History of South Africa in the apartheid era

Apartheid in South Africa
Sharpeville Massacre Soweto uprising
Treason Trial
Rivonia Trial Church Street bombing
CODESA St James Church massacre
Broederbond National Party COSATU
PW Botha Oupa Gqozo DF Malan
Nelson Mandela F.W. de Klerk Walter Sisulu
Helen Suzman Harry Schwarz Andries Treurnicht
HF Verwoerd Oliver Tambo BJ Vorster
Kaiser Matanzima Jimmy Kruger Steve Biko
Bantustan District Six Robben Island
Sophiatown South-West Africa
Soweto Vlakplaas
Other aspects
Apartheid laws Freedom Charter
Sullivan Principles Kairos Document
Disinvestment campaign
South African Police
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History of South Africa
General periods
Ancient (before 1652)
(1652 to 1815)
(1815 to 1910)
(1910 - 1948)
Apartheid-era (1948 - 1994)
Modern (1994 to present)
Specific themes
Economics Military
Social Religious
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For the legal definition of apartheid, see the crime of apartheid. For other uses, see Allegations of apartheid.
Apartheid (meaning separate-ness in Afrikaans, cognate to English apart and -hood) was a system of racial segregation in South Africa from 1948, and was dismantled in a series of negotiations from 1990 to 1993, culminating in democratic elections in 1994.

The rules of Apartheid dictated that people be legally classified into racial groups -- the main ones were Black, White, Coloured and Indian -- and separated from one another on the basis of legal classification and unequal rights. Blacks legally became citizens of one of ten bantustans (homelands) that were nominally sovereign nations. These black homelands were created out of the territory of Black Reserves founded during the British Empire period -- Reserves akin to United States Indian Reservations, Canadian First Nations reserves, or Australian aboriginal reserves. Many Black South Africans, however, never resided in these "homelands."

The homeland system disenfranchised black people in "white South Africa"[1] (even if they resided there); their voting rights were restricted to the black homelands, which were economically the least productive areas of the country. Education, medical care, and other public services were segregated, and those available to Black people were of an inferior standard. The black education system within "White South Africa" was designed to prepare blacks for lives as a working-class. There was a deliberate policy in "White South Africa" of making services for black people inferior to those of whites, to try to "encourage" black people to move into the black homelands, hence black people ended up with services inferior to those of whites, Indians and 'coloureds'.

Creation of Apartheid

Racial segregation and colonialism prior to Apartheid

For more information on the period of history leading up to apartheid, see History of South Africa.
The first recorded use of the word "apartheid" ([ə.ˈpɑː(ɹ).teɪt]) was in 1917 during a speech by Jan Christiaan Smuts, who became Prime Minister two years later. Although the creation of apartheid is usually attributed to the Afrikaaner-dominated government of 1948-1994, the fact must not be ignored that it is actually partially a legacy of British colonialism which introduced a system of pass laws in the Cape Colony and Natal during the Nineteenth Century. This stemmed from the regulation of blacks' movement from the tribal regions to those occupied by whites and coloureds, ruled by the British. There were similar regulations in Australia and New Caledonia (the French Code de L'indigenat).

Laws were passed to not only restrict the movement of blacks into these areas but also to prohibit their movement from one district to another without a signed pass. Blacks were not allowed onto the streets of towns in the Cape Colony and Natal after dark and had to carry their passes at all times. Mahatma Gandhi, a young lawyer at the time, cut his political teeth by organising non-violent protests against restrictions which hurt the middle-class Indian. During the Second World War, Smuts's United Party government began to move away from the rigid enforcement of segregationist laws. Amid fear that United Party policies would eventually lead the nation inexorably towards assimilation between the different ethnic groups, the Sauer Commission was set up to look into the matter, and averred that this would bring about a loss of personality for all racial groups.

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"Petty apartheid": sign on Durban beach in English, Afrikaans and Zulu (1989)

The practice of apartheid retained many of the features of the above segregationist policies of earlier administrations. Examples include the 1913 Land Act and the various workplace "colour bars". However, Werner Eiselen (1948-76), the intellectual who designed apartheid as we know it, specifically argued that segregation and white supremacy were no longer "sustainable". He also proposed specifically in 1948 that apartheid (as a "political partition" policy) was a favourable alternative to segregation. Hence, the idea behind apartheid was more one of political separation (later "grand apartheid") than segregation (later "petty apartheid"). The politician deemed to have had the most powerful influence on the growth of apartheid was Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd.

The 1948 elections and the group areas act

In the run-up to the 1948 elections, the National Party (NP) campaigned on its policy of apartheid. The NP narrowly defeated Smuts' United Party, and formed a coalition government with the Afrikaner Party (AP), under Protestant cleric Daniel Francois Malan's leadership. It immediately began implementing apartheid: legislation was passed prohibiting miscegenation (mixed-race marriage), individuals were classified by race, and a classification board was created to rule in questionable cases. The Group Areas Act of 1950 became the heart of the apartheid system designed to geographically separate the racial groups. The Separate Amenities Act of 1953 created, among other things, separate beaches, buses, hospitals, schools and universities. The existing pass laws were tightened. All South Africans were compelled to carry identity documents. For blacks, these identity documents became a sort of passport by which blacks could be prevented from migrating to 'white' South Africa. Blacks were prohibited from living in (or even visiting) 'white' towns without a migration permit. For blacks, living in the cities was restricted to those who had employment. Families were excluded, thus separating wives from husbands and parents from children. Some authors, such as David Yudelman and Hermann Giliomee have argued that the system of Apartheid can be traced to the labour movement in South Africa and English policies as early as 1907.

The disenfranchisement of coloured voters

J.G. Strijdom, who succeeded Malan as Prime Minister, moved to strip coloureds and blacks of their voting rights in the Cape Province. The previous government had first introduced the Separate Representation of Voters Bill in parliament in 1951. However, its validity was challenged in court by a group of four voters[2] who were supported by the United Party. The Cape Supreme Court upheld the act, but the Appeal Court upheld the appeal and found the act to be invalid. This was because a two-thirds majority in a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament was needed in order to change the entrenched clauses of the Constitution. The government then introduced the High Court of Parliament Bill, which gave parliament the power to overrule decisions of the court. This too was declared invalid by both the Cape Supreme Court and the Appeal Court. In 1955 the Strijdom government increased the number of judges in the Appeal Court from five to eleven, and appointed pro-Nationalist judges to fill the new places. In the same year they introduced the Senate Act, which increased the senate from 49 seats to 89. Adjustments were made such that the NP controlled 77 of these seats. Finally, in a joint sitting of parliament, the Separate Representation of Voters act was passed in 1956, which removed coloureds from the common voters' roll in the Cape, and established a separate voters' roll for them.

Apartheid legislation

Apartheid legislation in South Africa
Natives' Land (1913)
Urban Areas (1923)

Prohibition of Mixed Marriages (1949)
Immorality Act (1950)
Population Registration (1950)
Group Areas Act (1950)
Suppression of Communism (1950)
Bantu Building Workers (1951)
Separate Representation of Voters (1951)
Prevention of Illegal Squatting (1951)
Bantu Authorities (1951)
Natives Laws (1952)
Pass Laws (1952)
Native Labour (Settlement of Disputes) (1953)
Bantu Education (1953)
Reservation of Separate Amenities (1953)
Natives Resettlement (1954)
Group Areas Development (1955)
Natives (Prohibition of Interdicts) (1956)
Bantu Investment Corporation (1959)
Extension of University Education (1959)
Promotion of Bantu Self-Government (1959)
Coloured Persons Communal Reserves (1961)
Preservation of Coloured Areas (1961)
Urban Bantu Councils (1961)
Terrorism Act (1967)
Bantu Homelands Citizens (1970)

No new legislation introduced, rather
the existing legislation named was amended.
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The principal "apartheid laws" were as follows[3]:
  • Amendment to The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act (1949)
  • This law prohibited marital union between persons of different races.
  • Amendment to The Immorality Act (1950)
  • This law made it a criminal offence for a white person to have any sexual relations with a person of a different race.
  • The Population Registration Act (1950)
  • This law introduced an identity card for all persons over the age of sixteen. Their racial group was stipulated on the card.
  • This law required all citizens to be registered as black, white, coloured or Indian.
  • The Suppression of Communism Act (1950)
  • This law banned the South African Communist Party as well as any other party the government chose to label as 'communist'. It made membership in the SACP punishable by up to 10 years' imprisonment. The South African minister of justice, R.F. Swart, drafted the law.
  • The Group Areas Act (27 April 1950)
  • This law partitioned the country into different areas, with different areas being allocated to different racial groups. This law represented the very heart of apartheid because it was the basis upon which political and social separation was to be constructed.
  • Bantu Authorities Act (1951)
  • This law created separate government structures for black people.
  • Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act (1951)
  • This law allowed the government to demolish black shackland slums.
  • Native Building Workers Act and Native Services Levy (1951)
  • This law forced white employers to pay for the construction of proper housing for black workers recognized as legal residents in 'white' cities.
  • The Reservation of Separate Amenities Act (1953)
  • This law prohibited people of different races from using the same public amenities, such as restaurants, public swimming pools, restrooms, and so on.
  • The Bantu Education Act (1953)
  • This law brought all black schooling under government control, ending mission-run schools.
  • Apartheid placed great emphasis on separate education for different ethnic groups. Eventually there were 17 separate education systems. The education provided by the black system was of a lower standard to that provided in white, colored or Indian schools.
  • ''Bantu Urban Areas Act (1954)
  • This law curtailed black migration to the cities.
  • The Mines and Work Act (1956)
  • This law formalised racial discrimination in employment.
  • The Promotion of Black Self-Government Act (1958)
  • This law set up separate territorial governments in the 'homelands', designated lands for black people where they could have a vote. The aim was that these homelands or 'bantustans' would eventually become independent of South Africa. The South African government exercised strong influence over the homelands even after some of them became 'independent'.
  • Bantu Investment Corporation Act (1959)
  • This law set up a mechanism to transfer capital to the homelands in order to create jobs in the black homelands.
  • The Extension of University Education Act (1959)
  • This law created separate universities for Blacks, Coloureds and Indians.
  • Physical Planning and Utilisation of Resources Act (1967)
  • This law allowed the government to stop industrial development in 'white' cites and redirect such development to homeland border areas. The aim was to speed up the relocation of blacks to the homelands by relocating jobs to homeland areas. White-owned business was effectively forced to relocate away from 'white' cities. This resulted in the building of cities (housing millions of people) in the black homelands such as Babalegi, Temba, Mabopane, Ga-Rankuwa, Mdantsane and Madadeni.
  • Black Homeland Citizenship Act (1970)
  • This law changed the status of the inhabitants of the 'homelands' so that they were no longer citizens of South Africa. The aim was to ensure whites became the demographic majority within South Africa.
  • The Afrikaans Medium Decree (1974)
  • This decree required the use of Afrikaans and English on a fifty-fifty basis in high schools outside the homelands.[4]

The Apartheid System

The apartheid system is often classified into "grand apartheid" and "petty apartheid". Grand apartheid involved an attempt to partition South Africa into separate states, while petty apartheid referred to the segregationist dimension. The National Party clung to grand apartheid until the 1990s, while they abandoned petty apartheid during the 1980s.

Grand Apartheid - The "homeland" system

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A rural area in Ciskei, one of the apartheid era "homelands"
Main article: Bantustan

The policy of separate development came into being with the accession to power of Dr HF Verwoerd in 1958. He began implementing the homeland structure as a cornerstone of separate development. Verwoerd came to believe in the granting of "independence" to these homelands. Border industries and the Bantu Investment Corporation, were established to promote economic development and the provision of employment in the homelands (to draw black people away from "white" South Africa.

