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140 South Africa History Trivia Questions, Answers, and Fun Facts

How much do you know about South Africa History? This category is for trivia questions and answers related to South Africa History (History). Each one is filled with fun facts and interesting information.
1 When did the First Boer War take place?
Answer: 1880-1881

The First Boer War took place from 16 December 1880 until 23 March 1881.

The First Boer War, also known as the Transvaal War, as a significant event that highlighted the Boers' determination to maintain their independence and resist British encroachment. It had lasting implications for the relationship between the British Empire and the Boer republics, setting the stage for the subsequent conflicts and tensions in the region.
  From Quiz: Anglo-Boer Wars in South Africa
2 Near which city in South Africa, which is also the largest in sub-Saharan Africa, is the Cradle of Humankind located?
Answer: Johannesburg

The area known as the Cradle of Humankind, a World Heritage Site, is approximately thirty-one miles northwest of Johannesburg. Covering a region of about 150 square miles, the terrain is described as a rolling grassland with rock outcrops and rivers. It is called the Cradle of Humankind because of the large number of fossils belonging to the Hominin family that have been found, which includes humans and some species long extinct. The term "hominin" is used to describe a group consisting of all modern humans, extinct humans, and immediate ancestors. Considering the vast scope of prehistory, the Cradle of Humankind is a newly found area, with the first discoveries being made there in the 1920s.
    Your options: [ Port Elizabeth ] [ Capetown ] [ Johannesburg ] [ Pretoria ]
  From Quiz: Tales of the Cradle of Humankind
3 Who were the first people to inhabit the area that is now Johannesburg?
Answer: San

The San were hunters and gathers who first settled where Johannesburg now is over a millennium ago. Not many sites remain in Johannesburg dating back to this time period other than some stone walls in some parts of the Transvaal outside of Jo'burg. It is believed that the San were either defeated by or forced out of the area by Bantu people sometime in the 13th century.
  From Quiz: History of Johannesburg
4 Almost nothing is known about Cape Town's early people who lived in the area before the arrival of which Portuguese explorer in 1488?
Answer: Bartolomeu Dias

Bartolomeu Dias actually sailed around Africa in an a eastwardly direction, that is down the Atlantic Ocean and up the Indian. However, on his first journey past South Africa, he was too far away to see land and didn't discover the Cape of Good Hope and the land that would become Cape Town until his return trip.

People had lived in Cape Town sometime prior to the arrival of Dias, according to archeological evidence. However, little is known about them. It is speculated these remains belong to ancient Khoikhoi people, also known derogatorily as Hottentots, a race of agricultural people who live in southern Africa. However it has also been suggested that the fossils belong to different people entirely, possibly a tribe conquered by the Khoikhoi when they migrated south from Botswana.
    Your options: [ Joao de Lisboa ] [ Vasco da Gama ] [ Bartolomeu Dias ] [ Pedro Alvares Cabral ]
  From Quiz: History of Cape Town
5 South Africa was effectively established in 1652 when a Dutch colonial commander landed at the Cape of Good Hope and created a refreshment station for ships on the India trading route. What is the name of this first settler in South Africa?
Answer: Jan van Riebeeck

On 6th April 1652, a Dutch settlers colony in three ships landed in the Cape. Their intention was to set up a way-station for ships travelling to and from India.

Van Riebeeck was honored for his deeds by having his likeness on all South African currency from 1940 up to 1993.
  From Quiz: The History of South Africa: Highs and Lows
6 What was the Rivonia Trial?
Answer: The Nelson Mandela Trial for treason

The Rivonia Trial, so named because the most of the accused were arrested in the suburb of Rivonia in Johannesburg, took place in the Palace of Justice, situated on Church Square in Pretoria Gauteng. Nelson Mandela and eight other accused were found guilty of sabotage, terrorism and treason and were sentenced to life imprisonment. Advocate Percy Yutar led the prosecution. Justice Quartus de Wet, the then Judge President of Transvaal, presided over the Trial.
Nelson Mandela was also an accused, along with 155 other persons, in the "Treason Trial" in which all accused was found not guilty in 1961.
Transvaal is now called Gauteng, and the High Court is now referred to as the North Gauteng High Court. The High Court in Johannesburg, which was previously called the Witwatersrand Local Division is now called the South Gauteng High Court.
  From Quiz: South African History
7 Who led the first expedition to round the Cape of Good Hope?
Answer: Bartolomeu Dias

