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|Regions with significant populations|
|Throughout South Africa, but mostly concentrated in urban areas|
|Afrikaans (61%), English (36%), other (3%)|
|Christianity (87%), Irreligious (9%), Judaism (1%), Other (3%)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|White Namibians, White Zimbabweans, Afrikaners, British diaspora in Africa, Coloureds, South African diaspora|
White South Africans are South Africans descended from any of the white racial groups of Europe who regard themselves, or are not regarded as, as being part of another racial group (for example, as Coloureds). 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 South Africa started in 1652 with the settlement of the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) under Jan van Riebeeck. Despite the preponderance of officials and colonists from the Netherlands, there were also a number of 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 around 1806. At that time, South Africa was home to about 26,000 people of European descent, a relative majority of whom were still of Dutch origin. However, beginning in 1818 thousands of British immigrants arrived in the growing Cape Colony, looking to join the local workforce or settle directly on the frontier. About a fifth of the Cape's original Dutch-speaking white population migrated eastwards during the Great Trek in the 1830s and established their own autonomous Boer republics further inland. Nevertheless, the population of European origin continued increasing in the Cape as a result of immigration, and by 1865 had reached 181,592 people. Between 1880 and 1910, there was an influx of Eastern Europeans of various nationalities, especially a large Jewish community from the Baltic region, particularly Lithuania.
The first nationwide census in South Africa was held in 1911 and indicated a white population of 1,276,242. By 1936, there were an estimated 2,003,857 white South Africans, and by 1946 the number had reached 2,372,690. The country began receiving tens of thousands of European immigrants, namely from Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Greece, and the territories of the Portuguese Empire during the mid to late twentieth century. South Africa's white population increased to over 3,408,000 by 1965, reached 4,050,000 in 1973, and peaked at 5,044,000 in 1990.
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 colonialists from most other African states during regional decolonisation. Whites continue to play a role in the South African economy and across the political spectrum. The current number of white South Africans is not exactly known, as no recent census has been measured, although the overall percentage of up to 9% of the population 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 Population Registration Act of 1950, 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 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 virtually extended to all those considered the children of two White persons, regardless of appearance. The Act was repealed on 17 June 1991.
In Employment Equity Act of 1994, legislation propagates employment of black (black being classified as: African, Indian, Chinese, and Coloured population groups, as well as disabled people) South Africans. Black Economic Empowerment legislation further empowerers blacks as the government considers ownership, employment, training and social responsibility initiatives, which empower black South Africans, as important criteria when awarding tenders. However, private enterprises adheres to this legislation voluntarily. Some reports indicate a growing number of whites suffering from poverty compared to the pre-apartheid years and attribute this to such laws — over 350,000 Afrikaners may be classified as poor, with some research claiming that up to 150,000 are struggling for survival. This, combined with a wave of violent crime, has led to vast numbers of Afrikaners and English-speaking South Africans leaving the country.
Genocide Watch has theorised that farm attacks constitute early warning signs of genocide against White South African and has criticised the South African government for its inaction on the issue, pointing out that the murder rate for "ethno-European farmers," as stated in their report (which also included non-Afrikaner farmers of European descent,) is four times that of the general South African population. There are 40,000 white farmers in South Africa. Since 1994, close to three thousand farmers have been murdered in thousands of farm attacks, with many being brutally tortured and/or raped. Some victims have been burned with smoothing irons or had boiling water poured down their throats.
Since 1994, there has been significant emigration of white people from South Africa. There are thus currently large Afrikaner and English-speaking South African communities in the United Kingdom and other developed countries. Between 1995 and 2005, more than one million South Africans emigrated, citing violent and racially motivated black on white crime as the main reason, as well as the lack of employment opportunities for whites.
The land reform program introduced at the end of apartheid intended that, within 20 years, 30 percent of white-owned commercial farm land should be transferred to black owners. This target was not close to being met by the 2014 deadline. Thus, in 2011, the farmers' association Agri South Africa coordinated efforts to resettle farmers throughout the African continent. The initiative was offered millions of hectares from 22 African countries that hoped to spur development of efficient commercial farming. At the end of apartheid in 1994, 85 percent of South Africa's arable land was owned by whites; by 2016, Agri S.A. found that this had decreased to 73 percent.
