___ History of South Africa

People who shaped South Africa’s History: Jan van
Riebeeck, Paul Kruger, Daniel François Malan,
Oliver Tambo, Hendrik
Verwoerd, Steve Biko, P. W. Botha, F. W. de Klerk, Joe Slovo, Chris
Winnie Mandela, Eugene Terreblanche, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Nelson
Mandela, Desmond Tutu.
European Arrival.

Johan Anthoniszoon van Riebeeck
Jan van Riebeeck (21
April 1619 – 18 January 1677) of the Dutch East India Company, VOC, was a
Dutch colonial administrator and the founder of Cape Town. He was the
1st Commander of the Cape Colony (Kaapkolonie) from 1652 until 1662.

Although human settlement in the subcontinent extends back
thousands of years, racial conflict dates from the Dutch arrival at the
Cape of Good Hope in 1652, when the Dutch East India Company [Vereenigde
Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC, existed 1602-1798] established a
resupply station at Cape
for its fleets traveling between Holland and its empire in
South and Southeast Asia. During the first 150 years of European control
of the Cape, the company, a commercial operation, established some of
the most enduring features of colonial society. The company was not
interested in expanding European settlement across Africa, but only in
acquiring goods (fresh water, foodstuffs, replacement masts) to resupply
its ships. When local Khoisan peoples refused to provide these goods on
terms set by the company, the Europeans took up arms and drove most of
the local population into the interior. In place of local producers, the
company relied on a combination of European
farmers (mostly former employees of the company) and imported African
slave labor to work the land that had been seized from local residents.

When the European farmers (known as Boers) attempted to escape the
monopolistic trading practices and autocratic rule of the company by
moving into the interior, the company prohibited further expansion,
ended the emigration of Europeans to the Cape, and expanded the use of
slave labor. By the end of the eighteenth century, society in the Cape
was marked by antagonism between the local white community (mostly
descended from the same small group of seventeenth-century Dutch,
French, and German settlers) and a largely disinterested and
exploitative metropolitan ruler. The racial divide was reflected in the
pattern of land ownership and the authoritarian structure of
labor relations, based largely on slavery.

British acquisition. British
acquisition of the Cape at the beginning of the nineteenth century
accentuated divisions between local settlers and metropolitan rulers and
widened the racial divide between whites and blacks. The British
conquered the Cape largely to prevent it from falling into the hands of
Napoleon, and thus to protect their only sea route to their empire in
South Asia. Like the Dutch East India Company, the British were not
interested in expanding settlement but wanted to keep down the expense
of maintaining their strategic resupply station at Cape Town. Initially,
they continued to import African slaves to meet the labor needs of
white farmers, and they did not interfere
with the farmers’ harsh treatment of black workers. But the British also
tried to prevent further white expansion in South Africa–with its
attendant costs of greater levels of colonial government and the risk of
wars with Africans–by closing the borders of the Cape and importing
British settlers to create a loyal buffer in the east
between expansionist Boers and densely settled African communities.
Moreover, the British, influenced by strong humanitarian groups at home,
took steps to eliminate the racially discriminatory features of
colonial society, first by reforming the judicial system and punishing
white farmers who assaulted black workers, and later by freeing
all slaves throughout the British empire.

The Great Trek
Desperate for more land and fearful of losing all of their black
labor, many Boer families in the 1830s marched into the interior of
South Africa on the Great Trek, skirting the densest African
populations. These Voortrekkers [pioneers], or trekkers, hoped to
establish their own communities, free of British rule. Prevented by the
British from
establishing a republic on the Indian Ocean coast, where the British
colony of Natal helped protect the sea route to India, the Boers formed
two republics in the interior, the South African Republic (the region
known as the Transvaal) and the Orange Free State. Both republics’
economies were based on near-subsistence farming and hunting,
and both limited political rights to white males. Thus, white settlement
expanded across the region, but almost entirely into areas with few
local inhabitants. The majority of black Africans still lived in their
own autonomous societies.

The Discoveries of Gold and Diamonds.

The discovery of minerals in the late nineteenth century–diamonds in
1867 and gold in 1886–dramatically altered the economic and political
structure of southern Africa. The growing mineral industry created
ever-greater divisions between British and Boer, white and black, rich
and poor. At the turn of the century, for the first time,
South Africa had an extremely valuable resource that attracted foreign
capital and large-scale immigration. Discoveries of gold and diamonds in
South Africa exceeded those in any other part of the world, and more
foreign capital had been invested in South Africa than in the rest of
Africa combined. In the Transvaal, the site of the gold
discoveries, the white population expanded eightfold, while hundreds of
thousands of Africans sought work each year in the newly developed mines
and cities of industrializing areas. Yet not all shared equally in this
newfound wealth. Diamond and, in particular, gold mining industries
required vast amounts of inexpensive labor in order to
be profitable. To constrain the ability of African workers to bargain up
their wages, and to ensure that they put up with onerous employment
conditions, the British in the 1870s and 1880s conquered the
still-independent African states in southern Africa, confiscated the
bulk of the land and imposed cash taxation demands. In this way, they
ensured that men who had chosen previously to work in the mines on their
own terms were now forced to do so on employers’ terms. In the new
industrial cities, African workers were subjected to a bewildering array
of discriminatory laws and practices, all enforced in order to keep
workers cheap and pliable. In the much diminished rural
areas, the wives and children of these migrant laborers had to survive
in large part on the limited remittances sent back by their absent
menfolk. In short, many of the discriminatory features so typical of
twentieth-century South Africa–pass laws, urban ghettos, impoverished
rural homelands, African migrant labor–were first established in the
course of South Africa’s industrial revolution.

