If you have ever thought of visiting South Africa, you are in for a treat! South Africa is rich in history, not to mention culture and diverse racial groups. From the Afrikaners to the Indians, South Africa’s diverse population is enough reason in
itself to visit this famous nation. You can stroll along Gerhard Moerdyk Street in the region of Tshwane and sample many different ethnic restaurants, listen to jazz in one of the many clubs, and get a real feel of the cultural diversity that South Africa has to offer. However, most everyone is aware of the racial struggles that the people of South Africa have endured; for those that haven’t, this article can help you in understanding the people you are likely to encounter if you’re planning a trip to South Africa.
It wasn’t until the 1600’s that settlers began coming to the South African Plateau. Before that, the region was primarily inhabited by the Khoi Khoi. When the Khoi Khoi realized that the people coming there were there to stay they began fighting the Dutch for control of their land. This was the beginning of the dispossession of the indigenous people of South Africa, which really didn’t end until 1994 (Britannica, 2008). The Dutch took control of the land and of the people of South Africa. They made the Khoi Khoi farm laborers destroying their political economy. The arrival of other settlers from France brought slaves from Asia and slaves from eastern and western Africa. These slaves and their descendants became the core of the Coloured Community.
The Kaffir Wars was the struggle of the indigenous people of South Africa against the European rule. It lasted more than three centuries ending in 1994 with the end of Apartheid. The Kaffir wars gave the Europeans the upper hand in the situation. Once diamonds were found in 1967, although the native South Africans fought bitterly against the British, the British and the Dutch became the dominant rule in South Africa (Britannica, 2008).
To protest European domination, indigenous Africans established the South African Native Conference in 1912. The South African Native Conference later became the African National Congress and it was the first pan tribal organization on the continent that resolved to gain political control back of their country. However, the British and the Dutch, or Boers firmly established control of the country by forming the National party in 1933. By then, most of the European immigrants were calling themselves Afrikaners and their language Afrikans.
The Afrikaners’ National Party came in to power politically in 1948 under the promise of Apartheid. Apartheid called for the complete separation between all Europeans and other races living in South Africa. This began the most intensive period of anti-African legislation in South Africa’s history. Supported by the United States, Apartheid called for a system of different “homelands” that was used to separate different ethnic groups to separate parts of the country. A pass system was set up that was strictly enforced to maintain official segregation. However over the next several decades the government witnessed its own segregation from other Nations, including expulsion from the United Nations because of South Africa’s unrelenting segregation and abuse of the majority of its citizen’s human rights (Stalker ,2008).
Because of segregation, several groups were formed to end apartheid. Although the ANC, had been around for some time, the Pan African Congress, or the PAC was formed as a splinter group. The PAC petitioned the South African government to relieve the oppression and exploitative conditions that Indigenous people were living under, but their pleas fell on deaf ears and eventually led to the outlawing of the ANC and the PAC in 1960.
In the late 1960’s on segregated college campuses became hotbeds of revolution. The Black Africans were tired of the oppression their people were enduring. A call for “Black Consciousness” rose with the emergence of the South African Students Organization in 1968. This group was a harbinger of a new revolutionary spirit among the oppressed and eventually would bring an end to Apartheid. The refusal of the students at many universities and secondary school refused to accept Apartheid and became the most potent challenge to white domination in South Africa. Although the South African Government tried to do away with these groups by outlawing them, the strategy to undermine the South African resistance failed. Resistance to the White rule in South Africa increased as international support increased and economic sanctions were levied against the South African government.
Although the white government of South Africa felt that the oppression and segregation protected their interests in South Africa by keeping the indigenous people under their control, in the end they failed. In 1990 South Africa’s last non-indigenous president lifted the ban on the ANC and the PAC and released all political prisoners including Nelson Mandela. (ANC.ORG ,2008) The Homelands system was abolished with the end of Apartheid and the election of Mandela as president.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was founded in South Africa to help repair the extensive damage done not only to the physical integrity of South Africans and their country’s social infrastructure but also on mending the South African soul. The TRC sought to help heal the trauma caused by years of torture, murder and abuse at the hands of a racist state that previously would not permit individuals of different races to marry.
Today in South Africa, although apartheid has ended, conditions for Black Africans have not changed much. Economically many black Africans live way below the poverty level, and more Afrikaners live above it, creating a division among them. The pandemic of HIV in the country has given rise to a new form of discrimination against those who struggle with the disease. The scale of infection and deaths from HIV/AIDS exceeds that in most other countries. Government inaction and certain dangerously mistaken beliefs and abusive practices concerning the protection from the disease are largely responsible for this line of discrimination.
The Khoi San were the true original indigenous people of South Africa. They were stripped of their right to call themselves Africans and were labeled coloured. They were robbed of their land, culture, language, and identity. The indigenous people were eager and excited at first when Apartheid was destroyed but little has changed for them. They are still labeled as Coloured and not Africans. There is still a sharp color line drawn between the Black Africans and the Afrikaners. Although many are working to change this to liberate the people from the thinking that Black Africans don’t have their own history and identity.
Education and awareness are the only ways to end the struggles of the black Africans of South Africa. Although they have progressed much as a people, they still have a long way to go. As time passes their plight is sure to become better, just as African Americans lives have become better in this country since segregation ended. The Black Africans are a strong people and they will accomplish their goals in time as they unite and become stronger as a people.
ANC. (n.d.). Nelson Mandela. Retrieved February 23, 2008, from anc.org: http://www.anc.org.za/people/mandela.html
Britannica, O. E. (2008). South Africa. Retrieved Februrary 20, 2008, from Encyclopedia Britannica Online: http://www.search.eb.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/eb/article-9109715
Stalker, P. (n.d.). “South Africa” Oxford Guide to the Countries of the World. Retrieved February 22, 2008, from Oxford Reference Online: http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t42.e195