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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.

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 to 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 boom. Attracted by the apparent political stability of the country, and by rates of return on capital running as high as 15 to 20 percent annually, foreign 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 economic growth seemed to work in tandem.

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.

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 throughout southern Africa. Following the 1980 independence of Zimbabwe, 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 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.
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 arrangement, one that embraced the concept of multiracial government but, at the same time, perpetuated the concept of racial separation. 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 dissent.

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.

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 Afrikaner 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 specific racial group. The pace of change was so rapid that many within the Afrikaner community questioned the wisdom of de Klerk's moves, and he came under increasing attack from right-wing proponents of a return to apartheid. For most critics of apartheid, however, the pace of change was not fast enough. They wanted to see apartheid not reformed, but overthrown entirely. Indeed, once it had been accepted 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 equal 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 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.

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 Klerk).
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 republic.

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.

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 and 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 elsewhere.

 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 sources]

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.
A short history of South Africa
Overview of South Africa's history by
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 Africa.
Historical papers
Collections of historical, political and cultural importance, University of the Witwatersrand SA.
Soweto, heartbeat of the nation
The long road to democracy.

Wikipedia: History of South Africa
Wikipedia article about the History of South Africa.
Search Nations Online
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