The History of South Africa

Van Riebeeck’s landing at the Cape
In April 1652 Jan Van Riebeeck anchored at the foot of Table Mountain after receiving a commission from the Dutch-East Indian Trading Company to establish a refreshment station. The station was to supply the ships going east with fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. They grew the vegetables and fruit themselves and meat was obtained through trade with the natives. As the port developed the need for labour increased and slaves had to be imported. Soon afterwards Dutch settlers arrived followed by settlers from all over Europe.

The Trek Boers
By the beginning of the 18th century the Cape Settlers were expanding their territory towards the North East. This expansion was primarily lead by the Trek Boers looking for fresh grazing land for their cattle. As their expansion increased they came more and more in conflict with first the Khoikhoi and later the Xhosas. In the towns tension was also increasing between the citizens and the colonial administration with the towns people wanting their independence. Swellendam and Graaff-Reinette were the first to pronounce themselves as independent Republics. This was short lived and in 1795 the Cape Colony was annexed to the United Kingdom.

The Great Trek
In 1835 10 000 boers, the Voortrekkers, left the Cape Colony and went North and North-East. 5 000 Voortrekkers settled in the area that would later be known as the Orange Free State. The rest headed for Natal where they had to negotiate with the Zulu king Dingaan for land. Dingaan agreed that they could have a large area of land in central and south Natal but as the delegates left they were killed by the Zulus in an ambush. The newly elected leader of the Voortrekkers prepared the group for a retaliatory attack. The Zulus were finally defeated in the famous “Battle of Blood River” which lead to the founding of the first Boer Republic in Natal.

The Anglo-Boer War
The Voortrekkers in Natal moved north-east after they were defeated by the British in 1842. They settled north and south of the Vaal river and formed the independent Transvaal. In 1854 the contract of Bloemfontein was signed and the Republic of Orange Free State was founded. British sentiment was strongly in favour of uniting their own colonies with the boer republics into one union and thereby gaining control of the gold mines of Transvaal. On the 11th of February 1899 war broke out between the two boer republics and the two British colonies. On March 13, 1900 Bloemfontein was occupied by the British, followed by Johannesburg and Pretoria on the 1st of September. The Boers started a guerilla war which was countered by the British through the devastation of their farms and the placing of their women and children in concentration camps. On 31 May a peace contract was signed by the Boers and the British

Apartheid Era
As early as 1910 laws were passed that curtailed the rights of the black majority in South Africa. With black people having no political rights in South Africa, resistance groups such as the ANC was soon formed. After the 2nd world war conflicts between blacks and whites intensified and black workers went on numerous strikes. After the 1948 elections the National Party became the ruling party in South Africa. The party was led by D.F.Malan who was the first president to introduce the concept of “apartheid”. H.F.Verwoerd took over in 1958 and he instituted several semi-autonomous homelands. Now the government could theoretically call their elections free and fair as the majority of blacks were not officially South African citizens anymore. Black resistance under the leadership of the ANC consolidated and mass protests were organized. The government banned all opposition groups forcing them to go underground. In 1979 several protesting pupils were killed by the police which led to the spread of unrest through out the country. In 1989, the then president of South Africa, Klerk admitted the failure of Apartheid and negotiations for the first general elections was started.

For South Africa History and Anglo-Boer War History. Click Here.