South African language Wikipedias 20th birthday review

I was asked to do a presentation at a Wikipedia 20th birthday party hosted by Wikimedia South Africa, which unfortunately I can’t make, but I still took the opportunity to look in a little more detail at the state of the South African language Wikipedias. I include all eleven official languages, with the exception of English.


  • 95,700 articles
  • 210 active editors (1)
  • 40 active editors (5)
  • 47 depth
  • 18 admins
  • 33,040,587 total words

Top editors:

  • 1,382 Oesjaar
  • 873 Aliwal2012
  • 507 Sobaka
  • 481 K175
  • 266 Burgert Behr
  • 234 Charlielv55
  • 188 Rooiratel
  • 174 SpesBona
  • 165 Wyatt Tyrone Smith
  • 151 Odriskelmac11

Afrikaans is in good shape. Closing in on 100,000 articles, a healthy number of active editors, a whopping 33 million words, and a good number of local admins so that the project doesn’t need to rely much on global sysops for basic administration and vandalism protection. With some crazily active contributors, it’ll reach that 100,000 in no time.

Northern Sotho

  • 8229 articles
  • 9 active editors (1)
  • 2 active editors (5)
  • 0 depth
  • 1 admin
  • 266,487 total words

Top editors:

  • 63 Aliwal2012

With a depth of zero, and a low relative word count, most of the articles are short, with little further collaboration. Note the top editor, also active in the Afrikaans Wikipedia. It’s not the last time you’ll see this editor!


  • 7037 articles
  • 26 active editors (1)
  • 8 active editors (5)
  • 3 depth
  • 2 admins
  • 370,680 total words

Top editors:

  • 1,301 3atbulletz
  • 119 SmangaMbongwa
  • 19 ArticleEditor404

Zulu has seen a burst of activity over the last year or so, and it’s mostly due to one extremely active editor. With a low depth, most of the articles are still short, but it’s good to see Zulu showing signs of life.


  • 1,181 articles
  • 16 active editors (1)
  • 2 active editors (5)
  • 40 depth
  • 1 admins
  • 245 499 total words

Top editors:

  • 59 Praxidicae

Xhosa has almost as many words as Northern Sotho, a language with almost seven times as many articles. With a depth of 40, it’s clear what little content it has has shown some activity. Unfortunately, the top editor is a global sysop active in countering vandalism, and there’s been little recent growth activity.


  • 806 articles
  • 17 active editors (1)
  • 1 active editors (5)
  • 48 depth
  • 1 admins
  • 102,129 total words

Top editors:

  • 11 Aliwal2012

Yet another appearance of local polyglot Aliwal2012!


  • 717 articles
  • 10 active editors (1)
  • 1 active editors (5)
  • 76 depth
  • 1 admins
  • 290,642 total words

Top editors:

  • 13 Aliwal2012

The highest depth of any language yet, and yet again Aliwal2012 shows activity. As projects get smaller, depth loses importance, as it can be be skewed by excessive vandalism, rather than constructive edits.


  • 703 articles
  • 14 active editors (1)
  • 1 active editors (5)
  • 178 depth
  • 2 admins
  • 154,688 total words

Top editors:

  • 127 Thuvack

Tsonga has a depth of 178, and in this case much of it seems to be down to differing styles between top Tsonga editor Thuvack, who focuses on a small number of high quality articles, compared to, say, the top editor in the Zulu Wikipedia, 3atbulletz, who focuses on breadth, creating a large number of short, stub articles. Both styles are welcome, as a healthy project needs all kinds of editors!


  • 524 articles
  • 14 active editors (1)
  • 1 active editors (5)
  • 188 depth
  • 3 admins
  • 66,552 total words

Top editors:

  • 9 Bobbyshabangu

Swati shows tendencies similar to Tsonga, with a high depth, although its articles are shorter on average.


  • 370 articles
  • 9 active editors (1)
  • 0 active editors (5)
  • – depth
  • 1 admins
  • 34,238 total words

Top editors:

Venda is sadly moribund. It was one of the quickest growing South African Wikipedias in the very early days, but there’s been little to no recent activity. It does not have enough articles (500) to have a depth score.


Ndebele is the only official South African language that doesn’t have its own Wikipedia. It’s in a special state in something called the Incubator, which is where projects that don’t yet have enough activity sit until they’re ready to be launched on their own. Ndebele is a long way from showing enough activity to have its own Wikipedia yet.

  • 11 articles (incubator only)

Explanation of the terms

  • articles is the article count. An article can be a single line, or can it can be a multi-page in-depth piece, both still count as one article
  • active editors (1) – number of registered editors that have made at least one edit in the last thirty days. An editor is not necessarily a native-speaker, they can for example be a global editor assisting with vandalism.
  • active editors (5) – number of registered editors that have made at least five edits in the previous calendar month
  • depth – a metric intended to give a rough collaborative quality score of the content in the Wikipedia, taking into account the number of times a page has been edited, and the presence and existence of support pages. To compare, English has the highest depth of all Wikipedias: 1045. The second-largest Wikipedia by number of articles, Cebuano, has a depth of 2. Most of its articles were created by bots, and there’s little human activity. Of other large Wikpedias, French has 240, Chinese 201, German 93 and Dutch 16. Read here for a detailed explanation.
  • admins – number of accounts with administrator rights, intended to support the project by blocking vandals, protecting pages under attack and so on. Most small language Wikipedias rely on global sysops for support, trusted users that do this for multiple languages.
  • Total words – total number of words making up the content pages of the Wikipedia.
  • Top editors – editors listed according to the number of edits they’ve made in the last month. This unfortunately ignores numerous editors that may have made sizeable contributions in the past, but I couldn’t find a way to quickly access this data.

Learn to contribute

Contributing to sharing knowledge in your language is as simple as clicking the edit button on a page and boldly going ahead. If you need any help, feel free to ask me, a fellow editor on one of the talk pages, or reach out to Wikimedia South Africa.


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Image from Wikimedia Commons

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