In 1943, during World War II, young members of the ANC, critical of what they considered its passivity, formed their own organization, the Congress Youth League (CYL). Anton Lembede, president of the CYL from 1944 until his death in 1947, stressed that South Africa was "a black man's country," in which the concerns of Africans should take precedence. He argued that African society was socialistic, but, because he considered the conflict in South Africa to be primarily a racial rather than a class struggle, he repudiated any alliance with the Communist Party in bringing about "national liberation." After the war and Lembede's death, and faced by the implementation of apartheid, the CYL's leaders, Peter Mda, Jordan Ngubane, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, and Walter Sisulu, strove to take charge of the ANC. They called on the organization to adopt the use of strikes, boycotts, stay-at-homes, and various forms of civil disobedience and non-cooperation to make the apartheid system unworkable. Overcoming the opposition of ANC president Alfred Xuma, the CYL succeeded in 1949 in electing James Moroka to the presidency, in seating three CYL members (Sisulu, Tambo, and Mandela) on the party's national executive body, and in persuading the congress formally to adopt the program of action.
The ANC's new leaders formed a Joint Planning Council with leaders of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) (unlike Lembede, the Mandela, Sisulu, and Tambo team believed strongly in working with other groups) and in February 1952 called on the government to repeal all unjust laws or face a Defiance Campaign starting on April 6, the tercentenary of Jan van Riebeeck's arrival at the Cape. Malan rejected the ultimatum. The ANC and the SAIC, led by Yusuf Dadoo, then organized mass rallies and stay-at-homes for April 6 and June 26. These actions drew the support of thousands of men and women. The government reacted by banning leaders and newspapers under the Suppression of Communism Act and by arresting participants in the demonstrations. By December 1952, approximately 8,500 people had been arrested, most of them in the Cape, and the Defiance Campaign had largely come to an end without bringing about any change in the laws. The ANC had grown enormously, however: its paid membership had increased from fewer than 7,000 at the beginning of 1952 to more than 100,000 by the end of the year. Its leadership had also changed: James Moroka had been dismissed in disgrace for having pleaded guilty to charges placed under the Suppression of Communism Act, and Albert Luthuli had been made president.
House arrests, bannings, and other forms of government restriction limited the ability of ANC and SAIC leaders to organize publicly in 1953 and 1954, but in 1955, approximately 3,000 delegates met on June 25 and June 26 near Soweto in a Congress of the People. They represented black (the ANC), white (the Congress of Democrats), Indian (the SAIC), and coloured (the Coloured People's Congress) political organizations and the multiracial South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU). The congress was held to develop a new vision for a future South Africa, one that reached beyond protest politics. The prime document discussed was the Freedom Charter, which had been drafted several weeks before the congress met. The charter emphasized that South Africa should be a nonracial society with no particular group assumed to have special rights or privileges. The charter stated that all people should be treated equally before the law, that land should be "shared among those who work it," and that the people should "share in the country's wealth," a statement that has sometimes been interpreted to mean a call for nationalization. The congress delegates had ratified almost all the sections of the charter when the police surrounded the meeting, announced that they suspected treason was being committed, and recorded the names and addresses of all those in attendance.
Struggles over apartheid legislation continued through the remainder of the 1950s. In 1956 the police arrested 156 leaders, including Luthuli, Mandela, Tambo, Sisulu, and others, and put them on trial for treason in a court case that dragged on for five years. Mass resistance, however, continued in a variety of forms. Thousands of people participated in bus boycotts on the Rand, preferring to walk to work rather than to pay high fares to travel on substandard vehicles. Thousands of African women, organized by the newly formed Federation of South African Women (FSAW), protested the extension of the pass laws. In 1956, 20,000 of them marched on the Parliament buildings in Pretoria and presented a petition with the signatures of tens of thousands of people opposed to the pass laws. Yet these efforts had little effect on the Nationalist government, which was determined to implement apartheid.
The failure to achieve any real success caused a major split in black resistance in 1959. Critics within the ANC argued that its alliance with other political groups, particularly the white Congress of Democrats, caused their organization to make too many compromises and to fail to represent African interests. Influenced by the writings of Lembede, the Africanists, led by Robert Sobukwe, called on the ANC to look to African interests first and to take more action to challenge the government. They were, however, forced out of the ANC, and they formed their own organization, the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC). In March 1960, the PAC began a national campaign against the pass laws and called on Africans to assemble outside police stations without their passes and to challenge the police to arrest them. One such demonstration outside the police station at Sharpeville, a "native" township in the industrial area of Vereeniging to the south of Johannesburg, ended in violence when the police fired on the demonstrators, killing at least sixty-seven of them and wounding 186. Most of the dead and wounded were shot in the back. Stoppages and demonstrations continued, including a peaceful march of 30,000 Africans on the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town. Verwoerd's government reacted by declaring a state of emergency, by arresting approximately 18,000 demonstrators, including the leaders of the ANC and the PAC, and by outlawing both organizations.
Prohibited from operating peacefully or even having a legal existence in South Africa, both the ANC and the PAC established underground organizations in 1961 to carry out their struggle against the government. The militant wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK--Spear of the Nation, also known as Umkhonto), targeted strategic places such as police stations and power plants but carefully avoided taking any human lives. Poqo (Blacks Only), the militant wing of the PAC, engaged in a campaign of terror, targeting in particular African chiefs and headmen believed to be collaborators with the government and killing them. Some young white students and professionals established their own organization, the antiapartheid African Resistance Movement, and carried out bomb attacks on strategic targets, including one at the Johannesburg railway station that killed at least one person.
By 1964 the police had succeeded in crushing all of these movements. Seventeen Umkhonto leaders, including Walter Sisulu, had been arrested at a farmhouse at Rivonia near Johannesburg in July 1963 and, along with Nelson Mandela--who had already been imprisoned on other charges--were tried for treason. Eight of them, including Mandela, were sent to prison for life. Albert Luthuli had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960, but the government confined him to his rural home in Zululand until his death in 1967. Tambo escaped from South Africa and became president of the ANC in exile. Robert Sobukwe of Poqo was jailed on Robben Island until 1969 and then placed under a banning order and house arrest in Kimberley until his death in 1978. The Johannesburg railway station bomber, John Harris, was hanged. He marched to the gallows singing "We shall overcome."
