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SSouth Africa is made up of people who have been in the country since the beginning of time, as well as others who arrived either as slaves, escapees of persecution in their homelands, or seekers of instant riches.

The first major recorded migration was that of the Dutch, after Jan van Riebeeck landed in the Cape in 1652. The Dutch Cape Colony grew quickly as farmers settled to grow produce. Thereafter, other large migrations followed, with Malay slaves coming from Dutch-held Java, French Huguenots escaping persecution in France, German settlers in search of a better life in the Cape and Natal, British settlers eluding poverty in the UK in 1820, and Indian indentured labourers or slaves who were brought over by the British to work the sugarcane plantations in 1860.

In the lead-up to apartheid, numerous social and legal decisions made by British and Dutch colonial powers ensured the division between races. Throughout the 19th century, laws forced blacks, Indians, coloureds and KhoiSan to carry passes that restricted their movement. Laws were also passed to prevent them from voting and owning land.

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