The first people to live in the area now known as South Africa were black Africans who spoke the Bantu language. They raised cattle and sheep near the coast. In 1652, the Dutch came to settle in South Africa. Even though recent immigrants, they believed the land was theirs. These Dutch immigrants defeated many Africans and forced them to work as servants and slaves as they established a colony.
In 1806, Great Britain captured the colony from the Dutch. The British and descendants of the Dutch settlers, known as the Boers, fought for control of the country for about 100 years. The British finally won in 1910. When diamonds and gold were discovered, the British forced blacks off the mineral rich lands into land they though had little value, known as “reserves.“
In 1948, the racist Nationalist Party was elected to power. The Nationalist government combined all the poor treatment of blacks into an official policy called apartheid. Apartheid (pronounced apart hide) means apartness in Afrikaans, the language of South Africa’s Dutch descendants. Under apartheid, the
government divided people into racial categories. Four major ethnic groups were considered in South Africa. The Europeans who arrived were first known as Boers and later came to be called Afrikaners. Their language was a mixture of Dutch and new words from other settlers and blacks. These whites controlled the government, factories, farming, education, military use and the press. The largest ethnic group was the blacks. Over time, some black and whites married and had families. Their children were described as colored. In the 1860s, Asians also came to South Africa; many of these Asians were Indians, as India was also a British colony. The government put those described as colored and Asians into a third category. While a black could legally be paid half what a white person was paid, a person considered Asian or colored was paid 74%. Many were not eligible for jobs available for whites.
Sign in a white area for restrooms
Apartheid dictated where people could live and what jobs they could hold. In 1958, the government separated white people by making the other groups, especially the blacks, live on reserves or homelands. Blacks were considered foreigners outside of their homelands and needed passports or papers to enter the white areas. These reserves took up only 13% of the land, even though the blacks made up 68% of the population. Even though whites were only 17% of the population in 1986, they owned 87% of the land. The land on the reserves had poor soil for farming, and not many schools and hospitals were built.