South Africa History

By | March 8, 2021

South Africa is located in the southern part of the African continent. According to homosociety, it has a total land area of 1,219,090 square kilometers and a population of around 58 million people. The capital city is Pretoria and the official language is English. The currency is the South African Rand (ZAR). The main industries in South Africa are mining, manufacturing, tourism, and agriculture. Education and health care are provided free to all citizens by the government. There is also a wide range of religions practiced in South Africa including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and traditional African beliefs.

Modern man has existed in South Africa for thousands of years, and the first discoveries date back over 200,000 years ago. The world’s oldest man-made drawing from over 70,000 years ago is found in South Africa. Two of the oldest population groups living in today’s South Africa are descendants of khoi-khoi and san. Bantu people immigrated from the north, including the Zulu and Xhosa groups. Portuguese Bartholomeu Diaz is regarded as the first white explorer of South Africa in 1488. European influence gained momentum when the Dutch East India Company established a trading station in present-day Cape Town in 1652.

Thus, South Africa’s recent history is characterized by colonialism and apartheid, and it eventually became a struggle between English and Dutch influence. The Dutch descendants developed a national identity as Africans/ farmers. The European expansion, both by Englishmen and residents, met with fierce opposition from the locals. There were long-standing wars, among other things, with the well-organized Zulu kingdom.

After the two so-called Boer wars between the English and the Boers, the South African Union was formed in 1910. In 1948, the African Party National Party (NP) won the election on a program for enhanced racial segregation under the name apartheid. Apartheid faced strong opposition both nationally and internationally. The liberation movement ANC, which fought against the regime, was banned in 1960, but continued to organize the resistance in exile. In the late 1980s, the regime was economically and politically weakened, lifted the ban on the ANC, released imprisoned ANC leaders and initiated negotiations for a peaceful transition. On April 27, 1994, the country held its first free democratic elections, and Nelson Mandela became the country’s first democratically elected president. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of South Africa.

South Africa Life Expectancy 2021

Stone Age

Findings at Sterkfontein in the Transvaal indicate that there were forerunners of modern man in today’s South Africa about 3.3 million years ago. The first discovery of “close men” was made in South Africa in 1924; called Australopithecus africanus. Later remains of a larger species, A. robustus, have been found. Several discoveries of simple implements from the earliest Stone Age have been made, most of which are attributed to early forms of Homo erectus.

  • COUNTRYAAH.COM: Provides latest population data about South Africa. Lists by Year from 1950 to 2020. Also includes major cities by population.

Traces of Homo sapiens have been made from 500,000 years back. Skeletal discoveries, including 115,000 years old outside Port Elizabeth, are of man in modern form. A large number of archaeological finds from the Late Stone Age, 40,000 BCE, have also been made, which among other things testify to the hunting of larger animals as well as the sinking of plants and seafood. From 25,000 years ago there are also a number of rock paintings, not least in the Drakenberg Mountains.

Older history

From hunting and hunting, new ways of living evolved over 2000 years ago, with animal husbandry and agriculture. In the arid regions of the west, animal husbandry was linked to a nomadic way of life; in the east, climate and soil provided better conditions for permanent settlement.

The indigenous farmers had knowledge of the extraction and use of iron, and in the Iron Age, immigrant groups of the ancestors of Bantu people, who constitute the majority in today’s South Africa, immigrated.

Specialization and trade contributed to the development of villages, a way of life that spread around 1100 from the lowlands and the coast to the inland. At this time, trade with people further north, on the East Africa coast was established. Such trade, including goods from China, India and Egypt, is known, among other things, from South Africa’s first documented city: Mapungubwe in Limpopo, with around 5,000 inhabitants, and the center of the largest kingdom in the area. The city had its heyday around 1220–1300, before it was abandoned. Mapungubwe had an advanced culture and social structure, and is considered a precursor to the Shona culture in Zimbabwe.

