Country Explorer


You are here: Home > South Africa

South Africa history

Even before the Christian era began, members of the San and the Khoikhoi probably lived in South Africa. Their origin is not known, a relationship between the two peoples is suspected due to common features of the language. While the San lived as nomadic hunters and gatherers, the Khoikhoi lived as ranchers. Around 60,000 San still live in southern Africa today.

South Africa historyAround the 5th century AD Members of the Bantu-speaking peoples immigrated to southern Africa, including the Sotho, the Zulu, the Tswana and the Xhosa. They predominate cattle breeding and partly also field farming. The already resident peoples were pushed to the west of the country.

The Portuguese Bartolomëu Diaz was the first European to sail around the southern tip of the African continent in 1487 in search of the sea route to India. Around ten years later, the Portuguese Vasco da Gama landed on the South African coast after successfully circumnavigating the "stormy cape" (so named by Diaz, renamed da Gama "Cape of Good Hope"). According to the time, he called the coast "Natal" (Christmas).

The Dutchman Jan van Riebeeck founded the first branch as a provision station for passing ships in 1652 in the "Tafelbucht" (Cape Town) on behalf of the Dutch United East India Company. Over the next few years, the southern tip of the country was populated by Dutch, Germans and French (Huguenots). The relatives of the local tribes were driven into the hinterland or used as slaves for field work. By the end of the 17th century, an estimated 1,200 Europeans lived in the Cape area. They called themselves "Afrikaans" and developed their own language (Afrikaans). The term Boers also comes from this language.

In the second half of the 18th century, the so-called Trek Boers penetrated their cattle herds more and more and came into conflict with the Xhosa people (formerly derogatory "Kaffir", "unbeliever"). In 1779 the first of a total of nine "Kaffir Wars" took place (which ended in 1877 to the disadvantage of the Xhosa). At the end of the 18th century, the Boers (now around 20,000 whites) rebelled against the patronage and tax burden imposed by the Dutch East India company. The southern tip of Africa came under British control and was declared a British Crown Colony in 1814.

According to AbbreviationFinder, Britons increasingly settled in the Cape, and the reforms they implemented, such as equating free black people with whites, abolishing forced labor and introducing the British administrative system led to disputes with the Boers. When Great Britain officially banned slavery in the Cape Colony in 1833, thousands of Boers emigrated in protest to the northeast, where, after the Zulu people were displaced there, they found the independent Boer Republics "Natal" (1838), "Orange Free State "(1854) and" Transvaal "" (1860). The Zulu people had brought large parts of the interior under their control in the first decades of the 19th century and were only finally subdued by the British troops in 1879. When Natal became a British crown colony in 1856,

The other two Boer Republics were initially recognized by Britain after the discovery of the first diamond fields in the Orange Free State, but the area was annexed in 1871. The Boer Republic of Transvaal followed in 1877. The British Cape Colony had already been granted internal self-government by the Crown five years earlier. However, as early as 1881, the Boers, under the leadership of Paulus (Ohm) Kr¨ąger, regained the independence of their republics. Shortly afterwards, the largest gold deposits on earth were discovered near Johannesburg in Transvaal. Numerous European immigrants came to the country.

In 1890 the Briton Cecil Rhodes became the new Prime Minister of the Cape Colony. In 1895 he tried again to conquer the Boer Republic of the Transvaal ("Jameson Raid"), but without success. The British claim to the diamond fields and gold deposits intensified the conflict between the British and Boers, so that in October 1899 the open war broke out between the two parties. In 1902 the conflict ended with the victory of the British troops, the Boer Republics initially became British crown colonies. In 1910 the Cape Colony, the Orange Free State, Transvaal and Natal were incorporated into the "South African Union" as the dominion of Great Britain. The Union was governed by a Governor General representing the British crown, the seat of government was the city of Pretoria, and Bure Louis Botha became the first president. Only whites had political rights. A year later, a number of racially discriminatory laws were enacted, eg black Africans were not allowed to purchase land outside of the reserves and non-whites were not allowed to carry out qualified work.

The "South African Native National Congress" (from 1923 African National Congress, ANC) was founded in 1912 to represent black interests. Shortly afterwards, the Indian lawyer Mahatma Gandhi called on his compatriots, who had been brought to South Africa as plantation workers, to nonviolent resistance to racial discrimination (founding of the "South African Indian Congress", SAJC).

On a political level, the moderate Buren Party (South Africa Party) of ruling President Louis Botha lost ground to the newly founded National Party. This campaigned for a strict segregation and for the separation from Great Britain. South Africa fought alongside Great Britain during the First World War, and in 1920 the country received the League of Nations mandate over German South-West Africa (now Namibia).

In 1924, the Burian National Party won the majority in the parliamentary elections, and its leader James Barry Munnick Hertzog became the new South African Prime Minister (until 1939). Under him there was a considerable tightening of racial segregation, for example racially separated residential areas were introduced and for black people outside the Cape Colony there was a passport requirement. Sexual contacts between black and white were also punished severely. In 1931, the South African Union gained full sovereignty within the British Commonwealth. The National Party merged with the South African Party to form the United Party, a radical-racist wing of the National Party split off and continued to be called the National Party (NP).

