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When Jan van Riebeeck went around the coast of South Africa in 1652, very few Bantu were found there. However, the San and Khoi Khoi moved south, and European settlers following Van Riebeeck, mostly from Holland, French Huguenots and German settlers, known today as Boers moved in over a period of 100 years, from the middle of the 1700s. Only around 1770 did the Boers discover the Bantu, although in 1700s they were the main inhabitants of South Africa. During the 1800s many battles were fought between these ethnic peoples and the white settlers, now including the British.
The Bantu were divided into different clans, not around national federations, but independent groups from some hundreds to thousands of individuals.
The smallest unit of the Bantu organisational structure formed the household, or Kraal consisting of a man, woman or women, their children as well as other relatives living in the same household. The man was the head of the household and often had many wives, and had the complete authority over the family. The household and close relations generally played an important role in the life of the Bantu. Households which were resident in the same valley or on the same hill, were also an organisational unit, managed by a sub-chief.
The chief was not elected, but hereditary. With most clans the eldest son inherited the office of his father. With some clans the office was left to the oldest brother of the deceased chief, and after his death again the next oldest brother. This repeated until the last brother had deceased. Next was the eldest son original chieftain, then the oldest one of the brothers as the leader. The chief was surrounded with a number of trusted friends or advisors, usually relatives like uncles and brothers, rather than influential Headmen or personal friends. The degree of the democracy depended on the strength of the chieftain. The more powerful and more influential a chieftain was, the lesser the influence of people. Although the leader had much power, he was not above the law. He could be criticized both by advisors as well as by his people, and compensation could be demanded.