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Wednesday 13th December
South Africa Facts
Vredefort Dome, on the World Heritage List, is the oldest and largest meteorite impact site in the world. The impact caused global change and possibly evolutionary changes.

Australopithecus africanus, an early hominid species, was discovered in 1924 in the Sterkfontein Caves. Later finds have played an important role in establishing Africa as the cradle of mankind. Sterkfontein was inscribed as a World Heritage site in 1999.

The ancient kingdom of Mapungubwe spanned the borders of present-day South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Mapungubwe, added to the World Heritage List in 2003, was the largest kingdom in the sub-continent before it was abandoned in the fourteenth century.

Cape Town's Table Mountain is a national monument.

The discovery of the Cape of Good Hope by Europeans at the end of the fifteenth century opened the sea route from Europe to Asia.

In 1497 Vasco da Gama first saw the coast of KwaZulu Natal on Christmas Day. He named the land "Natal" which is Portuguese for Christmas. "KwaZulu" meaning the place of the Zulu, was later added to the name of the province.

Shaka (1787-1828), or Chaka, was the Zulu warrior who ruthlessly united the Zulu clans forming a strong kingdom.

The Abolition of the Slave Trade Act (1807) prohibited the slave trade within the British Empire. (Slaves in the British colonies did not gain their freedom until the Abolition of Slavery Act (1834) began the process leading to emancipation).

In 1835 Afrikaners wanting to lead their own way of life made The Great Trek. The Voortrekkers or pioneers eventually settled beyond the Orange River.

The area where a diamond was found in Kimberley in 1871 became The Big Hole - the largest hand-dug excavation in the world.

For six months in 1879 the British army fought the Zulu Wars. The Battle of Rorke's Drift is particularly famous: one hundred and twenty men defended the British base at Rorke's Drift from thousands of Zulu warriors. The Zulu army was defeated later that year.

In 1880 Cecil Rhodes formed the De Beers Mining Company.

Johannesburg was established on the Witwatersrand following the discovery of gold in 1886.

During the Boer War the British set up concentration camps for the internment of Boers.

The ANC (African National Congress), founded in 1912, is a movement for the liberation and independence of all African countries and peoples.

Mohandas (later the Mahatma) Ghandi lived in South Africa for around twenty years. It was here that he first advocated the use of passive resistance as a tactic to achieve political goals. By 1914 Gandhi's intervention led to better conditions for Indians living in South Africa.

During the First World War Jan Smuts was appointed Minister of Air by the British Prime Minister. Later Smuts became the Prime Minister of South Africa. During the Second World War Smuts took South Africa into the War on the British side.

After the Second World War Namibia was annexed to South Africa. In 1966 SWAPO, the South West Africa People's Organization, began the struggle for the country's independence which was achieved in 1990; Walvis Bay, Namibia's most important port, was not handed back until 1994.

After the Afrikaner-dominated National Party won the 1948 election, the government strengthened the policy known as apartheid. People were registered according to race and laws and inter-racial social relationships were prohibited.

Britain was opposed to the system of apartheid and in 1961 the South African government severed its ties with Britain and the Commonwealth and became a republic.

In 1966 Hendrik Verwoerd, South Africa's Prime Minister, was assassinated in the House of Assembly by a white government employee.

Although not a city, South Western Townships (near Johannesburg), known as Soweto, is one of the largest communities in South Africa.

In 1976 hundreds of the black population lost their lives during rebellion in Soweto.

Steve Biko opposed apartheid and was a leading member of the Black Consciousness Movement. He died whilst in the custody of the South African security forces in 1977 at the age of thirty.

Donald Woods was the editor-in-chief of the Daily Dispatch in Eastern Cape. He supported international economic sanctions against apartheid in South Africa. After publishing a newspaper editorial accusing the police for Stephen Biko's death, Donald Woods had to escape the security forces and leave South Africa.

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in the early 1960s. He was later found guilty of sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and became the first democratically elected President of South Africa in 1994.

In 1993 Nelson Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Bishop Desmond Tutu, who promoted a democratic and just society without racial divisions, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

In 1994 South Africa rejoined the Commonwealth.

In 1967 Christiaan Barnard performed the world's first human heart transplant in Cape Town.

Allan Cormack, the South African born physicist, helped to develop the CAT scan (computed axial tomography scanning) in 1972.

Nkosi Johnson was born with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). At the age of eleven, in July 2000, he was a speaker at the international AIDS conference in Durban.

In May 2004 it was announced that South Africa would host the 2010 football World Cup. This is the first time an African country has been chosen to host the World Cup.

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