Yuji: Watching the World Cup, I realized I know a lot about soccer, but not a thing about South Africa.

Dane:  Soccer baffles me and South Africa is nearly as much of a mystery. Diamonds, gold, apartheid and Mandela.  That’s about all I know.

Yuji: Well, you might be happy in your ignorance, but I had to check it out on Google.

Dane: OK, genius, so tell me what you know. How old is South Africa?

Yuji:Pretty old. The ancestors of homo sapiens were there about three million years ago.

Dane: What about real humans?

Yuji: About 100,000 years ago.

Dane: What do you know about those first South African humans?

Yuji: Nothing. But I found out the Xhosa and Zulu people started living there in the 4th century.

Dane: That’s about the same time the Yamato started building their Kofun mounds here in Japan. Did the Zulus leave any ruins?

Yuji:  Not that I know of.  Most of the early Africans were nomads. Not much building was done till the Europeans got there.

Yuji: When did the white men come?

Dane: Diaz was the first. He landed at the Cape of Good Hope in 1487,  but kept on sailing around the continent.

Dane: 1487!  That’s five years before Columbus bumped into the Americas. Did the Portuguese set up a colony?

Yuji: No, they left a stone cross, but no people. The Dutch were the first Europeans to settle in South Africa, and that wasn’t until 1652. Their descendants are called Boers or Afrikaners.

Dane: That’s about the same time the English arrived in America! But you never hear people tell the Anglo-Americans to go back to their own country.

Yuji: No,  I don’t think the Brits would like that one bit! But you’re right, there are those who think the Boers should to go back to Holland.

Dane:  Anyway, what’s all this about the Dutch?  I always thought South Africa was an English colony.

Yuji: It was. The Brits started settling there 250 years ago and finally managed to take over the whole country.

Dane: Who’s the dominant white group there now?

Yuji:  Only 10% of all South Africans are white.  60% of them are Afrikaners and 40% are English.

Dane: What about the blacks.

Yuji: Nearly 80% of the population is a mix of black tribes.

Dane: There must be some Obama types.

Yuji: Yes, 9% are mixed race and 2% are South Asians.

Dane: What do you mean South Asian?

Yuji:  Indians, Pakistanis.  The Brits brought them in to work as minor officials and servants.

Dane: Why did the whites settle there in the first place?Just to steal the gold and diamonds?

Yuji: No. First for trade, then for farming. Mining didn’t start till much later. They discovered diamonds in 1867 and gold in 1884.

Dane: Did the whites get along?

Yuji: No. They were always rivals. The Brits got everything in the Boer wars between 1880 and 1910. Churchill and Gandhi fought in the 2nd Boer War.

Dane: What about the blacks?

Yuji: They’re divided into seven major ethnic groups and many more tribes. They’ve never gotten along very well.

Dane: So when did apartheid begin?

Yuji: All the different groups always lived separately, not just blacks and whites. But the English, with their love of rules, made the black/white separation official with the segregation laws of 1908.

Dane: When did South Africa become independent?

Yuji: Britain granted them independence in 1931 when they created the Commonwealth of Nations.  That status was given to only a few countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.

Dane: What about after independence?

Yuji: In 1948 the Afrikaner party got a majority in the parliament and immediately made the apartheid laws stricter.

Dane:  Are these Boers some kind of Noe-Nazis or what?

Yuji: Well,  most of them were farmers out in the boonies surrounded by blacks. A lot of the English were centered in the cities. So the Boers had a lot more reason to be afraid of black revolts against white rule.

Dane: Why were they so afraid?

Yuji: They saw the chaos that was happening all over the rest of Africa starting in the 1960s when Europe turned over their colonies to black rule.

Dane: What was life like during apartheid?

Yuji: The whites lived at modern European standards but most blacks lived under very poor conditions.

Dane: When did apartheid end?

Yuji: The Boer government realized the end of white rule was near. Instead of fighting it out, they decided to end it peacefully  They started phasing it out in 1990 and majority rule came in 1994.

Dane: That’s when Nelson Mandela became president, right?

Yuji: Yes, while he was president from ’94 to ’99 he encouraged both blacks and whites to give up revenge and work for a peaceful transition.

Dane: But I heard South Africa is a really dangerous place.

Yuji: They avoided a racial war, but they now have one of the world’s highest rates of crime and HIV.

Dane: What else is wrong there now?

Yuji:  Even with all their troubles, South Africa is still richer than most of its neighbors. There’s a constant flood of refugees coming across the northern borders.

Dane: Well, at least they have the World Cup.

Yuji: Yeah, thank God for that.

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