Asian South Africans

Asian South Africans are South Africans of Asian descent. The majority of Asian South Africans are of Indian origin, most of whom are descended from indentured workers transported to work in the nineteenth century on the sugar plantations of the eastern coastal area, then known as Natal. They are largely English speaking, although many also retain the languages of their ancestors. There is also a significant group of Chinese South Africans (approximately 300,000), of whom the great majority are recent immigrants of the last two decades.

In total the 1.2 million Asians in South Africa represent about two percent of the nation's population. Most are of Indian or South Asian origin, although there is also a rapidly increasing number of people of Chinese, who were sometimes classified as Coloured (mixed race), "other" or at least partially as "White" under Apartheid. Traditionally, the group does not include the "Cape Malays", who were descended (at least in part) from Southeast Asians, who were classified as "Coloured" under apartheid.

The term Indian is far more commonly used than Asian in South Africa, although examples of both usages can be found.

Asian South Africans
Total population
c. 1,574,867 (2011)[1]
2.5% of South Africa's population
Regions with significant populations
KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng
South African English, other languages of South Africa, Gujarati, Bhojpuri/Bihari, Awadhi, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Mandarin Chinese, Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Telugu and Bengali
Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and nonreligious
Related ethnic groups
Asian, Cape Malays and British Asian
South Africa 2011 Indian or Asian population proportion map
Asian South Africans as a proportion of the total population.
South Africa 2011 Indian or Asian population density map
Density of the Asian South African population.
  <1 /km²
  1–3 /km²
  3–10 /km²
  10–30 /km²
  30–100 /km²
  100–300 /km²
  300–1000 /km²
  1000–3000 /km²
  >3000 /km²


There are more than 1 million Indians in South Africa, most of whom are descended from indentured labourers or as slaves who were brought into the country by the British from India in the mid-19th century.[2] They were hired to work in sugar plantations or mines (especially coal) in the Colony of Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal).[3] Traders, known as Passenger Indians also subsequently immigrated. Indian South Africans form the largest grouping of people of Indian descent born outside India. Since 1994 however, there has been a steady trickle of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent. Most Indian South Africans live in KwaZulu-Natal, particularly in the cities of Durban, Pietermaritzburg and their surrounding areas.


The smaller Chinese community was initially descended from migrant workers who came to work in the gold mines around Johannesburg in the late nineteenth century.[4] Some of those workers were repatriated.[5] Estimates vary, but the Chinese population is reckoned to have increased from 10,000 in the early 1980s to more than 100,000 in the early 2000s.

Chinese immigration caused difficulties for the apartheid regime. Based on the earlier status of Chinese as indentured labourers, the government classified immigrants from Mainland China as "non-white", in particular as coloureds,[6] and therefore subject to numerous restrictions in residence, voting, education, work, free movement, etc. In 1984, South African Chinese, now increased to about 10,000, received some rights of given to the Japanese who had honorary white status in South African, that is, to be treated as whites in terms of the Group Areas Act only as they didn't acquire all of the official rights of Honorary White status and thus could not do things such as vote or be eligible for conscription.

In late 2006, the Chinese Association of South Africa filed suit to have Chinese South Africans recognised as having been disadvantaged under apartheid, to benefit from Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). Complicating this attempt was the presence of recent immigrant Chinese who had not been disadvantaged by apartheid. They greatly outnumber native Chinese South Africans. Because Chinese under apartheid had somewhat less rigid restrictions than indigenous blacks, some people argued against their receiving benefits. In addition, the status of Taiwanese, Japanese and South Koreans as honorary whites under apartheid complicated the case. Nonetheless, in June 2008, Chinese South Africans were fully recognised as having been disadvantaged and entered the BEE ethnic groups if they arrived before 1994.[7][8]


For separate political reasons, the government had classified Taiwanese, Japanese and South Koreans, as honorary white, and thus was granted the same privileges as whites.[9] There is a small community of Koreans in South Africa, numbering 3,480 people; it began to form mostly in the 1990s, and includes expatriates sent by South Korean companies, students of English, and individual entrepreneurs.[10][11]


A number of people from Pakistan have also immigrated to South Africa following the end of apartheid. A major chunk of Pakistanis moved to South Africa in the very early 90s, specially that from Karachi due to the political conditions of Karachi, most of them belonging to the Mohajir community. They are largely confined to the bigger cities.