Dias was attempting to find a route to India but only got as far as Algoa Bay, near today's Port Elizabeth before he faced a near mutiny and had to turn back.
  From Quiz: The Cape Colony: Early Days
8 On January 8, 2006, President Thabo Mbeki announced the ANC's candidates for the upcoming provincial elections. Why was this date significant?
Answer: It marked the 94th anniversary of the founding of the ANC.

The African National Congress was founded on January 8, 1912 by Pixley ka Isaka Seme, John Dube, and many other South African patriots.
  From Quiz: On this Day in South Africa
9 From what prison was Nelson Mandela released in 1990?
Answer: Victor Verster

Most people would say Robben Island, but this is incorrect. Nelson Mandela spent about 27 years in Robben Island Prison but was moved to Victor Verster before his release.
  From Quiz: History of South Africa
10 Who was the last South African president under the apartheid regime?
Answer: Frederik Willem de Klerk
  From Quiz: South African History
11 In 1652, the Dutch East India Company set up a station in Cape Town to provision passing ships. What was the name of this station?
Answer: Table Bay

The Dutch East India Company was founded in 1602 by independent trading companies, its main purpose was to promote trade with Asia. Henry Hudson, the famous English explorer sailed under the flag of this company (1609).
  From Quiz: South Africa: The Early Years
12 The Boer Wars were fought between the British Empire and which two Boer republics?
Answer: Transvaal and Orange Free State

Transvaal and Orange Free State is the correct answer.

The Republic of Transvaal, also known as the South African Republic, was a Boer republic established in the 19th century. It emerged as a result of the Great Trek, a movement of Boer settlers into the interior of South Africa seeking independence from British rule. The republic was rich in mineral resources, including gold and diamonds, which attracted European miners and increased tensions with the British Empire. The Republic of Transvaal played a central role in both the First and Second Boer Wars as it sought to maintain its independence and protect its resources from British encroachment.

The Orange Free State was a Boer republic established in the mid-19th century in what is now South Africa. It was founded by Dutch-speaking Boers who sought independence from British colonial rule. The republic was named after the Orange River, which formed its northern boundary. The Orange Free State was known for its agricultural economy, with farming and livestock being the primary sources of wealth. It played a significant role in the Boer Wars, initially as an ally of the South African Republic (Transvaal) and later as a target of British military campaigns. Despite their resistance, the republic was eventually annexed by the British Empire at the conclusion of the wars.
    Your options: [ Cape Colony and Orange Free State ] [ Transvaal and Natal ] [ Transvaal and Orange Free State ] [ Orange Free State and Natal ]
  From Quiz: Anglo-Boer Wars in South Africa
13 What geological feature in the Cradle of Humankind helped make it possible to find fossils in the area?
Answer: Limestone Caves

Life was extremely dangerous for the early hominin. Picture one of them being attacked and dragged into a cave by a wild animal, falling into a hole, or dying in a cave with the body just being left behind. What typically could have happened then was that the body became encased in limestone and other sediments, which created very good conditions for the chemical reaction necessary for fossilization over time, as well as the preservation of the fossils. At the present time there are twelve sites in the Cradle of Humankind that have yielded over 900 hominin fossils.
  From Quiz: Tales of the Cradle of Humankind
14 Which man, who shares his name with one of the Beatles, discovered gold on a farm in Johannesburg in 1886?
Answer: George Harrison

George Harrison discovered gold on Langlaagte farm in 1886. The farm was owned by G.C. Oosthuizen but he allowed Harrison and his partner to have digging rights. By later that year, gold mining was in full swing on Langlaagte and on many other nearby farms. Europeans who settled in the area prior to the discovery of gold were given 3,000 acres of land to farm. The discovery of gold was a strong economic windfall for the settlers.

