Positive Progress Through The Benevolent Use Of Knowledge

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Landmarks of the rich & dramatic history of S. Africa

The history of South Africa is irrevocably linked to the history of Africa, one of contrast and diversity.

A history marked by the rise of complex societies and migrations and a tribute to all its people who adapted to the challenges of nature with enthusiasm and courage.

A way of life where people’s livelihood depended on hunting, gathering and the herding of animals within a certain area. The introduction of iron changed the African continent irrevocably and was a large step forward in the development of its people.

Start your history of South Africa tour by clicking on any of the subjects in the menu below;


African background,...

The discovery of iron and its use created the potential for agriculture, which changed the lifestyles of the African people forever. Population numbers rose and a pattern of migration started, a pattern that would develop into the mass migration of black people from the great lakes in central Africa to the north, east and south of Southern Africa. It is known as the southern migration, a key factor in South Africa's history.
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Ancient times,...

The famous fossilized scull of one of the very first ancestors of humankind, known today as Mrs. Ples. It is believed to be 2,5 million years old and was found in the Sterkfontein caves at the Cradle of Humankind area. It is on display in the Transvaal museum in Pretoria - History of South Africa
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The history of man in South Africa covers such a vast period of time that it is difficult to determine exactly where to start. A possible choice could be the development of Hominidae (human race) five million years ago, or maybe 2,3 million years ago with the development of the genus Homo. Archaeological evidence suggests that both Homo habilis and Homo erectus inhabited southern Africa and that modern humans have lived in South Africa for over 100,000 years.

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The San and the Khoi people,...

Battle Cave, ancient dwelling-place of the Bushmen (San) in the Injusati valley in the Drakensberg mountains, famous for its scenes depicting the San people’s way of life and their rock art on the cave walls - History of South Africa
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Together they are called the "Khoisan", a term that has been used to describe their broad similarity in cultural and biological origins. It is derived from the names "Khoikhoi" and "San". "Khoikhoi" was the original name used by the Hottentots in reference to themselves and "San" was the name the Bushmen used when they referred to themselves. They are the first known inhabitants of South Africa, believed to have emerged from the same gene pools as the black people, but to have developed separately.

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Origins of the black people,...

Zulus ploughing the land like in the old days - History of South Africa
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With the development of the iron blade, reaping became easier and agriculture took on a whole new meaning. Populations grew faster than before and people were encroaching on each other's land. This necessitated an enlargement of territory, which led to a mass migration of African peoples from the Great Lakes in central Africa, to the North, East and Southern Africa, known as the southern migration. Some anthropologists believe that this migration process could have taken up to 2 000 years.

more about the Bantu people migration into South Africa >>>

Settlement of the black people,...

The above is the generally accepted view of the origins and spread of the Bantu people in three phases during the southern migration - History of South Africa

Many of the Bantu speaking tribes who came from central Africa during the Southern Migration, established themselves in today's KwaZulu-Natal, further along the southern coast and in Mpumalanga. Other tribes tended to move more into the interior. Although their languages and culture did have similarities, they were far from identical. The black population of South Africa can be divided into several ethnic groups, of which the Nguni speaking people form a major part. Other main groups are the Sotho, the Venda and the Shangaan-Tsonga.

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First European discoverers,...

A replica of the ship in which in which Portuguese seafarer Bartolomeu Dias rounded the southern tip of Africa in 1488, calling it the "Cape of Good Hope". It is on display in the Dias museum in Mosselbay - History of South Africa
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The white population arrived on the South African scene long after the black people. Bartolomeu Dias, a Portuguese seafarer, was the first European to sail around the southern point of Africa in 1486. He named it "The Cape of Good Hope" ("Cabo de Boa Esperanca"). Nine years were to pass before Vasco da Gama, another Portuguese seafarer, attempted a voyage around the southern point of Africa. Although the Portuguese were the first to travel around the Cape, they were not seriously interested in southern Africa.

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Early European settlers,...

The first Europeans to settle in South Africa were the Dutch seafarer Jan van Riebeeck and his crew, who arrived with their three ships in Table Bay in 1652. The local inhabitants in the Cape at that time were the Khoisan people - History of South Africa

On 6 April 1652, the Dutch seafarer Jan van Riebeeck arrived in Table Bay with his three ships. His mission was to establish a supply station on behalf of the Dutch East India Company ( V.O.C.). Originally, the V.O.C. did not intend to establish a full-fledged colony at the Cape, but it committed itself when it gave nine Company servants their freedom in 1657 to establish private farms in the Rondebosch area below the eastern slopes of Table Mountain.

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The Slaves,...

Cape Malay minstrels, many of them descendents of the Malay slaves imported by Jan van Riebeeck in 1658, having their annual street carnival with their own unique Malay music and singing - History of South Africa
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The importation of slaves greatly enlarged the population of the Cape. Slaves were imported from other parts of Africa, Madagascar, India and East Asia. They were mainly used as labourers and servants but many of them were skilled carpenters and bricklayers. Their skills played an invaluable role in speeding up the progress and development of the Cape. The intermingling between the slaves and the European population marked the beginning of the coloured community un the cape.

more about the slaves in South Africa’s Cape colony Cape colony >>>

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The French Huguenots,...