Groups not classified as Asian

The Cape Malays are Indonesian and Malaysian South Africans who were the largest group of immigrants adapted to the society of South Africa and formed their own ethnic group/community. During the apartheid regime, they were both classified as part of the "Coloured" racial group and thus considered "non-white" and treated as such.[12][13]

South Africans of Filipino descent were classified as "black" due to historical outlook on Filipinos by White South Africans, and many of them lived in bantustans, which were areas set aside to be inhabited by Black South Africans.[13]

See also


  1. ^ "Statistical Release P0302: Mid-year population estimates, 2011" (PDF). Statistics South Africa. 27 July 2011. p. 3. Retrieved 2011-08-01.
  2. ^ "A History of Indian Settlement in KwaZulu-Natal". Retrieved 2011-11-06.
  3. ^ Mukherji, Anahita (23 June 2011). "Durban largest 'Indian' city outside India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2011-11-30.
  4. ^ Yap, Melanie; Leong Man, Dainne (1996). Colour, Confusion and Concessions: The History of the Chinese in South Africa. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. p. 510. ISBN 962-209-423-6.
  5. ^ Park, Yoon Jung (2009). Recent Chinese Migrations to South Africa - New Intersections of Race, Class and Ethnicity (PDF). Representation, Expression and Identity. Interdisciplinary Perspectives. ISBN 978-1-904710-81-3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 December 2010. Retrieved 20 September 2010.
  6. ^ "Chinese South Africans: Court ruling impacts on workplace skills plans". 19 June 2008. Archived from the original on 30 March 2014.
  7. ^ "Chinese are declared to be Black, so are Chinese are Fully Black?". BEEPartner South Africa Economy Watch. 30 June 2008. Archived from the original on 23 July 2008.
  8. ^ "S Africa Chinese 'become black'". BBC News. 18 June 2008. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  9. ^ Terblanche, Barrie (8 December 2006). "Chinese fight to be black". Mail and Guardian. Archived from the original on 18 August 2007. Retrieved 14 May 2007.
  10. ^ "재외동포 다수거주 국가", 재외동포현황, Overseas Korean Foundation, 2007, archived from the original on 3 September 2007, retrieved 2009-04-20
  11. ^ Cha, Jun-yeong (7 August 2002), "아프리칸 드림, 그 애환의 현장을 가다<22>남아共(2)요하네스버그 한인사회/The true joys and sorrows of the African Dream, #22: South Africa #2—the Korean community in Johannesburg", Segye Ilbo, retrieved 2009-04-20
  12. ^ Valentine, Sue. "An appalling "science"". Archived from the original on 23 April 2012.
  13. ^ a b Mellet, Patric Tariq. "Intro". Cape Slavery Heritage. Retrieved 15 December 2012.

External links


Afrikaans (UK: , US: ) is a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa, Namibia and, to a lesser extent, Botswana and Zimbabwe. It evolved from the Dutch vernacular of South Holland (Hollandic dialect) spoken by the mainly Dutch settlers of what is now South Africa, where it gradually began to develop distinguishing characteristics in the course of the 18th century. Hence, it is a daughter language of Dutch, and was previously referred to as "Cape Dutch" (a term also used to refer collectively to the early Cape settlers) or "kitchen Dutch" (a derogatory term used to refer to Afrikaans in its earlier days). However, it is also variously described as a creole or as a partially creolised language. The term is ultimately derived from Dutch Afrikaans-Hollands meaning "African Dutch".