The discovery of gold at Langlaagte was not the first find in the area but it was the most important as it generated enthusiasm and people started flocking to the area.
    Your options: [ Paul McCartney ] [ John Lennon ] [ George Harrison ] [ Richard Starkey ]
  From Quiz: History of Johannesburg
15 It wasn't until 1652 that European powers started taking a colonial interest in Cape Town. Which Europeans were the first to establish a large presence in Cape Town in 1652?
Answer: Dutch

The Dutch settled in the area around 1652 when Jan van Riebeeck and the Dutch East India Company built a supply stop for Dutch ships sailing around Africa to Asia. The Dutch were also the first to bring in slaves from Madagascar and their colonies in south-east Asia. Notably, they did not enslave the local people but rather often negotiated with them for cattle, crops and fish.
    Your options: [ Spanish ] [ German ] [ Dutch ] [ French ]
  From Quiz: History of Cape Town
16 By the early 1800s Dutch naval and mercantile power had began to fade, and another major world power had taken control of the Cape Province in the new country developing at the southern tip of Africa. Which country sent settlers to the Cape in 1820?
Answer: Britain

The British gave lands to approximately 5,000 settlers, whose job it would be to provide agricultural products and act as a buffer between the towns and the natives, who were becoming a major headache for the colonial forces. A large number of the settlers moved to towns or further away from these zones and the British military was forced to take more control.
    Your options: [ Britain ] [ Germany ] [ Spain ] [ France ]
  From Quiz: The History of South Africa: Highs and Lows
17 Who were the Presidents of the independent Boer Republics before and during the Second Anglo-Boer War?
Answer: Martinus Steyn & Paul Kruger

The two independent Boer Republics were the Transvaal Republic and the Orange Free State. Paul Kruger was President of the Transvaal Republic and Martinus Steyn was President of the Orange Free State. The Second Anglo-Boer war ended on the 31 May 1902 with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging. The war was mainly fought between the Boers and the British.
  From Quiz: South African History
18 In which year did the Dutch first build a permanent settlement at the Cape of Good Hope?
Answer: 1652

Van Riebeeck sailed from the Netherlands in early 1652 and they sighted Table Mountain on 5 April.
    Your options: [ 1673 ] [ 1642 ] [ 1652 ] [ 1645 ]
  From Quiz: The Cape Colony: Early Days
19 February 11th is another important day in South African history because it marks the anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from prison. In which year was he released?
Answer: 1990

Upon his release from Victor Verster prison in Cape Town, he said, "Our march to freedom is irreversible. We must not allow fear to stand in our way. Universal suffrage on a common voters' role in a united democratic and non-racial South Africa is the only way to peace and racial harmony."
    Your options: [ 1989 ] [ 1990 ] [ 1991 ] [ 1994 ]
  From Quiz: On this Day in South Africa
20 In what year did the British take control of the Cape Colony?
Answer: 1795

In 1795 a British force was dispatched to the Cape and landed successfully on the shore of False Bay. The Dutch colonists couldn't repel the invasion. A British administration was set up under Earl McCartney.
  From Quiz: History of South Africa
21 Of which church was Desmond Tutu an important leader?
Answer: Anglican

Tutu was the Archbishop of the Anglican Church when he received the Nobel Peace prize.
    Your options: [ Roman Catholic ] [ Methodist ] [ Baptist ] [ Anglican ]
  From Quiz: A Brief History of South Africa
22 The South African government funded two major civil wars in Southern Africa during the Cold War; where did those two conflicts take place?
Answer: Angola and Mozambique

South Africa funded the RENAMO in Mozambique and the UNITA in Angola. Both of them were fighting against Soviet sponsored governments.
  From Quiz: South African History
23 In 1657, Europeans began to settle in the arable regions surrounding Cape Town. What were their major productions?
Answer: Wine and wheat

The slave trade originated with the settlers' request for manpower to help them increase their production. The Dutch East India Company started to import slaves from East Africa, Madagascar and the East Indies.
  From Quiz: South Africa: The Early Years
24 Who were the leaders of the Boer forces during the Second Boer War?
Answer: Louis Botha and Jan Smuts

Louis Botha and Jan Smuts were the leaders of the Boer forces during the Second Boer War. They played key roles in the military and political resistance against the British Empire.

