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South African Hegemony: A Closer Look

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South African Hegemony:

A closer look

Alex Jankovsky

Independent Study

Professor Lefebvre

South Africa has a rich cultural and political history that can be traced back to before the 19th century as a trading centre in the South African region. This paper will attempt to analyze the factors that affected the progression of the South African state through its inception to the present day. Particular emphasis will be given to its geopolitical importance, the colonial impact and political history that helped formed its advanced infrastructure that would allow it to surpass its neighboring states. As well as the impact of external influences in shaping and supporting the South African regime towards developing the means to reinforce its role as a regional leader in the area. Concurrently, the paper also analyzes the internal development of South African institutions and how they have developed leading up to the present day. Ultimately, the purpose of this paper will be to take these factors and prove the South African has been able to maintain its status as the regional hegemon of Southern Africa.

The geography of South Africa and its demography favors the potential for a strong South African defense. Minerals were discovered in the region in the 1800s. South Africa also proved to be valuable as a trading post for ships coming from the east, and later became of geopolitical importance due to its proximity and access to the sea lanes. Its location and abundance of minerals motivated colonial powers to value South Africa’s geopolitical importance. Following the Second World War, the economic potential, and its strategic importance caught the interest of the U.S.

“The area constitutes the major non-Communist source of supply of a number of minerals, important to the West’s advanced industrial economies: chromium, platinum and manganese. The sea lanes that lie around the region have equal value to the West. More than half of the Western Europe’s oil and well over 20 percent of the United States’ oil travels through these waters on its way from the Persian Gulf to its ultimate destination.”

The region, and especially South Africa, has a great wealth of minerals, and these resources are plainly of significance to the West. In 1870 diamonds were discovered in Kimberley, while in 1886 some of the world’s largest gold deposits were discovered in the Witwatersrand region of Transvaal, quickly transforming the South African economy into a resource dominated one. Due to the resources found in the area, South Africa has been able to build a strong export-based economy that has allowed it to surpass its neighbor’s capabilities and become relatively self-sufficient (in regard to foreign aid).

The roots of the Boer-British conflict can be traced back to Britain remodeling the administration along British lines, by calling for better treatment of the Colored and blacks who worked for the Boers as servants or slaves, by granting (Ordinance 50, 1828) free nonwhites legal rights equal to those of the whites, and by restricting the acquisition of new land by the Boers. In 1833 slavery was abolished in the British Empire, an act that angered South African slave-owners, but the freed slaves remained oppressed and continued to be exploited by white landowners. This would ultimately affect South African Politics and foreign policy, as the two powers would compete for dominance.

The Anglo-Boer War broke out on 11 October 1899 between the two former republics (Free State and Transvaal) and Britain. As the war escalated Britain brought reinforcements from Australia, New Zealand and Canada as well as some volunteers from other British colonies. The war lasted three years with a very high casualty rate on both sides. In his January 1902 report, General Smuts describes how the British recruited the Bantus:

"In the Cape Colony the uncivilized Blacks have been told that if the Boers win, slavery will be brought back in the Cape Colony. They have been promised Boer property and farmsteads if they will join the English; that the Boers will have to work for the Blacks, and that they will be about to marry...

Of special importance is the final phase of the war, after the capitals Bloemfontein and Pretoria were captured and the Boer forces resorted to guerrilla warfare. To combat the Boer guerilla strategy the British adopted a two pronged strategy: the so-called scorched earth policy and the removal of the Boer women and children to concentration camps. It was during this phase of the war that the suffering of the Black people intensified. Since the farms were destroyed, livestock killed and crops burnt, the farm laborers and their families were taken to refugee camps in which many of them died.

The main reason for the war was the British desire to gain control of the gold mines in the Witwatersrand, the most important priority was to re-establish white control over the land and force the Africans back to wage labor. The labor-recruiting system was improved, both internally and externally. The last phase of the war had a lasting impact both on South African politics and society. It would set the precedent for the British influence on the political system and remind the indigenous populations what they were valued for: economic exploitation. The Boer leaders Louis Botha, Jan Smuts and J.B.M. Hertzog played a dominant role in the country’s politics for the next half century. The British looked to the Afrikaners as collaborators in securing imperial political and economic interests.

Political culture has arguably been identified as the greatest influence in shaping the way that people behave politically. From the external perspective, political culture consists of ideologies, myths and religions that individuals are socialized to believe. From the internal perspective, political culture focuses on people’s orientations to politics: their attitudes and opinions about political leaders, political movements, political events, and political institutions. It encompasses their feelings of legitimacy and alienation, their sense of national identity, and the political groups with which they identify.

The policy of �apartheid’ can be traced back to the colonial legacy. The colonial settlers did not see their settlements and holdings as territories in which a substantial, self-sufficient political infrastructure needed to exist, such as that of the home country. Rather, colonists felt that the territory should be exploited to bring about



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