The one minute summary on

South Africa photo

Photo by dorena-wm

This is it: one minute to the best info on South Africa. This info alone will put you ahead of 99% of foreigners visiting South Africa, garner the admiration of the locals who will instantly want to be your friends, and the envy of your fellow travelers. Read on. You’ll make friends faster that way, become a traveler instead of simply being a tourist, and also enjoy your travels a lot more.

Dutch traders landed at the southern tip of modern day South Africa in 1652 and established a stopover point on the spice route between the Netherlands and the Far East, founding the city of Cape Town. After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch settlers (the Boers) trekked north to found their own republics. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants.

The Boers resisted British encroachments but were defeated in the Second Anglo Boer War (1899-1902); however, the British and the Afrikaners, as the Boers became known, ruled together beginning in 1910 under the Union of South Africa, which became a republic in 1961 after a whites-only referendum. In 1948, the National Party was voted into power and instituted a policy of apartheid – the separate development of the races – which favored the white minority at the expense of the black majority. The African National Congress (ANC) led the opposition to apartheid and many top ANC leaders, such as Nelson MANDELA, spent decades in South Africa’s prisons.

Internal protests and insurgency, as well as boycotts by some Western nations and institutions, led to the regime’s eventual willingness to negotiate a peaceful transition to majority rule. The first multi-racial elections in 1994 brought an end to apartheid and ushered in majority rule under an ANC-led government. South Africa since then has struggled to address apartheid-era imbalances in decent housing, education, and health care. ANC infighting, which has grown in recent years, came to a head in September 2008 when President Thabo MBEKI resigned, and Kgalema MOTLANTHE, the party’s General-Secretary, succeeded him as interim president. Jacob ZUMA became president after the ANC won general elections in April 2009. National presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for May 2014.

That was it. I promised one minute.

For other condensed info check also my other posts on local culture (don’t make the mistakes I made), local food or local drinks. And when you call your friends to tell them you were by far the most knowledgeable at the party, do that with confidence that you’ll not get hit with a 6.99 per minute bill. You’ll also pick the local food from the tray, and order a local drink with confidence.

  1. Cultural Mistakes To Avoid in  South Africa
  2. Does my current phone work in  South Africa ? Tips to cell phone usage in  South Africa
  3. Local food you should try in  South Africa and No miss drinks in  South Africa

Now, cheers to the most South Africa aware person at the cocktail party.

What are the key history moments for South Africa?

The tip of Africa has been home to the Khoisan (collective name for Hottentot (Koi) and Bushmen (San)) people for thousands of years. Their rock art can still be found in many places throughout South Africa. It is estimated that Bantu tribes may have started to slowly expand into the northernmost areas of what is today Southern Africa around 2,500 years ago and by around 500 AD the different cultural groups as we know them today had been established in the lush areas to the north and east of the what is today known as Eastern South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

The desert and semi-desert areas of the Western and Northern Cape provinces, as well as the western parts of the Eastern Cape province remained unsettled by the Bantu as the arid climate, limited seasonal rainfall, sparse vegetation and scarcity of natural sources of water could not sustain large migrations of people and herds of cattle, cattle being the primary livestock reared by the Bantu and fulfilling numerous cultural and economic functions within the tribal society (cattle served as a rudimentary currency and basic unit of exchange with a mutually agreeable value between bartering parties, thus fulfilling the function of money).

South Africa photo

Photo by dorena-wm

The “Khoisan” existed in these areas as nomadic hunters, unable to permanently settle as the movement of desert game in search of dwindling water supplies during winter months determined their own migration. Not until the “Boers” (see next paragraph) moved into these areas and established boreholes and containment ponds could any permanent settlements be established in these areas. Today, with more reliable sources of water and modern methods of water conservancy the agricultural activity remains limited mainly to sheep and ostrich ranching as these animals are better suited to the sparse feed and limited water.

