Let’s face it; South Africa has had a difficult historical past that most people can’t seem to let go of. From the hundred years of recurrent Xhosa wars, the onset of colonization in 1652, the birth of ANC, to the death of Nelson Mandela, whose life has been a beacon of hope for many people, South African history has a number of turning points that momentarily shaped the present-day South Africa we all know. Apartheid, even though it’s a big part of the South African history, is not the only part that shapes the history. To help you understand what actually happened, we want to shed more light on the 10 moments that brought change in South African history and the significance of such change today that is evident in the society. Here we go:
10 Moments that brought Change in South African History
1. The Inception of Colonization – 1652
Colonization in South Africa began in 1652 when Jan Van Riebeek first arrived in South Africa – Cape Town to be specific. Immediately after arriving, Jan Van embarked on enacting the foundation of his fortress at the magnificent table mountain to keep the thundering Indian oceans and the Atlantic at bay. While doing this, little did he know he was erecting the foundation of Cape Town – the mother city of a country that would later become the powerhouse of Africa – or, let’s say, little did he know he was preparing South Africa for what would, later on, give South African natives a difficult colonial regime.
2. Racial Conflict and British Colonialism – 1779 to 1975
In 1779, the Boer expansion eventually met up with the Xhosa community who, on the face of it, were migrating southwards at the Fish River. This is what gave rise to a procession of nine inter-ethnic wars that were fought for a period of 100 years. Initially, the war was between the Boers and the Xhosas but later raged to become a war of the British against the Xhosas in 1795, after the British had forcefully nabbed off the colony from the Dutch under the command of Sir Henry James Craig.
3. Black Circuit and Rebellion – 1809
Reports of how the Boers mistreated the natives eventually reached the British Government. As a result, the British Rulers, in 1809, passed the Hottentot proclamation to protect the black servants from the Boers. Later on, a black circuit was passed which was actually a court that toured the interior sides of South Africa to hear all cases of black servants against the Boers. This act, in due course, drew a lot of resentment between the Boers and the British. Consequently, the resentment created room for the Slechter Nek’s rebellion that later claimed the lives of 5 Boers, who were hanged by the British.
4. Discovery of Diamonds – 1871
Diamonds were discovered in 1870 at what we presently refer to as Kimberly – the capital of Northern Cape Town Province. This discovery attracted hordes of fortune seekers from all corners of the world, who flocked to the regions surrounding Kimberly. In 1873, the British declared Kimberly their crowned colony, and four years later, they also went ahead to annex the Boer founded Transvaal republic.
5. The First-Anglo-Boer War – 1878
British annexation of the Transvaal republic brought a lot of tension between the Boers and British. In protest, the Boers decided to send a delegation to petition against the annexation, but British took a rigid stand even though they promised them considerable self-governance that was never implemented. To make the matters worse, the British rulers in Transvaal began attaching the properties of the Boers who refused to pay taxes. This act infuriated the Boers who resurrected their Militia and confiscated the attached goods from the British rulers. On 13th December 1880, Transvaal unilaterally declared itself independent from the British rule and went ahead to replace British flag with the flag that’s hitherto being revered in South Africa, the Vierkleur.
6. The Second-Anglo-Boer War – 1899
The Second-Anglo-Boer-War, also referred to as the South African war, was mainly triggered by the discovery of gold in South Africa. The British, determined to lure the gold, gathered over 443,000 soldiers with 22,000 casualties and 16,000 blacks as blockhouse guards and empire railways patrollers against the 45,000 Boer men. After fighting for three years, the Boer forces were narrowed down to 10,000. They, therefore, decided to engage the British in Guerrilla tactics by destroying their telegraph sites, storage depots and railways. In response, the British completely destroyed Boers supplies by burning down their farms and moving Boer civilians to concentration camps. This led to the death of approximately one out of the four civilians taken in the camps. By the end of the war, about 28,000 Boer women and children were taken to camp actually died of diseases and malnutrition.
7. The Union of South Africa – 1910
All the four colonies conquered by the British–Natal, Cape, Orange free state and Transvaal united to form the union of South Africa, which was under the British Commonwealth.
8. The Birth of ANC – 1912
To bring all the black South Africans together to help them fight for freedom and their rights as well, ANC was born. John Dube was then elected as the first president of the party. Now as this was going on, the British passed the notorious land act that forcefully drove all blacks away from their land to city centres to work as slaves. With no substantial power to influence the British government, the ANC party remained inactive until 1940 when it remodelled into a mass movement under the influence of Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, and Walter Sisulu, who were, by then, part of the ANC Youth League.
9. Independence – 1948
After the Second World War, the South African populace divided into two: 1) there was a group that was willing to serve the British government – the English in Natal, a fraction of the population in Cape Town and members of Unionist party and SA party. 2) the second group was strongly against the British rule, and it constituted all the members of the Nationalists party. Soon after, the Unionist party and SA party merged to form the United party. In 1948, an election was held but the united party lost to the Nationalists party. But despite all its effort to break free from the British rule and regain total independence, it only managed to make South Africa a republic on 31st May 1961. The British remained rigid on the apartheid policy; as a result, they were removed as commonwealth members.
10. The Black Rule
The first free and fair multi-racial election was conducted on 26th April 1994. ANC won with 62.6% of the total votes. Nelson Mandela was then elected as the first black president of South Africa, with Thabo Mbeki and F.W de Klerk as his deputies. This marked the beginning of total independence in South African history and the permanent end to the much-dreaded apartheid policy.
The Era of South Africa’s Apartheid – What You Must Know