The Gods Must Have Been Crazy

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Freedom Day was always a raucous time in the Union. Such was to be expected, really, when considering that it was one of the few holidays which the entire country celebrated together, rather than simply another one of the countless regional festivals. Down from the sleepy mountain capital of Maseru would come a bedazzling array of ministers, officials, and generals, who would in turn soon be joined by party functionaries and tribal chiefs from as far away as distant Mukumbura. Endless ranks of PDF troops would parade through the streets, while the pride of the nation’s aerospace industry screamed overhead.

eGoli was no stranger to being the center of attention on these days. The urban sprawl which made up the largest city in the Union, after all, stood witness to the events celebrated with all the pomp and circumstance the UAPR could muster. Even for the city once known as Johannesburg, however, 2100 was to be a special year.

It had been 100 years. A century since the toil and struggle of the revolution which had swept the land like bushfire and torn apart the last remnants of dead empires. A long century of feuding, reconstruction, and reconciliation. The nation which rose out of the ashes survived against all odds, and now, 100 years later, it was nearly unrecognizable from the tired warzone it had once been.

For the President, it was an important moment, one of the few when he could speak with complete certainty that the entire nation was listening not to the Secretary-General or some party official, but to him. A moment of complete unity in the Rainbow Nation, all focused on a position which otherwise wielded little power. Truth be told, the whole President thing was really just supposed to be his retirement, but he did quite enjoy these little ceremonies from time to time, and the pay wasn’t that bad for what it was…

Thus, it was with a sense of great satisfaction that Magashule adjusted his tie, stepped up to the podium, and surveyed the troops arrayed in Mandela Square.

“Dear people of the Union. Dear veterans, soldiers, sailors, and comrades. I wish you a happy Freedom Day!”

“On this day, we mark not just one hundred years from the day when our ancestors cast down their oppressors and took their fate into their own hands, but one hundred years of triumph and accomplishments. For one hundred years we have fought, on the battlefields, in the factories and the mines, so that our Union may rise from the ashes of colonialism and be able to promise peace and prosperity for our children, and all the children after them.”

“Today we remember those who sacrificed themselves for our nation’s future and avenged a century of humiliation for all our peoples. Our freedom was carved out over decades of courageous resistance, by men who fought and died for a dream they would not live to see. In their own blood, they planted the seeds for trees whose shade they would never enjoy. From resistance fighters in the bushlands of Zimbabwe to partisan cells in these very streets in eGoli, they laid the foundations of all that was to come. For them, I would ask for a moment of silence.”

After a moment, he continued.

“On this day, we must also look to the future, to ensure that we continue to prove ourselves worthy of the deeds of those who came before, who liberated our homes and drove the scourge of apartheid from our soil. We now stand at the dawn of the twenty-second century, faced with new challenges and new potentials. We have made scientific and technological strides beyond all reckoning. The stars above us no longer lie out of reach, and even the ice-covered plains to the south beckon. It is within our destiny to seize upon these opportunities, to forge boldly ahead to new frontiers, and to uphold the legacy of our forefathers by preserving our revolution and furthering our great Union for the benefit of all those who have yet to come!”

Magashule smiled and stepped back from the podium. Soon, he knew, the message would be translated into dozens of languages and dialects and broadcast from the high-rises of eThekwini to even the little portable radios carried by some of the Namibian bushmen. And then, the celebrations could begin in earnest.

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The Road to 2100 - The End of All Things

The idea of turning the atom into a weapon had arisen surprisingly early in the history of southern Africa. It was not, however, one which had been pushed forward by its native population, but rather by the Afrikaner government of South Africa. The destructive potential of such a weapon, though never before witnessed, had been theorized about extensively, and for the ruling white minority, it proved to be an attractive concept to hold the colored masses at bay. The large quantities of uranium already being mined from the country would turn an attractive option into a potentially viable one.

Of course, nuclear power is an expensive and complicated thing, especially for a regime which was growing increasingly isolated, and found much of its resources being devoured by the never-ending war against local populations. Thus, the first real forays into this field would not come until the 1960s, and would be in the form of a pair of research reactors. Though supposedly both for civilian purposes, the fact that the SAFARI-1 reactor facility was named “Pelindaba,” the Zulu phrase for the ending of a story, spoke volumes.

The 1977 annexation of what was then known as Rhodesia, however, quickly brought an end to any ambitions for nuclear weapons, as funding was diverted to meet the ever growing needs of the SADF. Nonetheless, some civilian developments would continue along this line, culminating in the opening of the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station near the city once known as Cape Town in 1984. By this point, however, the war was rapidly taking a turn for the worse, and no further developments would occur under the Afrikaner regime.

The existence of the Koeberg reactor would, however, prove to be a serious headache with the fall of Apartheid. After the Fall of Pretoria, a popular uprising across the Cape caused the last remnants of the Afrikaner government to collapse, however, Koeberg remained in the hands of regime loyalists, and required skilled technicians to operate, things which the factitious revolutionary councils controlling the city could not provide. Fears ran rampant of what might happen if the reactor was sabotaged or damaged by its operators in some act of vengeance.

A rare compromise was reached with the last loyalists at Koeberg. The safe shutdown of the South African reactors in exchange for their own safe passage out of the increasingly violent country. Thus ended the South African nuclear program.

