Tuesday, October 15, 2013

History of South Africa (contd-2)

The early 19th century saw a time of immense upheaval relating to the military expansion of the Zulu Kingdom. Sotho-speakers know this period as the difaqane ("forced migration"); while Zulu-speakers call it the mfecane ("crushing").

The full causes of the difaqane remain in dispute, although certain factors stand out. The rise of a unified Zulu kingdom had particular significance. In the early 19th century, Nguni tribes in KwaZulu-Natal began to shift from a loosely organised collection of kingdoms into a centralised, militaristic state. Shaka Zulu, son of the chief of the small Zulu clan, became the driving force behind this shift. At first something of an outcast, Shaka proved himself in battle and gradually succeeded in consolidating power in his own hands. He built large armies, breaking from clan tradition by placing the armies under the control of his own officers rather than of the hereditary chiefs. Shaka then set out on a massive programme of expansion, killing or enslaving those who resisted in the territories he conquered. His impis (warrior regiments) were rigorously disciplined: failure in battle meant death.

Peoples in the path of Shaka's armies moved out of his way, becoming in their turn aggressors against their neighbours. This wave of displacement spread throughout Southern Africa and beyond. It also accelerated the formation of several states, notably those of the Sotho (present-day Lesotho) and of the Swazi (now Swaziland).

In 1828 Shaka was killed by his half-brothers Dingaan and Umhlangana. The weaker and less-skilled Dingaan became king, relaxing military discipline while continuing the despotism. Dingaan also attempted to establish relations with the British traders on the Natal coast, but events had started to unfold that would see the demise of Zulu independence.

The Great Trek

Trekboers on the karoo.
Meanwhile, the Boers had started to grow increasingly dissatisfied with British rule in the Cape Colony. The British proclamation of the equality of the races particularly angered them, and they were also unhappy with the process of payment of compensation for slave-owners whose slaves had been freed. Beginning in 1835, several groups of Boers, together with large numbers of Khoikhoi and black servants, decided to trek off into the interior in search of greater independence. North and east of the Orange River (which formed the Cape Colony's frontier) these Boers or Voortrekkers ("Pioneers") found vast tracts of apparently uninhabited grazing lands. They had, it seemed, entered their promised land, with space enough for their cattle to graze and their culture of anti-urban independence to flourish. Little did they know that what they found – deserted pasture lands, disorganised bands of refugees, and tales of brutality – resulted from the difaqane, rather than representing the normal state of affairs.
With the exception of the more powerful Ndebele, the Voortrekkers encountered little resistance among the scattered peoples of the plains. The difaqane had dispersed them, and the remnants lacked horses and firearms. Their weakened condition also solidified the Boers' belief that European occupation meant the coming of civilisation to a savage land. However, the mountains where King Moshoeshoe I had started to forge the Basotho nation that would later become Lesotho and the wooded valleys of Zululand proved a more difficult proposition. Here the Boers met strong resistance, and their incursions set off a series of skirmishes, and treaties that would litter the next 50 years of increasing white domination.

