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The formal end of the apartheid government in South Africa was hard-won. It took decades of activism from both inside and outside the country, as well as international economic pressure, to end the regime that allowed the country’s white minority to subjugate its Black majority. This work culminated in the dismantling of apartheid between 1990 and 1994. On April 27, 1994, the country elected Nelson Mandela, an activist who had spent 27 years in prison for his opposition to apartheid, in its first free presidential election.
The white minority who controlled the apartheid government were Afrikaners—descendants of mostly Dutch colonists who had invaded South Africa starting in the 17th century. Although Afrikaner oppression of Black South Africans predates the formal establishment of apartheid in 1948, apartheid legalized and enforced a specific racial ideology that separated South Africans into legally distinct racial groups: white, African, “coloured” (i.e., multiracial) and Indian. The apartheid government used violence to enforce segregation between these groups, and forcibly separated many families containing people assigned to different racial categories.
South African Resistance
Black South Africans resisted apartheid from the very beginning. In the early 1950s, the African National Congress, or ANC, launched a Defiance Campaign. The purpose of this campaign was for Black South Africans to break apartheid laws by entering white areas, using white facilities and refusing to carry “passes”—domestic passports the government used to restrict the movements of Black South Africans in their own country. In response, the government banned the ANC in 1960, and arrested the prominent ANC activist Nelson Mandela in August 1962.
The banning of the ANC and the incarceration of its leaders forced many ANC members into exile. But it did not stop resistance within South Africa, says Wessel Visser, a history lecturer at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.
“What many dissidents started to do inside the country was to form a kind of an alternative…resistance movement called the United Democratic Front,” he says. The UDF, formed in 1983, “was a [collaboration] of church leaders and political leaders who were not banned at that stage, community leaders, trade unionists, etc.,” he says.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Reverend Allan Boesak, two of the UDF’s main leaders, “started to organize marches to parliament, in Cape Town, in Pretoria, Johannesburg—crowds of 50 to 80,000 people, so there was definitely a groundswell of resistance against apartheid,” he says. And around the world, this activism drew attention.
Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan’s Opposition to Sanctions Are Overruled
One of the big moments for international awareness of apartheid was in 1976, when thousands of Black children in the Soweto township protested a government policy mandating that all classes be taught in Afrikaans. Police responded to the protests with violence, killing at least 176 people and injuring over 1,000 more. The massacre drew more attention to activists’ calls to divest from South Africa, something the United Nations General Assembly had first called on member states to do back in 1962.
Campaigns for economic sanctions against South Africa gained steam in the 1980s, but faced considerable resistance from two important heads of state: United States President Ronald Reagan and United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Both Reagan and Thatcher condemned Mandela and the ANC as communists and terrorists at a time when the apartheid government promoted itself as a Cold War ally against communism.
Reagan vetoed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, but the U.S. Congress overrode his decision with a two-thirds majority, passing the act to impose sanctions on South Africa. The U.K. also imposed limited sanctions despite Thatcher’s objections. The combination of international sanctions placed significant economic pressure on South Africa, which was then at war with the present-day nations of Namibia, Zambia and Angola.
International Pressure Builds to Release Mandela
Anti-apartheid activism also drew international attention to Mandela. International advocates urged South Africa to release him and other imprisoned ANC members and allow exiled members back into the country.
“As early as 1984 there were attempts by national intelligence inside the government structures and also by some of the ministers to make contact with the ANC … and sound out the waters of a possibility of a negotiated settlement,” says Anton Ehlers, a history lecturer at Stellenbosch University.
Berlin Wall Falls, Nelson Mandela Is Freed
Visser speculates that the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 helped speed the process of ending apartheid along because it took away one of the government’s main defenses of itself among Western allies: that it needed to remain in place to fight communism. “The argument that the ANC are only the puppets of the Reds couldn’t be used anymore,” Visser says, both because the Cold War was ending and because the ANC now had a lot more support in Europe and the U.S.
Mandela finally walked free on February 11, 1990, and negotiations to end apartheid formally began that year. These negotiations lasted for four years, ending with the election of Mandela as president. In 1996, the country initiated a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in an attempt to reckon with the gross human rights violations during apartheid.
Leaders Of The Anti-Apartheid Movement
When the African National Congress (ANC) party took political control in 1994, Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa. He is, perhaps, the most well-known leader of the anti-apartheid movement. He joined the ANC in the 1940’s, helping to lead peaceful protests and even armed resistance across the country. He led the Campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws in 1952 and together with his colleague, Oliver Tambo, opened a law firm that provided free and low-cost legal advice to blacks and ethnic minorities affected by apartheid law.
When peaceful civil disobedience had been unsuccessful for so long, he led the party toward more violent approaches. Due to Mandela's involvement with the anti-apartheid movement, the South African government found him guilty of treason and imprisoned him for nearly 30 years. Despite being behind bars, Mandela remained involved in the movement by sending political messages to the outside world and obtained a law degree. When he was released in 1990, he was a hero in the eyes of ANC and anti-apartheid supporters. He began peace talks with the National Party in an attempt to dissolve segregation and won, with de Klerk, the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. The following year, he was elected president and continued working to dismantle the system of oppression that his country had been living under for the previous 50 years.
Another great leader of the anti-apartheid movement was Desmond Tutu. An Anglican cleric, he became Secretary of the South African Council of Churches in the late 1970’s and began speaking out against the apartheid system. He continued to draw international attention to South Africa throughout the 1980’s. In 1984, he was recognized for his efforts with a Nobel Peace Prize.
Walter Max Ulyate Sisulu
Walter Max Ulyate Sisulu is another activist who was sentenced to prison for his involvement in the anti-apartheid movement. He fought alongside both Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo as a member of the ANC party. He traveled the world, taking with him the message of injustice occurring in South Africa. After being jailed on several occasions, he went into hiding. When he couldn’t be found, authorities arrested his wife instead. He stood trial with Nelson Mandela and several others for treason.
Many individuals were crucial to the eventual success of anti-apartheid and the ANC party. They all worked together and fought for justice at a time when they were being oppressed by a minority government. A list of their names is available below.
The Secret History of How Cuba Helped End Apartheid in South Africa
As the world focuses on Tuesday’s historic handshake between President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro, we look back at the pivotal role Cuba played in ending apartheid and why Castro was one of only five world leaders invited to speak at Nelson Mandela’s memorial. In the words of Mandela, the Cubans 'destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor … [and] inspired the fighting masses of South Africa.' Historian Piero Gleijeses argues that it was Cuba’s victory in Angola in 1988 that forced Pretoria to set Namibia free and helped break the back of apartheid South Africa. We speak to Gleijeses about his new book, “Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991,” and play archival footage of Mandela meeting Fidel Castro in Cuba.
Related StoryStory Nov 28, 2016 The Untold Story of Cuba’s Support for African Independence Movements Under Fidel Castro
NERMEEN SHAIKH : We turn now to the historic moment Tuesday when President Barack Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raúl Castro as both men participated in the memorial service for anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela in South Africa. The White House said the handshake was unscripted. It marked the first time a U.S. president has shaken hands with a Cuban leader since 2000. In Washington, Republicans expressed outrage over the exchange. During a hearing in the House, Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida sparred with Secretary of State John Kerry, who said it did not represent any change in U.S. policy toward Cuba.
REP . ILEANA ROS - LEHTINEN : Mr. Secretary, sometimes a handshake is just a handshake. But when the leader of the free world shakes the bloody hand of a ruthless dictator like Raúl Castro, it becomes a propaganda coup for the tyrant. Raúl Castro uses that hand to sign the orders to repress and jail democracy advocates. In fact, right now, as we speak, Cuban opposition leaders are being detained, and they’re being beaten while trying to commemorate today, which is International Human Rights Day. They will feel disheartened when they see these photos. Could you please tell the Cuban people living under that repressive regime that a handshake nonwithstanding, the U.S. policy toward the cruel and sadistic Cuban dictatorship has not weakened? Thank you.
SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY : Ladies and gentlemen, today is about honoring Nelson Mandela. And the president is at an international funeral with leaders from all over the world. He didn’t choose who’s there. They’re there to honor Mandela. And we appreciate that people from all over the world and from all different beliefs and walks of life who appreciated Nelson Mandela and/or were friends of his came to honor him. And I think, as the president said—I urge you to go read his speech, or if you didn’t see it or haven’t read it, because the president said in his speech today honoring Nelson Mandela, he said, “We urge leaders to honor Mandela’s struggle for freedom by upholding the basic human rights of their people”—
REP . ILEANA ROS - LEHTINEN : And would you say Raúl Castro is upholding their basic human rights?
SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY : No, absolutely not.
AMY GOODMAN : The uproar over President Obama’s handshake with President Raúl Castro has drawn attention to the close relationship between the South African anti-apartheid movement and Cuba. In 1991, Nelson Mandela visited Cuba with then-President Fidel Castro. This is a clip when they first met.
NELSON MANDELA : Before we say anything, you must tell me when you are coming to South Africa. You see—no, just a moment, just a moment, just a moment.
PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO : [translated] The sooner the better.
NELSON MANDELA : And we have had a visit from a wide variety of people. And our friend, Cuba, which had helped us in training our people, gave us resources to keep current with our struggle, trained our people as doctors, and SWAPO , you have not come to our country. When are you coming?
PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO : [translated] I haven’t visited my South African homeland yet. I want it, I love it as a homeland. I love it as a homeland as I love you and the South African people.
