South Africa Recent History

At the beginning of 1648 a Dutch ship was dubbing the Cape of Good Hope when it hit a rock causing a serious damage. The sailors were forced to jump into the sea to swim to the coast. Once in that unknown land they were forced to stay there until another ship arrived. This happened after a year and in the meantime the sailors explored various areas of the territory discovering the richness of the vegetation and the goodness of the climate.

When they returned to their homeland they enthusiastically described the fertility of that land and it was thus that the Dutch Company of the Indies sent several hundred men, under the command of Jan van Riebeeck, to immediately begin colonization.

According to Abbreviationfinder, the Dutch ships arrived in Baia della Tavola on April 6, 1652 and this was certainly the date of birth of South Africa. In just over 100 years, a rich and active colony, Cape Town, was formed in those lands.

In 1795 Holland was invaded by France. Many districts of the Cape colony who wanted to get rid of the heavy taxes established by the motherland, took advantage of the situation to claim independence. With the excuse of suppressing the attempts at rebellion, England intervened and assumed command of the colony first on behalf of Holland and then, later, on its own and definitively.

Thus began the gradual occupation by England of the territories of Southern Africa, up to the sources of Zambezi and Congo.

The struggle for the conquest of these territories was often dramatic, brutal, especially when the rich diamond and gold deposits were discovered underground. Over the course of just over a century, England prevailed over the primitive Dutch colonists, called the Boers (from the Dutch “boeren” which means peasant) and the natives. His strategy was this. In the colony it often happened that frictions and rebellions were created, especially between settlers and natives. At this point the British troops who took possession of the territory intervened with force. However, it must be said that the British government, very often, due to greater authority and strength, managed to better organize colonial activity for the benefit of all. And these were the most significant dates of that conquest policy:
1835 – first trek (i.e. mass withdrawal) of thousands of peasants, who abandoned their homes
and emigrated to the north;
1836 – the Boers founded, beyond the Orange River, a kind of republic with the name of “Free State
of Orange”;
1840 – constitution of the republic of Natal;
1842 – Natal was occupied by the British;
1848 – the British invaded the state of Orange and joined the territory to the Cape colony;
1849 – the Boers, under the leadership of Andrea Pretorius, formed a new Boer state: the Transvaal.
For about 25 years the Boers lived in relative tranquility in the new state. But around 1873
the gold mines discovered a
few years earlier began to be exploited with exceptional profit ;
1880 – the Boers, under the leadership of Paolo Kruger, rebelled against English interference and won;
1899-1902 – the Anglo-Boer war broke out with unprecedented ferocity. On one side the British army
with 300,000 men, on the other the minor and less armed gangs of the Boers.

South Africa Recent History

But the fury with which they fought meant that the strong English army suffered numerous defeats before being able, at the cost of enormous sacrifices, to dominate the enemy. England treated the vanquished magnanimously. After only 4 years from the end of the war, he replaced the military administration with a civilian governor. The Boer chiefs themselves collaborated honestly with the ancient enemy for the good of their people. In 1910 the Constitution of the new state came into force, the Union of South Africa, that is, the South African Union, comprising 4 provinces: Cape Province, Natal, Transvaal, Orange State.

Immediately, in 1935, problems arose regarding the three indigenous protectorates: Batusoland, Swaziland and Bechuanaland, which the Union intended to annex. England declared itself against it and then, on 7 July 1937, the premier of the Union, General Hertzog, raised the issue by officially clarifying the reasons for this claim to the press. Then by carrying out harsh repressions on the National Socialists present in the territory, in the same year the protests of the Reich attracted.

In March 1938 the elections awarded the victory to the National Unity Party led by Generals Smuts and Hertzog and yet the government coalitioned with the Malan nationalists, the Dominions Party and the Socialists.

At the outbreak of the Second World War Hertzog proposed to declare himself neutral but his proposal was rejected; he resigned, Smuts took power and war was declared on Germany.

The 1943 legislative elections approved government action and Hertzog permanently withdrew from politics.

When the war came to an end, the Union had to worry immediately about economic reconversion, from that of war to that of peace; but yet another major problem came on the carpet. In 1927, an agreement was signed in Capetown between the Union and India, concerning the rights of Indians, present in considerable numbers in the Union. Then in 1941 an “Act” was drafted which prohibited Indians from buying, or simply occupying, landed property in areas with a clear European prevalence, unless special permits were possessed. And in June 1946 all this was confirmed.

