History of South Africa
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The history of South Africa has been dominated by the communication and conflict of several diverse ethnic groups. The aboriginal San have lived in the region for millennia. Most of the rest of the population, however, trace their history to immigration since. Indigenous Africans in South Africa are descendants of Khoikhoi and Bantu immigrants from further north in Africa, who first entered what are now the confines of the country roughly 2000 years ago. White South Africans are descendants of later European settlers, mainly from the Netherlands and Britain. The Coloureds are descended at least in part from all of these groups, as well as from slaves from Madagascar, East Africa and the then East Indies. There are many South Africans of Indian and Chinese origin, descendants of labourers who arrived in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The history of South Africa is taken here more broadly to cover the history not only of the current South African state but of other polities in the region, including those of the Khoisan, the several Bantu kingdoms in the region before colonisation, the rule of the Dutch in the Cape and the subsequent rule of the British there and in Natal, and the Boer republics, including the Orange Free State and the South African Republic. South Africa was under an official system of racial segregation and white minority rule from 1948 known as Apartheid, until its first egalitarian elections on 27 April 1994, when the ruling African National Congress came to dominate the politics of the country.
- 1 Prehistoric South Africa
- 2 European exploration of South Africa
- 3 Settlers in South Africa
- 3.1 The San
- 3.2 The Khoikhoi
- 3.3 Arrival of the Bantu tribes
- 3.4 History of the Zulu nation
- 3.5 History of the Xhosa people
- 3.6 History of the Ndebele people
- 3.7 History of the Tswana people
- 3.8 History of the Pedi people
- 3.9 History of the Basotho people
- 3.10 Arrival of the Europeans
- 3.11 History of the Boer tribes and nations
- 3.12 Arrival of the Indian South Africans
- 4 Colonisation
- 5 South Africa as one country
- 6 First World War
- 7 Second World War
- 8 Rise of the Apartheid era
- 9 Truth and Reconciliation Commission
- 10 See also
- 11 Footnotes
- 12 References
- 13 Further reading
- 14 External links
Prehistoric South Africa
Since Raymond Dart discovered the skull of the 2.5 million year old Taung Child in 1924, the first example of Australopithecus africanus ever found, South Africa has been considered one of the most important centres of early hominid evolution, alongside Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia. Following in Dart's footsteps Robert Broom discovered a new much more robust hominid in 1938 Paranthropus robustus at Kromdraai, and in 1947 uncovered several more examples of Australipitecus africanus in Sterkfontein. Many more species of early homind have come to light in recent decades. The oldest is Little Foot, a collection of footbones of an unknown hominid between 2.2 to 3.3 million years old, discovered at Sterkfontein by Ronald J. Clarke in 1994. An important recent find was that of 1.9 million year old Australopithecus sediba discovered by paleoanthropologist Lee R. Berger's nine-year-old son Matthew in 2008.
South Africa was also occupied by early Homo sapiens, as shown by the discoveries at Klasies River Caves which revealed fossils and tools from 125,000-75,000 years ago in the middle stone-age. In 2002 in Blombos cave, stones were discovered engraved with grid or cross-hatch patterns, dated to some 70,000 years ago. This has been interpreted as the earliest example of abstract art or symbolic art ever discovered.
Starting from around 500 BC, Khoikhoi with their livestock immigrated from further north. Gradually, hunting and gathering gave way to herding as the dominant economic activity in the region as the Khoikhoi tended to small herds of cattle and oxen. The presence of livestock was the reason for concepts of personal wealth and property-ownership in Khoikhoi society, whose community structures solidified and expanded, and chieftaincies developed. The pastoralist Khoikhoi ('men of men') were initially sharply distinct from the still hunting and gathering San people, whom the white European colonialist settlers referred to as Bushmen. Both groups are referred to with the catch-all term Khoisan. Over time the Khoikhoi established themselves along the coast, while small groups of San continued to inhabit the interior. Eventually, the two groups intermarried, became mixed and hard to tell apart.
Archaeological evidence shows that Bantu-speaking communities had settled in the borders of present-day South Africa circa 500 CE. Their advanced Iron Age culture brought with it sophisticated agriculture and animal husbandry and allowed them to easily displace the original Khoe-San inhabitants.
European exploration of South Africa
Bartolomeu Dias was the first European to explore this region in 1488. Although the Portuguese basked in the nautical achievement of successfully navigating the cape, they showed little interest in colonisation. The area's fierce weather and rocky shoreline posed a threat to their ships, and many of their attempts to trade with the local Khoikhoi ended in conflict. The Portuguese found the Mozambican coast more attractive, with appealing bays to use as way stations, for prawning, and as links to gold ore in the interior.
The Portuguese had little competition in the region until the late 16th century, when the English and Dutch began to challenge the Portuguese along their trade routes. Stops at the continent's southern tip increased, and the Cape became a regular stopover for scurvy-ridden crews. In 1647, a Dutch vessel, Haarlem, was wrecked in the present-day Table Bay at Cape Town. The marooned crew, the first to attempt settlement in the area, built a fort and stayed for a year until they were rescued.
Settlers in South Africa
The first people to settle communities in South Africa were the San tribes.
The Khoikhoi began to settle all over the Southern African region ca. 2000 years ago.
The Griqua people
One of the best-known Khoikhoi groups also included the Griqua mixed race people (San, White, Coloured and Black), who had originally lived on the western coast between St Helena Bay and the Cederberg Range. In the late 18th century, they managed to acquire guns and horses and began trekking north-east. En route, other groups of Khoisan, Coloureds, Blacks and even white adventurers joined them, and they rapidly gained a reputation as a formidable military force. The Griquas were great hunters and became excellent shots, they excelled at guerrilla warfare and won many wars. Ultimately, the Griquas reached the Highveld around present-day Kimberley, where they created their own country that came to be known as Griqualand. They fought in many major wars with many other tribes.