AMY GOODMAN : Well, for more on Cuba’s key role in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, we’re joined now in Washington, D.C., by Piero Gleijeses, professor of American foreign policy at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He uses archival sources from the United States, South Africa and Cuba to provide an unprecedented look at the history in his latest book, Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991_. You can read the book’s prologuepretoria on our website at democracynow.org.
Professor Gleijeses, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about this key relationship, why Cuba was so seminal to the anti-apartheid movement.
PIERO GLEIJESES : Cuba is the only country in the world that sent its soldiers to confront the army of apartheid and defeated the army of apartheid, the South African army, twice—in 1975, 1976, and in 1988. And in Havana, when he visited Havana in July 1991—I won’t to be able to repeat exactly the words of Nelson Mandela, but Nelson Mandela said, “The Cuban victory,” referring to the Cuban victory over the South Africans in Angola in 1988, “destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor and inspired the fighting masses of South Africa. Cuito Cuanavale,” which is a victory of the Cubans in Angola, “is the turning point in the liberation of our continent and of my people from the scourge of apartheid.” So, in—
AMY GOODMAN : For a country that knows very little, Professor Gleijeses, about the Cuban experience, its military intervention in Angola, can you step back for a moment and explain what President Castro—what Fidel Castro and these Cuban soldiers did?
PIERO GLEIJESES : Sure. In 1975, you have the decolonization of Angola, Portuguese colony slated to become independent on November 11, 1975. There is a civil war between three movements: one supported by the Cubans, the Cubans that supported over the years in its struggle against the Portuguese the other two supported by South Africa and the United States. And the movement supported by the Cubans, the MPLA , which is in power in Angola today, having won free election, was on the verge of winning the civil war. And it was on the verge of winning the civil war—a paraphrase from what the CIA station chief in Angola at the time told me—because it was the most committed movement with the best leaders, the best program. And in order to prevent their victory, the victory of the MPLA , in October 1975, urged by Washington, South Africa invaded. And the South African troops advanced on Luanda, and they would have taken Luanda and crushed the MPLA if Fidel Castro had not decided to intervene. And between November 1975 and April 1976, 3,6000 Cuban soldiers poured into Angola and pushed the South Africans back into Namibia, which South Africa ruled at the time.
And this had an immense psychological impact—talking of South Africa—in South Africa, both among whites and among blacks. And the major black South African newspaper, The World, wrote in an editorial in February 1976, at a moment in which the South African troops were still in Angola, but the Cubans were pushing them back—they had evacuated central Angola. They were in southern Angola. The writing was on the wall. And this newspaper, The World, wrote, “Black Africa is riding the crest of a wave generated by the Cuban victory in Angola. Black Africa is tasting the heady wine of the possibility of achieving total liberation.” And Mandela wrote that he was in jail in 1975 when he learned about the arrival of the Cuban troops in Angola, and it was the first time then a country had come from another continent not to take something away, but to help Africans to achieve their freedom.
This was the first real contribution of Cuba to the liberation of South Africa. It was the first time in living memory that the White Giants, the army of apartheid, had been forced to retreat. And they had retreated because of a non-white army. And in a situation of internal colonialism, this is extremely important. And after that, the Cubans remained in Angola to protect Angola from the South African army. Even the CIA acknowledged that the Cubans were the guarantee for the independence of Angola. And in Angola, they trained the ANC , the African National Congress, of Mandela. And very close relations developed between the two. I don’t know if you want me to go on and talk about the next moment, or you want to interrupt me with some questions.
NERMEEN SHAIKH : Yes, Professor Piero Gleijeses, if you could speak specifically about the role of Che Guevara in Africa?
PIERO GLEIJESES : Yeah, Che Guevara had nothing to do with South Africa. The role—
NERMEEN SHAIKH : In Africa, though, in the Congo and Angola.
PIERO GLEIJESES : Yes, I understand. The role of Che Guevara in 1964, 1965—in late 1964, Che Guevara was sent by Fidel Castro as Fidel Castro’s top representative to Sub-Saharan Africa—it was the first visit by a top Cuban leader to Sub-Saharan Africa—because the Cubans believed that there was a revolutionary situation in central Africa, and they wanted to help. And Che Guevara established relations with a number of revolutionary movements. One of them, the MPLA , the Movement for the Liberation of Angola, that was based in Congo-Brazzaville. And in 1965, the first Cubans fought in Angolan territory together with the MPLA . But the major role played by Che Guevara is that he led a group of Cubans into Congo, the former Belgian Congo, where there was a revolt by the followers of the late Lumumba against the central government enforced by the United States. And the United States had created an army of white mercenaries, the White Giants, mainly South African and Rhodesians and then Europeans, to crush this revolt. And the Cubans went at the request of the rebels, at the request of the government of Egypt, Algeria and Tanzania to help the rebels.
AMY GOODMAN : Uh—
PIERO GLEIJESES : And—yes?
AMY GOODMAN : Professor, I wanted to go back to Angola—
PIERO GLEIJESES : Yes.
AMY GOODMAN : —and this time bring in former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. This is Kissinger explaining why the U.S. was concerned about the Cuban troops that Fidel Castro had sent to fight in Angola. After Kissinger, you’ll hear Fidel Castro himself.
SECRETARY OF STATE HENRY KISSINGER : We thought, with respect to Angola, that if the Soviet Union could intervene at such distances, from areas that were far from the traditional Russian security concerns, and when Cuban forces could be introduced into distant trouble spots, and if the West could not find a counter to that, that then the whole international system could be destabilized.
PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO : [translated] It was a question of globalizing our struggle vis-à-vis the globalized pressures and harassment of the U.S. In this respect, it did not coincide with the Soviet viewpoint. We acted, but without their cooperation. Quite the opposite.
AMY GOODMAN : That was President Fidel Castro and, before that, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger from the film CIA & Angolan Revolution. Professor Gleijeses?
PIERO GLEIJESES : OK, two points. One, Kissinger didn’t mention that the Cubans intervened in response to the South African invasion and that the United States had connived with the South Africans and urged the South Africans to invade. So here, there is a rather important issue of chronology.
The second point is that in the last volume of his memoirs, Kissinger, who in general is a very arrogant person, acknowledges that he made a mistake. And the mistake he made was in saying that the Cubans had intervened as proxies of the Soviet Union. And he writes in his memoirs that actually it had been a Cuban decision and that the Cubans had intervened and confronted the Soviets with a fait accompli. And then he asks a question in his memoirs: Why did Castro take this decision? And Kissinger’s answer is that Fidel Castro was probably—I’m quoting—”was probably the most genuine revolutionary leader then in power.” So, there are two Kissingers, if you want, and there is the Kissinger of his memoirs, where he says a few things that actually are true.
AMY GOODMAN : Piero Gleijeses, what do you make of the furor right now? You just heard Congressmember Lehtinen from Florida attacking John Kerry, you know, the significance of the handshake between President Obama and President Raúl Castro right there at the Soweto stadium at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela.
PIERO GLEIJESES : I think it’s pathetic and reflects the ethics of the United States and the policy of the United States. Obama, President Obama, was received with applause in South Africa when he spoke, etc., because he is the first black president of the United States. But the role of the United States as a country, as a government, past governments, in the struggle for liberation of South Africa is a shameful role. In general, we were on the side of the apartheid government. And the role of Cuba is a splendid role in favor of the liberation. This handshake—going beyond this particular issue, the handshake was long overdue. The embargo is absurd, is immoral. And we have here a president who bowed to the king of South Africa—of Saudi Arabia, I’m sorry, which certainly is no democracy. I mean, even Obama should know it. So it’s an absurd situation. The problem with Obama is that his speeches are good, his gestures are good, but there is no follow-up. So, unfortunately, it is just a gesture, a long-overdue gesture that does not change a shameful U.S. policy.
NERMEEN SHAIKH : Professor Piero Gleijeses, before we conclude, let’s turn to Fidel Castro speaking in South Africa on his visit in 1998.
PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO : [translated] Let South Africa be a model of a more just and more humane future. If you can do it, we will all be able to do it.
NERMEEN SHAIKH : That was Fidel Castro speaking in 1998 in South Africa, with former president, who just passed away, Nelson Mandela applauding him. Piero Gleijeses, we just have a minute. Could you talk about what most surprised you in your research in the Cuban archives about this history?
PIERO GLEIJESES : Well, there are a lot of things. One is the independence of Cuban policy vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. There are clashes between Fidel Castro and Gorbachev. There are clashes between the leaders of the Cuban military mission in Angola and the Soviet leaders, which I quote actually in my book and which make really fascinating reading. This is one thing.
But another thing that impressed me very much is the respect with which the Cubans treated the Angolan government. This is very important, because the Angolan government really depended on Cuba for its survival, the presence of the Cuban troops as a shield against South African invasion, which was a constant threat, and the very large and generous technical assistance that Cuba was providing to Angola. And the tendency would be to treat a government that’s so dependent with some kind of superiority. And this is something I’ve never found in international relations, this kind of respect with which Cuba treated what, by all objective counts, should have been a client government. And it’s particularly striking for someone who studies the United States and lives in the United States, because seriously the United States government does not treat government that depends on Washington with much respect.
AMY GOODMAN : Piero Gleijeses, thank you so much for being with us.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT THE AAM IN THE 1990s
At the beginning of 1990 apartheid was breaking down. President de Klerk’s inauguration in September 1989 was marked by a mass march led by churchmen in Cape Town in defiance of the State of Emergency and by strikes all over South Africa. International banks were reluctant to lend to an unstable economy. Military setbacks in Angola and overwhelming international pressure had forced the apartheid government to concede independence to Namibia. After elections held in November 1989, Namibia celebrated the inauguration of SWAPO leader Sam Nujoma as President on 21 March 1990.