Although Afrikaans has adopted words from other languages, including German and the Khoisan languages, an estimated 90 to 95% of the vocabulary of Afrikaans is of Dutch origin. Therefore, differences with Dutch often lie in the more analytic-type morphology and grammar of Afrikaans, and a spelling that expresses Afrikaans pronunciation rather than standard Dutch. There is a large degree of mutual intelligibility between the two languages—especially in written form.With about 7 million native speakers in South Africa, or 13.5% of the population, it is the third-most-spoken language in the country. It has the widest geographical and racial distribution of all the 11 official languages of South Africa, and is widely spoken and understood as a second or third language. It is the majority language of the western half of South Africa—the provinces of the Northern Cape and Western Cape—and the first language of 75.8% of Coloured South Africans (4.8 million people), 60.8% of White South Africans (2.7 million); 4.6% of Asian South Africans (58,000 people), and 1.5% of Black South Africans (600,000 people).In addition, many native speakers of Bantu languages and English also speak Afrikaans as a second language. It is taught in schools, with about 10.3 million second-language students. One reason for the expansion of Afrikaans is its development in the public realm: it is used in newspapers, radio programs, TV, and several translations of the Bible have been published since the first one was completed in 1933.In neighbouring Namibia, Afrikaans is widely spoken as a second language and used as a lingua franca, while as a native language it is spoken in 10.4% of households, mainly concentrated in the capital Windhoek, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and the southern regions of Hardap and ǁKaras. It, along with German, was among the official languages of Namibia until the country became independent in 1990, 25% of the population of Windhoek spoke Afrikaans at home. Both Afrikaans and German are recognised regional languages in Namibia, although only English has official status within the government.

Estimates of the total number of Afrikaans speakers range between 15 and 23 million.


Apartheid (South African English: ; Afrikaans: [aˈpartɦəit], segregation; lit. "separateness") was a system of institutionalised racial segregation that existed in South Africa from 1948 until the early 1990s. Apartheid was characterised by an authoritarian political culture based on baasskap (or white supremacy), which encouraged state repression of Black African, Coloured, and Asian South Africans for the benefit of the nation's minority white population. The economic legacy and social effects of apartheid continue to the present day.Broadly speaking, apartheid was delineated into petty apartheid, which entailed the segregation of public facilities and social events, and grand apartheid, which dictated housing and employment opportunities by race. Prior to the 1940s, some aspects of apartheid had already emerged in the form of minority rule by White South Africans and the socially enforced separation of Black South Africans from other races, which later extended to pass laws and land apportionment. Apartheid was adopted as a formal policy by the South African government after the election of the National Party (NP) at the 1948 general election.A codified system of racial stratification began to take form in South Africa under the Dutch Empire in the late-eighteenth century, although informal segregation was present much earlier due to social cleavages between Dutch colonists and a creolised, ethnically diverse slave population. With the rapid growth and industrialisation of the British Cape Colony in the nineteenth century, racial policies and laws became increasingly rigid. Cape legislation that discriminated specifically against Black South Africans began appearing shortly before 1900. The policies of the Boer republics were also racially exclusive; for instance, the Transvaal's constitution barred Black and Coloured participation in church and state.The first apartheid law was the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, 1949, followed closely by the Immorality Amendment Act of 1950, which made it illegal for most South African citizens to marry or pursue sexual relationships across racial lines. The Population Registration Act, 1950 classified all South Africans into one of four racial groups based on appearance, known ancestry, socioeconomic status, and cultural lifestyle: "Black", "White", "Coloured", and "Indian", the last two of which included several sub-classifications. Places of residence were determined by racial classification. From 1960–1983, 3.5 million Non-White South Africans were removed from their homes and forced into segregated neighbourhoods, in one of the largest mass evictions in modern history. Most of these targeted removals were intended to restrict the Black population to ten designated "tribal homelands", also known as bantustans, four of which became nominally independent states. The government announced that relocated persons would lose their South African citizenship as they were absorbed into the bantustans.Apartheid sparked significant international and domestic opposition, resulting in some of the most influential global social movements of the twentieth century. It was the target of frequent condemnation in the United Nations and brought about an extensive arms and trade embargo on South Africa. During the 1970s and 1980s, internal resistance to apartheid became increasingly militant, prompting brutal crackdowns by the National Party government and protracted sectarian violence that left thousands dead or in detention. Some reforms of the apartheid system were undertaken, including allowing for Indian and Coloured political representation in parliament, but these measures failed to appease most activist groups.Between 1987 and 1993, the National Party entered into bilateral negotiations with the African National Congress, the leading anti-apartheid political movement, for ending segregation and introducing majority rule. In 1990, prominent ANC figures such as Nelson Mandela were released from prison. Apartheid legislation was repealed on 17 June 1991, pending fully democratic, multiracial elections set for April 1994.

