Daily Archives: February 10, 2014

Countdown to Africa – South African History Simplified

I’ve long enjoyed reading a novel about the area I’m visiting.  I’m currently reading the classic, Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton about South Africa for this trip.  Some of the following information comes from that novel.

South Africa, referred to as the Cradle of Humankind, has been occupied for many thousands of years.  The earliest occupants were native Bushmen and the Khoikhoi (Hottentots) in the Cape area and the Bantu (Zulu) to the north.  Europeans arrived on the scene in 1652 when the Dutch landed at the Cape of Good Hope and founded a colony.  The Cape Colony gradually expanded, driving the native people from the land and eventually the need for additional workers resulted in the import of slaves.  (Sound familiar?)

By the early 1800’s, the British took over rule of the area from the Dutch and British settlers moved in causing resentment among the Dutch Boers. (Boer is the Dutch word for farmer.  These people were later called Afrikaners.)  Soon after the abolition of slavery in 1834, the Boers began the Great Trek to escape British rule and eventually established 2 republics of their own, the Orange Free State and Transvaal.

Eventually, the British wanted control of the Dutch republics to unite the area and by 1900 the Anglo-Boer War ensued.  The British prevailed and in 1910 the Union of South Africa was formed.  Lack of agreement between the British and the Afrikaners over the treatment of the majority native population, however, resulted in the policy of separate development later known as apartheid.

Apartheid became the official policy of racial segregation and subjugation in South Africa following WWII.  People were classified by race as black, white, colored, or Indian.  Racial injustice to dispossess and disenfranchise the majority native population flourished in South Africa in spite of international pressure until apartheid was finally abolished in 1993.  Nelson Mandela, the resistance leader who was jailed for 27 years, was elected the first black President in 1994.

Today, 20 years later, the struggle to establish social and economic justice in post-apartheid South Africa continues.

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