On 2 February, President de Klerk announced the lifting of the bans on the African National Congress (ANC), Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). On 11 February, Nelson Mandela was freed after 27 years in gaol. His release was celebrated all over the world. After visits to neighbouring African countries, Mandela came via Sweden to London, where the Anti-Apartheid Movement welcomed him with a second Wembley stadium concert on 16 April. He told millions watching on television: ‘We know of the solid support we have received from the Anti-Apartheid Movement. It has not only been a source of real inspiration to us all, but it has also helped to put the struggle for a non-racial South Africa on a level never seen before.’
The lifting of the bans on the liberation movements and Mandela’s release opened the way to negotiations for a new constitution in South Africa. But it was far from certain that they would lead to genuine majority rule. Over the next four years the Nationalist government pushed for a constitution that would privilege the white minority and fomented violence among Africans in an attempt to divide and rule.
In Britain, the AAM faced contradictions. The ANC and other anti-apartheid organisations within South Africa still needed international backing, but after Mandela’s release many AAM supporters felt the struggle was already over. On sanctions it was faced with a fast-changing situation, in which it had to accommodate the conflicting pressures exerted on the liberation movement. The ANC needed to keep up pressure on the apartheid government, but at the same time did not want to inherit a collapsing economy. It had to make new alliances to prepare for government. And the ‘black on black’ violence, in which thousands were killed between 1990 and 1994, threatened to confuse and alienate AAM supporters.
The AAM identified three main issues: the maintenance of sanctions until there was irreversible progress towards majority rule the creation of a climate conducive to negotiations and the endorsement of a united, non-racial and democratic South Africa as the only acceptable outcome. It argued that the British government was still the ‘No. 1 protector of apartheid’1. It made the strategic decision to prioritise work at an international level, in the European Community, Commonwealth and UN, as the most effective way of constraining Conservative government support for the Nationalist government in South Africa.
Prime Minister Thatcher moved swiftly to lift British sanctions. On 2 February she announced the relaxation of the ban on cultural, academic and scientific links. The day before Mandela’s release she declared her intention to lift the UK’s voluntary bans on new investment and the promotion of tourism. The AAM responded by stepping up its campaign for people’s sanctions, focusing on gold and tourism. It organised a demonstration outside the South African Airways office at Oxford Circus and a sit-in at the World Travel Market at Olympia, west London. At EC summits, the British government pushed for the removal first of the ‘restrictive measures’ imposed in 1986, and then of the 1985 oil embargo and bans on military collaboration. The AAM played a leading role in the Liaison Group of European Community Anti-Apartheid Movements, which lobbied to stop the EC lifting its restrictions. At the Commonwealth summit in Harare in October 1991, the AAM pressed for the Commonwealth to maintain sanctions.
The international solidarity movement was entering new and uncharted waters. At the same time as they confronted the old order, the democratic forces in South Africa were looking to the future. By 1991 the cultural boycott had virtually broken down. The ANC’s Department of Arts and Culture invited international artists to come to South Africa ‘not only to perform but to contribute to redressing the inequities of apartheid’2. South Africa’s non-racial sports bodies were negotiating their way back into world competition. In March 1991 they set up an Interim National Olympic Committee and South Africa was readmitted to the International Olympic Committee. The UN General Assembly recognised the new situation in its December 1991 resolution endorsing ‘academic, scientific and cultural links with democratic anti-apartheid organisations’ and contacts with non-racial sports bodies. The AAM publicised the UN resolution, but tried to hold the line by pledging that it would still boycott ‘institutions which continue to promote apartheid in the sports, cultural and academic fields’3. But the policy of distinguishing between visits by organisations which were pro- or anti-apartheid was impossible to sustain. This was shown in 1992, when an all-white South African rugby squad arrived in Britain on a tour originally sanctioned by the ANC and the new non-racial National and Olympic Sports Congress, but from which they later withdrew support.
The AAM followed the ANC’s lead in campaigning for the maintenance of economic sanctions until a transitional executive council was in place and a date for elections set. But as negotiations entered their final stage in June 1993 and the ANC came under intense pressure to agree to the lifting of sanctions, the AAM drew back from pressing banks not to reschedule South Africa’s debt and sought further consultation with the ANC. Mandela went to the UN on 24 September, after transitional arrangements had been agreed but before they were implemented, to ask it to lift economic sanctions. On 8 October 1993, in a historic decision, the UN swept away measures restricting trade, investment, finance and transport links with South Africa. The AAM welcomed the move, saying that the agreement on setting up a transitional executive council gave real hope for a democratic future. The UN mandatory arms embargo remained, and was finally lifted after the installation of South Africa’s first democratic government, on Africa Day, 25 May 1994. Appropriately, South Africa’s new Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, was accompanied to the UN by Abdul Minty, Director of the World Campaign against Military and Nuclear Collaboration and Hon. Secretary of the AAM, who had campaigned for an effective arms embargo for over 30 years.
In 1990 the AAM was convinced that de Klerk was hoping to wrongfoot the democratic forces. But it believed there was all to play for, and that the outcome depended on forcing the South African government to remove the obstacles to meaningful negotiations. One of the most important of these was the continued incarceration of hundreds of political prisoners, including at least 50 on death row. The AAM raised the issue at a meeting with Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd in April 1990, but he refused to intervene. Over the next three years it worked closely with the ANC and the Human Rights Commission in South Africa. It responded to hunger strikes by South African prisoners by organising days of fasting outside South Africa House, mass letter writing campaigns to President de Klerk and to the British Foreign Office, and asking supporters to write directly to the prisoners still on Robben Island.
‘BLACK ON BLACK’ VIOLENCE
An even more serious obstacle to negotiations was the endemic violence between supporters of the Inkatha Freedom Party and the ANC, which spread from KwaZulu to the townships around Johannesburg in 1990. In a sinister new development, ‘third force’ assassins targeted workers on commuter trains and in the townships. The AAM cut through the confusion surrounding the violence by insisting that it was the South African government’s responsibility to stop it. When de Klerk paid his third visit to Britain in October 1990, the AAM launched an Emergency Campaign with a message to Thatcher: ‘Tell de Klerk: stop the violence and repression’. It asked de Klerk to establish an independent judicial enquiry into the killings. After the signing of the National Peace Accord in South Africa in September 1991, the AAM distributed leaflets at train stations asking British commuters to write to the South African government.
In June 1992, at least 40 township residents were killed by Inkatha Freedom Party supporters in Boipatong in the southern Transvaal. This was a turning point in the international community’s response to the violence in South Africa. An AAM delegation asked the British government to consult with the European Union and the Commonwealth on how to monitor the killings. Protesters marched up Whitehall to hold a vigil at South Africa House. The AAM’s President, Trevor Huddleston, flew to South Africa and spoke at the funeral of the victims. In July, Huddleston convened an International Hearing in London, at which delegates from 27 countries heard eyewitness accounts of the massacres. At the UN, the British government did a U-turn and supported a resolution authorising the UN Secretary General to deploy peace monitors. The OAU, the Commonwealth and the EC also agreed to send observers. The AAM campaigned for the peace monitors’ terms of reference to be extended so that they could prevent, as well as observe, violent incidents. Many monitors went from Britain. The violence took a tragic toll of human lives, but partly because of the international response, it failed to derail the negotiations or to demobilise the democratic movement’s well-wishers around the world.
A UNITED DEMOCRATIC SOUTH AFRICA
The AAM’s third priority was to project the vision of a united democratic South Africa. As negotiations lurched from crisis to crisis, it looked for imaginative ways of engaging support. Its ‘Call for Freedom’ launched on 26 June 1990 proclaimed the need for an elected constituent assembly to agree on South Africa’s new constitution. When de Klerk visited London to meet Britain’s new Prime Minister John Major in April 1991, anti-apartheid local groups collected signatures for a petition saying ‘Give Democracy a Chance’. Later in the year, the Movement asked people to ‘Vote for Democracy’ by casting votes for ‘one person one vote’ in South Africa.
The AAM insisted that for any election to be free and fair, the ANC and other democratic forces must be helped to match the resources of the National Party and the election must be monitored. When the election date was announced, on 2 July 1993, Trevor Huddleston wrote to the UN Secretary General, the OAU, the Commonwealth and the European Community asking them to organise a big international presence. The Commonwealth agreed to send its largest ever election observer group and set up a special Commonwealth Fund. In Britain, the AAM’s Chair Bob Hughes met Foreign Office Minister of State Lynda Chalker to spell out the steps the government should take to strengthen the role of observer missions. Hundreds went from Britain to join what became the world’s largest ever international election monitoring operation.
REBUILDING THE ANC
From February 1990 the ANC grappled with the huge logistical task of rebuilding its organisation within South Africa. In 1991 the AAM launched a twinning programme linking its regions to ANC regions in South Africa and raised money to help establish new ANC structures. The most successful link was that between the Scottish AA Committee and the Eastern Cape. Fifty British participants flew out to the ANC’s international solidarity conference in February 1993. The crowd at the AAM’s last mass rally in Trafalgar Square, on 20 June 1993 heard Walter Sisulu demand an immediate election date.
As soon as the date was announced, the ANC launched a ‘Votes for Freedom’ appeal with a target of £1 million to be raised in Britain. In January 1994 the Movement initiated its last campaign, ‘Countdown to Democracy’, asking for donations to its regional twinning project or to the ANC election fund. The campaign culminated in a national ‘Votes for Freedom’ day on 20 April. In town halls, workplaces and student unions, people cast symbolic votes for freedom in South Africa and were asked to give a final donation to the ANC fund. The fund more than exceeded its target, with British trade unions contributing over £250,000.
