Due to colonization by the British Empire and subsequent immigration waves and territory adjustments, South Africa is ethnically, religiously, linguistically, and culturally diverse. Although originally settled by speakers of the Khosian language, South Africa was populated mainly by Bantu, who migrated from central Africa. The Nguni joined these two groups in 1488, around the time the Portuguese arrived on the Cape of Good Hope. Permanent European settlement began in 1652, when the Dutch East India Company established a trading post, and over the next few decades, French, Dutch and German settlers arrived. These three groups combined to form the Afrikaner or Boer ethnic group. In the 18th and 19th century, the Boers came into conflict with the native populations as well as the British, who had gained control of the country. Although Boer republics were established, by the late 1800s, early 1900s, the republics were subsumed into the British Empire after several conflicts.
Lay of the Land: The Republic of South Africa sprawls across the foot of the African continent. The Indian Ocean washes the east coast of the country, and the Atlantic borders the west coast. The two oceans merge south of the port city of Cape Town.
South Africa has been populated for thousands of years, most notably by speakers of the Khosian language, who continue to inhabit the western part of the country. The Bantu make up the largest part of South African’s population today, and migrated southward from central Africa, settling in the Transvaal region sometime before 100 AD.
Diplomatic relations between the US and South Africa were begun in 1799, when an American consulate was opened in Cape Town.
Current relations between the US and South Africa are comfortable. The two countries cooperate on a number of key issues, including counter-terrorism, fighting HIV/AIDS, and military relations. The two countries also enjoy strong economic and trade relations, and through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the US provides development assistance to South Africa.
US imports from South Africa are led by two billion-dollar items: precious metals and diamonds. From 2004 to 2008, precious metals rose from $1.7 billion to $2.97 billion, and gem diamonds (uncut or unset), went up from $754 million to $1 billion.
US Africa Command Raises Controversy
According to the State Department, “South African police used lethal force during apprehensions which resulted in a significant number of deaths. Some police officers reportedly tortured, beat, raped, and otherwise abused suspects. Police torture and abuse allegedly occurred during interrogation, arrest, detention, and searches of persons’ homes. There was a 13 percent increase in the number of deaths as a result of police action in 2008. Police forcibly dispersed demonstrators on several occasions during 2008, resulting in injuries. Incidents of police harassment against foreigners continued, particularly during coordinated police raids in areas where foreign nationals resided. There were allegations of police abuse during sweeps and home searches and other criticisms against government legislation and practices.
Ralph J. Totten
Appointment: Dec 19, 1929
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 18, 1930
Termination of Mission: Promoted to Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
Note: Commissioned to the Union of South Africa.
Prior to becoming South Africa’s ambassador to the United States in July 2010, Ebrahim Rasool was in the thick of his country’s politics. The Muslim leader spent years fighting the apartheid government and eventually rose to become a regional governor, during which he reportedly paid journalists to write friendly articles about his leadership. According to a U.S. State Department cable released by WikiLeaks, Rasool introduced himself to U.S. ambassador Don Gips as “a non-violent Islamic militant, a non-fundamentalist revolutionary, and a non-extremist radical.”
South African officials can take solace in knowing the new U.S. ambassador to their country at least has a direct line to President Barack Obama. For what Donald H. Gips lacks in experience as a diplomat or involvement in South African affairs is made up for in his close relationship with the president, for whom he has raised substantial sums of money and offered critiques on such personal matters as the president’s best-selling memoir.
While still at Level 3, Gips joined in 2004 the board of directors ofMindspeed Technologies, Inc.,
a supplier of semiconductors for network infrastructure and consumer premise equipment applications.