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Grade 5

Population: distribution and density

Module 25

Who lives where?

The distribution of the South African population

Activity 1:

To recognise densely populated regions in south africa on a map

[lo 1.1; 1.3]

Use an atlas with the above map and identify five urban areas with a large and dense population. Refer to the provincial boundaries to help you to work accurately.

Densely populated urban areas:

Physical factors that influence population distribution

A. The role that the discovery of minerals has played in the settlement of people in South Africa

Large population shifts occurred in South Africa after the discovery of diamonds by approximately 1870 near Kimberley and the discovery of gold in 1886 on the Witwatersrand. Until that time, the population in the interior of the country was relatively scattered. Then people started streaming to the gold and diamond fields and caused a great concentration of people. Soon cities were established where people had previously lived by farming on properties that were far apart from one another.

Mining of minerals

Remember that the mining activities soon also attracted other industries. Factories that manufactured mining equipment, were built and industries that provided in the daily needs of the people, were also established. Traders who sold the manufactured goods appeared on the scene. Minerals often provide the spark that sets off and maintains large-scale development.

Johannesburg, after the discovery of gold, was founded as a mining town, but had become a metropolis within 100 years. If all the gold mines in the region were to become exhausted, it would be a setback for the economy, but the city will continue to provide a large number of services and will therefore still provide work for millions of people.

B. Settlements are also influenced by factors other than the occurrence of mineral deposits

The presence of minerals is not the only factor that leads to settlement. Many fishing communities along the coast make a living from the sea and settle where there is a natural harbour or where a harbour has been built. Fishing therefore is the reason for settling and industries that deliver products to the fishing industry, or process fish, play a role in the creation of employment. Agriculture is a reason for settlement in many parts of South Africa, and in other parts it may be forestry.

Mining, agriculture, forestry and fishing are primary industries. They are first in the order of industries. After the primary industries, we have the secondary industries that process the primary products. At the fringe of the primary and secondary industries, we have trading, which allows products to be bought and sold. Transport plays an important role in the whole process and services also have to be provided where there are so many industries.

It is important to understand how all these processes are linked, but it is important to realise that people are employed in all these industries. The development of more products and building of more factories lead to the creation of better and more employment opportunities for people, who then also have a place to stay.

Activity 2:

To place different professions in categories

[lo 1.3]

  • Below there are ten statements. Place a tick in the appropriate column to indicate the city.

Refer to the maps of Southern Africa in your atlas. They provide information that will help you to choose the right answer.

Johannesburg Durban Cape Town
  1. This city has no significant mining activity.
  1. Industries provide equipment for gold mines.
  1. Many job opportunities in the sugar industry are nearby.
  1. The fishing industry is an important employer.
  1. Water may become a problem for the large population.
  1. Services are provided for the mining industry in general.
  1. The country’s densest railway network is nearby.
  1. The largest city in South Africa.
  1. The capital city of the smallest province.
  1. Capital city of the province with the largest population.


LO 1


The learner will be able to use enquiry skills to investigate geographical and environmental concepts and processes.

We know this when the learner:

1.1 with guidance, selects and uses sources of useful geographical information [finds sources];

1.2 distinguishes between facts and opinions [works with sources];

1.3 categorises information [works with sources];

1.4 uses an index to find places on global atlas maps [works with sources];

1.6 identifies and explores possible solutions to problems [answers the question];

1.7 demonstrates knowledge and under-standing of the issue through projects, discussion, debate and charts [communicates the answer].


  • Cape Town
  • Durban
  • Johannesburg
  • Pretoria

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Source:  OpenStax, Social sciences: geography grade 5. OpenStax CNX. Sep 23, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10986/1.2
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