South Africa Before Anglo-Boer War

The Hottentots (farmers) and the Bushmen (hunters and gatherers), collectively referred to as the khoisan, are considered indigenous peoples in the strict sense; their culture remained backward and they were overwhelmed by the Bantu emigration from the N and, subsequently, from the arrival of the first Europeans on the extreme southern coast. Bantu nuclei, ancestors of the current Sotho, descended from today’s Zimbabwe towards the S starting from the century. 15 °; groups of Sotho and Tswana then settled in the territories of today’s Transvaal and Orange, while the Nguni descended along the east coast (Natal). A tribe of the latter group, the xosa, went further West, reaching the Fish River around the middle of the century. 17th. As for the settlement of the whites, it began only after 1487-88, when the Portuguese B. Dias he managed to reach and round the Cape of Storms, renamed with the more auspicious name of Cape of Good Hope, and to complete the circumnavigation of Africa. While the Portuguese simply made a stopover at the Cape on the route to the Indies, the Dutch took over from them around the middle of the century. 17 ° in control of the route to the East, they founded in 1652 (by J. van Riebeek, agent of the East India Company) a first stable deposit of provisions, transformed towards the end of the century into a settlement colony (600 Dutch in 1680). In 1688, three hundred Huguenots arrived and fled France following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. From the following century, Dutch, French and other Europeans of different origins, united by the rigid Calvinist faith that led them to consider themselves “elected” towards the local populations, merged into a community with original characteristics, which lost all emotional and practical ties. with Europe, while in search of fertile lands and new pastures it expanded towards the east. In this first phase the Khoisan were decimated and partly assimilated in a servile position; only at the end of the century. 18 ° the colonists of the Cape came in contact, along the border of the Fish River, with the Bantu, more numerous and developed.

Contrasts and clashes arose between the two populations, both in demographic expansion and in need of land for men and livestock; Thus began the series of the Kaffir wars (Kaffirs were called by the Portuguese those Bantu populations), led by the Boers (peasants), as the European colonists were called, with their own organization, while the Dutch Company remained extraneous to it. At the end of the Napoleonic wars, in 1814, the colony of the Cape was ceded to the English who had already occupied it from 1795 to 1803 and then from 1806; the British authorities re-established tighter central control and introduced more liberal norms towards black populations. Meanwhile, at the beginning of the century, a great military genius, Chaka, had established himself in the Zulu tribe of the Nguni, who, having become head of his tribe, began to wage raids and wars against neighboring populations. The warlike policy of conquest of the Zulus, continued under the leadership of Dingaan (who in 1828 had killed his uterine brother Chaka), had repercussions in the whole of southern Africa, pushing the attacked populations to organize themselves in a more solid and efficient way to defend themselves, or to move, with wars or with peaceful migrations; thus arose, among other things, the kingdom of Swaziland and that of Basuto. In 1835 the Boers, to escape British authority (the contrast with which it had worsened since 1825 due to government measures to protect non-Europeans) and to organize themselves freely according to their own political-religious tradition, began to emigrate en masse (➔ trek) beyond the Orange and towards the Natal prairies; in 1840, having won the resistance of the Zulus led by Dingaan, chief A. Pretorius proclaimed the Boer Republic of Natal. The attempt at independence, however, was vigorously crushed by the British government and in 1845 Natal was annexed to the colony of the Cape (from 1856 it was erected as a separate colony); Great Britain instead recognized with the Sand River Convention (1852) the republics created by the Boers in the Transvaal and the Free State of Orange (Bloemfontein Convention, 1854). The Cape authorities extended their control over the griquas (whose territory had acquired importance due to the discovery of diamond deposits in Kimberley in 1868) and the basuto in 1871, but this led the British government to clash with the Zulus. Under the pretext of defending the European settlers from the latter, insufficiently protected by the weak Boer administration, Great Britain annexed the South African Republic of Transvaal in 1877 (born in 1856 from the unification of the small Boer states that had sprung up N of Vaal). In 1880 the Boers rose up against the English who, defeated in the hills of Majuba in February. 1881, they had to restore autonomy to the Transvaal, while maintaining sovereignty over the territory and control of its foreign relations (Pretoria Convention, 3 ag. 1881).

