South Africa has one of the world’s longest archaeological finds. Between four and one million years old remains of both Australopithecus africanus and Australopithecus robustus have been found in i.e. Taung, Swartkrans and Sterkfontein. Findings of Homo erectus have also been made, along with simple stone tools in the Oldowan tradition. From the acheulé culture more than a million years ago, a number of finds are found in open places such as Hangklip on the Cape coast and in caves such as the Cave of Hearths in the Transvaal and Montagu Cave in the Cape area. Groups of chips from, among others, the mouth of the Klasies River and the Nelson Bay Cave on the south coast is about 200,000 years old. In addition, the fossil material suggests that anatomically modern humans may have existed as early as 95,000 years ago.
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Small edge tools, microliters (possibly indicative of the presence of arrows and bows), have been dated about 38,000 years back. Microlith production is thought to have evolved into the late Paleolithic so-called Wilton industries that occurred throughout southern Africa. The good adaptability of South Africa’s collecting societies is clearly evident from, among other things. Elands Bay in the southern Cape area. Rock paintings have also been found in this region, as well as in the Drakensberg area; rock carvings can be found in the Kimberley area. At the beginning of our era, domesticated animals were kept at Die Kelders on the southern Cape coast, ultimately a phenomenon introduced from eastern Kalahari. To see more information other than history, please visit Abbreviationfinder to learn more about climate, population, government, and economy for the country of South Africa.
Iron and copper extraction also became major industries in South Africa, and during the first millennium AD. livestock management was introduced, possibly via eastern Botswana. From about 450 AD traces of grain cultivation have been paved at Silver Leaves in eastern Transvaal. The collectors were gradually forced out into arid and marginal areas such as the southern Cape, Kalahari and the hard-to-reach parts of Drakensberg. From the second half of the first millennium AD there are signs of long-distance trade in the Limpopo Valley, and from Mapungubwe near Messina, evidently some form of control has been exercised over the surrounding territory. Gold and copper mining was carried out, as was extensive livestock management. Around the 16th century, extensive complexes of farmhouses and stone terraces were built in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State.
Immigrations and conquests (up to 1800)
The earliest known population in South Africa was san, a collector and hunter who, according to the abundant finds of settlements and rock paintings, was scattered throughout much of southern Africa. Closely related to san was khoikhoi, often associated with san under the term khoisan. Prior to the start of our era, khoikhoi in contact with northern Africans had learned animal husbandry and then spread across the South African high plateau all the way down to the south coast. During the first few centuries of our era, agricultural and metal-using bantu people from present-day Zimbabwe migrated south; in 300 they crossed the Limpopo River. Zulu and xhosa in the south-east coastal areas and sotho and tswana on the high plateau are their descendants.
Thus, when Europeans reached southern Africa at the beginning of time, they did not encounter an empty land. Colonial history in South Africa begins in 1652, when the Dutch East India Company founded Cape Town as a supply station for its merchant fleet. The station quickly developed into a colony. The recent immigrations, among other things, French Huguenots and Germans, grew the white population, and developed their own culture and their own, from the Dutch language developed language, Afrikaans. These “Africans” came into lively contact with the area’s khoisan, initially most during a reasonably peaceful trade exchange, then increasingly under conflict over livestock herds and pastures. The Khoisan were decimated by smallpox, pushed away to desert-like neighborhoods in the north, proletarized as servant hunts, and white men took on Khoisan women. Descendants of these and imported slaves from, among others, the Malacca Peninsula and Madagascar became the colored population of the Cape Colony, so-called colored, at the same time discriminated against by the white and privileged over the black.
Until the end of the 18th century, the colonists spread east and north as resident livestock farmers (farmers). At the end of the period, they inhabited an area of approximately Norrland size but were only 15,000 in number. In the east, peaceful trade contacts with the xhosa kingdom turned into a series of wars, which, step by step, forced the xhosa to give up their land. In 1795, the British entered the Cape Colony during wars with revolutionary France, which had occupied the Netherlands. For a short period of 1803–06, the Netherlands recaptured South Africa and proclaimed it as the Republic of Batavia, but the British finally took over 1806.
