The Portuguese explored the coasts of South Africa in the late 15th century, and nominally claimed them as their own with the erecting of padrões (large stone cross inscribed with the coat of arms of Portugal placed there as part of a land claim).
Bartolomeu Dias did so in 1486, and Vasco da Gama recorded a sighting of the Cape of Good Hope in 1497, en route to India.
The early 20th century witnessed a trickle of emigrants from Madeira whose numbers greatly increased in the decades following World War II.
Madeiran immigrants, who are traditionally associated with horticulture and commerce, form the largest group within South Africa's Portuguese community.
The largest single event of Portuguese settlement occurred when two of the former Portuguese colonies, (Angola and Mozambique), became independent in 1975.
While most Portuguese from the two Portuguese-speaking African countries went to Portugal and the rest to Brazil, some of them were allowed to enter South Africa.
Their entrance made South Africa the home of the largest Portuguese African population, numbering about 49 000, but their number grew to 300,000.
One known Portuguese South African creation was Nando’s, created in 1987, which incorporated influences from former Portuguese settlers from Mozambique, many of whom had settled on the south-eastern side of Johannesburg after Mozambique's independence in 1975.
The Portuguese South African community is highly active within the South African community, both politically and economically.
Notable members include Maria Ramos who was the former director general of South Africa's National Treasury. She is currently the Group CEO of ABSA, one of South Africa's largest financial services companies.
Other Portuguese involvement within the business community includes companies like Mercantile Bank.
The community is also actively involved in investment activities with other Southern African countries like Angola and Mozambique.
Socially the Portuguese community have held an annual festival called Lusito Land (the second largest festival in South Africa).
Portuguese-South Africans natively speak European Portuguese (many in the Madeiran dialect), while also adopting South African English, which tends to become the first language of second- and third-generation Portuguese-South Africans.
Some others also speak Afrikaans. Many members of younger generations of Portuguese-South Africans can only speak Afrikaans or English.