The government campaign to crush internal resistance was orchestrated by John Vorster, then minister of justice, and by General Hendrik J. (H.J.) van den Bergh, head of the Bureau of State Security (BOSS). Both were former members of the Ossewabrandwag who had been interned for pro-Nazi activities during World War II. Vorster and van den Bergh used new security legislation to put down the resistance. In particular, the General Law Amendment Act of 1963 allowed the police to detain people for ninety days without charging them and without allowing them access to a lawyer. At the end of that period, the police could re-arrest and re-detain them for a further ninety days. During the period of detention, no court could order a person's release; only the minister of justice had that authority. Because of his success in defeating the ANC and the PAC, John Vorster became prime minister of South Africa in 1966 when Verwoerd was assassinated by a coloured parliamentary messenger.
The government took several measures in the 1960s to make the theory of apartheid work in practice. The Nationalists wanted particularly to establish alternative political structures for Africans in the homelands or reserves (see Glossary), and to eliminate the squatter camps that had grown up around the major cities in the 1930s and the 1940s. In 1963 the Transkei homeland, poverty-stricken and overpopulated, was made self-governing, and in 1976 it was declared "independent," although no country except South Africa recognized the new state. Other homelands were even less economically viable. Bophuthatswana consisted of nineteen separate pieces of land spread hundreds of kilometers apart, and KwaZulu (formed out of Zululand and other parts of Natal in 1972) was divided into at least eleven fragments interspersed with white farms and coastal lands allocated to whites. The South African government, nonetheless, moved ahead with preparing them for independence.
Under the provisions of the Group Areas Act, urban and rural areas in South Africa were divided into zones in which members of only one racial group could live; all others had to move. In practice, it was blacks who had to move, often under the threat or use of force. Between 1963 and 1985, approximately 3.5 million blacks were removed from areas designated for whites and were sent to the homelands, where they added to the already critical problem of overpopulation. Still, even though the homeland population rose by 69 percent between 1970 and 1980, the numbers of blacks in the cities continued to rise through natural growth and evasion of influx control, so that by 1980, after twenty years of removals, there were twice as many blacks in South Africa's towns as there were whites.
South Africa enjoyed an economic boom in the 1960s. Foreign investors had withdrawn their funds and white immigration had come to a halt in the immediate aftermath of Sharpeville, but Vorster's harsh measures rebuilt confidence in the security of investments and the stability of the state, and money and people returned. Foreign investment in South Africa, attracted by rates of return on capital often running as high as 15 to 20 percent, more than doubled between 1963 and 1972, while high immigration levels helped the white population to increase by 50 percent during the same period. Investment and immigration fueled an impressive economic boom.
With the ANC and the PAC banned and African political activity officially limited to government-appointed bodies in the homelands, young people sought alternative means to express their political aspirations. In the early 1960s, African university students looked to the multiracial National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) to represent their concerns, but, as this organization adopted an increasingly conservative stance after Vorster's crackdown, they decided to form their own movement. Led by Steve Biko, an African medical student at the University of Natal, a group of black students established the South African Students' Organisation (SASO) in 1969 with Biko as president. Biko, strongly influenced by the writings of Lembede and by the Black Power movement in the United States, argued that Africans had to run their own organizations; they could not rely on white liberals because such people would always ally in the last resort with other whites rather than with blacks. He argued that blacks often oppressed themselves by accepting the second-class status accorded them by the apartheid system, and he stressed that they had to liberate themselves mentally as well as physically. He rejected, however, the use of violence adopted by the ANC and the PAC in the early 1960s and emphasized that only nonviolent methods should be used in the struggle against apartheid.
Biko's message had an immediate appeal; SASO expanded enormously, and its members established black self-help projects, including workshops and medical clinics, in many parts of South Africa. In 1972 the Black Peoples' Convention (BPC) was set up to act as a political umbrella organization for the adherents of black consciousness. Although the government had at first welcomed the development of black consciousness because the philosophy fit in with the racial separation inherent in apartheid, it sought to restrict the activities of Biko and his organizations when these took a more overtly political turn. In 1972, SASO organized strikes on university campuses resulting in the arrest of more than 600 students. Rallies held by SASO and the BPC in 1974 to celebrate the overthrow of Portuguese colonialism in Angola and Mozambique resulted in the banning of Biko and other black consciousness leaders and their arraignment on charges of fomenting terrorism.
In 1974 the newly appointed minister of Bantu education, Michael C. Botha, and his deputy, Andries Treurnicht, decided to enforce a previously ignored provision of the Bantu Education Act that required Afrikaans to be used on an equal basis with English as a medium of instruction. A shortage of Afrikaans teachers and a lack of suitable textbooks had resulted in English and African languages being used as the languages of instruction. Because Afrikaans was identified by Africans, especially by the young and by those sympathetic to black consciousness, as the language of the oppressor, opposition to this new policy grew throughout 1975 and into 1976. Some African school boards refused to enforce the policy and saw their members dismissed by the government. Students began to boycott classes.
On June 16, 1976, hundreds of high-school students in Soweto, the African township southwest of Johannesburg, marched in protest against having to use Afrikaans. The police responded with tear gas and then with gunfire that left at least three dead and a dozen injured. The demonstrators, joined by angry crowds of Soweto residents, reacted by attacking and burning down government buildings, including administrative offices and beer halls. The government sent in more police and troops and quelled the violence within a few days but at the cost of several hundred African lives.
Similar outbreaks occurred elsewhere in South Africa, and violence continued throughout the rest of 1976 and into 1977. By February 1977, official figures counted 494 Africans, seventy-five coloureds, one Indian, and five whites killed. In August of that year, Steve Biko, who had been held in indefinite detention, died from massive head injuries sustained during police interrogation. By that time, SASO and the BPC had been banned and open black resistance had been brought to a halt.
