Des Latham earned a BA Honours in African History from Rhodes University and started his broadcasting journey in 1987 as a news reporter for Radio 702. Over the years, Latham has occupied various roles in the mainstream media, including online editor at Business Day .
In 2017, Latham ventured into podcasting, launching series like the Anglo Boer War podcast, The Battle of Stalingrad podcast, and Falklands War podcast. He currently produces three podcasts: ‘History of South Africa’, ‘South African Border Wars’, and ‘Plane Crash Diaries’.
His conversation with me centres around the ‘History of South Africa’ podcast.
A very quick history
The earliest inhabitants of southern Africa were the Khoisan people, divided into two groups: the Khoikhoi, who were pastoral herdsmen, and the San, who were hunter-gatherers. Around the 3rd millennium BC, the Bantu expansion began, leading to the arrival of Bantu-speaking peoples in southern Africa a few hundred years after the Khoisan. This resulted in the displacement and partial integration of the Khoisan.
The first Europeans to make contact were the Portuguese, but it was the Dutch who established a more permanent presence by founding ‘Cape Town’ in 1652 as a way station for ships going to the East Indies. Dutch farmers, later known as the Boers, were imported and eventually clashed with the Dutch East India Company over issues like taxation and territorial expansion. By the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the British took control of the Cape Colony, leading to strained relations with the Boers and triggering the Great Trek of the 1830s, where Boers moved inland to establish their own republics.
Around the same time, Shaka Zulu unified various Bantu tribes, initiating a period of upheaval known as the Mfecane. This led to the displacement of many tribes and resulted in significant loss of life. The Boers established two republics, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. The discovery of diamonds and gold in these areas piqued British interest, setting the stage for the Boer Wars.
The British also sought to exert control over the Zulu Kingdom. They issued an ultimatum they knew the Zulus would reject, thereby instigating the Anglo-Zulu War.