History of the Republic of South Africa

For several centuries, large parts of South Africa were under the European rule, and in particular, Dutch control. The Dutch had arrived at the Cape to acquire goods to restock their ships but the locals were not interested, so the Dutch forced them back and created European farms in the region.

The arrival of the British at the start of the 19th century created an even wider division because they brought more African slaves, but they also took steps to end tension when they freed the slaves and punished the farmers that treated the workers badly. The white farmers moved more inland, in search of more land and black labor. The British stopped them from creating their own republic in the area by the Indian Coast, but they did create two republics in the interior of the country. The South African Republic is in the area known as the Transvaal and the second was the Orange Free State.

In the latter part of the 19th century, gold and diamonds were discovered in South Africa and this reshaped the economy. Divisions were clearer than ever and immigration escalated. The number of white people in the country dramatically rose. Workers in the mines were on low wages and discriminatory laws came into effect, particularly when the Union of South Africa was established in 1910.

The African National Congress was formed in 1912 and campaigned against the injustices suffered by black people. The white descendants of the Dutch settlers had also suffered at the hands of the British and most struggled to survive. They started to form their own businesses including banks and insurance companies.

The government dealt harshly with anyone who opposed it. Following a mass shooting in 1960 at a peaceful protest, the world condemned the South African government, which led to the country withdrawing from the Commonwealth and declaring the country a republic.

Apartheid grew but so did support for anti-apartheid campaigners such as Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison. His release and election to the presidency of the country marked a turning point in the country’s history.

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