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SA home to world's smallest desert
The Red Desert The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) said on Tuesday that it had erected a fence to protect the world's smallest desert, the Red Desert, which lies 170 kilometres south of Durban, after a request from private owners of the nature reserve in which it is located. Only 200 meters in diameter and resembling a miniature version of the Arizona Desert in the United States, the man-high hills and valleys of naked red soil bare stark contrast to the surrounding lush and tropical vegetation. The Red Desert gets its name from the scarlet colour of the sand and is situated on a hillside overlooking the Mtamvuna River which divides KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, near the Wild Coast Sun casino complex. Archaeological artefacts going back millions of years can be found and the locals have welcomed its new status as an internationally-protected heritage site. The origins of this Desert are found in the location of a Zulu tribe in the 1800's, with vast cattle herds stolen from the Pondos. The terrain became severely overgrazed and subsequently eroded by wind, resulting in wind-sculpted dune formations. The underlying soil has very high iron content which does not allow vegetation to thrive. Source: https://www.algoafm.co.za/article/local/97863/sa-home-to-worlds-smallest-desert
Overheaven: The South African Civil War - (feedback and input welcomed, full timeline coming soon)
For context, this is for the actual AH portion of Overheaven - the stuff which happens after the primary 1967 POD, where the Outer Space Treaty isn’t signed, and as a result, space is opened up to military and commercial interests. By the 1990’s there are growing colonies on the moon (the Americans and Soviets landed there in 1969), Mars (the Americans land the first man on the Red Planet in 1976), and Venus (the Soviets establish the first aerostat colony in the “Yellow Planet’s” upper atmosphere in 1978); large rotating space stations with increasingly-permanent populations; mineral exploration of Near Earth Asteroids and the Main Belt; and preliminary manned missions to Mercury and Callisto. This does not refer to events in the FH portions of the setting. However, this TL also has a bunch of smaller POD’s littered around it. Mostly for fun, but also to build up towards the timeline’s “current year”: 2185. And the South African Civil War is an event which does have repercussions stretching into the late 22nd century. And after much back and forth on the issue, I’ve decided to place the war in 1999-2005. I probably would have preferred to keep all of this under wraps until I had written up the TL into an episodic, chapter-by-chapter format, but I’m sure the actual chapter for this conflict will be much more interesting and engaging than what I present here. So, with that preface out of the way, here are some of my rough ideas for the South African Civil War:
The Juicy Stuff
Not intrinsically linked to South Africa or its civil war, but my motivation for having it where it is in the timeline is based somewhat on the state of the USSR at the time. In 1999, the US and USSR are close enough diplomatically that at the start of the year, they opened up the International Peace Bridge connecting Alaska to Siberia. Gorbachev rolls all sixes on the New Union reforms in the early 90’s, and by 1999, I think the USSR should be in a position to go on overseas adventures again. Due to overriding concerns at home, they would have withdrawn from international military engagements for much of the 1990's. For the most part, at least. There’d be some guns going off in the "Near Abroad" periphery as the Soviet deck got reshuffled in the early 90's, probably in Moldova and/or Georgia, which break away from the newfangled Union of Soviet Sovereign Republics along with the Baltic states. Moscow also likely backed up the Americans and South Koreans during the Second Korean War in the early 90’s as well, or at least played a role there diplomatically. However, the 90's mostly sees the Union focus on revitalizing itself and jump-starting its new post-communist economy, changing the world's perception of what the Soviet Union represents, bringing in American, British and Japanese investment and the like, and perhaps resetting their relationship with China; there’d also be a big scaling back of the USSR’s orbital weapons, as well as probably a bit of a fire sale on Soviet extraterrestrial real estate (though they’d hold onto their Venusian colonies for the most part), in order for Moscow to remain financially solvent back on Earth. Intervening in South Africa would be the Red Army's first major engagement overseas since Afghanistan. At the end of this alternate Cold War, the US withdraws from NATO, which more or less collapses. To replace it, a slightly different European Union (including Switzerland and Norway by 1999, but not the UK) sets up a post-NATO “Joint European Defense Force” (or some better-named organization). And South Africa ends up being their baptism-by-fire, assuming I don’t have it instead be something slightly earlier, maybe involving the Balkans or Morocco. I expect they'll mostly play rearguard and support roles, simply because they won't have the logistics to send in tens of thousands of troops on the other side of the world. I'm unsure how exactly Apartheid can be made to hold on a little longer, though. Nelson Mandela having a close encounter with a flight of stairs (people conveniently falling down the stairs and dying instantly is a recurring theme in Overheaven - Khomeini and William Proxmire being notable victims) may be a start, but I don't think that's enough to seal the