Over the next decade, the Union would begin to pull itself together into something resembling stability. Thoughts about nuclear physics could not be further from the minds of the government or its people during this time, and the nation lacked the skilled personnel needed to bring about such a thing regardless. Captured research from the South Africans would be left to simply gather dust. That limitation would soon begin to change, however, with the beginning of a general drive to rebuild an educated population base in the wake of the war and the subsequent flight of the former elite. It was complicated work, taking place over decades. Regardless, thoughts regarding the nation’s nuclear potential inevitably began to trickle back into the public discourse. It certainly had its appeal, even beyond making use of a resource that could be found in abundance within the Union. Presented as a clean and environmentally friendly means of powering the nation and a way of demonstrating the new technological prowess of the African people, it played well to the prevailing sentiments of the time.

All the same, it would not be until the economic openings of the 2050s when these projects were able to leave their drawing boards. A first foray would come in the form of the opening of two new research reactors, once again at a rebuilt Pelindaba. Soon, under the oversight of the People’s Atomic Energy Council, a new power plant was being constructed where Koeberg had once stood, in the hopes of staving off the crippling power shortages then afflicting Cape Town, or as it was now named, eKapa. The success of this project was widely publicized among the population as a great advancement for the nation, and led to a marked increase in interest. Suddenly, local Party officials wanted to be able to demonstrate that their communities too were capable of achieving such feats(or rather, that they had managed to lead their communities to achieving such feats). Whatever the causes and motivations, nuclear power plants would begin to crop up across the rapidly developing southern portions of the country. First two more at eKapa, then another two along the Namakwa coast, and yet another at Oyster Bay. Things would only take off from there throughout the latter half of the 21st century, albeit at a more slow and steady pace.

Humans being what they are, the return of such nuclear research to the Union inevitably would once more bring up the question of weaponizing the process. The matter was quite controversial, and somewhat unusually for a nation which by then was enjoying spirited and open debates on party policy, kept confined in close secrecy to the upper levels of government. Certainly, there were the benefits of deterrence, ensuring that the people of the Union would not fall into the grip of foreign oppressors again. Some would even go so far as to suggest that the presence of such weapons, if they lived up to their supposed potential, would finally end the need for a large standing army, a statement which earned no small amount of derision from the generals in the room.

But such pursuits did not come without their costs. It was a time of unprecedented prosperity for the Union, built on the exports of natural resources and labor. Few were interested in rocking the boat by seeking to develop such weapons, especially when no other nation had done so. And the destructive potential, if the science held true, was surely well beyond what any had the right to use.

Such were the divisions within the government, but by eventually, there would be a clear and inevitable victor. If the atom could be weaponized, then it was a weapon which the Union ought to have. Thus, the country would find itself on a path similar to the one followed by its previous oppressors. Enrichment and heavy water facilities were commissioned, and unlike the prestige projects of the past, these were to be buried under mountains and thick concrete, protected by the People’s Air Defense Force. By the year 2100, as the nation celebrated its centennial, the completion of these projects would allow development to enter full swing.

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The Road to 2100 - NITwits

To say that the matter of education within the Union had been a bit of a mess after the Revolution was something of an understatement. Decades of warfare did not typically result in a well trained workforce, and much of the skilled population had consisted of the greatly reduced and very much unwelcome Afrikaner minority, which had little inclination to remain within the country they no longer ruled. The incredible disorganization and more than occasional infighting of the following years did little to help the matter, but as the Union began to take shape as a functioning country and the old educational system was slowly pieced back together, the question of bringing technical skills into the country in order to facilitate its reconstruction and secure its future would arise once again.

By necessity, it would begin as a small scale thing. The People’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research would be formed for the purpose of supporting promising individuals in obtaining higher education abroad, much to the distaste of the many Party factions who preferred a far more isolated stance. But as the nation continued to rebound and many of the wilder ideological stances were eliminated, considerable investments would be made with the goal of being able to provide higher level education domestically. This would eventually result in the creation of the National Institutes of Technology, a system of public technical and research universities which would eventually evolve into the premier institutions in the country.

The first such institute would be formed in Tshwane, formerly known as Pretoria. The system quickly became notorious for its difficult entrance exams, a fact which led to the rise of a large industry of paid tutors which inherently favored students from well off backgrounds. This naturally flew in the face of the egalitarian ideals on which the Union was to operate on, but ultimately there was little motivation for Party officials to crack down on a system which was ensuring that their own children would have the best shot. This phenomenon disproportionately favored the nation’s new elite among the urban colored populations of former South Africa. The term “NITwits” was sarcastically coined by a local leader in the remote Lozi People’s Republic to refer to this privileged group, however, the nickname was soon taken up as a point of pride by NIT graduates. This stratification was only somewhat alleviated as additional NITs were opened around the country, bringing new opportunities to cities beyond the nation’s core regions.

The rapid growth of the NIT system was funded in no small part fueled by the nation’s own explosive economic development in the mid 21st century, as new policies of openness and trade brought considerable growth fueled by extensive natural resources and cheap labor. Even as automation ate away at manufacturing jobs, efforts to create a strong service sector were well underway, and in total 23 NITs would enter operation, many of them teaching primarily in their own area’s local language.