Mapungubwe was discovered in 1932, but kept hidden from the public for a long time. Like Great Zimbabwe, the racist ideology of South Africa and Rhodesia at the time did not fit the foundations of advanced African cultures. Therefore, South Africa’s oldest history has long been a political battle issue. The country’s white minority defended colonization and land acquisition, and what it perceived as its right to retain a dominant political and economic position, by claiming that the area was not permanently inhabited when the European settlement began in 1652. Later, much of the racial ideology was based insist that Africans should be less intellectually and culturally capable than Europeans.

People Groups

The oldest inhabitants of today’s South Africa belong to the related khoi-khoi – and the san people. The cattle khoi-khoi (or khoi) migrated towards the coast, while the hunting and gathering people san, who adapted their lifestyle to arid areas, held over much of the interior. The two groups of people had a lot to do with each other, and developed a group called Khoisan, with linguistic features.

Several Bantu people immigrated from the north, on several occasions. The Nguni people (Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi and Ndebele) settled on the coast; while the Sotho-tswana people (tswana, pedi and basutho) established themselves inland, and venda, lemba and shangaan-tsonga migrated to the northeastern part of present-day South Africa. Bantu immigration displaced much of the indigenous population, so European colonization would drive more Africans.


Portuguese and Dutch

The Portuguese seafarer Bartholomeu Diaz was the first European to discover South Africa, in 1488. The Portuguese bunked along the coast and traded barter with the khoi-khoi people.

However, the European settlement began only when the Dutch Ostindia Company in 1652 established a supply and trading station in present-day Cape Town, under the leadership of Jan van Riebeeck. The station was set up to supply merchant ships to and from the Far East with fresh produce and water, and some agriculture was established to meet this need. Most of the settlers were Dutch, and their word for farmer, dweller, is until today used on their descendants, the Boers; today most commonly called Africans. Dutch (later Afrikaans) became their language, and the Dutch Reformed church was established. Most of the colonists were Calvinists, and Huguenot refugees from France arrived in 1688.


The British conquered the Cape Colony in 1795, returned the area to the Netherlands (Batavia Republic) in 1803, but withdrew it again in 1806. Immigration from Europe increased under British rule, and South Africa developed into an economically important colony. British language and administration gained momentum, and slavery was abolished in 1838. From the end of the 1600s, European expansion began inland, as the need for more land became evident.

The colonization supported opposition from the country’s original inhabitants, and by the end of the 18th century there were extensive meetings between European conquerors and African peoples, but the resistance could not prevent the Europeans from submitting to ever larger areas. There was regular hunting for san, and many were forced into slavery. Khoi-khoi was severely affected by diseases introduced by Europeans. In the 19th century, several wars took place between the British colonial power and African kingdoms.

External immigration increased as part of the colonization and helped to displace the African population. When Natal was made a British colony in 1842, Indian contract workers were imported to work on the sugar plantations; later several workers were brought in from Asia, including for railway construction. European immigration also increased. In 1798 there were about 20,000 Europeans living in South Africa, in 1820 about 43,000 and in 1911 about 1.3 million.

African Kingdoms

A number of African kingdoms existed in South Africa during this period. In the early 1800s, a strong, centralized Zulu state emerged through an association of several smaller kingdoms. The Zulu state, under King Shaka’s leadership, also built a strong military organization. The rise of the Zulu state led to great upheavals throughout southern Africa, and more peoples moved north and east, leading to the founding of new kingdoms, including in present-day Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

The Zulu army managed better than anyone before to provide British military resistance, and emerged victorious from the Battle of Isandlwana in 1879, which is still considered a milestone in the black resistance struggle. Later, however, the Zulu army was beaten by British military force.

Another important migration took place from 1834, when white settlement took to the north of the Orange River. Known as the “big move” (the migration), this migration brought white colonialism to all parts of today’s South Africa. This expansion was also met with African resistance, especially from Ndebele under the leadership of King Mzilikazi and Zulu led by King Dingane, but the resistance was defeated in 1839.

