The Republic of South Africa occupies the southernmost part of Africa. Its neighbors
are Namibia, the Republic of Botswana, Zimbabwe, the Republic of Mozambique and
the Kingdom of Swaziland.
South African territory completely encloses the Kingdom of Lesotho. Prince Edward
and Marion Islands1,920 km south east of Cape Town in the South Atlantic, were
taken into possession by South Africa in 1947. South Africa is one of the world's
richest countries in terms of minerals.
The country is the world's largest producer of gold.However,1996 was one of the
local gold industry's worst years and South Africa now ranks behind Australia,Canada
and the United States as the highest–cost producer.
More Detailed 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
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
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.
Visitors have traditionally come to South Africa for its scenic
beauty and wild life, but since the transition to democratic rule
, people now come to see where 'The Struggle began and ended' Roben
Island, once a maximum–security prison for political offenders,
is now a major tourist attraction.
Historically, indigenous culture was, at best given a passing–patronizing
nod.These cultures have now burst into the consciousness with 11
official languages and the blend of East, West and Africa creating
the new south Africa. Local music, especially jazz, cuisine, art,
architecture, literature and theatre are typically South African.Our
culture does not only include the present ,anthropologists have
found here the oldest remains yet of our own species, 'homo sapiens',
in fossils and artifacts.
More recent inhabitants of the Southern tip of Africa, the nomadic
San people, have also left invaluable traces of their past. Their
priceless rock art painted in caves and onrocks is one of the worlds
richest art heritages. The arrival of European settlers, Malay slaves
and Indian created a new blend of cuisines.
The result is a gastronomic feast of spicy curries, bredies (slow
cooked stews), traditional African dishes and our home–grown cultural
'braai' Art ranges from traditional craft to modern painting, music
includes anything from opera to cabaret, classical to jazz,presented
in glittering state theatres or tiny, sociable pubs known as 'shebeens'
in the township. Dance covers classical ballet to Zulu war dances.