deal. Sanctions will be the bigger issue, though perhaps the huge advances in spaceflight might hog airtime that might otherwise have been spent on raising awareness of Apartheid, thereby making it less of a prominent Western political cause for activists? After all, humans have fairly limited attention spans. On a somewhat-related and somehow less-ridiculous note, I do quite like the idea of South Africa building a Von Braun wheel to help bolster confidence and moral in the government, and perhaps help turn a profit for the country via some combination of zero-g research and perhaps a space hotel service for unscrupulous millionaires? Maybe some shady spy dealings also take place on "Overbeek Station". So that's canon now, because it’s fun. Anyway, by the 90's, I'm sure people will become very aware of what's happening in SA, so maybe the stiff sanctions of the 1980's which helped bring down the regime OTL will come into effect in the 90's. The Pahlavis are still running Iran, and by the late-80’s have developed both a manned space program and a domestic nuclear power grid (putting them less than half a turn of the screwdriver away from nuclear weapons), and they’ll probably continue to support South Africa right up until things start getting super-gross. Ditto with regards to Israel. Rhodesia might still continue onward in some form, though I’m still unsure of that bit, or of what role they might play in the Civil War. Maybe one of you is more knowledgeable about SA history and can help me figure out what political factions would fill the void left by Mandela, or how we could push Apartheid's lifespan a little further. Anyway, a flashpoint sets the South African tinderbox ablaze in the summer of 1999. The rebels can't defeat the SADF on its own terms, but make it bleed when they bring the fighting to the cities. Foreign volunteers come in to back up either side, and end up radicalizing both. You have white nationalists, Neo-Nazis and extreme anti-communists from the Americas and Europe, along with apolitical mercenaries from odd corners of the world, backing up the Apartheid regime. And black nationalist and Marxist volunteers from Africa and the Caribbean come in to back up the ANC and its allies. Gadaffi wholeheartedly backs the black rebels; perhaps KPA remnants from a collapsed-in-the-early-90’s North Korea show up; Palestinians might get involved in the name of international solidarity; Iran and Israel might try something squirrelly (the latter might wash their hands of South Africa when they notice the Neo-Nazi militants gaining influence there); and, again, things get really interesting if Rhodesia is still around (or if Mugabe rules Zimbabwe). A cease-fire is declared New Years Eve, at the dawn of the new millennium, and peace talks begin in Bloemfontein. In February of 2000, after much tension, cool heads in both camps (very wary of the extremists who've shown up on the battlefield) end up prevailing and an election is announced for May that year. In March, however, psychotic Neo-Nazi volunteers from Canada, led by Wolfgang Gröge, hijack the government's nuclear weapons and vaporize Bloemfontein (a neutral zone and a symbol of the South African government’s unwillingness to stand up to “Jewish Bolshevism” or whatever weird conspiracy theory they’re running with) and a few black-majority cities in 45-kiloton mushroom clouds. The ceasefire instantly breaks down. Everyone is confused and angry. One side is no longer interested in compromise, the other is fearful of being exterminated. Things get, in a word, MESSY. The nuclear detonations of course shock the world and are roundly condemned, as are the racially-motivated killings committed by both sides. The South African government fortifies itself in Pretoria, executes every last national socialist they can find, and uses chemical weapons to narrowly fend off a major offensive by the ANC. They threaten to use their remaining nukes if the rebels try anything else against Pretoria. Yes, I am referencing RoboCop here, BTW. While the SADF forces and the mercenaries among their ranks hold onto cities like Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, many of the more far-right and racist types end up deserting and forming roving gangs of genocidal fascists, who make up for their lack of numbers compared to the black nationalist and Marxist rebels, with sheer ruthlessness, skill and higher-tier weaponry. At this point, the Libyans have shipped in heavier weapons left over from the Cold War, and are sending in more and more troops to South Africa; Gadaffi’s regime is the only country to recognize the “African People’s Socialist Republic” - a state best described as a black supremacist Khmer Rouge. Overseas, nobody's really sure what the Hell is going on. Nobody's sure whether or not the South African government is being honest about Canadian Nazis hijacking their nukes and using them against their will, but the optics of turning Pretoria into a nuclear-armed "final redoubt" willing to use chemical weapons - yeah, those optics could not be any worse. Nobody's sure about what the facts are, but everyone - Washington, Moscow, London, Brussels - agrees that the situation has gotten out of hand and someone needs to step in and kick some ass. The UN then authorizes them to do so. American and Soviet space-based ballistic missiles hit APSR and SADF positions, while an unprecedented joint SEAL/SAS/Spetsnaz operation infiltrates Pretoria and secures the city’s nukes, before Soviet and American airborne troops drop in to capture the Pretoria and Johannesburg in the early hours of the morning, securing both cities by the evening. High above the Earth, Soviet and American space marines board and occupy Overbeek Station without