Asian Australians

Asian Australians are Australians who trace their ancestry back to Asia.

For the purposes of aggregating data, the Australian Bureau of Statistics in its Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG) has grouped certain ethnic groups into certain categories, including East Asian (e.g. Chinese Australians, Korean Australian), Southeast Asian (e.g. Vietnamese Australians, Filipino Australian) and South Asian (e.g. Indian Australians, Sri Lankan Australian). Notably, Western Asian ancestries are separately classified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and 'Middle Eastern and North African' and are not included in statistics for Asian Australians. While for statistical purposes, 'Asian Australian' includes East Asians, Southeast Asians and South Asians, in general Australian English parlance, 'Asian' generally refers to persons of East Asian and Southeast Asian ancestry, with persons of South Asian ancestry generally referred to by their specific national ancestral origin, e.g. 'Indian' or 'Pakistani'.

Notably, Australia does not collect statistics on the racial origins of its residents, instead collecting data at each five-yearly census on ancestry (i.e. national ethnic rather than racial origin). At the 2016 census, there were 3,514,915 nominations of ancestries classified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as falling within the geographical categories of East Asia, Southeast Asia and Central and Southern Asia. This represents 11.82% of the total of 29,613,856 ancestry responses, or 16.15% of persons who nominated their ancestry. 2,665,814 persons claimed one of the six most commonly nominated Asian ancestries, namely Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean and Sri Lankan, at the 2016 census. Persons claiming one of these six ancestries alone represented 12.25% of the total population who nominated their ancestry.The 2016 census was studied by the Australian Bureau of Statistics which has shed some light on a few notable changes in the Australian population. The Asian population increased from 32.9% to 39.7% from 2011 to 2016. The most common places of birth of the Asian population were China, India and Philippines.

Asian New Zealanders

Asian New Zealanders are New Zealanders of Asian ancestry. In the New Zealand census, the term refers to a pan-ethnic group that includes diverse populations who have ancestral origins in East Asia (e.g. Chinese New Zealanders, Korean New Zealanders, Japanese New Zealanders), Southeast Asia (e.g. Filipino New Zealanders, Vietnamese New Zealanders) and South Asia (e.g. Indian New Zealanders, Pakistani New Zealanders).

Colloquial usage of Asian in New Zealand is often more specific than the Statistics New Zealand definition and excludes Indians and other peoples of South Asian descent.In the 1860s, Chinese workers migrated to New Zealand to work in the gold mines. The modern period of Asian immigration began in the 1970s when New Zealand relaxed its restrictive policies to attract migrants from Asia. At the 2013 census, 471,708 New Zealanders declared that they had an Asian ancestral background. This represents about 12% of all responses. Most Asian New Zealanders live in the Auckland Region.

Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act, 1946

The Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act, 1946 (Act No. 28 of 1946; subsequently renamed the Asiatic Land Tenure Act, 1946, and also known as the "Ghetto Act") of South Africa sought to confine Asian ownership and occupation of land to certain clearly defined areas of towns. The Act also prohibited Asians from owning or occupying property without a permit when such property had not been owned or occupied by Asians before 1946.

Furthermore, it granted Indians in the Transvaal and Natal the right to elect Whites to represent them in Parliament and for Natal Indians to represent themselves in the Natal Provincial Council.

The Act deprived the Asian South Africans of communal representation and took away their fundamental and elementary right of land ownership and occupation. It is called and regarded universally by Indian people as the "Ghetto Act".

The act struck at the heart of Indian commercial and economic life. Not only did it intend to reduce the levels of Indian trade and reduce progress in the acquisition of fixed property, it also is thought to have reduced the opportunities of the masses of the Indian people to earn a decent living and ultimately condemn them to existence in increasingly over-crowded slums and locations. Thus on 31 March 1948, it is thought that about 6,000 Indians marched in protest to the Act in Durban, South Africa.

