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What is the Reason Behind South Africa's Nickname

What is the Reason Behind South Africa’s Nickname?

South Africa is known for many things like its spectacular landscapes, flavourful food, distinctive culture and art, and impressive infrastructures. They’re also very passionate about music and theatre, which they often use as an outlet for social and political ideas.

Because of its best features, a moniker for the country arose.

What is South Africa’s nickname and why?

South Africa is also called the “Rainbow Nation” representing the country’s diversity. The country is considered to have the most varied population and culture in the world. 

In fact, South Africa has 11 official languages:

  • Afrikaans
  • English
  • Ndebele
  • Xhosa
  • Zulu
  • Sepedi
  • Sesotho
  • Setswana
  • siSwati
  • Tshivenda
  •  Xitsonga

The nickname “Rainbow Nation” first came up after South Africa’s first fully-democratic election in 1994 and was adopted by Former President Nelson Mandela during his term.

It was coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who is a well-known anti-apartheid and human rights activist. 

The history behind South Africa’s nickname

History classes in primary and secondary schools in South Africa are never dull as the country has a very rich past. 

Originally inhabited by the Khoisan and other indigenous tribes, the land was conquered by the Dutch in the middle of the 17th century. That started the colonial expansion led by Dutch, German, and French Huguenot settlers that lasted for many years. 

Until the early 18th century, South Africa was taken over by either the Dutch or the British. During those times, multiple cultures and beliefs were conflicting and the country’s nation was not at peace.

Because of apartheid, bigotry and violence were rampant and cultures and ethnic groups grew very differently from one another. It was only in 1994 when the revolution was won that the country was able to embrace its identity and unite in diversity. 

South Africa’s nickname, “Rainbow Nation”, symbolises the goal of the country to celebrate diversity and encourage unity despite the people’s differences.

There are other less popular and unofficial nicknames for South Africa. 

One example would be “Mzansi”, which comes from the Xhosa word “mzantsi” meaning “south”. This term was coined in the late 1990s and is often used to refer to the country’s arts and culture.

Some also refer to South Africa as “Azania”, which was a name used for the Southern tip of Africa. In fact, some organisations, like the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), are actually proposing to officially adopt the name.

This nickname is commonly used by Indigenous Black activists.

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