Portuguese South African

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Portuguese South African
Portugal South Africa
Total population
450,000 (2022)[1]~0.8% of the total population
Regions with significant populations
Johannesburg, Cape Town, Edenvale, Rosettenville, Pretoria and other large urban areas
Madeiran Portuguese, South African English, Afrikaans
Roman Catholic, small Protestant, Muslim and Jewish minorities
Related ethnic groups
Portuguese · Portuguese Africans · White South Africans · Italian South Africans · Greek South Africans · Mediterraneans

Portuguese South Africans (Portuguese: luso-sul-africanos) are South Africans of Portuguese ancestry. The exact figure of how many people in South Africa are Portuguese or of Portuguese descent are not accurately known as many people who arrived during the pre-1994 era quickly assimilated into English and Afrikaner speaking South African communities. There was likely also an undercount of immigrants, especially from Madeira.


The Portuguese explored the coasts of South Africa in the late 15th century, and nominally claimed them as their own with the erecting of padrões (large stone cross inscribed with the coat of arms of Portugal placed there as part of a land claim). Bartolomeu Dias did so in 1486, and Vasco da Gama recorded a sighting of the Cape of Good Hope in 1497, en route to India.

The early 20th century witnessed a trickle of emigrants from Madeira whose numbers greatly increased in the decades following World War II. Madeiran immigrants, who are traditionally associated with horticulture and commerce, form the largest group within South Africa's Portuguese community.

The largest single event of Portuguese settlement occurred when the former Portuguese colonies became independent in 1975. Most of them went to Portugal and Brazil, but a significant number of black and white refugees from Angola and Mozambique made their way to South Africa. Their arrival made South Africa the home of the largest Portuguese African population, increasing it from about 49,000,[2] to 300,000.[3]

Politics and economics[edit]

The Portuguese South African community is highly active within the South African community, both politically and economically. Notable members include Maria Ramos who was the former director general of South Africa's National Treasury and later Group CEO of ABSA, one of South Africa's largest financial services companies. Other Portuguese involvement within the business community includes companies like Mercantile Bank. The community is also actively involved in investment activities with other Southern African countries like Angola and Mozambique.

Socially, the Portuguese community have held an annual festival called Lusito Land (the second largest festival in South Africa).


Most Portuguese, like other South Africans, are Christians. Most of them are Roman Catholics, although there is a Protestant minority.



The most popular sport with Portuguese South Africans is football. There are many football clubs in South Africa that are of Portuguese origin. One example was the professional football club Vasco Da Gama which dissolved in 2016. Football is a favourite pastime for Portuguese youth in South Africa, and many of them tend to join amateur and professional football clubs in the country.


Due to Portuguese exploration and navigation many points of interest on the South African coast have Portuguese names.

Notable Portuguese South Africans[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Observatório da Emigração Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "English Speakers". U.S. Library of Congress. Country Studies. Retrieved 2009-06-27.
  3. ^ Abundant Portuguese Residents Elude The South African Census, The New York Times, May 29, 1981
  4. ^ "'Boardroom dancing': Five lessons strategists can learn from the dance world". www.bizcommunity.com. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  5. ^ "BoxRec: Search". boxrec.com. Retrieved 2018-10-17.

External links[edit]