The South African War [The Second Boer War 1899-1902].

Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger
Paul Kruger (10 October
1825 – 14 July 1904) affectionately known as Oom Paul (Uncle Paul) was
State President of the South African Republic (Transvaal). He gained
international renown as the face of Boer resistance against the British
during the South African or Second Boer War (1899-1902). The Kruger
National Park is named after him, as is the Krugerrand coin.

But the discovery of minerals also exacerbated tensions between
the British and the Boers. Gold had been discovered in the Transvaal,
and that was beyond the reach of British rule. Yet the capital invested
in the mines, and thus the ownership of the gold industry, was primarily
British controlled. Lacking investment capital, the Boers found
themselves excluded from ownership and thus from the profits generated
in their midst. Indeed, most profits from the mines were reinvested in
Europe and the Americas and did not contribute to the growth of
additional industries in South Africa. The Boers sought to gain access
to some of this wealth through taxation policies; these
policies, however, incurred the wrath of the mine magnates and their
supporters in England. The South African War, fought by the Boers and
the British between 1899 and 1902, was primarily a struggle for the
control of gold. Although the Boers lost the war, in large part they won
the peace. The British realized that in order for the
diamond and gold industries to be operated profitably, they had to have a
local administration sympathetic to the financial and labor needs of
mining. They also realized–given demographic trends at the time–that
Boers would always constitute a majority of the white population. With
these factors in mind, the British abandoned their
wartime anti-Boer and pro-African rhetoric and negotiated a long-term
political settlement that put the local white community in charge of a
self-governing united South Africa.

The Union of South Africa. The
Union of South Africa, established on May 31, 1910, as a self-governing
state within the British Empire, legislatively restricted political and
property rights to whites at the expense of blacks. With the exception
of a very small number of voters in the Cape Province and Natal,
Africans were kept off electoral rolls throughout
most of the country. By the terms of the Mines and Works Act (1911),
only whites were permitted to hold skilled jobs in the mining industry.
The Natives Land Act (1913) prohibited Africans from owning land in any
part of South Africa outside a small area (7.5 percent, expanded to 13
percent in the 1930s) set aside for their use. These
laws ensured that Africans would have to seek jobs from white employers,
that their jobs would be the lowest paid available, and that without
the right to vote they could do little to change the laws that excluded
them from the political process and relegated them to the bottom of the

Nationalist Movements. Two
nationalist movements emerged in the aftermath of the formation of the
union, one racially and ethnically exclusivist, the other much more
disparate in its membership and aims. The Afrikaner nationalist
movement, built around the National Party, appealed to
Afrikaners (as they increasingly referred to themselves after the South
African War), who were still bitter about their suffering in the war and
frustrated by the poverty in which most of them lived. The black
nationalist movement, led primarily by the African National Congress (ANC, formed in 1912), addressed the myriad injustices against black South Africans.
Afrikaner generals helped unite South Africa’s first government, most
Dutch speakers did not share in the fruits of victory. Much of their
land had been confiscated by the British during the war and was not
returned after it ended. The main source of employment, the mines, was
owned by English speakers. Rural Afrikaners moving
to the cities had neither capital nor marketable skills, and thus they
found themselves competing with Africans for low-paid unskilled work. As
a result, they often supported racially discriminatory legislation,
such as the Mines and Works Act, that gave them privileged access to
jobs solely on the basis of their color. But because
Afrikaners wanted a greater share of the economy than they could earn as
employees of English speakers, they pooled their funds and resources to
establish banks, insurance companies, and other businesses in order to
wrest a portion of the economy out of the control of English
businessmen. A few Afrikaner leaders then led in the
denunciation of the business community in increasingly extreme,
anticapitalist, and anti-Semitic terms.

Roots of Apartheid. Afrikaner
nationalists spoke of themselves as a chosen people, ordained by God to
rule South Africa. They established their own cultural organizations and
secret societies, and they argued that South Africa should be ruled in
the interests of Afrikaners, rather than English businessmen or African
workers. Throughout the 1920s, 1930s,
and 1940s, the Afrikaner nationalist movement grew in popularity, fueled
by fears of black competition for jobs, by antipathy toward the
English-speaking mine magnates, by the memory of past suffering, and by
the impact of World War II (especially massive black urbanization). In
1948, with the support of a majority of Afrikaners (who
constituted about 60 percent of the white electorate), the NP won the
election on its apartheid platform. Henceforth, South Africa was to be
governed by a party that hoped to shape government policies to work in
favor of whites, in general, and Afrikaners, in particular. Moreover,
the NP denied that Africans, Asians, or coloureds could
ever be citizens or full participants in the political process.