Boer wars

The Boers wanted to govern themselves and in 1840 formed their first republic in Natal (Natalia Republic), which however became subject to the British in 1842 and formally annexed in 1845. Several short-lived Boer republics saw the light of day, to the two largest – the Orange Free State and Transvaal – established in 1854-1860. With that, South Africa was divided into four parts, the two Boer states and the British colonies Cape (Cape) and Natal. Diamond discoveries in Griqualand in the years 1867-1871 led the British to annex this area and work for all parts of South Africa to form part of a federation ruled by the Cape.

In 1877, Transvaal was annexed, and this annexation policy led to a peasant revolt, which the African history tradition calls “the first liberation war,” in 1881. The British suffered several military defeats and had to admit Transvaal’s autonomy. The struggle for Transvaal developed nationalism among the peasants as it later emerged. British imperialism provoked the Great Boer War (also called the “Second War of Liberation”) in 1899-1902, which ended in the defeat of the Boer Republics.

South Africa Union

In 1910, the British Parliament passed a law that merged the Cape Province, Natal, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal into one country: the South African Union. In the negotiations on the formation of the Union, the Boers were given the impetus for the requirement that “non-whites” should not have any political rights, but agreed that those who already had voting rights in the Cape Province should be allowed to retain it. Boer General Louis Botha became the Union’s first prime minister.

South Africa participated on the British side in the First World War and conquered South West Africa (Namibia) from Germany. After the war, South Africa ruled Namibia as a mandate under the League of Nations.

The economic crisis of the 1930s led to the establishment of a broad alliance within the white population, and a unifying government was formed. During the latter half of the 1930s several fascist/Nazi groups emerged in South Africa, the most important being the semi-military Ossewabrandwag. The question of whether South Africa should join the Allied side in World War II led to a deep divide in the white people’s group. The majority in parliament voted in favor and the unity government cracked down.


The 1948 elections became a turning point in recent South African history and characterized politics for nearly fifty years. The Nationalist Party won the election and was able to systematically implement its apartheid policy, first by Prime Minister Daniel F. Malan (1948–1954), who was succeeded by Johannes G. Strijdom.

In 1958 Hendrik Verwoerd took over as prime minister; the man regarded as the foremost architect of the apartheid system. Key parts of racial segregation policy had already been introduced, including the 1913 Land Act, which severely limited blacks’ ability to own land, a 1923 law that also deprived them of a general opportunity to live and reside in urban areas, and the absence of universal suffrage. After 1948, these basic pillars of racial segregation policy were supplemented by a series of new laws, and apartheid was to a much greater extent systematized as a political as well as an ideological basis for the state’s organization.

Community Organization

As a result of the apartheid system, South Africa’s population was divided into four groups, in hierarchical order: whites, colored (of mixed race with whites), Asians and blacks. A policy called “separate development” was gradually formulated, which divided the black majority into sub-groups along ethnic lines; a similar division of the white population into respective ethnic groups was not made. In practice, the apartheid system meant that the different groups of people were tried to be kept separate, and that they had different status and different rights in society.

In order to implement the racial divide in practice, parallel management systems and physical services were built up for the various groups, including within the school system. Public services such as libraries, means of transport and sports facilities, as well as private shops, restaurants and others, were reserved for either “white” or “non-white”.

The costs associated with this way of organizing society were one of the main reasons why apartheid was reformed in the 1970s and 1980s, before it was formally abolished in 1994. Economic reasons also lay behind the introduction of apartheid, which was primarily an institutional one. system that would secure the political and economic privileges and power of the white minority. This was sought to be achieved by splitting the majority of the people and keeping it down – cut off from political influence and power – with the help of rigid legislation and a force and force apparatus to ensure that it was complied with.

The South African economy was still heavily geared towards the mining sector in the first half of the 20th century, and through the use of laws that restricted blacks’ access to arable land, the mines secured cheap labor. At the same time, there were laws that regulated what jobs blacks could have in the mines so as not to threaten the position of white workers who could take a trade letter and get other assignments, and substantially higher salaries. The rest of the modern economy was also secured a reserve of cheap, controllable labor as a result of apartheid. By blacks refusing political co-determination, they could not legally challenge this system.