The period of government of CJ Rhodes, prime minister of the Cape colony from 1890 to 1896, wishing to unify all the territories inhabited by European settlers, marked a new failed attempt (the so-called Jameson raid, 1895-96) to absorb the Transvaal, where in 1886 they had been discovered gold deposits. The British stood up as champions of the uitlanders, victims of the nationalist and xenophobic policy of the president of Transvaal SJP Kruger ; the new conflict between the Boers and the British government (which in 1885 had extended its control over Bechuanaland) led to the bloody Anglo-Boer war (declared by the Transvaal on 9 October 1899). The strenuous resistance of the Boers was broken after three years (May 31, 1902); the Transvaal and the Orange became British colonies, but regained ample autonomy in 1906 and 1907. A certain reconciliation between the British and the Boers, promoted by the British government, allowed the creation of the South African Union (May 31, 1910), a domain endowed with governmental autonomy, in which the economic and political power resided in the hands of the ca. 1 million and 250,000 whites, mostly Afrikaners (or Boers), represented by L. Botha’s South African party (SAP), prime minister in 1910-19. The African population (approx. 4,500,000 individuals) was gradually deprived of the few rights it had enjoyed in the Cape and Natal colonies; to defend their prerogatives, the African national congress (ANC) was established in 1912, which, however, could not prevent the following year from approving a law that prohibited blacks from buying land outside the reserves in which they were been confined. Finally, the conditions reserved for approx. 500,000 coloureds (mestizos) and the nearly 200,000 Asians, mostly Indians, who immigrated during the century. 19 °. In the First World War South Africa sided with Great Britain, despite the sympathies for Germany nurtured by the most extremist Boers (some of whom gave birth to the Nationalist party, NP in 1914), and in 1920 the government chaired by JC Smuts, who succeeded in Botha in 1919, he obtained from the League of Nations the mandate on South-West Africa, formerly a German colony. To the victory of the nationalists in the 1924 elections and the appointment of JBM Hertzog Prime Minister was followed by the tightening of racial legislation (in 1926 blacks were barred from skilled jobs in the industrial and mining sectors) and the adoption of a more independent policy from London. Weakened by the consequences of the international economic crisis, in 1933 Hertzog welcomed Smuts into his government and agreed to the merger of NP and SAP into the United party (UP, 1934), abandoning his decidedly anti-English orientation in exchange for a tightening of racial legislation; the compromise lasted until the outbreak of the Second World War, when Hertzog resigned because he was opposed to entering the war against Germany, approved by a very narrow majority by the Parliament, and the leadership of the executive was again assumed by Smuts (1939). In this period South Africa experienced a notable industrial development; this growth and the parallel introduction of new technologies in agriculture caused massive urbanization phenomena which concerned, in addition to poorer Afrikaners , even hundreds of thousands of blacks, despite the prohibitions of the law.