Arrival of the Bantu tribes
The Bantu-speaking Settlers had started to make their way south and eastwards in about 1000 BC, reaching the present-day KwaZulu-Natal Province by around 500 AD. The Bantu-speakers had an advanced Iron Age culture and easily decimated, displaced and assimilated the more primitive San people. The Bantu people kept domestic animals and also farmed sorghum and other crops. They lived in small settled villages. The Bantu-speakers arrived in South Africa in small waves rather than in one cohesive migration. Some groups, the ancestors of today's Nguni peoples (the Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi, and Ndebele), preferred to live near the coast. Others, now known as the Sotho–Tswana peoples (Tswana, Pedi, and Basotho), settled in the Highveld, while today's Venda, Lemba, and Shangaan-Tsonga peoples made their homes in the north-eastern areas of South Africa
Specifics of the contact between Bantu-speakers and Khoisan races remains unknown, although linguistic proof of assimilation survives, as several Southern Bantu languages (notably Xhosa and Zulu) incorporated many click consonants of earlier Khoisan languages. The assimilation is not dissimilar to that of the white skinned Africans, who had assimilated the Dutch, Belgium, German and other languages into a new African language.
From around 1200 AD a trade network began to emerge just to the North as is evidenced at such sites as Mapungubwe. Additionally, the idea of sacred leadership emerged – concept that transcends English terms such as “Kings” or “Queens”. Sacred leaders were elite members of the community, types of prophets, people with supernatural powers and the ability to predict the future. Similar to white African prophets, like Siener van Rensburg, these seers were powerful enough to cause tribal wars or peace.
Through interactions and trade with Muslim traders plying the Indian ocean as far south as present day Mozambique – the region emerged as a trade centre producing gold and ivory and trading for glass beads and porcelain from as far away as China.
History of the Zulu nation
The Zulu people are part of the Nguni tribe. The Zulu were originally a major clan in what is today Northern KwaZulu-Natal, founded ca. 1709 by Zulu kaNtombela. The Zulu formed a powerful state in 1818 under the leader Shaka. Shaka, as the Zulu King, gained a large amount of power over the tribe. As commander in the army of the powerful Mthethwa Empire, he became leader of his mentor Dingiswayo's paramouncy and united what was once a confederation of tribes into an imposing empire under Zulu hegemony.
Difaqane and destruction
The early 19th century saw a time of immense upheaval relating to the military expansion of the Zulu Kingdom. Sotho-speakers know this period as the difaqane ("forced migration"); while Zulu-speakers call it the mfecane ("crushing").
The full causes of the difaqane remain in dispute, although certain factors stand out. The rise of a unified Zulu kingdom had particular significance. In the early 19th century, Nguni tribes in KwaZulu-Natal began to shift from a loosely organised collection of kingdoms into a centralised, militaristic state. Shaka Zulu, son of the chief of the small Zulu clan, became the driving force behind this shift. At first something of an outcast, Shaka proved himself in battle and gradually succeeded in consolidating power in his own hands. He built large armies, breaking from clan tradition by placing the armies under the control of his own officers rather than of the hereditary chiefs. Shaka then set out on a massive programme of expansion, killing or enslaving those who resisted in the territories he conquered. His impis (warrior regiments) were rigorously disciplined: failure in battle meant death.
Peoples in the path of Shaka's armies moved out of his way, becoming in their turn aggressors against their neighbours. This wave of displacement spread throughout Southern Africa and beyond. It also accelerated the formation of several states, notably those of the Sotho (present-day Lesotho) and of the Swazi (now Swaziland).
In 1828 Shaka was killed by his half-brothers Dingaan and Umhlangana. The weaker and less-skilled Dingaan became king, relaxing military discipline while continuing the despotism. Dingaan also attempted to establish relations with the British traders on the Natal coast, but events had started to unfold that would see the demise of Zulu independence.
History of the Xhosa people
The Xhosa are part of the migration of the Nguni which slowly moved south through Africa from the region around the Great Lakes, displacing the original Khoisan hunter gatherers of Southern Africa. Xhosa peoples were well established by the time of the Dutch arrival in the mid-17th century, and occupied much of eastern South Africa from the Fish River to land inhabited by Zulu-speakers south of the modern city of Durban.
The Xhosas have a strong oral tradition with many stories of ancestral heroes; according to tradition, the leader from whose name the Xhosa people take their name was the first King of the nation. One of Xhosa's descendents named Phalo gave birth to two sons Gcaleka, the heir and Rharabe a son from the Right Hand house. Rharhabe the warrior wanted Gcaleka's throne but was defeated and banished and settled in the Amathole Mountains. Maxhobayakhawuleza Sandile Aa! Zanesizwe is the King in the Great Place in Mngqesha. The Zwelonke Sigcawu was crowned King of the Xhosa on 18 June 2010.
History of the Ndebele people
The Ndebele are part of the larger Nguni ethnic group and were part of the Southern migration into the South African region. The Ndebele tribes were decimated by the Mfecane. Not much is known about the early history of the Ndebele people, prior to the Mfecane, they are thought to have lived in the region of present day Tshwane from around the 1600s, where they also settled new kraals after the arrival of the Dutch settlers. It is known that In 1882, following friction with the South African Republic, the country led a campaign against the Ndebele leader Nyabela. A trial was held and Nyabela was convicted and imprisoned, finally being released in the late 1890s. Many of the Southern Ndebele people were legally indentured (a legal form of slavery) to settle costs.
The Ndebele people are known as great artists, traditionally, geometric beadwork is used to denote the sacred spaces within the home.
History of the Tswana people
The Tswana language belongs to the Bantu group of the Niger–Congo languages. Ethnic Tswana make up about 80% of the population of Botswana. In the nineteenth century, a common spelling and pronunciation of Batswana was Bechuana. Europeans therefore referred to the area inhabited by the Tswana as Bechuanaland. In the Tswana language, however, Botswana is the name for the country of the Tswana. many Tswana people settled in the ZAR from the last decades of the 18th century, they were forced to live in ghetto areas by the ZAR government. Later during Apartheid, Tswana people were relocated en mass to Bophuthatswana.
History of the Pedi people
Pedi (also known as Bapedi, Bamaroteng, Marota, Basotho, Northern Sotho – in its broadest sense), has been a cultural/linguistic term – previously used to describe the entire set of people speaking various dialects of the Sotho language who live in the Limpopo Province of South Africa, more recently, the term "Northern Sotho" has replaced "Pedi" to characterise this loose collectivity of groups.