Failure of the Black Nationalist Movement.
The black nationalist movement had no such success. For most blacks,
lack of access to the vote meant that they could not organize an
effective political party. Instead they had to rely on appeals,
deputations, and petitions to the British government asking for equal
treatment before the law. The British responded by pointing out that
South Africa was now self-governing and that the petitioners had to make
their case to the local white rulers. Although Africans, Asians, and
coloureds shared common grievances, they were not united in their
organizations or their aims. Physically separated and legally
differentiated in practically every aspect of their lives, they formed
separate organizations to represent their interests. Moreover, their
leaders, with few exceptions, adopted accommodationist rather than
confrontational tactics in dealing with the state. Failing to gain any
real concessions from increasingly hard-line governments, none of the
black political movements succeeded in building a solid mass
following. Even the ANC had a membership of only a few thousand (out of
an African population of about 8 million) in 1948.

The Ideology of Apartheid [separateness].
With the introduction of apartheid, the NP extended and systematized
many of the features of entrenched racial discrimination into a state
policy of white supremacy. Every person resident in South Africa was
legally assigned, largely on the basis of appearance, to one racial
group–white, African, coloured, or Asian. South Africa was
proclaimed to be a white man’s country in which members of other racial
groups would never receive full political rights. Africans were told
that eventually they would achieve political independence in perhaps
nine or ten homelands, carved out of the minuscule rural areas already
allocated to them, areas that even a government commission
in the 1950s had deemed totally inadequate to support the black
Coloureds and Asians, too, were to be excluded from South
African politics. By law, all races were to have separate living areas
and separate amenities; there was to be no mixing. Education was to be
provided according to the roles that people were expected to play in
society. In that regard, Hendrik F. Verwoerd, the
leading ideologue
of apartheid and prime minister of South Africa from 1958 until his
assassination in 1966, stated that Africans would be “making a big
mistake” if they thought that they would live “an adult life under a
policy of equal rights.” According to Verwoerd, there was no place for
Africans “in the European
community” (by which he meant South Africa) above the level of certain
forms of labor.
Expecting considerable opposition to policies that
would forever exclude the black majority from any role in national
politics and from any job other than that of unskilled–and
low-paid–laborer, the NP government greatly enlarged police powers.
People campaigning to repeal or to modify any law would be presumed
guilty of one of
several crimes until they could prove their innocence. The government
could “list,” or ban, individuals, preventing them from attending public
meetings, prohibiting them from belonging to certain organizations, and
subjecting them to lengthy periods of house arrest.
The most
draconian piece of security legislation, the Suppression of Communism
Act (1950), adopted an extraordinarily broad and vague definition of
communism–i.e., the aim to “bring about any political, industrial,
social, or economic change within the Union by the promotion of
disturbance or disorder.” Also included under
the act was anyone who encouraged “feelings of hostility between the
European and the non-European races of the Union.” This legislation
enabled the police to label almost any opponent of apartheid as a
supporter of the outlawed Communist Party of South Africa (reactivated
in 1953 as the South African Communist Party–SACP).

Oliver Reginald Tambo
Oliver Tambo (27
October 1917 – 24 April 1993) was a South African anti-apartheid
politician and a central figure in the African National Congress (ANC).
Tambo, along with Mandela and Walter Sisulu, was a founding member of
the ANC Youth League in 1943, becoming its first National Secretary and
later a member of the National Executive in 1948.

Blacks rose up in protest against apartheid in the 1950s. Led by Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo,
the ANC sought to broaden its base of support and to impede the
implementation of apartheid by calling for mass noncompliance with the
new laws. Working together with white, coloured, and Indian opponents of
apartheid, the ANC encouraged
people to burn their passes (identity documents, then required of all
African males and soon to be required of all African females in South
Africa). The ANC also urged people to refuse to use the separate
amenities (such as public toilets, park benches, and entrances to post
offices) set aside for them, to use those intended for whites
instead, and to boycott discriminatory employers and institutions. Such
tactics, all of them purposely nonviolent, although not successful in
changing NP policies, did attract large-scale support and won new
members for the ANC.