Natal, which was then the center of the Indian population, was divided into two parts: in one the Indians could have lived and administered their properties, exclusively them. This decision sparked internal protests among Indian populations but also external protests as India resorted to the United Nations and broke relations with the Union.

In November 1946 Smuts asked the United Nations to incorporate the former German colonies into the Union, which had already been entrusted to the government of Pretoria in 1920 as a colonial mandate. But despite the more than valid reasons put forward by the Union, the United Nations in December 1946 issued a decidedly contrary motion. This provoked protests, especially from Malan nationalists, who even demanded the withdrawal of the Union from the United Nations and the division of the white people from the colored people.
The general elections of 1948 were won by the nationalists who marked the government with a stronger sentiment against England, while remaining in the Commonwealth and entrusting the main tasks to the two European bloodlines, with the collaboration of the other races. The provincial elections of March 1949 confirmed the results of the previous ones.

The apartheid policy had begun, which the nationalists increasingly strengthened as their majority increased in the subsequent elections of 1953 and 1958. Against this policy, the reactions of the whole world and the United Nations, but also of the various groups, were lively. whites and indigenous interns, to which the African Nationalist Movement was added in 1959. The nationalist government fiercely fought all oppositions, banned the communist party and cut union organizations.

In October 1961 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Albert John Luthuli, former President of the African National Congress. And in the same year, on May 31, after a popular referendum, the South African Union proclaimed itself Republic and withdrew the request for readmission to the Commonwealth.

The campaign of sabotage developed among the natives and the government consequently tightened the penalties against the saboteurs. Many personalities, considered “subversive”, were sent to confinement and among them there was Luthuli who died there in 1967. In 1963 a new law authorized the arrest without arrest warrant, and over 3000 people were arrested. At the end of 1965 there were 5000 political prisoners and 2000 African exponents.

Even when the head of government HF Verwoerd was assassinated in 1966, the policy did not change, in fact, it tightened. And the embargo on military supplies to the South African Republic was of no avail.

In the 1970 elections the nationalist party retained the majority while the white opposition, formed mainly by the Christian Churches and a few thousand students who were arrested in their demonstrations, remained completely insignificant.
In 1973, following strikes, however declared illegal, the Zulu of Bantustan, a particular African ethnic group, obtained exceptionally good successes and had wage increases and a partial recognition of the right to strike. Some African movements were also created, all aimed at obtaining autonomy from the central government and in fact in 1976 and 1977 they had formal independence, respectively the Transkei and the Bophutatswana.

Apartheid prevented the South African Republic from intervening in large international forums, given the isolation inflicted by the United Nations; impediment which also included world sporting events, such as the Olympics. But commercial relations with the countries of the West did not suffer. Having understood that they could have made vast investments, they were not impressed by that persistent racist action. Of course, the broad development of the economy allowed the South African republic to prevail over the countries of southern Africa and to have strong ties with them, that is, with Malawi, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland.

In 1974 the elections were always won by the nationalist party; apartheid went on more uncompromisingly than ever and in June 1976 in Soweto, a suburb of Johannesburg, there was a bloody repressed protest from students who refused to make compulsory “Afrikaans” in schools.

In 1979 Vorster resigned as president of the republic and the position was taken on by M. Viljoeen. But in the 1980s apartheid policy began to falter also because international isolation had decreed a regression of the economy and the nationalists themselves realized that in doing so they would have no chance of making the best use of the wealth of the state.

In 1984 he became head of state PW Botha which eased tensions and allowed the formation of trade union organizations also for Africans with a limited right to strike. In 1986 an equal document was established for all. A new constitution was adopted which allowed representation of the “colored”, mestizos and Asians in the Chamber; Room distinct from that exclusively for whites. But these concessions by Botha were more effective in highlighting discrimination, and violent clashes still took place and feared for a civil war.

In addition to the unions, Christian churches also took action to dismantle this state of affairs, and great work was done by the Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, D. Tutu, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for this.

Starting in 1986, a state of emergency for armed struggle and constant attacks was proclaimed and then removed.
In the 1989 elections, the nationalist party still had an absolute majority. The two chambers were also renewed but registered very little participation in the voting. In the same year Botha left office due to illness and his successor, FW De Klerk, immediately repealed the racist legislation and disavowed all its ideology, including the politics of segregation. In February 1990 he freed all political prisoners, including the most famous Nelson Mandela, with whom De Klerk had already begun, in discreet form, dialogues to resolve together the most serious disagreements existing between whites and blacks.