Bantustan policy

The Nationalist Party has long succeeded with the apartheid system, but it eventually collapsed for several reasons: it was condemned as in violation of international human rights treaties as well as generally accepted moral and ethical norms. This led to widespread international opposition to the apartheid regime, eventually in the form of economic sanctions. It also grew an increasingly active resistance to apartheid in South Africa, both in the form of civil nonviolence actions and an armed resistance struggle. In addition, in its practical implementation, apartheid was, in part, very expensive, and a disproportionately large burden on government finances.

The latter applied not least to one of the main pillars of apartheid; the “separate development” for various black people groups, introduced through legislative acts in 1959. According to this policy, the largest people groups should be given “independence” and “political rights” in their own, ethnically defined and formally independent republics. This was a political rationalization to continue to deny the majority of democratic rights in its real homeland, South Africa. Ten so-called “homelands” (bantustan) were created within the 13 percent of South Africa’s land area which, according to the 1913 Constitution, was set aside for blacks.

All Blacks were referred to one of these areas under a new Citizenship Act of 1970, and by giving people political rights there, the government would deprive them of all citizenship rights in South Africa. As a result of this policy, two to three million people were forced to move to their respective bantustan to create an ethnically homogeneous settlement. Only four of the ten were formally independent from South Africa: Bophuthatswana (1977), Ciskei (1981), Transkei (1976) and Venda (1979).

The Bantustans had internal autonomy in some areas, and the formally independent had their own head of state and government, but none of them were internationally recognized as states. The Bantustan policy was abandoned in the early 1980s, both because of the high costs and because of international protests. The Bantustans were dissolved and formally incorporated into the Republic of South Africa again after the 1994 power change.

Resistance battle

The active resistance to white supremacy in South Africa began not long after the colonists began to settle in the country, and were especially organized by the Zulu people towards the end of the 19th century. After the establishment of the South Africa Union in 1910, a nationalist movement quickly emerged which sought to win, on a political, nonviolent basis, with the demand for civil rights for all peoples. The leading organization in the later struggle against apartheid, the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC) was formed in 1912 (until 1923 with the name South African Native National Congress).


The ANC first took action to retain the voting rights of blacks and colored people in the Cape Province, then for general voting rights throughout South Africa. Mahatma Gandhi, who for many years served as a lawyer in South Africa, was one of the influencers of the non-violence strategy. Only when the ANC was banned and driven underground in 1960 did the organization choose to start an armed resistance struggle. In the 1950s, the ANC gained a new generation of leaders, including Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo. The organization was revitalized and launched a series of civil disobedience actions that received a lot of support. President of the ANC from 1952 to 1960 was Albert Luthuli, which in 1960 was the first African to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1955, ANC representatives from all over the country gathered for a public congress in Kliptown, where a charter, the Freedom Charter, was adopted. This statement, which calls for a non-racial South Africa belonging to everyone living in the country, became the political basis of the ANC until the party took over the government in 1994. Meanwhile, the ANC and other organizations that fought apartheid were countered and banned, the leadership pursued, arrested, and many sentenced to long prison sentences. The biggest lawsuit took place in 1956–1961, when the foremost apartheid opponents were charged with high treason. However, all were acquitted, but many were arrested again. By then, the ANC had felt compelled to abandon the nonviolent line, and in 1961 its military branch,Umkhonto we Sizwe (“The Spear of the Nation”), formed. With that started a modest armed resistance fight, with some sabotage actions.

After the ANC was banned in 1960, part of the leadership went underground, others went into exile. In 1962–1963, several of the central leadership were taken and later sentenced to long penalties for planning a violent takeover (Rivonia trial). Among those sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964 was the late President Nelson Mandela.

