Initially settled as long ago as 40,000 BC by the San people (aka the Bushmen), South Africa later became a stopping point for European trading ships. In 1652, the Dutch began a colony in what’s now Cape Town before expanding across Africa’s southern tip.
Widespread European occupation occurred two centuries later. South Africa became a British colony following the Napoleonic wars, with French invaders repelled. Meanwhile, gradually forced north, the Dutch forged an Afrikaner state and morphed into the Boers - comprising Dutch, Flemish, German, and French farmers. Also growing in power and territory were the Zulu people, under warfaring leader Shaka.
The discovery of diamonds brought all these rival factions into conflict, starting with the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, and then the two Boer Wars between 1880 and 1902. After years of negotiations, a Union of South Africa was tensely agreed in 1910. Fifty years later, South Africa gained full independence as a republic, yet its troubles were far from over.
The republic only strengthened a racial discrimination dating back to colonial rule, and cemented by the Union’s establishment. Apartheid (legally institutionalised segregation) quickly became rampant, including attempts for a Homeland system – a South Africa divided into different ethnic states – and brutal attempts to enforce this.
Three decades of oppression ensued, with laws banning everything from inter-racial marriage to blacks using certain bus stops. In condemnation, international states and the UN embargoed trade with South Africa, and decided on cultural and sporting bans. Relief finally arrived in the 1990s with the release from prison and inspirational presidency of Nelson Mandela (aka Madiba).
At midnight on 26–27 April 1994, the old national anthem Die Stem was sung across the country as the old flag came down. During new anthem Nkosi Sikelele Afrika (God Bless Africa), the symbolic new rainbow banner was raised, and a new South Africa begun.
Now overseen by Jacob Zuma, the modern country is making huge strides in terms of tolerance and equality, much helped by the 2010 World Cup. It still faces major challenges, but there is much hope and pride – commodities sorely lacking just decades ago.
A wonderful 7 night break to South Africa
We have just come back from a wonderful 7 night break to South Africa. We were incredibly well looking after from the second we stepped off the plane, by a lovely representative of Best of South Africa Travel - who met us and escorted us through customs and immigration literally behind the pilots. It was very efficient, and we felt very ...