The Tomlinson Commission of 1954 decided that apartheid was justifiable. It also stated that additional land ought to be given to the homelands and favoured the development of border industries. In 1958, the Promotion of Black Self-Government Act was passed, and proponents of apartheid began to argue that, once apartheid had been implemented, blacks would no longer be citizens of South Africa; they would instead become citizens of the independent "homelands". In terms of this model, blacks became (foreign) "guest labourers" who merely worked in South Africa as the holders of temporary work permits.

The South African government attempted to divide South Africa into a number of separate states. Some thirteen per cent of the land was reserved for black homelands -- representing fifty per cent of South Africa's arable land (Davenport, 1977: p. 268). That thirteen per cent was divided into ten black "homelands" amongst eight ethnic units. Four of which were given independence, although this was never recognised by any other country. Each homeland was supposed to develop into a separate-nation state within which the eight black ethnic groups were to find and grow their separate national identity, culture and language: Each homeland controlled its own education and health system.

Once a homeland was granted its "independence", its designated citizens had their South African citizenship revoked, to be replaced with citizenship of their homeland. These people were then issued passports instead of passbooks. Citizens of the supposedly "autonomous" homelands also had their South African citizenship circumscribed, and so became less than South African.[5] The South African government attempted to draw an equivalence between their view of black "citizens" of the "homelands" and the problems which other countries faced through entry of illegal immigrants.

While other countries were dismantling their discriminatory legislation and becoming more liberal on racial issues, South Africa continued to construct a labyrinth of legislation promoting racial and ethnic separation. Many white South Africans supported apartheid because of demographics; that, is separation and partition were seen as a means of avoiding a one-person-one-vote democracy within a single unified South African state, which would render whites a politically-powerless minority. In addition, leaders of the above homelands became important defenders of apartheid, such as Kaiser Matanzima, Bantu Holomisa, Oupa Gqozo, Lucas Mangope and Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Apartheid placed great emphasis on "self-determination" and "cultural autonomy" for different ethnic groups. For this reason, "mother-tongue" education was strongly emphasised. Thus, in addition to pouring resources into developing Afrikaans educational material, resources were also poured into developing school textbooks in black languages like Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Tswana, and Pedi. As a result, one of the consequences of apartheid was a South African population literate in black-African languages (a rare thing in Africa where schooling is normally carried out in colonial languages like English and French).

Forced removals

During the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, the government implemented a policy of 'resettlement', to force people to move to their designated "group areas". Some argue that over three and a half million people were forced to resettle during this period. These removals included:
  • People re-located due to slum clearance programmes
  • Labour tenants on white-owned farms
  • The inhabitants of the so-called 'black spots', areas of black-owned land surrounded by white farms
  • The families of workers living in townships close to the homelands
  • 'Surplus people' from urban areas, including thousands of people from the Western Cape (which was declared a 'Coloured Labour Preference Area') who were moved to the Transkei and Ciskei homelands.
The best-publicised forced removals of the 1950s occurred in Johannesburg, when 60,000 people were moved to the new township of Soweto (an acronym for South Western Townships).

Until 1955, Sophiatown had been one of the few urban areas where blacks were allowed to own land, and was slowly developing into a multiracial slum. As industry in Johannesburg grew, Sophiatown became the home of a rapidly expanding black workforce, as it was convenient and close to town. It could also boast the only swimming pool for black children in Johannesburg[6]. It was, however, one of the oldest black settlements in Johannesburg and held an almost symbolic importance for the 50,000 blacks it contained, both in terms of its sheer vibrancy and its unique culture. Despite a vigorous ANC protest campaign and worldwide publicity, the removal of Sophiatown began on 9 February 1955 under the Western Areas Removal Scheme. In the early hours, heavily armed police entered Sophiatown to force residents out of their homes and load their belongings onto government trucks. The residents were taken to a large tract of land, thirteen miles from the city centre, known as Meadowlands (that the government had purchased in 1953). Meadowlands became part of a new planned black city called Soweto. The Sophiatown slum was destroyed by bulldozers, and a new white suburb named Triomf (Triumph) was built in its place. This pattern of forced removal and destruction was to repeat itself over the next few years, and was not limited to people of African descent. Forced removals from areas like Cato Manor (Mkhumbane) in Durban, and District Six in Cape Town, where 55,000 coloured and Indian people were forced to move to new townships on the Cape Flats, were carried out under the Group Areas Act of 1950. Ultimately, nearly 600,000 coloured, Indian and Chinese people were moved in terms of the Group Areas Act. Some 40,000 white people were also forced to move when land was transferred from "white South Africa" into the black homelands.

Forced removals continue in post-apartheid South Africa and are being vigorously contested by, amongst others, the shack dwellers' movement Abahlali baseMjondolo.

Petty Apartheid

  • Blacks were not allowed to run businesses or professional practices in those areas designated as "white South Africa" without a permit. They were supposed to move to the black "homelands" and set up businesses and practices there.
  • Transport and civil facilities were segregated. Black buses stopped at black bus stops and white buses at white ones. Trains were segregated.
  • Hospitals and ambulances were segregated. Because of the smaller numbers of white patients and the fact that white doctors preferred to work in "white" hospitals, conditions in white hospitals were much better than those in often overcrowded black hospitals.[7]
  • Blacks were excluded from living or working in white areas, unless they had a pass — nicknamed the dompas ("dumb pass" in Afrikaans). Only blacks with "Section 10" rights (those who had migrated to the cities before World War II) were excluded from this provision.
  • A pass was issued only to a black person with approved work. Spouses and children had to be left behind in black homelands. Many white households employed blacks as domestic workers, who lived on the premises — often in small rooms external to the family home.
  • A pass was issued for one magisterial district (usually one town) confining the holder to that area only.
  • Being without a valid pass made a person subject to arrest and trial for being an illegal migrant. This was often followed by deportation to the person's homeland and prosecution of the employer (for employing an illegal migrant). Police vans patrolled the "white" areas to round up "illegal" blacks found there without passes.
  • Black people were not allowed to employ white people in "white South Africa".
  • Although trade unions for black and "coloured" (mixed race) workers had existed since the early 20th century, it was not until the 1980s reforms that a mass black trade union movement developed.
  • In the 1970s each black child's education within the Bantu Education system (the black education system within "white South Africa") cost the state only a tenth of each white child's. Higher education was provided in separate universities and colleges after 1959. Eight black universities were created in the homelands; an Indian university built in Durban and a coloured university built in Cape Town. In addition, each black homeland controlled its own separate education, health and police system.
  • Blacks were not allowed to buy hard liquor. They were able only to buy an African home brewed beer. (although this was relaxed later).
  • Public beaches were racially segregated. Public swimming pools, some pedestrian bridges, drive-in cinema parking spaces, graveyards, parks, public toilets were segregated.
  • Cinemas and theatres in "white areas" were not allowed to admit blacks. There were practically no cinemas in black areas. Most restaurants and hotels in white areas were not allowed to admit blacks except as staff. Black Africans were prohibited from attending "white" churches under the Churches Native Laws Amendment Act of 1957. This was, however, never rigidly enforced, and churches were one of the few places races could mix without the interference of the law.
  • Sex and marriage between the races were prohibited.
  • Taxation was unequal — the yearly income at which tax became payable by blacks was 360 rand (30 rand a month), while the white threshold was much higher, at 750 Rand (62.5 rand per month). On the other hand, the taxation rate for whites was considerably higher than that for blacks.
  • Black people could never acquire land in white areas. In the homelands, much of the land belonged to a 'tribe', where the local chieftan would decide how the land had to be utilized. This resulted in white people owning almost all the industrial and agricultural lands and much of the prized residential land.
  • Most blacks were stripped of their South African citizenship when the "homelands" became "independent". Thus, they were no longer able to apply for South African passports. Eligibility requirements for a passport had been difficult for blacks to meet, the government contending that a passport was a privilege, not a right. As such, the government did not grant many passports to blacks.
  • Apartheid pervaded South African culture, as well as the law. This was reinforced in many media, and the lack of opportunities for the races to mix in a social setting entrenched social distance between people.

Coloured classification

Main article: Coloured
The population was classified into four groups: Black, White, Indian, and Coloured. (These terms are capitalized to denote their legal definitions in South African law). The Coloured group included people of mixed Bantu, Khoisan, and European descent (with some Malay ancestry, especially in the Western Cape). The Apartheid bureaucracy devised complex (and often arbitrary) criteria at the time that the Population Registration Act was implemented to determine who was Coloured. Minor officials would administer tests to determine if someone should be categorised either Coloured or Black, or if another person should be categorised either Coloured or White. Different members of the same family found themselves in different race groups. Further tests determined membership of the various sub-racial groups of the Coloureds. Many of those who formerly belonged to this racial group are opposed to the continuing use of the term "coloured" in the post-apartheid era, though the term no longer signifies any legal meaning. The expressions 'so-called Coloured' (Afrikaans sogenaamde Kleurlinge) and 'brown people' (bruin mense) acquired a wide usage in the 1980s.

Discriminated against by apartheid, Coloureds were as a matter of state policy forced to live in separate townships — in some cases leaving homes their families had occupied for generations — and received an inferior education, though better than that provided to Black South Africans. They played an important role in the struggle against apartheid: for example the African Political Organisation established in 1902 had an exclusively coloured membership.

From about 1950 to 1983, voting rights were denied to Coloureds in the same way that they were denied to blacks (see Coloured). In 1977, however, the NP caucus approved proposals to bring coloured and Indian people into central government. In 1982, final constitutional proposals produced a referendum among white voters, and the Tricameral Parliament was approved. The Constitution was reformed the following year to allow the Coloured and Asian minorities participation in separate Houses in a Tricameral Parliament, and Botha became the first Executive State President. The theory was that the Coloured minority could be granted voting rights, but the Black majority were to become citizens of independent homelands. These separate arrangements continued until the abolition of apartheid. The Tricameral reforms led to the formation of the (anti-apartheid) UDF as a vehicle to try and prevent the co-option of coloureds and Indians into an alliance with white South Africans. The subsequent battles between the UDF and the NP government from 1983 to 1989 were to became the most intense period of struggle between left-wing and right-wing South Africans.

Women Under Apartheid

Colonialism and apartheid had a major impact on women since they suffered both racial and gender discrimination. Oppression against African women was different from discrimination against men. Indeed, they had very little or no legal rights, no access to education and no right to own property [8]. Jobs were often hard to find but many African women worked as agricultural or domestic workers [9] though wages were extremely low [10] , if not non-existent. Children suffered from diseases caused by malnutrition and sanitary problems, and mortality rates were therefore high. The controlled movement of African workers within the country through the Natives Urban Areas Act of 1923 and the pass-laws, separated family members from one another as men usually worked in urban centers, while women were forced to stay in rural areas. Marriage law and births[11] were also controlled by the government and the pro-apartheid Dutch Reformed Church, who tried to restrict African birth rates.

Other minorities

Defining its East Asian population, which is a tiny minority in South Africa but who do not physically appear to belong any of the four designated groups, was a constant dilemma for the apartheid government. Chinese South Africans who were descendants of migrant workers who came to work in the gold mines around Johannesburg in the late 19th century, were usually classified as "Indian" and hence "non-white", whereas immigrants from Republic of China (Taiwan), South Korea and Japan, with which South Africa maintained diplomatic relations, were considered "honorary whites" and termed "Worthy Oriental Gentlemen", thus granted the same privileges as normal whites. It should be noted that "Non-Whites" were sometimes granted an 'honorary white' status as well, based on the government's belief that they were "civilised" and possessed Western values. This was frequently the case with African-Americans.