Freedom Charter. In 1955
representatives of the ANC, as well as white, coloured, and Indian
organizations opposed to apartheid, drafted a Freedom Charter as a basic
statement of political principles. According to the charter, South
Africa belonged to all who lived within its boundaries, regardless of
race. The charter stated that no particular group of
people should have special privileges, but that all should be treated
equally before the law. It also stated that all who lived in South
Africa should share in the country’s wealth, an ambiguous statement
sometimes interpreted by supporters of the ANC, and more frequently by
its opponents, to mean a call for nationalization of
private-sector enterprises.
The NP government dealt harshly with all
those who opposed its policies. Tens of thousands were arrested for
participating in public demonstrations and boycotts, hundreds of
thousands were arrested each year for pass-law offenses, and many of the
delegates who drew up the Freedom Charter were arrested and tried for
treason in a trial
that lasted nearly five years. Repression became harsher as opposition
grew. In 1960 police at Sharpeville, a black township south of Johannesburg
, fired into a crowd of Africans peacefully protesting against the pass
laws, and killed sixty-seven. In the aftermath of the shooting, which
attracted worldwide condemnation, the government banned the ANC, the
Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), and other organizations opposed to
apartheid; withdrew from the British Commonwealth of Nations;
and, after a referendum among white voters only, declared South Africa a

During the 1960s, the implementation of apartheid and the repression
internal opposition continued despite growing world criticism of
Africa’s racially discriminatory policies and police violence.
of Africans, coloureds, and Asians (ultimately numbering
 about 3.5
million by the 1980s) were removed from white areas into
 the land set
aside for other racial groups. Some of these areas, called
homelands, were readied for independence, even though they
 lacked the
physical cohesiveness–Bophuthatswana, for example,
consisted of some
nineteen non-contiguous pieces of land–to make
 political or economic
independence a viable or believable concept.
None of the four homelands declared independent received any form
world recognition. The ANC and the PAC, banned from
 operating within
South Africa, turned to violence in their struggle
apartheid–the former organization adopting a policy of
strategic targets such as police stations and power plants,
the latter
in a program of terror against African chiefs and
headmen, who were seen
as collaborators with the government.

Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd
Hendrik Verwoerd (8
September 1901 – 6 September 1966) was Prime Minister of South Africa
from 1958 until his assassination in 1966. He was often called the
“Architect of Apartheid”.
Image: © TIME Magazine Cover: Hendrik Verwoerd – Aug. 26, 1966
Title Story: South Africa: The Great White Laager

Verwoerd’s government crushed this internal opposition. Leaders of
 the ANC and PAC within South Africa were tracked down, arrested

, and
charged with treason. Nelson Mandela was sentenced in 1964
imprisonment for life. Oliver Tambo had already fled the country
and led
the ANC in exile. Despite growing international criticism, the
 government’s success in capturing its enemies fueled an economic
Attracted by the apparent political stability of the country,
and by
rates of return on capital running as high as 15 to 20 percent
 investment in South Africa more than doubled between 1963 and
1972. Soaring immigration increased the white population
by as much
 as 50 percent during the same period. Apartheid and
 growth seemed to work in tandem.

Yet a number of contradictory developments during the 1970s
the shaky foundations of the apartheid edifice. In 1973
wildcat strikes
broke out on the Durban
waterfront and then spread
 around the country. Because Africans were
prohibited from
 establishing or belonging to trade unions, they had no
 leaders to represent their concerns. Fearful of police
strikers chose not to identify publicly any of their
Thus employers who considered negotiations had no
 representatives with whom to negotiate and none to hold
 for upholding labor agreements. Several hundred thousand
 hours were lost in labor actions in 1973. That same year, in a sign
of growing world opposition to state-enforced racial discrimination,
 the United Nations (UN) declared apartheid “a crime against
 humanity,” a motion that took on real meaning four years later, in
when the UN adopted a mandatory embargo on arms sales
 to South Africa.

The Beginning of the End of Apartheid.

Stephen Bantu Biko
Steve Biko (18 December
1946 – 12 September 1977) was an anti-apartheid activist in South
Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. Biko founded the Black Consciousness
Movement (BCM), he was famous for his slogan “black is beautiful”. Biko
and the BCM played a significant role in organising the protests which
culminated in the Soweto Uprising (16 June, 1976). Biko died in police
custody in 1977.

In 1974 a revolutionary movement overthrew the Portuguese
dictatorship in Lisbon, and the former colonial territories of Angola
 and Mozambique demanded independence from Portugal.
Their liberation movements-turned-Marxist governments were
 committed to
the eradication of colonialism and racial discrimination
southern Africa.
Following the 1980 independence of
a nation now led by a socialist government opposed to
apartheid, South
Africa found itself surrounded by countries hostile to
 its policies and
ready to give refuge to the exiled forces of the ANC
 and the PAC.
Internal and external opposition to apartheid was
fueled in 1976, when
the Soweto
uprising began with the protests of
 high-school students against the
enforced use of Afrikaans–viewed
 by many Africans as the oppressor’s
language. The protests led to
 weeks of demonstrations, marches, and
boycotts throughout South
 Africa. Violent clashes with police left more
than 500 people dead,
several thousand arrested, and
thousands more seeking refuge outside
 South Africa, many with the exiled
forces of the ANC and the PAC.

Fearful of growing instability in South Africa, many foreign
began to withdraw their money or to move it into short-term
than long-term investments; as a result, the economy became
 increasingly sluggish. In order to cope with labor unrest and to boost
 investor confidence, the government decided in 1979 to allow black
 workers to establish unions as a necessary step toward industrial
This decision was a crucial step in the growing perception that
 apartheid would have to end. It undercut a basic ideological premise
apartheid, that blacks were not really full citizens of South Africa
 and, therefore, were not entitled to any official
representation. It also
 implied an acceptance by employers, many of whom
had called for
the change in policy, that in order for labor relations
to operate
effectively, disgruntled workers would have to be negotiated
rather than subjected to arbitrary dismissal and police arrest, as
the past.