On election day, 27 April 1994, hundreds of South Africans voted in London, joining queues snaking around South Africa House. Among them were some of the political exiles who had played such an important part in the British AAM. Many more were South Africans living in Britain who had played no part in the anti-apartheid struggle, but were reconciled to being citizens of the new South Africa. For many British activists the most moving moment was Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as president on 10 May, when for the first time they entered South Africa House. At an extraordinary celebration, British supporters of the apartheid government rubbed shoulders with ANC and AAM members. As a live video link showed Mandela taking the presidential oath and the crowd in South Africa sang the national anthem, the activists toyi-toyied in celebration and the old guard drifted away.
CIVIL WAR IN MOZAMBIQUE AND ANGOLA
As negotiations to end apartheid were about to begin, talks were also initiated between the FRELIMO government and the South African sponsored group RENAMO to end the civil war in Mozambique. A general peace agreement was signed in Rome on 4 October 1992. After delays in implementation, Mozambique held its first multi-party election in October 1994. But in Angola the rebel group UNITA rejected the result of elections held in 1992, when they lost to the governing party MPLA. UNITA refused to implement the Bicesse Accords, providing for the demobilising of its armed forces, and occupied huge areas of Angola, forcing 3 million people to flee. Angola was plunged back into a devastating civil war, which only ended with the death of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi in 2002. With the Mozambique Angola Committee (MAC), the AAM campaigned to alert British public opinion to the ‘forgotten war’, distributing posters and leaflets asking the British government and international community to ‘Isolate UNITA’.
At a meeting in Windhoek in August 1992, the countries that had formed the Southern African Development Coordinating Conference (SADCC) in 1980 established closer economic co-operation by setting up the Southern African Development Community (SADC). In a memo to the British Foreign Office the AAM urged that British policy on Southern Africa should be guided by the need to help the whole region overcome the effects of apartheid aggression. It stressed the need for balanced development which would not aggravate ‘the historic tendency of South Africa to dominate the rest of the region’4.
‘MAKING HOPE A REALITY’
In June 1993, when the final breakthrough in the negotiations in South Africa seemed imminent, Trevor Huddleston and Tanzania’s former President, Julius Nyerere, convened an international conference in London to look forward to the future. It agreed that trade, investment and aid relationships must not reinforce existing inequalities, that people to people solidarity should be encouraged and that there must be ‘a new era of reconstruction and development throughout the region’5. The AAM considered how its twinning programme could be developed to establish contacts between communities, and how to encourage trade unions, schools and local authorities to link up with their counterparts in South Africa.
The Movement’s 1993 annual meeting agreed to hold an emergency general meeting after South Africa’s freedom election. In May 1994 activists attended a day of workshops to discuss people to people solidarity. On 25 June, at the TUC’s Congress House, delegates from the AAM’s affiliated organisations and individual members agreed to set up a new solidarity organisation. Its remit was to mobilise support for the whole Southern African region to help it overcome the legacy of apartheid and promote development in a way that would benefit all its peoples.
ACTION FOR SOUTHERN AFRICA (ACTSA)
At a final annual general meeting on 29 October 1994 the AAM was transformed into a new organisation, Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA). ACTSA continues to work for peace, development and human rights throughout the Southern African region.
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Sibonisile Tshabalala was only 18 days old when her mother Thandeka Sidya left her with her grandmother Roseline, in the Johannesburg township of Katlehong.
But she was not heading to a menial job in an office or restaurant in the city center. On April 27, 1994, Thandeka Sidaya wanted to be at the polls when they opened at 8 a.m., to cast her vote for the man whose fearless activism and 27-year imprisonment toppled a legal and economic system that had brutalized non-white South Africans for almost half a century, and fueled decades of international condemnation and protest. Thandeka stood in line for hours, submitted her ballot for Nelson Mandela as first black president of South Africa, and then returned to her newborn so that Roseline Sidya could head to the polls. (See Nelson Mandela's life in pictures.)
“For them, it was too important to miss the chance to vote for the first time,” the 25-year-old industrial engineering graduate says. “They wanted to be able to say that they helped end apartheid.”
Tshabalala’s birth at the dawn of post-apartheid South Africa places her squarely on the front lines of what legendary South African cleric and theologian Desmond Tutu named the “Rainbow Generation.” They are the first cohort of modern black, biracial and other ethnic groups who would not live under the legal and political system crafted by South Africa’s white minority—largely descendants of late 17 th century Dutch colonialists known as Afrikaners—which sanctioned racial segregation and economic discrimination against non-whites.
How ironic, then, that a 34-year-old Dutch woman raised on a houseboat in the Netherlands would one day be a champion for post-apartheid South Africans. When photographer Ilvy Njiokiktjien’s photo book ‘Born Free: Mandela’s Generation of Hope” is released on May 1, it will be the end of a journey that began when she first took a photography course at age 16 during a high school exchange program in South Dakota. Njiokiktjien had actually experienced more diversity as a schoolgirl in Utrecht, with classmates from Morocco, Turkey and Sri Lanka.
By the time she entered a college exchange program at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa in 2004, Njiokiktjien knew very little about the history of apartheid, and was unprepared for witnessing its painful residue.
“I remember it being quite shocking, the division between whites and blacks. Downtown Grahamstown is beautiful and pristine and looks like a fairy tale. But if you look down that main road, you see this big township that was full of mainly poor blacks, who came into the city center during the day to work or look for work. It may sound naïve, but I was a bit stunned that everything was still so distinctly separate.” (See rare, rescued apartheid-era portraits.)
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Apartheid, (Afrikaans: “apartness”) policy that governed relations between South Africa’s white minority and nonwhite majority and sanctioned racial segregation and political and economic discrimination against nonwhites. The implementation of apartheid, often called “separate development” since the 1960s, was made possible through the Population Registration Act of 1950, which classified all South Africans as either Bantu (all Black Africans), Coloured (those of mixed race), or white. A fourth category—Asian (Indian and Pakistani)—was later added.
What is apartheid?
Apartheid (Afrikaans: “apartness”) is the name of the policy that governed relations between the white minority and the nonwhite majority of South Africa during the 20th century. Although racial segregation had long been in practice there, the apartheid name was first used about 1948 to describe the racial segregation policies embraced by the white minority government. Apartheid dictated where South Africans, on the basis of their race, could live and work, the type of education they could receive, and whether they could vote. Events in the early 1990s marked the end of legislated apartheid, but the social and economic effects remained deeply entrenched.
When did apartheid start?
Racial segregation had long existed in white minority-governed South Africa, but the practice was extended under the government led by the National Party (1948–94), and the party named its racial segregation policies apartheid (Afrikaans: “apartness”). The Population Registration Act of 1950 classified South Africans as Bantu (black Africans), Coloured (those of mixed race), or white an Asian (Indian and Pakistani) category was later added. Other apartheid acts dictated where South Africans, on the basis of their racial classification, could live and work, the type of education they could receive, whether they could vote, who they could associate with, and which segregated public facilities they could use.
How did apartheid end?
Under the administration of the South African president F.W. de Klerk, legislation supporting apartheid was repealed in the early 1990s, and a new constitution—one that enfranchised blacks and other racial groups—was adopted in 1993. All-race national elections held in 1994 resulted in a black majority government led by prominent anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela of the African National Congress party. Although these developments marked the end of legislated apartheid, the social and economic effects of apartheid remained deeply entrenched in South African society.
What is the apartheid era in South African history?
The apartheid era in South African history refers to the time that the National Party led the country’s white minority government, from 1948 to 1994. Apartheid (Afrikaans: “apartness”) was the name that the party gave to its racial segregation policies, which built upon the country’s history of racial segregation between the ruling white minority and the nonwhite majority. During this time, apartheid policy determined where South Africans, on the basis of their race, could live and work, the type of education they could receive, whether they could vote, who they could associate with, and which segregated public facilities they could use.
Racial segregation, sanctioned by law, was widely practiced in South Africa before 1948, but the National Party, which gained office that year, extended the policy and gave it the name apartheid. The Group Areas Act of 1950 established residential and business sections in urban areas for each race, and members of other races were barred from living, operating businesses, or owning land in them. In practice this act and two others (1954, 1955), which became known collectively as the Land Acts, completed a process that had begun with similar Land Acts adopted in 1913 and 1936 the end result was to set aside more than 80 percent of South Africa’s land for the white minority. To help enforce the segregation of the races and prevent Blacks from encroaching on white areas, the government strengthened the existing “ pass” laws, which required nonwhites to carry documents authorizing their presence in restricted areas. Other laws forbade most social contacts between the races, authorized segregated public facilities, established separate educational standards, restricted each race to certain types of jobs, curtailed nonwhite labour unions, and denied nonwhite participation (through white representatives) in the national government.
Under the Bantu Authorities Act of 1951 the government reestablished tribal organizations for Black Africans, and the Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act of 1959 created 10 African homelands, or Bantustans. The Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act of 1970 made every Black South African, irrespective of actual residence, a citizen of one of the Bantustans, thereby excluding Blacks from the South African body politic. Four of the Bantustans were granted independence as republics, and the remaining had varying degrees of self-government but all remained dependent, both politically and economically, on South Africa. The dependence of the South African economy on nonwhite labour, though, made it difficult for the government to carry out this policy of separate development.
