White South African
|Regions with significant populations|
|Throughout South Africa, but concentrated in urban areas|
|Afrikaans 61%, South African English 36%, other 3%|
|Christianity (87%), no religion (9%), Judaism (1%), other (3%)|
|Related ethnic groups|
White people in Zimbabwe
British diaspora in Africa
White South Africans are people from South Africa who are of European descent and who do not regard themselves, or are not regarded as, being part of another racial group (for example, as Coloured). In linguistic, cultural and historical terms, they are generally divided into the Afrikaans-speaking descendants of the Dutch East India Company's original settlers, known as Afrikaners, and the Anglophone descendants of predominantly British colonists. In 2011, 61% were native Afrikaans speakers, 36% were native English speakers, and 3% spoke another language as their mother tongue, such as Portuguese or German. White South Africans are by far the largest European-descended population group in Africa.
White South Africans differ significantly from other white African groups, because they have developed nationhood, as in the case of the Afrikaners, who established a distinct language, culture and faith in Africa.
The history of European settlement in Sub-Saharan Africa started in 1652 with the settlement of the Cape of Storms by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) under Jan van Riebeeck. Despite the preponderance of officials and colonists from the Netherlands, early Europeans also represented a number of other diverse nationalities. Among these were French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution at home and German soldiers or sailors returning from service in Asia. The colony remained under Dutch rule for two more centuries, after which it was annexed by Great Britain. Foundations for a large British diaspora in South Africa were laid with the 1820 Settlers and similar migrations. As a result of the two World Wars large populations. The British annexation of the Cape eventually led to the Great Trek in 1834. The discovery of firstly diamonds in Kimberley and then the Gold rush of the Witwatersrand led to an influx of many prospectors, including a large Jewish population, especially from the Baltic. The two world wars led to another influx of Polish orphans and Italian POW's who returned after the war. Finally the decolonization of Africa led to another large influx of settlers from especially former Portuguese and British colonies.
Today, white South Africans are also considered to be the last major white population group of European ancestry on the African continent, due in part to the mass exodus of colonials from most other African states during regional decolonization. Whites continue to play a role in the South African economy and across the political spectrum. Whites number approximately 4.5 to 5 million, or nearly 9% of South Africa's population. This represents a decline, both numerically and proportionately, since the country's first multiracial elections in 1994. Just under a million white South Africans are also living as expatriate workers abroad, which forms the majority of South Africa's Brain drain.
Under the 1950 Population Registration Act, each inhabitant of South Africa was classified into one of several different race groups, of which White was one. The Office for Race Classification defined a white person as one who "in appearance is obviously a white person who is generally not accepted as a coloured person; or is generally accepted as a white person and is not in appearance obviously not a white person." Many criteria, both physical (e.g. examination of head and body hair) and social (e.g. eating and drinking habits, familiarity with Afrikaans or a European language) were used when the board decided to classify someone as white or coloured. This was ventral extended to all those considered the children of two White persons, regardless of appearance. The Act was repealed on 17 June 1991.
The 1994 Employment Equity Act aimed at achieving equality in South African workplaces. In order to do this, the act required that it be possible to distinguish between black and white South Africans. It was necessary to know if someone was considered to be black or white when evaluating the racial composition of a company's workforce.
In recent decades there has been a steady proportional decline in South Africa's white community, due to higher birthrates among other South African ethnic groups, as well as a high emigration statistic. In 1977, there were 4.3 million whites, constituting 16.4% of the population at the time. It is estimated that at least 800,000 white South Africans have emigrated since 1995.
Like many other communities strongly affiliated with the West and Europe's colonial legacy in Africa, white South Africans are often economically better off than their black African neighbors and have only relatively recently surrendered political dominance to majority rule. There were also some white Africans in South Africa who lived in poverty—especially during the 1930s and increasingly since the end of minority rule. Current estimates of white poverty in South Africa run as high as 12%, though fact-checking website Africa Check described these figures as "grossly inflated", and suggested that a more accurate estimate was that "only a tiny fraction of the white population – as little as 7,754 households – are affected".
The new phenomenon of white poverty is often blamed on the government's affirmative action employment legislation, which reserves 80% of new jobs for black people and favours companies owned by black people (see Black Economic Empowerment). In 2010, Reuters stated that 450,000 whites live below the poverty line according to Solidarity and civil organisations, with some research saying that up to 150,000 are struggling for survival.
