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ICS Import

Module by: Mark Horner. E-mail the author

The physical structure of South AfricaLearning area Social SciencesFocus Geography Grade2module5

Module Framework and Assessment Sheet

Table 1
Learning Outcomes(LOs) Assessment standards(ASe)
Formative Assessment Summative Assessment
ASsPages (mark out of 4) LOs(ave out of 4) Tasks or tests(%) Ave for LO(% and mark out of 4)
LO 1 We know this when the learner:        
GEOGRAPHICAL ENQUIRYThe learner will be able to use enquiry skills to investigate geographical and environmental concepts and processes. FIXME: A LIST CAN NOT BE A TABLE ENTRY. with guidance, selects and uses sources of useful geographical information (including graphs, maps and fieldwork outside the classroom) [finds sources]; FIXME: A LIST CAN NOT BE A TABLE ENTRY. categorises information; FIXME: A LIST CAN NOT BE A TABLE ENTRY. uses an index to find places on global atlas maps [works with sources]; FIXME: A LIST CAN NOT BE A TABLE ENTRY. demonstrates knowledge and under-standing of the issue through projects, discussion, debate and charts [communicates the answer].        
LO 2 We know this when the learner:        
GEOGRAPHICAL KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDINGThe learner will be able to demonstrate geographical and environmental knowledge and understanding. 2.1identifies and describes major physical features of South Africa, including those of the home province;2.2identifies links between natural resources and economic activities in South Africa;2.3describes ways in which the physical environment influences human activity and how human activity is influenced by the physical environment.        


The knowledge focus in this module is:

The physical structure of South Africa:

  • location of physical features: mountains, highveld plateau, coastal plains, rivers and other features of the landscape, also oceans;
  • relationships between physical features and human activities, including ways in which human activity is changing physical landscapes.


Learning Unit 1



1.The structure of the RSA 1

2.The rivers of the RSA 10

Learning Unit 2


1.Rivers 16

2.Erosion 16

3.Volcanoes 17

4.Faults 17

5.People 17


Geomorphological characteristics that influence the distribution of water throughout our country

1.The structure of the RSA

  • The surface of the RSA is not as flat as a tabletop. The uneven nature of the surface has to do with the structure or morphology of the land. Landforms such as coastal plains, lowlands, plateaux, mountains and rivers constitute the structure of the land.
  • If you look at the relief map of the RSA below, or at any physical map of the RSA in an atlas, you will understand that different parts of our country are situated on different altitudes above sea level.
Figure 1
Figure 1 (RSA.png)

Figure 1

  • Different colours are used on such a relief map to indicate the different altitudes above sea level:

Green=lowest areas, e.g. coastal regions

Yellow=just higher than the green areas (Little Karoo)

Orange=higher areas


Purple / white=highest mountain peaks


  • Use your atlas and colour your map according to the above-mentioned colour key.

Morphological areas of the RSA

Coastline and coastal plains

  • The coastline is the area where the land meets the sea. The RSA has a very long and almost unbroken coastline with few capes (points such as Cape Point) and few bays (such as Table Bay and False Bay). The only area where both these are to be found, is the Cape Peninsula.
Table 2
A disadvantage of such an unbroken coastline is that there are few natural ports such as the Cape Town harbour.graphics1.png graphics2.png

Figure 2

  • The coastal plain is the low-lying area along the coast. The coastal plain of the RSA forms a narrow band between the sea and the mountains of the escarpment.

The Little Karoo and the Great Karoo

Figure 2
Figure 2 (graphics3.png)

Figure 3

  • There is, however, an area between the sea and the escarpment where one first has to climb a few “steps” to reach the escarpment. These “steps” are called the Karoo. “Karoo” is a word meaning hard. Thus it is a hard, dry region.
  • It comprises two flat smaller plateaux between mountain ranges.
  • From the south coast (Mossel Bay) the land rises gradually from the coastal plain to the Outeniqua Mountains and the Langeberg. The low-lying area that follows this and lies just before the Swartberg Mountains is called the Little Karoo. To the north of the Swartberg range lies the Great Karoo, which is situated one step higher than the Little Karoo. It is found just before the Nuweveld Mountains, which form part of the escarpment.

