The end of apartheid and the creation of the rainbow nation

Why did the townships revolt: Political context

  • Reform, as conceived by Botha, recognised that elements of apartheid had not been effective. Reform was not designed to end Apartheid  but to find ways to preserve it. Homeland policy remained a central route and Botha's government continued to invest large amounts in the hope of making the homelands 'viable' as separate states. Attempts were made to draw in Coloured and Indian politicians through the tricameral parliament. 
  • One central strategy involved winning black allies and giving them greater political responsibility and local political power. African people in the cities were offered new urban black councils under the Community Council Act of 1977 and the Black Local Authorities Act of 1982. The state hoped that elected urban black councillors would be able to defuse discontent. But as in the case of homelands, most urban voters refused to participate in elections. 
  • There were townships residents who were keen on taking office and felt like they could make a difference by working within the system. Sam Buti in Alexandra hoped to use the new powers to improve conditions in the townships. The councils had direct power to allocate housing, to employ local officials, and to grant licences for businesses. Councils were attractive to a new elite of township business with entrepreneurial energy.
  • The government, however, devolved not only the task of spending central revenue but also that of raising more revenue locally.  Housing for poor black people was at a premium in the major urban centres and many had to live in shacks. Attempts by councils to control the spread of shacks created further tensions. Councillors were often seen as sell-outs who were taking advantage of their position. Among the politicised youth, they were seen to be betraying their communities by doing the government's dirty work. 
1 of 29

The United Democratic Front & grass root organisat

  • By 1983, activists from many different organisations felt that they needed to take a stand gainst Botha's reforms. They were concerned that Botha was finding allies for this initiative in the homelands, in the Coloured Labour Party and in the urban black councils. A new UDF mobilised against Botha's measures and argued for a democratic South Africa. The first rally was held in 1983 in Mitchell's Plain, Cape Town, and it included Coloured people.
  • Those who identified with ANC in the past were at the heart of UDF e.g Winnie Mandela and Albertina Sisulu. It incorporated a new gen of articulate leaders, such as Desmond Tutu and Chikane. Chikane was a former Turfloop black consciousness activist. Allan Boesak was elected as president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and gave a keynote address to a 10,000 people, from over 500 organisations. 
  • The UDF adopted the Freedom Charter, but did not advocate armed struggle. It drew in an increasingly wide range of support and was instrumental in organising boycotts of Botha's Indian and Coloured parliaments as well as township councils. Only 13% of Indian voters and 18% of Coloured voters actually voted for those 2 parliaments. The UDF's success in mobilising against these key reform policies effectively rendered Botha's institutions inoperable as representatives bodies. Black South Africans would only vote hen they were voting on an equal basis to whites. 
  • The UDF was a broad umbrella that attempted to manage several strands of opposition to apartheid. It was an affiliation of grass movements, include TU's, church groups and student organisations. They were all opposed to apartheid but they espoused different priorities and they developed different strategies of resistance. 
  • In 1983, COSAS aligned with the UDF and became its largest national affiliate. The movement established itself in the townships of the Transvaal early in 1984 through a Million signatures campaign. 
2 of 29

Protest strategies

  • The dynamics of South African protests shifted in late 1984, with violent tactics becoming attractive to new waves of protestors. Several points of conflict triggered open rebellion in parts of South Africa e.g Vaal Triangle 
  • On 3 Sep 1984 - the day that the tricameral parliament opened in Cape Town- an uprising against the government erupted in Vaal Triangle and councillors were killed in Sharpeville. The Vaal civic association, affiliated to the UDF, had led the protestors but lost control of the crowds and didn't advocate the killings of councillors. 
  • This type of violence became ingrained in new forms of political protest. The new generation of rebels were younger, often at high-school with little prospect of employment. There was a rapid turnover in the leadership as known members of the UDF were detained. The youth worked incognito as they had knowledge of backstreets & formed tight networks
  • The COSAS established in 1979 had become the most representative body for scholars. It led the call to free Mandela in 1980 and during 1984-85 called for a school boycott and stared branching in many high schools in the country. In effect, they were asking that generation of children to secure 'liberation before education'. 
  • In October 1984, following the Vaal uprising, the ANC in exile issued a call for 'making our country ungovernable'. The movement was banned direct identification was dangerous. ANC had means communications through its radio freedom. It helped to shape the consciousness of the militant youth to whom the armed struggle of MK was attractive.
  • In 1985, council offices in the townships became a frequent target, burnt down by groups of angry youth. The toyi-toyi cemented solidarity in the crowds and 'Peoples power' began the slogan of the moment.  

