Birth and Growth of A Nation
Profile of A Nation
Provinces of South Africa
Black African Immigrants
in South Africa
I WISH to express my profound gratitude to all the sources I have cited in this book. They are mentioned throughout
my work with full attribution.
There may be some whom I may have inadvertently omitted where they are supposed to be acknowledged. But they are not
entirely left out and are, instead, mentioned elsewhere in my work as indispensable citations.
Special thanks must go to four South African newspapers, the Mail&Guardian, the Sowetan, The Times, and the Independent which served as a vital source of information on the xenophobic violence that rocked the nation in May 2008.
I am also indebted to BBC and other sources on the same subject.
The attacks were launched by black South Africans to drive black African immigrants out of the
I would not have been able to write the chapter on the subject the way I did without the information
I obtained from the sources I have mentioned here. And I will always be grateful to them for that.
I am also very thankful to the South African newspapers I mentioned and to BBC for some of their
material I have used on the xenophobic terror to address one of the most important events in the history of South Africa since
the end of apartheid.
It was the worst form of violence since the end of white minority rule in that country and it tarnished
the image of South Africa as a rainbow nation, if it ever indeed was one.
One book also deserves special mention. It had a profound impact on the
conception and execution of this project in many fundamental respects. And that is South Africa in Contemporary Times which I wrote before I started working
on this project.
It is an introduction to the nation's history and focuses on South Africa in modern times especially
since the seventies and after the end of apartheid. It also addresses some of the most controversial subjects in South Africa
in the post-apartheid era.
Anyone who reads this work is also encouraged to read my the other book because they are complementary
texts, literary “twins” in some respects, although they also address different subjects.
I have also written two other books about South Africa published under a different name and the
people who have read them will notice similarities between those works and this one. Although they address basically the same
subjects, this one is much more comprehensive in scope and includes subjects I have not addressed in my other works.
The name I have used for those books is actually my name and not a pen name
as I explain in my forthcoming book, My
Life as an African: Autobiographical Writings. And all my relatives and the people in my home village know me as...., my pre-baptismal
name, which is the name I have used as my first name on those books. And the second name is also my name as I explain in my
Writing a book of this nature is a collective enterprise. As human beings, we follow paths illuminated
by others. Without trail blazers who went before us, we wouldn't be where we are today in terms of accumulation of knowledge
as members of the human race. It is a treasure trove we share, and we are able to see far only because we stand on the shoulders
So, while I am tempted to assume full responsibility for all the mistakes in my work, I can not
do so because I am fully aware that I am not the original source of all the information contained in this book.
Others deserve credit for a lot of that, together with the mistakes they may have made in the execution
of their projects in pursuit of knowledge accumulated to share with the rest of mankind.
Therefore it is a collective responsibility, although they deserve more credit than I do in the
completion of my work. I would not have been able to write this book without them as a source of invaluable information.
But the analysis is mine, and I bear full responsibility for that, also being fully aware that
it may faulty here and there because we are all mere mortals with frailties.
THIS IS a general introduction to South Africa, the continent's powerhouse.
South Africa is the most industrialised and most powerful country on the African continent. It is also the richest.
South Africa also is a country that witnessed a miracle – a peaceful transition from one of the most racist and
most repressive regimes in history under the diabolical institution of apartheid to a democratic government under which members
of all races have equal rights under the law.
But the focus of this study is not on what has taken place in South Africa since the end of apartheid, although we
may take a glimpse of that here and there as we go along.
The focus is on the country itself in general: its geography, its people, and its history since its founding more than
300 years ago as a nation composed of different racial and ethnic groups, including Dutch settlers and other Europeans who,
although a minority, played the most important role in shaping the destiny of South Africa as a racist society dominated by
whites until the end of apartheid only a few years ago.
Apartheid ended in the early 1990s only as a political institution. As an economic phenomenon, it still exists in all
its manifestations including brutal treatment of black farm workers by their white masters. The economy is still dominated
by whites and probably will be for many years to come. But that is an entirely different subject beyond the scope of this
work which focuses on South Africa in general.
So, we are going to look at what constitutes South Africa as a nation – the different racial and ethnic groups.
We are also going to look at the provinces from a historical and geographical perspective and the people who live in those
We are also going to look at the country from other perspectives, including South Africa in contemporary times, to
get a comprehensive picture of what is unquestionably the most dynamic, and most influential, country on the African continent
and which will continue to play a major role in continental affairs for many years to come.
Also addressed in the book is the subject of xenophobic terror against black African immigrants in South Africa.
It constitutes a substantial portion of the book and may have taken a disproportionately large amount of space in this
work. But that is for obvious reasons.
It is a very important subject which needs all the attention it can get form those who want to address it. For, the
existence of such a phenomenon undermines the very foundations upon which the new South Africa is being built. And if it continues,
there will be no South Africa as we know it.
It is going to be an entirely different country, if it is going to exist at all as a functional entity and not become
an empty shell reminiscent of Zaire under Mobutu or any of the other African states which have collapsed through the decades,
earning Africa the dubious and unenviable distinction as a continent of failed states.
Because of the urgency of the situation, it is imperative that the matter should be addressed accordingly and as comprehensively
One can never say too much about violence. Silence is a partner of evil and is tantamount to condoning the very evil
we want to condemn and fight.
Many African countries have descended into chaos, and some of them have dissolved in anarchy, because not enough was
done to avert the catastrophe.
South Africa has not reached that point. But if nothing or if not enough is done to neutralise xenophobic violence,
failure to do so will inevitably lead to chaos. And it will be an invitation to a reign of terror, earning South Africa the
distinction of being – just another African state.
