The first settlers in South Africa were from the Dutch East India Company who needed a place for their ships to stop for fresh water and provisions on the trips. Farms were established wine vines were planted, and early settlers liked what they saw and put down roots. Many names in South Africa reflect this Dutch presence, such as the Orange Free State and Bloemfontein.
A few facts to know about the Dutch in South Africa.
Over the years of conflict between the British and the Dutch, as well as conflicts with the Zulus, the Dutch, or Afrikaans, made long treks away from the British in Cape Town and the Zulus on the other side of the country. As a result of The Great Trek, they finally settled in the Transvaal, and in 1852 the British recognized the Voortrekker Republic. By 1854, the British recognized the area between the Vaal and Orange Rivers as the Republic of the Orange Free State.
The Afrikaans farmers were called Boers, which means farmers. The Boer War between the Boers and England in 1899 was the result of British settlers going into Boer territory when gold was discovered there. It was a particularly brutal war of the British Army against farmers and civilians.
The Dutch pride themselves in the fact that when they arrived in South Africa, they became African, or Afrikaans, bringing their families, beginning businesses, and operating wineries and farms. They scorned the English with some choice, but not polite, expressions to indicate that the English were in South Africa for what they could get out of it, and still considered themselves to be English, not African.
The Boer War is still remembered.
The conflict between the Boers and the English is not totally forgotten. When we arrived in Richard’s Bay near Durban, we were deciding how much of the country we could see on our limited budget. We met a young local woman and asked her for some suggestions. “Well,” she said, “you don’t need to go to the Orange Free State at all. You won’t like those people.” She had a lovely name, but upon introducing herself she felt the need to explain, “That sounds Afrikaans, but I’m not!”
The march commemorated as Children’s Day on June16, 1976 was shown with historical footage and interviews by ESPN during their World Cup coverage. The purpose of the children’s march was to protest the required instruction in the Afrikaans language in their schools. There are many languages in use in South Africa, including English and a plethora of tribal languages, but the controlling government authorities required schools to teach Afrikaans.
Apartheid is an Afrikaans word, but they didn’t invent the system of separation of the races. On a trip to the south in the United State as late as the 1950s, I was shocked to see drinking fountains, bathrooms, and waiting rooms labeled “white” and “colored.” However, the Afrikaans system of apartheid was brutally defended and lasted until1992.
The Rainbow Nation.
The Rainbow Nation of South Africa has a history of clashes between cultures and people, but it is making great strides in forgiveness and unity. The election and influence of Nelson Mandela promised a future in which South Africans remember their roots, but respect and include those of all who consider themselves South African. It is an amazing goal, and one in which everyone in the world has a stake. If they can accomplish their goal of reconciliation, there is hope for all of us.
Sources: Personal Experience, South Africa tours and travel, Pleasant Valley High School in Chico, CA.