The Huguenot monument and museum in Franschhoek, in commemoration of the settlement of the French Huguenot refugees in the Cape colony in 1689
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In 1689, some 180 Huguenot refugees were brought to the Cape after Louis XIV had banned Calvinism in France. They settled mainly in what was then known as the "Olifantshoek vallei" (elephant corner valley), known today as Franschhoek and Franschhoek valley. People from Germany, Scandinavia, Flanders and Switzerland also contributed to the diverse population of the Cape. With their love and knowledge of wine making, the French settlers stood at the cradle of South Africa’s famous wine making culture of today.

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Colonization of the Cape,...

Entrance to the Castle of Good Hope, the oldest stone building in South Africa. The fort was built by the Dutch colonists over the period 1666 to 1679, to protect the Colony against invasion from across the sea - History of South Africa
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After the French revolution, the newly founded Republic of France conquered the Netherlands in 1795. The Netherlands became known as the Batavian republic and the ruler of the Netherlands, Prince William of Orange, had to flee to England. In England, the prince asked the British to prevent France from taking possession of the Dutch colonies. Britain obliged and, as a result, became involved with the Cape. Not all the inhabitants of the Cape however were in favour of British occupation.

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1820 Settlers,...

One of the beautiful beaches of Algoa bay, known as Summerstrand beach at Port Elizabeth with the Boardwalk and casino in the background - History of South Africa
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Following the Napoleonic wars, Britain was experiencing a serious unemployment problem and Lord Somerset was therefore keen to entice British immigrants to the Cape. He also thought that they would help to maintain peace on the border between the Fish and Sundays Rivers. In 1819, the British government decided to send emigrants to the Cape. Only 4000 of the 90,000 applications were approved. The first settlers arrived in Table Bay on 17 March 1820. From there they were sent to Algoa Bay, today known as Port Elizabeth.

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Mfecane / Difaqane (Total War),...

Young Zulus performing a traditional Zulu warrior dance at the Shakaland museum in Zulu land - History of South Africa
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One of the most significant historical occurrences in the early history of South Africa was the Mfecane. The term Mfecane in the Nguni language means "destroyed in total war". In Sotho it is Difaqane, meaning "hammering" or "forced migration / removal". The great Zulu and Sotho tribes fought each other for space and domination throughout Southern Africa, killing and displacing hundreds of thousands of people across the sub-continent. A key figure in this all-out battle among the African tribes was the great Zulu king Shaka.

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The Great Trek,...

Historical scene at the Voortrekker Monument museum in Pretoria, depicting the "Laager" (encampment) of a Voortrekker family on their journey into the interior of South Africa - History of South Africa
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Over a time span of three years starting in 1835, some 12,000 Voortrekkers (pioneers) left the Cape Colony and trekked (moved) into the interior by ox wagon. In time, these Voortrekkers started to build a unique identity and started calling themselves Afrikaners. They also developed a hybrid language, Afrikaans, which stemmed from high Dutch but incorporated strong French, Malay, German and Black influences. The Afrikaans-speaking descendants of these people would later simply be called “Boere” (boers or farmers).

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Voortrekker / Zulu war,...

The Blood River monument, a replica of the fortified "Laager" (encampment) of Andries Pretorius and his men in commemoration of the battle of Blood River in 1838 between the Voortrekkers and the Zulus - History of South Africa
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Many of the Voortrekkers leaving the Cape colony, decided to move to the Natal region, on the eastern coast of South Africa. At that time Natal was largely inhabited by the Zulus, who had developed into one of the strongest and most powerful black nations of Africa. So the land in natal was not for the taking. Having left the Cape on March 1837, Voortrekker leader Piet Retief and his party of about 400 Voortrekkers opted for Natal as their destination. They initiated negotiations with reigning Zulu king Dingane, to obtain land.

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Discovery of Gold and Diamonds,...

The Big Hole of Kimberley, place of the biggest diamond rush the world has ever seen. 50,000 miners dug a hole of around 300 x 200 meters and close to 1100 meters deep - History of South Africa
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With the discovery of diamonds and gold in the 19th century, urbanisation started in earnest in South Africa. People came from all over the world to stake their claims in the diamond fields. New towns were established to accommodate the huge influx of people. When gold was discovered in the Transvaal (Pilgrim’s rest, Barberton and the Witwatersrand), a similar process took place. Mining magnates such as Cecil John Rhodes and Barney Barnato, who both had interests in the diamond industry, also became involved in the mining of gold.

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Anglo / Zulu war,...

The battlefield at Isandhlwana hill where a British force of some 1700 men armed with guns and canon, were virtually wiped out by more then 20,000 spear-wielding Zulu warriors - History of South Africa
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In the second half of the 1800’s Great Britain saw itself faced with two colonies, two independent "Boer" republics and several independent African territories including a very powerful Zulu Kingdom, with little control over any of them. As part of the British efforts to consolidate their power, the British High Commissioner for South Africa requested Zulu king Cetshwayo to virtually disarm his entire army. The Zulu's had no such inclination what so ever and the Anglo / Zulu war as it is known today was under way.

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Anglo / Boer wars,...

Melrose House in Pretoria, where the peace treaty of Vereniging was signed on the 31st of May 1902, ending the second Anglo-Boer war - History of South Africa
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With the discovery of diamonds and gold the British realized that there was great wealth for the taking outside the Cape Colony. In 1877 they annexed the region where the “voortrekker boers” had founded their "Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek" (South African Republic, also called The Republic of Transvaal), 25 years before. The boers were infuriated and on 16 December 1880 they declared themselves independent from Great Britain and shots were fired by Transvaal boers at Potchefstroom, marking the start of the first Anglo / Boer war.

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