The elections of 1994 definitively closed the epoch of the white monopoly and Mandela was elected president of the republic, and a government of national unity was launched. This handover had the flavor more of an “integration” than a “decolonization”.

Former President De Klerk remained in power as Mandela’s deputy; the Republic of South Africa re-entered the Organization of African Unity and, having definitively emerged from isolation, made available all its enormous potential to drive the development of southern Africa and the whole continent.

It should also be remembered that Mandela, released after 25 years of captivity, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and still offers his active, great willpower, for the progress of peoples, especially those called the “Third World”.

The early days of this new government were spent for one of the most important reasons: that of preventing the blacks, so far disinherited and oppressed, from carrying out the revenge, which had been too long hatched, against the white and racist oppressors. But, moreover, revenge among the blacks themselves, between the different ethnic groups, was also foreseeable, and for this reason the Zulu ethnic groups were tightly controlled, who had often distinguished themselves in actions of revenge towards the other tribes.

This transitional government had political forces evenly distributed, and therefore was able to work profitably. Elections were called for the month of April 1994. Everything took place in an evolved and democratic way. And this aroused a sense of wonder all over the world, considering that many years had passed without the people enjoying any economic and cultural advantage, crushed as it was by the overwhelming white hegemony. To achieve this result, with his sagacity and political preparation, Nelson Mandela, considered by all the father of the homeland, who reconciled the traditions of his people in the state with those eager for modernization, typical of the time that ran.

In addition, Mandela had established a special Commission, called “for truth and reconciliation”, which had the task, between 1995 and 1998, of preparing a list of all the people who had received or made criminal actions. The culprits of these, if they confessed to having followed orders from politicians and not pursuing personal purposes, could have benefited from the amnesty.

This meant two aims, above all moral ones: the first reassured the oppressed that their painful vicissitudes had not been forgotten or canceled. The second was that which forced the oppressors to a profound examination of conscience, just to recognize their mistakes and, therefore, the moral condemnation for all their faults.
Many of the main exponents of apartheid refused to testify; they did not want to surrender to the judgment of the world, even if history had already done it for them.

However, the process of civil coexistence and democratization went on and Parliament, in October 1996, approved the new Constitution which became operational from February 4, 1997. With it, government bodies and provincial autonomies were established, with which the path towards normalcy continued to unfold.

Legislative power was entrusted to two chambers: a National Assembly and a National Council of the provinces.
Then the economic situation was studied which in recent years especially had proved to be rather deficient, both for its zero growth rate and for the very pronounced social inequalities. As regards the lack of growth, this was attributed to various factors, such as the flight of national capital abroad and the absence of foreign investments in the country.

All of this due, of course, to the infamous apartheid. Furthermore, even the internal market had been insufficient, precisely due to the lack of dialogue with the black population, prevented from undertaking any activity. And this population, still in 1994, lived in a state of absolute poverty. No education, benefited from dilapidated huts without electricity and drinking water. And the lands allocated for cultivation were mostly unproductive.

An attempt was made to correct all the errors of the past administration, but many difficulties came between the wishes of the government and their realization. Even for the fragile public order that exists.

In 1997, one of the highest crime rates in the world was recorded in the country, especially for homicides and drug trafficking. Certainly one of the most nefarious legacies of apartheid was the total lack of education, education and professionalism among the black people, which for years and years had had to do only with belonging to military groups and therefore facilitated to take possession of weapons and ammunition.

Mandela had become fully aware of the situation and always worked to pursue the purpose of his life: to improve the conditions of his people so that he could integrate well into the state, no longer an enemy, and take advantage of the benefits deriving, but above all recognize the need to respect the rules and order.

Internationally, the South African Republic carried out an intense diplomatic activity, quickly becoming one of the privileged partners of the western world. He joined the South African Development Community since 1994 and proposed his mediations to settle matters in the countries of Southern Africa, even though in 1998 he unhappily intervened with arms in Lesotho.

When political stability seemed well underway, Mandela declared that he would not submit another candidacy for the Presidency of the Republic. He was succeeded by vice-president T. Mbeki, a man of mirrored probity, competent in business and strongly convinced of the “African rebirth”.

On June 2, 1999, the elections then brought the African National Congress to victory with an overwhelming majority over the New Nationalist Party. A good success was obtained by the Democratic Party, of liberal traditions. The government, after these elections, proved very strong; by contrast, the opposition was very weak. On June 16, 1999, T. Mbeki was elected President of the Republic.