While other universities have since sprouted up in the Union, the NITs remain the premier institutes for science and technology. By the dawn of the 22nd century, widespread automation meant that much of the unskilled and semi-skilled labor positions the Union’s population had once relied on had gradually dried up. Placement in one of the NITs was seen as the best way to avoid life on a government stipend, and entrance to the prestigious universities became ever more competitive. The NITs themselves had grown and changed over the century. No longer were they merely churning out a pool of graduates for outsourced jobs or expatriation, but they had also begun to play a far more active role in pushing forward new research of their own. This would be exemplified with NIT-Tshwane’s contributions to the development of the Tesla Drive, a feat which would cement the institution’s place in the Union as a driver of scientific progress.

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The Road to 2100 - Dam It All

Water was a precious thing, especially in southern Africa. An exploding population, a large agricultural sector, and vast, dry stretches of land would ensure that the Union would use every means at its disposal to fully harness the nation’s rivers. Such efforts would be most obvious in the form of the large dams which spanned numerous waterways, redirecting flows and generating much needed hydroelectricity.

The most well known project would lie in the mountainous bowels of the nation, in the form of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. Oddly enough, it had first been initiated by the old Afrikaner government which had ruled South Africa and occupied Lesotho, completing the large Katse Dam. Built on more than a little human suffering, the Katse Dam lay on the Malibamat’so River, and saw the displacement of numerous local farming communities and the damage to Lesotho’s already limited arable land.

Needless to say, Katse would prove to be a controversy after the war. Though it had been built by an occupying force, it remained a vital source of water and energy for the surrounding cities, even after the government which had built it had fallen. Though there were few things that the coalition of rebels could agree on in those hectic early days of the Union, the preservation of what little infrastructure remained undamaged was chief among them. The establishment of the national capital at Maseru in honor of its historic role in the Revolution as well as the offer of belated compensation to the affected communities would, however, go a significant way in smoothing things over with the Lesothans. Indeed, the years following the stabilization of the country would see the construction of new dams in order to help support the Union’s core territories. Thus, the Lesotho Highlands Water Project was inaugurated.

In all, the Project would see the construction of an extensive system of tunnels and dams on the Malibamat’so, Matsoku, Senqunyane, and Senqu rivers, a considerable undertaking for the Union. Built so close to the capital territory and requiring significant mediation between multiple republics, it would quickly become an important symbol of what the central government could do for an often decentralized nation. Yet another demonstration of how far the country had come from the ruins of war and colonialism, the construction proved to be popular as it alleviated many of the shortages of the surrounding area and generated jobs and regular transfers of payments for Lesothan communities. Perhaps most importantly, it created a visible role for what had previously seemed like an increasingly out of place national leadership, and needless to say the Party would quickly seize upon the symbolism of the grand constructions crossing both literal and metaphorical rivers and uniting the people for common prosperity.

Ultimately, the success of the project would spur new cross-border building within the Union, as Maseru sought to bind the nation together. By the year 2100, cities would be bursting at the seams and the demands placed on the country’s water supplies would be greater than ever. Though countless new irrigation projects had taken place over the preceding decades, in such times the Lesotho Highlands Water Project would remain a vital piece of infrastructure at the nation’s heart, a representation of national cooperation and the Union itself.

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The Road to 2100 - The Tower of Babel

In many ways, the Union was a country that had no business ever being unified. It consisted of vast stretches of land populated by countless tribes and nationalities who had at various times warred with, subjugated, or ignored their neighbors. It had been the colonial boot which had forced them into a single border, and the brutality of the Afrikaners which had united them all against a common enemy. Yet, the ancient and diverse cultures of southern Africa could not simply be wiped away in favor of some homogenous ideal. The concepts of Pan-Africa Socialism would need to adapt to fit the many local groups that existed within the Union, lest it risk becoming merely the latest iteration of imperialist oppression.

It was perhaps because of this that in 2100, the Union would recognize some twenty-four different languages, with countless more local dialects being spoken throughout the country. In the early days after the Revolution, however, this was not necessarily a number which everyone had been happy with. There had been many calls to purge the various European languages entirely, remnants of a colonial legacy that they were. Indeed, the use of German, previously common on a local level in Namibia, would effectively cease within a few decades. The constant renaming of various buildings, streets, and entire cities would ensure that maps were in need of continuous updates, often becoming obsolete as soon as they were printed when yet another local Party official decided to make a statement by rechristening a local feature or ten.

Ultimately, while German would vanish from the Union, suggestions that the same happen to the likes of Afrikaans or English were completely futile. These were, at the end of the day, pretty much the two languages which almost everyone in the Union had in common, and as such they effectively remained the country’s lingua franca. While proposals were brought forward to create an entirely new artificial language that would take from the various local dialects and unify them, such would prove to be quite impractical and quickly end in failure when nobody could agree on what to even call said language.

By the 22nd century, Afrikaans and English would both continue to be widely taught in schools across the Union. Yet, the countless local languages would remain vibrant as ever in the Rainbow Nation.

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The Road to 2100 - And in the Darkness Bind Them

At its creation, the Union presided over a vast and wartorn land with ruined infrastructure left over from countless fallen colonial administrations and previously independent nations. The expanses of mountains, deserts, and bushlands did more to divide than unite, and though the capital of Maseru had been chosen for its historical symbolism and relative impartiality, its remote nature meant that it was a world apart from the country it was meant to govern. This state of affairs is what would lead to the increasingly decentralized nature of the Union, with individual republics gaining ever greater amounts of autonomy over their internal affairs.