The Northern Sotho have been subdivided into the high-veld Sotho, which are comparatively recent immigrants mostly from the west and southwest, and the low-veld Sotho, who combine immigrants from the north with inhabitants of longer standing. The high-veld Sotho include the Pedi (in the narrower sense), Tau, Kone, Roka, Ntwane, Mphahlele, Tšhwene, Mathabathe, Kone (Matlala), Dikgale, Batlokwa, Gananwa (Mmalebogo), Mmamabolo, and Moletše. The low-veld Sotho include the Lobedu, Narene, Phalaborwa, Mogoboya, Kone, Kgakga, Pulana, Pai, Kutswe. Groups are named by using the names of totemic animals and, sometimes, by alternating or combining these with the names of famous chiefs.
History of the Basotho people
The Sotho people (Basotho or Basuto) are a Bantu ethnic group whose ancestors settled in southern Africa sometime around the fifth century. The Sotho nation emerged from the accomplished diplomacy of Moshoeshoe I who gathered together disparate clans of Sotho–Tswana origin that had dispersed across southern Africa in the early 19th century. Most Sotho today live in South Africa, as the area of the Orange Free State was originally part of Moshoeshoe's nation (modern-day Lesotho).
By the 19th century, stable patterns of settlement had emerged. Nguni speaking tribes (primarily Zulu and Xhosa) occupied the east and southern coastal regions, while a series of Sotho kingdoms covered the southern portion of the plateau (present day Free State Province and western parts of Gauteng). The 19th century brought two events which had a profound and lasting impact on the history of the Sotho. To the east, Shaka rose to become emperor of the Zulu people. After transforming Zulu society from a fragmented collection of related clans into a united, nationalistic kingdom with a disciplined and permanent army, Shaka undertook a series of wars of conquest. Zulu expansion, later dubbed difaqane ('the Crushing'), set off a series of eastward migrations as refugees and defeated tribes fled the onslaught. The Sotho people were displaced.
Arrival of the Europeans
The many generations of white children, born in Africa over hundreds of years and originally descendants of the original defeated Dutch colonialists, continued to expand, in small groups and communities, into the rugged hinterlands of the north and east of South Africa, many began to take up a semi-nomadic pastoralist lifestyle. In addition to its herds, a family might have a wagon, a tent, a Bible, and a few guns. As they became more settled, they would build a mud-walled cottage, frequently located, by choice, days of travel from the nearest white settlement. These were the first of the Trekboers (Wandering Farmers, later shortened to Boers), completely independent of official controls, extraordinarily self-sufficient, and isolated. Their harsh lifestyle produced individualists who were well acquainted with the land. Like many pioneers with Christian backgrounds, the boers attempted to live their lives – and to construct a theocracy – based on their particular Christian denominations (Dutch Reformed Church) reading into (eisegesis) characters and plot found in the Hebrew scriptures (as distinct from the Christian Gospels and Epistles).
History of the Boer tribes and nations
After 1806 a number of Dutch-speaking inhabitants of the Cape Colony trekked inland, first in smaller numbers, then in groups as large as almost a hundred people, after 1834 even in groups of hundreds. There were many reasons why the Boers left the Cape colony, among the initial reasons were the English language laws. Religion was a very important aspect of the settlers culture and the bible and church services were in Dutch. Similarly, schools, justice and trade up to the arrival of the British, were all managed in the Dutch language. The language law caused a lot of friction, distrust and dissatisfaction grew as time passed. Britain abolished slavery in 1834 and only allocated the sum of 1 200 000 British Pounds as recompense for the Dutch settlers slaves. The dispute was that the Dutch settlers had to lodge their claims in Britain as well as the fact that the value of the slaves was many times the allocated amount. This caused further dissatisfaction among the Dutch settlers:199 the settlers, incorrectly, believed that the Cape Colony administration had taken the money due to them as payment for freeing their slaves. Those settlers that were allocated money could only claim the money in Britain and person or through an agent. The commission charged by agents was the same as the payment for one slave, thus those settlers only claiming for one slave would receive nothing.
With the exception of the more powerful Ndebele, the trekking Boers encountered few Bantu peoples. In the mountains where King Moshoeshoe I had started to forge the Basotho nation that would later become Lesotho and the wooded valleys of Zululand smaller wars and skirmishes broke out, as the Boers pushed the boundaries of their settlements. The Boers met strong resistance from the Bantu peoples, and their incursions set off a series of skirmishes, and treaties.
South African Republic
In 1835, one of the larger groups of Boers arrived at the Vet river. Louis Trichardt and Jan van Rensburg split of from Potgieters group, and continued on to eventually establish Zoutpansberg. Potgieters group remained at the Vet river and founded a town called Winburg:222
The precursors to the establishment of the South African Republic happened in 1837 after the commandos of Potgieter and Piet Uys successfully defeated a Matabele raiding party of Moselekatse and drove them back over the Limpopo river. Potgieter declared the lands north and south of the Vaal river as Boer lands.:224 Boers started settling on both sides of the Vaal river and in March 1838, Potgieter, Uys and the men of their commando provided relief to Maritz and early in April 1838, both Uys and his son were killed. During April 1838 Potgieter returned to the area north of the Vaal river and founded the town of Potchefstroom.:225 At this time, this new country included the area north (Potchefstroom) and south (Winburg) of the Vaal river.
In 1848 the British Governor of the Cape, Sir Harry Smith, issued a proclamation declaring British sovereignty over all the lands to the north and to the south of the Vaal river.:230 Commandant-General Andries Pretorius led the commandos against the British forces later that year, at the battle of Boomplaats, near Smithfield. The Boer commandos were defeated and General Andries Pretorius with the remainder of his men, fled north across the Vaal river. The Volksraad from Winburg was transferred to Potchefstroom and the South African Republic was established as the name of the new country.:231
The people north of the Vaal River in the South African Republic were officially recognized as an independent country by Great Britain with the signing of the Sand River Convention on 17 January 1852.
Zulus, British and Boers
The Great Trek first halted at Thaba Nchu, near present-day Bloemfontein. Following disagreements among their leadership, the various Voortrekker groups split apart. While some headed north, most crossed the Drakensberg into Natal with the idea of establishing a republic there.