Black consciousness

Resistance struggles had also intensified after police in 1960 shot at protesters in the city of Sharpeville, killing 67 people. The demonstration was organized by the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), a breakout group from the ANC, formed in 1959 and led by Robert Sobukwe. While the ANC has always adhered to a strictly multi-ethnic policy, the PAC chose a more militant direction based on returning the country to the African (black) population. Towards the end of the 1960s, a political direction emerged that emphasized strengthening the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM).

In 1968, the radical student association South African Students’ Organization (SASO) was started under the leadership of Stephen Biko, who in 1977 was murdered during police interrogation. Many other resistance people were also killed, in South Africa as well as in exile, and torture was used extensively.

The black consciousness movement gained significant influence in the 1970s, when the fight against apartheid was sharpened. A demonstration in Soweto in June 1976 was a psychological turning point in the fight against apartheid, nationally as well as internationally. Black schoolchildren demonstrated against being forced into the language of oppressors, Afrikaans, as a language of instruction, and met with police who opened fire. At least 600 youths were killed, and the massacre, among other things, led to an influx of resistance organizations; a large number of young people escaped South Africa to join the guerrillas of the ANC and the PAC (Poqo) in exile.


The resistance was given two arenas and two fronts: In exile, the diplomatic and political struggle against the regime was stepped up, while guerrilla soldiers were trained in several countries. Internally in South Africa, new groups were formed in the 1980s that intensified the new political struggle, based on organization and mass actions. Central to this political home front was especially the United Democratic Front (UDF), an association of hundreds of organizations, formed in 1983, and the new South African trade union organization – Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), formed in 1985.

The UDF brought together most organizations that were actively engaged in apartheid, and stood close to the ANC. COSATU also stood close to the ANC and quickly became the largest political member organization in South Africa. In addition to the trade union movement, the church also stood out, not least represented by the South African Council of Churches (SACC), and the church’s former secretary general, Bishop Desmond Tutu, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

COSATU and UDF were behind mass actions that included rent boycotts and strikes. The support for civil resistance led to the introduction of a state of emergency in some areas in 1985, expanded the following year. Several thousands, including many children, were taken into custody without trial. On the 25th anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre in 1985, police killed 22 participants in a demonstration. In 1987, COSATU’s headquarters was blown up; in 1988 the headquarters of the SACC, and the government was assumed to be behind. In 1988, several extra-parliamentary organizations were banned in practice, including the UDF. To replace the UDF, in 1989 a new structure was developed in the form of a loose association of democratic groups and organizations, the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) – where the UDF and COSATU were central.

Attacks against ANC members

The apartheid regime was also behind attacks on ANC members in several neighboring countries, including refugees and resistance men killed during command raids in Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The pretext was that it was attacked by ANC bases, which was not the case. The ANC had training bases in Angola, Ethiopia and Tanzania, but not in neighboring South Africa.

The ANC guerrilla was behind a number of sabotage actions in the 1980s, even against key military targets, but the armed resistance struggle never gained any significant and decisive scope. Of equal importance in the gradual abandonment of apartheid, were the military defeats suffered by the South African army in Angola in the late 1980s. The international boycott of South Africa also had a significant effect.


Racial segregation policy had particularly broad support among one part of South Africa’s white minority, the Africans. Neither was there any active opposition to the system in the other main group, the English speakers. Opponents of apartheid existed in both camps, but the liberal, parliamentary opposition – represented by the Progressive Federal Party (PFP) and from 1989 by the Democratic Party (DP) – had the greatest support among English speakers. Also in the ruling National Party (NP), there was skepticism towards sides of the apartheid policy.

The opposition was partly due to the fact that the system proved costly and because it did not necessarily serve the interests of business in the long run. Already under Prime Minister Johannes B. Vorster, who took over after Hendrik Verwoerd when he was assassinated in 1966, a more nuanced picture of apartheid was introduced. This led to a polarization within the NP, and eventually a divide, where the reformists (illuminated) opposed the conservatives (convulsions).

