Going back into recorded history Southern Africa was largely populated by the nomadic Khoisan people. The Bantu migration from Northern and Central Africa resulted in the extensive displacement of the Khoisan as the Bantu tribes (primarily Nguni) expanded southward. The Khoisan resisted the Bantu migration up to the borders that today form the Cape. The Cape of Good Hope was first charted in 1488 by the Portuguese navigator Bartholomew Diaz. The first European settlement in the region took place in 1652 when settlers under Jan van Riebeeck established Cape Town as a Refreshment Station for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) en route to its colonies in the East Indies.
The Khoisan were integrated into Dutch settlements as the Cape of Good Hope expanded. In the 1660’s the VOC brought slaves from India, Ceylon, and Batavia (modern Day Indonesia) and East Africa. The Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Indian Ocean to the East served as the umbilical cords which still tie the Cape to the European and Asian societies which gave it birth in its modern form.
The Cape was a confluence of a large variety of people, and it was soon characterised by people of mixed heritage. The Cape and its melting pot society symbolized true diversity and the language Afrikaans is as rich and diverse as the people who created it. This diverse mixture of heritage, culture and language can even be seen in the fact that many Kaaplanders that are considered “white” can trace their genetics back to the Khoisan and slave ancestors. The Cape is the true “Rainbow Nation” we only have to look into our pasts to realize it.
The Cape territory expanded as far East as the Fish River where first contact between the Kaaplanders and the South-Westerly expanding Xhosa were made in 1779.
The Cape fell into the hands of the British in 1806. The Cape remained under British control from 1806 until 1872 after which it attained self-governance. The Cape enjoyed self-governance until 1910 before the British Empire forced the ‘Union of South Africa’ after weakening the Boer Republics in the South African War. The Union of South Africa consisted of the Cape and Natal Colonies and the Republics of the Transvaal and Orange Free State. Lesotho, a British protectorate, chose not to join the Union and gained independence in 1966. Swaziland, originally included in the Transvaal Republic gained independence from Britain in 1968. These two independent countries account for the two “holes” in the present map of South Africa, while the other four previously autonomous entities remain to make up what is today regarded as the Republic of South Africa.
From 1910 until 1948 the Union of South Africa was a dominion of the British Empire. In the 1920’s The Union pursued independence from Britain. In 1948 political control shifted to the extreme National Party. With the NP’s political interests largely based in the Transvaal region, the ‘Nat’ government was quick to implement racial segregation laws under a policy it called Apartheid. Until that time the Cape Province had been the only province that had allowed a non – white franchise for elections and for 300 years had been unsegregated. In the 1950’s the Apartheid government abolished this right in the Cape. In 1953 the NP government removed so-called ‘Cape coloureds’ from the Common Roll of Cape Province and coloureds were only allowed to vote for four white parliamentary representatives. This was met with outrage in the Cape and an organisation called the ‘Torch Commandos’, led by the acclaimed fighter pilot Adolph “Sailor” Malan, launched mass protests against the government. At the height of the protests the Torch Commandos comprised 250,000 white members demanding an end to the government’s racist policies and that voting rights be returned to coloureds. But the Apartheid government stonewalled the protests, and by 1968 Cape coloureds were not only completely removed from the voters roll, but also had their homes demolished and faced forced evictions under the Group Areas act.
Sailor Malan (right) leader of the ‘Torch Commando’ protests against the NP government’s race policies.
The NP government managed to hold onto power until 1994 after local and international pressure forced them to end Apartheid and hold elections of universal suffrage. This saw the rapid rise to power of the African National Congress. Although the ANC had promised to bring an end to racism in South Africa with the cry of a ‘rainbow nation’, the reality was that oppression had been redirected towards minority groups. The ANC government introduced such policies as the Employment Equity Act, Black Economic Empowerment, Affirmative Action, Nationalisation/Land Seizures (farms and mines), Transformation, Redistribution and Quota’s which would ensure that every aspect of society would be structured on racial lines. The economy, education, politics, businesses, national monopolies (Eskom, Telkom), the media (SABC, mainstream newspapers) everything through to sport would be structured on an ever-increasing racial quota. In effect, the true ‘rainbow nation’ of South Africa, the ethnically diverse Cape, would be the worst affected by the ANC’s racist policies.
The Cape, in spite of her long linguistic and cultural history, lost her independence in 1910 to a colonial mistake that forced together neighbouring lands in order to suit the needs of the British Empire. In 1948 this forced Union fell into the hands of a totalitarian and racist government. In 1994 the levers of power were handed over from one totalitarian racist government to another, where the oppressed had simply changed its shade. The good people of this Union have suffered under immoral governance in one or another shape or form since its conception in 1910 up until this present day.