South Africa contains some of the oldest archaeological and human fossil sites in the world. Extensive fossil remains have been recovered from a series of caves in Gauteng Province. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been termed the Cradle of Humankind. The sites include Sterkfontein, which is one of the richest hominin fossil sites in the world. Other sites include Swartkrans, Gondolin Cave Kromdraai, Coopers Cave and Malapa. The first hominin fossil discovered in Africa, the Taung Childwas found near Taung in 1924. Further hominin remains have been recovered from the sites of Makapansgat in Limpopo, Corneliaand Florisbad in the Free State, Border Cave in KwaZulu-Natal, Klasies River Mouth in Eastern Cape and Pinnacle Point, Elandsfontein and Die Kelders Cave in Western Cape. These sites suggest that various hominid species existed in South Africa from about three million years ago starting with Australopithecus africanus. These were succeeded by various species, including Australopithecus sediba, Homo ergaster, Homo erectus, Homo rhodesiensis, Homo helmei and modern humans, Homo sapiens.Modern humans have inhabited Southern Africa for at least 170,000 years. Within the Vaal River valley, pebble tools have been located.
In 1652, a century and a half after the discovery of the Cape Sea Route, Jan van Riebeeck established a refreshment station at the Cape of Good Hope, at what would become Cape Town, on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch transported slaves from Indonesia, Madagascar, and India as labor for the colonists in Cape Town. As they expanded east, the Dutch settlers met the south westerly migrating Xhosa people in the region of the Fish River. A series of wars, called the Cape Frontier Wars, were fought over conflicting land and livestock interests.
On 31 May 1961, the country became a republic following a referendum in which white voters narrowly voted in favour thereof (the British-dominated Natal province rallied against the issue). Queen Elizabeth II was stripped of the title Queen of South Africa, and the last Governor-General, namely Charles Robberts Swart, became State President. As a concession to the Westminster system, the presidency remained parliamentary appointed and virtually powerless until P. W. Botha’s Constitution Act of 1983, which (intact in these regards) eliminated the office of Prime Minister and instated a near-unique “strong presidency” responsible to parliament. Pressured by other Commonwealth of Nations countries, South Africa left the organization in 1961 and was readmitted only in 1994.
South Africa – Inspiring New Ways