 

3 of 29

Protest strategies

  • The dynamics of South African protests shifted in late 1984, with violent tactics becoming attractive to new waves of protestors. Several points of conflict triggered open rebellion in parts of South Africa e.g Vaal Triangle 
  • On 3 Sep 1984 - the day that the tricameral parliament opened in Cape Town- an uprising against the government erupted in Vaal Triangle and councillors were killed in Sharpeville. The Vaal civic association, affiliated to the UDF, had led the protestors but lost control of the crowds and didn't advocate the killings of councillors. 
  • This type of violence became ingrained in new forms of political protest. The new generation of rebels were younger, often at high-school with little prospect of employment. There was a rapid turnover in the leadership as known members of the UDF were detained. The youth worked incognito as they had knowledge of backstreets & formed tight networks
  • The COSAS established in 1979 had become the most representative body for scholars. It led the call to free Mandela in 1980 and during 1984-85called for a school boycott and started branching in many high schools in the country. In effect, they were asking that generation of children to secure 'liberation before education'. 
  • In October 1984, following the Vaal uprising, the ANC in exile issued a call for 'making our country ungovernable'. The movement was banned direct identification was dangerous. ANC had means communications through its radio freedom. It helped to shape the consciousness of the militant youth to whom the armed struggle of MK was attractive.
  • In 1985, council offices in the townships became a frequent target, burnt down by groups of angry youth. The toyi-toyi cemented solidarity in the crowds and 'Peoples power' began the slogan of the moment.  

 

4 of 29

Protest strategies: continued & alexandra

  • In 1985, the ANC called for a people's war and made more systematic attempts to send MK cadres into South Africa. ANC armed struggle was no longer restricted to sabotage. In 1983, a bomb outside the South African Air Force headquarters in Pretoria had resulted in 19 deaths and over 200 injuries. In 1985, a record number of MK activists came into the country, and the movement recorded 137 attacks & 31 members of MK were killed.
  • Most of the young men involved in direct action now identified with the ANC as the legitimate liberation movement despite its lack of organisation on the ground. Poplar mobilisation had largely left black consciousness behind and the American influence on thinking and strategy had dwindled
  • At the end of 1985, Alexandra, a packed African township, became a new centre of gravity for rebellion. The revolt there broke out early in 1986, after a month of tension, and became known as the 'Six Day War'. It was triggered when a youth activist, Micheal Diradeng, was shot by a security guard. A night vigil was organised on Feb 14 and the comrades decided to mobilise mass participation by encouraging people to attend. They petrol bombed shops, burnt houses, and stabbed a policeman. 
  • Diradeng funeral took place next day accompanied by attacks on the police and homes of councillors. Police tear-gassed and fired on a crowd of 6,000 youth & 4 residents were killed. 
  • A rally of 40,000 people was organised at the stadium. By now the township had been surrounded and sealed off by the army. This was a people's war by the 'young lions of Alexandra' but it was not led directly by the ANC. Police killed perhaps 27 people and order was reimposed. 
  • A particularly important feature of the Alexandra rebellion was its longevity. It didn't end after this intense period of violence. Youth & other comrades tried to develop a different order over the township in the shape of people's courts
5 of 29