Internal resistance

The ANC and the PAC

In 1949, the conservative leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) was overthrown by its Youth League (ANCYL). Led by Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo, the ANCYL advocated a radical black nationalist programme which combined the Africanist ideas of Anton Lembede with those of Marxism. Once the ANCYL had taken control of the ANC, the organization advocated (for the first time ever) a policy of open defiance and resistance. This unleashed the 1950s' Programme of Action, which resulted in occasionally violent clashes, with mass protests, stay-aways, boycotts and strikes predominating.

The 1950 May Day stay-away was a strong, successful expression of black grievances. In 1952, the ANC launched the Defiance Campaign: apartheid laws were broken, 8,000 people arrested and prisons filled. The government, consequently, was forced temporarily to relax its apartheid legislation, but that was not the Campaign's only success: as a direct result, membership of the ANC increased and attention was drawn to apartheid's injustices.

Once things had calmed down, however, the government responded with an iron fist, taking several supreme measures -- among which were the Unlawful Organisations Act, the Suppression of Communism Act, the Public Safety Act and the Criminal Procedures Act. Thus, in the longer term, this spelt defeat for the resistance movement.

Still, support for the ANC and its endeavours increased. In June 1955, at a congress held in Kliptown, near Johannesburg, a number of organizations, including the Indian Congress and the ANC, adopted the Freedom Charter, which articulated a vision for South Africa radically different to the partition policy of apartheid. The Freedom Charter called for a one-person-one-vote democracy within a single unified state, and also for a socialist redistribution of wealth.

In 1956, the Federation of South African Women was founded and led by Lilian Ngoyi and the more famous Helen Joseph. On 9 August that year, the women marched on the Union Buildings in Pretoria, protesting against the pass laws. Later in 1956, though, 156 resistance leaders were arrested on charges of treason for their involvement in the drafting of the treason trial. The state's drawn-out case was defeated -- but only in 1960, when all accused (having spent the past four years imprisoned) were finally released.

Sharpeville Massacre

''Main Article: Sharpeville massacre ''

In 1959 a group of disenchanted ANC members broke away from the ANC and formed the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), saying the ANC was too strongly influenced by white communists. First on the PAC's agenda was a series of nationwide demonstrations against the pass laws. The PAC called for blacks to demonstrate against pass books on 21 March 1960. One of the mass demonstrations organized by the PAC took place at Sharpeville, a township near Vereeniging. Estimates of the size of the crowd vary from 3,000 to 20,000.[12][13] The crowd converged on the Sharpeville police station, singing and offering themselves up for arrest for not carrying their pass books. A group of about 300 police panicked and opened fire on the demonstrators after the crowd trampled down the fence surrounding the police station. They killed 69 people and injured 186. All the victims were black, and most of them had been shot in the back. Many witnesses stated that the crowd was not violent, but Colonel J. Pienaar, the senior police officer in charge on the day, said, "Hordes of natives surrounded the police station. My car was struck with a stone. If they do these things they must learn their lesson the hard way". The event became known as the Sharpeville massacre. In its aftermath the government banned the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).

The Sharpeville Massacre helped shape ANC policy. Before Sharpeville those advocating the use of organized violence, such as Nelson Mandela, had been marginalized as too radical by the ANC's leadership. After Sharpeville Mandela was allowed to launch his guerilla struggle (called the "M" Plan). Hence, from 1961 the ANC adopted terrorist[14] tactics, such as intimidation, bombing, murder and sabotage. Although their units detonated bombs in restaurants, shopping centres, cinemas and in front of government buildings over the following years, the military wings of the ANC and PAC were never a military threat to the state.

Resistance goes underground

Sharpeville signalled that the South African government was not going to yield to the mood of black nationalism then sweeping across Africa, and that white South Africans did not accept that they were "colonials" to be swept into the sea by "decolonization". Sharpeville thus foreshadowed the coming conflict between black nationalists and Afrikaner nationalists over the next thirty years.

In the wake of the shooting, a massive stay-away from work was organised and demonstrations continued. Prime Minister Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd declared a state of emergency, giving security forces the right to detain people without trial. Over 18,000 were arrested, including much of the ANC and PAC leadership, and both organizations were banned. The ANC and PAC meanwhile ran campaigns of sabotage and terrorism through their armed wings, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation, MK) and Poqo ("Pure" or "Alone"). Nelson Mandela, who was the commander of the ANC's military wing (MK), had developed the "M Plan" (Mandela Plan) of launching a guerilla war modelled upon the FLN's guerilla struggle in Algeria. MK ran a far more successful guerrilla campaign than Poqo. In July 1963, members of the ANC underground movement, including Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada and Dennis Goldberg, were arrested.

Together with Nelson Mandela, who had by then already been arrested and charged with terrorism, they were all tried for treason at the widely publicised Rivonia Trial. In June 1964, Mandela and seven others were sentenced to life imprisonment for terrorism. Oliver Tambo, another member of the ANC leadership, managed to escape South Africa and was to lead the ANC in exile for another thirty years.

The trial was condemned by the United Nations Security Council, and was a major force in the introduction of international sanctions against the South African government. After Sharpeville the ANC, PAC and South African Communist Party were banned, and leaders like Mandela were either in jail or in exile. The State of Emergency was de-proclaimed; the economy boomed; and the government began implementing apartheid by building the infrastructures of the ten separate Homelands, and relocating blacks into these homelands. In 1966, Verwoerd was stabbed to death in parliament, but his policies continued under B.J. Vorster and later P.W. Botha.

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Famous photograph of the Soweto riots showing a student carrying the body of Hector Pieterson, one of the first casualties.

Black Consciousness Movement

During the 1970s, resistance again gained force, first channelled through trade unions and strikes, and then spearheaded by the South African Students' Organisation under the charismatic leadership of Steve Biko. Biko, a medical student, was the main force behind the growth of South Africa's Black Consciousness Movement, which stressed the need for psychological liberation, black pride, and non-violent opposition to apartheid[15].

In 1974 the government issued the Afrikaans Medium Decree which forced all schools for blacks to use the Afrikaans language as the medium for instruction in mathematics, social sciences, geography and history at the secondary school level. Punt Janson, the Deputy Minister of Bantu Education, was quoted as saying: "I have not consulted the African people on the language issue and I'm not going to. An African might find that 'the big boss' spoke only Afrikaans or spoke only English. It would be to his advantage to know both languages."[15]

The policy was deeply unpopular, since Afrikaans was regarded by some as the language of the oppressor. On 30 April 1976, students at Orlando West Junior School in Soweto went on strike, refusing to go to school. Their rebellion spread to other schools in Soweto. The students organised a mass rally for 16 June, which turned violent — police responded with bullets to stones thrown by the students. The first student to be shot by the police was Hastings Ndlovu, aged fifteen. The image of Hector Pieterson who was killed at age 12 became an international icon of the uprising. The official death toll on the day was 23 dead, including the two children, but some placed it as high as 200. The incident triggered widespread violence throughout South Africa, which claimed further lives.

On 18 August 1977, Steve Biko was arrested, and unidentified security police beat him until he lapsed into a coma. He went for three days without medical treatment and finally died in Pretoria. At the subsequent inquest, the magistrate ruled that no-one was to blame, but the South African Medical Association eventually took action against the doctors who had failed to treat Biko.

There was tremendous reaction both within and outside South Africa. Foreign countries imposed even more stringent sanctions than those which had come before, and the UNO imposed an arms embargo. Young blacks inside South Africa committed themselves even more fervently to the struggle against apartheid, under the catchphrase "Liberation before education". Black communities became highly politicised.

The Black Consciousness Movement began to change its focus during the 1980s from being on issues of nation and community to issues of class and, perhaps as a result, had far less of an impact than in the mid-'seventies. Still, there is some evidence to suggest that it retained at least some influence, particularly in workers' organisations.

The role of BC could be quite clearly seen in the approach of the National Forum, which believed that the struggle ought to hold little or no place for whites. This ideal, of blacks leading the resistance campaign, was an important aim of the traditional BC groups, and it shaped the thinking of many 'eighties activists, most notably the workforce. Furthermore, the NF focused on workers' issues, which became more and more important to BC supporters.

The Azanian People's Organisation (AZAPO) was the leading BC group of the 1980s. It got most of its support from young black men and women -- many of them educated at colleges and universities. The organisation had a lot of support in Soweto and also amongst journalists, helping to popularise its views. It focused, too, on workers' issues, but it refused to form any ties with the whites.

Although it did not achieve quite the same groundswell support that it had in the late 1970s, BC still influenced the thinking of a few resistance groups.

The Trade-Union movement

After 1976, trade unions and their workers began to play a massive role in the fight against apartheid. With their thousands of members, the trade unions had great strength in numbers, and this they used to their advantage, campaigning for the rights of black workers and forcing the government to make changes to its apartheid policies. Importantly, trade unions filled the gap left by banned political parties. They assumed tremendous importance because they could act on a wide variety of issues and problems for their people -- and not only work-related ones, as links between work issues and broader community grievances became more palpable.

Fewer trade-union officials (harassed less by the police and army) were jailed than political leaders in the townships. Union members could meet and make plans within the factory. In this way, trade unions played a pivotal role in the struggle against apartheid, and their efforts generally had wide community support.

In 1979, one year after Botha's accession to power, black trade unions were finally made legal, and their role in the resistance struggle grew to all-new proportions. Prior to 1979, black trade unions had had no legal clout in dealings with employers. All strikes that took place were illegal, but they did help to establish the trade unions and their collective cause. Although the legalisation of black trade unions gave workers the legal right to strike, it also gave the government a degree of control over them, as they all had to be registered and hand in their membership records to the government. They were not allowed to support political parties either, and it goes without saying that some trade unions did not comply.

Later in 1979, the FOSATU body was formed, followed by the Council of Unions of South Africa (COSAS). It was influenced strongly by the ideas of black consciousness and wanted to work to ensure black leadership of unions.

The establishment of the trade-union federations led to greater unity amongst the workers. The tremendous size of the federations gave them increased voice and power. 1980 saw thousands of black high-school and university students boycotting their schools, and a country-wide protest over wages, rents and bus fares. In 1982, there were 394 strikes involving 141,571 workers. FOSATU and CUSA grew from a mere 70,000 members in 1979 to 320,000 by 1983, the year of the establishment of first the National Forum and then the UDF. Both of these had an important impact, but the latter was far more influential.

With the establishment of the new constitution in 1984, the biggest and longest black uprising exploded in the Vaal Triangle. COSAS and FOSATU organised the longest stay-away in South African history, and, all told, there were 469 strikes that year, amounting to 378,000 hours in lost business time.

In accordance with the State of Emergency in 1985, COSAS was banned and many UDF leaders arrested. A meeting between white business leaders and those of the ANC in Zambia brought about the formation of COSATU in 1985. The newly-formed trade-union governing body, committed to improved working conditions and the fight against apartheid, organised a nationwide strike the following year, and a new State of Emergency was declared. It did not take long for COSATU's membership to grow to 500,000.

With South Africa facing a neigh-unprecedented shortage of skilled white labour, the government was forced to allow black people to fill the vacancies. This, in turn, led to an increase in spending on black, coloured and Indian education.

