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"…They resemble us, but in appearance are the colour of pumpkin-porridge…
They are rude of manners and without any graces or refinement.
They carry a long stick of fire.
With this they kill and loot from many nations."
Zulu impression of first white men, taken from Zulu epic poem, Emperor Shaka the Great, translated by Mazisi Kunene, drawing on the memories of a number of Zulu oral historians.

In the early part of the 19th century the history of southern Africa is marked by the massive expansion of the Nguni empire under the military leadership of Shaka. This had a knock on effect throughout southern Africa displacing other peoples.

People in southern Africa also felt the economic and political impact of a minority of Europeans from the 17th century onwards. These Europeans set about taking over, and profiting from, other people's land.

Farming and mining were the principle activities from which white settlers profited, with the Dutch, or Afrikaners as they became known, mainly interested in agriculture.

The Englishman Cecil Rhodes led the initiative to exploit the country's mining potential. His long term goal was to colonise the whole continent with white settlers.

The Afrikaners had a huge social impact on southern Africa. Wherever they set up a community they pursued a policy of racial segregation, based on a belief in the racial superiority of Europeans, wherever they set up. This reached its most organised form in the system of apartheid created by the National Party of South Africa from 1948 until the 1980's, when it began to be dismantled.

While most of Africa had achieved independence by the early 1960s, it took much longer for southern African colonies to become independent. Tanzania, Malawi, Botswana, Swaziland, Zambia and Lesotho all achieved independence by the end of the 1960s. But Angola and Mozambique had to wait until 1975. Zimbabwe achieved majority rule in 1980. Namibia shook off South African domination in 1990.

It was not until 1994 that South Africa itself was returned to her people and governed through majority rule.


Listen HereListen to The Mfecane, the eighteenth programme in the BBC landmark radio series The Story of Africa, presented by Hugh Quarshie

Listen HereListen to Apartheid, the twenty third programme in the BBC landmark radio series The Story of Africa, presented by Hugh Quarshie