By the middle of the 1970s, apartheid was clearly under strain. The popularity of black consciousness and the massive levels of participation in the Soweto demonstrations illustrated profound discontent among the black population, particularly the young, and an increasing readiness to challenge the system physically. Indeed, hundreds of young Africans slipped across South Africa's northern borders in the aftermath of Soweto and volunteered to fight as guerrilla soldiers for the ANC and the PAC. In the late 1970s, some of these people began to reenter South Africa secretly and to carry out sabotage attacks on various targets that were seen as symbols of apartheid.
Labor discontent had also grown. The combination of discriminatory legislation and employer reliance on the use of inexpensive labor meant that African workers were poorly paid and were subjected to an enormous number of restrictions (see Legal Restrictions, ch. 3). Economic recession in the early 1970s, followed by inflation and a contraction in the job market, resulted in a dramatic upsurge in labor unrest. In the first three months of 1973, some 160 strikes involving more than 60,000 workers took place in Durban; in the early 1970s, no more than 5,000 African workers had struck annually, and in the 1960s the average had been closer to 2,000. Labor unrest spread to East London and the Rand and continued. In addition to the high level of participation they engendered, the strikes were also noteworthy for other features. Fearing that the police would arrest any person who organized a strike, the workers chose not to form representative bodies or to elect a leadership. Rather than entering protracted negotiations, they also engaged in sudden "wildcat" strikes, thereby limiting the ability of employers and police to take preventive measures. Over time, an African union movement developed out of these strikes, but it did so on a factory-by-factory basis rather than through the establishment of a mass-based industrial movement as had been the case in the 1940s.
Urban-based African strikes drew attention to the fact that, despite the segregationist ambitions of apartheid, the South African economy depended on blacks living and working in supposedly white areas. Nearly three-quarters of South Africa's urban population in 1980 was black. Only half of the African population lived in the homelands, and even then the rural land available was so inadequate that population densities were far greater than they were in the rest of the country. At least four-fifths of the homeland dwellers lived in poverty.
Yet the South African government persisted in arguing that Africans were really rural dwellers and that they should exercise political rights only in the homelands. In 1976 the government proclaimed the Transkei an independent nation-state and followed this move by granting independence to Bophuthatswana in 1977, to Venda in 1979, and to Ciskei in 1981. Citizens of these states, including the half who lived outside their borders, were then deemed aliens in South Africa. Another six ethnically based homelands were granted limited self-government in preparation for eventual independence: they were KwaZulu, Lebowa, Gazankulu, QwaQwa, KaNgwane, and KwaNdebele. None of these states received international recognition.
Within South Africa, there was great opposition. Blacks viewed the homelands as a way for whites to perpetuate a form of "divide and rule." Mangosuthu (Gatsha) Buthelezi, the government-appointed head of the KwaZulu homeland, while building up an ethnically oriented power base with his Inkatha Freedom Party, argued that independence should not be accepted on the government's terms because that would mean Africans would be giving up claims to the bulk of South Africa forever. He proposed instead the development of a unified multiracial South African state.
South Africa's international borders also became much less secure. Until 1974 South Africa had been part of a largely white-ruled subcontinent, with the Portuguese still governing their empire in Angola and Mozambique, and Ian Smith and his white-settler regime controlling Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe). Botswana had achieved independence soon after Lesotho in 1966 and Swaziland in 1968; however, they were surrounded by white-ruled areas, and their economies depended on that of South Africa.
The 1974 overthrow of the government of Premier Marcello Caetano in Portugal dramatically changed matters. Portugal withdrew from Angola and Mozambique in 1975, and both countries gained independence with governments that were avowedly Marxist and that strongly denounced apartheid. These events directly threatened South African control of South-West Africa (called Namibia by the United Nations [UN], which in 1969 had terminated South Africa's trusteeship over the territory and had demanded its return to the international organization). South African forces invaded Angola in 1975 but were forced to pull back by the arrival of Cuban troops. Seeking both to destabilize the Angolan government and to prevent infiltration of guerrilla fighters into Namibia where the South-West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) was fighting actively against South African forces, South Africa maintained a military force in southern Angola.
In Rhodesia, Africans fighting against Ian Smith's government began to turn the tide, and by 1979 Smith was forced to the negotiating table. In 1980 Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party won a landslide election victory and formed a government that, like those in Angola and Mozambique, was Marxist and antiapartheid. The South African government thereafter pursued a policy of occasional armed intervention in Zimbabwe and other frontline states and sent in strike teams periodically to destroy what it considered to be bases for guerrillas planning to infiltrate South Africa. South Africa also expanded military support for the Mozambican National Resistance movement (Resistência Nacional Moçambicana--MNR or Renamo), an organization originally formed by Ian Smith's security forces to destabilize the Mozambique government.
Crackdowns on opposition groups in South Africa and the country's readiness to invade neighboring states led to increasing international condemnation of the apartheid regime. The administrations of United States presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, including United States secretary of state Henry Kissinger, had favored working with the National Party government. They saw South Africa as a key strategic ally in the Cold War and had both encouraged the invasion of Angola and promised United States military support. President Jimmy Carter, however, considered South Africa a liability for the West. His vice president, Walter Mondale, told John Vorster that the United States wanted South Africa to adopt a policy of one person, one vote, a principle that the ANC upheld but that no white group in South Africa, not even those opposed to apartheid, supported. Antiapartheid sentiments also grew in Britain and in Europe, while the UN, composed of a majority of Third World states, had in 1973 declared apartheid "a crime against humanity" and in 1977 had declared mandatory the existing embargo on the sale of arms to South Africa.
Such criticism had a considerable material impact. South Africa had to invest large sums in the development of its own armaments industry (see Arms Trade and the Defense Industry, ch. 5). Because of an embargo by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), it also had to pay more for oil and purchased most of its supplies from the shah of Iran until his overthrow in 1979. Foreign investment in South Africa, on which the country depended for much of its economic growth, also became increasingly expensive and uncertain in the second half of the 1970s. A growing sluggishness in the South African economy, coupled with concerns about the country's political stability in light of the Soweto demonstrations, caused most investors to seek out more attractive ventures for their capital in other countries. Foreign capital still flowed into South Africa, but it was primarily in the form of short-term loans rather than investments. In 1976, for example, two-thirds of the foreign funds entering South Africa were in short-term loans, usually of twelve months' duration.
