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South Africa Introduction



   

  South Africa lies at the southern tip of the continent Africa, with the Indian Ocean on its eastern and southern coasts and the South Atlantic Ocean on its western coast.
     The country is more than twice as large as France. South Africa is the richest and most highly developed country in sub-Saharan Africa. It occupies only about 4 per cent of the continent's area and has only about 6 per cent of its people.

A Short Background

After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch settlers (the Boers) trekked north to found their own republics. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants.

The Boers resisted British encroachments, but were defeated in the Boer War (1899-1902). The resulting Union of South Africa operated under a policy of apartheid - the separate development of the races. The 1990s brought an end to apartheid politically and ushered in black majority rule.

PEOPLE
Until 1991, South African law divided the population into four major racial categories: Africans (black), whites, coloreds, and Asians. Although this law has been abolished, many South Africans still view themselves and each other according to these categories. Africans comprise about 78% of the population and are divided into a number of different ethnic groups.

Whites comprise about 10% of the population. They are primarily descendants of Dutch, French, English, and German settlers who began arriving at the Cape in the late 17th century. Coloreds are mixed-race people primarily descending from the earliest settlers and the indigenous peoples. They comprise about 9% of the total population.

Asians descend from Indian workers brought to South Africa in the mid-19th century to work on the sugar estates in Natal. They constitute about 3% of the population and are concentrated in the KwaZulu-Natal Province.

Education is in a state of flux. Under the apartheid system schools were segregated, and the quantity and quality of education varied significantly across racial groups.

Although the laws governing this segregation have been abolished, the long and arduous process of restructuring the country's educational system is just beginning. The challenge is to create a single nondiscriminatory, nonracial system that offers the same standards of education to all people.

HISTORY
People have inhabited southern Africa for thousands of years. Members of the Khoisan language groups are the oldest surviving inhabitants of the land, but only a few are left in South Africa today--and they are located in the western sections.

Most of today's black South Africans belong to the Bantu language group, which migrated south from central Africa, settling in the Transvaal region sometime before AD 100. The Nguni, ancestors of the Zulu and Xhosa, occupied most of the eastern coast by 1500.

The Portugese were the first Europeans to reach the Cape of Good Hope, arriving in 1488. However, permanent white settlement did not begin until 1652 when the Dutch East India Company established a provisioning station on the Cape.

In subsequent decades, French Huguenot refugees, the Dutch, and Germans began to settle in the Cape. Collectively, they form the Afrikaner segment of today's population. The establishment of these settlements had far-reaching social and political effects on the groups already settled in the area, leading to upheaval in these societies and the subjugation of their people.

By 1779, European settlements extended throughout the southern part of the Cape and east toward the Great Fish River. It was here that Dutch authorities and the Xhosa fought the first frontier war. The British gained control of the Cape of Good Hope at the end of the 18th century. Subsequent British settlement and rule marked the beginning of a long conflict between the Afrikaners and the English.

Beginning in 1836, partly to escape British rule and cultural hegemony and partly out of resentment at the recent abolition of slavery, many Afrikaner farmers (Boers) undertook a northern migration that became known as the "Great Trek."

This movement brought them into contact and conflict with African groups in the area, the most formidable of which were the Zulus. Under their powerful leader, Shaka (1787-1828), the Zulus conquered most of the territory between the Drakensberg Mountains and the sea (now KwaZulu-Natal).

In 1828, Shaka was assassinated and replaced by his half-brother Dingane. In 1838, Dingane was defeated and deported by the Voortrekkers (people of the Great Trek) at the battle of Blood River. The Zulus, nonetheless, remained a potent force, defeating the British in the historic battle of Isandhlwana before themselves being finally conquered in 1879.

In 1852 and 1854, the independent Boer Republics of the Transvaal and Orange Free State were created. Relations between the republics and the British Government were strained.

The discovery of diamonds at Kimberley in 1870 and the discovery of large gold deposits in the Witwatersrand region of the Transvaal in 1886 caused an influx of European (mainly British) immigration and investment. Many blacks also moved into the area to work in the mines.

The construction by mine owners of hostels to house and control their workers set patterns that later extended throughout the region.

Boer reactions to this influx and British political intrigues led to the Anglo-Boer Wars of 1880-81 and 1899-1902. British forces prevailed in the conflict, and the republics were incorporated into the British Empire.

In May 1910, the two republics and the British colonies of the Cape and Natal formed the Union of South Africa, a self-governing dominion of the British Empire. The Union's constitution kept all political power in the hands of whites.

In 1912, the South Africa Native National Congress was founded in Bloemfontein and eventually became known as the African National Congress (ANC).

Its goals were the elimination of restrictions based on color and the enfranchisement of and parliamentary representation for blacks. Despite these efforts the government continued to pass laws limiting the rights and freedoms of blacks.

In 1948, the National Party (NP) won the all-white elections and began passing legislation codifying and enforcing an even stricter policy of white domination and racial separation known as "apartheid" (separateness).

