Occupying the southern tip of Africa between the South Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean, South Africa is bordered on the north from west to east by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland.
The maintenance of white racial dominance (apartheid) had been integrally bound in with the development of South African nationhood. The longstand ing conflict between the Afrikaners, Dutchdescended Boers, Germans, and French Huguenots of the Transvaal and Orange Free State and the British of the Cape Province was finally resolved in 1910 when the Union of South Africa was formed.
The scars of the Boer War of 1899 to 1902 still remained, but a union based on the legal and social maintenance of white supremacy gained widespread approval among the colonists, spurred on by an unsuccessful African rebellion in Natal in 1906. The new nation consolidated its position as a bastion of white minority domination with ever-increasing legal barriers to equality or advancement erected against all nonwhites. In 1948 the newly elected Afrikaaner National Party officially adopted apartheid as national policy and enforced rigid racial segregation in all aspects of life.
In 1959 the white government initiated a program designed to isolate the nonwhite majority of its inhabitants in less valuable, closed regions, the old colonial “native reserves.” “Bantustans” were to be set up, which would be quasi-independent African enclaves wholly surrounded by white South Africa. In 1963 Transkei was the first segregated territory to be created. It was declared independent in 1976 and was followed by Bophuthatswana in 1977 and Venda in 1979. Ciskei became independent in December 1981.
Black resistance to this repressive treatment was widespread and continuous, but was brutally and bloodily suppressed by South Africa’s formidable army and security forces.
In 1961 the Republic of South Africa was proclaimed, and the nation formally left the British Commonwealth.
South Africa’s dominant economic position, bolstered by its enormous reserves of gold and diamonds, enabled it to ignore widespread world condemnation of its policies. Its refusal to release Namibia, the League of Nations and United Nations protectorate of South-West Africa, to UN control was ruled illegal by the World Court in 1971, but that judgment was ignored. Since 1976 South African troops have been engaged in limited yet bitter warfare against SWAPO guerrillas in Namibia, based in Angola. South African troops repeatedly bombed and invaded Angola.
In 1985, the government announced an indefinite state of emergency as unrest against the apartheid regime. In 1986, Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu addressed the United Nations and urged for sanctions against South Africa. In 1989, President Botha was succeeded by F.W. de Klerk. The de Klerk government began relaxing apartheid restrictions and freed Nelson Mand ela in 1990. Mand ela became head of the newly legalized African National Party (ANC). In 1991, the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), began negotiating a new constitution and a transition to a multiracial democracy with majority rule. In 1992, a whites only referendum endorsed constitutional reform efforts by a wide margin. In 1994, the four provinces of Cape Province, Natal, Orange Free State, and Transvaal were merged with the Black Band ustans and then split into nine new provinces: Northern Cape, West Cape, North West, Eastern Cape, Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalangu, Guatang, and Kwazulu Natal.
In 1994, the first multiracial election resulted in Mand ela elected president. The last traces of apartheid were abolished, and a new national constitution was approved and adopted in 1996. In 1999, Thabo Mbeki, the successor to Mand ela as head of the ANC, won a land slide victory and succeeded Mand ela as South Africa’s president. South Africa has been growing economically, but still faces high unemployment and an AIDS epidemic.