Divisions in the White Community Increasing economic and political pressures caused splits in the white political parties. In 1968 Vorster had dismissed three conservatives from his cabinet. One of these, Albert Hertzog, a son of J.B.M. Hertzog, founded the Reconstituted National Party (Herstigte Nasionale Party--HNP). Hertzog and the HNP argued that no concessions should be made in pursuing the full implementation of apartheid, whereas Vorster and his allies argued that compromise was necessary. The split was commonly labeled a division between the verligtes (the enlightened) and the verkramptes (the narrow-minded), although the differences often seemed to be primarily tactical rather than ideological. The HNP contested elections in 1970 and in 1974 but without winning a single seat from Vorster. In 1978, however, the unfolding of a major national scandal brought about Vorster's downfall. An official investigation determined that Vorster, together with a small group of supporters including the head of the Security Police, General H.J. van den Bergh, had secretly and illegally used government funds to manipulate the news media in South Africa and to try to purchase newspapers overseas, including the Washington Star . Vorster resigned his position as prime minister for the largely ceremonial post of president; his preferred successor, Connie Mulder, was purged from the National Party, and P.W. Botha, minister of defence since 1966, became prime minister.
Botha, strongly supported by Afrikaner businessmen and by the armed forces leaders, initiated a self-styled program of reform. He tried to do away with aspects of "petty" apartheid that many had come to regard as unnecessarily offensive to blacks and to world opinion, such as the allocation of separate public facilities and the use of racially discriminatory signs to designate who could use the facilities. Hoping to develop a black middle class that would be impervious to the socialist message of the ANC, Botha also accepted in large part the recommendations of two government commissions appointed to investigate the way labor and pass laws were applied to Africans.
The Commission of Inquiry into Labour Legislation (Wiehahn Commission), established in the aftermath of the strike wave of the early 1970s, argued that blacks should be allowed to register trade unions and to have them recognized as part of the official conciliation process. The commission also recommended the elimination of statutory job reservation. Legislation incorporating these recommendations was passed in 1979 and resulted in a huge growth in African trade unionism in the early 1980s.
The Commission of Inquiry into Legislation Affecting the Utilisation of Manpower (Riekert Commission), accepting the fact that poverty in the homelands would continue to push tens of thousands of Africans into the cities, recommended in 1979 that instead of using the pass laws to punish Africans who were illegally entering urban areas, the government should prosecute employers and landlords if they gave jobs or housing to blacks who lacked documentary proof of their right to live in the cities. Botha accepted this recommendation, although it was not until eight years and more than 1 million arrests later that he introduced legislation abolishing the pass laws.
At the same time, Botha pursued harsh measures against those he deemed his enemies in order to ensure the maintenance of white power. The late 1970s and early 1980s were marked by numerous military interventions in the states bordering South Africa and by an extensive military and political campaign to eliminate SWAPO in Namibia. Within South Africa, vigorous police action and strict enforcement of security legislation resulted in hundreds of arrests and bannings and an effective end to the ANC's stepped-up campaign of sabotage in the 1970s. Botha also continued to support the homeland policy, arguing as his predecessors had done that Africans should exercise political rights only within what were deemed to be their own communities, which in the 1980s continued to be as small and fragmented as they had been in the 1950s.
Yet one issue loomed ever larger in the eyes of apartheid's architects, and that was the matter of demographics. Whereas whites had accounted for 21 percent of South Africa's population in 1936, by 1980 they constituted only 16 percent. Future projections estimated that by 2010 the white proportion would be less than 10 percent and falling, while the African population would make up 83 percent of the total and would be increasing. In light of these projections, Botha's government proposed in 1983 that political power in South Africa be shared among whites, coloureds, and Indians, with separate houses of parliament to be established for each racial group. This proposal caused angry opposition among a number of National Party members, sixteen of whom, including Andries Treurnicht, were expelled when they refused to sign a motion of confidence in Botha's leadership.
Treurnicht formed the Conservative Party of South Africa (CP), bringing together old enemies of Botha such as Connie Mulder and supporters of the verkrampte faction of the NP. Botha proceeded with his plans, calling for a referendum in which only white voters would be asked whether or not they approved of the prime minister's plans for constitutional change. Some liberal opponents of the government, such as Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, leader of the Progressive Federal Party (PFP), and Harry Oppenheimer, head of the Anglo American Corporation, denounced Botha's plans because they would permanently exclude Africans from having any political role in South Africa. Many other politicians and businessmen, English- and Afrikaans-speaking alike, argued that any change in apartheid would be an improvement. Most white voters agreed, and two-thirds of those who participated in the referendum voted "yes."
The new constitution came into force in 1984. In place of the single House of Parliament, there were three constituent bodies: a 178-member (all-white) House of Assembly, an eighty-five-member (coloured) House of Representatives, and a forty-five-member (Indian) House of Delegates. Whites thus retained a majority in any joint session. Presiding over the three houses was the state president, a new office quite unlike the ceremonial position that it replaced. The state president was chosen by an eighty-eight-member electoral college that preserved the 4:2:1 ratio of whites:coloureds:Indians. The president could dissolve Parliament at any time and was authorized to allocate issues to each of the three houses (see System of Government, ch. 4). P.W. Botha became the first state president, occupying the position from the beginning of 1984 until late 1989.
Most blacks strongly condemned the new constitution. Rather than viewing it as a major step toward reform, they saw it as one more effort to bolster apartheid. It reinforced the apartheid notion that Africans were not, and could never be considered as, citizens of South Africa, despite the fact that they constituted 75 percent of the country's population and the vast bulk of its labor force. The constitution's negative impact was compounded by the fact that Africans could not buy land outside the homelands and that government services for blacks, especially in education, were deliberately inferior (see Education under Apartheid, ch. 2).
Indians and coloureds argued that the continued existence of a white majority in Parliament and effective white monopolization of the state presidency made their incorporation into the political process little more than window-dressing. Although the (coloured) Labour Party of Allan Hendrickse and the (Indian) National Peoples' Party of Amichand Rajbansi participated in elections in 1984 for the House of Representatives and the House of Delegates, only 30 percent of registered coloured voters and only 20 percent of registered Indian voters cast ballots.