Since the Zulus controlled this territory, the Boere leader, accompanied by about 70 men of his Trek-Boer community, Piet Retief paid a visit to King Dingane kaSenzangakhona (Shaka's brother). Dingane promised them land in payment for a favour. The Batlokwa people, under chief Sekonyela had stolen cattle from him and he wanted it back. Retief went to them and retrieved the cattle. After receiving the specified cattle, Dingane invited Retief and his men into his kraal, where they were given all the land between the iZimvubu and Tugela rivers up to the Drakensberg. The treaty between the two men currently sits in a museum in The Netherlands. As a celebration, Dingane invited Retief and all his men to come and drink uTshwala (Traditional Zulu Beer) in his kraal, but the Boers had to leave all their weapons outside. Also included in the offer were guns and money. While drinking and being entertained by Zulu dancers, Dingane cried out "Bulalani abathakathi" (Kill the wizards"; also sometimes reported as "Bambani abathakathi", "Seize the wizards"). Dingane's men, having taken Retief's men by surprise, dragged the men to a hill Hloma Mabuto (or perhaps kwaMatiwane) where, one by one, they were all killed, leaving Retief for last so that he could watch.
After the massacre, the impis went back to the encampment where Retief and his fellow farmers had left their wives, children and livestock. Taken by surprise, the women, children and remaining farmers (numbering about 500) were also killed at the site called "Weenen" (meaning 'crying' in Dutch), but not without retribution, they themselves managed to stop the initial onslaught and managed to get away, without many of their guns and animals. A missionary, Rev. Owen, had seen all of this take place and approached Dingane in order to give the dead an appropriate burial. While the reverend and a helper of his were burying the dead and reading them their last rights, they happened to come across Retief's rucksack, still containing the treaty and a few personal belongings.
At the Battle of Italeni, a Boer army's attempt at revenge failed miserably. The culmination came on 16 December 1838, at the Ncome River in Natal. The Boers established a defensive enclosure or laager before the Zulu attack. Though only three Boers suffered injuries, they killed about three thousand Zulu warriors using three cannons and an elephant gun (along with other weapons). Before the battle, on 9 December 1838, the Boers made a vow to God that if He protected them and defeated their enemy, they will build a church in His name and they and their offspring will remember the day and the date. In remembrance of this vow, 16 December became a Union of South Africa public holiday in the 1920s and during the rise of Afrikaner Nationalism. So much bloodshed reportedly caused the Ncome's waters to run red, thus the clash is historically known as the Battle of Blood River.
The boers, victorious despite their numbers, saw their victory as an affirmation of divine approval. Yet their hopes for establishing a Natal republic remained short lived. The British annexed the area in 1843, and founded their new Natal colony at present-day Durban. Most of the Boers, feeling increasingly squeezed between the British on one side and the native African populations on the other, headed north.
Arrival of the Indian South Africans
The British turned to India to resolve their labour shortage, as the men of the proud Zulu warrior nation refused to adopt the servile position of labourers and in 1860 the SS Truro arrived in Durban harbour with over 300 people on board. Over the next 50 years, 150,000 more indentured slave Indians arrived, as well as numerous free "passenger Indians", building the base for what would become the largest Indian community outside India. As early as 1893, when Mahatma Gandhi arrived in Durban, Indians outnumbered whites in Natal. (See Asians in South Africa.)
South Africa went through two major periods of colonisation. The first was that of the Dutch Cape Colony proceeding the Dutch–Portuguese War, which was established by the Dutch East India Company in 1652. Dutch colonialisation finally ended when the British, occupied the Cape in 1806, after the Battle of Blaauwberg and through series of wars with the white and black African tribes eventually controlled all of the territories in 1910.
Dutch at the Cape
The Dutch East India Company (in the Dutch of the day: Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, or VOC) decided to establish a permanent settlement at the Cape. The VOC, one of the major European trading houses sailing the spice route to the East, had no intention of colonising the area, instead wanting only to establish a secure base camp where passing ships could shelter, and where hungry sailors could stock up on fresh supplies of meat, fruit, and vegetables. To this end, a small VOC expedition under the command of Jan van Riebeeck reached Table Bay on 6 April 1652.
The VOC had settled at the Cape in order to supply their trading ships. As the Khoikhoi were not agricultural farmers, there was no food to trade for at the Cape and the VOC had to import Dutch farmers to establish farms to supply the passing ships as well as to supply the growing VOC settlement. The small initial group of free burghers, as these farmers were known, steadily increased in number and began to expand their farms further north and east.
The majority of burghers had Dutch ancestry and belonged to the Calvinist Reformed Church of the Netherlands, but there were also numerous Germans as well as some Scandinavians. In 1688 the Dutch and the Germans were joined by French Huguenots, also Calvinists, who were fleeing religious persecution in France under King Louis XIV.
As there were very few native people in the Cape, van Riebeeck and the VOC also began to import large numbers of slaves, primarily from Madagascar and Indonesia. These slaves often married Dutch settlers, and their descendants became known as the Cape Coloureds and the Cape Malays. A significant number of the offspring from the White and slave unions were absorbed into the local proto-Afrikaans speaking White population. With this additional slave labour, the areas occupied by the VOC expanded further to the north and east.
British at the Cape
As the 18th century drew to a close, Dutch mercantile power began to fade and the British moved in to fill the vacuum. They seized the Cape in 1795 to prevent it from falling into French hands, then relinquished it back to the Dutch in 1803. In 1806, during the Napoleonic Wars, the British seized the Cape from the French controlled Kingdom of Holland. Most importantly the Cape Articles of Capitulation of 1806 allowed the colony to retain ‘all their rights and privileges which they have enjoyed hitherto’ and this launched South Africa on a divergent course from the rest of the British Empire, allowing the continuance of Roman-Dutch law. British sovereignty of the area was recognised at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the Dutch accepting a payment of 6 million pounds for the colony.
At the tip of the continent the British found an established colony with roughly 25,000 slaves, 20,000 white colonists, 15,000 Khoisan, and 1,000 freed black slaves. Power resided solely with a white élite in Cape Town, and differentiation on the basis of race was deeply entrenched. Outside Cape Town and the immediate hinterland, isolated black and white pastoralists populated the country.
Like the Dutch before them, the British initially had little interest in the Cape Colony, other than as a strategically located port. As one of their first tasks they outlawed the use of the Dutch language in 1806 with the view of converting the European settlers to the British language and culture. This had the effect of forcing more of the Dutch colonists to move (or trek) away from British administrative reach. Much later, in 1820 the British authorities persuaded about 5,000 middle-class British immigrants (most of them "in trade") to leave Great Britain. Many of the 1820 Settlers eventually settled in Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth.
