South Africa Information - Page 2
In the mid seventeenth century, the Dutch East India Company sent a number people from the Netherlands to start a settlement in South Africa. These colonists were joined by French Protestants (Huguenots); their descendants were known as Boers (farmers) or Afrikaners.
People already living in the region were the San and Bantu. The Dutch brought slaves to South Africa from other parts of Africa, Madagascar, Malaysia and Java. Later, in 1860, indentured labour from India arrived to work on the sugar plantations.
The Cape was an important station where ships collected new supplies on their way to the East. Following the Napoleonic War, the Congress of Vienna assigned the area to the United Kingdom. The first British colonists arrived in 1820.
With the introduction of British administration many Afrikaners trekked north to found their own republics. The Great Trek started in 1835; eventually the Boer Republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal were established.
In 1867 the first diamonds were found near Kimberley and in 1886 gold was discovered in Witwatersrand (the Rand) in the Transvaal.
Conflict continued between the Boers and the British and in 1880 the First Anglo-Boer War started between the British and the Transvaal. This was followed in 1899 by the outbreak of the Second Boer War. The war resulted in a victory for the British (1902), followed by self-government of the Transvaal and Orange Free State, within the British Empire.
In 1910 the Cape, Natal, the Transvaal and Orange Free State became the Union of South Africa with Louis Botha as the country's first Prime Minister. Jan Smuts succeeded Botha, who in turn was succeeded by Hertzog. However Smuts was back again in 1939 taking South Africa into the Second World War on the side of Britain.
After the War, Daniel Malan became the Prime Minister leading the Nationalist and Afrikaner Parties. Once in government the Nationalists strengthened the policy of apartheid - the separation of the races. "Homelands" were set up for black people who were legally enforced to carry "pass" books that contained information details of their access to non-black areas.
In 1960 a number of black people in Sharpeville refused to carry passes. A state of emergency was declared and during this time seventy protesters were killed and around two hundred wounded.
Britain opposed the system of apartheid and in 1961 the South African government severed its ties with Britain and the Commonwealth and became a republic.
Throughout the reign of apartheid those against the policy, such as members of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan African Congress (PAC), were either imprisoned or lived in exile. The Black Consciousness Movement and The Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement also opposed apartheid.
In 1976, a rebellion in the black township of Soweto, near Johannesburg, was sparked by the imposition of the Afrikaans language (the language of apartheid) in black schools. Over the following months rioting spread leading to the deaths of hundreds of the black population.
1977 saw the death of the Black Consciousness Movement leader, Stephen Biko. He died at the age of thirty whilst in police custody.
Eventually a new Constitution included "Coloureds" and Indians in the parliamentary system although the whites still held the majority and blacks were excluded.
Protests continued and in 1986 the South African Bishop, Desmond Tutu, pressed the United Nations for more sanctions against South Africa.
In 1989 F W de Klerk became Prime Minister and 1990 saw the release of Nelson Mandela, the ANC leader, after twenty-seven years in prison.
A referendum in 1992 showed white support for constitutional reform. The 1990s brought an end to apartheid and the ANC won an overwhelming victory with Nelson Mandela becoming the country's leader. In 1999 Thabo Mbeki succeeded Mandela as President of the African National Congress and President of South Africa.
A Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1996-98) led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu was set up to find out the truth about the atrocities committed during the period of apartheid.
South Africa has a good infrastructure, developed legal and financial sectors and a large stock exchange.
The country has plentiful supplies of natural resources and South Africa is a major producer of chromium, gold and platinum. Other resources are coal, copper, iron, manganese, nickel, phosphates, salt, tin, uranium, vanadium, diamonds and natural gas.
However after years of apartheid there is a huge gap between the rich and poor. Unemployment is high - most of the unemployed are black.
Industries include chemicals, fertiliser, iron and steel, metalwork, machinery, vehicle assembly, commercial ship repair, textiles and food production. There is also a successful wine industry.
South Africa grows its own food. There are large modern farms as well as the small traditional farms. Most of the farmland is used for grazing livestock such as cattle, sheep and goats. Agricultural products are maize, fruit, sugarcane, groundnuts, dairy produce and wool.
Finance, insurance and tourism are important to the country's economy.
South Africa has a variety of tourist attractions such as the Durban coast and the Kruger National Park. In May 2004 FIFA, the Federation Internationale Football Association, announced that South Africa had been chosen as the venue of the 2010 football World Cup. This event was estimated to be worth more than two hundred million pounds to the economy. (2008)
Over three thousand examples of Stone Age art has been preserved in South Africa - these are murals of people and animals.
Songs, stories and poetry have long been part of South Africa's heritage. Today modern poets continue the poetic tradition exploring the issues of the present. A number of books have been written which tell South Africa's story of apartheid including I Write What I Like by Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom and Alan Paton's novel Cry The Beloved Country.
Music and dance are both integral parts of South Africa's culture. Throughout apartheid many black men worked in the mines, separated from their families; dance was a way of keeping in touch with their roots and enduring terrible living conditions. Today these dances are performed for tourists.
South Africa's pleasant weather has resulted in an outdoor lifestyle. Sport is a popular leisure activity and South Africa excels at international rugby and cricket.
During the period of apartheid a sport boycott took place against South Africa by many sporting bodies and individuals. For example, in cricket other cricket-playing nations refused to play against South Africa. However once South Africa was back, with players picked from all its people, the team soon became one of the top two or three in the world, with terrific fast bowlers, hard-hitting batsmen and athletic fielders.
The South African Football Association is also keen to promote their national team and in May 2004 it was announced that South Africa would host the 2010 World Cup.
Christmas, Easter and New Year (1 January) are public holidays. Other national holidays include Freedom Day and the Day of Reconciliation.
News from South Africa is available from Newslink.
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