The sections of the act granting representation in Parliament and the provincial council were repealed by the Asiatic Laws Amendment Act, 1948. The rest of the act was repealed by the Abolition of Racially Based Land Measures Act, 1991.

Catholic Church in South Africa

The Catholic Church in South Africa is part of the worldwide Catholic Church composed of the Latin Church and 23 Eastern Catholic Churches, of which the South African church is under the spiritual leadership of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference and the Pope in Rome. It is made up of 26 dioceses and archdioceses plus an apostolic vicariate.

In 1996, there were approximately 3.3 million Catholics in South Africa, making up 6% of the total South African population. Currently, there are 3.8 million Catholics. 2.7 million are of various black African ethnic groups, such as Zulu, Xhosa, and Sotho. Coloured and white South Africans each account for roughly 300,000. Most white Catholics are English speaking, and the majority are descended from Irish immigrants. Many others are Portuguese settlers who left Angola and Mozambique after they became independent in the 1970s, or their children. The proportion of Catholics among the predominantly Calvinist white Afrikaans speakers, or Asian South Africans who are mainly Hindus or Protestant of Indian descent, is extremely small.

Chinatowns in Africa

This article discusses Chinatowns in Africa. There are least three major Chinatowns in Africa.

As former colonies of Europe, the coastal African nations of Madagascar, Mauritius, and South Africa were the main receiving points of Chinese immigrants from the 1890s to the early part of the 20th century. The early Chinese arrived to labour in the Transvaal gold mines of South Africa and on the Tananrive Tamatave railway of Madagascar. Many of these Chinese immigrants were exploited.

Today, South Africa remains the top African destination for first-generation Chinese-speaking immigrants.

Ethnic groups in South Africa

The ethnic groups in South Africa have a variety of origins. Statistics South Africa asks people to describe themselves in the census in terms of five racial population groups. The 2011 census figures for these categories were Black African at 76.4%, White South African at 9.1%, Coloured at 8.9%, Asian at 2.5%, and Other/Unspecified at 0.5%.Statistics South Africa provided five racial categories by which people could classify themselves, the last of which, "unspecified/other" drew negligible responses, and these results were omitted. The 2010 midyear estimated figures for the other categories were Black African at 78.4%, White African at 10.2%, Coloured at 8.8%, Asian at 2.6%. The first census in South Africa in 1911 showed that whites made up 22% of the population; it declined to 16% in 1980.

Japanese people in South Africa

There is a small community of Japanese expatriate people living in or people who were born in South Africa with Japanese ancestry. Most of them live in Johannesburg and other major cities.

Koreans in Africa

Koreans in Africa form a very small population, estimated at only 9,200 people in 2005, with almost half of these living in South Africa. South Korean nationals can be found in 49 countries of Africa, including the continent and its surrounding islands; they have established schools in 19 of those countries. They form a small part of the Korean diaspora.

Nepalis in South Africa

There is a tiny community of Nepalis in South Africa consisting mainly of immigrants and expatriates from Nepal.

Religious information by country

This article gives religious information by country from The Global Religious Landscape report of the Pew Forum, The World Factbook of the CIA, The World Christian Database (WCD) 2010 and International Religious Freedom Report for 2012 of the U.S. Department of State. The article Religions by country has a sortable table from the Pew Forum report.

United Democratic Front (South Africa)

The United Democratic Front (UDF) was a major anti-apartheid organisation of the 1980s. The non-racial coalition of about 400 civic, church, students', workers' and other organisations was formed in 1983, initially to fight the new Tricameral Parliament. The UDF's goal was to establish a "non-racial, united South Africa in which segregation is abolished and in which society is freed from institutional and systematic racism." Its slogan was "UDF Unites, Apartheid Divides."

White South Africans

White South Africans are South Africans descended from any of the white racial or ethnic groups of Europe. 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 2016, 57.9% were native Afrikaans speakers, 40.2% were native English speakers, and 1.9% 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 a sense of separate cultural identity, as in the case of the Afrikaners, who established a distinct language, culture and faith.

Overseas Asians and Asian diasporas
By origin
By residence
Khoi and San
North America

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