The indigenous peoples khoikhoi and san have
lived in South Africa for thousands of years, but today
they constitute only a pillar of the Kalahari desert.
They were gradually pushed away by diet-speaking people
who became ancestors of today's black South Africans.
The Bantu people were farmers and used metal tools.
Historians and archaeologists dispute when they began to
come to South Africa, during the first century AD or
even a thousand years later.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of South Africa, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
In 1488, Portuguese ships circled the Godahoppsudden,
and Europe became aware of the existence of South
Africa. At the end of the 16th century, Dutch and
Englishmen chopped off the South African coast, but only
with Dutchman Jan van Riebeeck's ascent of 1652 in Table
Bay, where Cape Town is today, the white colonization
Riebeeck's intention was not to establish a colony.
On behalf of the Dutch East India Company, he would set
up a trading station where vessels on their way to India
could supply with meat, vegetables and dairy products,
among others. But the local residents did not want to
let go of their animals because a khoikhoi's status was
based on livestock ownership. Therefore, the Dutch who
were employed by the company had to become farmers in
South Africa to supply food to the vessels.
Because of khoikhoi's resistance to working on the
white settlers' farms, slaves were imported, many of
whom were Malays. However, more and more livestockless
khoikhoi were sought for the farms. Mixed marriage
between slaves and khoikhoi gave rise to the people
group in today's South Africa called colored. Gradually,
sexual relations were prohibited across racial
In 1795, the Cape Colony was taken by Britain, which,
however, was forced to return the area to the
Netherlands under the Treaty of Amiens in 1803. Three
years later the British regained control. The colony
expanded along the East Coast during constant battles
with the Xhosa and Zulu people. However, the descendants
of Dutch immigrants, the Boers or the Africans, tired of
the British empire. Some left the Cape Province and
headed north-east. Those who gave up considered
themselves to be a select people with a mission to
civilize black Africa. They fought many battles with the
Zulus, while at the same time marking their independence
in relation to the English. The hike to the north is
called “Groot Trek” and has been given a legendary role
in Africans history writing.
At the beginning of the 1850s, the Boers established
two republics, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal,
in central South Africa. This happened with the
British's consent, but when diamonds and gold were found
in the African territories a few decades later, the
British wanted to control the whole of South Africa.
The conflict between British and Africans triggered
the so-called Boer War of 1899, which severely affected
civilians. British soldiers burned down 30000 of the
Boer farms. Women and children gathered in concentration
camps, where over 25,000 boers died in diseases.
Eventually, a peace agreement was signed in the city of
Vereeniging in 1902 and the two republics of the Boers
lost their independence.
British and Boers jointly designed a constitution for
the South African Union. It came into force in 1910. The
Union included the Boer republics of the Orange Free
State and the Transvaal, as well as the British colonies
of the Cape Province and Natal.
The loss of war caused deep and long-lasting
bitterness on the part of the Boers, and the social and
economic development gradually widened the gap between
the two peoples. From the beginning, however, there was
a common interest among the farmers and the British
mining roads to exploit the cheap black labor force and
gain ground. In 1913, a land law was passed that gave 87
percent of South Africa to the whites and 13 percent to
the blacks, who were in the overwhelming majority.
The Constitution of the Union did not give the blacks
any civil and political rights. The only exception was
in the Cape Province, where black and colored, according
to practice, were given the right to vote for the
national parliament. But only white candidates could be
The discrimination aroused strong reactions among
black leaders. In 1912, they formed an organization,
later named the African National Congress (ANC), which
came to fight for the black political rights.
The industrialization of South Africa was financed
with income from the British-owned mines and the British
came to dominate business. At the same time, the
agriculture of the whites was rationalized and many poor
white farmers abandoned the cultivation and applied
themselves to the cities and mines. This resulted in a
white working class of Africans. Unlike the black
workers, the white mining and industrial workers had the
right to organize themselves. The union made sure that
whites benefited in the labor market.
During the 1920s, industrialization gained momentum
and the need for labor increased. The whites, however,
were not enough to fill all the gaps, and the business
community wanted to recruit blacks even to more
qualified jobs. This led to protests from the white
The Africans were a church people and when the Dutch
Reformed Church developed a racial separation theology,
it had far-reaching consequences in society. The
Nationalist Party, the Party of Africans, won in the
1948 elections, demanding a consistently applied racial
distinction - apartheid.