Opposition to the government's plans consolidated. The United Democratic Front (UDF), which was formed in late 1983 as 1,000 delegates representing 575 organizations--ranging from trade unions to sporting bodies--aimed to use nonviolent means to persuade the government to withdraw its constitutional proposals, to do away with apartheid, and to create a new South Africa incorporating the homelands. In early 1984, the UDF claimed a membership of more than 600 organizations and 3 million individuals; and two respected religious leaders, Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Reverend Allan Boesak, emerged as its prime spokesmen.
Black trade unions, many formed after the Wiehahn Commission, took an increasingly prominent role in economic and political protests in the mid-1980s. They organized strikes in East London and on the Rand protesting economic conditions as well as the constitutional proposals. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), newly formed under the leadership of Cyril Ramaphosa, successfully enlisted the support of almost all African miners in bringing work to a stop in a dispute over wage increases. NUM also joined with thirty other nonracial unions in December 1985 to form the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), an umbrella organization that represented more than 500,000 trade union members and won new members almost every month. By the end of 1985, there had been more than 390 strikes involving 240,000 workers, and industrial unrest was increasing.
Conflict was even more intense in the townships, where residents attacked and burned government buildings and sought to destroy all elements of the apartheid administration. Numerous attacks were made on the homes of black policemen and town councillors, whose participation was necessary to the government's operation of township administration. Violence broke out in some of the homelands, particularly in Lebowa, KwaNdebele, and Bophuthatswana, involving struggles between supporters and opponents of homeland "independence." Sabotage also increased, including bombings of police stations, power installations, and--in one particularly dramatic instance in May 1983--the headquarters of the South African Air Force in Pretoria. Deaths from violence increased, many of them at the hands of the police. Whereas in 1984 there had been 174 fatalities linked to political unrest, in 1985 the number increased to 879, and it continued to rise after that.
International pressures on the South African government also intensified in the mid-1980s. Antiapartheid sentiment in the United States, fueled in large part by television coverage of the ongoing violence in South Africa, heightened demands for the removal of United States investments and for the imposition of official sanctions. In 1984 forty United States companies pulled out of South Africa, with another fifty following suit in 1985. In July 1985, Chase Manhattan Bank caused a major financial crisis in South Africa by refusing to roll over its short-term loans, a lead that was soon followed by most other international banks, fueling inflation and eroding South African living standards (see Historical Development, ch. 3). In October 1986, the United States Congress, overriding a presidential veto, passed legislation implementing mandatory sanctions against South Africa; these included the banning of all new investments and bank loans, the ending of air links between the United States and South Africa, and the banning of many South African imports.
President Botha activated security legislation to deal with these crises. In mid-1985 he imposed the first in a series of states of emergency in various troubled parts of South Africa; this was the first time such laws had been used since the Sharpeville violence in 1960. The state of emergency was extended throughout the nation the following year. The emergency regulations gave the police powers to arrest without warrants and to detain people indefinitely without charging them or even allowing lawyers or next of kin to be notified. It also gave the government even greater authority than the considerable powers it already possessed to censor radio, television, and newspaper coverage of the unrest. Botha deployed police and more than 5,000 troops in African townships to quell the spreading resistance. By February 1987, unofficial estimates claimed that at least 30,000 people had been detained, many for several months at a time.
South Africa's complex and fragmented society became increasingly polarized around antiapartheid groups, who expressed a growing sense of urgency in their demands for an end to the failed system of racial separation, and white conservative defenders of apartheid, who intensified their resistance to change. Facing mounting international disapproval and economic stagnation, the government tentatively began to signal its awareness that its plan for separate development by race would have to be substantially altered or abandoned.
In January 1986, President Botha shocked conservatives in the all-white House of Assembly with the statement that South Africa had "outgrown the outdated concept of apartheid." The government undertook tentative, incremental change, at a carefully controlled pace, and, as it began to yield to demands for racial equality, it severely limited the activities of antiapartheid agitators. The government tightened press restrictions, effectively banned the UDF and other activist organizations, and renewed a series of states of emergency throughout the rest of the 1980s.
As the inevitability of political change became apparent, conservative whites expressed new fears for the future. The CP swamped the PFP in parliamentary by-elections in May 1987, making the CP the official parliamentary opposition. Liberal whites and other opponents of apartheid reorganized to broaden their popular appeal, first as the National Democratic Movement (NDM) and later as a new United Party. This coalition tried unsuccessfully to win support from the progressive wing of the NP. Within the NP, progressives were outmaneuvered by conservatives, who bolted from the party to join the CP in an attempt to prolong apartheid. In early 1988, the government, seeking to stem the erosion of its NP support, tightened press restrictions and further restricted political activity by antiapartheid organizations. Still excluded from national politics, blacks sought new avenues for pressing their demands, and their demonstrations often erupted in violence. Supporters of the Zulu-dominated Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the banned ANC clashed in an upsurge of "black-on-black" violence that would cause as many as 10,000 deaths by 1994.
President Botha suffered a stroke in January 1989. Choosing his successor almost split the NP, but when Botha resigned as party leader a month later, NP moderates managed to elect Minister of Education Frederik W. (F.W.) de Klerk to succeed him. A few weeks later, the NP elected de Klerk state president, too, but Botha stubbornly refused to step down for several months. Soon after he resigned under pressure on August 14, 1989, the electoral college named de Klerk to succeed him in a five-year term as president.
President de Klerk recognized the urgent need to bring the black majority of South Africans into the political process, and most NP moderates agreed with him in principle. He had held secret talks with the imprisoned ANC leader Mandela to begin preparations for this major policy shift. De Klerk nonetheless surprised some supporters and critics alike when he announced on February 2, 1990, not only the impending release of Mandela, but also the unbanning of the ANC, the PAC, and the SACP, and the removal of restrictions on the UDF and other legal political organizations. De Klerk also lifted the four-year-old media restrictions, and he invited former liberation fighters to join the government at the negotiating table to prepare for a new multiracial constitution. De Klerk pledged that his government would investigate alleged human rights abuses by the security forces. He also sought improved relations with the rest of Africa by proposing joint regional development planning with neighboring states and by inviting other African leaders to increase trade with South Africa.
