South Africa

History of South Africa

Brief history of South Africa summarized

A brief tour of the history of South Africa.

South African beginnings

More than a hundred thousand years ago, the people of what is now South Africa lived by hunting animals and gathering plants. They used stone tools.

Then, about 2,000 years ago, people in the west learned to herd sheep and cattle. About 200 people from the Christian era engaged in mixed farming (cropping and raising livestock) and making iron tools in eastern South Africa.

At the end of the 15th century, the Portuguese passed through the Cape of Good Hope. However, it was not until 1652 that Europeans founded a colony in South Africa. In 1652 the Dutch, led by Jan van Riebeeck, founded a base where ships traveling to the Far East could be supplied.

Beginning in 1658, the Dutch imported slaves into South Africa. Meanwhile, at first the Europeans traded with the natives, but they soon fell out. In 1658 they fought their first war, the first of many.

Little by little the Dutch colony in South Africa expanded and from 1688 French Huguenots (Protestant) arrived fleeing religious persecution. Little by little the natives were expelled from their lands and in 1713 many died in a smallpox epidemic.

British South Africa

In 1795 the British captured Cape Colony (South Africa). They returned it to the Dutch in 1803, but took it back in 1806. In 1814 a treaty confirmed British ownership of the Cape Colony. In 1812 the British founded Grahamstown and in 1820 4,000 British received land from the Great Fish River.

The Boers (Dutch settlers) in South Africa resented British rule. When slavery was abolished in 18344, they were further antagonized. Eventually the Boers began a mass migration of the British called the Long March.

In 1838 the Boers fought and defeated the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River. Finally, the Boers founded two republics far removed from the British, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. In the 1850s the British recognized the two Boer republics.

However, the situation changed in 1867 when diamonds were found in the Northern Cape. In 1871 diamonds were also found in the Kimberley. Gold was discovered in Gauteng in 1886.

Meanwhile, in 1879, the British fought the Zulus in South Africa. The British were defeated by the Zulus at Isandhlwana but won the war.

The British were increasingly interested in bringing all of South Africa, including the Boer republics, under their control. In 1884 Lesotho became a British protectorate. In 1894 the Kingdom of Swaziland became a protectorate.

Meanwhile, British colonists had moved into the Transvaal Republic. The Boers called them Uitlanders (foreigners). Cecil Rhodes was Prime Minister of British South Africa from 1890 to 1895 and in 1895 he planned a rebellion of Uitlanders in the Transvaal, to be supported by a South African force led by Leander Starr Jameson.

The goal was to overthrow the government of Paul Kruger, president of the Transvaal. However, the attack on Jameson in January 1896 was defeated by the Boers and Jameson himself was captured. The two Boer republics were formed and the alliance and hostility between them and the British grew.

Finally, in October 1899, the war began in South Africa between the Boers and the British. At first the Boers were successful, but in 1900 more British troops arrived and the Boers were repulsed.

The Boers then engaged in guerrilla warfare. However, Kitchener, the British commander, began herding Boer women and children into concentration camps where more than 20,000 of them died of disease.

20th century in South Africa

The Boers finally surrendered in 1902 and the British annexed the Boer republics. In 1910, a united South Africa received a constitution. It came to be known as the Union of South Africa.

From the beginning, blacks were second-class citizens in South Africa. Most lived on tribal reservations and were prevented by laws of 1913 and 1936 from owning land outside certain areas. Most blacks were not allowed to vote. In 1912, black South Africans founded the South African National Congress (later the ANC), but initially achieved little.

In 1914 South Africa joined the First World War against Germany. That year there was a Boer rebellion, which was crushed. In 1918 Afrikaners (descendants of Dutch settlers) founded a secret organization called the Broederbond (brotherhood).

In 1939 South Africa joined World War II against Germany. However, some Afrikaners opposed this decision.

In 1948 the National Party came to power in South Africa. The party introduced a strict apartheid (separation) policy. Whites and blacks were already largely segregated. The new laws make segregation much stricter.

However, in 1955, organizations representing Blacks, Whites, Coloreds, and Indians formed the Congressional Alliance. In 1955 they adopted the Freedom Charter. However, divisions soon occurred. In 1958 some black South Africans broke away from the ANC and formed the Pan African Congress or PAC. They were led by Robert Sobukwe.

In 1960, both the ANC and the PAC planned demonstrations against the approval laws, which restricted the movements of blacks. On March 21, 1960, Sobukwe led a demonstration in which thousands of people participated. In Sharpeville the police shot at them killing 69. The government banned the ANC and the PAC. And in 1963 Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison.

Meanwhile, in 1961, South Africa left the Commonwealth and became a republic.

In 1966, Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd was assassinated, but otherwise South Africa remained quiet until 1976, though natural black resentment continued to simmer.

Riots began in Soweto on June 16, 1976. The riots spread and continued until 1977. In 1978, PW Botha became Prime Minister.

He was determined to continue apartheid and in 1983 introduced a new constitution with a tricameral parliament, with chambers for whites, blacks and Indians (with no representation for blacks). However, the new Constitution did not please anyone.

Meanwhile, other countries increasingly imposed economic sanctions on South Africa, and resistance to apartheid grew within the country. In 1989 Botha was forced out of office. He was replaced by Willem de Klerk, who in 1990 pledged to end apartheid.

He also freed Nelson Mandela. De Klerk introduced a new constitution with rights for all. The first democratic elections were held in April 1994 and in May 1994 Nelson Mandela was elected president. He retired in 1999.

21st century South Africa

At the beginning of the 21st century, South Africa’s economy grew, but recently it has slowed down. South Africa suffers from a high level of unemployment. The country also suffers from widespread poverty. However, tourism in South Africa is a major industry, and the country is also rich in minerals. Today, the population of South Africa is 56 million.

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