Although the government had the power to suppress virtually all criticism of its policies, there was always some opposition to apartheid within South Africa. Black African groups, with the support of some whites, held demonstrations and strikes, and there were many instances of violent protest and of sabotage. One of the first—and most violent—demonstrations against apartheid took place in Sharpeville on March 21, 1960 the police response to the protesters’ actions was to open fire, killing about 69 Black Africans and wounding many more. An attempt to enforce Afrikaans language requirements for Black African students led to the Soweto riots in 1976. Some white politicians called for the relaxation of minor restrictions, referred to as “petty apartheid,” or for the establishment of racial equality.
Apartheid also received international censure. South Africa was forced to withdraw from the Commonwealth in 1961 when it became apparent that other member countries would not accept its racial policies. In 1985 both the United Kingdom and the United States imposed selective economic sanctions on South Africa. In response to these and other pressures, the South African government abolished the “pass” laws in 1986, although Blacks were still prohibited from living in designated white areas and the police were granted broad emergency powers.
Systemic: The Story of Apartheid
The word Apartheid comes from the Afrikaans word for “apartness.” There was a very bleak period in South Africa starting in 1948 when the government began to overwhelmingly develop new policies that would create significantly high levels of racial discrimination against black men and white women.
This period of time come to be known as apartheid, which was more or less an economic system designed to restrict what black people would be able to do on both economic and social levels.
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The seeds of apartheid were first planted at the very beginning of the nation’s origins, back when the English and Dutch settled in the country in the 17 th century. In the 1940s, the National Party began to campaign for the advocacy of the white race within South Africa. Dr. Daniel Francis Malan led the charge to unify whites so that they could come into power. His party ended up winning the election and seized power of the South African government. This would enable them to enact many racist and separatist policies.
From the time that the National Party came into power, racially restricting laws became the norm. Interracial marriages were banned, specific jobs were deemed to be white only and physical appearance quickly became the only way to solidify one’s status in the country. These policies were intense and far-reaching. They would even go as far as to require blacks to carry pass books with them in order to access areas that were designated as “non-black.”
Apartheid laws essentially seized almost all land from blacks and redistributed it to whites so that they could live comfortable and productive lives. Nearly 87 percent of all land was given to whites, leaving black citizens with a paltry 13 percent of territory for them to farm. Not only that, but they were restricted to specific areas where they were unable to leave without appropriate permission.
Those who spoke out against apartheid were quickly silenced either through excessive fines, arrest or even whipping. The black man was unable to speak loudly about the injustices being perpetrated against him, primarily because he was too busy trying to fight for his own survival. The Public Safety and Criminal Law Amendment made sure that the South African government would have the power to declare any individual who spoke out against them as enemies of the state and treat them as such.
The biggest act of indecency by this racist and powerful government was the passing of the Bantu Authorities Act. The Bantu Act essentially created specific areas of land known as homelands for black Africans. These areas would be where the South African black individual would be forced to give up their citizenship in order to become members of these homelands. This would more or less revoke their ability to vote, despite the fact that they still technically lived in South Africa.
Four homelands were created by the South African government, which would in effect remove nearly nine million blacks from having the ability to participate in South African politics. This strategy by the Nationalist Party was known as Grand Apartheid, because it involved helping separate the blacks from the whites. While the national party tried their best to explain the moral reasoning behind their decision to revoke power from all non-whites, this quickly became seen by the majority of the world as wildly inappropriate.
World War 2 had created a startling picture of what the ultimate conclusion of racism was: total and unwarranted destruction of human life. There was a significant amount of political pressure that was placed upon the South African government by the United Nations, but that pressure went unanswered for the longest time. There was no moral impetus for these people to allow for equal rights within the black and Indian community.
To make matters far worse, the South African government did not handle sedition and disagreement with civility. Instead, they utilized violence as a method to control those who refused to follow through with the policies that they had created. For those who would dissent, they were often taken captive and tortured thoroughly. Mass protests would be met with supreme violence. On March 21 st , 1960, several thousand black protestors arrived at the Sharpeville police station so that they could protest the existence of the passbook laws. These protests were met with attempts by the government to disperse the crowds. This did not work, however, for neither teargas nor jets passing above could convince the disenfranchised black man to step down from his protests. So, the police responded by shooting at the protestors, killing a grand total of 69 causalities and many more injuries. The government merely claimed that the soldiers who opened fire upon unarmed black protestors were fatigued and panicked. This became known as the Sharpeville Massacre.
The government used the Massacre as an excuse to call for a state of emergency, arresting thousands upon thousands of black men that they believed would be problems for them in the long run. The civil organizations that had been working hard to resist the government’s racists policies were banned from existing. Members of the resistance were forced into hiding, but they would not be deterred from finding some way to stop the racist government from oppressing them.
The United Democratic Front was assembled as a way to counter the apartheid policies that were being enforced. Among the members was Nelson Mandela, an outspoken revolutionary who believed that Apartheid was a great evil that must be ended at all costs. Nelson’s actions were legendary for he did not believe in principles of non-violence, but rather had come to the conclusion that the only way his people could ever be free was for the South African government to be overthrown.
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Mandela had been responsible for the creation of the Mandela Plan, which was a method of enacting guerilla warfare and terrorist acts against the South African government. As members of the African National Congress, Nelson Mandela was part of an armed organization known as the MK. The MK would carry out the Mandela Plan and sabotage many different sections of the South African government so that they could enforce their own rule. However, Mandela did not believe in killing and instead focused on methods of sabotage that did not involve the deaths of others.
In spite of Mandela’s work to free his nation, he was captured instead. He had tried to avoid arrest, but was unable to escape them for too long. On August 1962, he was arrested for a wide variety of crimes and ended up sentenced to prison for the rest of his life. Mandela would spend a total of 27 years within prison before the South African government would release him.
In the course of time, it was growing more and more clear that the apartheid movement was unable to suppress the black population from being able to express themselves. While the South African government worked hard to suppress all non-whites, there was a tremendous amount of cohesion between all of the black protestors. Things began to heat up even more in the 80s, causing a greater amount of violence against those who defied the South African regime. This kind of violent action against protestors and dissidents caught the attention of the international community at large and pressure once again began to mount against those who perpetrated the apartheid.
The National Party had once promised that they would bring order and cohesion to South Africa by enacting these racist laws. They had promised their constituents that order would reign supreme and that racial harmony would be established by a clear-cut separation of all races. They couldn’t have been more wrong. As the riots, protests and political pressures mounted, it became increasingly clear the National Party that they would not be able to recover politically from this mess. The leader at the time, Prime Minster Botha, made the decision to resign from politics due to a series of health concerns and allowed for F.W de Klerk to take over for him. De Klerk understood that the state of affairs was in dire straits, so he chose to make a decision that surprised almost everyone. He reached out to Nelson Mandela and freed him from prison. De Klerk also made a point to eliminate all bans on organized opposition parties such as the ANC.
By 1990, Nelson Mandela was in talks with de Klerk about the complete eradication of Apartheid law. A long series of negotiations began and piece by piece, the apartheid laws were dismantled. It wasn’t an easy nor was it a quick solution, but over the course of four years, political prisoners were released and compromises were made.
This isn’t to say that transition was a smooth one. Many on the right wing, those loyal to the national party, were outraged at this transition and proceeded to assassinate and kill those who were loyal to the ANC. Violence persisted and chaos threatened to disrupt the peaceful discussions of dismantling the apartheid. One group went as far as to drive an armored vehicle into a trade center where peace talks were occurring. This desperate attempt to prevent the peace talks from happening ultimately failed and under Mandela’s leadership, the apartheid movement was slowly taken apart.
Mandela and de Klerk were even awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize for their hard work in trying to unify South Africa and eschew the racist laws that had held it back to a significant degree. Soon, the entire black population was free to vote again and in 1994, a general election was held to install a new government into power.
This election would be the key to the success of Mandela’s party. After a great amount of work to make sure that the election was fair, free from influence and attainable, the ballots were held and the votes were cast. The African National Congress won enough seats to where they held a majority. The National Party held enough seats to challenge them, but not enough to overwhelmingly control the government any more. Nelson Mandela would go on to be sworn in as the President of South Africa, effectively bringing an end to apartheid in the country.
This closed a brutal and violent chapter of South African history. Before the white man had come along and tried to establish total dominance, the nation had been in a state of peace and harmony. Yet, once the 1948 election had occurred, there was nothing but chaos, turmoil and sorrow. There was no reason for such evils to be perpetrated against an innocent population, no reason other than the sordid gain of others. This is an important lesson to learn, that no matter how far a culture comes, no matter how civilized they might be, as long as prejudice remains, there will always be seeds of discord and hatred. Without the strength of leaders like Mandela and the willingness to oppose the government through the use of violence and civil protest, apartheid would still be going on today. His strong leadership and desire for peace above revenge was what led to the dismantling of the racist laws.
Negotiations and the transition
The increasing social unrest in South Africa that swept through the country in the 1980s, and the changing geopolitical circumstances on the international political scene forced the apartheid government to enter into negotiations with the ANC. In March 1982, Mandela together with senior members of the ANC was transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor prison after spending 18 years on Robben Island. Between 1984 and 1989 secret meetings aimed at bringing down apartheid took place between the ANC and the National Party. Western countries with business interests in South Africa attempted to compel piecemeal reforms introduced by the apartheid government but the ANC refused to accept these. For instance, in late 1983 the United States of America sent Robert Cabelly, a representative of the US president Ronald Regan to try and convince the ANC to accept reforms introduced by South African president P W Botha.