A further concern has been crime. Some white South Africans living in affluent white suburbs, such as Sandton, have been affected by the 2008 13.5% rise in house robberies and associated crime. In a study, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Dr. Johan Burger, said that criminals were specifically targeting wealthier suburbs. Burger revealed that several affluent suburbs are surrounded by poorer residential areas and that inhabitants in the latter often target inhabitants in the former. Burger also related to an entitlement complex that criminals have; "They feel they are entitled, for their own sakes, to take from those who have a lot". The report also found that residents in wealthy suburbs in Gauteng were not only at more risk of being targeted but also faced an inflated chance of being murdered during the robbery.
The current global financial crisis has slowed down the high rates of white people emigrating overseas and has led to increasing numbers of white emigrants returning to live in South Africa. Charles Luyckx, CEO of Elliot International and a board member of the Professional Movers Association said that in the past six months leading to December (2008), emigration numbers had dropped by 10%. Meanwhile, he revealed that "people imports" had increased by 50%.
Furthermore, immigration from Europe has also supplemented the white population. The 2011 census found that 63,479 white people living in South Africa were born in Europe; of these, 28,653 had moved to South Africa since 2001.
The Statistics South Africa Census 2011 showed that there were about 4,586,838 white people in South Africa, amounting to 8.9% of the country's population. This is a 6.8% increase since the 2001 census. According to the Census 2011, South African English is the first language of 36% of the white population group and Afrikaans is the first language of 61% of the white population group. The majority of white South Africans identify themselves as primarily South African, regardless of their first language or ancestry.
Approximately 87% of white South Africans are Christian, 9% have no religion, and 1% are Jewish. The largest Christian denomination is the Dutch Reformed Church, with 23% of the white population being members. Other significant denominations are the Methodist Church (8%), the Roman Catholic Church (7%), and the Anglican Church (6%).
Many white people have migrated to South Africa from other parts of Africa following the independence of those African nations or when those nations became hostile to them. Many Portuguese from Mozambique and Angola and white Zimbabweans emigrated to South Africa when their respective countries became independent.
Meanwhile, many white South Africans also emigrated to Western countries over the past two decades, mainly to English-speaking countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, and with others settling in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, France, Argentina, Mexico, Israel and Brazil. However, the financial crisis has slowed down the rate of emigration and as of May 2014, Homecoming Revolution has estimated that around 340,000 white South Africans have returned in the last decade.
According to Statistics South Africa, white South Africans make up 8.9% (Census 2011) of the total population in South Africa. Their actual proportional share in municipalities is likely to be higher, given the undercount in the 2001 census.
|Province||White pop. (2011)||White pop. (2001)||% province (2011)||% province (2001)||% change 2001-2011||% total whites (2011)|
White South Africans continue to participate in politics, having a presence across the whole political spectrum from left to right.
South African President Jacob Zuma commented in 2009 on Afrikaners being "the only white tribe in a black continent or outside of Europe which is truly African", and said that "of all the white groups that are in South Africa, it is only the Afrikaners that are truly South Africans in the true sense of the word." These remarks have led to the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR) laying a complaint with the Human Rights Commission against Zuma. In 2015 a complaint was investigated for hate speech against Jacob Zuma who said “You must remember that a man called Jan van Riebeeck arrived here on 6 April 1652, and that was the start of the trouble in this country,”
Former president Thabo Mbeki stated in one of his speeches to the nation that: "South Africa belongs to everyone who lives in it. Black and White." The history of white people in South Africa dates back to the 16th century.
Prior to 1994, a white minority held complete political power under a system of racial segregation called apartheid. Many white people supported this policy, but some others opposed it. During apartheid, immigrants from Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan were considered honorary whites in the country, as the government had maintained diplomatic relations with these countries. These were granted the same privileges as white people, at least for purposes of residence. Some African Americans such as Max Yergan were granted an 'honorary white' status as well.
Statistics for the white population in South Africa vary greatly. Most sources show that the white population peaked in the period between 1989-1995 at around 5.2-5.6 million. Up to that point the white population largely increased due to high birth rates and immigration. Subsequently, between the mid 1990s and the mid-2000s the white population decreased overall. However, from 2006-2013 the population increased.
