A Brief History of South Africa

South Africa is a young nation rich in culture and history that launched it onto the world stage. From Nelson Mandela’s inspiring leadership to unite the country after apartheid to J. M. Coetzee’s masterful novels, South Africa gives us much to explore.


Dave Steward, the former Chief of Staff to South African President FW de Klerk and the Executive Director of the FW de Klerk Foundation, weaved the tale to Big Think of the country’s complicated and dramatic recent history.

“One of the things that’s very important to understand about South Africa is that it is, like so many other African countries, an artificial entity created by the Brits,” says Steward. “The South Africa that we know in its present borders is only 104 years old.  And in 1990 when we went through our transition it was only 80 years old. It was the creation of the British Empire.” 

In this interview clip, Steward takes us through stories of the Xhosa and the Zulus, the Anglo-Boer Wars, Afrikaner nationalism and the cruel system of apartheid, the Soviet Union’s proxy wars in Africa, and the freedom of Mandela. It’s a captivating story with perhaps surprising insights for those with a keen interest in the country.

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