History of South Africa

In the history of South Africa, the earliest known settlers of the country were the San and Khoekhoe people, collectively known as Khoisan. They were two distinct cultural groups who were essentially hunter-gatherers and agro-pastoralists respectively. They were soon followed by the Bantu- speaking tribes. But there are evidences to prove that much before the arrival of these distinct groups, the region had been inhabited by modern civilization over 100,000 years. The history of South Africa is a journey through huge obstacles towards creating a single united nation from an immense diversity.

Early European Colonization---
The advent of the Europeans in South Africa was the cause of much trauma for the natives. The Khoekhoes were the first indigenous people to come into contact with the Dutch settlers.

The first Europeans to arrive in South Africa were the Portuguese Seafarers who initiated the sea route to India in 1488. They were soon followed by other Europeans since the late 16 th century.

Dutch settlers arrived in 1652. They set up a base for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) at Cape to provision passing ships. Gradually the Dutch settlement in Cape grew into a colony and by early 1700s; the colonists began to spread into the hinterland and the interiors as farmers. Their efforts to seize ancestral land met with much resistance from the indigenous inhabitants of the country. The Dutch settlers soon began to speak their own Dutch dialect- Afrikaans and attempted to set up their own independent republic.

British Colonial period---
Since 1795 the British took control of Cape of Good Hope with a brief interval in between due to the return of Dutch rule from 1803 to 1806 during the Napoleonic wars. In 1815, the British took permanent control of the Cape colony and brought in more settlers. Meanwhile the Afrikaner settlers advanced eastward and set up camp at Port Natal. However, Natal was declared a British Colony in 1843.

As a result of the Anglicization of the government and freeing of slaves, the Afrikaners were disgruntled and embarked on a mass migration known as the "Great Trek" into the northern interior. They set up the Boer republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State.

Sovereignty over the discoveries of diamond and gold in the years 1867 and 1886 was contested and gave rise to conflicts. Increasing tension between the British settlers and Transvaal authorities resulted in the outbreak of the first Anglo-Boer War in 1880. In the first war the British were defeated but in the second Anglo-Boer War in 1899, they emerged victorious.

The Union of South Africa was formed on 31 May 1910. The National Party came into power in 1948 and devised a harsh system of segregation known as apartheid. This system gave rise to Black hostility and resistence worldwide, resulting in the formation of African National Congress (ANC) in 1912, an anti-apartheid organization. In 1960, the ANC was banned and in 1964 Nelson Mandela, the leader of the African National Congress was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The system of apartheid began to lose its grip on South Africa after F. W. de Klerk became the State president in 1989. He removed the ban on the ANC and in 1990 released Nelson Mandela from life imprisonment.

In April, 1994, South Africa had their first democratic election which was won by the ANC and in 10 May, 1994, Nelson Mandela became the country's first Black president.


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