South African, Republic
The land of diamonds and the difficult multiracial coexistence
The end of apartheid returned the Republic of South Africa to an important international role. But the contradictions between rural and urban areas, between whites and blacks, between rich and poor, between the same diverse and numerous African ethnic groups do not facilitate overall growth.
A plateau occupies the territory of South Africa, except for a strip of plains along the Atlantic and some mountain ranges parallel to the Indian Ocean (Monti dei Draghi, 3,446 m). The climate is hot, rainy in the east, less in the south (where it is Mediterranean), very little in the west.
In humid regions forest prevails, savannah on the plateau, semi-desert conditions in the northwest. The main rivers are the Vaal (1,200 km) and above all the Orange (1,860 km), which crosses almost the entire country. However, water resources are scarce, limit agricultural exploitation and cause a concentration of the population. The cities are home to half of the population: they share the functions of capital Cape Town, Pretoria (1,104,000 residents) and Bloemfontein (334,000), but more populous are Johannesburg (2.5 million with the satellite city of Soweto) and Durban (2,118,000). Extraordinarily rich in minerals – gold, platinum, diamonds, coal, precious metals – South Africa is also highly industrialized. Despite the development underway, one third of the residents however live in conditions of serious hardship. Meanwhile, the population increase continues, especially among the poorest and despite the five million HIV-positive (AIDS). For South Africa 1996, please check pharmacylib.com.
From the domination of whites to multiracial coexistence
Inhabited by tribes of Bushmen and Hottentots, the territory of the present South African Republic was reached between the 16th and 17th centuries by Bantu populations from the North. Almost at the same time the Dutch arrived there, who in 1652 settled in the Cape of Good Hope region, then giving life to stable communities of free peasants (Boers) of Calvinist religion. Between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the Boer settlers, pushing north, clashed several times with the local populations and the Bantu. In the meantime, starting from the end of the eighteenth century, the penetration of Great Britain began, which in 1814 conquered the colony of the Cape. A bitter conflict then began between the British and the Boers, who migrated to the interior regions and founded their own independent republics. This contrast was to last throughout the 19th century and end with the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. After this dramatic conflict, the whole country – the South African Union – became a dominion of the British Crown (1910).
In 1931 it gained independence within the Commonwealth, then transforming itself, in 1961, into the Republic of South Africa. For almost the whole of the twentieth century the country was characterized by the rigid policy of racial segregation implemented by the white minority, dominant on the political, economic and social level, to the detriment of a black majority reduced in conditions of extreme misery and deprived of any right.. This policy of racial segregation and “separate development of races” – apartheid – continued and worsened for almost the whole of the second half of the twentieth century, in a context of growing deploration on the part of international public opinion. Starting in the late 1980s, the apartheid regime was gradually dismantled and then completely abolished (1991-93). South Africa has since embarked on a complex transition to a democratic regime on a multiracial basis. The figure of Nelson Mandela was decisive in this long process of emancipation of blacks.