Plateau and escarpment

  • The escarpment indicates where the plateau of the interior begins, and forms an unbroken mountain chain. It begins with the Kamiesberg range in the northwest, and towards the south it becomes the Roggeveld Mountains. It then veers towards the east, where the Nuweveld, Sneeu, and Storm mountain ranges are found. In the northwest one finds the Drakensberg range. Here the escarpment is much higher than elsewhere. The highest peaks of the Drakensberg are Mont-Aux-Sources(3 299 m) and Thaba Ntlenyana (3 482 m). The escarpment forms our country’s most important watershed.
  • The mountains of South Africa were formed by curvature, shifting or folding, just like all other mountains throughout the world. The Hex River Mountains, the Cedar Mountains, the Swartberg range and the Langeberg Mountains are, for example, all fold mountains in sedimentary rock. Many of these have become flattened by erosion, and one does not see much of it. Examples of igneous rock can be seen in the Drakensberg range.
  • Unfortunately the escarpment prevents moist air from the sea reaching the interior plateau, which causes frequent droughts in the interior of the country.
  • The interior plateau is the vast stretch of land that is situated to the interior of the escarpment. It covers the greatest part of the RSA and lies from 900 m (west) to 3 000 m (east) above sea level.
Table 3
Activity 1.1 To acquire knowledge and answer questions
  LO 1.1      
  LO 2.1      
Dribble.png Dribble.png Use the previous acquired knowledge and your atlas to answer the following questions on the physical features of South Africa.clip0007.pngWhat do you understand under the physical features of a country?clip0007.pngOn what kind of map would you study the physical features of a country?clip0007.pngUse your atlas and find out in which two regions the coastal plain is at its widest. and clip0007.pngWhich do you think is best: an unbroken coastline, or a broken one?Give a reason for your answer. Give an example from your atlas of a continent with a broken coastline.clip0007.pngWhat is meant by the term “escarpment”?clip0007.pngBetween which two mountain ranges is the Great Karoo? and clip0007.pngThe Little Karoo is situated between the Outeniqua Mountains and the in the south, and thein the north.
Table 4
Dribble.png clip0007.pngFind the exact location of Mont-Aux-Sources en Thaba Ntlenyana in your atlas. In which mountain range are these peaks?clip0007.pngWhat is meant by the term “watershed”?clip0007.pngHow, do you think, does the plateau’s altitude above sea level influence the temperature in the interior?

Other mountain ranges

  • The Cedarberg Mountains in the northwest, and the mountain ranges that lie between the coastal plain and the southern escarpment, are of special importance. The Drakenstein, Hottentots-Holland, Langeberg, and Outeniqua Mountains form the coastal chain (closer to the sea), while the Karoo chain (closer to the escarpment) is formed by the Swartberg and Winterberg ranges. The Soutpansberg and Waterberg Mountains lie to the northeast.

The Lowveld

  • The low-lying region between the Lebombo Mountains and the Drakensberg in the northeast of the country is called the Lowveld.
Table 5
Activity 1.2 To discuss possible solutions for a problem
  LO 1.7      
  LO 2.3      
Dribble.png It is the second half of the 17th century. The first settlers want to explore the interior of the Cape Colony. However, they must first cross the Hex River and Cedarberg Mountains. What must they do to overcome the problem? Work as a group and discuss possible solutions. Make a presentation to the class. Remember that you may only make use of 17th century technology.
Table 6
Activity 1.3 To study the accompanying map of the physical features of South Africa
  LO 1.1      
Dribble.png Study the map provided on page 9 (physical features of the RSA), and then colour it correctly according to the colour key. Use your atlas as an aid.clip0007.pngLook at the green band along the coast. Why is it green?clip0007.pngWhat colour is the largest part of the RSA? Why is it this colour?clip0007.pngWhere are the highest parts of South Africa? What is their colour on the map?clip0007.pngInsert the names of the mountain ranges that have been indicated on the map (figure 4) in the table (p. 10).clip0007.pngIndicate the position of Mont-Aux-Sources and Thaba Ntlenyana on the map.