Yet, they were still one nation, and that meant they needed to be connected. The postwar reconstruction would see a heavy emphasis on rebuilding train and road networks, not least because these projects came under the purview of the central government and allowed it to expand its influence across the Republics. Indeed, it was the stated goal of the Party that every city, town, and village, no matter how remote, should be connected to a modern transportation network. A rather grandiose target, all things considered, but nonetheless there would be significant strides taken in this direction throughout the 21st century. As with many things during the early, more paranoid days of the Union, there was a military motive to complement the civilian ones. In addition to providing an invaluable logistics network, the nation’s new highway systems would also be built to serve as auxiliary airbases, with the expectation that military aircraft should be able to use them as runways if need be. This design feature remains widespread, and outside of military exercises has seen practical use by the nation’s Airborne Medical Corps, which serves the more remote portions of the country. Bureaucratic barriers to trade and travel would also gradually be dismantled. The nation’s internal passport system, a holdover from harsher times, would be abolished in the 2050s, allowing for full freedom of movement within the country.

As time went on and the population boomed, ordinary rail would be replaced by an extensive network of high speed maglevs which would tie the country together, and roads would become increasingly dominated by self driving vehicles. By 2100, much of the nation’s civilian supply chains would rely on self driving trucks and drones which raced across the African expanses from city to city.

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The Road to 2100 - The Centre Did Not Hold

The Union was a nation full of people who, at its inception, had very little in common. This was certainly a fact which countless ideologues and politicians would rail against in the name of Pan-African Socialism, but it was a simple truth. Colonialism had brought countless different groups together into new borders, and the demise of imperialism had seen them spun off into dozens of nations defined by lines drawn on the maps of other men. The South African invasions and occupations of its neighbors would once again contort the political fabric of the region, bringing a host of nationalities, tribes, and ethnic groups together in opposition to their enemy.

Those who seized control of the strange, chimeric state that was born out of the fires of the Revolution had essentially done so at gunpoint. Many of them had spent their lives leading one group of militias or another, and were for all intents and purposes military men who would seek to rule in a military fashion. Indeed, perhaps this turned out for the best, as the improvised command structures which had formed to unite the countless local level groups into a national force served well when it came to holding the Union together and maintaining order. It was not merely firepower, however, which kept the nation together. The personal alliances and power sharing agreements that had been built between various regional leaders would do far more for the nation’s unity than any laws or declarations written on paper. In this way, the early Union would resemble a collection of local juntas bound together under the aegis of the Party, with a careful balance between the central government and the various regional powers.

Of course, as the situation stabilized, the structure of the Union would finally be codified. Individual republics would maintain broad powers over their internal affairs, while the central government would largely be relegated to maintaining a national military, currency, and foreign policy, as well as wielding power over commerce between the Republics. By 2100, the same basic structure would remain remarkably intact. The government in Maseru had seen its power grow in some respects, but its domestic policies continued to rely on the consensus of the Republics. This was not to say that some sense of common statehood had not evolved, however. The nation was more connected than ever, and even the infamously irritating internal passport system had been abolished by 2100. Nonetheless, the Union would in many ways continue to exist as a partnership of peoples, brought together by the strange circumstances of history.

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The Road to 2100 - Golddiggers

The Union had always been a mining country. The vast natural resources of southern Africa had kept the nation afloat in the aftermath of the revolution, and prior to the manufacturing boom of the 2050s, almost everyone was in some way linked to the vast mining industry. While the UAPR’s economy may have grown and diversified, mining had not ended with these advances. Sure enough, it was increasingly constrained by what had previously been tepid attempts at environmental regulations, though in many cases irrecoverable damage had already been done. But in other ways, the industry would grow. Modern infrastructure created a skyrocketing demand for rare earths and other such materials, and advances in technology offered the tantalizing prospect of being able to conduct such operations in a far safer and less controversial way, perhaps even off African territory entirely.

This would initially begin with the development of deep sea mining, which would truly begin to pick off in the late 21st century in the depths of the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. Far more out of sight and out of mind than traditional extraction, and it offered access to a wealth of resources for the Union. Unlike the largely government run operations on land, seabed mining would be notable for how heavily driven it was by private industry, a phenomenon which had become increasingly common in other areas throughout this period.

Yet, it would be the development of the Tesla drive that brought the biggest shift to the Union’s mining industry. Suddenly, the wealth of the asteroid belt was easily available, and the riches of the solar system made the old, depleting mines back home seem paltry in comparison. A host of corporations within the Union would scramble to be the first to reach this treasure in something resembling a modern day gold rush, only with dueling lobbyists and lawyers. The establishment of Ceres Station as a waypoint would be what finally facilitated operations in this lawless new frontier, with its dockyards and fuel depots allowing the Union’s mining vessels to operate throughout the belt before bringing their cargo home.

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The Road to 2100 - It’s Kings All the way Down

The Union of African People’s Republics was, as the name suggested, a Union consisting of Republics located in Africa, and presumably belonging to their People. This rather obvious conclusion would suggest that decidedly un-egalitarian concepts such as monarchies were wholly incompatible with the UAPR’s system. Indeed, communism itself was not an ideology that could be easily reconciled with kings and queens, especially given how the system had first burst onto the world stage. Yet, in a somewhat odd twist, the UAPR was home to not one monarchy, but dozens.

