South Africa was initially used by Europeans as a stopping point for trading ships on their way to the East Indies, and fruit and vegetables were grown here to deal with the problem of scurvy aboard passing vessels. However, the Dutch eventually settled the area that was to become Cape Town in 1652 and expanded across the entire tip of southern Africa.
After the Napoleonic wars in 1815, South Africa became a British colony. Many of the Dutch went north to get away from the English, and here they encountered tribes that had slowly been moving south from central Africa. A period of war ensued between the Dutch Boers and the Zulus, which the Boers eventually won and they created an Afrikaner state in the north. In 1899, there were more Boer Wars as a result of the English trying to annex this Afrikaner state.
The discovery of diamonds and later gold triggered the 19th-century conflict known as the Anglo-Boer War, as the Boers (original Dutch, Flemish, German, and French settlers) and the British fought for the control of the South African mineral wealth.
In 1910, South Africa became a union, a coalition between the English and Afrikaner states, before eventually gaining independence in 1960 and becoming a republic. However this was a very difficult time for many people as Apartheid was being fully enforced. During the 1990s, with the release of Nelson Mandela (who eventually became president) and the abolition of the Apartheid laws, South Africa was transformed into the country we know today.