The Republic of Cyprus and the Republic of South Africa share a history dating back more than a century through the various movements of Cypriot immigrants who started arriving at the end of the 19th Century. One of the first documented Cypriot immigrants to arrive in South Africa left his village of Phiti, Paphos and made the long voyage to arrive in South Africa in 1895. Mr. Constantinos Phitidis established himself and quickly rose as one of the earliest leaders of the Cypriot community in South Africa. He remained supportive of the fledgling Cypriot community and became the first president of the Cypriot Brotherhood in 1934.
The braking ground ceremony of the Cathedral of Saints Constantine and Helen in
Johannesburg on 5 January 1913. Seated on the far right side of the photo is the Cypriot
Constantinos Phitides great benefactor of the church
The periods of significant immigration to South Africa were a little before and during the Second World War, from 1955 to 1959, then again in the 1960s. The last period of significant Cypriot immigration occurred after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and lasted until 1979.These times represent periods of political instability and socioeconomic insecurity in Cyprus. The bulk of Cypriot immigrants during these times were young, unemployed males mostly from the rural areas of Cyprus.
Gathering of Greek Cypriots and Greeks
Cypriots are characterized as being diligent, dedicated and hard-working. Arriving with few skills, they found their niche in South African society generally working at street cafes. As they learned the business, many went on to open their own street cafes, tea rooms and corner cafes that became popular rest and meeting places in the growing South African cities.
The number of Cypriot immigrants slowly started to increase as word spread back home about the bright future that one could make for himself in South Africa. Soon, brothers, cousins and nephews joined those already in the country. Today, the number of Cypriot South Africans spread throughout the southern African region total more than 25,000 people. (click here to register with the High Commission)
Cypriots remain a significant part of the South African economic and social communities and continue to contribute graciously to the economic and social development of the country. As they established themselves and their families, Cypriots have moved from owning tea rooms and cafes to owning and operating successful, large businesses like hypermarkets and restaurants. They have expanded into various professions and for most Cypriots their children have graduated from Universities and are exercising various professions such as doctors, advocates, university professors, architects, teachers and engineers.
Cypriots are not only part of the Cypriot Brotherhood, which was founded in 1934 by a group of Cypriots who felt the urge to keep their traditions and beliefs alive, but are and were also active members of all the Hellenic Communities around South Africa, since their establishment.
The Cyprus Brotherhood of South Africa
In February 1934, 15 Cypriots residing in Johannesburg and the surrounding areas, being thousands of miles away from their mother country and keeping vivid the sense of nostalgia, decided to establish the “Cyprus Brotherhood of Johannesburg”. They drafted its Charter and asked more people to be actively involved. On 17 June 1934 40 Cypriots met at Roma Hotel of Johannesburg and after approving the Charter of the Brotherhood, they paid their contribution which was 5 shillings for registration and 3 shillings for monthly membership.
The cover page of the first volume of the minutes of the Cypriot Brotherhood of South Africa
Extract from the first page of the first volume of the minutes of the Cypriot Brotherhood of South Africa (First General Assembly, 17 June 1934)
The first President of the Brotherhood was Costas Phitides from the village of Phiti in the District of Paphos who was one of the first Cypriots, if not the first, who came to South Africa during the end of the nineteenth century. The establishment of the Brotherhood aimed at providing assistance to the new emigrants from Cyprus, to promote and preserve the Cypriot manners and customs in South Africa and to organize various functions at the country of residence that could keep the Cypriots united and close to each other and at the same time provide support to those needed.
From left seated: M. Michaelides, Sofoklis Christis, Charalambos Phitides, Costas Komodikis
From left standing: Charalambos Constantinides, Lambros Philippou, Georgios Tsirides
From left seated: Thomas Eleftheriou, Alekos Palexas, Kypros Marouchos, Nearxos Savvides, Nikos Nicolaides
From left standing: Evanthis Papadopoulos, Charalambos Economou, Georgios Morfou, Nikos Lanitis
Eighty years have passed ever since and through all these years the Cypriot Brotherhood has managed to make a significant contribution to the fulfilment of its goals and continues to be a place where all Cypriots can feel a bit closer to home.
During the Second World War, the Brotherhood organised a fund raising project in support of the South African victims of the war and they collected the important amount of 2.500 English pounds and gave it to the Mayor of Johannesburg. The Brotherhood offered also valuable assistance to those Cypriots and Greeks who found refuge in South Africa during the war.
Many social events and functions were organised through the years and with the money collected many people were supported and important contribution was also made for the construction of churches and schools in the surrounding areas.
In 1952, another group of Cypriots decided that it was time for the Brotherhood to have its own building. They bought the current huge plot of land and the building which was the residence of the Shah of Persia during the Second World War.
In 1955 the Brotherhood played an important role to the struggle for the liberation of Cyprus from the British rule while in 1974, the organised Cypriot community of South Africa offered substantial financial support to the victims of the Turkish invasion in the island. Around 970 orphans were supported and the Strovolos Elementary School was built thanks also to a significant contribution made by the Brotherhood.
The Cyprus Brotherhood of South Africa should be supported by the Cypriot community of South Africa. All Cypriots are urged to register with the Brotherhood and actively participate in the events the Brotherhood organizes. All Cypriots should feel at home when visiting the Brotherhood.
The Cypriot Brotherhood of South Africa today. It is situated in a prestigious area of Bedfordview, Johannesburg.
The Cyprus High Commission considers it as very important to assist in order to bring into light the fascinating history of the Cypriot Community of South Africa. In particular, the High Commission is launching a project for the collection of photographic material depicting the history of this dynamic community through the years. Each contributor will be interviewed and the result will be a photographic exhibition together with a relevant publication with texts.
In view of the above, the Cyprus High Commission asks all of you with photographs, stories, and other archival documentation of your family’s odyssey from Cyprus to Southern Africa to lend us your information so that we can compile for the community a more in-depth history of Cypriot contributions to this region. With your help, we can show South Africa, Cyprus and the world the rich history behind why we are proud to call ourselves Cypriot South Africans.