In many ways, it is a testament to how the Pan-African Socialism espoused by the Party has taken communist ideals and adapted them to the societies of southern Africa. The matter has, however, historically been a source of conflict and debate reflective of the UAPR’s often confused relationship with traditional rulers. One could even argue that the UAPR owed its existence to the royal family of Lesotho, whose nation had given shelter and support to South African rebels in the early days of the Revolution, ultimately at the cost of their own lives. It was certainly no accident that Maseru, the former capital of Lesotho, would become the new seat of government at the end of war, and the House of Moshoeshoe would be remembered fondly in the national consciousness.

Of course, the Lesothans were not the only ones who had found themselves in a strange alliance with the leftist guerillas spearheading the uprising. As the war grew ever more brutal, the Afrikaner government had increasingly abandoned its efforts to coopt traditional leaders and intensified its crackdowns on local populations. Tribal rulers, who still held a great deal of sway and popular support, would be instrumental in mobilizing those they still nominally ruled over against the common enemy. On the other end of the spectrum, however, there were still those who collaborated with the regime. Most infamous was the government of Swaziland, which had maintained a secret security agreement with South Africa and often allowed the SADF to pursue its targets over the border. Even beyond the House of Dlamini, were a dizzying variety of semi-sovereign bantustans hastily established by the Apartheid government in an effort to segregate the native populations from the rest of the country.

Needless to say, when all was said and done and the Revolution won, there was a great deal of spirited debate over what future the various monarchies could possibly have in the Union. Even as many collaborationist houses were dismantled, sometimes violently in the case of Swaziland, there remained numerous traditional leaders who had played an important role in winning the war, and held a great deal of sway. Suggestions of attributing any kind of official powers or recognition to these subnational monarchies were ultimately rejected, especially as the Party was disinclined to grant formal roles to hereditary institutions.

That the Party did not recognize these institutions, however, did not mean that they ceased to exist. Those who had supported the Revolution would continue to wield a great deal of influence(and in the chaotic early days, firepower), and would even make their way into various government positions. Local authorities would frequently have to contend with what could sometimes amount to entire parallel power structures. While these situations would become less common as the various republican governments finally began to assert themselves, it was certainly indisputable that constituent monarchs would hold some level of respect within their communities.

Towards the middle of the 21st century, the central government would finally make an effort to formalize its relationship with these groups. Termed as “Principal Leaders,” the UAPR would by 2100 be home to over seventy recognized constituent monarchs and tribal leaders. While not granted any formal powers, local officials were “Encouraged to work alongside community leaders in order to better serve the People.” This would prove to be most relevant in the nation’s ongoing efforts to record and preserve the histories and lineages of its many constituent groups, and in many ways the monarchs of the Union represented a past that had been increasingly lost to time and conflict.

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The Road to 2100 - Through Endurance We Conquer

Antarctica was a vast, unclaimed wasteland, uninhabited and uninhabitable, a meaningless white blob at the bottom of the maps with no enforceable claims and no borders, and likely to remain so forever, especially when there were so many more interesting things going on in the equally unclaimed and far more vast expanses of space. Or at least, that was how much of the general public had seen it. In truth, there were still a great many things going on in the continent, and the Union’s relative proximity to the territory meant that it was inevitable that it would play a role.

This role effectively predated the Union itself, and went all the way back to the old South Africa. The South African National Antarctic Program had always been of a fairly low priority, mostly due to the governments resources being directed to efforts to retain control over their increasingly disintegrating nation. Antarctic operations during this period were centered around the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands, and rarely went much further than those. The Islands did become a source of serious contention after the success of the Revolution, however, as they were effectively the last bit of South African territory not in the hands of the rebels. Though the islands were home only to a handful of researchers, there was little in the way of a fleet with which to take them, and there were some suggestions that the Islands might be broken off from the country entirely. Ultimately, the final peace agreement between the rebels and the Apartheid government would see the islands used as a bargaining chip by the latter, and eventually handed over peacefully in exchange for various concessions regarding the safety of certain officials. Curiously, the PEI remain to this day one of the few territories which would keep their European names after the Revolution, likely due to lacking any local populace who might care to change that.

Thoughts about the southern continent would largely fade into the background for the newly born Union until the rapid economic growth and openness of the 2050s. Renewed interest and resources for exploration and research would see the creation of the People’s Antarctic Council to oversee such activities. The PEI, practically empty since the handover, would see new, permanent research facilities built, which eventually came to include an airstrip and docks for resupply. Over time, the PEI would transform into a logistical hub for southward forays, and home to a significant airforce and naval presence. From here the Office of Poland Programs would support four large permanent research bases in northern Enderby Land, dubbed Hainyeko I-IV respectively, along with countless temporary and seasonal sites spread around the continent. Each was capable of supporting over a thousand residents, though the numbers fluctuated wildly based on ongoing projects and the season.

