History has bequeathed a rich ethnic, racial, linguistic, and religious diversity to contemporary South Africa. According to the country’s most recent (2011) census, around 80 per cent of the 55 million population classify themselves as ‘African’, 9 per cent as ‘Coloured’, 8 per cent as ‘White’, and between 2 and 3 per cent as ‘Indian/Asian’ (see Table 3.1). These racial designations are directly descended from apartheid’s notorious population registration legislation. In principle, the South African government no longer supports routine racial classification of the population, but instead uses racial data based on apartheid categories to isolate trends, to design historical redress policies, and to identify the impacts of equity-promoting policies. In reality, apartheid’s racial categories are alive and influential, in government and in political life. The country’s diversity, however, transcends the racial categories of apartheid. About one in five South Africans speaks isiZulu in the home, and around one in six speaks isiXhosa. Other substantial minorities – of between 5 and 15 per cent – embrace Afrikaans, Sepedi, English, Setswana, or Sesotho as their mother tongue. Religious affiliations include a variety of Christian denominations, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and traditionalist African systems of belief.
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