Louis Botha was a prominent Boer military leader and statesman who played a crucial role in the Anglo-Boer Wars. He was born on September 27, 1862, in Greytown, Natal (now part of South Africa). Botha rose to prominence during the Second Boer War (1899-1902) as the commander-in-chief of the Boer forces.

Botha was known for his strategic skills, tactical acumen, and his ability to mobilize and unite Boer fighters against the British forces. He led successful guerilla warfare campaigns, using hit-and-run tactics and utilizing the knowledge of the South African landscape to his advantage.

Botha's leadership was characterized by pragmatism, diplomacy, and efforts to establish stability and unity in the aftermath of the devastating conflict. He played a crucial role in shaping the early years of the Union of South Africa and is remembered as a key figure in South African history. Botha passed away on August 27, 1919, leaving behind a complex legacy as a military leader and statesman.

Jan Smuts was a prominent Boer military leader, statesman, and philosopher who played a significant role in the Anglo-Boer Wars. He was born on May 24, 1870, in the Cape Colony (now part of South Africa).

During the Second Boer War (1899-1902), Smuts served as a commanding officer and strategist in the Boer forces. He displayed military brilliance and was known for his innovative tactics, including the use of mobile commando units. Smuts played a crucial role in several major battles and was recognized for his ability to adapt to the changing circumstances of the war.

  From Quiz: Anglo-Boer Wars in South Africa
25 What famous discovery was made at the Sterkfontein Caves in the Cradle of Humankind?
Answer: Mrs. Ples

The many discoveries (over 500) made at the Sterkfontein Caves have helped reinforce the fact that human ancestors evolved in Africa, rather than Europe or Asia as had been previously thought. In 1947, Robert Broom and John T. Robinson discovered Mrs. Ples, which is still the most complete skull ever found of an "Australopithecus africanus" in South Africa. The reason some of the skull is missing is because dynamite and a pickax (Yikes!) were used in the excavation, causing considerable damage to the artifact. Dating to about 2.3 million years ago, originally it was categorized as an "Plesianthropus transvaalensis", hence the nickname that was given to the fossil by one of the group of workers. By the way, after further study, many scientists believe that Mrs. Ples should be renamed Mr. Ples!
  From Quiz: Tales of the Cradle of Humankind
26 Johannesburg was founded in the 1880s during the Witwatersrand Gold Rush as place for gold prospectors to settle and live. Which neighborhood is Johannesburg's oldest and is sometimes called the Cradle of Johannesburg?
Answer: Ferreirasdorp

Ferreirasdorp is also called Ferreira's Camp. It is named after Ignatius Ferreirs who was one the first people to lead a group of miners in the area. The town, and thus Johannesburg, was originally just a settlement of tents. Cecil B. Rhodes was the person who bought the first gold from prospectors when he visited Ferreiera's Camp. The sudden influx of settlers from Europe and western Africa caused Johannesburg to become the largest city in South Africa within a decade of its founding. The Witwatersrand Gold Rush was the largest gold rush in history.
    Your options: [ Yeoville ] [ New Centre ] [ Ferreirasdorp ] [ Elladoone ]
  From Quiz: History of Johannesburg
27 The South African wine industry got its start in late 17th century Cape Town, when which people introduced wine-growing techniques when they fled Europe?
Answer: Huguenots

Huguenots were French Protestants. During this time period, Catholic France was persecuting Huguenots. The Dutch in South Africa enticed the Huguenots to relocate from France to Cape Town by offering them farmland and free passage to the city. The Huguenots were experts in wine-growing and many of them converted their free farmland in vineyards.
    Your options: [ Scandinavians ] [ Moors ] [ Huguenots ] [ Russians ]
  From Quiz: History of Cape Town
28 When was the Battle of Blood River fought?
Answer: 16 December 1838