Widely hailed as historic, de Klerk's speech was nonetheless attacked by antiapartheid critics for what it lacked--it did not mention the two most despised legislative pillars of apartheid, the Population Registration Act and the Group Areas Act. It did not lift all of the security provisions that had been imposed under states of emergency. At the same time, CP leader Treurnicht, calling for de Klerk's resignation, said de Klerk lacked the authority to carry out such sweeping changes, and he accused de Klerk of helping to destroy the Afrikaner volk .
As Mandela was released on February 11, 1990, at age seventy-one after twenty-seven years in prison, South Africans poured into the streets in celebration. His first words were to assure his supporters in the ANC that his release was not part of a "deal" with the government, and to reassure whites that he intended to work toward reconciliation. He also quoted his well-known statement at the Rivonia trial in 1964, "I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the idea of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
In the flurry of receptions and public statements that followed, Mandela enunciated other objectives that were less welcome in political and business circles. He reaffirmed ANC policies in favor of nationalization of major sectors of the economy. He refused to renounce the armed struggle immediately, refused to call for the lifting of international sanctions against South Africa until further progress was achieved, and refused to accept an interim power-sharing arrangement proposed by the government. ANC officials elected Mandela deputy president in March 1990, giving him effective control over policy decisions in consultation with their ailing president, Oliver Tambo.
Despite the ANC's strong symbolic displays of unity, like other political organizations facing new challenges, it showed widening internal fractures. Blacks who had been unanimous in their demands for Mandela's release from prison, nonetheless differed sharply in the extent of their willingness to reconcile peacefully over past injustices. In addition, militant black consciousness leaders, especially in the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), rejected outright Mandela's proposals for multiracial government and demanded black control over future decision-making institutions. At PAC offices in Zimbabwe, PAC leader Zephania Mothopeng rejected appeals by Mandela and by Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe for the PAC leader to join Mandela in discussions in Pretoria.
Some of the ANC's estimated 40,000 exiles began returning to South Africa in the early 1990s, and as organizational leaders debated their future role, many militant former exiles and others rejected Mandela's conciliatory approach and insisted on continuing the armed struggle. Left-wing ANC factions pressed Mandela to demand the immediate nationalization of private-sector conglomerates. The ANC was also accused of abuse and brutality against dissidents during its nearly three decades of operating underground and outside South Africa--accusations Mandela acknowledged were based in fact. Old and young liberation fighters appeared capable of warring even against one another as the end of apartheid approached.
Amid rising tensions and unrest, representatives of the government and the ANC--with strong misgivings--met in Cape Town in May 1990 to begin planning for constitutional negotiations. Even holding "talks about talks" was risky. The government had to grant immunity from prosecution to many formerly banned or exiled ANC members before they could safely appear in public. In a few antiapartheid strongholds, political moderates were attacked for being too conciliatory.
President de Klerk faced an increasingly divided constituency of his own. Conservatives intensified their demands for him to step down, while NP progressives pressured him to move more boldly toward multiracial government. Planning sessions for eventual negotiations were postponed repeatedly as Mandela and de Klerk had to reassure their constituencies of their determination to set aside the past and to work peacefully toward a broadly legitimate government.
De Klerk's credibility was low among his former opponents. The talks snarled over his insistence on defending what he termed the "rights of minorities"--a phrase the ANC viewed simply as a ploy to preserve white control. De Klerk's standing in the negotiations was further weakened in late 1990, when the government-appointed Commission of Inquiry into Certain Alleged Murders (Harms Commission), which he had established earlier that year, found evidence--but not "proof"--that clandestine death squads had operated within the security services. The commission's hearings were often marred by violence and by claims of witness intimidation.
The international response to change in South Africa was cautious. Several African countries, visited by Mandela within weeks of his release from prison, held to their pledge to await his signal of progress toward ending apartheid before they began to lift sanctions against South Africa. Several European countries, visited by de Klerk in May 1990, broke with European Community (EC--see Glossary) sanctions agreements and immediately lifted their bans on investment and travel to South Africa. International athletic teams were drawn into the controversy, as some sports organizations tried to adhere to international boycotts, while in South Africa, sports enthusiasts and athletes demanded readmission to world competitions. In late 1990, both de Klerk and Mandela again went abroad seeking political and financial support. De Klerk traveled to the United States in September 1990 and to Britain and the Netherlands in October; at about the same time, Mandela traveled to India, Japan, and other Asian countries.
Popular pressure for lifting sanctions increased in the United States. The US Comprehensive Antiapartheid Act of 1986 had specified that five conditions would have to be met before sanctions could be lifted. By late 1990, three of them had been accomplished--the government had entered into multiracial negotiations, had removed bans on multiracial political organizations, and had lifted the state of emergency in Natal. The remaining two conditions--freeing political prisoners and repealing the Group Areas Act and the Population Registration Act--were not met until 1991.
The climate of uncertainty spread to the homelands during 1990 and 1991. These arid patches of land were despised by many as symbols of the apartheid system. Several homeland leaders, who depended heavily on Pretoria for their legitimacy--and their budgets--faced growing dissent and demands for reincorporation into South Africa. Zulu residents of the wealthiest and most populous homeland, KwaZulu, increasingly feared that their interests and culture would be submerged in the groundswell of support for Mandela and the ANC, and that their past cooperation with the NP would be forgotten.
ANC and government leaders tried to find common ground for negotiating a new constitution, but they managed only incremental progress while they worked to rein in the extremist fringes of their respective constituencies. In June 1990, de Klerk and Mandela met officially for the first time to set the agenda for further talks. The two sides moved cautiously toward each other. In August Mandela announced the suspension of the ANC's thirty-year armed struggle. The government continued lifting apartheid restrictions, and in October--at de Klerk's prompting--the NP opened its ranks to all races. On October 15, 1990, parliament repealed the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act of 1953, which had sanctioned "petty apartheid" in public places such as beaches, libraries, and places of entertainment.
