of black African individuals also spoke Sepedi (12,4%), Setswana (11,1%) and Sesotho (9,7%). Other official languages are isiNdebele (1,6%), Siswati (2,8), Tshivenda (2,5) and Xitsonga (3,6).

Life expectancy

Life expectancy at birth for 2019 is estimated at 61,5 years for males and 67,7 years for females. The infant mortality rate for 2019 is estimated at 22,1 per 1 000 live births. The estimated overall HIV prevalence rate is approximately 13,5% among the South African population. The total number of people living with HIV is estimated at approximately 7,97 million in 2019. For adults aged 15-49 years, an estimated 19,07% of the population is HIV positive. The decline in the percentage of AIDS-related deaths since 2007 can be attributed to the increase in the roll-out of antiretroviral therapy (ART) over time. The national roll-out of ART began in 2005 with a target of one service point in each of the 53 districts of South Africa at the time (later reduced to 52 districts). The estimated number of AIDS-related deaths declined consistently since 2007 from 267 417 to 126 805 AIDS-related deaths in 2019. Access to ART has changed significantly over time, altering the pattern of mortality over time. It has extended the lifespan of many in South Africa, who would have otherwise died at an earlier age, as evidenced in the decline of AIDS deaths post 2006.

Religious beliefs

According to Stats SA’s Community Survey in 2019, the distribution of religious beliefs in South Africa is as follows:

  • Christianity – 43 423 717
  • Traditional African religion – 6 964 887
  • No religious affiliation/belief – 6 454 890
  • Islam – 892 685
  • Hinduism – 561 268
  • Atheism – 52 598
  • Judaism – 49 470
  • Agnosticism – 32 944
  • Buddhism – 24 808
  • Bahaism – 6 881

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