Reorganized on the initiative of DF Malan, in the elections of 1948 the NP won the compact consensus of the Boers and an absolute majority of the seats; the nationalist government, chaired by Malan himself (1948-54), applied a policy of strict segregation of the different ethnic groups, obliged by law to reside in separate areas, to use different means of transport and public places and to carry out different work activities (➔ apartheid); all opposition was crushed and the South African communist party (SACP) was banned (many of its exponents then merged into the ANC). The NP clearly imposed itself in all subsequent elections up to 1981 and the governments it expressed, led by JG Strijdom (1954-58), HF Verwoerd (1958-66) and BJ Vorster (1966-78), progressively accentuated the policy of segregation. In particular, in 1959 the constitution of separate regions was started, populated by single African ethnic groups, endowed with self-government and destined to become independent (➔ homeland); in 1960 the anti-racist parties were banned (the ANC and the Pan Africanist congress, PAC, born in 1959 from a split of the former), which then embarked on the path of armed opposition to the segregationist regime. The latter was repeatedly condemned internationally by the OAU, the UN – in contrast to Pretoria also for the question of the former South-West Africa (➔ Namibia) – and by Afro-Asian members of the Commonwealth; in order not to bow to the pressures of the latter organization, South Africa came out of it, proclaiming the Republic (May 31, 1961). The economic sanctions voted by the international community starting from 1962 did not prevent the Republic from s. to benefit from huge investments from abroad (in particular from Western countries, in whose eyes Pretoria appeared as a bastion of anti-communism in Africa) and to become the most industrialized nation on the continent. Economic supremacy allowed the South Africa, from the second half of the 1960s, to establish commercial and diplomatic relations with some African countries, interrupted or opposed due to Pretoria’s involvement in the civil wars that broke out in Angola and Mozambique, reached independence (1975) under the leadership of liberation movements of Marxist inspiration. Internally, the 1970s saw an increase in social and racial conflict (in 1973 a wave of strikes in the mining sector led to the granting of wage increases and the registration of the main African workers’ unions; in 1976 it was repressed with over a thousand a revolt that broke out in Soweto against an education reform project, which included the introduction of Afrikaans in schools reserved for blacks), to which the government reacted by strengthening the military and police apparatus and tightening the pace in granting independence, never recognized internationally, to four Bantustans (Transkei, 1976; Bophuthatswana, 1977; Venda, 1979 ; Ciskei, 1981). PW Botha, who succeeded the resigning Vorster in 1978, in order to respond to the needs of the country’s economic development and enlargement of the internal market, initiated a limited relaxation of the prohibitions that prevented blacks from accessing qualified jobs in construction and industry and a revision of laws prohibiting sexual relations and marriages between people of different races; in 1984 a new Constitution was enacted, establishing a three-chamber parliament representing whites, Asians and coloureds and abolished the office of prime minister, attributing all powers to the president of the Republic, a position assumed by Botha himself. The elections for the chambers of Asians and mestizos, held in ag. 1984, however, saw a very reduced participation of those entitled, thanks to the boycott organized by the United Democratic Front (UDF), a multi-ethnic anti-racist organization founded in 1983, and by some of the parties of the respective communities; against the new Constitution, which continued to deprive the vast majority of the population of political rights, protests by blacks multiplied, often leading to open revolts, which led to the proclamation of a state of siege in 1986. For South Africa 2019, please check

In a climate of acute social tension, divisions emerged within the black community itself, Bantustan of KwaZulu (➔ Zulu ; Natal). On the international level, the isolation of the Republic s. it was accentuated by the advent of independence of Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) in 1980; the strengthening of the independence guerrillas in Namibia led the troops of Pretoria to frequent raids in Angola, where the guerrilla bases were located, and to clashes with the Cuban forces, allies of the Angolan government, while relations with Mozambique remained difficult, despite a pact of non-aggression signed in 1984. Only the change of climate in international relations after the coming to power of MS Gorbacëv in the USSR finally made possible the agreements of Dec. 1988 between South Africa, Angola and Cuba, reached with the mediation of the USA, which determined the South African withdrawal from Namibia and Angola. The irreducible opposition of the ANC inside and the continuous deterioration of the economic conditions of the country, burdened by enormous expenses for security and defense and by the effects of the economic sanctions launched in 1984-85 by the UN, the EEC, the USA and the Commonwealth, finally convinced significant sectors of the NP (confirmed as the first party in the 1987 and 1989 elections) of the impossibility of maintaining the segregation regime.  In February 1990 FW de Klerk, who took over from the resigning Botha in the ag. 1989, he announced in Parliament the forthcoming release of the leader of the ANC, NR Mandela, the end of the ban on anti-racist parties and the start of negotiations with them to give the country a new Constitution. By June 1991 the government abolished the main segregationist laws and the international community reduced the economic sanctions against Pretoria (definitively canceled in 1993); in dec. 1991 a multi-party conference met, charged with drafting a new Constitution, whose works were interrupted several times due to the opposition from the racist extreme right (organized in the Freedom front, FF), but above all for the position taken by the Inkatha freedom party (IFP, as the Zulu movement was renamed in 1990), in favor of the creation of a South African federation of independent states. bantustan as separate entities, absorbed into the nine regions with ample administrative and legislative autonomy in which the new Republic was ordained. In April 1994 the first elections by universal suffrage were held, won by the ANC with 62.6% of the votes, against 20.4% of the NP, 10.5% of the IFP and 2% of the FF, and in May 1994 Mandela was elected head of state by Parliament; the leader of the ANC gave birth to a government of national unity (made up, according to the provisional constitution which entered into force in April 1994, of all the parties that had obtained at least 5% of the votes), which launched a “program for reconstruction and development “aimed at a more equitable growth of the economy and society, and in particular aimed at strengthening social housing and guaranteeing access to primary education and basic health services for the majority of the population.

South Africa Before Anglo-Boer War