Alexandra, Rural rebellion & government response

  • The brief rule of the comrades in Alexandra had its harsh side, in necklacing and in more casual violence again who those with broke consumer boycotts of shops or were reluctant to participate in stayaways. The word comtsostis, combining comrades and tsotsis, came into fashion to describe those who used violence to establish what they perceived as an alternative social order. They wanted to impose a 'liberated' order without assistance from the UDF, which distanced itself from the comrades. 
  • Winnie Mandela, who had been harassed by police, identified strongly with the new insurrectionary impulses.  It was a flight of rhetoric, a call to arms, which echoed the call by Tambo for revolutionary violence and also the ANC commitment to armed struggle. 
  • The trade unionist, Moses Mayekiso, formed a broad Alexandra African Committee to ride the wave of protest. Many stopped paying rent but were less keen on consumer boycotts. Civic organisations that drew all the different strands of the community together seemed to be the answer. The aim was to help people community problems within the community, Their aims & demands were around better education, housing lower bus fares and the removal of the army 
  • Rural rebellion: The mid-1980s insurrection was largely based in the urban townships. The rural high schools were also centres of  recruitment routes for MK. The youth accused people of witchcraft and killed 32 of them
  • The government response: In 1985, Botha declared a state of emergency and sent the troops into the townships protected by armoured vehicles. The houses of known activist were burnt, and activists barricaded the streets.In May 1986 over 1.5k troops moved into Alexandra and made house-house searches. In June another state of emergency resulted in the arrest of 3k in Alexandra alone and 25k nationally. 
6 of 29

Government suppression

  • State suppression: The National Party still had the power to repress, at least temporarily, black political protest. The army and police were entirely controlled by whites who remained loyal to the regime and shared its objective of maintaining white authority. The police force increased from 49k to 93k between 1981- 1991, largely to cope with increasing political dissidence and growing urban populations. By 1994, the police numbered nearly 140k. 
  • Common police tactics included mass arrests and imprisonments, but there were cases of kidnappings and tortue. The special branch of the police kept files on local opposition leaders and tried to turn them into informants.  
  • Conflict in the homelands: Not all African people supported youth protest. In the townships, those supporting the UDF met difficult challenges. Opposition was strongest in the homeland of KawZulu, where the Zulu movement and Inkhata freedom party was entrenched. Buthelezi was increasingly hostile to radical protest politics. 
  • He suppressed school boycotts in KawZulu and developed an alternative Youth Brigade. Buthelezi believed that he could build an alliance for change outside of the UDF and ANC, which would protect regional identities and power. 
  • Buthelezi political practice included not only the use of homeland police to suppress opposition but also support for Inkatha vigilantes. At the grass roots, Inkatha faced comrades who were prepared to use violence & they responded in kind. A pattern of politicised violence amongst Zulu-speaking people emerged in Natal with incidents at Durban. 
7 of 29

Government suppression: Zulu

  • In three years of township carnage in Zululand and Natal, around 4,000 were killed. In the main this was not ethnic conflict: both sides were Zulu speakers from different backgrounds and with different views. The comrades were intent that people in the urban ownerships should not be subject to the control of the homeland authorities and chiefs.
  • Similar conflicts played out in other homelands. Kaizer Mantanzima in Transkei arrested opposition leaders in the leaders in the 1970s and passed a Public Safety Act in 1977 that gave him almost unlimited powers. He banned the Methodist church because it questioned the validity of Transkeian independence, tried to confiscate its property and established an alternative Transkeian state church on Methodist lines.   
  • In 1980, Mantanzima organised a show trial of Sabata Dalindyebo, senior chief of the Thembu, who opposed homelands. Although Sabata was acquited of treason, he fled into exile in Zambia where he became ' the Comrade King', fully aligned with the ANC. In 1986, when Sabata died in Zambia, his body was flown home for burial. Mantanzima arranged for his body to be stolen and buried elsewhere, and his troops stopped Sabata's supporters from coming to the funeral. 
  • In 1987, Mantanzima was ousted in a coup led by Bantu Holomsia at the head of a 2,000 strong Transkeian army. Sabata's son was now installed as chief of the Thembu. In September 1989, Sabata's body was exhumed and reburied at the Thembu royal home in front of a crowd of 6,000. This was a major anti-apartheid event which fully distanced the Transkei authorities from Matanzima. Holmisa also unbanned the ANC and PAC.  
8 of 29

Botha's reforms and 'total strategy'