South Africa, a White Man’s country?
Pretending otherwise had
already become increasingly difficult. A
national census in 1980
showed that whites were declining as a
proportion of South Africa’s
 population. From more than 20 percent of
the population at the
beginning of the century, whites accounted for
only about 16 percent
 of the population in 1980 and were likely to
constitute less than
10 percent by the end of the century. By the end of
the 1980s,
almost one-half of black South Africans–according to
 theory, a rural people–would be living in cities and towns,
 accounting for nearly 60 percent of South Africa’s urban dwellers.
 Demographic facts, alone, made it increasingly difficult to argue that
 South Africa was a white man’s country.

The Apartheid Regime under P. W. Botha.

Pieter Willem Botha
Pieter Willem (“P. W.”) Botha
(12 January 1916 – 31 October 2006), also known as ‘Die Groot
Krokodil’ was the prime minister of South Africa from 1978 to 1984 and
the first executive state president from 1984 to 1989. He was an
authoritarian leader, he continued to enforce apartheid but in response
to pressure, he introduced limited reforms.
Image: courtesy of South Africa Archive

In the early 1980s, NP reformers tinkered with the basic structure of
 apartheid. Concerned about demographic trends, Prime Minister  
P. W. Botha
led his government in implementing a new constitutional
one that embraced the concept of multiracial
government but, at the same
time, perpetuated the concept of racial
The new constitution established three racially segregated
 houses of
parliament, for whites, Asians, and coloureds, but excluded
 blacks from
full citizenship. Botha and his allies hoped that such a
change would
bolster NP support among coloureds and Asians, and
thereby give the
party enough numerical strength to counter growing

The constitution implemented in 1984 only inflamed further
opposition to apartheid. It was denounced inside and outside
Africa as anachronistic and reactionary. Opponents argued
that by
further institutionalizing the exclusion of the majority black
population, the new constitution only extended apartheid and did
undercut it
in any significant way. Within South Africa, protests
 against apartheid
far exceeded earlier levels of opposition. In many
 black townships,
police stations and other government buildings
were destroyed, along
with the homes of black policemen and town
councilors, who were
denounced as collaborators with the apartheid

Newly legalized black trade unions took a leading role in the
opposition, particularly by organizing strikes that combined economic
 and political complaints. The number of work days lost to strikes
to more than 5.8 million in 1987. Armed members of the
 ANC and PAC
infiltrated South Africa’s borders from their bases in
Mozambique, and Zimbabwe and carried out a campaign
of urban terror.
With South Africa on the verge of civil war, the
government imposed a
series of states of emergency, used the police
and the army against
opponents of apartheid, and dispatched military
 forces on armed raids
into neighboring countries.

Although the government’s repressive actions strengthened state
 control in the short term, they backfired in the long run.
repression and brutality in South Africa, and military
elsewhere in southern Africa, only heightened
South Africa’s pariah
status in world politics. As events in the country
 grabbed world
headlines and politicians across the globe denounced
apartheid, the
costs for South Africa of such widespread
condemnation were difficult to
bear. Foreign investors
withdrew; international banks called in their
loans; the value of
South African currency collapsed; the price of gold
fell to less than
one-half of the high of the 1970s;
economic output declined; and
 inflation became chronic.

De Klerk’s Reforms. In the face of
such developments, it was clear
to most South African businessmen, and
to a majority of NP party
 leaders, that apartheid itself had to undergo
substantial reform if
economic prosperity and political stability were
to be regained.
 In 1989 a stroke precipitated Botha’s resignation, and
he was
succeeded by F. W. de Klerk,
formerly a hard-line supporter of
apartheid but by the end of the 1980s
the candidate of those who
regarded themselves as moderates within the
National Party.

Frederik de Klerk
F. W. de Klerk (born 18
March 1936), was the seventh and last State President of apartheid-era
South Africa, (September 1989 to May 1994). As state president, he
freed Nelson Mandela in 1990, lifted the ban on membership in the
African National Congress (ANC), and opened the negotiations that led to
the first democratic elections in 1994. Nobel Peace Prize (1993, shared
with Nelson Mandela).

De Klerk moved faster and farther to reform apartheid than any
politician had done before him, although in many instances
 it seemed
that events rather than individuals were forcing the pace
and scale of
change. De Klerk released Nelson Mandela from
 twenty-seven years of
imprisonment in February 1990, and
 rescinded the banning
orders on the ANC, the PAC, the SACP,
and other previously illegal
organizations. Reacting to demands
from within and outside South Africa,
de Klerk in 1990 and 1991
 repealed the legislative underpinnings of
apartheid: gone were the
Reservation of Separate Amenities Act, which
had enforced petty
 apartheid; the Natives Land Act, which had
made it illegal for
 Africans to own land in urban areas; the Group Areas
Act, which
 had segregated people by race; and the Population
Registration Act,

 which had assigned every resident of South Africa to a
racial group. The pace of change was so rapid that many within
Afrikaner community questioned the wisdom of de Klerk’s
 and he came under increasing attack from right-wing proponents of
 a return to apartheid. For most critics of apartheid, however, the
of change was not fast enough. They wanted to see apartheid
reformed, but overthrown entirely. Indeed, once it had been
that black Africans were, in fact, South Africans, the real
question for de Klerk and his allies was whether they could be
 incorporated into the country in any fashion short of giving them
rights. The answer was no.