Right-wing outbreakers formed in 1969 the Herstigte National Party (HNP), and in 1982 a new, and deeper, divide took place when the Conservative Party (CP) was formed under the leadership of Andries Treurnicht. A clockwise rotation among the whites led to the CP became the official opposition in parliament after elections in 1987. Election success was partly due to the support of the extreme right, especially the militant neo-Nazi Afrikaaner Weerstandbeweging, one of several fully or semi-fascist groupings that emerged with the goal for South Africa to remain ruled by the whites.

Behind the hard line against the mass actions in the mid-1980s stood among other Prime Minister (from 1984 Prime Minister) Pieter W. Botha and central military leaders. Botha took over after Vorster in 1978 and was an uncompromising leader who would not engage in dialogue with the resistance movement, although reforms of apartheid were underway in his time. The most pervasive of these reforms was a constitutional amendment in 1983 that introduced a three-chamber parliament and the right to vote for the colored and Asian people, but still not for blacks. Botha opposed contact with the ANC, but white liberals began meeting with the ANC representatives in exile from the mid-1980s.

New constitution and referendum

The road to democracy started in earnest only after Frederik W. de Klerk succeeded Botha in September 1989 as president. In 1990, the ban on the ANC and 35 other banned organizations was lifted, and on February 11 Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years in prison. In August, the ANC announced that it was suspending the armed struggle with immediate effect.

The interim peace agreement opened for negotiations on a new constitution, and in December 1991 started a conference with the participation of 19 parties and organizations, the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), working on formulating a temporary constitution. In 1992, a referendum was held among South Africa’s white citizens, in which President de Klerk was given the electorate’s mandate to continue the negotiation process – in practice the power to conclude the negotiations, and in effect to state the political hegemony of the white minority. 68.6 percent voted in favor.

There were also unrest among the African population. From the late 1980s there was extensive violence between ANC supporters and supporters of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in Natal. Prior to the 1994 elections, violence also spread to other parts of the country, especially the Johannesburg area. The election was held in the period 26-29. April 1994 and was clearly won by the ANC, which received 63 percent of the vote and 252 of the total of 400 seats. The second largest was NP with 20 percent and 82 representatives; the third largest was IFP with 11 percent and 43 mandates.

According to a regulation in the Provisional Constitution, both NP and IFP joined the Mandela government, with Frederik W. de Klerk as 2nd Vice President; ANC’s Thabo Mbeki was appointed Vice President of the 1st. Mandela was elected President of the new National Assembly. On May 10, 1994, Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the new president of South Africa.

In 1991, the ANC held a national congress in Durban, where Nelson Mandela was elected president and Walter Sisulu as vice president.

Foreign Policy

While South Africa under apartheid had extensive international relations, it became progressively more isolated from the 1960s, partly as a result of calls for boycotts in sports and culture. In the 1970s, the regime sought peaceful coexistence with the rest of Africa, where political opposition, however, grew; only a few countries had political or diplomatic relations with South Africa; many more had financial relations.

With the election of Pieter W. Botha as Prime Minister in 1978, South Africa initiated a confrontational policy against countries in the region with radical governments supporting the liberation struggle in Namibia, Rhodesia – and South Africa, above all Angola and Mozambique, then Tanzania and Zambia, the so-called frontline states. Still, the regime used close contact with leading Western states, especially the United States, which supported the Pretoria government when it portrayed itself as a bulwark against emerging communism in southern Africa.

Despite gradual isolation, the apartheid regime managed to maintain both diplomatic and – more importantly – economic relations with many countries, not least the United Kingdom, the United States and West Germany, as well as Israel, which was also a close military partner. Despite the boycott, contact was also maintained with many African states. Particularly close was relations with neighboring countries Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, which were in customs union with South Africa and dependent on close economic relations, but who equally supported the resistance struggle.

As resistance to the apartheid regime grew internationally, South Africa stepped up its opposition to the liberation forces and their regional supporters. This was especially true in Namibia and Angola – as South Africa attacked and invaded from its bases in Namibia. South Africa supported the Rhodesian regime in the fight against the liberation movement, and launched a campaign against the independent Zimbabwe, with actions aimed at undermining the government, sabotaging economic development and military actions against the South African liberation movement ANC in the country. Among other things, South Africa recruited military personnel who had served in the Rhodesian defense for use in its destabilization policy.