Contraception among white South Africans is stable or slightly falling: 80% used contraception in 1990, and 79% used it in 1998. The following data shows some fertility rates recorded during South Africa's history. However, there are varied sources showing that the white fertility rate reached below replacement (2.1) by 1980. Likewise, recent studies show a range of fertility rates, ranging from 1.3 to 2.4. The Afrikaners tend to have a higher birthrate than that of other white people.
|Year||Total fertility rate||Source|
The average life expectancy at birth for males and females
|Year||Average life expectancy||Male life expectancy||Female life expectancy|
|Province||(strict) White unemployment rate|
Percentage of workforce
|Province||Whites % of the workforce||Whites % of population|
Religion among white South Africans remains high compared to other white ethnic groups, but likewise it has shown a steady proportional drop in both membership and church attendance with until recently the majority of white South Africans attending regular church services.
|- Christianity||3 726 266||86.8%|
|- Dutch Reformed churches||1 450 861||33.8%|
|- Pentecostal/Charismatic/Apostolic churches||578 092||13.5%|
|- Methodist Church||343 167||8.0%|
|- Catholic Church||282 007||6.6%|
|- Anglican Church||250 213||5.8%|
|- Other Reformed churches||143 438||3.3%|
|- Baptist churches||78 302||1.8%|
|- Presbyterian churches||74 158||1.7%|
|- Lutheran churches||25 972||0.6%|
|- Other Christian churches||500 056||11.6%|
|No religion||377 007||8.8%|
|Other or undetermined||117 721||2.7%|
|Total||4 293 637|
Notable White South Africans
Science and technology
- Christiaan Barnard, surgeon who performed first successful human heart transplant
- Mike Botha, master diamond cutter and educator; Yves Landry Award for Outstanding Innovation in Education, Canada
- Sydney Brenner, biologist; Nobel Prize, Physiology/Medicine 2002
- Allan McLeod Cormack, physicist; Nobel Prize, Medicine 1979
- Gordon Murray, designer of Formula One race cars, including the Championship winning Mclaren MP4/4 and the ultra-exclusive McLaren F1 Roadcar
- Elon Musk, engineer, founder of SpaceX, Tesla Motors and Paypal
- Basil Schonland, physicist
- Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu, a Linux based computer Operating system; first African in space
- Max Theiler, virologist; Nobel Prize, Medicine 1951
- Phillip Tobias, palaeo-anthropologist
- Flight Lieutenant Andrew Beauchamp-Proctor VC, DSO, MC and bar, DFC fighter ace, 1st World War
- Major William Bloomfield VC, South African East African campaign, 1st World War
- Captain William Faulds VC MC, Delville Wood, 1st World War
- Major John Frost DFC, South African Air Force fighter ace during the Second World War
- Lieutenant Colonel Reginald Frederick Johnson Hayward VC, Western Front, 1st World War
- Major Henry Hewitt VC, Western Front, 1st World War
- Captain Petrus Hugo DSO DFC, fighter ace, Second World War
- Squadron Leader Albert Gerald Lewis DFC, South African fighter ace, 2nd World War
- Adolph "Sailor" Malan, Second World War ace fighter pilot
- Squadron Leader John Dering Nettleton VC, Battle of Britain
- Major Oswald Reid VC, 1st World War
- Captain Clement Robertson VC, Western Front
- Lieutenant Colonel John Sherwood-Kelly VC CMG DSO, Second Boer War, Bambatha Rebellion, 1st World War
- Captain Quentin Smythe VC, North Africa 2nd World War
- Major Edwin Swales VC DFC, pilot during the Second World War
- Lieutenant Kevin Winterbottom HC, South African Air Force
- Staff Sergeant Danny Roxo HC, 32 Battalion, South African Army
- General Constand Viljoen SSA SD SOE SM MMM MP, former South African military chief and former leader of the Freedom Front Plus
Royalty and Aristocracy
Arts and media
- Jani Allan, columnist and radio commentator
- David Bateson, voice actor in the Hitman video game series
- Neill Blomkamp, director
- Herman Charles Bosman, writer
- Breyten Breytenbach, writer and painter
- Andre Brink, novelist
- Johnny Clegg, musician noted for performing in Juluka and Savuka
- J. M. Coetzee, novelist; Nobel Prize, Literature 2003
- Embeth Davidtz, actress, South African-American, born to South African parents in Indiana
- Die Antwoord, band; South African rap-rave group formed in Cape Town.