With this realization, from the end of 1991 onward, government
negotiators met regularly with representatives from other political
organizations to discuss ways in which some form of democracy could be
introduced and the remaining structures of apartheid dismantled. Those
involved called their forum the Convention for a Democratic South Africa
(Codesa). The negotiations were neither clear-cut nor easy, in part
because each participating group brought a different past and different
demands to the bargaining table. An official commission of inquiry in
1990, for example, found evidence that de Klerk’s government had turned a
blind eye to clandestine death squads
within the security forces that were responsible for the deaths of many
opponents of apartheid. Moreover, elements within the government were
found to have surreptitiously funded Zulu leader Buthelezi‘s
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and to have supplied weapons that were used
to attack ANC members in KwaZulu and in a number of mining

The ANC’s armed struggle against apartheid also lingered in popular
memory during the negotiations. ANC leader Mandela raised fears among
white businessmen with talk about the need for the nationalization of
industries and for the redistribution of wealth to the victims of
apartheid. Yet there was more common ground than difference in
Codesa. De Klerk and Mandela and their respective supporters were united
in the belief that continued violence would destroy all hope of
economic recovery. Such a recovery was vital for the attainment of peace
and prosperity. They were also united in their belief that there was no
alternative to a negotiated settlement.

Joe Slovo
Joe Slovo (23 May 1926 – 6 January 1995)
was the long-time leader of the South African Communist Party (SACP), and a leading member of the African National Congress.
Slovo was a critic of Israel‘s
policies, both highlighting the cooperation between Israel’s
administrations and apartheid-era South Africa and noting the irony of a
nation of dispossessed refugees establishing a state founded on the
idea of exclusion.
Image: courtesy of South African Communist Party (SACP)

Codesa’s negotiations were assisted by the decline of left- and
right-wing alternatives to parliamentary democracy. The fall of
communism in Eastern Europe and the failures of socialism in Africa
essentially eliminated the likelihood of a socialist state in South
Africa. Although radical redistribution of property had much support
among black youth, there were few leaders in the antiapartheid forces
who spoke for that point of view. Joe Slovo, the leader
of the SACP, argued for compromise with the government rather than for
the immediate introduction of a workers’ state. Chris Hani, the charismatic general secretary of the SACP and the head of Umkhonto we Sizwe
(Spear of the Nation)–the ANC’s armed wing–was assassinated in April 1993. Winnie Mandela,
long a proponent of more radical solutions to the problems of poverty
and discrimination in South Africa, saw her influence decline as her
marriage to Mandela fell apart. Nor did the PAC, long an adherent of the
view that South Africa was a black
man’s country in which whites were merely guests, win much support for
its continued support of armed struggle and its slogan, “One settler,
one bullet.”

The white right wing was weakened by a series of inept maneuvers that
discredited the movement in the eyes of its most likely supporters in
the police and in the defense forces. Two members of the Afrikaner
Weerstandsbeweging (Afrikaner Resistance Movement–AWB) were quickly
arrested and convicted of the murder of Chris Hani.
Television cameras captured scenes of AWB leader Eugene Terreblanche
[who was killed on 3 April 2010, allegedly by two of his black farm
labourers] leading an unruly band of armed followers in an attack on the
building that housed the Codesa negotiations. The scenes broadcast were
of crowd violence and anarchy, bringing to mind images of pre-World War
II fascism. The final straw, and the one that caused leaders
within the security establishment to disavow any links with white
extremists, was the botched attempt by AWB members to reinstate Lucas
Mangope as leader of the Bophuthatswana homeland in early 1993. Again
television cameras were the right wing’s undoing, as they broadcast
worldwide the execution of several AWB mercenaries, lying beside
their Mercedes Benz sedan, by professionally trained black soldiers. For
South Africans, the telling image was not of blacks killing whites
(although that was significant), but of the ineptness of the right.

The members of Codesa sped up the pace of negotiations and of plans
to implement the interim constitution. South Africa was to have a
federal system of regional legislatures, equal voting rights regardless
of race, and a bicameral legislature headed by an executive president.
The negotiators also agreed that the government elected in
1994 would serve for five years, and that a constitutional convention,
sitting from 1994 onward and seeking input from all South Africans,
would be responsible for drawing up a final constitution to be
implemented in 1999.

First democratic South African elections.

 Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
Nelson Mandela (born 18 March 1936)
South African statesman, president 1994–99. He was sentenced to life
imprisonment in 1964 as an activist for the African National Congress
(ANC), released in 1990. As leader of the ANC, he engaged in talks on
the introduction of majority rule with President F. W. de Klerk. He
became the country’s first democratically elected president in 1994,
serving until 1999. Nobel Peace Prize (1993, shared with F. W. de

The election in April 1994 was viewed by most participants as a
remarkable success. Although several parties, especially the IFP, had
threatened to boycott the election, in the end no significant groups
refused to participate. The polling was extended to four days to allow
for logistical and bureaucratic problems. In the end, it was
carried out peacefully, for the most part, and there were few complaints
of interference with anyone’s right to vote. No political party got
everything that it wanted. The ANC won nearly 62.6 percent of the vote,
but it did not get the two-third’s majority needed to change
unilaterally the interim constitution, and it therefore had to
work with other parties to shape the permanent constitution. The NP, as
expected, no longer led the government, but it did succeed in winning
the second largest share of votes, with 20.4 percent. The IFP did not do
well nationally, but with a much stronger base of support in
KwaZulu-Natal than most commentators expected, it came in third,
with 10.5 percent, and won for Buthelezi control of the provincial
government. The Freedom Front, a right-of-center, almost exclusively
white party led by former members of the security establishment, got 2.2
percent of the votes; the PAC, appealing solely for the support of
blacks, won 1.2 percent. On May 9, 1994, Nelson Mandela was
unanimously elected president by the National Assembly, with Thabo
Mbeki, deputy leader of the ANC and Mandela’s likely successor, and F.W.
de Klerk named deputy presidents. South Africa had made a peaceful
political transition from an apartheid police state to a democratic

As the new government is established in the mid-1990s, South
Africa’s leaders face the daunting challenges of meeting the
expectations of black voters while fulfilling the economic potential of
the country. Half a century of apartheid and a much longer period of
legally enforced racial discrimination have left most black South
poor and undereducated. The reliance on a low-wage work force,
especially in the country’s mines but also in other areas of the
economy, left South Africa without a significant consumer class among
its black majority. Instead, nearly one-half of the population in the
mid-1990s lives below internationally determined minimum-subsistence
levels. Nearly fifty years of Verwoerdian “Bantu education” left the
country short of skills and unable to generate the sort of labor force
that could produce an “Asian miracle” along the lines of the
skilled-labor-dependent industries of South Korea or Taiwan.

Demands for immediate economic improvements intensified in 1995 and
1996. Labor unions pressed demands on behalf of organized workers, many
of whom feared that their interests would be ignored, lost amid the
government’s concerns for alleviating severe poverty and for bolstering
investor confidence in a stable workforce. Many labor
unions were also weakened, at least temporarily, by the loss of key
leaders who were elected or appointed to government office.

South Africa gains a New Constitution.
After these chapters were completed in May 1996, the Constitutional
Court approved the new (“final”) constitution, intended to govern after
the five-year transition. President Mandela signed the new constitution
into law on December 10, 1996, and the government began phasing in
provisions of the new document in February 1997.
The final constitution contains a Bill of Rights, modeled on the chapter
on fundamental rights in the interim constitution. It also ends the
powersharing requirements that were the basis for the Government of
National Unity under the interim constitution. NP deputy president de
Klerk left office in June 1996, after legislators voted to
forward the new constitution to the Constitutional Court, and the NP
vacated its offices in the national and provincial executive branches,
which had been based on the interim constitution’s powersharing
provisions. The NP in 1997 is attempting to establish a new political
identity as an active participant in the national political
debate; it will challenge ANC initiatives it opposes and compete with
the ANC for political support among all racial groups.

South Africa conducted its first postapartheid census in October
1996. The process of enumeration proved even more difficult than
expected, in part because provincial governments are still establishing
their functions and authority, and administrative boundaries are still
in dispute in a few areas. The final results–likely to reveal a
population of more than 45 million–are not yet available as of April

The government has made substantial progress in expanding social
services, health care, and education, but the backlog in demand for
these services has been impossible to meet. These inadequacies continue
to erode confidence in the new government, despite impressive progress
in areas such as the provision of potable water and
electricity, and the expansion of educational opportunities in
previously underserved areas. The demand for housing is proving
particularly difficult to meet; foreign construction firms are
participating in the effort, and the pace of new home construction is
expected to increase steadily during 1997 and 1998.

South Africa’s culturally diverse society has not yet negotiated
acceptable compromises for dealing with controversial aspects of
individual behavior, such as women’s rights to abortion or contraceptive
use and behavior related to the spread of acquired immune deficiency
syndrome (AIDS). ANC legislators successfully voted to liberalize
public policy in many areas, most notably concerning abortion, despite
strong opposition from some Christian and Muslim groups. The campaign
against AIDS continues to be mired in political debate, funding
controversies, and personal acrimony, as of 1997.

Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
(born 7 October 1931), South African Anglican clergyman. As general
secretary of the South African Council of Churches from 1979 until 1984,
he became a leading voice in the struggle against apartheid. He was
archbishop of Cape Town 1986–96. Nobel Peace Prize (1984).