In February 2018, South Africa's parliament voted 241-83 to begin amending the "property clause" in the constitution to remove white farmers from the land without compensation. Western Cape ANC secretary Faiez Jacobs referred to the property clause amendment as a "stick" to force dialogue about the transfer of land ownership, with the hope of accomplishing the transfer "in a way that is orderly and doesn’t create a ‘them’ and ‘us’ [situation]."
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 rate of emigration. In 1977, there were 4.3 million whites, constituting 16.4% of the population at the time. As of 2016, 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 were in the past often economically better off than their black African neighbors and have 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%. These figures may be grossly unreliable due to legislation which does not allow South Africans to hold dual citizenships so many who emigrate let their citizenship remain dormant or lapsed while changing citizenship and no reporting method exists.
As of May 2014, Homecoming Revolution has estimated that around 340,000 white South Africans have returned in the last decade.
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% are irreligious, and 1% are Jewish. The largest Christian denomination is the Dutch Reformed Church (NGK), with 23% 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 Angolan 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 South African 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 sixteenth century.
Prior to 1994, a white minority held complete political power under a system of racial segregation called apartheid. Some 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 and 1995 at around 5.2 to 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 to 2013, the white population increased.
|Year||White population||% of total population||Source|
|1961||3,117,000||19.1%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1961|
|1962||3,170,000||19.0%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1962|
|1963||3,238,000||19.0%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1963|
|1964||3,323,000||19.0%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1964|
|1965||3,398,000||19.0%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1965|
|1966||3,481,000||19.0%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1966|
|1967||3,563,000||19.0%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1967|
|1968||3,639,000||19.0%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1968|
|1969||3,728,000||19.0%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1969|
|1971||3,920,000||17.0%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1971|
|1972||4,005,000||16.9%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1972|
|1973||4,082,000||16.8%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1973|
|1974||4,160,000||16.7%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1974|
|1975||4,256,000||16.8%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1975|
|1976||4,337,000||18.2%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1976|
|1977||4,396,000||17.9%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1977|
|1978||4,442,000||18.5%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1978|
|1979||4,485,000||18.4%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1979|
|1981||4,603,000||18.0%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1981|
|1982||4,674,000||18.3%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1982|
|1983||4,748,000||18.2%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1983|
|1984||4,809,000||17.7%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1984|
|1986||4,900,000||17.3%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1986|
|1992||5,121,000||13.2%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1992|
|1993||5,156,000||13.0%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1993|
|1994||5,191,000||12.8%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1994|
|1995||5,224,000||12.7%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1995|
|1996||4,434,697||10.9%||South African National Census of 1996|
|1997||4,462,200||10.8%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1997|
|1998||4,500,400||10.7%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1998|
|1999||4,538,727||10.5%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1999|
|2000||4,521,664||10.4%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2000|
|2001||4,293,640||9.6%||South African National Census of 2001|
|2002||4,555,289||10.0%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2002|
|2003||4,244,346||9.1%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2003|
|2004||4,434,294||9.5%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2004|
|2005||4,379,800||9.3%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2005|
|2006||4,365,300||9.2%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2006|
|2007||4,352,100||9.1%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2007|
|2008||4,499,200||9.2%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2008|
|2009||4,472,100||9.1%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2009|
|2010||4,584,700||9.2%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2010|
|2011||4,586,838||8.9%||South African National Census of 2011|
|2013||4,602,400||8.7%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2013|
|2014||4,554,800||8.4%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2014|
|2015||4,534,000||8.3%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2015|
|2016||4,515,800||8.1%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2016|
|2017||4,493,500||8.0%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2017|
|2018||4,520,100||7.8%||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2018|
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||White unemployment rate (strict)|
|Population group||Average income (2015)||Average income (2011)||Average income (2001)|
|White||R 444 446 (321.7%)||R 365 134 (353.8%)||R 193 820 (400.6%)|
|Indian/Asian||R 271 621 (196.6%)||R 251 541 (243.7%)||R 102 606 (212.1%)|
|Coloured||R 172 765 (125.0%)||R 112 172 (108.7%)||R 51 440 (106.3%)|
|Black||R 92 983 (67.3%)||R 60 613 (58.7%)||R 22 522 (46.5%)|
|Total||R 138 168 (100%)||R 103 204 (100%)||R 48 385 (100%)|
|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||100%|
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.
At least 450,000 white South Africans, 10 percent of the total white population, live below the poverty line
some research claiming that up to 150,000 are destitute and struggling for survival
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%.
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".
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.