Still, there were divides amongst the trade-union faction, which had the membership of only ten per cent of the country's workforce. Not all trade unions joined the federations, while agricultural and domestic workers did not even have a trade union to join and were thus more liable. Nevertheless, by the end of this period, the unions had emerged as one of the most effective vehicles for black opposition.

The role of the churches

With so many political parties having to carry out their operations underground, the role of the churches increased manifold. Church leaders were very much involved in the struggle against apartheid because they felt that it was unjust and contradicted the beliefs and values taught them by their religions. Such leaders were able to give hope and inspiration to people resisting apartheid. Another bonus was that the government was far less likely to attack or arrest religious leaders, allowing them to be potentially more politically active, mobilising the struggle. The government did, however, take action against some churches.

Beyers Naudé left the pro-apartheid Dutch Reformed Church and founded the Christian Institute, bringing white and black people together. He, along with the Institute, were banned in 1977, but he later became the general secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), a religious association which supported anti-apartheid activities. Significantly, it also refused to condemn violence as a means of ending apartheid.

Frank Chikane was another general secretary of the SACC. He was detained four times because of his criticism of the government and once allegedly had an attempt on his life, initiated by Etienne Vlok.

The charismatic Archbishop Desmond Tutu was yet another general secretary of the SACC. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in 1984 and used his position and popularity to denounce the government and its policies.

Alan Boesak, finally, was the leader of the World Council of Reformed Churches (WCC). He was very influential in founding the UDF and was once jailed for a month after organising a march demanding the release of Nelson Mandela.

Although church leaders were not totally immune to prosecution, they were able to criticise the government more freely than the leaders of the resistance groups. They were pivotal in attacking the government and inspiring resistance fighters.


The Mass Democratic Movement played a brief but very important role in the struggle. Formed in 1989, it was made up of an alliance between the UDF and COSATU, and organised a campaign aimed at ending segregation in hospitals, schools and beaches. The campaign proved successful and managed to bring segregation to an end. Some historians, however, argue that this occurred because the government had planned to end segregation anyway and did not, therefore, feel at all threatened by the MDM's action.

Later in 1989, the MDM organised a number of peaceful marches against the State of Emergency (extended to four years now) in the major cities. Even though these marches were illegal, no-one was arrested -- evidence that apartheid was coming to an end and that the government's hold was weakening.

Although the MDM emerged only very late into the struggle, it did add to the effective resistance that the government faced, organising a series of protests and further uniting the opposition movement. Certainly, it was characteristic of the "mass resistance" which characterised the 'eighties: many organisations were united, dealing with different aspects of the fight against apartheid and its implications.

Student organisations

The National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) and the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) were two of the main anti-apartheid student organisations. NUSAS was largely white, but it worked closely with the black opposition groups and also educated fellow whites about the evils of apartheid. COSAS was aimed at coordinating the educational struggles. It organised strikes, boycotts and mass protests around community issues.

Protests by school children became more and more frequent after 1976, in both rural and urban areas. Members of COSAS made a number of demands to the Department of Education and Training, DET, including the scrapping of matric examination fees. It also barred many DET officials from entering schools, demanded that all students pass their exams -- "pass one, pass all" -- and disrupted exams.

There were two major urban school boycotts in 1980 and then 1983. Both involved black, Indian and coloured children, and both went on for months. There were also extended protests in rural areas in 1985 and 1986. In all of these areas, schools were closed and thousands of students, teachers, parents and principals were arrested.

As a result of all this, the National Education Crisis Committee (NECC) was set up in 1986. It comprised parents, teachers and students, and encouraged students to return to their studies, taking on forms of protest less disruptive to their education. Consumer boycott, certainly, were highly recommended. Teachers and students were also encouraged to work together to develop an alternative educational system.

White resistance

While the majority of white South African voters supported the apartheid system, a substantial minority opposed it. In parliamentary elections during the 1970s and 1980s between 15% and 20% of white voters voted for the liberal Progressive Party, whose MP Helen Suzman provided for many years the only Parliamentary opposition to apartheid. Suzman's critics argue that she did not achieve any notable political successes, but helped to shore up claims by the Nationalists that internal, public criticism of apartheid was permitted. Suzman's supporters point to her use of her parliamentary privileges to help the poorest and most disempowered South Africans in any way she could.

Harry Schwarz was in the minority opposition for over 40 years and was leader of the opposition for the United Party in 1958-61. Schwarz was one of the defence barristers in the Rivonia Trial. He continually petitioned for the release of Nelson Mandela. In 1975, Schwarz left the United Party and formed the Reform Party which later joined the Progressive Party. in 1991 Harry Schwarz was made ambassador to the United States.

Non-violent resistance to apartheid came from the Black Sash, an organisation of white women formed in 1955 to oppose the removal of Coloured (mixed-race) voters from the Cape Province voters' roll. Even after that failure, however, it went on assisting blacks with issues such as pass laws, housing and unemployment.

Covert resistance was expressed by banned organisations like the largely white South African Communist Party, whose leader Joe Slovo was also Chief of Staff of the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe. Whites also played a significant role in opposing apartheid during the 1980s through the United Democratic Front and End Conscription Campaign. The latter was formed in 1983 to oppose the conscription of white males into the South African military. The ECC's support-base was not particularly large, but the government still saw fit to ban it 1988.

The army played a major role in the government's maintenance of its apartheid policies. It was expanded considerably to fight the resistance, and more money was being spent on increasing its effectiveness. It is estimated that something between R4,000,000,000 and R5,000,000,000 was spent on defence in the mid-'eighties. Conscription was used to increase the size of the army. Initially, only white males were conscripted, but other races were also gradually drawn in. The army was used to fight battles, on South African borders and in neighbouring states, against the liberation movements and the countries that supported them. During the 1980s, the military was also used to repress township uprisings, which saw support for the ECC increase markedly.

Cultural opposition to apartheid came from internationally known writers like Breyten Breytenbach, André Brink and Alan Paton (who founded the South African Liberal Party) and clerics like Beyers Naudé.

Some of the first violent resistance to the system was organised by the Africa Resistance Movement (ARM) who were responsible for setting off bombs at power stations and notably the Park Station bomb. The membership of this group was virtually all drawn from the marginalized white intellectual scene.

The Role of Women

South African women greatly participated in the anti-apartheid and liberation movements that took hold of South Africa. They demanded the independence of their country and their people. These female activists were rarely at the head of the main organizations, at least at the beginning of the movement, but were nonetheless prime actors. One of the earliest organization was The Bantu Women’s League founded in 1913 [16]. In the 1930s and 1940s, female activists were strongly present in trade union movements, which also served as a vehicle for future organization. In the 1950s, organizations specifically for women were created such as the ANC Women’s League(ANCWL) or a Women’s Council within the South West Africa People’s Organization(SWAPO)[17]. In April 1954, the more global Federation of South African Women (FSAW or FedSAW) was founded with the objective to fight against racism and oppression of women as well as to make African women understand that they had rights both as human beings and as women. While female actvists fought along men and participated to demonstrations and guerrilla movements, FSAW and ANCWL also acted independently and organized bus boycotts, campaigns against restrictive passes in 1956 in Pretoria and in Sharpeville in 1960[18]. 20.000 women attended these kind of demonstrations. Many participants were arrested, forced into exile or imprisoned such as Lilian Ngoyi. In 1958, 2000 women were arrested during an anti-pass campaign[19]. After the Sharpeville Massacre, however, many organizations such as FSAW were banned and went underground.

At the same time South African women fought against gender discrimination and called for rights specific to women, such as family, children, gender equality and access to education. At a conference in Johannesburg in 1954, the Federation of South African Women adopted the “Women’s Charter”[20], which focused on rights specific to women both as women and mothers. The Charter referred both to human rights, women’s rights and asked for universal equality and national liberation. In 1955, in a document drafted in preparation for the Congress of People[21], the FSAW made more demands, including free education for children, proper housing facilities and good working conditions, such as the abolition of child labor and a minimum wage.

The difficulty for these local movements was to raise global awareness in order to truly have an impact. Yet, their actions and demands gradually attracted the attention of the United Nations and put pressure on the international community. In 1954, Lilian Ngoyi attended the World Congress of Women in Lausanne, Switzerland [22]. Later, in 1975, the ANC was present at the 1975 United Nations Decade for Women in Copenhagen and in 1980 a essay on the role of women in the liberation movement [23] was prepared for the United Nations World Conference. This has been crucial in the recognition of Southern African women and their role in the anti-apartheid movement.

Among important activists during the liberation movement were Ida Ntwana, Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Dorothy Nyembe[24]. Lilian Ngoyi joined the ANC National Executive and was elected first vice-president and later president of FSAW in 1959. Many of these leaders served long prison sentences.

International relations

South Africa officially took possession of South-West Africa after it was captured from the Germans during World War I. Following the war, the Treaty of Versailles declared the territory to be a League of Nations Mandate under South African administration. South Africa formally excluded Walvis Bay from the mandate and annexed it as an exclave. The Mandate was supposed to become a United Nations Trust Territory when League of Nations Mandates were transferred to the United Nations (UN) following World War II, but the Union of South Africa refused to agree to allow the territory to begin the transition to independence. Instead it was treated as a de facto 'fifth province' of the Union. The South African government turned this mandate arrangement into a military occupation, and extended apartheid to South-West Africa — later re-named Namibia by the UN.

In 1960, South Africa's policies received international scrutiny when British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan criticised them during his Wind of Change speech in Cape Town. Weeks later, tensions came to a head in the Sharpeville Massacre resulting in more international condemnation. Soon thereafter, Verwoerd announced a referendum on whether the country should sever links with the British monarchy and become a republic instead. Verwoerd lowered the voting age for whites to 18 and included whites in South West Africa on the voter's roll. The referendum on 5 October that year asked whites "Do you support a republic for the Union?" — 52% voted 'Yes'.

As a consequence of this change of status, South Africa needed to reapply for continued membership of the Commonwealth, with which it had privileged trade links. Even though India became an independent state within the Commonwealth in 1947 it became clear that African and Asian member states would oppose South Africa due to the apartheid policies being enforced. As a result, South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth on 31 May 1961, the day that the Republic came into existence.


International opposition
to Apartheid in South Africa
Disinvestment Academic boycott
Instruments and legislation
UN Resolution 1761 (1962)
Crime of Apartheid Convention (1973)
Gleneagles Agreement (1977)
Sullivan Principles (1977)
Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act (1986)
Anti-Apartheid Movement
UN Special Committee against Apartheid
Artists United Against Apartheid
Halt All Racist Tours
1964 Conference for Economic Sanctions
1978 World Conference against Racism
Other aspects
Elimination of Racism Day
Biko (song)
This box:     [ edit]

On 6 November 1962, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 1761, condemning South African apartheid policies. On 7 August 1963 the United Nations Security Council established a voluntary arms embargo against South Africa. Following the Soweto uprising in 1976 and its brutal suppression by the apartheid regime, the arms embargo was made mandatory by the UN Security Council on 4 November 1977 and South Africa became increasingly isolated internationally, with tough economic sanctions weighing heavily. Not all countries imposed or fully supported the sanctions, however; instead, they continued to benefit from trade with apartheid South Africa. During the 1980s, though, the number of countries opposing South Africa increased, and the economy came under tremendous strain.

Numerous conferences were held and the United Nations passed resolutions condemning South Africa, including the World Conference Against Racism in 1978 and 1983. A significant divestment movement started, pressuring investors to refuse to invest in South African companies or companies that did business with South Africa. South African sports teams were barred from participation in international events, and South African culture and tourism were boycotted.