The first Europeans to reach South Africa were the Portuguese, who named the end of the country “Cape of Good Hope” in 1488, when they managed to sail around it to reach India. Permanent European settlement was only built at Cape Town after the Dutch East India Company reached the Cape of Good Hope in April 1652. In the late 1700s, the Boers (Dutch for farmers) slowly started expanding first eastward along the coastline and later upwards into the interior. By 1795, Britain took control of the Cape, as a consequence of the Napoleonic wars on the Dutch, in 1820 a large group of British settlers arrived in the region. In 1835, large numbers of Boers started out on the Groot Trek (the great migration) into the interior after becoming dissatisfied with the British rule.

In the interior, they established their own internationally recognized republics. Some Boers were initially able to get along with the locals (as with the Tswana) and in other areas Boers clashed badly with native populations (especially the Zulu). On 16 December 1838, a badly outnumbered Boer unit slaughtered over 3,000 Zulus at the Battle of Blood River in what is now KwaZulu-Natal. Two wars for control over Transvaal and Natal were fought between the Boers and the British in 1880 and 1899.

The second war occurred after British settlers flooded into the area surrounding Johannesburg known as the “Witwatersrand” (white water escarpment) in response to the discovery of gold in 1886. The Second Boer War (Afrikaans: ‘Die Tweede Vryheidsoorlog’ or ‘Second War of Independence’) was particularly unpleasant, as the British administration contained the Boer civilian population in concentration camps. Thousands of Boer civilians died in the camps from starvation or disease. Boer farms, livestock, crops and homesteads were also largely destroyed. After peace was restored by the 1902 Treaty of Vereeniging, the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910, consolidating the various Boer republics and British colonies into a unified state as a member of the British Commonwealth.

In 1961, the Republic of South Africa was formed and SA exited the Commonwealth. Meanwhile, during the early 20th century, a number of Afrikaner thinkers began to articulate a philosophy of white supremacy. This philosophy was given a theological foundation by the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, which preached that there would be no equality in church or state. In 1948, the Afrikaner-dominated National Party came to power and began full implementation of its long-cherished dream of white supremacy, at the expense of blacks and coloureds. In addition, the NP sought to promote Afrikaner culture at the expense of English culture and either co-opted or marginalized English-speaking whites.

The NP introduced numerous apartheid laws during the 1950s which mandated classification of all persons into arbitrary racial categories (which in many cases resulted in nonsensical results since interracial couplings had been occurring in the country for over 300 years and siblings within the same family could end up in different “races”); limited the vote to white persons (previously, coloureds were able to vote in the Cape Province which made up most of the country’s territory); mandated segregation of all public amenities (and ensured that non-whites always got the inferior ones); and divided both cities and the countryside into “group areas.”

South Africa photo

Photo by Lollie-Pop

All adult citizens were required to carry a “passbook,” a kind of internal passport. Non-whites had to obtain special permission from whites to be present in white-only areas. Police (who were always white) could demand to see non-whites’ passbooks at any time, arbitrarily strike out the holder’s permission to be in a white-only area, and then promptly arrest, fine, and imprison the holder for being present in a white-only area without permission. Some existing districts (such as Sophiatown in Johannesburg and District Six in Cape Town) were either too prosperous or too racially integrated from the government’s perspective; they were summarily re-designated as white-only and all non-white residents were summarily evicted. As the Cold War took shape in the early 1950s, the NP attempted to justify apartheid as necessary in the face of an alleged communist conspiracy to take over South Africa.

The NP’s focus on anti-communist propaganda was particularly ironic, as South Africa under the NP ended up with a much higher level of state control of the economy than the vast majority of anti-communist countries. Many state-owned enterprises were later spun off into private enterprises after the end of apartheid. In order to fight communism, state censorship was omnipresent, and the freedoms of speech, press, and public assembly were all vigorously suppressed.

