Some of the earliest human remains in the fossil record are found in South Africa. By about A.D. 500, Bantu speaking groups began settling into what is now northeastern South Africa displacing Khoisan speaking groups to the southwest. Dutch traders landed at the southern tip of present-day South Africa in 1652 and established a stopover point on the spice route between the Netherlands and the Far East, founding the city of Cape Town. After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the settlers of Dutch descent (Afrikaners, also called "Boers" (farmers) at the time) trekked north to found their own republics, Transvaal and Orange Free State. In the 1820s, several decades of wars began as the Zulus expanded their territory, moving out of what is today southeastern South Africa and clashing with other indigenous peoples and with expanding European settlements during a period known as the Mfecane. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration from Europe.
The Anglo-Zulu War (1879) resulted in the incorporation of the Zulu kingdom's territory into the British Empire. Subsequently, the Afrikaner republics were incorporated into the British Empire after their defeat in the Second South African War (1899-1902). However, the British and the Afrikaners ruled together beginning in 1910 under the Union of South Africa, which became a republic in 1961 after a Whites-only referendum. In 1948, the National Party was voted into power and instituted a policy of apartheid – billed as "separate development" of the races - which favored the White minority and suppressed the Black majority and other non-White groups. The African National Congress (ANC) led the resistance to apartheid and many top ANC leaders, such as Nelson MANDELA, spent decades in South Africa's prisons. Internal protests and insurgency, as well as boycotts by some Western nations and institutions, led to the regime's eventual willingness to unban the ANC and negotiate a peaceful transition to majority rule.
The first multi-racial elections in 1994 following the end of apartheid ushered in majority rule under an ANC-led government. South Africa has since struggled to address apartheid-era imbalances in wealth, housing, education, and health care under successive administrations. Jacob ZUMA became president in 2009 and was reelected in 2014, but resigned in February 2018 after numerous corruption scandals and gains by opposition parties in municipal elections in 2016. His successor, Cyril RAMAPHOSA, has made some progress in reigning in corruption, though many challenges persist. In May 2019 national elections, the country’s sixth since the end of apartheid, the ANC won a majority of parliamentary seats, delivering RAMAPHOSA a five-year term. RAMAPHOSA was reelected ANC leader in 2022 ahead of national elections scheduled for 2024.
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NOTE: The information regarding South Africa on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of South Africa 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about South Africa 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.
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