South Africa

Land of Hope

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Cape of Good Hope. Griqualand West. Natal. The New Republic. Before South Africa became the country we know it as today it constituted many lands.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach the Cape of Good Hope, led by the explorer Bartolomeu Dias, in 1488. 200 years later the Dutch East India Company established a supply line. By the end of the 18th century, British forces occupied the territory. In 1814 a treaty confirmed British ownership of Cape Colony. The Boers challenged British rule and migrated away in an act known as the Great Trek and founded two republics away from the British: Orange Free State and Transvaal. In the 1850s the British recognised the two Boer republics. After a war with Zulus – during which the British recovered from a bruising defeat at the Isandhlwana – both Lesotho and the Kingdom of Swaziland became British protectorates. A war between the Boers and the British inevitably followed with the deployment of guerrilla warfare (by the Boers) and concentration camps (by the British). Peace was hard-fought.

After 4 years of negotiating, the Union of South Africa came into existence on 31 May 1910. From the beginning black people were considered second-class citizens; most lived in tribal reserves and laws prevented them owning land in specific areas. In 1948, when the National Party came to power, a strict policy of apartheid saw whites and blacks segregated across all of society. Following a whites-only referendum in 1960 the Union of South Africa became a republic and left the Commonwealth, before being reinstated as a member of the Commonwealth in 1994. In the same year, due to the first democratic elections, Nelson Mandela was elected president. He retired in 1999 but had a considerable impact on the flow of events that formed South Africa and dispelled the race divide. Today the population of South Africa is 56 million live in relative peace.

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