The technology of television was also banned and suppressed. It was reluctantly allowed into the country only after South Africa suffered the embarrassment of being one of the few countries where the November 1969 moon landing could not be watched live, even by its wealthiest citizens. However, apartheid was never one unified program. It existed in a state of constant tension between those Afrikaners who envisioned most of the country completely purged of non-whites and those Afrikaners (particularly businessmen) who recognized that it would take decades, if not centuries, to either create enough white children or import enough white immigrants to provide a sufficiently large labour force which would make up for the eventual long-term expulsion of all non-whites from South Africa’s cities.

As a result, on the one hand, all non-whites were designated as citizens of one of several quasi-sovereign national “homelands” (known as “bantustans”) which were intended to be like Native American reservations in the United States, but on a much larger scale. (Like Native American reservations, the homelands were usually allocated to the worst-quality land, while whites were allocated the best-quality land.) On the other hand, the government forcibly relocated urban non-whites into areas on the edges of South Africa’s cities (Cape Flats near Cape Town and Soweto near Johannesburg) where whites could use them as cheap labour.

Those non-whites, then, had to put up with lengthy, miserable commutes on overcrowded trains and taxi vans into white-controlled areas (where their permission to remain could be revoked at any time) and work for wages that were a pittance compared to those available to similarly qualified white employees. The African National Congress (ANC) initially resisted all these developments with non-violent protests. The ANC managed to score a handful of legal victories during the 1950s, as the South African judiciary still had many fair-minded judges appointed by the previous United Party. Many of those judges still respected the rule of law and were willing to give a fair hearing to a well-reasoned legal argument even if they personally despised the defendant on account of his race.

In 1960, a breakaway group of former ANC members formed the Pan Africanist Congress under the leadership of Robert Sobukwe, who attempted to organize protests against the hated pass laws. An outnumbered police unit panicked and fired into a crowd of unarmed protesters at Sharpeville. As a result, the NP declared a state of emergency and used it as an excuse to tear up the remaining shreds of the rule of law in South Africa. ANC leadership correctly recognized that the ANC would soon be banned (along with all other anti-apartheid political organizations) and would no longer be able to openly operate within South Africa as a political organization.

Therefore, the ANC founded an armed wing called Umkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”, known as MK for short) to implement a program of domestic sabotage and terrorism. In 1963, a police raid at a farm in Rivonia enabled the government to seize enough evidence to arrest and convict a large number of ANC and MK leaders (including Nelson Mandela) in 1964, at what was later known as the “Rivonia Trial.” The apartheid regime’s power peaked during the late 1960s and 1970s, after the anti-apartheid resistance had been brutally crushed. During that era, South Africa’s white citizens enjoyed the fruits of strong economic growth and rapid infrastructure development in the form of the highest-quality lifestyle in Africa (that is, nearly equivalent to First World living standards), and were content to keep quiet and not ask too many questions.

The ANC and MK quietly rebuilt themselves in exile, trained numerous operatives, and began to launch new domestic uprisings and terrorist attacks. At the same time, the black majority’s frustration with their miserable situation continued to build. It finally boiled over and exploded in the form of the famous Soweto uprising of 1976, followed by the Black Consciousness Movement. South Africa’s prisons were soon flooded with a new generation of BCM radicals. Ironically, BCM caused the government to shift to a more lenient approach towards the older generation of ANC-MK activists, because it had its hands full with suppressing BCM activists.

By the early 1980s, the United States had finally overcome its own historical experiments with white supremacy and racial segregation, and was no longer willing to tolerate the apartheid regime. Thus, the international community belatedly began to turn against South Africa, by implementing strict weapons and trade embargoes. South Africa was banned from the Olympic Games and most other international sporting competitions. Many international celebrities, such as Bruce Springsteen, noisily boycotted South Africa, composed protest songs attacking South Africa, and harshly criticized any performer or athlete who was willing to perform or play in South Africa. Simultaneously, by the late 1980s, many white moderates began to recognize that change was inevitable.

