South Africa contains some of the oldest archaeological sites in the world. Extensive fossil remains at the Sterkfontein, Kromdraai and Makapansgat caves suggest that various australopithecines existed in South Africa from about three million years ago. These were succeeded by various species of Homo, including Homo habilis, Homo erectus and modern humans, Homo sapiens.
Settlements of Bantu-speaking peoples, who were iron-using agriculturists and herdsmen, were already present south of the Limpopo River by the fourth or fifth century CE. (see Bantu expansion). They displaced, conquered and absorbed the original Khoisan speakers. The Bantu slowly moved south. The earliest ironworks in modern-day KwaZulu-Natal Province are believed to date from around 1050. The southernmost group was the Xhosa people, whose language incorporates certain linguistic traits from the earlier Khoisan people. The Xhosa reached the Great Fish River, in today’s Eastern Cape Province. As they migrated, these larger Iron Age populations displaced or assimilated earlier peoples, who often had hunter-gatherer societies.
Republic of South Africa (1961–present)
In 1487, the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias became the first European to reach the southernmost point of Africa. Initially named the Cape of Storms, The King of Portugal, John II, renamed it the Cabo da Boa Esperança or Cape of Good Hope, as it led to the riches of India. Dias’ great feat of navigation was later immortalised in Camões’ epic Portuguese poem, The Lusiads (1572). In 1652, Jan van Riebeeck established a refreshment station at the Cape of Good Hope on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch transported slaves from Indonesia, Madagascar, and India as labour for the colonists in Cape Town. As they expanded east, the Dutch settlers met the south-westerly expanding Xhosa people in the region of the Fish River. A series of wars, called the Cape Frontier Wars, ensued, mainly caused by conflicting land and livestock interests.
Great Britain took over the Cape of Good Hope area in 1795, ostensibly to stop it from falling under Revolutionary French control. Given its standing interests in Australia and India, Great Britain wanted to use Cape Town as an interim port for its merchants’ long voyages. The British returned Cape Town to the Dutch in 1803, but soon afterwards the Dutch East India Company declared bankruptcy.
The British annexed the Cape Colony in 1806. The British continued the frontier wars against the Xhosa, pushing the eastern frontier eastward through a line of forts established along the Fish River. They consolidated the territory by encouraging British settlement. Due to pressure of abolitionist societies in Britain, the British parliament first stopped its global slave trade with the passage of the Slave Trade Act 1807, then abolished slavery in all its colonies with the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.
Boers in combat (1881)In the first two decades of the 19th century, the Zulu people grew in power and expanded their territory under their leader, Shaka. Shaka’s depredations led indirectly to the Mfecane (“Crushing”) that devastated the inland plateau in the early 1820s. An offshoot of the Zulu, the Matabele, created an even larger empire under their king Mzilikazi, including large parts of the highveld.
During the 1830s, approximately 12,000 Boers (later known as Voortrekkers), departed from the Cape Colony, where they had been subjected to British control. They migrated to the future Natal, Orange Free State and Transvaal regions. The Boers founded the Boer Republics: the South African Republic (now Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West provinces) and the Orange Free State (Free State).
The discovery of diamonds in 1867 and gold in 1884 in the interior encouraged economic growth and immigration. This intensified the European-South African subjugation of the indigenous people. The struggle to control these important economic resources was a factor between Europeans and the indigenous population, and also between the Boers and the British.
The Boer Republics successfully resisted British encroachments during the First Boer War (1880–1881) using guerrilla warfare tactics, which were well suited to local conditions. However, the British returned with greater numbers, more experience, and more suitable tactics in the Second Boer War (1899–1902), which was won by the British.
20th century After four years of negotiating, the Union of South Africa was created from the Cape and Natal colonies, as well as the republics of Orange Free State and Transvaal, on 31 May 1910, exactly eight years after the end of the Second Boer War. The newly created Union of South Africa was a dominion of Great Britain. The Natives’ Land Act of 1913 severely restricted the ownership of land by ‘blacks’; at that stage they had control of a mere 7% of the country. The amount of land reserved for indigenous peoples was later marginally increased.
