South Africa History and Politics

South Africa History

Who lived in South Africa first?

The first people to settle in South Africa were Bushmen, also known as the San. The Khoikhoi settled on the coasts, but they were already sedentary and arable farmers and cattle breeders. In the third century AD they were ousted by the Bantu.


The Bantu came from Central, West and South Africa. Bantu means “man”. The Bantu immigrated to the region and expelled the Bushmen. They settled in what is now South Africa. But the Bantu were also to be expelled again.

Portuguese in South Africa

When the Europeans scouted out new sea routes and trade routes in the 15th century, they also landed in the south of Africa. The Portuguese Bartolomeu Dias was the first European to come to the South African coast in 1488 in search of the sea route to India.

Vasco da Gama landed a little further east on Christmas Day 1497 and named the region in which he landed Natal, which translated from Portuguese means “Christmas”. So he never forgot that he discovered the country on Christmas Day.

The Boers are coming

The Dutch followed in the middle of the 17th century, sending their traders and merchants to set up a supply station at the Cape of Good Hope. In 1652 Jan van Riebeeck fortified a base for the Dutch East India Company. After all, the Cape was halfway to their trading posts on Java.

But it was expensive and time-consuming to supply these trading establishments from the motherland, the Netherlands, so that the settlement of farmers was encouraged in order to become independent of imports. Word had got around how fertile this country in the south of the African continent was. So more and more Dutch farmers came to settle and farm on the south coast of South Africa. These were called Boers in their own language, which means nothing more than “farmers”.

Not only Dutch came, but also Germans and French, especially Huguenots, who were persecuted in their homeland and subsequently expelled from France. Even today there are manors on the Cape that have French names.

The British are coming

The people of South Africa were not enthusiastic about the foreign immigrants who took their land away from them, believing it was all theirs. They fought against the settlers, but were inferior to them; the invaders’ weapons were more modern and better, even if they themselves were outnumbered. The settlers penetrated further and further into the country and occupied parts of the coast.

But the British also liked the Cape, as it was on their way to their trading posts in Asia. At the beginning of the 19th century the area at the Cape came under British rule and the Boers were ousted. The British took the Cape Colony in 1806 and made it their colony.

What was the big trek?

In 1833, Great Britain abolished slavery. This was inconceivable for the Boers, as their rule was largely based on the exploitation of their slaves. The Boer economy would not have worked without slaves. In 1836 5,000 Boers set out for the interior and took their slaves with them. This extract was also known as the “big trek”.

They founded the Orange Free State, the Transvaal Republic and the Natal Republic, which lies east of the Drakensberg. When natural resources such as gold and diamonds were discovered in the new Boer-settled areas, the English, who had previously recognized the independent Boer regions, also began to be interested in them.

War against the Boers and the Xhosa

The British wanted to expand their colonies in South Africa, but these independent Boer republics stopped their urge to expand. So it came to the Boer War from 1899 to 1902, from which the British emerged victorious. The British waged further wars against the Xhosa, who resisted the colonial power.

In 1910 the South African Republic was proclaimed within the Commonwealth. The Boers put the black population in reservations and they were not allowed to acquire property outside of these areas. Your rights and options were increasingly restricted.

What does apartheid politics mean?

After the National Party took power in South Africa in 1948, it introduced a policy of separation, apartheid (English to part = to separate). From 1950 to 1994, the year in which apartheid was officially abolished, the population was divided into four major classes. They were blacks, whites, coloreds and Asians. The “colored” were South Africans who mostly emerged from a connection between a white man and a black woman. Their children were then referred to as Colored.

Apartheid existed until 1994. This reached far into life. Mixed marriages were prohibited, and transport and public administration were separate. The children went to separate schools.

Living in separate worlds and separate cities

As a country located in Africa according to aristmarketing, the South African Republic was divided into four provinces: the Cape Region, the Orange Free State, Natal and Transvaal. Reserves were created within these republics, ten Bantu homelands. Here the black population had been sealed off from the white.

This racial segregation was also valid in the cities. The centers of the cities belonged to the white population. The outskirts remained for the rest of the population, although numerically these made up the far greater part. These black suburbs were called townships.

Nelson Mandela and the fight against apartheid

In 1976 there were uprisings against this policy in the city of Soweto. The protest movement spread across the country. This movement was led by the ANC – the African Nation Congress. This party fought for the rights of the black population. Their leader was called Nelson Mandela.

Mandela was arrested and jailed for many years. But the ANC continued to fight. But it was only foreign policy pressure that shook the apartheid system. In 1991 Nelson Mandela was released from prison. In 1992, then President de Klerk repealed several apartheid laws.

In 1994 the first democratic elections took place. The ANC won with a large majority. Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa. In the same year there was a new constitution and apartheid was finally passed.

The differences remained

The national territory had to be restructured. So nine provinces were created to incorporate the former homelands. The townships were attached to the cities. However, there were and continue to be great social differences.

What was on paper had not yet reached people’s hearts and minds. Today, many poor South Africans, all of whom are black, live in the former townships, even if they now belong to the cities. The many years of apartheid policy could not be eliminated all at once.

South Africa History