The talks were threatened by escalating violence throughout 1990, and in August Mandela accused the government of doing little to end it. De Klerk and Mandela continued their political tug-of-war. De Klerk sought domestic and international approval for the changes already under way, while Mandela pressed for change at a faster pace. A series of legislative decisions and political breakthroughs in 1990 moved South Africa closer to multiracial democracy, but at the end of the year, it was clear that many obstacles remained.
The ANC gradually accepted the notion of a coalition interim government, but ANC leaders insisted on determining the rules for forming that coalition. In early 1991, debates raged over various formulas for multiracial government, and over the allocation of powers between regional and national authorities, as political leaders on all sides realized that it was easier to define an illegitimate government than to construct a legitimate one. They agreed that an all-party congress would have responsibility for the most onerous organizational tasks: it would draw up broad principles on which a new constitution would rest, would determine the makeup of the constitution-making body, and would establish an interim government to oversee the transition itself.
In January 1991, Mandela met for the first time in nearly thirty years with Zulu leader Buthelezi in an effort to allay Zulu fears of ANC domination. This historic meeting did little to quell escalating ANC-IFP violence, however, and the weak police response only fueled ANC suspicions of covert police support for the IFP. Amid rising unrest, the government implemented a new security crackdown in the townships, dubbed "Operation Iron Fist." Mandela faced new demands from his militant younger generation of followers to abandon the negotiations entirely.
Finally, in February 1991, de Klerk and Mandela reached a compromise over efforts to reduce both violence and the smuggling of arms into South Africa, and to achieve the release of political prisoners. The ANC was anxious to repatriate its remaining exiles, many of whose skills were needed in the negotiations, but the logistical problems of returning refugees from countries that lacked diplomatic ties with South Africa seemed insurmountable until the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was persuaded to intervene on behalf of the ANC.
On June 5, 1991, the government repealed two more legislative pillars of apartheid, the Land Act of 1913 (and 1936) and the Group Areas Act of 1950. The 1991 legislation gave all races equal rights to own property anywhere in the country, enabled some 300,000 black householders to convert ninety-nine-year leases to full ownership, enabled suburban residents of all races to set (racially nondiscriminatory) residency standards for their neighborhoods, authorized the establishment of new townships and the extension of services to their residents, and encouraged the development of farmland and rural communities. This legislation did not authorize compensation for blacks who had been displaced from their land in the preceding thirty years; instead, it left their complaints to be dealt with by a special court or commission to be established for that purpose.
On June 17, 1991, the government repealed the Population Registration Act of 1950, the most infamous pillar of apartheid, which had authorized the registration by race of newborn babies and immigrants. Its repeal was hailed as historic throughout the world, although critics pointed to related laws still on the books that permitted inequitable treatment in voting, in pensions, in social services, and in many other areas of public behavior.
The National Peace Accord of September 1991 was a critical step toward formal negotiations. The thirty-three-page accord, signed by representatives of twenty-seven political organizations and national and homeland governments, set codes of conduct for all parties to the process, including the police. The accord also established a network of "peace committees," to contain the violence that continued to plague the townships. Ironically, the most important results of the National Peace Accord turned out to be the establishment of networks of committed individuals, the opening of communications channels, and the trust that began to be sown through discussion. The accord itself failed to accomplish its immediate goal; the violence continued and increased sporadically throughout 1992.
Through dogged perseverance, amid claims and counterclaims of sabotage and brutality, key political leaders began formal constitutional negotiations on December 20, 1991. Calling themselves the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa), delegations from nineteen governmental and political organizations began planning the creation of a transitional government and a representative parliament. They established five working groups, each made up of thirty-eight delegates and thirty-eight advisers, to take the lead in creating a climate for free political activity; in determining basic constitutional principles; in establishing transitional procedures for the nominally independent homelands of Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Transkei, and Venda; in setting and overseeing timetables for the transition; and in dealing with new problems that would arise during the transition itself.
International organizations and other countries were torn between recognizing South Africa's impressive accomplishments and encouraging further progress. Most international sanctions were lifted soon after the Population Registration Act, Group Areas Act, and Land Acts were repealed. In July 1991, the United States Congress lifted remaining sanctions under its Comprehensive Antiapartheid Act, although laws restricting commercial ties with South Africa remained on the books in many states and cities in the United States. The EC lifted most trade and investment bans in January 1992 and remaining restrictions on sporting, scientific, and cultural links three months later. On April 6, 1992, the EC lifted its oil embargo. Other countries gradually lifted a range of boycotts, and many African governments--under pressure from their own business communities--reestablished diplomatic ties with South Africa. The United Nations General Assembly would wait until late 1993 to lift remaining UN sanctions.
Much of de Klerk's effort in 1992 was directed toward appeasing and weakening his right-wing opponents--staunch defenders of apartheid who had broken with the NP during the 1980s. He first tried reassuring them about the future. Then, as conservative resistance hardened, he called for a referendum among white voters to test his mandate for change. The question posed in the March 17, 1992, referendum was carefully worded: "Do you support continuation of the reform process which the State President began on February 2, 1990, and which is aimed at a new constitution through negotiation?" The outcome was a resounding 68.6 percent "yes." Election analysts reported that support among Afrikaners was even slightly higher than among English speakers. Only one region of the country--the northern Transvaal (later Northern Province)--voted "no." A few militant defenders of apartheid boycotted the referendum.
Buoyed by the outcome, de Klerk presented Codesa with proposals for a two-phase transition, the first phase managed by transitional councils appointed by Codesa, and the second phase--the constitution-writing process--managed by an elected transitional government headed by a multiperson presidency and a bicameral legislature. The ANC's counterproposals called for a single-stage transition, a committee elected by proportional representation to draft the constitution, with a two-thirds majority needed to pass constitutional provisions. Negotiations were suspended as both sides sought to refine their proposals and to unify their constituencies.
In mid-1992 escalating violence, allegations of police brutality, and government financial scandals threatened to derail negotiations. After a particularly brutal attack on June 17, 1992, by IFP supporters on ANC sympathizers in Boipatong, a township near Johannesburg, the ANC suspended negotiations and threatened to withdraw entirely unless the government made greater efforts to end the violence and to curtail covert police support for the IFP. Mandela took his complaint to the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the UN, where, on July 15, 1992, he accused the government of "a cold-blooded strategy of state terrorism." Finally, in September 1992, de Klerk and Mandela arrived at a Record of Understanding affirming police responsibility for protecting residents in workers' hostels, where support for the ANC was high. ANC fears lingered, however, especially in late 1992, when the Commission of Inquiry Regarding the Prevention of Public Violence and Intimidation (Goldstone Commission) released its findings of a "dirty tricks" campaign against the ANC, apparently sanctioned by senior figures within the South African Defence Forces (SADF).