In 1931 the union was effectively granted independence from the United Kingdom with the passage of the Statute of Westminster. In 1934, the South African Party and National Party merged to form the United Party, seeking reconciliation between Afrikaners and English-speaking “Whites”. In 1939 the party split over the entry of the Union into World War II as an ally of the United Kingdom, a move which the National Party followers strongly opposed.
“For use by white persons” – sign from the apartheid eraIn 1948, the National Party was elected to power. It intensified the implementation of racial segregation begun under Dutch and British colonial rule, and subsequent South African governments since the Union was formed. The Nationalist Government systematised existing segregationist laws, classifying all peoples into three races, developing rights and limitations for each, such as pass laws and residential restrictions. The white minority controlled the vastly larger black majority. The system of segregation became known collectively as apartheid.
While the White minority enjoyed the highest standard of living in all of Africa, often comparable to First World western nations, the Black majority remained disadvantaged by almost every standard, including income, education, housing, and life expectancy. On 31 May 1961, following a whites-only referendum, the country became a republic and left the Commonwealth. Queen Elizabeth II ceased to be head of state, and the last Governor-General became State President.
Apartheid became increasingly controversial, leading to widespread international sanctions, divestment and growing unrest and oppression within South Africa. A long period of harsh suppression by the government, and at times violent resistance, strikes, marches, protests, and sabotage by bombing and other means, by various anti-apartheid movements, most notably the African National Congress (ANC), followed.
In the late 1970s, South Africa began a programme of nuclear weapons development. In the following decade, it produced six deliverable nuclear weapons.
The Mahlabatini Declaration of Faith, signed by Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Harry Schwarz in 1974, enshrined the principles of peaceful transition of power and equality for all, the first of such agreements by acknowledged black and white political leaders in South Africa, which would ultimately end with the negotiations between F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela in 1993.
In 1990 the National Party government took the first step towards dismantling discrimination when it lifted the ban on the African National Congress and other political organisations. It released Nelson Mandela from prison after twenty-seven years’ incarceration on a sabotage sentence. A negotiation process known as the Convention for a Democratic South Africa was started. The government repealed apartheid legislation. South Africa destroyed its nuclear arsenal and acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. South Africa held its first multi-racial elections in 1994, which the ANC won by an overwhelming majority. It has been in power ever since.
In post-apartheid South Africa, unemployment has been extremely high. While many blacks have risen to middle or upper classes, the overall unemployment rate of blacks worsened between 1994 and 2003. Poverty among whites, previously rare, increased. While some have attributed this partly to the legacy of the apartheid system, increasingly many attribute it to the failure of the current government’s policies. In addition, the current government has struggled to achieve the monetary and fiscal discipline to ensure both redistribution of wealth and economic growth. Since the ANC-led government took power, the United Nations Human Development Index of South Africa has fallen, while it was steadily rising until the mid-1990s. Some of this could possibly be attributed to the AIDS pandemic and the failure of the government to take steps to address it.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Xhosa pronunciation: [xoˈliɬaɬa manˈdeːla];), born 18 July 1918,  served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, the first South-African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of the African National Congress’s armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe. The South African courts convicted him on charges of sabotage, as well as other crimes committed while he led the movement against apartheid. In accordance with his conviction’s sentence, Mandela served 27 years in prison, spending many of these years on Robben Island. Following his release from prison on 11 February 1990, Mandela supported reconciliation and negotiation, and helped lead the transition towards multi-racial democracy in South Africa.
Since the end of apartheid, many have frequently praised Mandela, including former opponents. In South Africa he is often known as Madiba, an honorary title adopted by elders of Mandela’s clan. The title has come to be synonymous with Nelson Mandela.
Mandela has received more than 250 awards over four decades, most notably the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. In November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly announced that Mandela’s birthday, 18 July, is to be known as ‘Mandela Day’ to mark his contribution to world freedom.
Apartheid (Afrikaans pronunciation: [ɐˈpɐrtɦəit], separateness) was a system of legal racial segregation enforced by the National Party government in South Africa between 1948 and 1994, under which the rights of the majority black inhabitants of South Africa were curtailed and minority rule by whites was maintained.
Racial segregation in South Africa began in colonial times, but apartheid as an official policy was introduced following the general election of 1948. New legislation classified inhabitants into racial groups (“black”, “white”, “coloured”, and “Yellow”), and residential areas were segregated by means of forced removals. From 1958, Blacks were deprived of their citizenship, legally becoming citizens of one of ten tribally based self-governing homelands called bantustans, four of which became nominally independent states. The government segregated education, medical care, and other public services, and provided black people with services inferior to those of whites.
