The little I know about the history of South Africa

The first people to live in South Africa were called the San, nomadic hunters-gatherers, about 40 000 years ago. Around 500 AD the Bantu people made their way into SA. The Bantu are from northern and western Africa (around the Niger Delta). The Bantu were semi-nomadic and started keeping livestock, farming and eventually settled in SA.

I'm not sure how they are all related but the local tribes were the Khoesaan, Lemba and the Bantu mixes formed the Zulu and Xhosa people. I may be wrong on some of these mixes.....

In the late 15th century, fueled by the Ottomans taking over Constatinople and most of Northern Africa and eastern Europe, European countries started looking for alternative routes to India. ( i have to go to Turkey one day to see what these ottomans were about and to India to see why everyone had to find routes to get there.....)

Anyhow so the first to see Cape Town were the Portuguese, Bartholomeu Dias, who first named the Cape of good hope. The shores of Cape Town are not very easy to sail and are very rocky so no one really wanted to come to shore. However, as the route to India became more and more popular, the Europeans needed a place for ships to stop and stock up on fresh food so the Dutch decided to make a small settlement of farmers with no real interest to colonise the area. The Dutch East India trading Company (VOC) sent over a few farmers and sailors under the command of Jan Van Reibeeck in 1652.

With time, European interest in the Cape grew. Fleeing religious persecution in Europe, members of the Dutch Calvinist reformed Church came to settle in. They believed they had been chosen to convert and dominate the inferior black race in the area. Also the Dutch didn't want to turn the local Khoekhoen people into slaves for fear of an uproar and therefore they imported alot of slaves from elsewhere in Africa, Madagascar...and Indonesia.

This went on for some time until the VOC started facing financial problems and the English saw alot of potential for Cape Town and the surrounding area. So the dutch (now called the Boers) and the english fought it out until 1814 when the english finally took over.

In 1833 slavery was abolished which the Boers saw as being against the God-given order than white people should be superior to the blacks....

Then history went on, another Boers-Anglo war was fought in the late 19th century which the English won but agreed to some of the Boers' requests in order to keep the peace, notably recognising Afrikaans as an official language and the reconstruction of some Boers' lands.

Gold and diamonds were found in South Africa and the rich were getting richer while the blacks were segregated and restricted in their living/working conditions and everything else. Despite that Apartheid was only made official in 1948, the principles were on-going from well before. Blacks which constituted about 85% of the population were forced to live in township representing about 14% of the total land, the rest belonged to the whites, they had no voting rights, no right to be part of parliament, no right to own property, had to carry a pass around which not only identified them but dictated where they could live, work and even walk around. Everyone was defined along the lines of their race, black, coloured (Metis or indian) or something like that. Mixed marriage and interracial sex were made illegal punishable by imprisonment....

SA joined the allied forces during WWII fighting against the Nazi idea of a "perfect superior" race while the outlines of Apartheid were being drawn up. I was told that parliament actually voted to fight along side the Germans due to the similarity of their visions but the vote was ignored due to South Africa's ties with Britain.

The rest I think everyone knows, the ANC was formed (African National Congress) which Nelson Mandela was a very active player. At first the ANC went about things in a Gandhi non-violent protest way but realizing it was going nowhere started sabotaging government buildings and such. Nelson Mandela was sent to life prison on Robben Island in 1964. In 1990 he was released and became president in 1994 and got the Nobel Peace Prize.

How it seems today.

I was at Robben Island yesterday and part of the tour in given by a former prisoner, a former member of the ANC who set something on fire. He talked about the inhumane treatment the prisoners got, from beatings to hard labour to starving...and how his father was shot when coming to visit him. He also talked with great respect about Mista Mandela who was the spokesperson for all the prisoners and also taught him and many others to read and helped him get his high school diploma through correspondence. I also talked to another guide who grew up with Apartheid and who was saying that yes things have changed but still not as much as he had hoped. Many say they never thought Apartheid would go down in their lifetime. It's a strange feeling, it's not the first time in my visit to Africa that I've been ashamed of the colour of my skin, but what's strange about everything here is that we're not talking 100 years ago.....were talking not even 20 years ago. In all honesty racism exists everywhere but the idea that it was made a law, that people sat down and said "yeah this is a good idea", I still can't get over.

Talking to people you realize just how much it's done to the country and how it, of course, still impacts how people think. There is resentment between the Afrikaners (dutch) and the english, the white and the blacks, the indians..... and there are still people who think that Apartheid was a good idea? Of course things are improving but still alot slower than you would think.

So that's it in a nutshell as I know it and my knowledge is very limited I'm sure, but it gives one an idea of how things are.


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