incident. European, British and American troops take Cape Town; Soviet, Australian and American troops grab Durban. The Libyans began to withdraw when the Americans announced their intention to intercede, though it was the Soviets who were ultimately successful in convincing Gadaffi to pull out; Moscow convinces their new friends in Washington to hand over an item of very deep importance to the Colonel, which was sitting in a box somewhere in Langley since 1982. While the Libyans are not successful in retreating with all the hardware they flew in, it’s mostly outdated crap from the 70’s and 80’s anyway; Libyan T-55’s and South African Olifants ultimately proved no match for the high-tech M1 Abrams and T-90, and the South African Civil War brought deadly aerial and orbital weaponry to bare. It takes around two months of fighting before the rebels and government forces come back to the peace table. The Cape Town Talks go on for over a year, and are far less productive or measured this time around than the ones in Bloemfontein, dragging on into 2002. Insurgents cause trouble all over South Africa, and despite the international coalition's best efforts, foreign volunteers are still bringing weapons and fighters into the country. However, most ordinary people are sick of the killing by 2002. Violence, the average South African realizes, has solved nothing and brought naught but destruction and ill will to the whole land. A peace deal is eventually brokered, which probably results in the partial dismemberment of South Africa. Control of Overbeek Station I see being transferred either to one of the South African successor states, being annexed by the US or UK, or perhaps going independent; it would be interesting if large numbers of white South Africans decide to make Overbeek Station their home and declare independence as the first extraterrestrial country. In 2004, the Treaty of Cape Town is signed, partitioning South Africa into the Cape Republic (comprising the former Cape Province), the Mzansi Federation (the old Transvaal, Natal and Orange Free State provinces), Republic of Ciskei, Bophuthatswana Confederation and the Free Port of Durban - that last one dominated by South Africans of Indian, Chinese and Malay descent, like a weird African Singapore. Even stranger is the independence of the Republic of Overbeek Station in 2005, the very first extraterrestrial nation-state, and a bit of a refuge for rich white South Africans. They’re not into Apartheid (that would just be bad PR), but the limited space available on the space station means they can justifiably be more...discriminating in who they allow to live on Overbeek. It wouldn’t be easy for a space colony to secede from Earth, but they’ll land on their feet. I can see them opening a casino, and maybe operating an off-shore (well, off-world) server for various “convenient” services and enterprises. If they play their cards right, perhaps Overbeek might evolve into a Stanford torus in the long-term. The international coalition sticks around and continues fighting the insurgency, while gradually withdrawing from the region, until the last foreign troops leave around 2005, when the new security forces in the region take over. Over time, these new countries (minus Overbeek) gradually begin to grow closer economically, as the wounds of the civil war begin to heal. The Association of South African Nations (ASAN) eventually becomes the foundation of the much larger Confederation of Azania, one of the Earth’s leading superpowers in 2185. In the short term, however, South Africa’s “place in the sun” as a functional African economy is instead filled by Nigeria, and eventually the East African Federation; the latter especially after the collapse of the UK in the 2030’s, and the nationalization of the Royal Space Agency’s prestigious Kilimanjaro Spaceport makes East Africa a big shot in the space game. Refugees from the South African Civil War (black and white) arrive in Europe, Canada, the United States, and to a far lesser extent, the Soviet Union. There will of course be war crimes tribunals. The culprits behind the nuclear attacks will of course be tried and executed, as will the crimes of the Apartheid regime and the crimes committed by the black nationalist factions. The ANC might run Mzansi post-war, but that was a position they had to pay for with a good pound or two of flesh, and they had to throw a bunch of dudes under the bus to avoid much more severe consequences. While it may be tempting to have Apartheid war criminals in space, Overbeek is unlikely to even humor the idea of bringing them onboard; a space station has all the downsides of being an island and a landlocked country, so they can’t afford negative press. With regards to Gadaffi, he follows the ANC’s lead and probably throws some people under the bus to save his own ass. Maybe he gives up his WMD’s, or maybe he stops just short of that, or goes for the “nuclear ambiguity” route. The South African conflict sees the US Army and Red Army (rivals in a yesterday's war that never happened) grow pretty chummy with one another, the blood of one mixing with the other on the battlefield. And while the Europeans start out as the dark horse of the coalition (multiple languages, roughly standardized equipment, lots of inexperienced troops, limited logistical ability) as the war goes on, they improve in leaps and bounds. This causes the Pentagon and the Kremlin to look at each other, and then at the blue cancer metastasizing and federalizing across Europe, and then back at each other. They then gulp nervously at the same time. So, those are some loose ideas I have. I'd love to hear feedback and suggestions, to help me beef up the lore.
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