Other secret meetings between the ANC and NP representatives took place outside the country. For instance in 1985 Piet Mulder editor of Beeld an Afrikaans newspaper and Professor H van de Merwe travelled to Harare to meet with ANC representatives. In September 1985 major industrialists such as chairman of Anglo America Gavin Reilly also travelled to meet the ANC representatives in Lusaka. A conference at the Ford Foundation was held in 1986 in New York with Broderbond chairman Pieter de Lange and several top ANC leaders. While the NP distanced itself from some of these meetings, it is clear they were used to gauge the mood of political engagement with the ANC. In addition the later government commenced secret talks with Mandela while he was still in prison.
On 31 January 1985, P.W. Botha announced to parliament that the government was considering releasing Mandela from prison. This would be done on condition that he renounced the armed struggle and agreed to return to his hometown of Qunu.
Mandela responded by rejecting the offer for his conditional release in a letter that read by his daughter, Zinzi Mandela in a rally in Soweto on 10 February 1985.
Groote Schuur estate Cape Town. Source: http://www.igougo.com/
“. What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? What freedom am I being offered when I may be arrested on a pass offence? What freedom am I being offered to live my life as a family with my dear wife who remains in banishment in Brandfort? What freedom am I being offered when I must ask for permission to live in an urban area? What freedom am I being offered when I need a stamp in my pass to seek work? What freedom am I being offered when my very South African citizenship is not respected? Only free men can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts.”
In July 1986 while he was in Victor Verster Mandela wrote to the Commissioner of Prisons, requesting a meeting with Kobie Coetsee. During the meeting with Coetsee, the idea of negotiations between the NP led government and the ANC raised and a request to meet President PW Botha was tabled. That same year Mandela was visited by the Eminent Persons Group from the Commonwealth Groups of Nations. Coetsee continued to visit Mandela to negotiate on behalf of PW Botha. Some of demands from PW Botha were that the ANC should end its alliance with the SACP.
In August 1988 Mandela contracted tuberculosis and was admitted to the Tygerberg Hospital, where he was hospitalized for a month and half. After being discharged from the hospital Mandela continued his recuperation at the Constantiaberg MediClinic until September. On 9 December 1988 Mandela was transferred from Pollsmoor Prison to Victor Verster Prison, near Paarl, where he was held in a house formerly occupied by a prison warder. Despite being allocated a house, upon arrival Mandela was given another prisoner number which was 1335/88. After almost three years of meetings between Coetzee and Mandela, in 1989 Mandela wrote to P.W. Botha agreeing on the need to negotiate but refusing still to accede to the government’s conditions for negotiations. On 5 July 1989 South African president PW Botha secretly met Mandela, but Botha was overtaken by events and circumstances. In February 1989, he suffered a mild stroke and was forced by the cabinet to resign. He was replaced by Frederik Willem de Klerk. De Klerk moved to implement reforms that would enable the negotiated settlement to take place. In December 1989, he met with Mandela in prison to discuss his release.
Nelson Mandela addressing the press at Groote Schuur. Source: http://news.za.msn.com/
On his opening speech to parliament on 2 February 1990 De Klerk announced the unbanning of political organizations and the release of imprisoned political leaders. This was followed by another announcement at a press conference on 10 February 1990, that Mandela would be released the next day. On 11 February Mandela was finally released from Victor Verster Prison after spending a total of 27 years in prison. These events set the stage for the commencement of negotiations between the ANC and the NP. After his release, on the same day, he went to Cape Town’s City Hall balcony from where he addressed thousands of supporters who had at the Grand Parade. The gathering at the Grand Parade was an important because of the historical significance of the area in the struggle against colonialism and apartheid. Mandela then spent the night at Bishopscourt, the official residence of the Archbishop of Cape Town where he held a press conference in the garden on 12 February 1990 before travelling to Johannesburg.
What also followed the release of Mandela were discussions between the ANC and the government that laid down some of the parameters for negotiations. These took place on 2 May 1990 at F.W. De Klerk’s home in Groote Schuur in Cape Town.
One of the major issues tabled for discussion was the release of political prisoners and the granting of indemnity from prosecution for political activists in exile. Another issue was the definition of political offences and the timeframe for their release.
A working group to at these above said issues was put together. The ANC nominated Jacob Zuma, Penuell Madun , Aziz Pahad, Matthew Nakedi Phosa and Curnick Ndlovu. The government nominated Minister Kobie Coetsee, Deputy Minister Roelf Meyer, Fanie Van der Merwe, Swanepoel, Louw and Viall, Major General Knipe and Brigadier Adam Kok. On 1 August 1990, MK suspended the armed struggle as negotiations for a democratic South Africa began to gather momentum. This was followed by government’s commencement of releasing political prisoners in September 1990. Only those people who committed politically motivated offences which were covered by the Groote Schuur Minute were released. However, political prisoners jailed between 1989 and 1990 remained in prison. In Cape Town political prisoners from Robben Island were ferried by the Dias and released on Jetty One at the Waterfront.
On 14 September 1991 the apartheid government and 18 other organizations including trade unions, political organizations and churches signed the National Peace Accord (NPA). All parties committed themselves to a peaceful process of negotiation up the democratic elections. Subsequent to the signing of the NPA, in 1991 a negotiating forum known as Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) was set up. On 20 December 1991 the first plenary session of CODESA convened at the World Trade Centre in Kempton Park and appointed working group to deal with specific issues. In early 1992 De Klerk called for a referendum white people only voted for or against issues of negotiation or political reforms. 68% of the voters voted in favour of the process. Talks broke down at CODESA II in May 1992 over issues related to majority rule and powers sharing. The SACP, ANC and COSATU launched mass action in August 1992.
In September the ANC's Cyril Ramaphosa and Roelf Meyer resuscitated the stalled negotiations resulting in the establishment of the Multi-Party Negotiating Forum (MPNF). On 26 September 1992 the government and the ANC agreed on a Record of Understanding. This dealt with a constitutional assembly, an interim government, release of political prisoners, and political violence in hostels among other things. The MPNF began its deliberations on 1 April 1993. After intense negotiations between the ANC and NP, agreements were reached forcing other parties such as IFP that had pulled to participate in the process or be left out.
Meanwhile in 1993 Cape was punctuated by a number of violent incidents that resulted in the death of several white people were carried by APLA operatives in 1993. Three events that stand out were the St James Massacre in Kenilworth, Heidelberg Pub Bombing in Observatory and the murder of Amy Biehl in Gugulethu township.
St James Massacre
On Sunday 25 July 1993 an estimated 1000 congregation was attending an evening service at the St James Church in Kenilworth. A group of APLA (the armed wing of the PAC) operatives Gcinikhaya Makoma, Sichumiso Nonxuba, Thobela Mlambisa and Basie Mkhumbuzi attacked the congregation using AK 47s and grenades. The attack was directed by Nonxuba who was APLA commander, Mlambisa drove the vehicle that transported the operatives, Mkhumbuzi stood guard while Makoma opened fire.
St James Massacre. Source: SAHO
During the attack a member of the congregation Charl van Wyk returned shot back at the attackers using a revolver and wounded one of the operatives forcing to flee. Eleven people were killed during the attack and 58 were injured during the attack. Four of those killed were Russian seamen attending the service as part of a church outreach programme. Ten days after the attack Makoma was arrested and charged with murdering people. He was convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison. Nonxuba, Mlambisa and Mkhumbuzi were subsequently arrested and charged in 1996.
In 1997, while they were on trial, Makoma, Nonxuba, Mlambisa and Mkhumbuzi appealed to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for amnesty. They were granted bail pending their appearance before the TRC.
Nonxuba died in a car accident while on bail. Makoma served five and a half years and in June 1998 together with the remaining two were granted amnesty.
Amy Biehl murder
Amy Biehl an American citizen was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the University of the Western Cape Community Law Centre. Biehl’s research focused on women's rights and in addition she was helping with voter education in preparation for that country's first all-race election. On Wednesday 25 August 1993, while Biehl was driving along the NY1 Road in the Gugulethu Township in Cape Town to drop her colleagues at their homes, her vehicle was stoned and surrounded by a group of young protestors shouting “One settler One Bullet”. Biehl was pulled out of the car and tried to run away, but was struck on her head with a brick. She was beaten and stabbed to death. Although her Black friends tried in vain to stop the attack by shouting that she was a comrade, but it was too late.
Amy Biehl. Source: http://wiki.ocregister.com/
Earlier in the day, part of the group of protestors attended a meeting at the Langa High School where a Pan African Student organisation (PASO) unit was relaunched. Ntobeko Ambrose Peni was elected Chairperson, Mongezi Manqina was Vice Chairperson of the PASO unit at the Gugulethu Comprehensive School and Mzikhona Nofemela was a PASO organizer at the Joe Slovo High School. The events coincided with the strike by Teachers in the Western Cape who demanded recognition of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU).
The meeting was addressed by Simpiwe Mfengu, the Regional Secretary of PASO, Wanda Madubula the Regional Chairperson of PASO amongst others. Speakers urged the members of PASO to take an active part in the struggle of APLA by assisting APLA operators on the ground by making the country ungovernable. In addition, "Operation Barcelona" aimed at to stop all deliveries into the townships was launched with shouts of “One settler One Bullet”. This inflamed the youth who then went to demonstrate in the streets of Gugulethu. Amy Beihl’s death was preceded by these events which created a hostile environment for white people at that moment. Prominent anti-apartheid campaigners condemned the killing, including the ANC in the Western Cape.
Peni, Manqina, Nofemela and Vusumzi Ntamo were arrested were arrested and found guilty of the murder of Biehl. They were sentenced to 18 years in prison. In addition, Ntamo, was also convicted for the crime of Pubic Violence, for which his sentence of imprisonment was ordered to run concurrently with the sentence on the charge of murder. In July 1997 Peni, Manqina, Nofemela and Ntamo applied for amnesty to the TRC. The PAC made its submission on matter to the TRC and admitted that Biehl was wrongly targeted and killed. Then in July 1998, all were granted amnesty.
