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South Africa lies at an altitude of about 3,900 ft, and at least 40% of the surface is quite high.  Parts of Johannesburg are more than 6,000 ft above sea level. There are three major zones: the marginal regions, which range in width from 80 to 240 km in the east to 60–80 km in the west, and the eastern plateau slopes, Cape folded belt, and western plateau slopes; an enormous saucer shaped interior plateau, separated from the marginal zone by the Great Escarpment; and the Kalahari Basin, only the southern part of which projects into north-central South Africa.

One of the most prominent features of South Africa is the topography of the country. It comprises a plateau that covers almost two thirds of the center of the country. The plateau complex rises toward the southeast, and it reaches its key point in the Drakensberg range, and is part of a steep ridge that divides the plateau from the areas of the coast.  The larger portion of the plateau are called the high-veld, which leads in the north to the gold-bearing area which is called Witwatersrand, that is a long, rocky crest which is part of the  financial capital and largest city of South Africa, Johannesburg.  The region north of the Witwatersrand, forms the international border.

The western section of the raised ground is the middle-veld that slopes down towards the west and has a different altitude between the high-veld and bush-veld. Between the Drakensburg and the eastern and southern coastline, the land descends to the sea. Toward the eastern coast there is a periphery belt which comprises green, hilly country that contains the Cape and Natal midlands. Nearer the coast there is a low-lying plain called the eastern low-veld. Southwest of the plateau the country becomes progressively more water-less and stretches to the stony desert of the Great Karroo, bordered on the east by the lower, better watered plateau of the Little Karroo. Separating the dry southern interior from the sandy littoral of the southern coast and West Cape is another range, the Langeberg.

On the southwest coast is Table Mountain, with Cape Town, which is called the “Mother City,” of South Africa and is set in its base and the coastal plain of the Cape Peninsula tailing off to the south. The southernmost point in Africa, Cape Agulhas, lies sixty miles to the east. South Africa also includes part of the Kalahari Desert in the northwest and a section of the Namib Desert in the west. The chief rivers, crossing the country from west to east, are the Limpopo, Vaal, and Orange, which are not navigable but are useful for irrigation. A major new water source was created by the damming of the Orange and the Malibamatso below their sources in the Lesotho Drakensburg.

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