The Great Expansion (1800–1910)
The British made changes in South Africa under pressure from a “native-friendly” home opinion. The civil servants were given some protection against the oppressions of the white farmers and certain civil rights. Slavery was abolished (1833), and the 39,000 slaves were released in 1834. The Boers’ land famine and dissatisfaction with the British abolishing slavery without real compensation led to the “great emigration” (African Die Groote Trek) in the 1830s. 15,000 men, women and children (“trekboers”) left the colony with all their servants and possessions and headed north and northeast to obtain new homes outside British control. They came to a region that for decades has been the scene of great upheavals among the African peoples under mfecane(‘the great mess’). Around 1820, the Zulu people had emerged victorious from the battle with other northern Nguni people on land and ivory trade, thanks to the tight military and social organization given to them by the new ruler Shaka. Other peoples were fleeing, heading north up to the Central African lakes, south to the borders of the Cape Colony, east across Drakensberg. Of the remains of scattered people, Moshoeshoe I created a new basothostat around 1830 (see Lesotho).
The upheavals gave the Boer emigrants many easy conquests, but also difficult opponents, mainly among them the Zulus, who, however, were defeated in 1838 in the Battle of Blood River. The Boers first spread into Natal on the Indian Ocean, where British merchants had since 1824 had a port (at present Durban). As early as 1843, Britain annexed Natal, and most of the Boers moved on to the plateau in the interior. The areas around the Oranje and Vaal rivers became the main settlement area for the Boers. Even there, however, the British in the 1840s took power, partly to protect African people from disintegration but mostly to control the entire region if possible. In the 1850s, this policy was abandoned for thrift. The Orange Free State and Transvaal became independent peasant republics.
Meanwhile, the Cape Colony gradually gained autonomy (final in 1872), with electoral laws also allowing the few non-whites who met certain economic conditions to vote in parliamentary elections. There were no such liberal approaches in the Boer Republics.
In the 1870s and 1980s, South Africa’s economy was transformed by the discovery of diamonds and gold, which had major political and social effects. European immigrants flocked to; the white population tripled in 1875–1900. The need for African labor on farms and in mines grew. The solution was the recruitment of male contract workers throughout southern Africa, at the mines housed in barracks. In Natal, the British acquired large numbers of Indian workers for sugarcane cultivations. Most remained in South Africa.
The diamonds and gold made South Africa desirable from an exploitation point of view. Britain resumed its annexation policy, defeating the Zulu in 1879 after the bloody Zulu war and incorporating Zululand with Natal. Transvaal was also occupied, but gained limited independence in the 1880s. Under President Paul Kruger, Transvaal pursued an anti-British policy, not least against English-speaking immigrants to the goldfields. The conflict led to the Boer War of 1899-1902, which the British won. The two Boer republics became British crown colonies, but gained wide autonomy. In 1910, they joined the Cape Province (the former Cape Colony) and Natal to the South African Union.
The rise and fall of apartheid policy
The Union’s first Prime Minister Louis Botha and his closest husband Jan Christiaan Smuts had both fought against Britain in the Boer War. Their policy was now to overcome conflicts within the white population and to implement segregation policy against the Africans. The Natives Land Act prevented Africans from acquiring land outside reserved areas. These “Native Reserves” comprised 7 percent of the Union’s land – for two-thirds of its population.
The white front burst in 1912, when JBM Hertzog, who disapproved of Botha’s imperial-friendly politics, formed the Nationalist Party as a body for the opposition of Africans (see further african). In 1914, South Africa joined Britain’s side in the war. Smuts, Prime Minister from 1919, came into violent conflict with the white trade union movement in 1921-22. The South African Labor Party then allied with the Nationalist Party and formed a government under Hertzog in 1924. But when the depression in the 1930s hit hard on South Africa, Hertzog merged with Smuts and formed the 1934 United Party (UP). In office, UP completed the segregation policy by removing all Africans from the Cape Province electoral corps. In order to prevent uncontrolled influx of Africans into the cities, the area of the reserve was doubled (1936).