The Battle of Blood River was fought between approximately 500 Trekkers and 10,000 Zulu Impis on16 December 1838. Approximately 3,000 Zulu Impis were killed and 3 Trekkers wounded during the battle. 16 December is a public holiday in South Africa, previously called Geloftedag (the Day of the Vow), now called Versoeningsdag (The Day of Reconciliation). On this day the Vow made to God on 9 December 1838 by Sarel Cilliers (and the rest of the Trekkers) is honoured. The Trekkers promised to honour the day as a Sabbath every year and erect a church in God's honour if He protected them in battle. They further promised to ensure that their descendants will also honour this day every year. At noon on 16 December of every year the sun shines directly on the Cenotaph, bearing the words 'Ons vir jou Suid Afrika' ('We for Thee, South Africa'). The Cenotaph is located in the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria, Gauteng. In 1841 and also in honour of the Vow the Trekkers erected a church in Pietermaritzburg, Kwazulu Natal known as De Geloftekerk (The Church of the Vow).
  From Quiz: South African History
29 With how many ships did Jan van Riebeeck originally set sail from Texel in the Netherlands?
Answer: 5

Two of the original flotilla, the Olifant and Walvis were overloaded and were left behind only to arrive in the Cape a month late.
  From Quiz: The Cape Colony: Early Days
30 March 21 is celebrated as Human Rights Day in South Africa to commemorate the 1960 massacre of black South Africans and to prevent something like it from ever happening again. Where did this massacre take place?
Answer: Sharpeville

The Sharpeville Massacre marked the end of peaceful protest by blacks against the Nationalist government. The ANC and the PAC were banned only four days later, and their respective armed struggles started soon after that.
    Your options: [ Vereeniging ] [ Sharpeville ] [ Johannesburg ] [ Pretoria ]
  From Quiz: On this Day in South Africa
31 What was the name of the spear that Shaka Zulu designed to better the performance of his troops?
Answer: Iklwa

The great Zulu warrior king, Shaka, was renowned for his military skills. He introduced new ideas to the Zulu army, such as employment on a regular basis, with discipline, drill, troop mobility, surprise tactics, and a new type of stabbing spear, the Iklwa. Nguni is a tribe, and Dial and Siphon are names.
  From Quiz: History of South Africa
32 Who was Buthelezi?
Answer: The leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party

The Inkatha Freedom Party (basically Zulu) opposed the ANC government after the fall of apartheid.
    Your options: [ Nelson Mandela's cousin ] [ The President of Zambia in 1996 ] [ The leader of the South African Parliament in 1996 ] [ The leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party ]
  From Quiz: South African History
33 Which group brought Islam to South Africa in the 1700s?
Answer: Asian slaves

Islam brought the majority of the slaves and shaped the working class culture of the area.
    Your options: [ Zulu tribes ] [ North African merchants ] [ Asian slaves ] [ Bantu-speaking emigrants ]
  From Quiz: South Africa: The Early Years
34 Which major European power supported the Boers during the wars?
Answer: Germany

Germany supported the Boers during the Boer Wars.

The support of the Germans to the Boers during the Boer Wars can be attributed to several factors:

Geopolitical Considerations: Germany, under Kaiser Wilhelm II, saw an opportunity to challenge British imperial power and expand its influence in Africa. By supporting the Boers, Germany aimed to weaken the British Empire and gain a foothold in the strategically important region of southern Africa.

Economic Interests: The Boer territories of Transvaal and Orange Free State were rich in mineral resources, particularly gold. German companies and individuals had invested heavily in mining operations in these regions. Supporting the Boers allowed Germany to protect and preserve its economic interests in the gold mines.

Racial and Cultural Affinity: There was a perceived racial and cultural affinity between the Boers, who were primarily of Dutch descent, and the Germans. Both groups shared a common ancestry and cultural ties, which created a sense of solidarity and sympathy among the Germans towards the Boers.

Opposition to British Imperialism: Germany, as a rising power in Europe, viewed British imperialism as a potential threat to its own ambitions. By supporting the Boers, who were resisting British rule, Germany sought to undermine British influence and challenge the dominant position of the British Empire on the global stage.

Military and Technological Cooperation: Germany provided military advisors, training, and supplies to the Boers during the conflict. This support helped bolster the Boer war effort and increased their military capabilities, posing a significant challenge to the British forces.