- Casper de Vries, comedian
- Jakob Daniël du Toit, poet
- Elisabeth Eybers, poet
- Duncan Faure, singer/songwriter and musician
- Athol Fugard, playwright
- Nadine Gordimer, writer; Nobel Prize, Literature 1991
- Sonja Herholdt, recording artist
- Sid James, actor, Carry On team
- Ingrid Jonker, poet
- Antjie Krog, writer
- Caspar Lee, youtuber, actor
- Lara Logan, journalist and war correspondent
- Eugène Nielen Marais, poet, writer, lawyer and naturalist
- Dalene Matthee, writer
- Dave Matthews, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter
- Deon Meyer, writer
- Shaun Morgan, singer and guitarist for the rock band Seether
- Alan Paton, writer
- Sasha Pieterse, actress in the hit ABC family show Pretty Little Liars
- Trevor Rabin, musician and composer, member of the band Yes
- Stelio Savante American Movie Award winning and SAG Nominated actor
- Leon Schuster, comedian, filmmaker, actor, presenter and singer
- Troye Sivan, youtuber, singer (half Australian)
- Tammin Sursok, actress, born in South Africa, but raised in Australia
- Candice Swanepoel, model
- Behati Prinsloo, model
- Edwin Gagiano, South African-born Actor, filmmaker, singer/songwriter based in Los Angeles.
- Charlize Theron, Academy Award-winning actress
- J. R. R. Tolkien, South African-British writer born in Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State (now Free State in South Africa), author of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit
- Pieter-Dirk Uys, performer and satirist, creator of Evita Bezuidenhout
- Sir Laurens van der Post, controversial author, conservationist, explorer, journalist and confidant to H.R.H. The Prince of Wales
- Bobby van Jaarsveld, singer, actor, native to the Western Cape province
- N. P. van Wyk Louw, poet
- Etienne de Villiers, investor; media and sports executive
- Ivan Glasenberg, CEO of Glencore Xstrata, one of the world's largest commodity trading and mining companies
- Sol Kerzner, accountant and business magnate mainly in the casino resort sector
- Harry Oppenheimer, chairman of Anglo American Corporation for 25 years and De Beers Consolidated Mines for 27 years
- Nicky Oppenheimer, chairman of the De Beers diamond mining company and its subsidiary, the Diamond Trading Company
- Anton Rupert, founder of the Rembrandt Group
- Johann Rupert, chairman of the Swiss-based luxury-goods company Richemont and South Africa-based company Remgro
- Desmond Sacco, Chairman and Managing Director of Assore Limited
- Christo Wiese, consumer retail business magnate
- Louis Botha, farmer, soldier, statesman; first Prime Minister of South Africa
- P. W. Botha, former State President of South Africa
- F. W. de Klerk, former State President of South Africa
- Marike de Klerk, former First Lady of South Africa, murdered in her home in 2001
- Sir Patrick Duncan Governor-General at the start of the Second World War
- Ruth First, anti-apartheid activist and scholar
- Sir Percy FitzPatrick, author, politician and businessman
- Derek Hanekom, Deputy Minister of Technology; prominent ANC member of Parliament
- Sandra Laing, white girl reclassified as "Coloured" during the apartheid era
- D. F. Malan, former Prime Minister of South Africa
- Pieter Mulder, former Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries; leader of the Freedom Front Plus
- Andries Pretorius, former leader of the Voortrekkers who was instrumental in the creation of the South African Republic
- Harry Schwarz, lawyer, politician, diplomat and anti-apartheid leader
- Joe Slovo, former leader of the South African Communist Party
- Field Marshal Jan Smuts, soldier, politician and former Prime Minister of South Africa
- Helen Suzman, anti-apartheid activist and former MP
- Eugène Terre'Blanche, former leader of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging; murdered
- Marthinus van Schalkwyk, previous Minister of Tourism and ANC member of Parliament; played a key role in merging the National Party into the ANC
- Hendrik Verwoerd, former Prime Minister of South Africa; primary architect of Apartheid; assassinated in Cape Town, in the House of Assembly
- Helen Zille, former leader of the Democratic Alliance and Premier of the Western Cape
- Kevin Anderson, professional tennis player
- Francois Botha, professional boxer
- Okkert Brits, former pole vaulter, holds the African record and only African in the "6 metres club"
- Zola Budd, former track and field runner, broke the world record in the women's 5000 m twice in under three years
- Gerrie Coetzee, former boxer, first boxer from Africa to win a world heavyweight title