Alongside the direct war in Angola, South Africa in particular implemented its military and economic destabilization policy towards Mozambique. In 1980, at the independence of Zimbabwe, South Africa took control of the Mozambican guerrilla RNM (ReNaMo), originally formed by Rhodesian intelligence. South Africa built the RNM into an instrument in the fight against the government in Mozambique and helped throw the country into a very devastating war. In 1984, South Africa Mozambique agreed to sign a security agreement (the Nkomati Agreement), in which the two countries pledged not to support guerrillas in the other country. However, South Africa continued to support the RNM. In the 1980s, South Africa undertook command attacks against Mozambique as well as into Botswana, Lesotho, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Since World War I, South Africa ruled the former German colony of South West Africa (Namibia); first as a mandate under the League of Nations, later through an illegal occupation, condemned by the UN. From Namibia, South Africa invaded Angola several times in 1975 in an attempt to prevent the radical liberation movement MPLA from taking power, then in an attempt to overthrow the MPLA government. In this subversion work, South Africa supported the Angolan rebel movement UNITA. In 1988, South Africa suffered military defeat in Angola, and this accelerated a negotiated solution to Namibia’s independence in 1990. This process in turn contributed to the political development in South Africa from 1989 to 1990, which led to the regime change in 1994.

Historical overview

1652 Dutch settlers found a trading station at Cape Town
1806 The Cape Colony comes under British rule
from 1818 King Shaka is building a strong Zulu state
from 1834 The big move; the Boers colonize the interior
1842 Natal becomes British colony
1850s Transvaal and the Orange Free State are established
1877-1881 The British occupy the Transvaal. The first war of liberation leads to British defeat
1886 Big gold finds outside Johannesburg
1899-1902 The second war of liberation ends with British victory
1910 The four republics are merged into the South African Union
1912 The ANC is formed
1919 South Africa occupies Namibia
1930 Economic crisis causes the white population to gather
1948 The Nationalist Party wins power. The apartheid system is gradually being implemented
1960 The Sharpeville Massacre
1961 The South African Republic is being created
1964 Several ANC leaders, including Govan Mbeki and Nelson Mandela, are sentenced to life imprisonment
1966 The UN repeals South Africa’s mandate over Namibia, but the occupation continues
1975-1988 South Africa participates in the war in Angola
1976 Soweto Uprising
1977 The UN adopts a wide arms embargo on South Africa
1983 New constitution with executive president and a three-chamber parliament where whites have a pure majority
1985 The authorities introduce a state of emergency
1989 President de Klerk begins a reform period. South Africa withdraws from Angola and Namibia
1990 ANC is allowed and Nelson Mandela released. Namibia becomes independent
1990-1992 Negotiations between de Klerk and Mandela on political reforms and new constitution. Clashes between different black groups
1993 Mandela and de Klerk Nobel Peace Prize Agreement for Transition to Majority Government
1994 Increasing wave of violence. Free elections are won by the ANC; Nelson Mandela new president
1996 New democratic constitution. The Nationalist Party is leaving the unity government
1996-1998 A truth commission led by Desmond Tutu reveals political abuses under the apartheid regime
1999 Nelson Mandela resigns as president; Thabo Mbeki follows him
2000.century South Africa becomes a regional great power and plays a significant diplomatic role in Africa
2004 New superior electoral victory for the ANC
2007 Jacob Zuma is elected ANC leader after Thabo Mbeki
2008 Thabo Mbeki resigns as President and is succeeded by Kgalema Motlanthe; Congress of the People (COPE) new party after split in ANC
2009 ANC wins parliamentary election; Jacob Zuma becomes new president
2012 Jacob Zuma is re-elected as ANC leader after being challenged by Kgalema Motlanthe. Cyril Ramaphosa replaces Mothlante as deputy leader of the party.