South Africa: Settlement

Extracted from: LODGE, T 2002, "South Africa" IN Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa (2002), edited by Tom Lodge, Denis Kadima and David Pottie, EISA, 291-292.

South Africa was first colonised by white settlers under the auspices of the Dutch East India Company in 1652. During the Napoleonic Wars the British assumed control of the Cape Colony. The subsequent abolition of slavery and the influence of liberal missionaries helped provoke an exodus of Dutch-speaking pastoralists beyond the borders of the colony and the establishment of independent settler republics. Within these republics, a creolised form of Dutch, Afrikaans, became the dominant language. A second British colony, Natal, was established on the East coast in 1830. From 1863 Indian indentured labourers were recruited to work on Natal sugar estates and Indian immigration continued until the First World War. African kingdoms were gradually subjugated in a series of wars which lasted throughout the nineteenth century. In several instances the terms of conquest allowed considerable autonomy to the better organised African authorities, including the Zulu monarchy and the less centralised Transkeian kingdoms. This history of European colonisation, African state formation, military conquest, agrarian settlement and indentured immigration has resulted in Africa's most racially diverse population. Throughout the twentieth century an indigenous African majority has shared South Africa's territory with what were legally defined minorities of European, Asian, and mixed descent. In 1990 the official census figures indicated a population of 28 million Africans, 5.4 million whites (of which 2.9 million were Afrikaans-speaking) 3.2 million coloureds and 1 million Asians.