  • Botha 'total strategy' aimed to use reform in order to appease criticism and mounting unrest. He hoped to win support within South Africa and counter the threat beyond its borders. In August 1985, in the midst of the township revolt, and in the face of considerable Western pressure to phase out apartheid, Botha made a keynote speech in which he was expected to expand the reform programme. Instead, he used the opportunity to articulate a more cautious stance to berate those who sought to influence South Africa from outside. 
  • In certain respects, Botha did continue with reform. By 1986, the government had softened the implementation of many aspects of apartheid and the pass laws were largely abandoned. The government invested heavily into upgrading some key townships and, 40 years after trying to abolish it, reintroduced private ownership of township plots and houses. While this was very important for African families, it was not a political situation.
  • Botha turned to his generals and security forces to restore order and regain the momentum. Increasingly he bypassed the tricameral parliament and the complicated new arrangements that he only recently established. He created a State Security Council, which combined leading white cabinet ministers with the most senior military officers. This, in turn, established Joint Management Centres in different parts of the country, bringing together the military, police and officials. Some in the opposition press saw these organisations as coming close to a military takeover. Botha insisted on imposing control before further reform and made it clear that reform was not intended as a shift towards democracy. In the successive states of emergency, tens of thousands were arrested. 
9 of 29

Taking total strategy beyond the borders

  • By 1984, Botha had partly succeeded in neutralising support for the ANC from neighbouring African countries. Namibia remained under South African direct rule. Malawi under President Banda had reached an accommodations with South Africa. Mugabe in Zimbabwe was cautious about confronting South Africa directly. Swaziland signed a non-aggression pact in 1983 and Mozambique in 1984. Leabua Jonathan, prime minister in Lesotho from 1965 to 1986, initially cooperated with South Africa but became increasingly independent in the early 1980s and openly supported the ANC. As result, a South African-backed force attacked Lesotho and he was toppled in a coup in 1986. 
  • The military was used in operations in the townships in the 1980s but was largely engaged beyond the borders of South Africa in pursuit of total strategy. South Africa was engaged in the civil wars in Angola and Mozambique. non-military strategies included parcel bombs. Ruth First, a white ANC member and academic, was killed by a bomb in Mozambique in 1981, and Jeannette Curtis was killed in Angola in 1984. Albie Sachs, a white ANC lawyer, was severely injured by a car bomb in Maputo in 1988. The army staged direct raids on ANC bases; in Mozambique in 1981, 1983 and 1987; in Lesotho in 1983, which killed 42 people and injured many more; and in Botswana in 1985 when 12 were killed. ANC targets in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana were raided in 1986
  • In sum, South Africa made life in the region of southern Africa very difficult for its enemies through direct intervention and indirect stabilisation. This helped to undermine any significant armed struggle by the ANC. 
10 of 29

A shift in the balance of power

  • In the late 1980s, however, the balance of regional power shifted as the Soviet bloc collapsed and the Cold War subsided. From September 1987, the South African Defence Force engaged in an extended campaign within Angola to support UNITA, its ally in the Angolan war
  • The outcome of this campaign, which stretched well into 1988, was indecisive. Although the South African forces won some skirmishes, they could not establish military superiority against the Angolan forces and their Cuban allies. South African forces failed to control a key centre in Souther Angola. Pretoria judged that the domestic appetite for heavy sacrifices in this long-running border war was limited. A movement called the End conscription campaign worked hard to undermine the legitimacy of South Africa's war in general and opposed the long compulsory national service required of white youths. 
  • In 1988 Gorbachev, the reformist Soviet leader, offered to negotiate an end to the destructive Cold War conflicts in southern Africa and to persuade the Cubans to withdraw. South Africa agreed at the New York accords in 1988 that Namibia would move towards independence, all parties accepted that foreign troops would withdraw from Angola. A free election was held in Namibia in November 1989 in which SWAPO won 57% of the vote. The country became fully independent in 1990. Despite the earlier successes of regional military and diplomatic initiatives, Botha withdrew from those elements of total strategy that required sustained and expensive military commitments. By the late 1980s, he was exploring other possibilities. 
  • Botha faced increasing economic and diplomatic pressure on other fronts. In 1985, American banks refused to renew South Africa's loans. The currency slumped in 1985 after investors lost faith in Botha. Even the conservative US government under Reagan began to support disinvestment. 
  • The movement to free Mandela from prison was also gathering steam, backed by the AAM and ANC. The scale of Mandela's popularity became completely clear in June 1988 at an event held to celebrate his 70th birthday at Wembley stadium in London.
11 of 29