What does the following mean?

Karoo chain

Coastal chain

How can one deduce from the map that the plateau falls/drops from the highest easterly parts/regions/areas? In which direction does the plateau fall/drop?

Physical features of the RSA

Figure 3
Figure 3 (graphics4.png)

Figure 4

Table 7


Table 8

Table 9
Activity 1.4 To compile a memory map
  LO 1.3      
Dribble.png Draw a memory map of what you have learnt up to now. Compare it to the memory map on page 11.
Figure 4
Figure 4 (graphics5.png)

2.Rivers of the RSA

All rivers flow from a high-lying area to a low-lying area. All the rivers of the RSA rise from the interior plateau or the escarpment (watershed) and flow to the sea. Many of the rivers of the RSA are not constant, which means that they only contain water during the rainy season. The rivers of the RSA are also unsuitable for water traffic, because of the many rapids, waterfalls and sandbanks. These types of rivers are called unnavigable rivers.

The Orange River

The Orange River is the largest and longest river in South Africa. It rises in the Drakensberg in the east (near Mont-Aux-Sources) and flows westward across the full breadth of the RSA. Its mouth is at Oranjemund along the west coast. The Orange River forms quite a number of borders, of which the most important is the border between the RSA and Namibia.

The Gariep Dam was built in the upper courses of the Orange River to store water for the dry periods of the year. Thus the water is used mainly for irrigation, but the dam is also an important source of hydro-electric power.

Just to the east of the dam the first tributary, the Caledon River, in which the Vanderkloof Dam was built, joins the Orange River. Near Douglas, the second tributary, the Vaal River, which houses the Vaal Dam, joins up, and later the Wilge and Harts Rivers flow into the Vaal River. The Augrabies Waterfall is near Kakamas, which is lower down in the Orange.

The Limpopo River

The Limpopo rises near Johannesburg, where it is called the Crocodile River. Just after it is joined by the Great Marico tributary, it is called the Limpopo. Another important tributary is the Olifants River. The Limpopo first forms the border between the RSA and Botswana, and later also between the RSA and Zimbabwe. It then flows through Mozambique, where it ultimately flows into the Indian Ocean.

Rivers that flow directly coastwards from the escarpment

These rivers are much shorter and decline more sharply towards the sea. This causes them to flow rapidly in deep valleys, which makes irrigation quite difficult.

The rivers to the northeast, which rise in the Drakensberg escarpment, are the Komati, Pongola, Tugela, Great Kei and Keiskamma Rivers. Lower down there are the Sundays, Great Fish, Gamtoos, Gouritz and Breede Rivers. The Berg and Olifants Rivers flow along the west coast.

Table 10
Activity 1.5 To identify the rivers on a map
  LO 1.1      
  LO 2.1      
Dribble.png Use your atlas to identify the rivers indicated on the map on page 16.
Figure 5
Figure 5 (Boustreke02.png)
Table 11
Activity 1.6 To use an atlas to find information
  LO 1.1      
  LO 2.1      
  • Consult the accompanying map (page 14). You will see that the names of rivers have been numbered. Fill these names in correctly on the table (page 15).
  • Fill in the following on your map. Use your atlas.
    • Oceans
    • Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho
    • Oranjemund, Douglas, Johannesburg
    • Augrabies Waterfall
  • In which direction does the Orange River flow?
  • Why does the Orange River follow a long route to the Atlantic Ocean instead of taking a shortcut to the Indian Ocean?
  • Why, in your opinion, does the Orange River have so few tributaries in the western part?
  • Explain why the Augrabies Waterfall is in that particular place.
  • Which other river system is to be found in the interior of the country? Why is it called a river system?
  • With which other countries does the Limpopo form the border of the RSA?
  • Why, in your opinion, do the rivers that flow rapidly from the plateau, have such deep ravines?
  • Conservation dams have been built in most of these rivers. What is the water used for?
  • Which part of South Africa would you most like to visit? How, do you think, would it differ from your own environment?
  • In which part of South Africa (eastern or western) are dry riverbeds mainly found? Give a reason for your answer.
  • Determine which river flows near your town or city. Try to find out:- to which river system this river belongs;- what the water from this river is used for.

