About South Africa

South Africa was colonized by the Dutch in 1652 and later by the British. Though European relations were hospitable at first, they were soon marked by great hostility. In 1948, the apartheid system was put in place, instituting harsh discriminatory laws. The Native Land Act forced the majority black population onto only 13% of the land while the minority white population was appropriated the remaining 87%. The white government enabled policemen to “subdue” the black population through violent attacks and massacres. Blacks were denied education, jobs, housing, and voting rights, creating structures of inequality that are still entrenched within society today.

In 1994, the apartheid ended, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established, and Nelson Mandela was elected president. A spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation helped to smooth the transition of power, but deep divides remain. White people still hold a majority of wealth while the coloured and black populations are significantly poorer. South Africa contains one of the greatest disparities of wealth in the world. As you are driving through Cape Town, for example, it is not uncommon to see large modern houses with pools in the backyard while just over the fence people (primarily black South Africans) live in tin shacks.

Today South Africa has a rich wealth of wildlife. In fact, many people keep giraffes as pets and lions sleep right outside their mud huts. Psych! I hope that’s not what you think South Africa is really like… It is actually quite modern in many areas and Cape Town itself is considered one of the top ten tourist destinations in the world. Both its rich history and natural beauty contribute to Cape Town’s grandeur. However, of South Africa’s 49 million residents, 53.5% live below the poverty line, 36.6% are unemployed, life expectancy is only 49.3 years, and 1 in 10 people are infected with HIV/AIDS. Despite these statistics, South Africans are incredibly beautiful and resilient people who are making great strides toward progress and development!

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