The effects of the state of emergency

  • By the late 1980s, the central South African state could no longer fully control political developments in the homelands or in the townships
  • But neither the ANC, nor the UDF, had the power to threaten white military dominance in the short term
  • White South African life was affected, and threatened in certain respects, but whites were not in daily danger. Much of the conflict was restricted geographically to the townships and African rural areas. White consumer culture and standard of living were still very comfortable 
  • Yet for all the continuities this was a difficult time. Afrikaners had split politically both the right and the left. Political protest was widely reported. Even though the state broadcasting service was controlled by the government, it was difficult to hide the truth entirely, and there remained a lively and diverse press. Many whites could see that their black allies had limited legitimacy and were regarded by some as enemies of the people. 
  • Elements within the government itself recognised from the mid-1980s that the reform strategy was unlikely to be sufficient and they began to explore, very hesitantly, the possibility of a negotiated settlement. In this, they were strongly encouraged by key Western powers. 
12 of 29

The path to talks part 1

  • During the 70s and early 80s Mandela had been elevated by the AAM in their campaign. It was clear that the government also recognised his standing, and his authority among prisoners on Robben Island. In 1982, Mandela, Sisulu and three other prisoners were transferred to Pollsmore a large prison in Cape Town. This was don to divide political prisoners and those separated were acutely conscious that they needed to guard against manipulation. The nationalists clearly thought that they might need Mandela - though they did not exactly know when
  • Mandela was allowed more visitors and by 1985 this included emissaries from Britain and the US and the process was monitored by the verligte Minister of Justice, Kobie Coetsee 
  • In January 1985, Botha offered to release Mandela and other political prisoners if they renounced violence. Mandela refused and the message was broadcast in a speech read out by his daughter, Zinzi, at a UDF rally of about 8k people in 1985, Soweto. 
  • Mandela outlined the basic conditions that would be necessary for negotiations to take place and affirmed a potentially shared interest: 'your freedom and mine cannot be separated.' 
  • Mandela wrote privately to Coetsee asking to discuss the possibility of negotiations. In 1985, he was separated from the other ANC prisoners and was given his own flat. 
  • Botha undermined any quick move towards talks in 1985 by staging an attack on ANC bases in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. He wished to show that the government was still in control. Yet immediately after this raid, Mandela was taken out of prisoner for a 3 hour meeting with Coetsee. Pieter de lang, head of broderbond, also met with Thabo Mbeki
13 of 29

Path to talks part 2

  • Towards the late 80s, the pace and density of talks quickened. Elements in the Dutch Reformed Church were renouncing their former support for apartheid and in 1987 a delegation of Afrikaners met the ANC in Senegal. Mbeki also began regular meetings with South African emissaries in the UK.
  • Against this background Mandela, still imprisoned, met a committee of 4 government members almost weekly for a few months and 47 times in all in 1988-89. Mandela claims that he spent much of his time explaining the history of the ANC - of which the government seemed deeply ignorant. Two key issues for the government were the ANC's commitment to armed struggle and its links with the communist party. 
  • Mandela may have been partly right about Afrikaner ignorance but not entirely. They understood that the SA CP subscribed to a two-staged revolution. Afrikaner reformists felt they could possibly live with the first stage - a nationalist and democratic revolution - but not with the second, socialist stage.  
  • Mandela had worked closely with CP activists over a long period, but he believed that the ANC was not in any way dominated by them and did not see the prospects of a socialist revolution as a significant possibility. 
  • These discussions were held in private, but Botha was clearly concerned about what he could sell to his supporters. Major issues concerned nationalisation of industries and protection for the rights of minorities.. Though Afrikaners of course had used their power in the same way, there were now concerned about developing a political system that would no longer protect them in the longer term. ANC representatives emphasise that SA should go forward as a unitary state. 
  • The NP didn't believe that this would giv adequate protection to the white minority. The powerfall Transvaal party NP, now led by De Klerk, wa less concerned about further reform and more about the dmage being done by the conservative breakway Throughout the 80s the NP gave mixed messages, and banned the UDF in 1988.
14 of 29

