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___ History of South Africa (Part 2: The Republic of South Africa :: 1961–present)
The Republic of South Africa (1961–present). During the 1960s, the implementation of apartheid and the repression of internal opposition continued despite growing world criticism of South Africa's racially discriminatory policies and police violence. Thousands 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 black 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 of world recognition. The ANC and the PAC, banned from operating within South Africa, turned to violence in their struggle against apartheid--the former organization adopting a policy of bombing strategic targets such as police stations and power plants, the latter engaging
in a program of terror against African chiefs and headmen, who were seen as collaborators with the government.
Yet a number of contradictory developments during the 1970s displayed 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 organizational leaders to represent their concerns. Fearful of police repression, strikers chose not to identify publicly any of their leaders. Thus employers who considered negotiations had no worker representatives with whom to negotiate and none to hold responsible for upholding labor agreements. Several hundred thousand work 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 1977, when the UN adopted a mandatory embargo on arms sales to South Africa.
Fearful of growing instability in South Africa, many foreign investors began to withdraw their money or to move it into short-term rather 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 peace. This decision was a crucial step in the growing perception that apartheid would have to end. It undercut a basic ideological premise of 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 with, rather than subjected to arbitrary dismissal and police arrest, as in 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 apartheid 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.
The constitution implemented in 1984 only inflamed further opposition to apartheid. It was denounced inside and outside South 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 not 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 regime.
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 soared to more than 5.8 million in 1987. Armed members of the ANC and PAC infiltrated South Africa's borders from their bases in Angola, 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. Police repression and brutality in South Africa, and military adventures 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.
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 compounds.
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.
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.
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 Africans 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 1997.
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.
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 elsewhere.
Rainbow Nation?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.
"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.
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 sources]
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