Countries such as Zambia, Tanzania and the Soviet Union provided military support for the ANC and PAC. It was more difficult, though, for neighbouring states such as Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, because they were economically dependant on South Africa. Still, they did feed the struggle underground.

Ordinary people in foreign countries did much in protest against the apartheid government, too. The British Anti-Apartheid Movement was one of these, organising boycotts against South African sports teams, South African products such as wine and fruit, and British companies that dared trade with or in South Africa. Other organisations were formed to prevent musicians and the like from coming into the country, and others raised funds for the ANC and PAC.

After much debate, by the late 1980s the United States, the United Kingdom, and 23 other nations had passed laws placing various trade sanctions on South Africa.[25] A divestment movement in many countries was similarly widespread, with individual cities and provinces around the world implementing various laws and local regulations forbidding registered corporations under their jurisdiction from doing business with South African firms, factories, or banks.[26]

In an analysis of the effect of sanctions on South Africa by the FW de Klerk Foundation, it was argued that they were not a leading contributor to the political reforms leading to the end of Apartheid.[27] The analysis concluded that in many instances sanctions undermined effective reform forces, such as the changing economic and social order within South Africa. Furthermore, it was argued that forces encouraging economic growth and development resulted in a more international and liberal outlook amongst South Africans, and were far more powerful agents of reform than sanctions.

Western influence

While international opposition to apartheid grew, the Nordic countries in particular provided both moral and financial support for the ANC. On 21 February 1986 – a week before he was murdered – Sweden's prime minister Olof Palme made the keynote address to the Swedish People's Parliament Against Apartheid held in Stockholm. In addressing the hundreds of anti-apartheid sympathizers as well as leaders and officials from the ANC and the Anti-Apartheid Movement such as Oliver Tambo, Palme declared:
"Apartheid cannot be reformed; it has to be eliminated."

Other Western countries adopted a more ambivalent position. In the 1980s, both the Reagan and Thatcher administrations in the US and UK followed a 'constructive engagement' policy with the apartheid government, vetoing the imposition of UN economic sanctions on South Africa, as they both fiercely believed in free trade, and seeing South Africa as a bastion against Marxist forces in Southern Africa. Thatcher declared the ANC a terrorist organisation,[28], and in 1987 her spokesman, Bernard Ingham, famously said that anyone who believed that the ANC would ever form the government of South Africa was "living in cloud cuckoo land".[29]

By the late 1980s, however, with the tide of the Cold War turning and no sign of a political resolution in South Africa, Western patience with the apartheid government began to run out. By 1989, a bipartisan Republican/Democratic initiative in the US favoured economic sanctions (realized as the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act), the release of Nelson Mandela and a negotiated settlement involving the ANC. Thatcher too began to take a similar line but insisted on the suspension of the ANC's armed struggle.[30]

Some might argue that Britain's significant economic involvement in South Africa provided some leverage with the South Africa government, with both the UK and the US applying pressure on the government, and pushing for negotiations. However, neither Britain nor the US were willing to apply economic pressure upon their multinational interests in South Africa, such as the mining company Anglo American. A high-profile case claiming compensation from these companies was thrown out of court in 2004.[31]

South African Border War

By 1966, SWAPO launched guerilla raids from neighbouring countries against South Africa's occupation of South-West Africa/Namibia. Initially South Africa fought a counter-insurgency war against SWAPO. But this conflict deepened after Angola gained its independence in 1975 under communist leadership, the MPLA, and South Africa promptly challenged them, allying with the Angolan rival party, UNITA. By the end of the 1970s, Cuba had joined the fray, in one of several late Cold War flashpoints throughout Southern Africa [32]. This developed into a conventional war between South Africa & UNITA on one side against the Angolan government, the Cubans, the Soviets & SWAPO on the other side.

Total onslaught

By 1980, as international opinion turned decisively against the apartheid regime, the government and much of the white population increasingly looked upon the country as a bastion besieged by communism and radical black nationalists. Considerable effort was put into circumventing sanctions, and the government even went so far as to develop nuclear weapons, allegedly with the help of Israel.[33] South Africa is the only country to date to have developed and voluntarily relinquished her nuclear arsenal.

Negotiating majority rule with the ANC was not considered an option (at least publicly), and it left the government to defend the country against external and internal threats through sheer military might. A siege mentality developed among whites, and, although many believed that a civil war against the black majority could not possibly be won, they preferred this to "giving in" to political reform. Brutal police and military actions seemed entirely justifiable. Paradoxically, the international sanctions that cut whites off from the rest of the world enabled black leaders to develop sophisticated political skills as those in exile forged ties with both regional and world leaders.

PW Botha initiated a policy of "Total Onslaught, Total Strategy", whereby reform was mixed with repression. With big businesses (affected by apartheid policies) ardently desirous of change, the government established two important commissions of enquiry. The Riekert Commission concluded that blacks ought to be allowed to buy their own homes in urban areas, while the Wiehahn Commission dictated that black trade unions be given more freedom, more money be spent on black education and some apartheid legislation be abolished. The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act most certainly was, while the pass laws and employment colour bar were relaxed. Fewer people, certainly, were arrested for offences pertaining to the latter as segregation in everyday life was gradually lessened. The government also gave so-called "independence" to a number of the homelands, but this seems to have been in part due to the fact that, as foreign citizens, their people could no longer expect anything from the South African government. Indeed, none of these reforms lessened the power of the white minority.

The term "front-line states" referred to countries in Southern Africa geographically near South Africa. Although these front-line states were all opposed to apartheid, many were economically dependent on South Africa. In 1980, they formed the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), the aim of which was to promote economic development in the region and hence reduce dependence on South Africa. Furthermore, many SADCC members also allowed the exiled ANC and PAC to establish bases in their countries.

Other African countries also contributed to the fall of apartheid. In 1978, Nigeria boycotted the Commonwealth Games because New Zealand's sporting contacts with the South African government were not considered to be in accordance with the 1977 Gleneagles Agreement. Nigeria also led the 32-nation boycott of the 1986 Commonwealth Games because of British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's ambivalent attitude towards sporting links with South Africa, significantly affecting the quality and profitability of the Games and thus thrusting apartheid into the international spotlight.[34]

A number of African countries contributed materially and morally to the ANC's guerilla-insurgency campaign within South Africa.

Cross Border Raids

South Africa had a policy to attack terrorist bases in neighbouring countries. These attacks were mainly aimed at ANC, PAC and SWAPO guerrilla-bases and safe houses in retaliation for acts of terror - like bomb explosions, massacres and guerrilla actions (like sabotage) by ANC, PAC and Swapo guerrillas in South Africa and Namibia. The country also aided organisations in surrounding countries who were actively combatting the spread of communism in Southern Africa. The results of these policies included:
  • Support for anti-government guerrilla groups such as UNITA in Angola and RENAMO in Mozambique
  • South African Defence Force (SADF; now the South African National Defence Force; SANDF) hit-squad raids into front-line states. Bombing raids were also conducted into neighbouring states.
  • A full-scale invasion of Angola: this was partly in support of UNITA, but was also an attempt to strike at SWAPO bases.
  • Targeting of exiled ANC leaders abroad: Joe Slovo's wife Ruth First was killed by a parcel bomb in Maputo, and 'death squads' of the Civil Co-operation Bureau and the Directorate of Military Intelligence attempted to carry out assassinations on ANC targets in Brussels, Paris and Stockholm, as well as burglaries and bombings in London.
In 1984, Mozambican president Samora Machel signed the Nkomati Accord with South Africa's president P.W. Botha, in an attempt to rebuild Mozambique's economy. South Africa agreed to cease supporting anti-government forces, while the MK was prohibited from operating in Mozambique. This was an awful setback for the ANC.

In 1986 President Machel himself was killed in an air crash in mountainous terrain near the South African border after returning from a meeting in Zambia. South Africa was accused of continuing its aid to RENAMO and having caused the crash using a new advanced electronic beacon capable of luring aircraft into crashing. This was never proven and is still a subject of great controversy. The South African Margo Commission found that the crash was an accident while a Soviet delegation issued a minority report implicating South Africa.[35]


The National Party government implemented, alongside apartheid, a program of social conservatism. Pornographic movies, gambling and other vices were banned. At the same time, it instituted the International Freedom Foundation. Printed or filmed pornography (of even the mildest variety) was banned and its possession was punishable by incarceration.

Television was not introduced until 1975 because it was viewed as dangerous by right-wingers. Television was also run on apartheid lines -- TV1 broadcast in Afrikaans and English (and was geared to a white audience); TV2 in Zulu and Xhosa (and geared to a black audience); TV3 in Sotho, Tswana and Pedi (and geared to a black audience); and TV4 showed mostly African-American programmes (for an urban-black audience). All TV channels were government-owned and acted as propaganda agents for apartheid.

Sunday was considered holy. Cinemas, bottle stores and most other businesses were forbidden from operating on Sundays. Abortion and sex education were also restricted; abortion was legal only in cases of rape or if the mother's life was threatened.

State security

During the 1980s the government, led by P.W. Botha, became increasingly preoccupied with security. On the advice of American political scientist Samuel Huntington, Botha's government set up a powerful state security apparatus to "protect" the state against an anticipated upsurge in political violence that the reforms were expected to trigger. The 1980s became a period of considerable political unrest, with the government becoming increasingly dominated by Botha's circle of generals and police chiefs (known as securocrats), who managed the various States of Emergencies.

Botha's years in power were marked also by numerous military interventions in the states bordering South Africa, as well as an extensive military and political campaign to eliminate SWAPO in Namibia. Within South Africa, meanwhile, vigorous police action and strict enforcement of security legislation resulted in hundreds of arrests and bannings, and an effective end to the ANC's sabotage campaign.

The government punished political offenders brutally. Between 1982 and 1983, 40,000 people were subjected to whipping as a form of punishment. The vast majority had committed political offences and were lashed ten times for their trouble. If convicted of treason, a person could be hanged, and the government executed numerous political offenders in this way.

State of Emergency

During the last years of apartheid rule in South Africa, the country was more or less in a constant state of emergency.

Increasing civil unrest and township violence led to the government declaring a State of Emergency on 20 July 1985, giving it the power to deal with resistance to apartheid. More human rights were violated during this period than ever before. It became a criminal offence to threaten someone verbally or possess documents that the government perceived to be threatening. It was illegal to advise anyone to stay away from work or oppose the government. It was illegal, too, to disclose the name of anyone arrested under the State of Emergency until the government saw fit to release that name. People could face up to ten years' imprisonment for these offences. However, although the government increased its repressive measures, it was not enough to secure a lasting position in power.

Then-President P.W. Botha declared the State of Emergency in 36 magisterial districts. Areas affected were the Eastern Cape, and the PWV region ("Pretoria, Witwatersrand, Vereeniging"). Three months later the Western Cape was included as well. During this state of emergency about 2,436 people were detained under the Internal Security Act. This act gave police and the military sweeping powers. The government could implement curfews controlling the movement of people. The president could rule by decree without referring to the constitution or to parliament.

Four days before the ten-year commemoration of the Soweto uprising, another state of emergency was declared on 12 June 1986 to cover the whole country. The government amended the Public Security Act, expanding its powers to include the right to declare certain places "unrest areas". This allowed the state to employ extraordinary measures to crush protests in these areas. Television cameras were banned from entering "unrest areas". The state broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) provided propaganda in support of the government. This version of reality was challenged by a range of pro-ANC alternative publications.

In 1989, with the State of Emergency extended to a fourth year, Prime Minister Botha met Mandela and agreed to work for a peaceful solution to the conflict in the country. Talks commenced with the ANC, prominent business leaders, the Commonwealth and the Eminent Persons Group.