The outbreak of the Second World War, when South Africa actively participated in the Allies’ side, once again brought to light the cracks in the white front. Hertzog, like many Africans, had their sympathies on the German side and left the government. Smuts further ruled with the support of the majority in the UP along with smaller parties. But the Nationalist Party, soon with Daniel Malan as its leader, got wind of the sails. During the war years, South Africa industrialized rapidly, African labor flowed to the cities, thereby increasing the white’s fear of the “black danger”. The fear was fueled by the fact that the Africans’ freedom movement, represented mainly by the African National Congress (ANC) already formed in 1912, went from petitions to mass actions. Youth Union (Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and others) introduced mass campaigns, and the black miners crippled the mines in 1946. Malan’s nationalists launched their apartheid policy (see also apartheid) and won that election in 1948. During the following twenty years they implemented their program: banning mixed marriages, implemented housing segregation, completely separate school system with lower quality for Africans. Colored lost the right to participate in the Cape Province elections.
Apartheid policy aroused intense opposition from all non-whites, with boycotts, strikes and civil disobedience as a result. The method of fighting was long non-violent, but that era ended in the late 1960s after the Sharpeville massacre. Police opened fire on crowds protesting the pass laws that applied to Africans, killing 69 and wounding more than twice as many. The ANC, and the Sharpeville campaign’s organizer of the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) and the relatively strong Communist Party were banned, leaders such as Nelson Mandela were sentenced to life imprisonment. International opinion, inside and outside the UN, turned against South Africa’s racial politics. When Britain’s Prime Minister Harold Macmillan joined the critics, South Africa left the Commonwealth and proclaimed itself a republic in 1961.
Under increasing international isolation, the nationalists went further by establishing a series (at least ten) of so-called bantustans (home countries). There the Africans would live their own “tribal life”. Millions of Africans were forcibly displaced there, with the result that these were initially depleted and barren areas. By promoting tribal cohesion, the homelands would also create division among Africans. Partly the attempt succeeded, which when the homeland of KwaZulu’s leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi formed Inkatha in 1975 as the Zulus’ special fighting body.
In the 1970s, the effects of domestic resistance, Angola and Mozambique’s independence and international sanctions began to weigh heavily on the regime in South Africa, which was also hit by rising oil prices and lower gold prices. The revolt in Soweto in June 1976 became a discharge that the regime never recovered from. Black school students in Johannesburg’s suburb Soweto protested that Afrikaans would become a language of instruction, the police shot and killed and a wave of protests against the entire system was flushing across the country. Even among whites, people began to realize that apartheid was not sustainable. The regime commuted from stubborn reaction to reform efforts. PW Botha, Prime Minister of 1978 and President of 1984, abolished certain social segregation provisions, so-called petty apartheid (bus segregation, hotels and the like, some passport regulations), but pursued the opposition and introduced a series of exceptions. Black suburbs were in practice occupied territories. In 1984, a new three-chamber parliament was established, with chambers for whites, Indians and colored but without voting rights or representation for blacks, which triggered new resistance. Botha was succeeded in 1989 by FW de Klerk, who, despite his conservative appearance, realized that negotiations had to be conducted with the ANC. Mandela was released in 1990, and the heavy race laws began to be abolished.
ANC in power
In the first general elections in April 1994, the ANC became victorious, and Nelson Mandela was elected the first President of Free South Africa. All race laws were now abolished, but the traces of apartheid remained in high unemployment among blacks, crime and violence and unequal access to school and medical care. In June 1999, Mandela was succeeded as president by Thabo Mbeki, since the ANC again won the election by a large margin.
South Africa gave an important contribution to reconciliation policies internationally through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Truth and Reconciliation Commission TRC), which from 1995 to 2000, the former Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu leadership, worked to process human rights violations under apartheid. The Commission was entitled to grant amnesty in cases where the perpetrators had revealed the truth about their crimes. After 22,000 public testimonies, TRC presented its report in 1998, which severely criticized the apartheid regime, but also pointed out that the ANC had pleaded guilty to human rights violations.