Apartheid sparked significant internal resistance and violence as well as a long trade embargo against South Africa. A series of popular uprisings and protests were met with the banning of opposition and imprisoning of anti-apartheid leaders. As unrest spread and became more violent, state organizations responded with increasing repression and state-sponsored violence.
Reforms to apartheid in the 1980s failed to quell the mounting opposition, and in 1990 President Frederik Willem de Klerk began negotiations to end apartheid, culminating in multi-racial democratic elections in 1994, which were won by the African National Congress under Nelson Mandela. The vestiges of apartheid still shape South African politics and society.
After decades in a Robben Island prison, Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) is released in 1990 and works immediately to bring about the end of apartheid and the initiation of full democratic elections where the black majority population can vote. Mandela wins the race for President of South Africa and takes office in 1994. His immediate challenge is “balancing black aspirations with white fears.” The country’s still-present racial tensions are shown, in part, through Mandela’s security team, which is composed both of new black and old white officials. The black and white groups are immediately hostile to one another despite sharing the same job and goal.
While Mandela attempts to tackle the country’s largest problems – including crime and unemployment – he attends a game of the Springboks, the country’s rugby union team. Non-whites in the stadium cheer against their home squad, as the Springboks (their history, players and even their colours) represent prejudice and apartheid in their mind. Knowing that South Africa is set to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup in one year’s time, Mandela convinces the South African rugby board to keep the Springbok team, name and colours the same. He then meets with the Springboks’ captain François Pienaar (Matt Damon). Though Mandela never verbalizes his true meaning during their meeting, Pienaar understands the message below the surface: if the Springboks can gain the support of non-white South Africans and succeed in the upcoming World Cup, the country will be unified and inspired. Mandela also shares with Pienaar that a poem, Invictus, had been inspiring to him during his time in prison, helping him to “stand when all he wanted to do was lie down”.
Pienaar and his teammates train, but the players (all but one are white) voice disapproval that they are to be envoys to the poor and public – fearing exhaustion from overwork. Mandela, too, hears disapproval from friends and family. Many more, both white and non-white citizens and politicians, began to express doubts on using sport to unite a nation torn apart by some 50 years of racial tensions. For many non-white, especially the radicals, the Springboks symbolised white supremacy and they did not want to support their national team. As the tournament approaches, Mandela collapses from exhaustion and the Springboks’ only non-white player, Chester Williams, is sidelined with a pulled hamstring.
Things begin to change, however, as the players went around interacting with the locals. During the opening games, support for the Springboks begins to grow amongst the non-white population. By the second game Williams is fit once again. Citizens of all races turn out in numbers to show their unanimous support for the Springboks. At the suggestion of several security guards, Mandela decides to sport a Springbok jersey with Pienaar’s number 6 on it to show his support and his name is chanted repeatedly by the home crowd during his entrance, a contrast to a previous rugby match scene, in which Mandela is booed by some of the whites in the crowd. As momentum builds, even the security team members become at ease with each other and the black members who disliked rugby eventually began to enthusiastically support their national team alongside their white colleagues.
The Springboks, possessing a sub-par record, were not expected to go very far and are expected to lose in the quarterfinals. They surpass all expectations and make the final, only to face the New Zealand rugby team – called the All Blacks – the most successful rugby team in the world, the favourites to win the World Cup and historically the Springboks’ greatest rivals. Roared on by a large home crowd of both whites and non-white, Pienaar motivates his team to overcome their doubts and push their bodies to the limits.
After ending in a tie, the game goes into extra time, where the Springboks win on a long drop kick from fly-half Joel Stransky (Scott Eastwood) and a score of 15-12. Mandela and Pienaar meet on the field together to celebrate the improbable victory amidst a crowd of some 62,000 fans—of all races. Once there, Mandela thanks Pienaar for his service to the nation, but Pienaar insists the President that he deserves the real thanks. In one particular scene, some white police officers celebrate by hoisting a young black boy, who had been lingering near their vehicle to listen to the radio broadcast of the game, onto their shoulders.
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Topic: Republic of South Africa
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