It's important to note that Germany's support for the Boers was not solely driven by altruism or ideological motivations. It was primarily driven by geopolitical interests, economic considerations, and a desire to challenge British dominance. The German support for the Boers ultimately contributed to the complexity and international dimension of the Boer Wars.
    Your options: [ Italy ] [ France ] [ Germany ] [ Spain ]
  From Quiz: Anglo-Boer Wars in South Africa
35 At the present time, "Australopithecus africanus" is considered to be one of our oldest human ancestors. What feature of the hominin most closely links it to humans?
Answer: Upright walking

"Australopithecus africanus" is considered to be one of the oldest human ancestors because of the evidence of bipedalism, or upright walking. The creature, about four feet tall, still displayed more ape-like characteristics, such as having arms a bit longer than legs, a smaller brain, and curved fingers, which may indicate habitual tree climbing. As is typical in the case of classifying like discoveries, paleontologists do not always agree on whether there is a direct link to humans or an indirect one. Fossils of the species have only been found in southern Africa.
  From Quiz: Tales of the Cradle of Humankind
36 The term "uitlander" refers to which kind of people?
Answer: British workers in the Transvaal Republic

Uitlanders were originally British miners during the Witwatersrand Gold Rush but the term quickly became used to describe Britons working in the newly formed Transvaal Republic. The Uitlanders had few rights and were annoyed with the lack support they were getting from the government in the Transvaal. Cecil B. Rhodes, who was Prime Minister of Cape Colony, a British controlled territory in what is now Western South Africa, encouraged a rebellion of the uitlanders led by Leander Starr Jameson. It was called the Jameson Raid but it failed spectacularly.

The failure of the Jameson Raid in 1896 led to the Second Boer War which resulted in British control over Orange Free State and the Transvaal.
    Your options: [ Catholic missionaries ] [ Boers ] [ British workers in the Transvaal Republic ] [ Black Africans ]
  From Quiz: History of Johannesburg
37 Which 1795 battle saw Cape Town and all of Cape Colony fall into the hands of the British for the first time?
Answer: Battle of Muizenberg

The Battle of Muizenberg was short in time as the city was surrounded to the British by Governor Abraham Josias Sluysken in order to spare its destruction. The Battle of Muizenberg was indirectly caused by the French Revolution. During the French Revolution, France had occupied parts of the Netherlands. Britain then began attacking Dutch colonies and territories in order to prevent them from being handed over to the French. Cape Town was of significant importance because it was the only European-controlled city of significance in Africa on the way to Southeast Asia. Cape Colony was returned to the Dutch in 1802.

The Battle of Blaauwberg took place in 1806 and it gave Britain control of South Africa until the nation's independence in 1910.
    Your options: [ Battle of Blaauwberg ] [ Battle of Jenkins' Ear ] [ Battle of Muizenberg ] [ Battle of Bloody Marsh ]
  From Quiz: History of Cape Town
38 When did apartheid come to an end in South Africa?
Answer: 1994

The process of dismantling apartheid began in 1990, but took about four years. For example, in the 1992 referendum on the abolition of apartheid only Whites were allowed to vote. On 27 April 1994 the first democratic elections was held in South Africa. The African National Congress won the election with a vast majority of the votes and Nelson Mandela became the first African president of South Africa. He was followed by Thabo Mbeki (son of Govan Mbeki, who was also an accused in the Rivonia Trial) and President Jacob Zuma. 27 April is a public holiday in South Africa, known as Freedom Day to commemorate this historic event.
  From Quiz: South African History
39 April 27 marks the anniversary of the election of Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa, and is celebrated as a national holiday. What is the name of this holiday?
Answer: Freedom Day

It was not uncommon for people to wait in queues of up to three hours in order to cast their vote.
  From Quiz: On this Day in South Africa
40 What was the name of the 13-year-old boy who was killed during the Soweto uprising in 1976?
Answer: Hector Peterson

The Soweto uprising in 1976 was caused due to the enforcement of the use of Afrikaans as the first language. Students and parents alike started to protest in the streets, starting many riots. During a clash with the police a stray bullet from a police officer's gun mortally wounded the young Hector Peterson. A picture of a guy carrying his body and his sister running alongside, is one of the most famous pictures in the history of South Africa.
  From Quiz: History of South Africa
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