History of South Africa

Early South Africa

People in what is now South Africa subsisted on hunting and gathering plants over a hundred thousand years ago. They had stone implements. People in the west eventually learnt how to herd sheep and cattle some 2,000 years ago. In the east of South Africa, iron tools and mixed farming (producing crops and keeping livestock) were introduced around 200 AD.

The Portuguese sailed by the Cape of Good Hope around the end of the 15th century. However, the Europeans did not establish a colony in South Africa until 1652. The Dutch established a post in 1652 under the leadership of Jan van Riebeeck so that ships going to the Far East could be stocked. The Dutch began bringing slaves into South Africa around 1658. At first, the Europeans and aboriginal people traded, but soon ties were broken. They engaged in their first war, the first of many, in 1658.

The Dutch colony in South Africa gradually grew, and in 1688 French Huguenots (Protestants) who were fleeing religious persecution began to settle there. Native Americans were gradually expelled from their territory, and a smallpox pandemic in 1713 claimed a large number of lives.

British South Africa

The British took control of the Cape Colony in 1795. They handed it back to the Dutch in 1803 but took it again in 1806. In 1814 a treaty confirmed British ownership of Cape Colony. Grahamstown was established by the British in 1812, and the Great Fish River handed territory to 4,000 more Britons in 1820.

The Dutch settlers in South Africa known as “Boers” hated British rule. They were further enraged when slavery was abolished in 18344. The Great Trek, a Boers’ mass exodus from the British, finally started. At the Battle of Blood River in 1838, the Boers engaged the Zulus and beat them. In the end, the Boers established the Transvaal and the Orange Free State as independent republics. The British acknowledged the two Boer republics in the 1850s.

However, the situation changed in 1867 when diamonds were found in Northern Cape. In 1871 diamonds were also found at Kimberley. Gold was discovered at Gauteng in 1886.

Meanwhile in 1879, the British fought the Zulus in South Africa. The British were badly defeated by the Zulus at the Isandhlwana but they went on to win the war.

Increasingly the British were keen to bring all of South Africa, including the Boer republics under their control. Lesotho was under British protection in 1884. The Swaziland Kingdom established a protectorate in 1894.

British settlers had arrived in the Transvaal Republic in the interim. They were known as Uitlanders by the Boers (foreigners). From 1890 to 1895, Cecil Rhodes served as the Prime Minister of British South Africa. In 1895, he hatched a plan to support an Uitlander insurrection in the Transvaal with a force from South Africa under the command of Leander Starr Jameson. The Paul Kruger-led Transvaal government was intended to be overthrown.

The Boers, however, were able to repel the January 1896 Jameson Raid, and Jameson was caught. As the two Boer republics united, their animosity toward the British increased.

The Boers and British conflict in South Africa finally broke out in October 1899. The Boers initially had success, but in 1900 additional British troops came, and the Boers were forced to retreat. Guerrilla warfare was then used by the Boers. The British commander Kitchener, however, started herding Boer women and children into concentration camps, where more than 20,000 of them perished from disease.

20th Century South Africa

In 1902, the Boers gave up and the British annexed the Boer republics. United South Africa received a constitution in 1910. Union of South Africa was the name given to it.

Black people in South Africa were treated as second-class citizens almost from the beginning. The statutes of 1913 and 1936 prohibited them from owning land outside of particular locations because the majority of them resided in tribal reservations. Most black people were denied the right to vote. Black South Africans established the South African National Congress (later the ANC) in 1912, although their early efforts were not very successful.

South Africa enlisted in the German-led First World War in 1914. The Boers attempted to rebel that year, but it was put down. Afrikaners, who are descended from Dutch settlers, established the Broederbond, a covert organization, in 1918. (brotherhood).

South Africa enlisted in the Second World War in 1939 to fight Germany. Some Afrikaners, however, disagreed with this choice.

In South Africa, the National Party took control in 1948. The group implemented a rigid apartheid policy (separateness). Blacks and whites were already largely segregated. Segregation was made considerably tighter by new rules.

The Congress Alliance was established in 1955 by organizations that fought for the rights of white people, black people, coloured people, and Indians. They adopted the Freedom Charter in 1955. However, rifts soon developed. The Pan Africanist Congress, sometimes known as the PAC, was founded in 1958 by several black South Africans who left the ANC. Robert Sobukwe served as their leader.

Both the ANC and the PAC organized protests in 1960 against newly established legislation restricting the freedom of movement for black people. Sobukwe led a march of tens of thousands of people on March 21, 1960. Police in Sharpeville opened fire on them, killing 69 people. The ANC and the PAC were outlawed by the government. Nelson Mandela was also given a life sentence in jail in 1963.

South Africa, meantime, declared a republic and quit the Commonwealth in 1961.

Despite the assassination of Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd in 1966, South Africa remained peaceful until 1976, although understandably, black discontent continued to boil beneath the surface. n On June 16, 1976, Soweto saw the first riots. In 1977, the riots were still going strong.

P W Botha was appointed prime minister in 1978. He proposed a new constitution in 1983 with a tricameral parliament and houses for whites, coloureds, and Indians because he was determined to keep apartheid in place (with no representation for blacks). However, nobody was happy with the new constitution. South Africa was subjected to escalating economic penalties from other nations while opposition to apartheid rose domestically. Botha was ejected from office in 1989.

Willem de Klerk succeeded him and promised to put an end to apartheid in 1990. Nelson Mandela was also freed by him. De Klerk unveiled a new constitution that guarantees everyone’s rights. Nelson Mandela was elected president in May 1994 after the first democratic elections took place in April of that year. He left his job in 1999.

21st Century South Africa

South Africa’s economy boomed at the beginning of the twenty-first century, but it has recently slowed down. South Africa has a significant unemployment problem. The nation is plagued by pervasive poverty as well. However, South Africa’s tourist sector is a significant one. Additionally mineral-rich in South Africa. The country of South Africa had 59 million people as of 2020.


Do you love this article? Get similar updates on social media. Stay connected on Twitter, Facebook. Original article on The Nation.

Want to Submit Your Biography?

Disclaimer! Each content published on The Nation is for education-related purposes. Contact us to make corrections or contributions.

Was this article helpful?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.