Figure 6
Figure 6 (graphics6.png)
Rivers of the RSA






  • Johannesburg











Figure 5

Table 12
The Orange River System
The Limpopo River System
Rivers from escarpment to coastal plain


The changing landscape

The landscape as we see it with valleys, hills, lakes, dams, etc. changes constantly. The changes are caused by either people, or forces of nature.


  • During the rainy season the water that falls on the earth, gathers in small streams and eventually become rivers that find a downhill path to the sea. The movement of the water over the soil not only takes the topsoil along, but also breaks down the soil, and also rocks, into smaller particles. Over long periods the rivers become deeper and wider. Eventually valleys and ravines are formed. Think of the Fish River Canyon in Namibia.


  • The onslaught by nature, e.g. frost, hail, snow and sun, causes rocks to become more porous. The rocks are eroded over a long period and small pieces break off. When the wind and the rain carry the particles away, we call the movement of the material erosion. The small particles are later deposited elsewhere. A new and fertile layer of soil is then formed.
  • When this process continues over a long period, the landscape changes. Valleys, hills and ravines are formed. The softer types of rock erode faster than the surrounding harder rock, therefore creating interesting landscapes, such as the table-top hills in the Great Karoo.
Table 13
Canyon_bitmap.png   Tafelkop.png
Canyon   Tabletop

Figure 7
Figure 7 (graphics7.png)

  • The outermost layer of the earth is called the crust and consists of rocks. Deep inside the earth the heat is so intense that the rock melts and magma (molten rock) is formed. This boiling mass is always looking for a weak spot in the crust of the earth through which it can escape. When the molten rock reaches the surface of the earth, it is called lava. It cools down, coagulates and forms new rock, thus creating a new landscape. The crater of rock is sometimes so big that a high mountain is formed.

Figure 8
Figure 8 (graphics8.png)

  • The crust of the earth is constantly exposed to thrust and tractive powers as a result of the unstable core of the earth. It sometimes happens that a part of the crust of the earth is pushed up from underneath and then protrudes above the rest of the landscape. The edge or slope of the earth’s crust where the movement took place is known as a fault. Sometimes the different rock layers underneath the crust of the earth are exposed.


  • People try to control their environment and try to change it constantly to comply with their needs.
Table 14
Activity 2.1 To write a short paragraph on a particular subject
  LO 2.3      
Dribble.png Write a short paragraph on how and why people constantly try to change the surrounding landscape.

Did you mention: housing; mining; agriculture; transport?

Table 15
Activity 2.2 To do research on certain topics
  LO 1.7      
  LO 2.3      
Dribble.png Choose one of the following ways in which people can influence the natural landscape indirectly. Pay a visit to the local library or consult other sources for more information and write a short report and present it to the class. FIXME: A LIST CAN NOT BE A TABLE ENTRY. DeforestationSoil erosion as a result of human activitiesVegetation is destroyed as a result of global warmingMono-croppingWaste products and its influence on vegetation


Map 1:Mountains of the RSA

  1. Kamiesberge
  2. Roggeveld
  3. Cedarberg
  4. Drakenstein
  5. Hottentots-Holland
  6. Langeberg
  7. Outeniqua
  8. Swartberg
  9. Nuweveld
  10. Sneeuberg
  11. Stormberg
  12. Drakensberg
  13. Lebombo
  14. Waterberg
  15. Soutpansberg

Map 2:Rivers of the RSA

  1. Orange
  2. Caledon
  3. Vaal
  4. Harts
  5. Wilge
  6. Orange
  7. Great Marico
  8. Crocodile
  9. Limpopo
  10. Olifants
  11. Komati
  12. Pongola
  13. Tugela
  14. Great Kei
  15. Keiskamma
  16. Great Fish
  17. Sundays
  18. Gamtoos
  19. Gouritz
  20. Breede
  21. Berg
  22. Olifants

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