History

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History in South Africa

It is widely thought that man (homo sapiens) originated from Africa, so this is a good place to start. Modern humans (man invent wheel, man hunt, man eat) have inhabited southern Africa for more than 100,000 years and are among the oldest known people to have walked this earth. The two oldest and dominant tribes were the Xhosa and Zulu, whose languages are still spoken today.

The first European to reach southern Africa was Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias in 1487. He sailed up and down, discovering a fair few places along the way. In 1488 he came across the most southern point of Africa and called it 'Cape of Storms'. His King, John II, renamed it 'Cape of Good Hope' as it led to gold in the East Indies. Cape of Good Hope has a better ring to it too...

It wasn't until 1652 that a Dutchman, Jan van Riebeeck, established a refreshment station at the Cape of Good Hope. This grew and grew and became Cape Town. The Dutch East India Company started cropping up all over the place and creating small settlements. Soon the country was teeming with the Dutch - the locals didn't like that much.

Cape Town became a British colony in 1806 in England’s desire to rule the world. Soon after diamonds and gold were discovered. I guess diamonds can make anyone go crazy because a number of conflicts broke out between the British, the Dutch, the Xhosa, the Zulu and Afrikaner's, all for land and wealth. These wars were known as the Anglo-Boer Wars. The only good thing to come out of all of this was slavery was abolished in 1833.

During the 1830s, approximately 12,000 Boers departed from the Cape Colony to flee from British control. However, the Boers discovered more diamonds and gold, and again the British wanted a piece of the action, so there was two more Boer Wars, which the British eventually won.

South Africa was eventually given independence on the 31st May 1910 from the British, though initially only whites ruled.

In 1948, the National Party was elected to power. It strengthened the racial segregation begun under Dutch and British colonial rule. The white minority controlled the vastly larger black majority and the system of segregation became known collectively as apartheid. The white minority enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle while the black majority lived in poverty, being constantly oppressed by their white neighbours.

Countries started to shun South Africa in terms of business and expansion, but still the apartheid continued.

In 1990 the National Party government took the first step towards dismantling discrimination when it lifted the ban on the African National Congress, the largest opposition political party for blacks. The NP released Nelson Mandela from prison after twenty-seven years serving a sentence for sabotage. Read his book 'A Long Walk to Freedom'. It’s a cracker...

In 1992, 68% of the voting white population voted in a referendum to have the apartheid system abolished. This was quickly followed by a new constitution in 1993 and the first fully democratic election in 1994, which the ANC won by an overwhelming majority. Unsurprising really after it had been oppressed for so long. It has been in power ever since...

South Africans are still trying to throw off the yoke of past prejudices, and one of the ways they are doing this is by showing people first hand that finally there is unity within the country.