- AB de Villiers, professional South African batsman
- Giniel de Villiers, racing driver and winner of the 2009 Dakar Rally
- Natalie du Toit, paralympian swimmer
- Ernie Els, professional golfer, former World No. 1 and winner of four Majors
- Wayne Ferreira, former tennis player
- Retief Goosen, professional golfer, twice US Open champion
- Penny Heyns, former swimmer, the only woman in the history of the Olympic Games to have won both the 100 m and 200 m breaststroke events, at the 1996 Summer Olympics
- Johan Kriek, former professional tennis player and winner of the 1981 Australian Open
- Chad le Clos, swimmer and gold medalist in the 200m butterfly at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London
- Raymond Leppan, professional wrestler, currently signed with World Wrestling Entertainment performing under the name Adam Rose
- Paul Lloyd Jr., professional wrestler, formerly signed with World Wrestling Entertainment where he performed under the name Justin Gabriel
- Elana Meyer, former long-distance runner, set 15 km road running and half marathon African records
- Percy Montgomery, former rugby union player and current record holder for both caps and points for the Springboks
- Karen Muir, former swimmer
- François Pienaar, former captain of the Springboks, leading South Africa to victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup
- Oscar Pistorius, former paralympic athlete; convicted for killing his girlfriend
- Gary Player, former professional golfer, widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of golf
- André Pretorius, former rugby player
- Corrie Sanders, in 2003 became the WBO heavyweight champion; murdered in 2012
- Jody Scheckter, former Formula One auto-racer and winner of 1979 Formula One season
- Charl Schwartzel, professional golfer and winner of the 2011 Masters Tournament
- John Smit, former captain of the Springboks, leading South Africa to victory in the 2007 Rugby World Cup
- Graeme Smith, former captain of the Proteas
- Dale Steyn, cricket pace bowler
- Carla Swart, collegiate cyclist, won nineteen individual and team cycling titles
- Neil Tovey, former captain of the South Africa national football team, leading South Africa to victory in the 1996 African Cup of Nations
- Cameron van der Burgh, swimmer who represented South Africa at the 2008 Summer Olympics and at the 2012 Summer Olympics winning gold at the 100 meter breaststroke in a new world record
- Douglas Whyte, horse racing jockey, 13-time Hong Kong champion jockey
- Louis Oosthuizen, professional golfer, winner of 2010 Open Championship
- Mariette Bosch, murderer executed by the government of Botswana in 2001 for the murder of South African Ria Wolmarans
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- White flight from South Africa | Between staying and going, The Economist, 25 September 2008
- Do 400,000 whites live in squatter camps in South Africa? No , Africa Check, 22 May 2013
- Wood, Simon (22 January 2006). "Race against time". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
Certainly the new phenomenon of white poverty is often blamed on the government's Affirmative Action employment legislation, which reserves 80 per cent of new jobs for blacks.
- O'Reilly, Finbarr (26 March 2010). "Tough times for white South African squatters". Reuters. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
At least 450,000 white South Africans, 10 percent of the total white population, live below the poverty line
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some research claiming that up to 150,000 are destitute and struggling for survival
- Fourie, Hilda (2 July 2008). "Criminals feel 'entitled' to steal". Beeld. Johannesburg. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
According to the police's latest crime statistics, which were announced at the Union Buildings on Monday, house robberies had increased countrywide by 13.5%.
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According to the report, Gautengers who live in richer neighbourhoods "like Brooklyn, Garsfontein, Sandton, Honeydew and Douglasdale, have a bigger chance of being targeted or murdered in house robberies".
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With 82% defining themselves as 'South African', whites identify with the country the most, followed by coloureds and Indians. Five percent of whites consider themselves to be Africans, while 4% identify themselves according to race and 2% according to language or ethnicity.
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