Heidelberg Pub bombing
In November 1993 APLA operatives were brought from the Eastern Cape under instructions and knowledge of their leaders to carry out military operations in Cape Town. Humphrey Luyanda Gqomfa, was appointed commander of the unit and received instructions from Letlapa Mphahlele and Nsebe, both of who were senior leaders in APLA. On 13th November 1993 Xolani Jantjie, Macebo and others were brought to his house by one Sichumiso Nonxuba, also a known APLA leader.
Heidelberg Pub after the bombing. Source: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/
Upon arrival they were instructed to contact Siphiwo Mqweso, an APLA member who was also a member of the PAC Regional Executive Committee. Mqweso would then provide logistical support and facilitate their movement in Cape Town. The Cape Regional Organizer of the PAC Michael Siyolo organized accommodation for operatives at different houses. The group was later joined by one Theo Sibeko. Gqomfa brief those who to carry out the operation and gave them the targets which included amongst others the Heidelberg Pub Tavern. Theo Mabusela, Michael Siyolo and Richard Madala who were members of the then PAC Regional Executive supplied the arms and ammunition for all the operations.
The unit began by hijacking a vehicle which was used in attacking the Nyanga Army Base between around the 17 December before moving to attack the Lingelethu West police Station on 18 December 1993. Those involved in the operations were Sibeko, Mabala, Madasi, Jantjie, Macebo and Gqomfa. No one was killed in the both incidents. On 31 December 1993 members of the same unit attacked a tavern in Observatory in Cape Town. Four people were killed in the attack, two of them students at the University of Cape Town.
Gqomfa, Madasi and Mabala were arrested and charged with murder and attempted murder for their role in Heidelberg Pub bombing. In 1998 the TRC granted them amnesty for the bombing, the attack of the Lingelethu West police Station and the Nyanga Army Base.
Despite these events the MPNF was not distracted from its efforts to draft a new constitution that would pave way for elections. On 18 November 1993 the MPNF ratified the interim Constitution. On 27 April 1994, for the first time, South Africans of all races in the country voted for the party and government of their choice. There were nineteen political parties that participated and 22 million people who voted. The Interim constitution drafted in 1993 by the MPNF came in to effect on the same day.
The interim constitution required the Constitutional Assembly (CA) to draft and approve a permanent constitution by 9 May 1996. On 8 May a draft was approved by the CA and forwarded to the Constitutional Court for ratification. The Constitutional Court which ruled in September 1996 that the new constitution failed to adhere to principles stated in the interim constitution. It was referred back to CA and after intense negotiations within the CA, a revised draft was submitted the Constitutional Court on 4 December 1996. On 10 December 1996 President Nelson Mandela signed the final draft of the constitution into law effective from 3 February 1997. Under the new dispensation Cape Town became the legislative capital.
Key Steps That Led to End of Apartheid - HISTORY
By Christopher J. McCoy
The apartheid system of South Africa was one designed to beget racism, allowing a minority of whites to dominate a majority-black society economically and politically. The Afrikaner National Party regime controlled its citizens through the rule of law as enforced by persistent military presence in everyday life. During the 20th century and particularly after World War II, the primarily white, male leaders who held sway over US foreign policy had little incentive to enforce racial equality abroad – such problems were still brewing at home, unsolved. The civil rights movement in the US eventually expanded into a front against racism and imperialism that inordinately impacted people of color worldwide. The question addressed in this paper is: What was the most significant US foreign policy that influenced the end of apartheid in South Africa, and what were its major costs and benefits? This paper argues that the inefficacy of Reagan’s policy of constructive engagement, combined with political rebellion and violence that penetrated international media coverage, led to the passage of economic sanctions in Congress under the 1986 Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, which was the most effective policy to help facilitate the end of South African apartheid.
As defined in the course, US Foreign Policy toward Africa, apartheid is “a system of governance established by the Afrikaner National Party based on racial segregation” (Dr. Demessie Class Notes, Spring 2011). The history of the relationship between the US and South Africa’s apartheid regime is a long and intimate one that involved economic and military partnerships. In 1951, the National Party in South Africa, which espoused a highly discriminatory model of social living and segregation favoring the fifteen percent of the population that was white, “achieved an absolute majority within parliament” (Schraeder 194). As early as 1952, “the US agreed to sell over $112 million in arms to the South African military” (Schraeder 195). By 1979, when South Africa “tested a nuclear bomb in the Indian Ocean,” the US had a nuclear agreement with the nation. (Mufson 27). These agreements were made by the US despite South Africa’s implementation of laws that heavily discriminated the black majority – “in a series of legislative actions, the National Party consolidated its power and carried out an electoral promise to institutionalize a political system based on apartheid” (Schraeder 193). Such laws included the Population Registration Act – classification and registration of all South Africans according to race, the Group Areas Act – racial segregation of public areas, and the Suppression of Communism Act – banning of the South African Communist Party. The US asserted “merits of anti-communism and anti-racism as the guiding themes of US-South African relations” (Schraeder 194). Yet though anti-racism may have been a stated principle underlying US foreign policy, this was hardly seen to be carried out in practice.
The institution of apartheid in a nation-state that had extensive relations with the democratic and freedom-espousing United States of America posed a compendium of ethical and political dilemmas. As one scholar comments:
Since 1948 when the Afrikaner National Party formally institutionalized a pattern of political rule known as apartheid, policymakers were confronted with the dilemma of associating with a minority white-ruled government that discriminated on the basis of race against the majority of its population, and which was increasingly isolated within the international system (Schraeder 243).
Indeed, a political system that accommodates and effectively condones apartheid is the antithesis to a healthy US democracy that bases itself on equal representation of the people, at least in principle and by law. The US certainly had it’s own a history of persecution and discrimination, as seen in the system of slavery in the 18th century, and later on with the Jim Crow laws and institutionalized segregation, only to be overcome with the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Many African Americans could relate to the treatment of black South Africans by the white ruling class, and comparison to the Jim Crow era remains particularly salient:
Embracing a political system known as ‘apartheid’ in which minority white ethnic groups comprising roughly 15 percent of the population have denied political franchise to a largely black majority comprising 73 percent of the population…South Africa became the target of a growing anti-apartheid movement increasingly prone to draw parallels between the legitimacy of the struggle by South African blacks and the US civil rights movement of the 1960s (Schraeder 190).
African Americans who had made significant strides obtaining equality and justice for their communities were incensed at the US government’s complacency with a blatantly racist and oppressive white-minority ruled regime. An American scholar of South Africa affirms the comparison stating, “we had a system of apartheid in the United States called Jim Crow” (Von Blum 1).
Ultimately, a movement rose in the US to end apartheid, a movement that “culminated in congressional passage of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid of 1986, which mandated a variety of sanctions designed to force the dismantling of apartheid” (Schraeder 190). The important question is how was this movement able to form in the US? It is a commonly held view that “the extended violence in South Africa served as a spark for the pro-sanctions viewpoint within the policymaking establishment in which Congress increasingly would assume the initiative in altering the direction of US-South African relations” (Schraeder 218). Upon further inspection, it is clear that a cause-effect relationship existed between media coverage of the violence in South Africa and the anti-apartheid sentiment that influenced policymaking (Schraeder 218). Put simply, the American public view saw the crisis unfolding in South Africa through violence that was clearly motivated by racial tensions and political divisions. The boiling over of heightened racial tensions that incited this politically-inspired violence delivered an image of chaos and turmoil to the American public. Indeed, media exposure of the violence that erupted in South Africa opened Americans’ eyes to the seriousness and gravity of the conflict, and consequently many were quick to respond by pressuring Congress to take action:
As the violence in South Africa continued to intensify, rising popular demands for the US government to ‘do something’ to stop the unfolding tragedy in South Africa galvanized the anti-apartheid activities of African- American lobbying groups, Republican splinter groups, and grassroots anti-apartheid organizations. These groups, in turn, placed pressure on vote-conscious congresspersons that recognized the popular political backlash that would accompany defeat of some sort of sanctions package (Schraeder 232).
A demand for increased standards of living and desire for uplift from conditions of poverty fueled the homegrown anti-apartheid movement in South Africa as Mufson writes, “a reservoir of economic grievance, deeper than any rent or bus fare dispute, fed black political rebellion” (35). In response, African Americans such as Randall Robinson, leader of TransAfrica, organized protests and demonstrations to place pressure on elected officials. TransAfrica’s first action was staging a peaceful sit-in (Schraeder 218). These tactics echoed those used by civil rights leaders, including Gandhi during his time in South Africa. Much of this dissent stemmed from discontent with the Executive Branch’s unwillingness to take decisive steps to put pressure on the apartheid state.
During this time, constructive engagement was marketed by President Reagan’s administration as the method to properly address the South African government, which was facing much international condemnation. Reagan, who served as US President from 1981 to 1989, used the phrase “constructive engagement” as a euphemism for dialogue with South Africa (CRS 18). The policy was largely seen as a method of appeasement. As a scholar with expertise on the role of black resistance movements in South Africa writes,
In the 1980s, both the Reagan Administration’s policy of ‘constructive engagement’ and the anti-apartheid movement’s advocacy of sanctions focused on white South Africans—one through friendly persuasion and the other through economic arm-twisting (Mufson 5).
