South Africa Essay Research Paper Language and

South Africa Essay, Research Paper Language and Religion Afrikaans and English are the official languages. Afrikaans, derived from Dutch, is the mother tongue of the Afrikaners and the principal language of the Coloreds. More Afrikaners are bilingual than English-speakers. Most urban blacks speak English and Afrikaans in addition to their native language.

South Africa Essay, Research Paper

Language and Religion

Afrikaans and English are the official languages. Afrikaans, derived from Dutch, is the mother tongue of the Afrikaners and the principal language of the Coloreds. More Afrikaners are bilingual than English-speakers. Most urban blacks speak English and Afrikaans in addition to their native language. The Bantu languages are not mutually intelligible. Many blacks speak Fanakalo, a lingua franca that developed among black workers in the mines.

The politically influential Dutch Reformed church, which professes a fundamentalist-type Calvinist Protestantism, has almost 4 million members, of whom 2 million are Afrikaners and 1.2 million are Coloreds. The Roman Catholic Church claims 2.4 million adherents. The Anglicans, whose spiritual leader is Bishop Desmond TUTU (a black awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his leadership in the struggle against apartheid), claims 2 million members, as do the Methodists. Most Africans belong to black independent churches or follow traditional religious practices. Three-fourths of the Asians are Hindu. The Jewish community numbers less than 140,000.

Health and Education

Wide disparities exist between races in health indicators and facilities. Life expectancy at birth is 59 years for blacks and Coloreds, 65 years for Asians, and 72 years for whites. Gastroenteritis, malnutrition, and tuberculosis are major causes of death among blacks, and the black infant mortality rate is more than six times the rate for whites. Medical facilities for whites are superior to those for other races.

Education has been under the control of a single government agency since 1985 except in the homelands, each of which has its own education department. Schooling is compulsory for all whites and most Coloreds between the ages of 7 and 1, and for Asians between 7 and 14. Compulsory education for blacks between the ages of 7 and 16 began to be phased in in 1981, but many black children do not attend school. Expenditures for black education have increased, however, and modest moves to integrate some public schools began in 1991. Ten universities cater to whites–five teaching in Afrikaans, four in English and one in both languages. There are five universities for blacks, and one each for Coloreds and Asians. The University of South Africa, a correspondence university, is open to all races. Nonwhite students are gradually being admitted to white universities.


The discovery of diamonds near Kimberley (1867) and gold on the Witwatersrand (1886) helped transform South Africa from a land of subsistence farmers into a modern industrial state controlled by the white minority but reliant on black labor. Minerals provided the stimulus for railroad expansion from the coast to the interior. The mines brought black Africans into the wage economy and created demands for explosives, machinery, energy, and many other goods and services. Development occurred unevenly, however; white areas witnessed rapid industrialization and economic growth, while the homelands remained economically disadvantaged with limited manufacturing, few industrial resources, high unemployment, and only marginal subsistence agriculture.

The economy developed as private investment from Western Europe and the United States increased. Today South Africa is the strongest industrial state on the African continent. In the 1980s the United States and various other nations imposed limited economic sanctions on South Africa in an effort to end apartheid. Foreign-owned companies were pressed to dispose of their South African investments, and those that remained in South Africa were asked to adhere to the Sullivan Principles, which called for nondiscrimination in the workplace.


A constitution approved by white voters in 1983 replaced the formerly all-white parliament with a multiracial, tricameral legislature. Each chamber exercises authority over the affairs of its own community. Foreign policy, defense, taxes, law and order, and other general affairs are considered by standing committees representing all three chambers. The membership of the three chambers–white (178), Asian (45), colored (85)–guarantees whites a legislative majority. Many Colored and Asian voters boycotted the 1984 elections, and the new constitution, which continued to deny parliamentary representation to blacks, set off a wave of violent protests in black communities.

The new constitution abolished the presidency and prime ministership and made the head of government a state president with power to appoint the cabinet and control of the President’s Council (a multiracial body that replaced the upper house of parliament in 1980 and can resolve disputes among the legislative chambers). P. W. BOTHA, head of the national party that has held power since 1948, became state president in 1984, when the new constitution came into effect. Botha resigned the presidency in August 1989 and was succeeded by F. W. de Klerk, who had become party leader in February and remained in office after legislative elections in September.

Under the theory of separate development, blacks were to have voting rights only in the homelands. All blacks were to be designated citizens of one of the ten homelands and be stripped of their South African citizenship, as the homelands were declared independent. After negotiations designed to give blacks a role in national politics began in 1990, the government said that the homelands policy would be abandoned as part of an overall settlement.

By late 1991, the government and the African National Congress (ANC) had reached agreement on the need for an independent judiciary, a bill of rights, and a two-chamber parliament with one house elected by universal suffrage and proportional representation and a second house elected according to regions. Differences remained concerning the way in which South Africa would be governed pending the transition to multiparty rule and the degree of power to be given to regional and local government.


The first known inhabitants of present-day South Africa were San and Khoikhoi hunters and gatherers; they were followed southward by Bantu-speaking peoples between AD 1000 and 1500. In 1488, Portuguese mariners led by Bartolomeu DIAS rounded the Cape of Good Hope. The Dutchman Jan van Riebeeck established the first European settlement at Table Bay (now Cape Town) in 1652 as a station for the Dutch East India Company. Dutch pioneers spread eastward, and in 1779 war broke out between Xhosas migrating south and the Dutch near the Great Fish River.

Britain controlled the Cape sporadically during the Napoleonic Wars and formally received the territory in 1814 under provisions made by the Congress of Vienna. Large-scale British settlement began in 1820. To preserve their Calvinist way of life, the Dutch (Boer) farmers began (1836) to move into the interior on the so-called GREAT TREK. In 1838 Zulus massacred approximately seventy of the Voortrekkers. Seeking vengeance, Andries PRETORIUS led the Boers against the Zulus, defeating them in the Battle of Blood River. The Voortrekkers eventually established independent republics, including the Orange Free State (1854) and the South African Republic (1852; later the Transvaal).

The discovery of diamonds and gold in the late 1800s drew British immigrant entrepreneurs (Uitlanders, or “foreigners”) into the interior, and conflict over ownership ensued. Paul KRUGER, leader of the Transvaal, resisted British attempts to claim the area, including those by Cecil RHODES, prime minister of the British-controlled Cape Colony, who encouraged the Uitlanders to take over the Transvaal. The unsuccessful Jameson Raid, engineered by the British and intended to aid the Uitlanders in an uprising, added to the mounting tension. Eventually, the South African War (1899-1902) erupted between the British and the Boers, with the British the victors. In 1910 such leaders as Jan Smuts helped create the Union of South Africa, with dominion status, out of the former British colonies and the two defeated Boer republics. Louis Botha, a moderate Afrikaner advocating close cooperation with the British, became the first prime minister.

Between the two world wars, mining and manufacturing expanded. The Depression of the 1930s, however, forced black Africans and white farmers alike into the cities to compete for unskilled jobs. As a result, both African and Afrikaner nationalism emerged. At the same time, a segregationist policy was adopted by James Barry Hertzog’s government (1924-39) to preserve South Africa as a white country in which black Africans would be restricted as far as possible to reserves. The Colored population, whose voting rights had been protected by the 1910 constitution, was disenfranchised.

Colonial Partition

The European conquest of Africa began with the slave trade and the subsequent establishment of commodity exchange centers along the coasts. It was fueled by the exciting explorations of Mungo PARK, David Livingstone, Henry Morton Stanley, Sir Richard Burton, and Joseph Thompson, who provided a collective prelude to the partition of Africa. Equally important were the activities of Roman Catholic and Protestant missionaries, who intrepidly entered the interior in the wake of the explorers, developed systems for writing the indigenous languages, and then expounded their beliefs on why and how Western influence would benefit Africa.

Commercial interests were also important, especially in West Africa where, during the 19th century, the early outposts became enclaves ruled by Europeans with the collaboration of Africans. Minor wars led to the gradual, unanticipated growth of these outposts. In South Africa, too, animosity between English and Afrikaans speaking whites led to wars with Africans, the expansion of the frontier there, and the occupation by European powers of all of southern and central Africa. Everywhere the actions of a few commercial promoters were important.

Above all, it was the political rivalries of the new Europe that accelerated the decisive carving up of the continent. Throughout the late 19th century, France, Germany, and Britain each attempted to gain a competitive edge over the others by controlling sources of raw materials overseas–in East and South Asia and in the Pacific Islands, among other places. A war in Europe to end competition seemed an undesirable alternative; so instead they exploited Africa to satisfy their strategic and economic needs.

Between 1880 and 1914, Europe systematically occupied Africa. Persuading Africans to sign treaties requesting protection, or using machine guns to silence opposition when treaties were disdained, Europeans annexed one region after another. Because the Europeans had superior weapons and ready access to ammunition and other supplies, there was surprisingly little resistance. Most important, Africans were rarely united, and many welcomed whites for protection against more powerful Africans, such as the Nguni.

Nevertheless, there were bitter battles in opposition. The Ashanti resisted British conquest from the 1820s to 1902, and the French had to overcome the armies of Ahmadu and Umar as well as those of a late 19th-century mercenary state created by Samori of Guinea. Along the coast opposite Zanzibar, Arabo-Swahili warriors resisted the Germans for two years in the late 1880s. Up-country, Hehe warriors were subdued only after long, costly battles. In Natal the Zulu twice defeated the British and the Afrikaners before being humbled by bigger and better guns. In Rhodesia the Ndebele fought to retain their power. There were innumerable rearguard actions too where isolated clans or tribes burned European camps and for years continued to attack European soldiers before finally being worn down. In the South African War (1899-1902), Britain defeated the Afrikaners and established its dominance over South Africa.

In Ethiopia, King Menelik II was able in 1896, at Adowa near the capital of much earlier Aksum, totally to oust a large army of invading Italians, as he had sufficient guns of European manufacture and a large, well-trained army. As a result Ethiopia remained undominated by outsiders until 1936, when the Italians avenged their previous defeat, then governed the empire until 1941.