The former ruling Nationalist Party gradually lost its support, changed its name to the New National Party (NNP) in 1999 and collaborated first with the Democratic Alliance (DA) and then with the ANC. In 2005, the party dissolved after many of its MPs moved to the ANC.
Mbeki was re-elected in 2004 after the ANC received close to 67 percent of the vote in this year’s election. His reputation, however, was marred by his refusal to acknowledge the link between HIV and AIDS and the fact that the health minister he appointed recommended infected eating garlic and beets instead of brake medications. It was not until 2003 that the government decided to start distributing brake medicines. South Africa is one of the countries most affected by the epidemic.
In 1998, a decision in principle was made on large purchases of military equipment as part of a modernization of the armed forces. Among other things, the year after an agreement on the purchase of 28 copies of the Swedish fighter aircraft JAS 39 Gripen was signed for approximately SEK 13 billion. Later, an extensive corruption scene was discovered in which foreign arms manufacturers, including Swedish Saab, mutated leading South African politicians. One of the suspects was then Vice President Jacob Zuma. In 2005, businessman Schabir Shaik was sentenced to 15 years in prison, including for negotiating a bribe in the million class for Zuma, who, although not proven guilty in court, was dismissed by President Mbeki.
Zuma made a comeback in 2007 when he defeated Mbeki in the ANC party leadership elections. The fact that Mbeki was replaced was natural because in 2009 he would have sat the two terms of office allowed by the constitution, but already in 2008 he was asked by the party to resign prematurely. He was replaced by ANC Vice-President Kgalema Motlanthe. In the same year, defectors from the ANC formed a new party, Congress of the People (Cope). However, the new party made a weak election in 2009 and was hit by heavy layoffs while the ANC received 66 percent of the vote, after which Zuma was elected president. The most important opposition party is the DA, which went further in 2009 with 17 percent of the vote. In addition, the party received just over half of the votes in the Western Cape Province.
The DA went ahead further in the 2014 election when the party received 22 percent of the vote. The ANC lost some but retained its strong grip on power with 62 percent of the vote. Cope lost almost all support and its position as the third largest party, with 6 percent of the vote, was taken over by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a left-wing dissatisfaction party founded by Julius Malema, former chairman of the ANC Youth League.
In late 2017, Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa was elected new party leader in the ANC and in February 2018 he also became the country’s president since the party demanded Zuma’s departure. A contributing factor to Zuma’s dissatisfaction was the numerous corruption charges directed at him. Under Ramaphosa’s leadership, the ANC won the election in 2019, however, with clearly lower voter support than before (57.5 percent of the vote). In the same election, the DA backed marginally while the EFF received just over 10 percent of the vote.
In government, the former radical ANC has driven a market-oriented policy, which has drawn criticism from the party’s alliance comrades South African Communist Party (SACP) and the trade union movement Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). South Africa is the region’s economic superpower with relatively good growth, which has created a new middle class. Still, about 17 percent of the population still lived in extreme poverty in 2011. The government is criticized by, among other things, COSATU for a distribution policy that primarily favors a small elite of blacks with close ties to the party.
The government has also been accused of insufficient efforts in redistributing agricultural land. The stated goal was that 30 percent of the agricultural land should have gone into black ownership by 2014, but land reform has gone much slower than that. The dissatisfaction with the ANC and the general state of the country has also been expressed in conflicts in the labor market, including hundreds of thousands of civil servants went on strike in 2004 and 2007. In August 2012, 34 striking miners were shot dead by the police at the Marikama mine near Pretoria. The protests also spread to other gold and platinum mines in the country. Violent dissatisfaction has also been directed at immigrants from neighboring countries; In 2008, around 60 people were killed and over 650 injured in riots that began in the slums in Johannesburg.
See also the section State of state and politics above.