The state of emergency continued until 1990, when F.W. de Klerk became the State President, and lifted the 30-year ban on leading anti-apartheid group the African National Congress, the smaller Pan Africanist Congress and the South African Communist Party. He also made his first public commitment to release jailed ANC leader Nelson Mandela, returned to press freedom and suspend the death penalty.

HIV/AIDS epidemic

In 1982, the first recorded death from AIDS occurred in the country. Within a decade, the number of recorded AIDS cases (overwhelmingly in the black population) had risen to over 1,000, and by the mid-1990s, it had reached 10,000.

In late 1980s, the South African Chamber of Mines began an education campaign to try to stem the rise of cases. But without a change in the underlying conditions of mine workers, a major factor contributing to the epidemic, success could hardly be expected. Long periods away from home under bleak conditions and a few days leave a month were the apartheid-induced realities of the life thousands of miners and other labourers worked. Compounding the problem was the fact that as of the mid-1990s, many health officials still focused more on the incidence of tuberculosis than HIV.

Final years of apartheid

Serious political violence was a prominent feature of South Africa from 1985 to 1995. There was virtually a civil war between left-wing and right-wing South Africans. From 1985-1988 the P.W. Botha government tried to crush left-wing organizations. For three years police and soldiers patrolled South African towns. Thousands of people were detained. Deaths mounted on both sides. Many of those detained by the government were interrogated and tortured; while anti-government activists used the "necklace method" (burning people alive) to kill black people suspected of supporting apartheid. The government banned television cameras from filming "unrest zones".

The ANC and the PAC exploded bombs in restaurants, shopping centres and in front of government buildings such as magistrates courts, killing and maiming civilians and government officials in the process. By 1985, it had become the ANC's aim to make black townships "ungovernable" (a term later replaced by "people's power") by forcing residents to stop paying for services. The townships duly became the focus areas in the apartheid struggle.

Throughout the 'eighties, township people resisted apartheid by acting against the local issues that faced their particular communities. The focus of much of the resistance was against the community organisations and their leaders, who were seen to be supporting the government. The fact that they were also the ones responsible for rent collection merely added to their unpopularity. (A common form of township protest was the rent boycott.) The official governments of numerous townships were either overthrown or collapsed, to be replaced by unofficial organisations, led generally by the youth but welcoming workers and residents of all ages. People's courts were set up, and township residents accused of supporting the government were "put on trial" and dealt extreme (often lethal) punishments. Black town councillors and policemen, and their families, were attacked with petrol bombs and "necklaces", a fate suffered by many residents who resisted such tactics: they were brutally murdered by having a burning tire placed around their necks. This became known as necklacing.

During the ANC-enforced consumer boycotts of manufacturers who were seen to be treating workers badly or supporting apartheid, residents had to eat soap powder and drink kerosene if they were alleged to have bought from white-owned shops. During this period an average of more than 100 people died as a result of black-on-black violence in the black townships every month with the figure increasing to as high as 259 per month between 1990 and 1993.

Much of this unrest took the ANC by surprise. Its calls to make the townships "ungovernable" were most certainly being heeded. Much of the unrest was directed at government, but a substantial quantity was between the residents themselves. Rivalries existed between members of INKATHA and the UDF-ANC faction, and many people died as a result of this violence. It was later proven that the government manipulated the situation by supporting one side or the other when it suited it. Between 1984 and 1988, over 4,000 people died as a result of political violence.

In the early 1980s, PW Botha's National Party government recognised the need to reform apartheid. These reforms were driven by a combination of internal violence, international condemnation, changes within the National Party's constituency, and changing demographics — whites constituted only 16% of the total population and dropping, in comparison to 20% fifty years earlier. P.W. Botha told white South Africans to "adapt or die". In 1984 the Tricameral reforms were introduced. Ironically, these served only to trigger intensified political violence through the remainder of the 'eighties as more communities and political groups across the country joined the resistance movement. Between 1986 and 1988, all petty apartheid laws were repealed. In 1984, a new constitution was introduced, which gave Parliamentary representation to coloureds and Indians (but not blacks, expected to remain citizens of the homelands). Of course, PW Botha's government stopped well short of reform that included releasing ANC, PAC and SACP political prisoners, with the Prime Minister often reiterating that he would negotiate only with those groups which rejected political violence.

The 1983 constitution was part of the NP government's larger plan to reform its policy of apartheid. The new constitution, in practice, hardly amounted to much of a reform: although it gave Indians and Coloureds at least some form of say in government, it ensured that their political influence was decidedly limited. More importantly, though, the constitution did not grant black people, who made up the majority of the population, any such involvement.

Under the new constitution, parliament was divided into three distinctly racial houses -- the House of Assembly (178 members) for whites, the House of Representatives (85 members) for coloureds and the House of Delegates (45 members) for Indians. Each House handled laws pertaining to their "own affairs". These included health, education and other community issues. All laws relating to "general affairs" were handled by a cabinet made up of representatives from all three houses -- although, naturally, the whites had the majority. "General affairs" normally concerned matters such as defence, industry and taxation, but it was up to the State President, of course, to decide upon what was "general" and what was not.

The 1983 Tricameral reforms led to both a right- and a left-wing backlash, such that unrest and political violence dramatically increased, as South Africa became increasingly polarised and fragmented, the government's hold on the country steadily weakening. As a result of increased pressure both within and outside the country, the state was forced to take measures to bring an end to apartheid.

The right-wing backlash gave rise to a neo-Nazi paramilitary group, the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB), led by Eugène Terre'Blanche. A left-wing United Democratic Front (UDF) was also formed at this time, as a direct response to the new constitution. The UDF was a cleverly-crafted, broad-based democratic coalition of affiliated organisations, calling for everyone opposed to the Tricameral System to "join hands"; its aim was to coordinate resistance within the country. It brought together 400 anti-apartheid organisations, unifying the struggle and made it more effective. All told, the UDF had about 1,500,000 members.

The UDF called first for resistance against the 1983 constitution and later organised some more general resistance against the government. Most resistance between 1984 and '86 was UDF-organised, but the National Forum also had a role to play (albeit a comparatively insignificant one). Like the UDF, the National Forum comprised a number of organisations, but it was also different in two ways:
  • The NF was not as non-racial, believing that whites should not be allowed to work together with the oppressed races to overthrow the government.
  • The NF felt that workers' interests were of utmost importance.
With so many political organisations banned at the time, the NF and UDF did important work in resistance to apartheid.

As the 1980s progressed, so more and more anti-apartheid organizations were formed and affiliated to the UDF. Led by the Reverend Allan Boesak and Albertina Sisulu, the UDF called for the government to abandon its reforms and instead abolish apartheid and eliminate the homelands completely.

Many Indians and coloureds also rejected the Tricameral system. Their lives were hardly any better, they still had to endure a battery of apartheid legislation, and they could do nothing with the limited power afforded them to make any real changes. The first Tricameral elections were largely boycotted, and there was widespread rioting.

Blacks saw the new constitution as an insult to both them and their struggle. Although they made up the majority of the population, they still found themselves, even after constitutional reforms, totally excluded from any real form of political representation. Rioting died down soon enough in the Indian and coloured areas, but it was sustained and far more violent in the black areas.

While these widespread protests were taking place, the ANC launched a series of violent attacks on the government, whose attempt with the new constitution to garner support among the non-white populace had failed miserably.

International pressure also increased as economic sanctions began to impact on the value of the rand, which all but collapsed. In 1985, the government declared a State of Emergency which was to stay in effect for the next five years. Television cameras were banned from the "unrest areas", and, by 1988, 30,000 people had been detained. Media opposition to the system increased, supported by the growth of a pro-ANC alternative press within South Africa.

In 1987, the State of Emergency was extended for another two years, and white intellectuals met the ANC in Senegal for talks. Meanwhile, about 200,000 members of the National Union of Mineworkers commenced the longest strike (three weeks) in South African history. Violence increased between the UDF and INKATHA supporters. 1988 saw the banning of the activities of the UDF and other anti-apartheid organisations, but the government suffered a massive setback to its pride when its army met with defeat in Angola.

International pressure on Botha's government continued to grow, with the US and UK now actively promoting the solution of a negotiated settlement with the black majority. Reforms gradually increased in number and magnitude. Early in 1989, however, Botha suffered a stroke, resigned on 13 February 1989 and was succeeded later that year by FW de Klerk. In his opening address to parliament in February 1990, in what has come to be known as the "unbanning speech", President De Klerk announced that he would repeal discriminatory laws and lift the ban on the ANC, the UDF, the PAC, and the SACP. The Land Act was brought to an end. Media restrictions were lifted, and De Klerk released political prisoners not guilty of common-law crimes.

A number of reasons have been put forward for the NP's abolishment of apartheid after having stood by it for so long:
  • With all the unrest in the country, the government was losing control.
  • The economy was getting weaker and weaker due to unrest, strikes, boycotts and economic sanctions. The value of the Rand had dropped significantly, and business leaders were putting pressure on the government to change.
  • The NP was losing support, while the more conservative white parties were gaining it. The 1982 NP breakaway, indeed, had resulted in the formation of the Conservative Party.
  • President De Klerk respected Mandela and knew that he needed him to help to sort out the country's problems.
  • De Klerk believed that God had chosen him to change his country.
  • With the Cold War now over, the government could no longer argue that apartheid was saving the country from Communism.
  • The NP and ANC had been meeting in secret. Both were willing to negotiate.
  • Optimistic NP members naively believed that the ANC would not do well in an election and, moreover, that the NP would win it.
  • The more realistic members of the NP hoped that the ANC would share power with them in an interim government.
On 11 February 1990, 27 years after he had first been incarcerated, Nelson Mandela walked out of the grounds of Victor Verster Prison as a free man, immediately calling for an even more determined effort against apartheid -- affirming his commitment to a peaceful and disciplined process. His release provoked unbridled joy and excitement throughout the country, and had a major and neigh-universal effect. Mandela had refused to be released until the other political prisoners were let out and the ANC and other such organisations unbanned.

There were, however, several problems that Mandela and the rest of the ANC faced. Much of the resistance had been disorganised and fragmentary. The ANC needed to get control over and the support of the people. There were also differences between members of the ANC who had been in exile and those who had remained in SA to fight apartheid.

Having been forced by the UN Security Council to end its long-standing military occupation in Namibia, South Africa had to relinquish control of the disputed territory, and it officially became an independent state on 21 March 1990.


From 1990 to 1991, the legal apparatus of apartheid was abolished. In 1990 negotiations were earnestly begun, with two meetings between the government and the ANC. The purpose of the negotiations was to pave the way for talks towards a peaceful transition of power. These meetings were successful in laying down the plans for the negotiations -- despite the considerable tensions still abounding within the country.

Enlarge picture
From 1990 to 1994, F. W. de Klerk led the National Party government in negotiating with the ANC in order to end apartheid.

At the first meeting, the NP and ANC discussed the conditions for negotiations to begin. The meeting was held at Groote Schuur, the President's official residence. They released the Groote Schuur Minute, which said that, before negotiations commenced, political prisoners would be freed and all exiles allowed to return.

De Klerk made further political changes in 1990, calling off the long-running State of Emergency (except in Natal) and abolishing the Separate Amenities Act. These changes were meant to make it patently clear that apartheid was ending. Mandela, however, called on other countries to persist with their economic sanctions, but, at the second 1990 meeting of the ANC and the NP at Pretoria, he announced the ANC's bringing an end to its armed struggle. However, although the Pretoria and Groote Schuur meetings had laid the foundations for peaceful negotiation, there were still ample tensions within the country.