British, Boers and Zulus

Indians arriving in Durban for the first time.
The Great Trek first halted at Thaba Nchu, near present-day Bloemfontein, where the trekkers established a republic. Following disagreements among their leadership, the various Voortrekker groups split apart. While some headed north, most crossed the Drakensberg into Natal with the idea of establishing a republic there.
Since the Zulus controlled this territory, the Voortrekker leader, accompanied by about 70 men of his Trek-Boer community, Piet Retief paid a visit to King Dingane kaSenzangakhona (Shaka's brother). Dingane promised them land in payment for a favour. The Batlokwa people, under chief Sekonyela had stolen cattle from him and he wanted it back. Retief went to them and retrieved the cattle. After receiving the specified cattle, Dingane invited Retief and his men into his kraal, where they were given all the land between the iZimvubu and Tugela rivers up to the Drakensberg. The treaty between the two men currently sits in a museum in The Netherlands. As a celebration, Dingane invited Retief and all his men to come and drink uTshwala (Traditional Zulu Beer) in his kraal, but the Boers had to leave all their weapons outside. Also included in the offer were guns and money. While drinking and being entertained by Zulu dancers, Dingane cried out "Bulalani abathakathi" (Kill the wizards"; also sometimes reported as "Bambani abathakathi", "Seize the wizards"). Dingane's men, having taken Retief's men by surprise, dragged the men to a hill Hloma Mabuto (or perhaps kwaMatiwane) where, one by one, they were all killed, leaving Retief for last so that he could watch.
After the massacre, the impis went back to the encampment where Retief and his fellow farmers had left their wives, children and livestock. Taken by surprise, the women, children and remaining farmers (numbering about 500) were also killed at the site called "Weenen", but not without retribution, they themselves managed to stop the initial onslaught and managed to get away, without many of their guns and animals. A missionary, Rev. Owen, had seen all of this take place and approached Dingane in order to give the dead an appropriate burial. While the reverend and a helper of his were burying the dead and reading them their last rights, they happened to come across Retief's rucksack, still containing the treaty and a few personal belongings.
At the Battle of Italeni, a Boer army's attempt at revenge failed miserably. The culmination came on 16 December 1838, at the Ncome River in Natal. The Boers established a defensive enclosure or laager before the Zulu attack. Though only three Boers suffered injuries, they killed about three thousand Zulu warriors using three cannons and an elephant gun (along with other weapons). Before the battle, on 9 December 1838, the Boers made a vow to God that if He protected them and defeated their enemy, they will build a church in His name and they and their offspring will remember the day and the date. In remembrance of this vow, 16 December became a South African public holiday in the 1920s. So much bloodshed reportedly caused the Ncome's waters to run red, thus the clash is historically known as the Battle of Blood River.

Zulu warriors, late 19th century
The Voortrekkers, victorious despite their numbers, saw their victory as an affirmation of divine approval. Yet their hopes for establishing a Natal republic remained short lived. The British annexed the area in 1843, and founded their new Natal colony at present-day Durban. Most of the Boers, feeling increasingly squeezed between the British on one side and the native African populations on the other, headed north.
The British set about establishing large sugar plantations in Natal, but found few inhabitants of the neighbouring Zulu areas willing to provide labour. The British confronted stiff resistance to their encroachments from the Zulus, a nation with well-established traditions of waging war, who inflicted one of the most humiliating defeats on the British army at the Battle of Isandlwana in 1879, where over 1400 British soldiers were killed. During the ongoing Anglo-Zulu Wars, the British eventually established their control over what was then named Zululand, and is today known as KwaZulu-Natal Province.

The British turned to India to resolve their labour shortage, as Zulu men refused to adopt the servile position of labourers and in 1860 the SS Truro arrived in Durban harbour with over 300 people on board. Over the next 50 years, 150,000 more indentured Indians arrived, as well as numerous free "passenger Indians", building the base for what would become the largest Indian community outside India. As early as 1893, when Mahatma Gandhi arrived in Durban, Indians outnumbered whites in Natal.

By the late 1700s, European settlements were spread throughout the Cape and by the end of the 18th century the British controlled the entire Cape of Good Hope region. In the early 1800s in an effort to escape British rule, many native farmers called Boers migrated north and in 1852 and 1854, the Boers created the independent Republics of the Transvaal and Orange Free State.

After the discovery of diamonds and gold in the late 1800s, more European immigrants arrived in South Africa and eventually led to the Anglo-Boer Wars, which the British won, causing the republics to become part of the British Empire. In May 1910 though, the two republics and Britain formed the Union of South Africa, a self-governing territory of the British Empire and in 1912, the South African Native National Congress (eventually called the African National Congress or ANC) was founded with the goal of providing blacks in the region with more freedom.

Despite the ANC in an election in 1948, the National Party won and began passing laws enforcing a policy of racial separation called apartheid. In the early 1960s the ANC was banned and Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid leaders were convicted of treason and imprisoned. In 1961, South Africa became a republic after it withdrew from the British Commonwealth because of international protests against apartheid and in 1984 a constitution was put into effect. In February 1990, President F.W. de Klerk, unbanned the ANC after years of protest and two weeks later Mandela was released from prison.

Four years later on May 10, 1994, Mandela was elected as South Africa's first black president and during his time in office he was committed to reforming race-relations in the country and strengthening its economy and place in the world. This has remained the goal of subsequent governmental leaders.

Government of South Africa

Today, South Africa is a republic with two legislative bodies. Its executive branch is its Chief of State and Head of Government- both of which are filled by the president who is elected for five year terms by the National Assembly. The legislative branch is a bicameral Parliament composed of the National Council of the Provinces and the National Assembly. South Africa's judicial branch is made up of its Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeals, High Courts and Magistrate Courts.