The Cape Colony
Starting from the mid-1800s, the largest state in southern Africa, the Cape of Good Hope, began a slow move towards greater independence from Britain. In 1854, it was granted its first locally elected legislature, the Cape Parliament. In 1872, after a long political struggle, it attained responsible government with a locally accountable executive and Prime Minister. The Cape nonetheless remained nominally part of the British Empire, even though it was self-governing in practice. The Cape Colony was unusual in southern Africa in that its laws prohibited any discrimination on the basis of race and, unlike the Boer republics, elections were held according to the non-racial Cape Qualified Franchise system, whereby suffrage qualifications applied universally, regardless of race.
Initially, a period of strong economic growth and social development ensued. However, an ill-informed British attempt to force the states of southern Africa into a British federation led to inter-ethnic tensions and the First Boer War. Meanwhile, the discovery of diamonds around Kimberley and gold in the Transvaal led to a later return to instability, particularly because they fueled the rise to power of the ambitious colonialist Cecil Rhodes. As Cape Prime Minister, Rhodes curtailed the multi-racial franchise, and his expansionist policies set the stage for the Second Boer War.
Wars with Colonialists
Both the Zulus and the Boers fought wars with the British and defeated the Colonial power at different times. The three nations were all three hated in the British press and presented as uncivilized, uncouth and uneducated. The Boers and the Zulus have a proud history of dead warriors, that fought for freedom from the colonial control and influence of the British Imperialists.
The Zulu Wars
After the Zulu wars
The British set about establishing large sugar plantations in Natal, but found few inhabitants of the neighbouring Zulu areas willing to provide labour. The British confronted stiff resistance to their encroachments from the Zulus, a nation with well-established traditions of waging war, who inflicted one of the most humiliating defeats on the British army at the Battle of Isandlwana in 1879, where over 1400 British soldiers were killed. During the ongoing Anglo-Zulu Wars, the British eventually established their control over what was then named Zululand, and is today known as KwaZulu-Natal Province.
In 1879 Zululand came under British control. Then in 1886 an Australian prospector discovered gold in the Witwatersrand, accelerating the federation process and dealing the Boers yet another blow. Johannesburg's population exploded to about 100,000 by the mid-1890s, and the ZAR suddenly found itself hosting thousands of uitlanders, around 50 000 British citizens and around 10 000 natives. Later it bacame clear that all the British wanted was to gain control over the gold. The British initially pushed the Boers for citizenship for the blacks and the whites. This led to the second boer war and after the British defeated the Boer nations, at the peace treaty of Vereeniging, black citizenship was reserved until after civilian government as the Boers were very racialist, religiously exclusive and at the same time also a tribally exclusive people. Yet, strangely, under British control, the British never pushed for Black or Native citizenship and in fact introduced various legislation that was in direct conflict with their earlier stated ideals.
First Anglo-Boer War
The Transvaal Boer republic was forcefully annexed by Britain in 1877, during its attempt to consolidate the states of southern Africa under British rule. Long-standing Boer resentment turned into full-blown rebellion in the Transvaal and the first Anglo-Boer War, known to Afrikaners as the "War of Independence", broke out in 1880. The conflict ended almost as soon as it began with a crushing Boer victory at Battle of Majuba Hill (27 February 1881). The republic regained its independence as the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek ("South African Republic"), or ZAR. Paul Kruger, one of the leaders of the uprising, became President of the ZAR in 1883. Meanwhile, the British, who viewed their defeat at Majuba as an aberration, forged ahead with their desire to federate the Southern African colonies and republics. They saw this as the best way to come to terms with the fact of a white Afrikaner majority, as well as to promote their larger strategic interests in the area.
The enormous wealth of the mines, largely controlled by European "Randlords" soon became irresistible for the British. In 1895, a group of renegades led by Captain Leander Starr Jameson entered the ZAR with the intention of sparking an uprising on the Witwatersrand and installing a British administration. This incursion became known as the Jameson Raid. The scheme ended in fiasco, but it seemed obvious to Kruger that it had at least the tacit approval of the Cape Colony government, and that his republic faced danger. He reacted by forming an alliance with Orange Free State.
Second Anglo-Boer War
The situation peaked in 1899 when the British demanded voting rights for the 60,000 foreign whites on the Witwatersrand. Until that point, Kruger's government had excluded all foreigners from the franchise. Kruger rejected the British demand and called for the withdrawal of British troops from the ZAR's borders. When the British refused, Kruger declared war. This Second Anglo-Boer War lasted longer than the first, and the British preparedness surpassed that of Majuba Hill. By June 1900, Pretoria, the last of the major Boer towns, had surrendered. Yet resistance by Boer bittereinders continued for two more years with guerrilla-style battles, which the British met in turn with scorched earth tactics.The boers kept on fighting, proving a mighty resistance. By 1902 26,000 Boer women and children had died of disease and neglect in British concentration camps and this led to the boer to surrender to save what was left of their wives and children. On 31 May 1902 a superficial peace came with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging. Under its terms, the Boer republics acknowledged British sovereignty, while the British in turn committed themselves to reconstruction of the areas under their control. The South African Republic became the Transvaal Colony and by March 1903 the British had spent over nineteen million pounds on the reconstruction and development of the Transvaal Colony.
South Africa as one country
British Colony: Union of South Africa
During the immediate post-war years the British focused their attention on rebuilding the country, in particular the mining industry. By 1907 the mines of the Witwatersrand produced almost one-third of the world's annual gold production. But the peace brought by the treaty remained fragile and challenged on all sides. The Afrikaners found themselves in the ignominious position of poor farmers in a country where big mining ventures and foreign capital rendered them irrelevant. Britain's unsuccessful attempts to Anglicise them, and to impose English as the official language in schools and the workplace particularly incensed them. Partly as a backlash to this, the Afrikaners came to see Afrikaans as the volkstaal ("people's language") and as a symbol of Afrikaner nationhood.
Blacks and Coloureds have always been and still were still marginalised members of society. The authorities imposed harsh taxes and reduced wages, while the British caretaker administrator encouraged the immigration of thousands of Chinese to undercut any resistance. Resentment exploded in the Bambatha Rebellion of 1906, in which 4,000 Zulus lost their lives after rebelling due to onerous tax legislation.