The last major apartheid laws, the Group Areas Act and the Population Registration Act, were removed in 1991, convincing numerous countries to bring to an end their cultural, economic and sporting boycotts.

There were fears that the change of power in South Africa would be violent. To avoid this, it was essential that a peaceful resolution between all parties be reached. In December 1991, the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) began negotiations on the formation of a multiracial transitional government and a new constitution extending political rights to all groups. CODESA adopted a Declaration of Intent and committed itself to an "undivided South Africa". Although the talks broke down several times, they were eventually successful in getting the ANC and NP to reach an agreement.

The opening CODESA meeting was a success. The government met with major political parties (apart from the PAC and Conservative Party) at the end of 1991. They agreed that the new South Africa should be free from racial segregation and that an interim government ought to run the country until a new constitution had been drafted.

Most of the persistent violence through the country was due to impatience for change on the part of those still living under repression, and also the intense rivalry between the IFP and the ANC. Political violence exploded across the country, and, although Mandela and Buthelezi met to settle difference, they could not stem the tide of violence, creating more distrust between the two factions. One of the worst cases of ANC-IFP violence was the Boipatong Massacre of 17 June 1992, when 200 IFP militants attacked the Gauteng township of Boipatong. 45 people met their end. Witnesses said that the men had arrived in police vehicles, supporting claims that elements within the police and army contributed to the general violence. There have also been claims that high-ranking government officials and politicians ordered or at least condoned these massacres. When De Klerk tried to visit the scene of the incident, he was driven away by angry crowds, on whom the police opened fire, killing thirty.

The Bisho Massacre also added seriously to mounting tensions between the ANC and NP. It started off as an ANC march in protest against the leader of the Ciskei homeland, but 29 people were killed and 200 injured when, once more, the police opened fire as the marchers broke through their barriers.

The CP, meanwhile, not having taken part in CODESA, challenged the government to a general election so that white voters could decide on the future of South Africa. De Klerk responded by holding the last whites-only referendum in March 1992 to decide whether or not negotiations should continue. A 68-percent majority gave its support, and the victory instilled in De Klerk and the government a lot more confidence, giving the NP a stronger position in negotiations.

Thus, when CODESA II met in 1992, stronger demands were made. The ANC and the government could not reach a compromise on how power should be shared. The NP wanted to retain a strong position in government, as well as the power to change decisions made by parliament. Escalating violence added to the tensions, Mandela arguing that, as head of state, De Klerk ought to do something to bring an end to the bloodshed. He also accused the South African police of involvement in the ANC-IFP violence, and this was the primary reason for the ANC's withdrawal from the CODESA talks, which immediately broke down. Although De Klerk denied the allegation, they are still strongly suspected to be true today.

The ANC and COSATU, meanwhile, launched a campaign of mass action, and the fervent strike forced the NP to give in. Talks came to an official end but still continued on an unsanctioned basis. The ANC's Cyril Ramaphosa and the NP's Roelf Meyer took the negotiations forward. Both sides were willing to compromise and, accordingly, came to an agreement. Mandela and De Klerk signed a Record of Understanding, agreeing that a constituent assembly would be created to draw up the new constitution and that there would also be a five-year Government of National Unity so that all political parties would have the chance to participate in government. The Government of National Unity was believed to be an important factor in the reduction of tensions between the political parties. To give the chance to as many political parties as possible, it was decided that any party with five per cent or more of the vote would be represented in government. Any party with more than twenty per cent would receive a deputy president position.

There were a number of attacks on white civilians by the PAC's army, the Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA). The PAC was hoping to attract the support of the angry, impatient youth. In one such attack, members of the APLA entered a Cape Town church and opened fire, killing and wounding members of the congregation.

Right-wing violence also added to the hostilities of this period. The assassination of Chris Hani threatened to derail talks altogether. Hani, the popular general secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP), was assassinated in 1993 in Dawn Park in Johannesburg by Janusz Walus, an anti-Communist Polish refugee who had close links to the white nationalist AWB. His death brought forth protests throughout the country. Soon afterwards, the AWB broke through the gates of the World Trade Centre, where, despite everything, talks were now going ahead under the Negotiating Council. An armoured vehicle was crashed through the front of the building, but even this failed to derail the process. Although final agreements were not directly attained from CODESA I or II, it was as a result of their foundations that a peaceful resolution was agreed upon.

In 1993, the Negotiating Council reached an agreement on the election date, choosing 27 April 1994. Preparations amidst a sustained climate of terrifying unrest. It was decided that everyone over the age of eighteen would be allowed to vote. In 1993, the Interim Constitution was published and accepted, guaranteeing freedom of speech and religion, access to adequate housing and numerous other rights, as well as explicitly prohibiting discrimination on almost any ground. The Transitional Executive Council was formed to supervise the elections and an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) set up to run them. Ballot papers were printed and election stations set up. Independent officials were appointed to supervise and ensure a free and fair process. Ironically, the army, which had only a few years before been zealously defending apartheid, was now ensuring that nothing got in the way of its peaceful dissolution.

The IFP refused to join all other parties in registering for the elections. It wanted a guarantee that the Zulu king and IFP supporters would not be subject to discrimination. After talks with Mandela and De Klerk, the IFP changed its stance, just a week before the elections. With the ballot papers already printed, the IEC now had to add IFP stickers to them.

Enlarge picture
Newly elected President Nelson Mandela addressing the crowd from a balcony of the City Hall in Cape Town on 9 May 1994, the day before his inauguration.

Violence persisted right through to the 1994 elections. Lucas Mangope, leader of the Bophuthatswana homeland, declared that it would not take part in the elections. It had been decided that, once the temporary constitution had come into effect, the homelands would be incorporated into South Africa, but Mangope did not want this to happen. There were strong protests against his decision, and he eventually backed down. This did not, however, bring a halt to the right-wing violence as several militant came to Mangope's aid. Three of them were killed, and harrowing images were shown on national television and in newspapers across the world.

Two days before the elections, a car bomb exploded in Johannesburg, killing nine. The day before the elections, another one went off, injuring thirteen. Finally, though, at midnight on 26–27 April 1994, the old flag was lowered, and the old (now co-official) national anthem Die Stem ("The Call") was sung, followed by the raising of the new rainbow flag and singing of the other co-official anthem, Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika ("God Bless Africa"). The election went off peacefully amidst a palpable feeling of goodwill throughout the country. International observers were agreed that the elections were free and fair.

20,000,000 South Africans turned up to cast their votes. There was some difficulty in organising the voting in rural areas, but, throughout the country, people waited patiently for many hours in order to vote. An extra day was added to give everyone the chance. People had two votes to cast -- one for a National Government and another for a Provincial Government. As part of the new governmental structure, each province -- there were now nine -- was given a degree of political power. This meant that not all decisions were made by the national government.

The ANC won 62.7% of the vote, less than the 66.7% that would have allowed it to rewrite the constitution. As well as deciding the national government, the election decided the provincial governments, and the ANC won in all but two provinces. The NP captured most of the white and Coloured vote and became the official opposition party. The Government of National Unity was established, it cabinet made up of twelve ANC representatives, six from the NP and three from the IFP. Thabo Mbeki and FW De Klerk were made deputy presidents, and Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first democratically-elected president. The ANC won seven provinces, the NP the Western Cape and the IFP Natal.

Since then, 27 April is celebrated as a public holiday in South Africa known as Freedom Day.

In 1993, de Klerk and Mandela were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa".[36]

Legacies of apartheid

Economic inequality and Black Economic Empowerment

Many of the inequalities created and maintained by apartheid still remain in South Africa. The country has one of the most unequal income distribution patterns in the world: approximately 60% of the population earns less than R42,000 per annum (about US$7,000), whereas 2.2% of the population has an income exceeding R360,000 per annum (about US$50,000). Poverty in South Africa is still largely defined by skin colour, with black people constituting the poorest layer. Despite the ANC government having implemented a policy of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), blacks make up over 90% of the country's poor but only 79.5% of the population.[37] [38]

Part of the policy of Black Economic Empowerment is the imposition of 'employment equity' targets. In terms of this, companies are assessed based on their racial composition. To attain the 'correct' racial balance in a company, the Employment Equity Act allows for legal discrimination against White males and to a lesser extent White females when appointing staff. Government contracts and a few in the private sector are also preferentially awarded to companies with good BEE ratings. In September 2006 the Labour Ministry ordered private companies to classify their employees according to race. The classification was to be done based on a form that every employee had to complete, which used the apartheid-era racial categories. On the form the employee had to confirm whether they regarded themselves as White, Indian, Coloured or African.[39] This caused some controversy and some employees refused to classify themselves saying it was a return to the race classification system of the Apartheid era. In such cases employers were forced in terms of the Employment Equity Act to do a classification based on the general appearance of those employees who refused to classify themselves.

Land ownership inequality and land claims

Eighty percent of farming land still remains in the hands of white farmers;[40] the requirement that claimants for restoration of land seized during the apartheid era make a contribution towards the cost of the land "excludes the poorest layers of the population altogether",[37] while a large number of white farmers have been murdered since 1994 (roughly 313 per 100 000 annually) in what campaign groups claim is a campaign of genocide.[41][42] Human Rights Watch contend that the publicity given to these murders and attacks removes attention from the plight of poor black rural people, and contend that they are purely criminal in nature. [43] Regardless, crime against white farmers receives strong media coverage. Opposition against land reforms fear that by removing commercial farmers from their land and dividing up the land to poor urbanized people with no comprehension of agriculture or agricultural management would lead to a state of famine like the one being experienced in Zimbabwe at the moment.

In Durban a large movement of shackdwellers has mobilized against city authorities claiming that popular attempts to desegregate the city in the 1980s are now being reversed by the mass eviction of shack dwellers.[44]


The following individuals, who had previously supported apartheid, made public apologies:

Establishment of the "crime of apartheid" by the International Criminal Court

Main article: Crime of apartheid

South African apartheid was condemned internationally as unjust and racist. In 1973 the General Assembly of the United Nations agreed on the text of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. The immediate intention of the Convention was to provide a formal legal framework within which member states could apply sanctions to press the South African government to change its policies. However, the Convention was phrased in general terms, with the express intention of prohibiting any other state from adopting analogous policies. The Convention came into force in 1976.