Resistance 1988-89

  • By the late 1980s, the UDF, always a loose group, found it very difficult to operate. In 1985, trade unionists had formed a new national association called COSATU and this became the most organised and sustained opposition movement. Within, Cosatu, the National union of mineworkers emerged as the largest union and sstaged a strike in the mines in 1987.  It was affiliated to the UDF and sympathetic to the ANC but retained organisational independence. 
  • With the UDF partly neutralised in 1989, COSATU became an increasingly central vehicle for resistance. This also helped to solidify the relationship between the UDF and COSATU. By at the beginning of 1989 this alliance became called the MDM. In many respects it was the UDF  under another name. The MDM recognised that the ANC was at the forefront in the struggle
  • The ANC's legitmacy was increasingly rapidly. It had achieved this through its sustained role as a liberation movememnt, through the self-sacrifice of many its members in the armed struggle. 
  • In 1988-89, COSATU tried to put pressure on the government by organising massive stayways, to which an estimated 2.5-3 million workers responded. This old weapon of the ANC seemed especially efectively at this juncture: it impacted on white-owned South African businesses and it minimised the reprisals and arrests that were so frequently a result of direct confrontation. 
  • In 1989, the MDM organised a new Defiance Campaign aimed at finally kiling off segregated facilities and freeing political leaders. Protestors targeted the sensitive issue of racial segregation in hospitals and presented themselves for treatment at white-only hospitals. They invaded white baches in Cape Town and white buses in Pretoria. Police broke up a march in central cape town by using water cannons stained with purple dye. 
15 of 29

De Kelrks new course

  • In Jan 1989, Botha suffered a stroke. De Klerk, was voted in by a narrow margin. In Sep 1989, white Coloured & Indian voters cast votes for their separate parts of the tricameral parliament 
  • De Klerk won the election with 48% of the white vote and thus also became national president. But the NP received a shock in that this was its worst performance for many years & white support for the Conservative party peaked at 31.5%
  • De Klerk had been a cautious politican, and was suspicious of the complex constitutional arrangements that Botha had pursued under the reform agenda in the 1980s and he was critical of Botha's presidentialism. 
  • He felt that the military and security forces had become to central in policy making adn tat Botha's strategy had polarised the position. De Klerk quickly reduced military budgets and curtailed the influence of the State Security Council and Joint Managemnt Systems at the end of 1989. 
  • Borha, nicknamed the Groot Krokodil (big crocodile) had been forceful and ruthless. De Klerk was keener to find compromises and act as a political peacemaker. However, the implications of prgamatic politics were by no means clear. De Klerk clearly wished to seize the political initatative from opposition forces, to keep his party in at tthe forefront of political changes, to win backing from the Afrikaans press, which had become critical of Botha, and even find some international support. 
  • International political allie were slipping away with conservative stalwarts such as Reagan and Thatcher beginning to pressure South Africa's leaders to negotiate. In 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall signalled the end of communist influence in Europe. Gorbachev largely withdrew from Africa and, by late 1989, the Western need for a regional, anti-communist policemen declined. 
16 of 29

Freeing Nelson Mandela and unbanning political par

  • By mid-1989 it was clear that the ANC as a whole was committed to negotiations. Key ANC political prisoners including Sisulu were freed in 1989. De Klerk and Mandela met in 1989 and Mandela released a froceful statement arguing for a negotiated settlement. On its side, the NP only real alternative was to go back to some form of white domination, face tightening international & try to represss an endless future of mass protest. Despite the conservative backlash, the bulk of whites no longer really supported apartheid as a formal policy and sought some other security for their future. Whites had done well under apartheid and they had too much to lose in a civil conflict. Negotiations seemed inevitable. 
  •  Before consulting the new parliament, De Klerk announced that he would release Mandela and unban the political parties e.g ANC. Mandela and Winnie Mandela was televised internationally and provdied a moment of religious intensity and political hope. Mandela seemed to carry the promise of salvation. 
  • The ANC, for so long reliant upon clandestine activism,, was now able to organise publicly and establish itself as the legitimate alternative for a future SA. After his release, Mandela addressed a series of meetings. The first, a rushed poorly organised event on Cape Town's Grand Parade, was dawarfed by the second, before a crowd of 120,000 in Soweto's FNB stadium.
  • Despite being shielded from the glare of publicity for nearly three decades, Mandela had sufficient self-confidence and inner strength to cope with a demanding schedule, as well as handling the world's media. Over the next few month he sepnt much of his time travelling, and trying to coordinate the ANC's response to its unbanning. The exiled Thabo Mbeki, who dealt with external relations, also established himself as a key strategist. 
17 of 29

