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Short Political History of South Africa

Dutch settlers in Cape Town established control over the southern tip of South Africa in the 1700s by driving out the Khoikhoi (also known as Hottentots) and San (Bushmen), two peaceful tribes of lower Africa. The Dutch settlers continued to enlarge their territory, which led to clashes with the Xhosa tribe in the late 1700s.

The British Empire was given control of the colony in 1809 by way of the Treaty of Vienna. To escape British control, white Afrikaners (mainly descendants of the first Dutch settlers) migrated northward in what is called the Great Trek, coming into contact with the Zulu tribes, who were coming from the east.

A series of wars broke out, ending in the defeat of the Zulus at Blood River in 1877.

In 1878, the British also fought the Zulus and defeated them. The British and the white Afrikaners then fought in the South African War (also known as the Boer War), which lasted from 1899 until 1902 with the defeat of the Afrikaners. Eight years later, the British and Boer lands were united to form the present-day South Africa.

In the early 1900s, legislation was passed restricting the rights of nonwhites. The laws of apartheid - or separation of races - reached their peak under the Afrikaner National Party, which came to power in 1948.

Blacks responded by forming the Communist-backed African National Congress, which was dedicated to ending apartheid. Continued violence, diplomatic isolation and economic boycotts forced the white government to make some concessions in the 1980s, but the apartheid laws were not scrapped until 1991, when blacks were allowed to vote in the country's first democratic elections.

Nelson Mandela was then elected president on a platform of addressing South Africa's huge disparity of wealth.

Cinematic relevance of the Boer War

The reason for the short history trip was to bring some points about the historic and cinematic importance of the Boer War.

1. Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948) known as Mahatma, serves with the British medical corps as a stretcher-bearer.

2. Sir Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941), founder of the Boy Scouts, serves at the successful defense of Mafeking.

3. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), British physician, novelist, and detective-story writer, creator of Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan, runs a field hospital, and on his return to England writes 'The Great Boer War' (1900) and 'The War in South Africa: Its Causes and Conduct' (1902), justifying England's participation. For these works he is knighted in 1902.

4. A young Winston Churchill (1874-1965) is all over this war. He is captured, escapes, and makes a triumphal reentry into Natal. He is present at several major battles, is one of the first to enter Ladysmith when the seige is lifted, and is also one of the first to enter the enemy's capitol, Pretoria, at its capture. He writes two books on the war ('London to Ladysmith: Via Pretoria' and 'Ian Hamilton's March') and his exploits get him elected to Parliment.

5. Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), poet and writer, works on an army newspaper.

6. Mary Kingsley (1862-1900), the African explorer, works in Cape Town as a nurse caring for Boer prisoners of war. She contracts typhoid fever and dies at the age of 38.

7. Some of the very first newreels ever produced were of the Boer War in 1899.

8 . The earliest film in the Australian film archive is a short film in 1900 showing Australian troops parading and loading on the ships to go to the Boer War.

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