Operations in the vast terra nullius that was Antarctica fell under the protection of the People’s Defense Force, whose ships and aircraft would maintain the logistical line which stretched from eKapa to the southern continent. In the late 21st century, as the Union’s presence on the continent continued to expand, the PDF began to take a more active role in refining its capabilities in the region, going so far as to hold small exercises on Antarctica. The development of the Tesla drive served to distract the government to new frontiers in space, but institutional interests in Antarctica had enjoyed decades to entrench themselves. While the budding Antarctic tourism industry would practically vanish overnight, companies which had spent years preparing for the first Antarctic mining operations in particular, had little interest in giving up those projects and all the sunk costs associated with them. That Antarctica was far closer and cheaper than the asteroid belt helped in that regard as well.

By 2100, there were thousands of Union personnel at any given time in Antarctica, a number which would only continue to rise as the nation considered the possibilities that lay in those virgin lands.

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The Road to 2100

The Union’s long and bloodsoaked history had given ample opportunities for the rise of national myths and heroes, but none were so pervasive as the Aviator. Of course, the Aviator was not really so much a person as it was an oft used literary and cinematic trope, based on a wide variety of very real characters who had been exaggerated to a greater or lesser extent by time and popular imagination. It was, perhaps, not so different from the sorts of spy characters that might have become popular elsewhere, though gadgets were replaced by rickety bush planes, and instead of espionage-filled bars, there was the open skies, an almost wild western sort of warzone amidst the Revolution.

The concept certainly had a bit of truth to it. The bushlands were vast and the South African Air Force was potent, but hideously overstretched. Across the massive and thinly populated northern frontiers, scattered dirt fields supported the handfuls of aircraft used by the soldiers of the Revolution, though mostly for reconnaissance and supply. It was dangerous work, training was poor and even a low-flying Cessna might be noticed and destroyed. The South African invasion of Botswana brought that nation’s small air wing briefly into the fight, along with marginally more skilled pilots, but even so, genuine combat roles for these aircraft were almost unheard of. It was only towards the end of the war, as the South African Air Force deteriorated from decades of constant combat missions and its own bases became vulnerable to attack, that the new People’s Air Defence Force would begin to deploy their aircraft in occasional light attack roles, typically using ad hoc armaments to little real effect save for the significant propaganda value.

Certainly, the image of a lone pilot over the desert expanse would prove to be a popular one, and in many ways the early Union was stitched together by its aviation fleet. It was, after all, a vast expanse whose already poor infrastructure was further ravaged by decades of warfare, but it had collectively inherited some 800 registered airports, though many were not much more than a gravel airfield out in the hinterlands. A rudimentary runway and a small aircraft might be a village’s only practical link to the rest of the nation, and indeed, the government would heavily rely on a growing fleet of bush planes to move everything from mail to emergency medical services.

And of course, there was another way aircraft held the early Union together. The handful of functioning South African airframes that the PADF was able to put back into service offered a rather decisive means of control over the mosaic of rural militias and warlords who often only paid nominal obeisance to Maseru. State control would greatly improve after the 2000s, however, the importance of airpower would certainly be baked into the consciousness of the People’s Defense Force. Even as late as the 2050s, helicopters disgorging troops into the bushlands during the Okavango Crisis would become an iconic image of the PDF, however much it might have sought to forget those unpleasant times.

Most other aspects of air travel in the Union would, however, see significant changes over the decades. As the economic and population explosions turned those backwater villages into towns and cities, their dusty airstrips would give way to modern, paved airports, and the days of small, independent pilots would be mostly replaced by national airlines with their far larger craft. The PADF too would grow up in its own way. The rickety attack aircraft and hastily armed helicopters would give way to a modern fleet, and the rise of the Union’s domestic aviation industry as well as technological developments in manufacturing would see extraordinary increases in an inventory which would become the jewel of the PDF.

This would, naturally, result in the expansion of existing basing infrastructure, as well as the construction of new facilities across the country and continued usage of the many joint civil/military airports in the country. Hard learned lessons in the importance of airpower as well as the huge investments made in the PADF necessitated significant efforts to protect its assets. Aircraft would be kept dispersed both at and across bases, and hardened aircraft shelters would be constructed to provide some shielding from physical and EMP damage. Similar hardening and dispersal tactics would be applied to critical base and logistics components, such as command and control functions as well as fuel and munitions dumps. A network of underground hangers would even be established in the Cape Fold and Maluti(formerly Drakensberg) mountains. Airfield repair capabilities were similarly carefully honed, with significant sites having multiple teams of maintenance and repair personnel ready to conduct rapid runway repair and other operations to keep the base operational. Other measures would include redundant runways, expanding the length of airfields in excess of required takeoff lengths, as well as building redundant taxiways and auxiliary taxiway runways.

By 2100, the idea of rugged bush pilots was one which existed entirely in popular imagination and vaguely pornographic jokes. However, their cultural presence certainly could not be understated, and the concept would continue to see frequent usage in movies, television, and literature. The rise of modern space exploration would even see the trope evolve, as the idea of asteroid-hoppers out on the new frontier became increasingly popularized, though it could not be further from the reality of the large, heavily automated mining vessels which plied the system.

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The Road to 2100 - There Once Were Some Ships That Put to Sea

The population explosion of the 21st century had been driven by a combination of what could be seen as positive factors - An end to widespread warfare and insecurity, markedly improving healthcare, and a rising but very much developing economy. Despite all this, the rapid growth in the Union put considerable stresses on the nation. eKapa alone would spread across and eventually even burst out of the Cape Peninsula, with the inevitable impact on the Cape Floristic Region becoming an environmental tragedy second only to the Okavango Disaster. Southern Africa was a historically dry land, and the pressures of the 21st century would necessitate the development of a complex and extensive irrigation, desalination, and water recycling system to make the most of water resources. The Union would similarly become something of a center for innovation when it came to maximizing the potential of its arable land, and the economic fortunes of the 2050s would result in notable investments towards hydroponics and vertical farming.

