South African Republic

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25°43′S 28°14′E / 25.717°S 28.233°E / -25.717; 28.233

The South African Republic (Dutch: Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, or ZAR), often informally known as the Transvaal Republic, was an independent Boer-ruled country in Southern Africa during the second half of the 19th century. Not to be confused with the present-day Republic of South Africa, it occupied the area later known as the South African province of Transvaal. The ZAR was established in 1852, and was independent from 1856 to 1877, then again from 1881 to 1900 after the First Boer War, in which the Boers regained their independence from the British Empire.

In 1900 the ZAR was annexed by the United Kingdom during the Second Boer War although the official surrender of the territory only took place at the end of the war, on 31 May 1902. In 1910 it became the Transvaal Province of the Union of South Africa.

The first president of the South African Republic was Marthinus Wessel Pretorius, elected in 1857, son of the famous Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius, who commanded the Boers to Victory at the Battle of Blood River.

The capital was established at Pretoria (founded 1855), though for a brief period Potchefstroom served as the seat of government. The parliament, the Volksraad, had 24 members.



Early history

The Transvaal region was inhabited by the earliest ancestors of modern South Africans, the Khoisan, for thousands of years, and by iron-age ancestors of modern Bantu-language speaking South Africans, such as the Sotho, Swati, Tswana, Pedi, Venda and Transvaal-Ndebele peoples since the mid fourth century AD. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the area that would eventually become the South African Republic was home to thousands of human settlements, including chiefdoms, villages and substantial towns such as Dithakong, whose population was comparable in size to that of contemporary early nineteenth century Cape Town. The residents of these villages, towns and cities engaged in farming, cattle keeping, iron, copper and tin mining, metal tool making, and long distance direct and indirect trade. In 1817, the region was invaded by Mzilikazi, originally a lieutenant of Zulu King Shaka who was pushed from his own territories to the west by the Zulu armies. After a brief alliance with the Transvaal Ndebele, Mzilikazi became leader of the Ndebele people. (The people of this political and ethnic entity called themselves Ndebele or amaNdebele, but because of linguistic differences, they were called Matebele by the local Sotho-Tswana.) Mzilikazi's invasion of the Transvaal was one part of a vast series of inter-related wars, forced migrations and famines that indigenous people and later historians came to call the Difaqane or mfecane. In the Transvaal, the Difaqane severely weakened and disrupted the towns and villages of the Sotho-Tswana chiefdoms, their political systems and economies, making them very weak, and easy to colonize by the European settlers who would shortly arrive from the south.

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