The Rome Statute defined Apartheid as one of eleven crimes against humanity. Citizens of the majority of states, including South Africa, which have ratified the statute can be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court for committing or abetting the crime of apartheid.[45]

See also

Part of a of articles on
Major forms
Slavery · Racial profiling
Hate speech · Hate crime
Genocide · Ethnocide · Holocaust
Ethnic cleansing · Pogrom
Intolerance · Xenophobia
Religious intolerance/persecution
Aryanism · Neo-Nazism
White/Black supremacy
Women's/Universal suffrage
Civil rights · Gay rights
Gay marriage
Zimbabwe land reform
Darfur conflict
Apartheid · Isolationism
Japanese internment
Emancipation · Civil rights
Integration · Desegregation
Affirmative action · Racial quota
Alien and Sedition Acts
Jim Crow laws · Black codes
Nuremberg Laws
Apartheid laws
Equal Rights Amendment
Civil Rights Act
(List article)
Specific forms
Anti-Arabism · Classism
Linguicism · Ethnocentrism
Nationalism · Triumphalism
Economic discrimination
Other topics
Eugenics · Racialism
Prejudice · Political correctness
Reverse discrimination

Movies referencing Apartheid

Books referencing Apartheid

Poems referencing Apartheid

Popular music referencing Apartheid


1. ^ That part of the country in which whites resided.
2. ^ G Harris, WD Franklin, WD Collins and Edgar Deane.
3. ^ Alistair Boddy-Evans. African History: Apartheid Legislation in South Africa, About.Com. Accessed June 5 2007.
4. ^ The Afrikaans Medium Decree. About.com. Retrieved on 2007-03-14.
5. ^ Those who had the money to travel or emigrate were not given full passports; instead, "travel documents" were issued.
6. ^ Mandela, Nelson p.179.
7. ^ Health Sector Strategic Framework 1999–2004 — Background, Department of Health, 2004, accessed 8 November 2006
8. ^ ANC/FSAW official website, “Women’s Charter. Adopted at the Founding Conference of the Federation of South African Women. Johannesburg, 17 April 1954” [1]
9. ^ Richard E. Lapchick and Stephanie Urdang. Oppression and Resistance. The Struggle of Women in Southern Africa. (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1982, pp 48
10. ^ Lapchick and Urdang, pp.52
11. ^ Bernstein, Hilda. For their Triumphs and for their Tears: Women in Apartheid South Africa.(International Defense and Aid Fund for Southern Africa. Revised and enlarged edition, London, March 1985), pp.48
12. ^ Pogrund, Benjamin (1990). How Can Man Die Better: The Life of Robert Sobukwe. 
13. ^ David M. Sibeko (March 1976). The Sharpeville Massacre: Its historic significance in the struggle against apartheid. United Nations Centre against Apartheid. Retrieved on 2005-08-20.
14. ^ "African National Congress", US National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism web site
15. ^ Slightly more contentious was the movement's decision to stop working with white liberals in multi-racial organisations.
16. ^ Bernstein, Hilda. For their Triumphs and for their Tears: Women in Apartheid South Africa(International Defense and Aid Fund for Southern Africa. Revised and enlarged edition, London, March 1985), pp. 86
17. ^ Lachick and Urdang, pp.110
18. ^ Rob Davied, Dan O’Meara and Sipho Dlamini. The Struggle For South Africa: A reference guide to movements, organizations and institution. Volume Two. (London: Zed Books Ltd, 1984),pp. 366
19. ^ Bernstein, pp. 96
20. ^ ANC/FSAW, “Women’s Charter,” [2]
21. ^ ANC/FSAW, “What Women Want,”Compiled in Preparation for the Congress of the People, 1955.” [3]
22. ^ ANC oficial website,Lilian Nogyi, [4]
23. ^ ANC, Secretariat for the World Conference of the United Nations Decade for Women. “The Role of Women in the Struggle Against Apartheid, 1980,” [5]
24. ^ Bernstein,Hilda pp.100-101
25. ^ Kimberly Ann Elliott and Gary Clyde Hufbauer. Sanctions. The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics.
26. ^ [6]
27. ^ De Klerk, Frederik Willem (14 June 2004). The Effect of Sanctions on Constitutional Change in SA (PDF). FW de Klerk Foundation.
28. ^ Oliver Tambo interviewed by The Times. ANC (13 June 1988).
29. ^ Mandela's triumphant walk. News24 (18 July 2003).
30. ^ Mark Phillips and Colin Coleman (1989). Another Kind of War (PDF).
31. ^ [7]
32. ^ Interview with Pik Botha (20 May 1997).
33. ^ "Brothers in Arms - Israel's secret pact with Pretoria", The Guardian, 7 February 2006|. 
34. ^ Commonwealth Games. About.com. Retrieved on 2007-02-07.
35. ^ The case "Samora Machel". contrast.org. Retrieved on 2007-02-07.
36. ^ The Nobel Peace Prize 1993. Nobel Foundation. Retrieved on 2007-04-27.
37. ^ "United Nations report highlights growing inequality in South Africa", World Socialist Website, 21 May 2004. Retrieved on 2007-02-07. 
38. ^ Mid-year population estimates, South Africa (PDF). Statistics South Africa (2006).
39. ^ "Labour race classification criticised", iafrica.com, 27 September 2006. 
40. ^ "S African white farm to be seized", BBC, 23 September 2005. 
41. ^ The Farm Murder Plague.
42. ^ Stop Boer Genocide.
43. ^ Bronwen Manby (August 2001). Unequal Protection - The State Response to Violent Crime on South African Farms. Human Rights Watch. ISBN 1-56432-263-7. Retrieved on 2006-10-28. 
44. ^ Abahlali baseMjondolo.
45. ^ "The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which entered into force in 2002, also provides for individual international criminal responsibility." Britannica: Nonstate actors in international law, accessed June 12, 2006.


  • Davenport, T.R.H. South Africa. A Modern History. MacMillan, 1977.
  • De Klerk, F.W. The last Trek. A New Beginning. MacMillan, 1998.
  • Eiselen, W.W.N. The Meaning of Apartheid, Race Relations, 15 (3), 1948.
  • Giliomee, Herman The Afrikaners. Hurst & Co., 2003.
  • Meredith, Martin. In the name of apartheid: South Africa in the postwar period. 1st U.S. ed. New York: Harper and Row, 1988.
  • Meredith, Martin. The State of Africa. The Free Press, 2005.
  • Hexham, Irving, ''The Irony of Apartheid: The Struggle for National Independence of Afrikaner Calvinism against British Imperialism." Edwin Mellen, 1981.
  • Visser, Pippa. In search of history. Oxford University Press Southern Africa, 2003.
  • Louw, P.Eric. The Rise, Fall and Legacy of Apartheid. Praeger, 2004.
  • Terreblanche, S. A History of Inequality in South Africa, 1652-2002. University of Natal Press, 2003.
  • Federal Research Division. South Africa - a country study. Library of Congress, 1996.
  • Book: Crocodile Burning. By Michael Williams. 1994
  • Davied, Rob, Dan O’Meara and Sipho Dlamini. The Struggle For South Africa: A reference guide to movements, organizations and institution. Volume Two. London: Zed Books Ltd. 1984
  • Lapchick, Richard and Urdang, Stephanie. Oppression and Resistance. The Struggle of Women in Southern Africa. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. 1982.
  • Bernstein, Hilda. For their Triumphs and for their Tears: Women in Apartheid South Africa.International Defense and Aid Fund for Southern Africa.London, 1985.

External links

Apartheid (meaning separate-ness in Afrikaans, cognate to English apart and -hood ) was a system of racial segregation in South Africa from 1948, and was dismantled in a series of negotiations from 1990 to 1993, culminating in democratic elections in
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Sharpeville massacre, also known as the Sharpeville shootings, occurred on March 21, 1960, when South African police began shooting on a crowd of black protesters. The confrontation occurred in the township of Sharpeville, in what is now Gauteng province.
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Soweto uprising or Soweto riots were a series of riots in Soweto, South Africa on June 16, 1976 between black youths and the South African authorities. The riots grew out of protests against the policies of the National Party government and its apartheid regime.
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Treason Trial was a trial in which 156 people (105 Blacks, 21 Indians, 23 Whites and 7 Coloureds), including Nelson Mandela, were arrested in a raid and accused of treason in South Africa in 1956.
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Rivonia Trial was an infamous trial which took place in South Africa between 1963 and 1964, in which ten leaders of the African National Congress were tried for 221 acts of sabotage designed to "ferment[sic] violent revolution" [1] to overthrow the apartheid system.
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The Church Street bombing was a 1983 attack by the Umkhonto we Sizwe in the South African capital Pretoria, killing 19 and wounded more than 200.[1][2] The bombing was one of the biggest attacks committed by the ANC during its armed struggle against apartheid.
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negotiations between 1990 and 1993 and through unilateral steps by the De Klerk government. These negotiations took place between the governing National Party, the African National Congress, and a wide variety of other political organisations.
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The St James Church massacre was a massacre perpetrated on St James Church, Cape Town by the Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA).


During the Sunday evening service on 25 July 1993, a group of APLA cadres attacked the St. James Church in Kenilworth.
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African National Congress (ANC) has been South Africa's governing party, supported by its tripartite alliance with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP), since the establishment of majority rule in May 1994.
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South Africa

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
South Africa

  • Constitution

  • Government

  • Executive

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Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging or AWB, meaning Afrikaner Resistance Movement, is a political and paramilitary group in South Africa under the leadership of Eugène Terre'Blanche.
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Black Sash was a non-violent white women's resistance organization founded in 1955 in South Africa by Jean Sinclair. The Black Sash initially campaigned against the removal of Coloured or mixed race voters from the voters' roll in the Cape Province by the National Party government.
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Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB) was a covert, special forces organisation in the apartheid era whose objectives[1] were:
  • to eliminate anti-apartheid activists throughout the world;
  • to destroy ANC facilities both inside and outside South Africa; and,

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South Africa

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
South Africa

  • Constitution

  • Government

  • Executive

..... Click the link for more information.
South Africa

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
South Africa

  • Constitution

  • Government

  • Executive

..... Click the link for more information.
South Africa

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
South Africa

  • Constitution

  • Government

  • Executive

..... Click the link for more information.
South Africa

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
South Africa

  • Constitution

  • Government

  • Executive

..... Click the link for more information.
The Herstigte Nasionale Party van Suid-Afrika (Reconstituted National Party of South Africa) was formed as a right wing splinter group of the South African National Party.


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Umkhonto we Sizwe (or MK), translated "Spear of the Nation", was the active military wing of the African National Congress in cooperation with the South African Communist Party in their fight against the South African apartheid regime.
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South Africa

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
South Africa

  • Constitution

  • Government

  • Executive

..... Click the link for more information.
South Africa

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
South Africa

  • Constitution

  • Government

  • Executive

..... Click the link for more information.
United Democratic Front (UDF) was one of the most important anti-apartheid organisations of the 1980s. The non-racial coalition of about 400 civic, church, students', workers' and other organisations (national, regional and local) was formed in 1983, initially to fight the
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Afrikaner Broederbond (AB) (meaning Afrikaner Brotherhood) or Broederbond was a secret, exclusively male, Protestant organization in South Africa dedicated to the advancement of Afrikaner interests. Founded by HJ Klopper, HW van der Merwe, DHC du Plessis and Rev.
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Major forms

Slavery · Racial profiling
Hate speech · Hate crime
Genocide · Ethnocide · Holocaust
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Congress of South African Trade Unions
Founded 1985
Members 1.8 million
Country South Africa
Affiliation ITUC, ICFTU-AFRO
Key people William Madisha, president
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Pieter Willem Botha (January 12 1916 – October 31 2006), commonly known as "P. W." and Die Groot Krokodil (Afrikaans for "The Big Crocodile"), was the prime minister of South Africa from 1978 to 1984 and the first executive state president from 1984 to 1989.
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Joshua Oupa Gqozo (10 March 1952 - ) was the military ruler of the former homeland of Ciskei in South Africa.

Early life

Oupa Gqozo was born in Kroonstad on 10 March 1952, the son of a Christian minister.
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Daniel François Malan (22 May 1874 – 7 February 1959), more commonly known as D.F. Malan, was a Prime Minister of South Africa. He is seen as the champion of Afrikaner nationalism, and his government started to implement apartheid policies.
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Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela IPA: [xolíɬaɬa mandéːla] (born 18 July 1918) is a former President of South Africa, the first to be elected in fully representative democratic elections.
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Frederik Willem de Klerk (born March 18, 1936) was the last State President of Apartheid-era South Africa, serving from September 1989 to May 1994. De Klerk was also leader of the National Party (which later became the New National Party) from February 1989 to September 1997.
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