Yet, there would always be one place where food was abundant, and, as far as some were concerned, practically infinite. The seas offered endless potential for the trawling fleets of the Union, which had grown to impressive sizes. By the end of the 21st century, the nearby waters of the Southern Ocean would be increasingly visited by Union fishing vessels, which would become an important part of the nation’s growing Antarctic presence in their own right, as well as a sign of growing commercial activity in the region. This would not be the only sign of the Union’s growing nautical presence, however. The People’s Naval Defense Force was perhaps the smallest of the military’s three main branches, with little capacity to project any real power away from the nation’s shores. Primarily focused on defending the Union’s own long if rather desolate coastlines, it had only recently begun to enjoy serious funding, with a network of new bases established in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. This interest in naval matters had initially increased as the PNDF became heavily involved in supporting the Union’s activities in Antarctica and would, along with the PADF, play an increasingly important role in conducting the regular patrolling of Union waters and airspace. That it had more recently become a central component in the nation’s nuclear deterrent would raise it to far greater prominence. Certainly, the fleet of ballistic missile submarines was a good deal more survivable than any other platform the Union operated, and a network of VLF and ELF transmitters would be developed to maintain contact with this underwater force. In particular, a system of Emergency Action Messages, dispatched either from E-6B command aircraft kept constantly airborne on a rotating basis, underground command centers either in the government quarters of Maseru or from an alternative command site, which would itself be buried under Lesotho’s mountains. A system of high frequency transmitters would serve a similar purpose for the People’s Air Defense Force.

As the strange and chaotic year that was 2100 marched on, the development of the Tesla Drive would carry its own implications for the Union’s fleets, commerce, and southwards ambitions. The limitless resources offered by the solar system was almost enough to bring back old dreams of autarky among those few who still held to such ideologies. Certainly, the rapid expansion of space travel did raise questions as to the future of oceangoing warships given the expected reorientation of trade away from the seas. For at least a few weeks, it was a surprisingly common sentiment in Maseru that the only reason blue water vessels still remained was merely because the world had yet to catch up with the suddenness of the Drive’s invention. The equally sudden suggestion of hostile extraterrestrial life, however, did much to dispel the notion of outer space as little more than a convenient place to harvest resources. Earth’s oceans, for all their unpleasantness and conflict, seemed almost reliable now in the face of the vast unknown.

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The Road to 2100 - The Fabric of the Nation

Over its century of existence, the Union’s government had witnessed a long arc of transition from the reign violence that had defined its early days to the stable and relatively democratic norm established throughout the 21st century. At every turn in its winding history, one constant had held in Maseru’s rule - Namely, the lack of it.

The UAPR’s confederal nature was a reflection of its history. The nation covered a vast sweep of Southern Africa, encompassing countless groups and peoples whose original unifying factor had quite simply been a common conqueror, and later, a common enemy. The brutality of the apartheid regime had spawned more opposition groups that could be counted, a fact further exacerbated by the violent expansions into other territories which contained their own local actors and interests. As such, the broader revolution against Pretoria remained highly fractured and regionalized. Even the formation of the African People’s Congress could only succeed in providing the loosest sort of leadership for this coalition in the war.

Even as the fires of the revolution settled, the old fractures in the APC were born anew. Without the greater existential threat, there was the persistent threat at the outset of the 21st century that the Union would simply disintegrate into its constituent regions, peacefully or otherwise. Indeed, the outset of the 21st century saw a countryside rife with chaos and internecine violence as a region awash in arms and semi-independent militias began to devour itself. That the Congress held together at all during this period could at least partially be attributed to a persistent fear that the violence and expulsions dealt to the Afrikaner population would not go wholly unpunished by the world. As such, paranoia and warfare would birth the Union, and these two factors would define its first years.

A mistrust of strong central authority would give rise to a confederation of autonomous People’s Republics largely determined by the political and military factions who held sway over particular regions. This mistrust was in turn overridden by the lingering threat of both continued internal and possible external violence, thus leading to the formation of a truly national military. This decision would come to play a central role in the early understanding of Maseru’s role as a governing power - that of a joint military command and a foreign ministry rolled into one.

What could be said of the Union’s army? On paper, the People’s Ground Defense Force was by far the largest military branch in the country. A million soldiers under arms, and behind them a dizzying array, contractors, support units, and administrators that formed the ruthlessly efficient logistics and bureaucracy required to operate and deploy a force of this magnitude. It could claim descent from both the militias of the Revolution and the South African Defense Force, but grew to bear little resemblance to either. The PGDF did indeed originate from a combination of many irregular forces who often held more loyalty to their home region than the national government, but time and concurrent political shifts would erode these boundaries.