This quotation articulates the widely-held perspective that Reagan’s self-coined “constructive engagement” policy was in fact merely a capitulation to the racist government, and not a challenge to its minority rule. Von Blum, an American scholar who has travelled extensively throughout South Africa and was heavily involved in the anti-apartheid movements, posits that Reagan’s policy was not a policy in actuality – “his rhetoric of constructive engagement was a cover for doing nothing, actually doing more than doing nothing, really providing American support for a retrograde regime” (1). Reagan staunchly opposed economic sanctions around 1985, while stating publicly that he condemned the inequity in South Africa, revealing “the historical US tendency to rhetorically denounce South Africa’s racial policies while simultaneously doing little to change the established status quo” (Mufson 7 and Schraeder 232).
Resistance to this ineffective policy began to build in the US, and resolve solidified for South Africans who were staunchly opposed to the persecutory and discriminatory apartheid regime. Reagan’s non-policy not only served to strengthen the boldness with which revolutionaries in South Africa acted, it created discord within US domestic politics. Interestingly, Von Blum opines Reagan was “at base a racist…in support of the racist white regime, and Congress had a very different view” (1). As the “People’s representative institution,” in which progressive African-American and civil rights organizations were beginning to hold much sway, Congress began to unify in opposition to the Executive Branch’s stance towards South Africa. Due to the undeniable ineffectiveness of the policy of constructive engagement, there were increased calls for the end to apartheid, specifically through the imposition of sanctions. Even State Department official Crocker, who originally espoused the policy of constructive engagement, admitted “economic sanctions had been successful in forcing the Afrikaner elite to consider negotiations with the black majority” (Schraeder 237).
Overriding President Reagan’s veto, Congress passed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act (CAAA) of 1986 a year after Reagan had issued an executive order against the regime. The Act, which “amounted to a rejection of constructive engagement,” was the single most significant American policy to end apartheid (Makoena 52). It instituted significant economic sanctions, designed to “push the South African government more quickly toward ending the apartheid system, and thus to bring a halt to unrest in the country” (Makoena 53). Though in response, Pretoria initiated security reforms at the onset of sanctions, the anti-apartheid legislation later implemented gradually led to the breaking down of segregationist policies. What also made the sanctions effective was the international community’s resolve toward the issue – resolve displayed in the “united multinational front to ensure that a total quarantine took hold” (Makoena 53). The CAAA succeeded in prohibiting US trade with South Africa and “directed the president to persuade other industrialized democracies and South Africa’s trading partners to follow American lead” (Makoena 52). In addition, the Act required better communication and coordination with Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress and other organizations active in the anti-apartheid movement, signaling a “shift in U.S. policy…to change its characterization of the ANC from a terrorist, communist-backed organization to a group with a legitimate voice in South Africa” (Makoena 52).
While not a complete and comprehensive package of sanctions, the 1986 Act marked a milestone in anti-apartheid policy-formation in the US, as it was designed to “bring about the complete dismantling of apartheid” (Schraeder 233). This piece of legislation not only enabled the US to effectively halt economic cooperation with the apartheid regime, it “represented a watershed in US-South African relations, and underscored the importance that domestic politics can play in the formulation and implementation of US Africa policies” (Schraeder 190). Additional pressure from the international community pushed the apartheid regime to its breaking point, as evident in the UN Security Council vote in February 1987 to impose international economic sanctions (Schraeder 233). Many agreed that “it was clear that the apartheid regime could not last…Congress understood that it had to be on the right side of history and not the wrong side” (Von Blum 1).
Shortly after his 1989 election, South African President Frederick W. de Klerk, national chairman of the National Party, “announced his intention to create a ‘new South Africa’ in which the white minority would share power with the black majority” (Schraeder 238). President De Klerk initiated several political reforms to appease those discontented with the status quo, starting out with the legalization of nonviolent dissent and protests against the government. The newly-elected President found that his government’s political system was no longer sustainable or acceptable in the eyes of the world community:
International isolation and growing political opposition within the country itself—all of those factors combined to finally put pressure on President Declerk and he realized that this kind of regime could not continue to survive and that’s what forced his hand and made him finally reach the decision to release Nelson Mandela, and once he did that and once he legalized the African National Congress and the Pan-African Congress, that was the end of the tunnel was clear (Von Blum 1).
It was the sanctions enacted through the CAAA that pressured South Africa to act in accordance with the US objective of ending the apartheid regime. And international condemnation had undoubtedly damaged the survival of apartheid within South Africa. Yet when did the world finally witness the true end of apartheid in South Africa? To the political science community, the results of the 1994 elections were the telltale signs of its demise:
The real end came when Mandela was freed although you still had the remnants of apartheid, but with the announcement of the first democratic elections that was the fact of the end of apartheid, and as soon as it was clear that everybody could vote, then it was also perfectly obvious that a black majority would carry the day…black South Africans could vote for the first time and the African National Congress swept to victory (Von Blum 1).
Though the effects did not fully materialize until nearly eight years later with the 1994 democratic elections, the sanctions imposed by Congress proved to be the crippling factor in the end.
In terms of its cost and benefits, the CAAA legislation was beneficial to the US government in terms of improving its standing with American voters who saw the injustice and were appalled that the US was enabling a regime that stood against American political morals. The costs may have included a minor financial risk incurred by disinvesting in South Africa’s military and businesses. Ultimately, the benefits outweighed the costs as it put US foreign policy in line with American political ideals of supporting freedom and democracy at home and abroad, to supporting a more just world order in which the majority is free from the entrenched tyranny of the minority. Additionally, the sanctions legislation included a provision demanding the release of the imprisoned Nelson Mandela and ultimately led to the freeing of the ANC leader – viewed as a key step in the dismantling of apartheid. Mandela, reported to “come out of prison after 27 years and not have bitterness,” was able to “galvanize all communities towards working to end the white regime and against a nondemocratic society” (Mandela NPR). This was indeed a benefit to the global community at large.
Other scholars argue that the US policy of constructive engagement did not lead to the 1986 CAAA legislation, and that the Act was not a crippling blow to apartheid in South Africa. They contend that the end of apartheid was caused not by US policy, but rather a gradual advance of international condemnation of the apartheid state and a worldwide divestment and pressure campaign not reliant on America’s foreign policy stance. However, South Africa expert Von Blum agrees with the belief argued here that it was in fact the two policies jointly that ended apartheid – that the inefficacy of constructive engagement fueled the push for economic sanctions, which ultimately forced the South African regime to bow under the weight of pressure coming from the US Congress and the wider international community. As Von Blum suggests, “the American President not helping them at all only fortified them and made them work even harder in their own resistance against the hated regime…When people refuse to support you, sometimes instead of making you demoralized, what it does is only strengthen you and fortify your will to resist” (1).
In conclusion, a range of directives provided by the US President and ultimately by Congress helped lead to the end of apartheid in South Africa. Grassroots American resistance to apartheid and expressed political discontent culminating in the 1986 Act was a success in triggering the dismantling of the apartheid regime. President Reagan’s constructive engagement policy amounted to US appeasement and aided resistance efforts to apartheid in US and in South Africa. The Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, though not without its shortcomings, did achieve significant political objectives in pressuring the white-minority regime in South Africa to change, ultimately leading to the election of a less segregationist leader, President De Clerk, and finally to the release of ANC leader Nelson Mandela. With the democratic elections of 1994, the black majority won political power in South Africa and the world witnessed the real downfall of apartheid. In the end, the moral benefits, which translated into political advantages to many members of Congress, outweighed the minimal economic downsides in enacting an embargo on US-South Africa trade. The events reaffirmed to US policymakers the powerful potential and utility of sanctions in achieving justice abroad.
Image by Flickr user United Nation Photo, used under a Creative Commons license.
Demessie, Menna, PhD. Political Science: U.S. Foreign Policy toward Africa. UC Washington Center, Washington DC. April 30 2011.
Mandela, NPR. Nelson Mandela at 90, Forum at KQED, July 18, 2008.
Mokoena, Kenneth. South Africa and the United States: The Declassified History. New York: The New Press, 1993.
Mufson, Steven. Fighting Years: Black Resistance and the Struggle for a New South Africa.
Ploch, Lauren. South Africa: Current Issues and U.S. Relations. Congressional Research Service. January 4, 2011.
Schraeder, Peter J. United States Foreign Policy toward Africa: incrementalism, crisis, and change. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
Von Blum, Paul. Interview with Dr. Von Blum, UCLA Political Science Department. May 22, 2011 at 4pm.
Soweto Uprising: How a Student-Led Movement Changed History
On June 16, 1976, young people in South Africa mobilized a powerful protest against the apartheid regime's education policies. The Soweto Uprising became an epic fight that contributed to the end of apartheid. In this activity, students learn about the Soweto Uprising as well as two recent U.S. youth-led movements that are fighting injustice, Dream Defenders and March for Our Lives.
On June 16, South Africans, and people around the world, will mark the anniversary of the Soweto Uprising, a 1976 student-led rebellion that had a profound impact on the movement to overthrow apartheid in South Africa. June 16 is Youth Day in South Africa, a national holiday commemorating the courage displayed by students who stood against the apartheid government.
This two-part lesson explores the essential question, “How do oppressed people fight back against injustice and oppression?” In Part 1 of the lesson, students learn about the Soweto Uprising through video and discussion. In Part 2, students examine two recent youth-led social justice organizations in the United States: Dream Defenders and March for Our Lives, and relate them to the anti-apartheid youth movement.
Note: This lesson explores a powerful protest that also resulted in the deaths of hundreds of young protesters. Before beginning the lesson, consider how students may react and how to ensure a supportive classroom climate for the discussion. You may want to review these guidelines for discussing upsetting issues.