In the early 1960s, following a protest in Sharpeville in which 69 protesters were killed by police and 180 injured, the ANC and Pan-African Congress (PAC) were banned. Nelson Mandela and many other anti-apartheid leaders were convicted and imprisoned on charges of treason.

The ANC and PAC were forced underground and fought apartheid through guerrilla warfare and sabotage. In May 196 1, South Africa relinquished its dominion status and declared itself a republic. It withdrew from the Commonwealth in part because of international protests against apartheid.

In 1984, a new constitution came into effect in which whites allowed coloreds and Asians a limited role in the national government and control over their own affairs in certain areas. Ultimately, however, all power remained in white hands. Blacks remained effectively disenfranchised.

Popular uprisings in black and colored townships in 1976 and 1985 helped to convince some NP members of the need for change. Secret discussions between those members and Nelson Mandela began in 1986. In February 1990, State President F.W. de Klerk, who had come to power in September 1989, announced the unbanning of the ANC, the PAC, and all other anti-apartheid groups. Two weeks later, Nelson Mandela was released from prison.

In 1991, the Group Areas Act, Land Acts, and the Population Registration Act--the last of the so-called "pillars of apartheid" were abolished. A long series of negotiations ensued, resulting in a new constitution promulgated into law in December 1993. The country's first nonracial elections were held on April 26-29, 1994, resulting in the installation of Nelson Mandela as president on May 10, 1994.

During Nelson Mandela's 5-year term as President of South Africa, the government committed itself to reforming the country. The ANC-led government focused on social issues that were neglected during the apartheid era such as unemployment, housing shortages, and crime. Mandela's administration began to reintroduce South Africa into the global economy by implementing a market-driven economic plan (GEAR).

In order to heal the wounds created by apartheid, the government created the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) under the leadership of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. During the first term of the ANC's post-apartheid rule, President Mandela concentrated on national reconciliation, trying to forge a single South African identity and sense of purpose among a diverse and splintered populace, riven by years of conflict.

The lack of political violence after 1994 is testament to the abilities of Mandela to achieve this difficult goal. Nelson Mandela stepped down as President of the ANC at the party's national congress in December 1997, when Thabo Mbeki assumed the mantle of leadership.

Mbeki won the presidency of South Africa after national elections in 1999, when the ANC won just shy of a two-thirds majority in parliament. President Mbeki shifted the focus of government from reconciliation to transformation, particularly on the economic front.

With political transformation and the foundation of a strong democratic system in place after two free and fair national elections, the ANC recognized the need to begin to focus on bringing economic power to the black majority in South Africa, as well as political power. In this progress has come somewhat more slowly.


1UpTravel's Guide to South-africa

Topography of South-africa - Read more about the geography and topography of South-africa

History of South-africa - Presents a detailed historical background and culture of South-africa

Life & People of South-africa - Study the characteristics, background, and details on the people of South-africa

Local Cuisine of South-africa - Find out delicious local cuisines of South-africa

Holidays in South-africa - Check out a list of the local holidays in South-africa

Festivals in South-africa - Learn about the festivals in South-africa

Embassies of South-africa - Provides an Embassy database for South-africa

Administration facts of South-africa - Learn about the governmental administration facts of South-africa

Newstands in South-africa - Browse through a collection of local online newspapers of South-africa

Attractions in South-africa - Discover the best places to visit, sight seeing, and tourist attractions in South-africa

Maps of South-africa - Discover a detailed map of South-africa

Map Database of South-africa - Browse a large collection of city, country, historical, political, thematic, and shaded relief maps of South-africa

Flags of South-africa - Uncover the flag images and description of the flag of South-africa. Includes historical flags, symbols, and related information

Weather for cities of South-africa - Browse weather forecast, hourly conditions, temperature, sunrise, sunset, and other weather related reports for the cities of South-africa

Shopping in South-africa - Find out the best places for shopping in South-africa

Restaurants in South-africa - Browse a list of eat-outs in South-africa

Geography of South-africa - Highlights the location, map references, area, land boundaries, climate, natural resources, land use, natural hazards, environment, and geography of South-africa

People of South-africa - Learn about the population, age structure, birth and death rate, sex ratio, nationality, ethnic groups, religions, languages, and literacy in South-africa

Government and Politics in South-africa - Profiles the country name, government type, administrative divisions, independence, national holiday, constitution, legal system, suffrage, executive, legislative, and judicial branches, political parties and leaders, and a flag description of South-africa.

Economy of South-africa - Study the GDP, growth rate, per capita, inflation, labor, budget, industries, exports, imports, currency, exchange rates, and economy of South-africa

Communications in South-africa - Browse statistics on telephones, mobile and cellular lines in use, radio broadcast stations, televisions, internet country code, ISP's, internet users, and facts on communications in South-africa

Transportation in South-africa - Offers statistical details on the railways, highways, waterways, ports & harbors, airports, and other facts on transportation in South-africa

Military of South-africa - Provides statistics on military branches, army, air force, navy, manpower, military service, expenditure, and facts on military in South-africa

Transnational Issues of South-africa - Explore international disputes and transnational issues of South-africa

1Up Info - South Africa Political Geography - Encyclopedia resource provides information on the country along with its cities.


 





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