Freeing Nelson Mandela

  • Mandela visited the UK twice in this period. It was a hub for the ANC in exile, and for the global AAM. In 1990, Mandela visited London for second televised concert which again reached an estimated global audience of 500 million people. This was to celebrate his release and he received an 8-minute standing ovation. He also made an extended speech. Although he himself was keen to meet Margaret Thatcher, the ANC was adamantly opposed. Her opposition to the liberation movements, her consistent opposition to sanctions, and her support for other black politician such as Chief Buthelezi, left a bitter taste. Mandela, however, insisted and met Thatcher in July 1990. He was keen to talk to opponents and believed that it was vital to do so although the issue of sanctions still separated them. 
  • With Tambo ill, Mandela became acting president of the ANC and July 1991 he was formally elected to this position. Cyril Ramaphosa, the trade unionist, was elected secretary general. This was a significant attempt to bring the COSATU and UDF movements into the heart of the ANC. The movement had recruited 700,000 members - wau beyond any previous figure. This was achieved through the folding of the UDF and MDM into the ANC. They continued as parallel movements during 1990 but did not envisage a separate future. The ANC was founding a branches in SA and most supporters of the UDF joined these. 
  • In 1991, the UDF decided to disband and held its last meeting in August. An alternative strategy did not seen feasible at the time, but in the medium term this decision weakened grass roots political organisation in the country and it may have been wiser for the UDF to think of forming a separate wing of the alliance, similar to COSATU. In 1992, an organisation called the South African National Civic Organisation, headed by Mayekiso, was founded to provide a vehicle for the remaining civic and residents associations that had sprung up so weidely in the 1980s. But it proved to be releatively weak and disorganised. 
18 of 29

Freeing Nelson Mandela 2

  • The ANC also absorbed many of the youthful comrades, not least though the agency of Peter Mokaba. Born in 1959, he participated in the school protests of the 1970s and was another product of Turfloop, the powerhouse of African student politics. Mokaba, a close associate of Winnie Mandela, joined the UDF and emerged by 1987 as the leading figure in the South Afruca Youth Congress, which attempted to maintain the momentum of youth organisation amid mass arrests, A chraismatic public speaker, who used radical rhetoric, he used radical rehtoric, he was arrested and imprisoned twice. He called the comrades movememnt the Young Lions and in the early 1990s used the chant  'Kill the Boer, Kill the farmer' at mass meetings. This came from a liberation movememnt song and ANC spokesmen justified its use as metoaphorical. The ANC Youth League, which had been so important a radical vehicle in the 1940s and 1950s, had faded in exile. Youth who left the country were largely absorbed into MK. Mokaba played a key role in transforming the youth and student organisations into a revived ANC youth league 
  • Similarly, the ANC moved to incorporate traditional authorities into its broad umbrella through the organisation of CONTRALESA in 1987. This provided a vehicle for chiefs who were sympathetic to the UDF or who had hedged their bets in the homeland period and now saw the writing on the wall Mandela, among others, was keen to prise chiefs away from the apartheid regime and felt they would add support to the ANC in the rural areas. When he spoke to 100,000 people at a welcome home event in Transkei in 1990. Mandela told the chiefs they had a role, as long as they broadly supported the liberation movement. 
  • Thus by 1991 the ANC had successfully absorbed some of the key popular oppositiion forces. 
19 of 29

Negotiations and dismantling apartheid

  • Mandela called de Klerk a man of integrity during his first public address. But negotiations were delayed. Although Mandela talked to de Klerk privately it was only in May 1990 that full negotiating teams met. De Klerk, it transpired, was not in a hurry. The NP perceived that protracted negotiations would favour them. They believed that there were likely to be splits in the complex opposition alliance that included the ANC, CP 
  • Many whites held the view, strongly encouraged by the homeland policy under apartheid, that African loyalties were primarily ethnic or tribal. They were encouraged to believe that African people would divide on ethnic lines and perceived that violent conflict within African communities - 'black on black' on violence, as it was called - was at least in part a result of this. NP leaders had by this time recognised that the ANC commanded the largest support among black people. But the intensification of the conflict in KwaZulu and Natal, encouraged them to think that the black communities were divided. They still saw promise in Buthelezi other moderate black politicians. 
  • Although no political settlement seem imminent in June 1990, de Klerk revoked some racial legislation such as the Separate Reservation of Amenities Act. Breaches of the Group Areas Act were politicised less fiercely. Hillbrow, an area of high-rise residential flats, immediately to the north of the Johannesburg city centre, was defined as a white group area. But the government allowed it to become a mixed or grey, area 
  • The ANC compromised in turn by suspending the armed struggle in 1990. The ANC delegations which met the government included key exiles such as Thabo Mbeki, as well as former prisoners, and a few local activists. De Klerk saw his preparedness to accept CP delegates as a significant compromise. He admited that the system of  separate development had not worked, but he did not apologise for apartheid. His major concern was for the ANC to publicly reject sanctions but they refused to do so. 
20 of 29

