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The indigenous populations on the continent of Africa are vast and varied. There are many subdivisions of different peoples with separate clans and tribes, so it is only achievable to understand a broad overview of the people. The situation is complicated further by the fact that many of these people are hunter gatherers and they follow changes in weather patterns. These patterns can change markedly over time, so the different ethnic people of one region can change, as its climate has evolved over time.

The Zulus in ceremonial dress

The issue of indigenous people and their rights to the land is nowhere more prevalent than it is on this continent, as a result of the racist system of Apartheid that was active in South Africa between 1948 and 1991. This forced racial separation meant that the minority Afrikaan white population gained all of the benefits while the indigenous populations were forced to live in the least desirable locations. The population of the country is made up of 80% Black Africans, 8% colored, 8% white and 2% Indian.

The Black Africans have resided on the land longer than any other group, and the largest group are the Zulu people. There are currently around 12 million Zulu people living in the country out of a total population of 56 million. The Zulus main way of living was through horticulture and by rearing cattle and goats. However, they have been renowned as a proud group and are feared for their warriors. The film “Zulu” recreated the battles the Zulus had with the British at Hawkes Drift, and this was just one of the many conflicts the tribes had as they attempted to defend their land.

Today many Zulus have moved into the major cities of the country and are now taking part in other major jobs and high positions in society. The same has been happening with the Xhosa people who have a population of just over 8 million in the country.

The Xhosa moved into the country from the Great Lakes in the 15th century. As many other tribes who produce farmers, the people of the clan sought education and there was great unity among the population. One of its own, Nelson Mandela was the man who inspired his nations’, and the world’s, fight against apartheid, and his spirit and ideals were born from his people. The country is also home to a large ethnic group known as the Cape Coloureds. Europeans have been in the region since the 16th century and there has been many children produced of mix race. This is in evidence all over the country, but in particular in the Western Cape. Their population is almost 5 million and they have now created their own culture and neighborhoods in areas around Cape Town.

Mandela presenting the World Cup to Francois Pienaar

The creation of the new South Africa in 1991 has been a real battle as it has attempted to knock down the barriers that apartheid had created, to build a new nation where everyone had an equal opportunity to succeed. The term “rainbow nation” has been adopted by the country to highlight its aim of being domestic harmony to all people regardless of their ethnic background.

When the racist policy of apartheid was dismantled, the hardest job for the new government was to get the different indigenous groups to forgive the actions that had been occurring in previous years. The role of Nelson Mandela, the man who was imprisoned for 27 years, was pivotal in the early years of the new South Africa.

In 1995 the Rugby World Cup was held in the country. During the apartheid years rugby was seen as the Afrikaners sport. When visiting countries toured South Africa, the local black population would cheer for the opposing team. In the Finals, the home team played New Zealand and Mandela was introduced to the players wearing the South African shirt. The picture with the team’s captain, Francois Pienaar, optimized a nation coming together. It was the idea of Mandela to show that he wasn’t just there to support the rugby team, but to support the whole country.