The xenophobic violence is inextricably linked with deprivation and poverty among black South Africans trapped in the
townships which are cesspools of diabolical iniquities. There are many good people in the townships. But there also large
numbers who are prone to crime and don't value human life.
The failure of the government to address the plight of these people is directly responsible for the explosion which
rocked the townships and other parts of South Africa in a wave of xenophobic terror directed against black African immigrants
in their midst.
Their plight does not justify violence against the immigrants. But there is no question that it breeds insecurity which
in turn is fuelled by poverty. It is a vicious cycle.
It was a catastrophe waiting to happen. Compounding the felony is the fact that the ruling African National Congress
was, for years, fully aware of this. The leaders knew that resentment was building up in the townships. They knew there was
frustration not only among the young but also among those of the older generation for having been left behind after apartheid
ended. They saw the fruits of freedom being enjoyed by a relatively few amongst them. Yet the leaders did nothing.
If the xenophobic violence jolts the conscience of the South African leadership into doing something to improve th
condition of the masses, and protect the immigrants as well, something good will have come out of it, although whatever good
comes out of it is not worthy the destruction that ensued when angry mobs of black South Africans attacked, maimed and killed
black African immigrants and destroyed their property in an orgy of violence on an unprecedented scale since the end of apartheid.
And it is a matter that has to be addressed fully by all South Africans. If it's ignored, it will continue to be a
While I concede that I may have given what some people may consider to be undue prominence to this subject in my book,
my focus on the subject was dictated by the inescapable fact that you can not begin to understand South Africa in its entirety
in contemporary times without looking at what is unquestionably one of the nation's most prominent features as a society.
And that is violence.
South Africa is one of the most violent societies in the world. The xenophobic terror I have focused on in the last
chapter of this book is only one aspect of this disturbing phenomenon.
And South Africa as a nation can do better than that. So can the rest of Africa.
ALTHOUGH South Africa is one of the largest countries in Africa in terms of area and population, it has one of the
smallest numbers of ethnic groups – or tribes – on the entire continent.
To illustrate the point, here are two examples: The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a country of comparable size
in terms of population, has about 200 ethnic groups; and Tanzania, which is bigger than Nigeria in terms of area but with
only about a third of Nigeria's population – roughly 40 million – has about 130 ethnic groups.
By remarkable contrast, South Africa has fewer than 20. Yet it has the biggest population among all the countries of
We are going to take a look at some of South Africa's ethnic groups to get a better understanding of this vibrant nation
which is also, in many ways, the beacon of Africa and one of the most influential countries in the entire Third World.
South Africa has about 45 million people. About 31 million of them are black African, 5 million white, 3 million Coloured,
and I million of Asian origin, mostly Indian.
South Africa's population also is one of the most complex and diverse in the entire world. And on the African continent,
South Africa has the largest number of whites, people of mixed race, and those of Asian origin. No other country on the continent
comes even close to that.
The black African population is divided into four major ethnic groups, quite often with overlapping identities in terms
of culture among the major groups and others within each of those groups mainly because of their common origin and shared
The four main groups are the Nguni, the Sotho, the Shangaan-Tsonga, and the Venda.
There are many subgroups. The Zulu are the largest, and the Xhosa the second-largest. Both belong to the Nguni main
Among whites, Afrikaans constitute the largest group. They make up 60 per cent of the white population. The remaining
40 per cent are mainly of British descent, although there are other people of European origin who are included in this percentage
but on a much smaller scale.
People of mixed race, collectively known as Coloureds, live mostly in the Northern Cape and Western cape Provinces.
And most of the Indians live in KwaZulu-Natal. Afrikaners are concentrated in Gauteng and Free State, and most whites of British
descent live in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.
There are eleven official languages, as we learnt earlier: English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Tsonga, Tswana, Ndebele,
Swazi, Venda, Sepedi, and Southern Sotho. They are different, yet many of them are related.
The people who belong to the Bantu linguistic family in South Africa migrated from the area of East and Central Africa
which includes the Great Lakes region.
The Bantu people who migrated to South Africa from this region are collectively known as Nguni. And they are divided
into two major groups: the Northern Nguni, and the Southern Nguni.
The Northern Nguni include the Zulu; the Swazi; and the Shangaan who are found on both sides of the South African-Mozambican
The Southern Nguni include the Xhosa who constitute the largest group in this Southern Nguni family. Other Southern
Nguni groups include the Thembu and the Mpondo who are also subgroups of the Xhosa.
And four of South Africa's 11 official language are Nguni languages: isiZulu, isXhosa, isiNdebele, and siSwati.
Each of these languages has regional variants and dialects which are often mutually intelligible.
The Nguni social structure was also
different from that of other groups such as the Northern Sotho whose homesteads were consolidated into villages. Before the
19th century, the Nguni did not have that. They had dispersed households, not villages.
And cattle were a very important part
of their economy and social life. They also grew crops and did some hunting.
Their system of government revolved
around small chiefdoms which were not united before the 18th century. But the people were also free to leave and
join another chiefdom or form their own if they were not satisfied with th leadership.
There were some larger chiefdoms which
sometimes controlled smaller ones, but such control was limited and did not last for more than a generation or two. Probably
the main reason they did not last long is that the people resented too much control and hated dictatorship, in spite of their
great loyalty to a ruler who was good to them.
One of the most prominent Nguni groups
that evolved through the years were the Zulu who still exist today as a powerful ethnic entity.
The Zulu, whose correct name is amaZulu according to themselves, believe that they are descended from a leader named
Zulu who was born a Nguni chief in the Congo Basin area centuries ago.
In the 16th