The British meanwhile moved ahead with their plans for union. After several years of negotiations, the South Africa Act 1909 brought the colonies and republics – Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal, and Orange Free State – together as the Union of South Africa. Under the provisions of the act, the Union remained British territory, but with home-rule. The British High Commission territories of Basutoland (now Lesotho), Bechuanaland (now Botswana), Swaziland and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) continued under direct rule from Britain.
English and Dutch became the official languages and commonly right up to 1925 there were four main European languages, High Dutch, Low or South African Dutch (Afrikaans), High Afrikaans and English. Afrikaans and English became the official languages in 1925. Despite a major campaign by Blacks and Coloureds, the voter franchise remained as in the pre-Union republics and colonies, and only whites could gain election to parliament
The Natives' Land Act of 1913 was the first major piece of segregation legislation passed by the Union Parliament, and remained a cornerstone of Apartheid until the 1990s when it was replaced by the current policy of land restitution. Under the act, blacks were relatively restricted from the legal ownership of land, at that stage to 7% of the country. This percentage later increased to 13%, at about 158, 734 km2 a 1/6 bigger than Greece, resulting in an estimated population density of 30/km2, the same as modern USA. The Act created a system of land tenure that deprived the majority of South Africa's inhabitants of the right to own land outside of reserves which had major socio-economic repercussions, because the owners did not develop and leverage the land into a successful commercial resource.
In September of 1914, impoverished boers, anti-British Boers and bitter-enders came into a rebellion against the British colony of the Union of South Africa. The rebellion was squashed and at least one officer was sentenced to death and executed by firing squad. Many other boers died in the failed rebellion that came to be known as the Maritz Rebellion
Segregationist legislation also included the General Pass Regulations Bill (1905), which denied blacks the vote altogether, limited them to fixed areas and inaugurated the infamous Pass System; the Asiatic Registration Act (1906) requiring all Indians to register and carry passes; the South Africa Act (1910) that enfranchised whites, giving them complete political control over all other race groups; the above-mentioned Native Land Act (1913) which prevented all blacks from buying land outside 'reserves'. The reserves were the "original homes" or countries of the black tribes of South Africa. The reserves later became known as bantustans of which the failed objective was to make self-governing, quasi-independent ethnically homogeneous states. At this time the state effectively reserved 87% of the land which whites exclusively could purchase; the Natives in Urban Areas Bill (1918) designed to move blacks living in "white" South Africa into specific 'locations' as a precautionary security measure; the Urban Areas Act (1923) which introduced residential segregation in South Africa and provided cheap unskilled labour for the white mining and farming industry; the Colour Bar Act (1926), preventing blacks from practising skilled trades; the Native Administration Act (1927) that made the British Crown, rather than paramount chiefs, the supreme head over all African affairs; the Native Land and Trust Act (1936) that complemented the 1913 Native Land Act and, in the same year, the Representation of Natives Act, which removed blacks from the Cape voters' roll. The final 'apartheid' legislation passed by the South African parliament before the beginning of the 'Apartheid' era was the Asiatic Land Tenure Bill (1946), which banned any further land sales to Indians.
First World War
At the outbreak of World War I, South Africa joined Great Britain and the Allies against the German Empire. Both Prime Minister Louis Botha and Defence Minister Jan Smuts, were former Second Boer War generals who had fought against the British then, but they now became active and respected members of the Imperial War Cabinet. Elements of the South African army refused to fight against the Germans and along with other opponents of the government they rose in an open revolt known as the Maritz Rebellion. The government declared martial law on 14 October 1914, and forces loyal to the government under the command of General Louis Botha and Jan Smuts proceeded to destroy the rebellion. The leading Boer activists were convicted and given terms of imprisonment of six and seven years and heavy fines.
Nearly a quarter million South Africans served in South African military units in supporting the Allies during World War I. This included 43,000 in German South-West Africa and 30,000 on the Western Front. An estimated 3,000 South Africans also joined the Royal Flying Corps. The total South African casualties during the war was about 18,600. South Africa assisted the Allied war effort by capturing the two German colonies of German West Africa and German East Africa, as well as participating in battles in Western Europe and the Middle East.
Public opinion in South Africa split along racial and ethnic lines. The British elements strongly supported the war, and formed by far the largest military component. Likewise the Indian element (led by Mahatma Gandhi) generally supported the war effort. Afrikaners were split, with some like Botha and Smuts taking a prominent leadership role in the British war effort. This position was rejected by many rural Afrikaners who supported the Maritz Rebellion. The trade union movement was divided. Many urban blacks supported the war expecting it would raise their status in society. Others said it was not relevant to the struggle for their rights. The Coloured element was generally supportive and many served in a Coloured Corps in East Africa and France, also hoping to better their lot after the war. Those blacks and Coloureds who supported the war were embittered when postwar South Africa saw no easing of white domination and restrictive conditions.
South Africa's main economic role was in the supply of two-thirds of the gold production in the British Empire (most of the remainder came from Australia). When the war began Bank of England officials worked with the government of South Africa to block any gold shipments to Germany, and force the mine owners to sell only to the Treasury, at prices set by the Treasury. This facilitated purchases of munitions and food in the U.S, and other neutrals. By 1919 London lost control to the mining companies (which were now backed by the South African government). They wanted the higher prices and sales to New York that a free market would provide.
Second World War
During World War II, South Africa's ports and harbours, such as at Cape Town, Durban, and Simon's Town, were important strategic assets to the British Royal Navy. About 334,000 South Africans volunteered for full-time military service in support of the Allies abroad. Nearly 9,000 were killed in action and many others were captured by the Axis and held as prisoners of war. Prime Minister Jan Smuts was the only important non-British general whose advice was constantly sought by Britain's war-time Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Smuts was invited to the Imperial War Cabinet in 1939 as the most senior South African in favour of war. On 28 May 1941, Smuts was appointed a Field Marshal of the British Army, becoming the first South African to hold that rank. When the war ended, Smuts represented South Africa in San Francisco at the drafting of the United Nations Charter in May 1945. Just as he had done in 1919, Smuts urged the delegates to create a powerful international body to preserve peace; he was determined that, unlike the League of Nations, the UN would have teeth. Smuts also signed the Paris Peace Treaty, resolving the peace in Europe, thus becoming the only signatory of both the treaty ending the First World War, and that which ended the Second.