South Africa also participated in the Second World War with around 350,000 men on the side of Great Britain. After the war ended, apartheid intensified again in the country when Daniel F. Malan of the National Party became the new South African prime minister (until 1954) and pushed for racial segregation at all levels. Whites were now considered one nation, the black population was divided into ten nations, each with their own regions (so-called homelands). Leaving their homelands was only possible under certain conditions. Blacks who worked in big cities and could not return to their assigned homeland daily lived on the outskirts of the cities in so-called townships.One of the first townships to be established was Soweto (short for South Western Township) near Johannesburg.

Strict segregation was practiced in all public areas of life such as schools, theaters, transportation, etc. The ANC continued to provide non-violent resistance until the late 1950s, when a wing of the movement created the militant Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), which campaigned not only for racial segregation but for black predominance. After violent clashes, both groups were banned in 1960 and their leaders (including Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Albert Luthuli, Walter Sisulu) later sentenced to life imprisonment. Both groups then continued their underground resistance.

International criticism by the UN and the Commonwealth of the government's apartheid policy led to South Africa leaving the Commonwealth in 1961 and the republic being proclaimed (with Charles Swart, NP, as the first president). The country became increasingly politically isolated: the Organization for African Unity (OAU) officially recognized the two resistance groups ANC and PAC in 1963, in the same year the UN imposed an arms embargo on South Africa. In 1966 South Africa was also revoked from the UN mandate for South West Africa (Namibia). Isolation increased when the British protectorate Betschuanaland bordering the north as Botswana (1966) and Basutoland, completely surrounded by South African territory as Lesotho (1966), became independent. Swaziland also gained its sovereignty two years later. Angola and Mozambique followed in the mid-1970s.

The South African leadership officially released four homelands (Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda, Ciskei) over the course of five years (1976 to 1981) and granted them self-government, but these remained de facto under the control of the white government in Pretoria. In the 1970s, there were numerous bloody clashes between the black population and government troops, in which hundreds of people lost their lives. In 1977, all groups that campaigned against apartheid were banned by the government in Pretoria, although there were also moderate parties within the white struggle to reverse racial policy.

In 1984 South Africa received a new constitution that again did not entitle the black majority of the population (around 22 million) to vote. Colored people (hybrids) and Indians were represented as minorities in the newly elected parliament. Pieter Willem Botha was the first to combine the office of President and Head of Government in one person. After severe unrest, a state of emergency was declared for the country in 1986. As a result, the United States and the countries of the European Union imposed an economic embargo on South Africa, which weakened the country's economy. Botha's successor Willem de Klerk (1989 to 1994) as South African head of state took the first steps to abolish racial discrimination.In 1990 the ANC and other opposition parties that had been banned until then were re-admitted. After official talks between the de Klerk government and the ANC leader, Nelson Mandela, the ANC officially declared the end of the armed struggle against the government in Pretoria. Together, the guidelines for a fundamental reform policy were determined, which were also supported by a large part of the white population. The apartheid policy in South Africa was officially ended. However, riots continued between rival black movements (ANC supporters of the Xhosa people against the Inkatha movement of Zulu chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi), who fought among themselves. A minority of the white population was also unwilling to accept the new order.

After the lifting of the trade embargo, the country's economy quickly recovered. In 1994, a transitional constitution entered into force, which among other things laid down equal rights for citizens of all races and universal suffrage. The presidential republic with a democratic, constitutional order now consisted of the nine provinces of Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, KwaZulu (Natal), Northern Transvaal, Eastern Transvaal, PWV (Pretoria-Witwatersrand Association), Northwest and Orange Free State, each with their own regional parliaments.

In the first free general election in 1994, the ANC won the majority, Nelson Mandela became the new head of government and president. In the same year, South Africa became a member of the OAU and rejoined the Commonwealth. South Africa increasingly freed itself from its political isolation and established diverse economic and political relationships with other African countries, with the western industrialized nations and with Asian countries.

After the 2004 elections, in which the ANC - again this time with almost 70% - again received the majority (the second strongest party was the Democratic Alliance, followed by the Inkatha Freedom Party), the former vice president became and in 1999 the state and Prime Minister elected Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki confirmed in office. After losing the chair of the ANC in late 2007 and finally losing official party support in September 2008 (the National Assembly elected the president), he resigned shortly thereafter. His successor in the presidency was the deputy ANC chairman Kgalema Mothlanthe. The ANC was again able to win the elections in spring 2009. Jacob Zuma was then elected President and has been in office since May 2009.

Even in the new millennium, the consequences of decades of racial segregation have not been overcome. Hundreds of thousands of people still live in poor conditions in the townships on the outskirts of the big cities. Plagues such as cholera can break out again and again and spread quickly (such as in the coastal province of KwaZulu / Natal in October 2000). Another major problem is the high rate of infection of the population with the immunodeficiency disorder AIDS: every tenth to fifth adult is infected. South Africa has one of the highest murder rates in the world. In spring 2008, nationals of foreigners of African descent were attacked nationwide. Overall, the crime rate has increased in recent years.

The 2010 World Cup took place in South Africa. A total of ten new stadiums were built in nine cities for the sporting event.

Africa - Asia - Central America - Europe - Caribbean - Middle East - North America - Oceania - South America


Country Explorer Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved