World History - South Africa Lessons
The World in Mid 15th Century
• China and Songhai...Scholars often label the Ming Dynasty and the Songhai Empire as the greatest periods in the histories of their respective regions. Part of the reason lies in the fact that both societies were more advanced in technology and governmental structure than other societies of their time. The Great Wall, the Forbidden City and the Tomb of Askia bear testament to the advancement of these two civilizations. Zheng He travelled far and wide, returning to China with exotic items and taking Chinese ideas and culture wherever he went. This was the beginning of the Chinese diaspora. Under Askia Muhammad Toure, Timbuktu became a world-renowned centre of learning with one of the greatest universities in Africa, consisting of 25,000 scholars. Furthermore, the Songhai Empire was so large that it covered 2,000 miles of land along the Niger River.
• India and the Ottoman Empire...The nomadic tribes of northwest Turkey became some of the most powerful leaders during the period before the mid-fifteenth century. The tribes became known as Ottomans and their power spread from Turkey to many parts of Europe and Asia during the medieval time period. As they advanced and obtained more territory, they spread the Islamic religion. Much of the territory they conquered extended out from great bodies of water, such as the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, and the Bosphorus. Near the end of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries, Timur gained a foothold in India and weakened the Delhi Sultanate. Once the sultanate was weakened, Islam gained a greater foothold in India. The Ottomans contributed to the lands it captured. Evidence of their contributions remain today in the areas of architecture, art, and music.
Shift of European Dominance
• Spanish Colonialism in the Americas...Spanish colonialism in the Americas began when Columbus began his voyages seeking a sea route to China by sailing west from Europe. Spain conquered Mexico and the Incas in South America. It continued to expand its empire by gaining a foothold in Central America and part of the United States. The Spanish empire disintegrated after the Mexican and South American peoples asserted their rights to independence and fought to protect those views. Spanish interests in the present day United States were subordinate to those of England and France and eventually the United States as a nation.
• The Portuguese and Dutch in Africa...During the 15th century, the Portuguese excelled in navigation and successfully established trade with Asia and India by finding routes around Africa. The Portuguese protected their routes by constructing supply stations along the east and west coasts of Africa. In the early 17th century the Dutch challenged Portugal’s superior trade status and eventually succeeded in monopolizing trade relations with Asia and India. The Dutch constructed agricultural supply stations but also began settlement of the Cape of Good Hope area. Dutch farmers began to seek more land and moved inland. The farmers had serious conflicts with the original inhabitants but continued to assert their presence. While Portugal and the Dutch were heavily involved with trade, the Dutch impacted Africa for an extended time because of the Trek Boers who established permanent settlements in the country’s interior.
• The British and French in India...Britain and France became serious rivals in establishing trade relations with Asia and, particularly, India, in the early 1600s. The French were successful in establishing settlements in South India, but the continuing influence of the French in the country diminished as the British East India Company gained access to more of India’s territory. During the 1600s and 1700s, Britain and France fought several wars in Europe, America, and India, and victories of the British East India Company in the Carnatic Wars assured British dominance in India. After the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the British ruled India until the country gained its independence. Today, South India retains characteristics of French influence and culture from the period of French colonialism.
Slavery and the Pursuit of Liberty
• Slavery and the Industrial Revolution...The British became dependent upon many items produced by slaves, such as sugar, cocoa, tobacco and coffee. Slaves worked to produce those things that supported the world economy in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries and many scholars believe that there is a link–whether direct or indirect–between slavery and industrialisation. The Atlantic slave trade also had a large detrimental impact on African economic development. These effects are still felt today with most Africans countries being labelled ‘third world’ or ‘undeveloped’. Another legacy of the slave trade is racism. Although Thomas Jefferson, the main author of the Declaration of Independence, originally included a clause abolishing slavery, other states did not accept this and so omitted if from the declaration. Thus, America began as a country at least partially condoning slavery. A dominant view was that slaves were like grown-up children and should be treated as such. Unfortunately, most times slaves were only viewed as chattel that did not deserve to be treated any better. In latter years, the horrors of slavery have become more publicised and, in 1998, UNESCO decided that 23 August would be the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. In 2006 and 2007, then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, made apologies for Britain’s role in this trade in human cargo, where conservative estimates state that about two million African slaves died in transit. Sadly, in spite of efforts to curb it, racism remains an issue in twenty first century society.
• The Slave Trade and Industrialization around the World...The capture, enslavement, and sale of human life in Africa began at the shores of Western Africa and in the south, at Cape Colony. Merchants traded slaves in Western Africa to plantation owners in the Americas for goods, especially sugar, that they then shipped to Europe. London was a main port for this trade, bringing great wealth to Great Britain. Most slaves in South Africa were imported from regions in the Indian Ocean, primarily Mozambique and Madagascar. The descendants of these first slaves are known today as the Cape Malay. A walk through Cape Town traces the footsteps of these people who founded the Cape Colony.
Transformation in Southern Africa between 1750 and 1850
• The Mfecane...In many ways, the Mfecane may be viewed as a turning point in South African history. This is not only because it was a significant event but more importantly because it resulted in the formation of a number of nations which now make up the diverse patch work of South African people. The European colonial administrators used the idea that eastern South Africa was an empty land to justify their position in South Africa. Noticing this idea, the Apartheid Government developed an ‘empty land theory’ which stated that Europeans and Bantu-speaking people arrived in South Africa at the same time. Therefore, they implied that they had an equal claim to the land. This theory has been abandoned with the ending of Apartheid, however many people still believe the idea to be true. Knowledge and study of history such as the Mfecane can help us understand the unique events that helped form contemporary South Africa. Thus we may better understand the diverse culture that is South African.
History and Heritage
• Humans on Display...Heritage belongs to everyone in a country. Heritage refers to the past and historical events. It is not exclusive as ordinary people’s history is part of the heritage of a country. Therein lays a difficulty as it is problematic to include all people’s history. Thus, heritage must be constructed in order for the entire population. A feeling of tolerance needs to be adopted and encouraged. Saartjie Baartman suffered discrimination and ridicule by Europeans who paid to visit her exhibit. She was ridiculed on the basis of her physical appearance (genitals, buttocks etc). William Dunlop promised Saartjie some of the money from these displays, but she never received anything. Georges Cuvier took a scientific interest in her and she went to Paris. Again, no financial assistance was forthcoming. She eventually resorted to prostitution to make ends meet. After her death, she was further humiliated by being displayed in a museum. Throughout, Saartjie Baartman suffered many human rights abuses. Displaying people in museums (alive or dead) has many moral issues. If it is undertaken “factually” without bias or intended discrimination, then it could be deemed appropriate. However, if it occurs with malicious intent, as with Baartman to prove that one race is superior to another or to ridicule difference, then it is unacceptable.
The World Transforms
The Age of Imperialism
• Industrialization and Imperialism in Africa...Towards the end of the 19th century, the European powers ceased control of virtually the entire African continent by war, confrontation, military superiority, or economic policy. This colonialism has had a long lasting effect on the African continent. It is the main reason for the numerous problems that the continent faces today.
• Industrialization and Imperial Control in South Africa...It took the British Empire nearly three years, 1899-1902, to crush the Boers, a pioneering people who tried to build an independent nation in South Africa. The discovery of gold and diamonds brought a rush of fortune seekers into the areas now known as Kimberley and Johannesburg. Clashes with the British mine owners and the Boer landowners eventually led to fighting and war. The Treaty of Vereeniging brought peace, but also began the period of disenfranchisement for Indians and black Africans.
Response to Colonialism and Challenges to Capitalism
• Response to Colonialism in Africa and Asia...In 1910, South Africa united for the first time into a single nation, the Union of South Africa. The South Africa Act of 1909 paved the way for a single nation by officially joining the Cape, Natal, Transvaal, and Orange Free State colonies under one flag. Racial segregation became official policy throughout the Union and laid the foundation for apartheid. Louis Botha became the first Prime Minister and under his leadership, he enacted a series of discriminatory laws. Most critical was the Natives Land Act of 1913, which separated South Africa into areas in which blacks and whites could legally own land. Blacks, which constituted the vast majority of the population, received less than 10% of the land to live on. Whites controlled and could own over 90% of the land. Blacks were discriminated in the workplace. A series of laws controlled the labor force: the Native Laws Amendment Act (1937) banned blacks from the town unless they had jobs; the Mines and Works Act (1911) restricted the skilled work and better paying jobs to whites only; the Industrial Conciliation Act (1924) allowed for labor unions but blacks could not join them; the Mines and Works Amendment Act (1926) continued to restrict skilled work opportunities for black, but allowed opportunities to coloureds. Throughout this time period men of the South African National Native Congress, women of the Bantu Women’s League, and Indians from the Natal Indian Congress protested against the injustices of the new South African government. It would take over ninety years for the oppressive laws that led to apartheid to end in South Africa.
Nationalism and Identities in Africa
• Pan-Africanism...The Pan-African movement started among black people living in the Americas, North and South America and the Caribbean, at the beginning of the 20th Century. Pan-Africanism is the idea that there should be unity among people of African origin. These communities formed the African Diaspora. Pan-Africanism had different meanings for different people. To some, it was a political movement, a way of uniting black people to fight against racism and discrimination. Others saw it as a means of bringing together people from Africa and the Diaspora. Some believed that it was a force that could re-unite a divided Africa. To others, it was a cultural movement, a means of creating pride in African heritage, history and achievements. Some black artists, writers, poets and musicians adopted these ideas, and used African themes and traditions in their work. Until 1945, European colonial powers ruled Africa, and treated African people and their culture as inferior to their own. Therefore, Pan-Africanism appealed to people in the colonies, as it was a way of restoring African pride and dignity. Until 1945, however, leaders from the African Diaspora, and their concerns, dominated Pan-Africanism. Only after World War II did Pan-Africanism play an important political role in Africa.
Nationalism and Identities in South Africa
• The Impact of World War II on Pan-Africanism...World War II was a turning point for Pan-Africanism. Before then, it had essentially been a cultural movement, dominated by leaders from, and the concerns of, the African Diaspora. After the war, the focus of the movement turned to Africa, and leaders from Africa emerged to lead the movement. The agenda was now a political one: decolonization and independence. In this way, the goals of Pan-Africanism and African nationalism merged. The war was also a turning point for Africa. The war emphasized the economic and strategic importance of Africa to the Allied powers. In addition, the experiences of African soldiers provided a major boost to African nationalism, when they returned home after the war unwilling to submit to the continuation of colonial rule. The war also changed the mind-set of the colonial powers. They were no longer equipped, financially or psychologically, to play the role of imperial masters. Other factors also boosted African nationalism. The Atlantic Charter provided hope that the right of Africans to govern themselves would become a reality after the war. The Manchester Conference sent a clear message that Africans were prepared to fight for this right. They knew, too, that they would have the support of the newly formed United Nations. In 1957, Ghana led the way by becoming the first former colony in sub-Saharan Africa to become independent. Within a few years most of the rest of Africa was independent too. Many saw the formation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963 as a triumph for the ideals of Pan-Africanism.
• The Rise of Nationalism...The outbreak of World War II in 1939 proved to divide the white community in South Africa. Jan Smuts favored entry into the war on the side of the British. JBM Hertzog supported neutrality. D F Malan wanted to enter the war on Germany's side. Malan’s party dominated the politics of South Africa and implemented many of the apartheid laws. During this time and immediately after World War II, the need for black labour increased while adequate housing decreased. Blacks were removed to areas separated from whites. Black organizations united with Indian passive resisters to announce their solidarity in opposing discrimination and oppression in South Africa.
The Rise of Apartheid
The Cold War and its Impact on the World
• Uhuru in Africa in the 1960s and 1970s...For most African countries, the path to uhuru, or independence, was a peaceful one, requiring negotiations between the colonial powers and representative of nationalist organizations. This is what happened in most British and French colonies, such as Botswana and Cote d’Ivoire. For the Portuguese colonies like Mozambique, however and for the colonies with European settlers like Zimbabwe, independence only came after long wars of liberation. After independence, African states tried different policies to bring about economic development. Most, such as Kenya, opted for capitalism, while others adapted forms of socialism, as did Tanzania. However, the reality of Uhuru was not the reality for which many people had hoped and fought. Many countries became one-party states, or experienced military coups and brutal dictatorships like those in Uganda and Ethiopia. Ethnic tensions and civil war tore apart others, like Nigeria and the Congo, and some, like Angola, became battlegrounds for Cold War rivalry.
The Resistance Movement and Anti-Apartheid around the World
• Black Resistance and the 1960s Civil Protest...The invaders have confined you and your entire family into just one room of your own home. You have been there for six months. The laws and government of the country support the take-over. Write a proposal that will include several strategies for reclaiming control of your home.
• Anti-Apartheid...With the banning of all African National Congress (ANC) activities, the movement to end apartheid and racial discrimination in South Africa intensified. Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) became the military wing of the ANC. By the early 1960s, the government had sentenced its leaders, including Nelson Mandela, to life in prison. The black consciousness movement took hold in the early 1970s and encouraged youth to stand against apartheid. Influenced by the leadership of Steve Biko, children in Soweto peacefully protested the forced learning and speaking in Afrikaans – the language of the white people. Their protest turned into a riot, with police killing hundreds of school children. A year later, police arrested and killed Steve Biko. Throughout all of the turmoil, the world was watching. In 1973, an International Convention of the United Nations General Assembly ruled that the system of apartheid amounted to a crime against humanity, and defined the crime of apartheid as ‘inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them’. It was not until 1990, when the ban on the ANC finally lifted, that apartheid finally saw its end.
• Black Consciousness in the 1970s...In his short political career, Steve Biko made a significant impact on South African history. His ideas of Black Consciousness ignited a new spirit of defiance among the youth, especially in Soweto. This defiance, coupled with their anger over the injustice of Bantu Education, led to the student protests in June 1976. With existing tensions over conditions in the townships and government repression, the protests over education issues became a general uprising against the whole system of apartheid. Although the government suppressed the uprising, the events had far-reaching consequences. Thousands of students left the country to join the ANC and PAC in exile and receive military training. These new recruits helped to increase the number of sabotage missions into the country by the armed wings of the liberation movement. The uprising and the harsh methods used to suppress it had a negative impact on South Africa’s image overseas. The international Anti-Apartheid movement stepped up its efforts to isolate South Africa. During 1977, the state banned all organizations with links to the Black Consciousness Movement. This suggests that the government had no doubt that the ideology posed a threat to white domination and was behind the 1976 uprising. The Soweto uprising was a turning point. It was the biggest challenge that the National Party had faced since coming to power in 1948. Apartheid was beginning to fail, although it was not until the 1980s that this became a reality.
• Apartheid South Africa and Eastern Europe in the 1980s...At the beginning of the 1980s, the apartheid government was firmly in control. Opposition parties were banned, and their leaders were in exile or in prison. However, the protest actions of ordinary people brought about radical changes. Attempts by the government to crush the protests were not successful. By 1989, there were doubts within the National Party itself about how to proceed, and F.W. de Klerk, who was more open to reform, replaced P.W. Botha as president. During1989, opposition groups openly defied apartheid laws, and organized mass protest marches in the major cities. Similar protest marches in Eastern Europe brought about the collapse of communism, the end of the Cold War, and the collapse of the USSR. These events had a major impact on South Africa. Western governments applied more pressure on the apartheid government, because South Africa was no longer useful as a Cold War ally. With the collapse of the USSR, the ANC no longer had Soviet support and funding, and the National Party government no longer saw communism as such a threat. This meant that both sides were more ready to negotiate. By the end of 1989 the stage was set for major changes in South Africa.
The Changes in Our World Since 1960
South Africa Emerges a Democracy
• The Crisis of Apartheid in the 1980s...In the early 1980s, the apartheid government introduced a policy of ‘Total Onslaught – Total Strategy’ to meet a perceived communist threat against South Africa. However, mounting opposition, both internally and internationally, forced the government to abandon apartheid. Inside South Africa, mass protests continued throughout the decade, in spite of harsh repression. The economy declined when it became clear that the government was determined to uphold white minority rule. The ANC in exile and its armed wing, MK, intensified the armed struggle, which South Africa’s response – cross border raids and the assassination of opposition leaders – failed to contain. Efforts by the Commonwealth to encourage the government to negotiate failed. The international Anti-Apartheid movement put pressure on Western governments to apply economic sanctions, and applied a cultural and sporting boycott. In South Africa, business, political and academic leaders defied government pressures and arranged meetings with ANC leaders in exile. The defeat of South African forces in Angola by the Cubans forced the government to reassess its military capabilities. The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union meant that the idea of a communist ‘Total Onslaught’ against South Africa was no longer valid. Even members of the government itself saw the urgent need for a change of policy. When F.W. de Klerk became president in 1989, the stage was set for major change in South Africa.
• Managing the Crisis...In February 1990, people around the world welcomed the reforms announced by De Klerk, and the release of Nelson Mandela. Shortly afterwards the ANC and the government began the long process of negotiation. Both sides were willing to compromise to make these negotiations successful, and they reached an initial agreement at the CODESA talks. However, massacres at Boipatong and Bisho, and on-going violence between ANC and Inkatha supporters and between government forces and protestors, threatened further talks. Many civilians were murdered by groups opposed to a peaceful settlement, including the right-wing AWB and the radical Azanian People’s Liberation Army (ALPA). The assassination of one of the ANC’s chief negotiators, Chris Hani, brought the country to the brink of civil war. These tragic events, however, strengthened the resolve of political leaders to reach a peaceful settlement. In April 1994, South Africa held its first democratic election in history. Nearly 20 million voters cast their vote in a peaceful election, found by international observers to be “free and fair.” South Africans were filled with feelings of relief, hope, optimism, and expectation.
• South Africa after 1994: Dealing with the Past and Facing the Future...When the newly-elected government of South Africa took office in 1994, it faced many challenges. Fundamental to all of them were finding ways to heal the divisions, inequalities, bitterness and violence of the past, and to create a new national identity so that South Africans of all races could feel that they shared a common destiny. One of the government’s notable achievements was to oversee and adopt a new constitution which established South Africa as a democracy with respect for human rights. It also established three mechanisms to deal with issues from the past – the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Reconstruction and Development Programme and the Land Claims Court. However, opinions are divided about how successfully these achieved their aims. The government also adopted a new flag, anthem and coat of arms to symbolize the new South Africa, and constructed new heritage symbols. Although many goals were achieved in the first decade of democracy, many social and economic challenges remained unsolved.