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South Africa's colonial dependence on Great Britain ended when, by a whites-only vote, it became the Republic of South Africa on May 31, 1961. Apartheid, the legal racial segregation policy that had been in existence since 1948, continued in the new nation until the 1990s, when black citizens--which made up nearly 80% of the country's population--finally earned the right to vote. Nelson Mandela, a longtime black civil rights activist who had been jailed for years, became the first native African president of the republic. The British had been a presence in the area since the late 1700s, often battling with the Dutch, who had established settlements more than 100 years before. British control over the Cape Colony (1806) and the Union of South Africa (1910) continued until it relinquished authority in 1961.
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