In October, 1945, following the end of World War II, both the Labour party, and the Dominion Party withdrew from the coalition government, leaving Jan Smuts and the United Party in complete control. Smuts later paid a heavy political price for his closeness to the British establishment, which had made him unpopular among the majority of conservative nationalist Afrikaners, leading ultimately to his political downfall in the 1948 general election. Most English-speaking whites and a minority of liberal Afrikaners in South Africa remained loyal to him.
Rise of the Apartheid era
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The former countries and territories of the Boers were not in dispute and the countries were internationally recognized as being independent countries and was also recognised as such by the leaders of the Black tribes. The countries had no black citizens and obviously no British citizens. The ZAR was extremely wealthy, in fact, it could be said that the ZAR possessed enough Gold, Platinum and mineral wealth to power the entire Southern African region for decades. The ZAR had The Imperialists had fought a war with the Boers, apparently over the citizenship issue where the ZAR refused to supply the 50 000 English and 10 000 natives (Black people) with citizenship. The average ZAR boer was extremely impoverished and the Dutch speaking boers were equally disliked by the Cape Afrikaners, the Black people, the British and others. Britain fought a war with the Boers, ostensibly to attain suffrage for the discriminated native population and the similarly discriminated against, British citizens.
After the war the Union of South Africa was created as a Union of all the British property in Southern Africa, and granted limited self rule.
General elections and the slow evolution of democracy
From 1910 until 1948 the franchise to vote was gradually evolved from allowing "qualified" male population (with non-whites enfranchised in the Cape Province and Natal) to gradual disenfranchisement of all South African Blacks, who were moved to a separate voters' roll in 1936. All whites over the age of 21, including women were given the right to vote in 1930. After the ascent of the National Party to power in 1948, the Black voters' roll was abolished. Cape Coloureds were moved to a separate voters' role, and subsequently disenfranchised altogether in 1970. Only whites were permitted to vote in general elections from 1958 until 1994 when the vote was granted to all South Africans over age 18. The 1994 general election was the first post-apartheid vote based on universal suffrage.
There have been three referendums in South Africa: 1960 referendum on becoming a republic; 1983 referendum on implementing the tricameral parliament; and 1992 referendum on becoming a multiracial democracy all of which were held during the era of National Party control.
General Louis Botha headed the first government of the new Union, with General Jan Smuts as his deputy. Their South African National Party, later known as the South African Party or SAP, followed a generally pro-British, white-unity line. The more radical Boers split away under the leadership of General Barry Hertzog, forming the National Party (NP) in 1914. The NP championed Afrikaner interests, advocating separate development for the two white groups and independence from Britain.
Restrictive legislative discrimination
The Act of Union and the laws that followed continued to deny Black people, women and many other people of any voting-rights. Some black people saw the failure to grant the franchise, coming on the heels of British wartime propaganda promoting freedom from "Boer slavery", as a betrayal. As the British had successfully defeated the Boers and had obtained control of their country and had incorporated the Boer countries into the new Union of South Africa Before long the Union passed a barrage of oppressive legislation, making it illegal for black workers to strike, reserving skilled jobs for whites, barring blacks from military service, and instituting restrictive pass laws. In 1913 parliament enacted the Natives' Land Act, setting aside eight percent of South Africa's land for black occupancy. Whites, who made up only 20 percent of the population, held 90 percent of the land. Black Africans could not buy or rent land or even work as share-croppers outside their designated area. The authorities evicted thousands of squatters, share croppers (bywoners) from farms and forced them to remain in increasingly overcrowded and impoverished ghettos.
Black and Coloured opposition began to coalesce, and leading figures such as John Jabavu, Walter Rubusana and Abdullah Abdurahman laid the foundations for new non-tribal black political groups. Most significantly, a Columbia University-educated attorney, Pixley ka Isaka Seme, called together representatives of the various African tribes to form a unified, national organisation to represent the interests of blacks, and to ensure that they had an effective voice in the new Union. Thus there originated the South African Native National Congress, known from 1923 as the African National Congress (ANC). Parallel to this, Mahatma Gandhi worked with the Indian populations of Natal and the Transvaal to fight against the ever-increasing encroachment on their rights.
The international recession which followed World War I put pressures on mine-owners, and they sought to reduce costs by recruiting lower-paid, black, semi-skilled workers. White mine-workers saw this as a threat and in 1922 rose in the armed Rand Rebellion under the slogan "Workers of the World, unite and fight for a white South Africa." Smuts suppressed the rising violently, but the failure led to a convergence of views between Afrikaner nationalists and white English-speaking trade-unionists. The new Communist Party of South Africa supported the rebellion while opposing its racial slogans. Later, it came to see the hostility between white and black workers as the main reason for its defeat, and re-oriented recruitment efforts towards black workers.
In 1924 the NP, under Hertzog, came to power in a coalition government with the Labour Party, and Afrikaner nationalism gained greater hold. Afrikaans, previously regarded only as a low-class dialect of Dutch, replaced Dutch as an official language of the Union, and the so-called swart gevaar (black peril) became the dominant issue of the 1929 election. In the mid-1930s, Hertzog joined the NP with the more moderate SAP of Jan Smuts to form the United Party; this coalition fell apart at the start World War II when Smuts took the reins and, amid much controversy, led South Africa into war on the side of the Allies. However, any hopes of turning the tide of Afrikaner nationalism faded when Daniel François Malan led a radical break-away movement, the Purified National Party, to the central position in Afrikaner political life. The Afrikaner Broederbond, a secret Afrikaner brotherhood formed in 1918 to protect Afrikaner culture, soon became an extraordinarily influential force behind both the NP and other organisations designed to promote the volk ("people", the Afrikaners).
Due to the booming wartime economy, black labour became increasingly important to the mining and manufacturing industries, and the black urban population nearly doubled. Enormous squatter camps grew up on the outskirts of Johannesburg and (though to a lesser extent) outside the other major cities. Despite the appalling conditions in the townships, not only blacks knew poverty: wartime surveys found that 40 percent of white schoolchildren suffered from malnutrition.
From 1948 successive National Party administrations formalised and extended the existing system of racial discrimination and denial of human rights into the legal system of apartheid, which lasted until 1991. Although many important events occurred during this period, apartheid remained the central system around which most of the historical issues of this period revolved, including violent conflict and the militarisation of South African society.