International sanctions and internal strife were beginning to take a severe toll on South Africa. White moderates recognized that white supremacy could not be indefinitely maintained through the naked use of force, and allowing black rage to keep building would only result in an even more explosive endgame similar to what had happened in many other African countries (e.g., Algeria). On the ANC side, black moderates had already long recognized that taking revenge by expelling all whites from South Africa was neither just nor wise. (In his famous speech at his 1964 trial, Nelson Mandela noted that he had fought both “white domination” and “black domination.”) They recognized that for better or worse, South Africa was the only home which most white South Africans had ever known, and any peaceful resolution would have to accommodate that fact.

From a purely pragmatic perspective, the white monopolization of the best educational resources had resulted in a situation where the vast majority of qualified executives and professionals capable of operating a modern industrialized economy were white. Summarily expelling those professionals and executives risked creating a huge economic disaster (as had occurred in many other African countries during the decolonization process), and would do nothing to improve the long-term prospects of the black majority. Accordingly, white moderates within the security service and the National Party itself began to quietly reach out to ANC leaders to find common ground and negotiate how to dismantle apartheid. The actual process began with the freeing of political prisoners in 1990. The freeing of Nelson Mandela from Victor Verster Prison near Cape Town on 11 February 1990 was covered live on television around the world. Political violence worsened badly during the early 1990s as extremists of all kinds and races attempted to derail the peace talks at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) in favour of their own deranged visions of the future of South Africa.

Thousands of people were murdered in riots or terrorist attacks. Regardless, in 1992, 73% of the voting white population voted in a referendum in support of the abolishment of apartheid. During this terrible and dangerous period, the CODESA negotiations became gridlocked and stalled numerous times; then the parties backed off and tried a new process on 1 April 1993 called the Multi-Party Negotiating Process (MPNP). A few days later, the assassination of popular political activist Chris Hani on 10 April 1993 threatened to push South Africa to the brink of civil war. That night, Mandela gave a televised speech which was later seen in retrospect as “presidential” in terms of his ability to calm the country’s severe racial tensions. In turn, Hani’s death became a catalyst for pushing all sides back to the bargaining table.

The MPNP ultimately led to the enactment of a new interim constitution at the end of 1993 and then the nation’s first truly democratic election in April 1994, in which all SA adult citizens were allowed to vote regardless of their ethnic and cultural background. Former political prisoner Nelson Mandela was selected as the country’s first democratically elected president. The ANC won a 63% majority and proceeded to form a Government of National Unity with the NP. As part of the peace talks, it was recognized that once apartheid was abolished, it made no sense to allow its opponents to continue to maintain their own paramilitary resistance forces. Accordingly, a process was set up in 1994 by which the various guerilla units (including MK units), as well as bantustan defence units, were

all integrated into the South African Defence Force, which subsequently became the South African National Defence Force. In 1996, the interim constitution was replaced with South Africa’s current constitution. The ANC solidified its control over the electorate in subsequent years. The National Party subsequently withered away; its remnants joined with other opposition parties to form the current opposition, the Democratic Alliance.

The one minute summary for South Africa geography

Best places to see in South Africa

Wild animals in their natural habitat Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga and Limpopo and the private reserves bordering. The annual Sardine run off the Wild coast and KZN south coast Great White Sharks of False Bay and Gansbaai Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park between South Africa and Botswana iSimangaliso Wetland Park (World Heritage Site) and Sodwana Bay in northern KwaZulu-Natal The Whale Route in Hermanus Zilkaatsnek Nature Reserve in Hartbeespoort Areas of natural beauty and botanical interest Table Mountain and Cape Point in the Table Mountain National Park in Cape Town

The Garden Route in the Western Cape province Tsitsikamma in the Eastern Cape Augrabies Falls in the Northern Cape Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park between South Africa and Namibia Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park (World Heritage Site) in KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg (KZN) Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga Cultural heritage Robben Island (World heritage site) off Cape Town Other Cape Winelands around Stellenbosch