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has heard more than 2,000
testimonials and received nearly 4,000 applications for amnesty for acts
committed during the apartheid era. Grisly stories have emerged from
the commission’s hearings; a few lingering questions about apartheid-era
deaths and disappearances have been answered, but others
have arisen in response to allegations of official collusion in
unrestrained violence. Commission chair Archbishop Desmond Tutu
expressed confidence in early 1997 that the commission’s long-term
impact will be to further reconciliation among racial groups. Others,
including survivors of victims, however, have expressed growing anger
stepped up demands for vengeance. Outside of the commission’s purview,
the courts have convicted a few former security officers and former
freedom fighters for crimes committed before May 1994, although some of
those found guilty in the courts may also apply for amnesty before the
Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Violence, both political and criminal, continues to plague the
country. The newly organized South African Police Service has not yet
eliminated the corruption and racial biases that characterized some
segments of the police force during the apartheid era. Vigilante groups
are emerging in response to popular demands for stricter law
enforcement. The best-known of these, a Muslim-based coalition–People
against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD)–has attacked, and even killed,
accused drug-dealers and others deemed to be outlaws, especially in Cape
Town and surrounding areas of the Western Cape. Vigilantism is also
increasing in crime-ridden areas around Johannesburg, and

 Rainbow Nation?

“This is officially the most unequal society on earth, a UN study recently said.

Millions of black people were thrown off their lands into the
barren homelands under apartheid, while land reform has barely begun to
address that injustice which permeates through the generations.

South Africa is also among the most violent society outside
warzones with 18,000 murders a year – all of that makes for an edgy
society and fuels racial tensions.”

Source: BBC (5 April 2010) Terreblanche killing reopens South Africa race wounds.

The continuing violence and political uncertainty contributed to a
steady decline in the value of the rand in late 1996 and early 1997.
Levels of foreign investment have lagged behind that needed for economic
growth, and the government is offering incentives to increase foreign
participation in South Africa’s business and manufacturing
sectors. The Ministry of Finance outlined new economic strategies aimed
at liberalizing foreign-exchange controls and imposing stricter fiscal
discipline, in a framework document entitled Growth, Employment and Redistribution
. The 1996 document describes investment incentives and steps toward
restructuring the tax base to help
stimulate new growth without substantially increasing public spending.
It also outlines further steps toward the lifting of import tariffs and
exchange controls to expand foreign trade.

As of April 1997, the most likely successor to President Mandela
appears to be deputy president Thabo Mbeki; Mandela signaled his
approval of this choice several times in the past year. A respected ANC
diplomat and trained economist, Mbeki is expected to press for fiscal
responsibility. Private-sector development, already a high priority, is
likely to receive even greater emphasis in the early twenty-first
century. At the same time, any new government will face the challenge of
narrowing the gap between rich and poor, which will be crucial to
furthering the goals of peace and reconciliation. Any new government
also will face obstacles created by political extremists and economic
opportunists hoping to reap their own gains in the new, postapartheid
South Africa.

 Back to Page 1: History of South Africa Part 1

Source: Library of Congress
Article by William H. Worger and Rita M. Byrnes; [chapter titles by NOP
editor; editor notes in brackets, images and captions from various

The Republic of South Africa (1961–present).     More about South Africa:

Information and Maps of other major Cities in South Africa: :
 Bloemfontein  Cape Town  Durban  Johannesburg  Nelspruit
 Port Elizabeth  Pretoria (capital city)
 Rustenburg  Pretoria

 Searchable Map and Satellite View of South Africa
 Political Map of South Africa

 South Africa Country Profile
 South Africa in numbers
Key statistic figures South Africa.

 Map of Africa

External Links:
South African History Online

ANC Archives
To preserve records which reflect the history of one of the oldest liberation
movements in Africa, the ANC.
short history of South Africa

Overview of South Africa’s history by SouthAfrica.info.
South African history online
Database of South African history, aims to “break the silence on the historic
and cultural achievements of the country’s black communities”.
Cradle of Humankind
The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, Gauteng, about amazing finds that have led leading palaeo-anthropologists
and archaeologists to suggest that humankind first appeared in this corner of
Africa and from there spread out to populate the world.
DISA – Digital Imaging Project
of South Africa

South Africa’s Struggle for Democracy, Anti-Apartheid Periodicals, 1960-1990.
National Archives
of South Africa

National Archives and Records Service (NARS).
Nelson Mandela – 20 years of Freedom
Celebrating Nelson Mandela’s 20 years of freedom.
South Africa Archive
A digital repository that preserves endangered primary sources.
South African Democracy Education Trust (SADET)
The Road to Democracy projrct.
South African History Archive
Trust – SAHA

SAHA is dedicated to documenting and supporting the struggle for justice in South

Collections of historical, political and cultural importance, University of the
Witwatersrand SA.
heartbeat of the nation

The long road to democracy.

Wikipedia: History of South Africa
Wikipedia article about the History of South Africa.

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