In the mid-1980s, Joint Management Centres (JMCs) operating in at least 34 State-designated "high-risk" areas became the key element in a National Security Management System. The police and military who controlled the JMCs were endowed with influence in decision-making at every level, from the Cabinet down to local government. At the same time, police and army death squads conducted covert, State-sponsored assassinations of dissidents and activists. By mid-1987 the Human Rights Commission knew of at least 140 political assassinations in the country, while about 200 people died at the hands of South African agents in neighbouring states. The exact numbers of all the victims may never be known. Strict censorship disallowed journalists from reporting, filming or photographing such incidents, while the government ran its own covert disinformation programme that provided distorted accounts of the extrajudicial killings. At the same time, State-sponsored vigilante groups carried out violent attacks on communities and community leaders associated with resistance to apartheid. The attacks were then falsely attributed by the government to "black-on-black" or factional violence within the communities. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) would later establish that a covert, informal network of former or still serving army and police operatives, frequently acting in conjunction with extreme right-wing elements, was involved in actions that could be construed as fomenting violence and which resulted in gross human rights violations, including random and targeted killings.  Between 1960 and 1994, according to statistics from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Inkatha Freedom Party was responsible for 4,500 deaths, South African Police 2,700, and the ANC about 1,300.
After the suppression of the Maritz Rebellion the German General Maritz escaped to Portugal. He returned in 1923 and continued working in the Union of South Africa as a German Spy for the Third Reich. The early 1940s saw the pro-Nazi Ossewa Brandwag (OB) movement become half-a-million strong, including future prime minister John Vorster and future head of police intelligence Hendrik van den Bergh. The anti-semitic Boerenasie (Boer Nation) and other similar groups soon joined them. When the war ended, the OB was one of the anti-parliamentary groups absorbed into the National Party.
South Africa had a policy of attacking guerrilla-bases and safe houses of the ANC, PAC and SWAPO in neighbouring countries beginning in the early 1980s. The country also aided organisations in surrounding countries who were actively combating the spread of communism in southern Africa. The country backed RENAMO in the Mozambique Civil War and UNITA in the Angolan Civil War. South African involvement in Angola ended following the New York Accords.
With increasing local and international opposition to apartheid in the 1980s, including an armed struggle, widespread civil unrest, economic and cultural sanctions by the international community, and pressure from the anti-apartheid movement around the world, State President FW de Klerk announced the unbanning of the African National Congress and Pan Africanist Congress as well as the release of Nelson Mandela on 2 February 1990, which signalled the beginning of a transition to democracy. In the referendum held on 17 March 1992 a white electorate voted 68% in favour of dismantling apartheid through negotiations.
After years of negotiations under the auspices of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), a draft constitution appeared on 26 July 1993, containing concessions towards all sides: a federal system of regional legislatures, equal voting-rights regardless of race, and a bicameral legislature. The far-right Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) – "Afrikaner Resistance Movement" – attempted unsuccessfully to derail the negotiations through various acts of public violence and intimidation. From 26 to 29 April 1994 the South African population voted in the first universal suffrage general elections. The African National Congress won election to govern for the very first time, leaving the National Party and the Inkatha Freedom Party behind it and parties such as the Democratic Party and Pan Africanist Congress took up their seats as part of the parliamentary opposition in the first genuine multiracial parliament. Nelson Mandela was elected as President on 9 May 1994 and formed – according to the interim constitution of 1993 – a government of national unity, consisting of the ANC, the NP and the Inkatha. On 10 May Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa's new President in Pretoria and Thabo Mbeki and FW De Klerk as his vice-presidents.
In early 2002 a planned military coup by a white supremacist movement known as the Boeremag (Boer Force) was foiled by the South African police. Two dozen conspirators including senior South African Army officers were arrested and the extremist organisation dismantled. The effectiveness of the police in foiling the planned coup strengthened public perceptions that the democratic order was irreversible.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission
After the enactment of the constitution focus turned to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established in 1995 under the dictum of Archbishop Desmond Tutu to expose crimes committed during the apartheid era. The commission heard many stories of brutality and injustice from all sides and offered some catharsis to people and communities shattered by their past experiences. The Commission operated by allowing victims to tell their stories and by allowing perpetrators to confess their guilt; with amnesty on offer to those who made a full confession. Those who chose not to appear before the commission would face criminal prosecution if the authorities could prove their guilt. But while some soldiers, police, and ordinary citizens confessed their crimes, few of those who had given the orders or commanded the police presented themselves. State President P.W. Botha himself, notably, refused to appear before the Commission. It proved difficult to gather evidence against these alleged higher-level criminals including Nelson Mandela himself.
In 1961, Mandela became the leader of the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (translated as Spear of the Nation, also abbreviated as MK), which he co-founded. He coordinated a sabotage campaign against military and government targets, and made plans for a possible guerrilla war if sabotage failed to end apartheid. A few decades later, MK did wage a guerrilla war against the regime, especially during the 1980s, in which many civilians were killed. Mandela also raised funds for MK abroad, and arranged for paramilitary training, visiting various African governments.
Mandela explains the move to embark on armed struggle as a last resort, when increasing repression and violence from the state convinced him that many years of non-violent protest against apartheid had achieved nothing and could not succeed.
Mandela later admitted that the ANC, in its struggle against apartheid, also violated human rights, and has sharply criticised attempts by parts of his party to remove statements supporting this fact from the reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
- History of Africa
- History of Cape Colony
- History of Johannesburg
- History of the Northern Cape
- History of South African wine
- List of Presidents of South Africa
- List of Prime Ministers of South Africa
- List of South Africa-related topics
- Military history of South Africa
- Politics of South Africa
- Timeline of liberal parties in South Africa
- Years in South Africa
- Timeline of Cape Town
- Timeline of Johannesburg
- Timeline of Pretoria, Tshwane
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- South Africa Government Online. Accessed 20 February 2005.
- Dr Cyril Hromník on research into ancient history of Africa – an article written by Maré Mouton.
- Bearer of an Ideal – a public-release document of the Afrikanerbond (formerly Afrikaner Broederbond): think-tank which influenced policies of separate development in South Africa
- Full text of the UN convention
- South Africa, 10 years later from National Public Radio
- From Cape Colony to South Africa, Mappingtheworld.org