The ultimate form the force took was influenced most of all by the nation that the Union became - one with both a burgeoning population and industry, which enjoyed increasing stability at home alongside literally skyrocketing levels of economic, technological, and infrastructural development. Thus the PGDF grew into a large mechanized force capable of partaking in sophisticated combined arms operations on the southern African expanses. Much like the other branches of the military, the PGDF was by now greatly enlarged compared to any comparable force in the region’s history. With a level of funding that was nearly as overwhelming as the budgets allocated to the airforce, the army of the 22nd century enjoyed the use of a wide array of military installations across southern Africa. These enjoyed degrees of hardening and dispersal similar to the airforce in order to protect vital systems and equipment. An array of army-operated command centers buried beneath the mountains of southern Africa also formed components of the Union’s continuity of government planning. Similarly, it is the PGDF that operates the National Strategic Petroleum Reserves, which are intended to ensure an inventory equal to 65 days of the nation’s consumption.

By 2100 the PGDF was certainly by far the largest branch of the Union’s military in terms of personnel, no mean feat given that some one in twenty among the Union’s population were in some way engaged in the armed forces or its offshoots and support branches. The PGDF loomed larger still in terms of its historical impacts on the nation, and its own development served as a representation of the Union’s evolution from its bleak roots to a functioning entity. The dawn of a new century also brought forward unique challenges regarding the army’s future as an institution. The wide proliferation of nuclear weapons raised new questions surrounding the continued necessity of large expenditures on ground forces. The increased focus on space further generated discussion, particularly as troops designated for space-based combat were assigned to a newly created People’s Space Defense Force, and the PGDF was given little role beyond the Earth’s immediate orbit.

What Ties Us Together

The internet. The UAPR of 2100 was a modern nation, and as such no stranger to the online world. Indeed, the level of interconnectivity offered by online platforms had served to define and transform the Union’s society in the aftermath of the Revolution. This was not, however, to say that these platforms had enjoyed a smooth or straightforward time in southern Africa, and as with all things in the Union the internet was bound in complexity and history.

The first forays into this field began in the old Union of South Africa during the late 1980s, and early developments were centered around Rhodes University. Though the University became the first South African institution to have its own IP address. Such progress was largely academic in nature though, and ground to a halt amidst the intensifying warfare. The Apartheid government was not only forced to increasingly redirect funds from academic institutions, but was also beginning to draw upon conscripted manpower which naturally pulled potential researchers away from their normal duties. Needless to say, in such times the development of online infrastructure was very far from being anyone’s priority.

At least, it was very far from being an official priority. With ever intensifying media blackouts and censorship throughout the 1990s, those South African households who had internet access would find increasingly creative ways to utilize it in order to communicate and spread unauthorized information. To be sure, households with such access were typically the very wealthiest of the increasingly beleaguered white population. Even so, a number of thriving communities developed through the basic text-based messaging system known as Internet Relay Chat. These networks were perhaps most useful to the African People’s Congress and their assortment of rebel groups, as news of falling cities and SADF defeats on the battlefield now spread far faster and far more dangerously, lending to an escalating sense of demoralization among the South African elite. The perceived hopelessness of the fight led to greater rates of draft dodging among the upper classes, which in turn drew the ire of their less privileged brethren who were all the more likely to simply desert in the knowledge that their leadership was also looking to escape the crumbling Apartheid state. The ultimate impact of IRC on the overall conflict is debatable, though the APC would later make more grandiose claims of its impact. Whatever the case, Internet Relay Chat would have one final role to play in the war, as audiences worldwide would be able to hear the final reports from a burning Cape Town.

By the end of the war, the country’s nascent Internet backbones had effectively been shattered, with infrastructure largely in ruins and specialized personnel either dead or fleeing. For much of the 2000s, southern Africa was something of a black hole when it came to computer technology, with internet access largely limited to government elite in the major urban centers. Gradual economic and technological recovery began to change this by the 2020s, at which point the UAPR gained a growing online presence. Social media usage skyrocketed alongside the proliferation of smartphones and offered an easy way to communicate across the vast nation with nothing more than a basic data plan.

The Union of this time was not nearly as open nor open-minded as it would come to be by the 22nd century, and the scars of the war and wariness towards foreign influences lingered in the halls of power even as trade and technology accelerated the nation’s growth. Such broad feelings were given a firmer form due to the determination that the central government in Maseru would have the power to regulate online activity, rather than the individual republics. A sense of standoffishness came to define subsequent regulatory actions taken around the internet, many of which would continue to persist even into the present day. While the strictest censorship measures have since largely eroded away, the Union’s internet infrastructure still resembles something closer to a massive intranet system. For instance, foreign telecommunications companies and internet service providers remained effectively sealed off from the Union’s market, which was instead still dominated by state-run enterprises. This closely-knit system was perfectly capable of exchanging traffic within the country, but developed relatively few exchange points with which to link into the global internet. This structure in turn lent itself to the development of a gateway system where traffic within the country could be monitored and influenced thanks to government control of service providers within its borders. Indeed, at the height of the Okavango Crisis, it was feared that Maseru would implement tight internet controls or even sever the Union’s connections to the wider world altogether in an effort to maintain control over the spiraling situation.

The former, fortunately, did not happen while the latter would have been several bridges too far even during the most dangerous moments of the Crisis. Connectivity with the wider world had, for better or for worse, become far too important to the Union’s economy and to its society. Those who held firm to the more traditional fears of foreign culture and ideology would certainly seek to make this not so in fits and starts across regulatory battles in the Congress, but as ever, the people had their say.