San hunter-gatherers, likely descendants of the Late Stone Age peoples, may never have exceeded 20 000 in number. They lived in small bands of twenty to two hundred persons. They were highly mobile because of their dependence on game, and for same reason widely dispersed territorially. The political organisation was very rudimentary. Chiefs seem to have had ritual importance in rain-making and in various other ways, and they seem to have been respected as leaders of families. San languages have been divided into three main groups, located today in south-eastern Angola, between the upper reaches of the Zambesi and the Limpopo and on the Botswana-Namibian border in the northern Kalahari.

The Khoikhoi, numbering at most 100 000 people when the Durch arrived, lived mainly along the Orange. They had a more elaborate social organisation than the San and were distributed in tribes of up to 2500 members and occasionally more. they possessed fat-tailed sheeps and cattle. Before the white man`s arrival it seems they conducted a trade with their Bantu-speaking neighbours in cattle, iron and copper. They also interacted, and to some extent intermarried, with Cape Nguni, Thlaping and other groups. After the white settlement they traded their cattle for the Dutch Company`s tobacco and began to arrange a developing trade between the Europeans and the Xhosa to the east, but the European advance finally cost the Khoikhoi their land, their stock and their trading role. After two battles they lost their identity as a distinct group. Most were driven into the white man´s service, as herdsmen, labourers or militiamen in the Colonial forces or gained admission to one of the mission stations set up by the Europeans from the late eighteenth century onwards. Some withdrew to the valley of the Orange.

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