In protest against the Record of Understanding, Zulu leader Buthelezi established an alternative to Codesa to include the leaders of groups disadvantaged by the ANC's strong lead in the Codesa forum--i.e., white conservatives and black homeland leaders, whose power bases were eroding. The resulting Concerned South Africans Group (Cosag) pressed for a federal constitution to preserve the rights of ethnic minorities, especially the Zulu and whites.
Negotiations resumed on March 5, 1993, but the fragile process was again threatened a month later, when Chris Hani, the popular general secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP), was murdered. ANC leaders joined the government in trying to stem outbreaks of retaliatory violence, and several white extremists were arrested within weeks after the murder. With a new sense of urgency, political negotiators tried to speed the process and set the date for nationwide elections no later than April 27, 1994.
The draft constitution published on July 26, 1993, contained concessions to all sides--a federal system of regional legislatures, equal voting rights regardless of race, and a bicameral legislature. Negotiators were undeterred by the storm of protests that followed, and they went on to establish a Transitional Executive Council (TEC), a multiracial body that would share executive responsibilities with President de Klerk during election preparations. Cosag boycotted the TEC and formed the Freedom Alliance to demand equal status with the government and the ANC. Sensing new momentum, however, the government cracked down on right-wing violence and tried to reason with white extremists, without slowing the pace of election preparations.
In November 1993, negotiators endorsed the draft of the interim constitution calling for a five-year transitional government, and the tricameral parliament endorsed the draft in December. The timetable for elections remained firm after that. Mandela and the ANC, sensing their imminent rise to power and to responsibility for the country's welfare, called for the immediate lifting of remaining international sanctions and sought new donors and investors for South Africa. But the ongoing violence, which was frightening away investors, also threatened to delay the April elections.
In December 1993, the multiracial TEC was installed as part of the executive branch of government--over the objections of the Freedom Alliance and the PAC. The TEC quickly established seven subcouncils with specific responsibilities during the transition. It also approved the formation of an eleven-member Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to organize and to verify the planned elections, and it deployed police and army units to northern Natal to try to end the violence.
Other countries and international organizations began mobilizing support for South Africa's historic vote. The United Nations Observer Mission in South Africa (UNOMSA), which had deployed in small numbers to quell township violence in August 1992, expanded its mission to about 2,000 personnel to coordinate the teams of election observers that were being sent by the OAU, the European Union (EU--see Glossary), the British Commonwealth, and several individual countries.
The antielection Freedom Alliance began to unravel in early 1994. White conservatives stepped up their demands for a separate, whites-only homeland--dispelling any illusions of support for their Freedom Alliance partners. The government of Ciskei, a homeland where the ANC's popularity exceeded that of the appointed president, broke away from its alliance partners and declared its intention to permit homeland residents to vote. The government in Bophuthatswana--another Freedom Alliance partner facing strong popular opposition--sought armed support from the neo-Nazi Afrikaner Resistance Movement (Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging--AWB), prompting the SADF to intervene and to remove Bophuthatswana President Lucas Mangope from office. With the Freedom Alliance severely weakened, PAC President Clarence Makwetu--another election holdout--announced that group's suspension of its armed struggle, thus opening the way for election participation by its members.
Violence continued, mostly between supporters of the IFP and the ANC, and the TEC authorized rapid training for a 10,000-member national peacekeeping force--an effort that eventually failed. The force was disbanded as the elections began. The Goldstone Commission found evidence of serious police complicity in the continuing unrest, and the government suspended several officers pending investigations. The country appeared poised to launch into violence-wracked balloting, when de Klerk imposed a state of emergency in Natal and KwaZulu on March 31, 1994, deploying 3,000 SADF troops to allow residents of the area to defy the IFP election boycott and to go to the polls.
On April 12, 1994, a team of international mediators headed by former British foreign secretary Lord Carrington and former United States secretary of state Henry Kissinger arrived to attempt to break the logjam that was keeping the IFP out of the elections. After two days of fruitless discussions, their effort was declared a failure, and the mediators left. Only days later, however, on April 19, Buthelezi--under intense pressure from trusted local and international figures--relented and agreed to allow the IFP to be placed on the ballot.
When the elections finally took place on schedule, beginning on April 26, 1994, the government and the ANC had several thousand security forces, with varying degrees of training and authority, in place to prevent serious outbreaks of violence. Remarkably, the violence subsided. A few "exceptional" votes were cast by voters who were disabled or were living outside South Africa on April 26. During the next two days, more than 22 million voters stood in line for hours at some 9,000 polling places to exercise their newly won right to vote. Balloting was extended through April 29. There was no voter registration list, so IEC officials marked voters' fingers with indelible ink to prevent fraud.
For days after the elections, tensions remained high, and some accusations of election fraud surfaced--especially in Natal. As the counting proceeded, the IEC prompted party leaders to negotiate agreements over disputed results that would allow the IEC to certify the elections as "substantially free and fair." The official results, released on May 6, 1994, gave the ANC 62.6 percent of the vote; the NP, 20.4 percent; and the IFP, 10.5 percent. Seven political parties won seats in the National Assembly. Three parties won the 5 percent of votes necessary to participate in the cabinet of the coalition government.
Mandela was unanimously elected president by the National Assembly on May 9, 1994, in Cape Town. His two deputy presidents, former ANC chairman Thabo Mbeki and former president de Klerk, stood with Mandela when he was inaugurated on May 10 at ceremonies in Pretoria. Representatives of 140 countries were present. Mandela's inaugural address stressed the need for reconciliation, both within South Africa and with other countries, and once again he quoted his own words at the Rivonia trial that had preceded his long imprisonment, and he reaffirmed his determination to forge a peaceful, nonracial society.
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