In the Canon:-Edit
Terry Pratchett appears to have used the dark mysterious continent of Howondaland much as the Wizards of Unseen University use the Unreal Estate - as a dumping ground for leftover things and ideas and concepts that don't easily fit anywhere else.
Howondaland properly begins to the Rimwards (south) of Klatch and Hersheba, the countries which are the Disc's analogue of all things Arab and North African.Further south are jungle zones and savannahs which continue the African analogy with descriptions of black-skinned tribes and tribesmen. So far so good. Then the waters muddy slightly with Reaper Man, where it is revealed that there are plains in central Howondaland where a people not unlike Red Indians roam. Terry has also dropped tantalising hints in several places that as with the Foggy Islands and Fourecks, the Morporkian Empire got this far in the old days and planted a colony of white-skinned people, which may well live on today (although this is nver explicitly stated). Circumstantial evidence for this colony is in Jingo, where we are told that Lady Sybil Ramkin's grandfather led a military expedition to fight in Howondaland when there was a shortage of sworn enemies at home (there was apparently a lot more enemies and a lot more swearing when he left). The booklet accompanying the Discworlde Mappe tells us there was a great battle, involving Llamedosian soldiers under Ankh-Morpork command, at a place called Lawkes' Drain. This is tantalisingly evocative of the battle of Rorkes' Drift in South Africa, fought by Welsh soldiers. And then there is the enigma of Johanna Smith-Rhodes' name. This combines arch-imperialist Cecil Rhodes, who founded Rhodesia, with Ian Smith, who sought to maintain it as a white apartheid state in the 1970's. Suggesting that she comes from a very definite place and ethnicity and will have, at least to begin with, certain ideas and concepts about the world which other people might consider a trifle reactionary and perhaps even racist.
This tantalisingly suggests, but does not prove, the existence of a white colony in Howondaland which has overtones of our own former South Africa/Rhodesia. Which all sets the scene for...
The Union of Rimwards HowondalandEditThis is my Fanfic take on South Africa and all things South African. Now it is an unwritten law of Discworld that any take on an actual Roundworld nation must be something of a caricature with all the knobs turned up to eleven - the well-known things and stereotypes about that country and people are exaggerated, especially the more absurd and abberant.
I have chosen to model Discworld's "Sed-Efrrrrika" on how it was in the old apartheid days. Partly because this gives the stories more dramatic bite, and provides the rest of the Discworld with a semi-rogue state* it can point the finger at and say "they are bad!" Terry P has said, through the medium of Granny Weatherwax, that evil begins when people are treated not as people, but as things. The evil of apartheid lies in that it divided the human race into three classes of thing and stopped looking at them as people: there were white-skinned things, intermediate coloured-skinned things and lowly black-skinned things. However exalted, all people were "things". Terry himself would have been first to see the lunacy and the ludicrousness of apartheid, and therefore I have retained it as a going concern in a corner of the Discworld which is forever South Africa.
I have also chosen to give it a parellel history: the far end of Howondaland was settled five hundred years before the present by "Kerrigian" speaking settlers from the Sto Plains - ie, Dutch - and by Morporkian speaking settlers from Ankh-Morpork (ie, English). Kerrigian, over the years, mutates into a related language, Vondalaans (ie, Afrikaans) spoken by the Boortrekkies who colonise the interior, shortened to Boors for convenience as well as accuracy of description.
Besides, apartheid is such a lunatic concept and so revolting in the way it denied freedom, dignity, opportunity to make the best of oneself, et c, to a large group of people on the basis only of their skin colour, that it would not be out of place on the Discworld.
Coming from an apartheid state to a city where skin colour barely matters is also an opportunity for the character of Johanna Smith-Rhodes, as I have written her, to grow and change and mature over ten years. Initially an unthinking racist, she learns in Ankh-Morpork that her native country is horribly wrong and blinkered in its policies. Besides, she has to work with black fellow teachers and is put in a position, as a teacher at the Assassins' Guild School, where she has to treat black and white pupils equally and fairly. And Ankh-Morpork changes people...
The nation has several constituent states, largely divided on language grounds: of the principal states, or Staadts, the Kaarp Colony is largely Morporkian-speaking, but Natal and the Transvaal are Kerrigian/Vondalaans speaking. The newest constituent State is Smith-Rhodesia, named for the great adventurer Sir Cecil Smith-Rhodes, who led a small private army to annex a hitherto unclaimed Hubwards region of Rimwards Howondaland for the new nation. With superb modesty, he named the new land after himself. Although the displaced and resentful natives still insist (albeit not very loudly) its true name is Rumbabwe.
The national capital is Pratoria, named for Kerrigian adventurer Jan van der Prats. Exports are principally gold, diamonds, other precious metals and stones, and fruit and flowers. Imports are manufactured goods, weaponry for a large Army and Navy, and luxury items. The country is nominally a democratic Republik, provided your skin is white, you are a man over twenty-five, and you own property worth ober R20,000. The principle is one white man (subject to conditions), one vote. Government ministries are called Bureaux, and the most significant is the Bureau of State Security (BOSS), which shoulders the onerous burden of keeping the whole nation on the correct path and doing your thinking for you so that you do not have to. Indeed, people are often called into BOSS offices throughout the land to be gently reminded of the correct opinions to have.
- Israel on the Discworld? I'm not even going there.... (EDIT). Hah to that. I did. But carefully.