1902 Encyclopedia > Africa > States of Southern Africa

(Part 31)


(c) States of Southern Africa

Under South Africa the Cape Colony only is generally comprised. It takes its name from the cape of Good Hope, and extends from thence to the Orange river in the north, and to the Kai river in the east. A large proportion of the territory included within these limits, especially in the north, is either unoccupied, or excepting missionary stations, entirely in the hands of the aborigines.

Apart from the shores, the country consists of high lands, forming parallel mountainous ridges, elevated plains or terraces of varying extent between. The loftiest range, styled in different parts of its course Sneuw-bergen, Winterbergen, Nieuveld-bergen, and Roggenwld-bergen, names originated by the Dutch, is the third and last encountered on proceeding into the interior from the south coast. This and the other chains are deeply cut by the transverse valleys called kloofs, which serve as passes across them, and appear as if produced by some sudden convulsion of nature, subsequently widened by the action of the atmosphere and running water.

The high plains or terraces are remarkable for their extraordinary change of aspect in the succession of the seasons. During the summer heats they are perfect deserts, answering to the term applied to them karroos, signifying, in the Hottentot language, "dry" or "arid." But the sandy soil being pervaded with the roots and fibres of various plants, is spontaneously clothed with the richest verdure after the rains, and becomes transformed for a time into a vast garden of gorgeous flowers, yielding the most fragrant odours. Adapted thus to the support of graminivorous animals, the karroos are the resot of antelopes, zebras, quaggas, and gnus in countless herds, and of the carnivorous beats that prey upon them, the lion, hyaena, leopard, and panther. These quadrupeds, however, with the elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, giraffe, buffalo, and ostrich, have been largely banished from their old haunts by the advancing footsteps of civilized man, and are only found in the more secluded parts of the interior. The country has a singular and superb flora, but it comprises few native plants useful to man: may such have been now introduced. Heaths of varied species and great beauty abound; and geraniums are treated as common weeds. Many highly productive districts occur; corn, wines, and fruit being the chief objects of cultivation in the neighbour hood of the Cape, while the more inland settlements are grazing farms. Some fine natural forests clothe the sides of the mountains; but in general the colony is deficient in timber trees, as well as in navigable streams, perennial springs, and regular rain. A great deposit of rich copper ore occurs near the mouth of the Orange; and salt is obtained for consumption and sale from salt lakes.

The climate is exceedingly fine and salubrious. There are two seasons, characterized by the prevalence of certain winds. During the summer, which lasts from September to April, the winds blow from south-east, cold and dry; during the winter, namely from May to September, north-west winds prevail. In the most elevated regions the winters are occasionally severe, and snow and ice occur.

The chief native tribes within the British territory are the Hottentots, Bechuabas, and Kaffres. No manufacture is conducted at the Cape except the making of wine of which from 10,000 to 40,000 gallons are annually exported to England. Various articles of provision are supplied to ships sailing between Europe and the East Indies.

Cape Town is the capital of the colony, and contains 28,460 inhabitants, of whom 15,120 are Europeans. Its commerce is considerable, and the port is frequented by 500 to 600 vessels every year.

The Orange river sovereignty, added to the British territories in 1848, but subsequently given up and constituted a free republic, extends north of the Orange river as far as tke Ky Gariep or Vaal river. In consequence of the discovery of rich diamond fields on the lower Vaal river and in the neighbouring territory of the Griqua chief Water boer, who also petitioned to have his lands subjected to British rule, a wide country surrounding the diamond-fields was incorporated with the Cape Colony in October 1871, under the name of Griqua Land West, divided into the districts of Pneil, Griqua Town, and Klipdrift. The population of this new territory was estimated at 50,000 in 1872, concentrated in camps found the chief diamond fields. In 1869, Bassuto Land, a mountainous territory at the head waters of the Nu gariep branch of the Orange river, and on the inward slope of the Drakenberg range, was incorporated as a British possession.

Natal or Victoria, a district on the east coast, and separated from the Cape Colony by Kaffraria, is a recently formed British settlements, which was created into a colony in 1856. it is highly favoured in those respects in which the Cape is most deficient, having abundance of wood and water, with coal and various metallic ores, a fine alluvial soil and a climate adapted to the cultivation of the products for which the home demand is large and constant-cotton, silk, and indigo. Pietermaritzburg, the capital of the settlement, lies 50 miles from the coast. Port Natal, now D'Urban, s eated on a fine lake-like bay, is the only harbour.

The Transvaal republic is an inland state, between the Vaal on the south and the Limpopo river on the north, having the Drakenberg edge on the east, and the Bechuana tribes, which occupy the region bordering on the Kalahira desert, on the west, founded by the Dutch boers emigrating from the Cape Colony. Its surface is an elevated plateau, thinly wooded in some parts, but generally affording excellent pasture. The chief town is Potchefstroom, on a tributary of the Vaal; but the seat of government is at Pretoria, in the region of the head streams of the Limpopo.

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