Dismantling apartheid and CODESA

  • The ANC was keen to ensure freedom for political exiles and political prisoners. They thought that this has been assured and de Klerk agreed to lift the state of emergency in June 1990. But soon afterwards, in an apparently contradictory act, de Klerk arrested key members of the CP and MK. The government gave as their reason that the ANC had reneged on its promise to suspend the armed struggle because they had not fully disbanded Operation Vula. This was an underground initiative started in 1988, designed to resurrect the MK presence within the country and, with improved secret communications, to establish a more secure organisational structure with a steady supply of weaponry. The ANC argued publicly that they had suspended, not abandoned, the armed struggle and wanted to be ready to resume should negotiations break down. The arrests of some of those involved, later a minister and presidential spokesman, was designed also to split the ANC from the SACP and disrupt the imminent relaunch of the SACP in SA. Only in March 1991 were all charges withdrawn and those still underground indemnified against further government action.
  • This was one disagreement that undermined negotiations. Disagreement about responsibility for violence within black communities was another. Mandela and Buthel\i met in early 1991 in order to try to stem the violence in Natal. An accord was reached, but neither side adhered to it. In 1991, 45 people were killed in 3 days of fighting between hostel dwellers and comrades in Johannesburg and soon afterwards police killed a further 12 on the east Rand. In April 1991, ANC relations with the government reached a low point when Mandela accused De Klerk of colluding with the violence by police. The term 'third force' was used by the ANC to describe this hidden network of provocateurs linked to government
  • De Klerk tried to maintain the momentum and in June 1991, revoked the Population Registration act, the Natives Land act, and group areas act. Black people could now purchase land anywhere but there was still an atmosphere of suspicion between the ANC and NP. 
21 of 29

Dismantling apartheid and CODESA

  • The ANC was keen to ensure freedom for political exiles and political prisoners. They thought that this has been assured and de Klerk agreed to lift the state of emergency in June 1990. But soon afterwards, in an apparently contradictory act, de Klerk arrested key members of the CP and MK. The government gave as their reason that the ANC had reneged on its promise to suspend the armed struggle because they had not fully disbanded Operation Vula. This was an underground initiative started in 1988, designed to resurrect the MK presence within the country and, with improved secret communications, to establish a more secure organisational structure with a steady supply of weaponry. The ANC argued publicly that they had suspended, not abandoned, the armed struggle and wanted to be ready to resume should negotiations break down. The arrests of some of those involved, later a minister and presidential spokesman, was designed also to split the ANC from the SACP and disrupt the imminent relaunch of the SACP in SA. Only in March 1991 were all charges withdrawn and those still underground indemnified against further government action.
  • This was one disagreement that undermined negotiations. Disagreement about responsibility for violence within black communities was another. Mandela and Buthel\i met in early 1991 in order to try to stem the violence in Natal. An accord was reached, but neither side adhered to it. In 1991, 45 people were killed in 3 days of fighting between hostel dwellers and comrades in Johannesburg and soon afterwards police killed a further 12 on the east Rand. In April 1991, ANC relations with the government reached a low point when Mandela accused De Klerk of colluding with the violence by police. The term 'third force' was used by the ANC to describe this hidden network of provocateurs linked to government
  • De Klerk tried to maintain the momentum and in June 1991, revoked the Population Registration act, the Natives Land act, and group areas act. Black people could now purchase land anywhere but there was still an atmosphere of suspicion between the ANC and NP. 
22 of 29

CODESA

  • Mandela had ceased to trust de Klerk and the latter clearly found the ANC uncompromising. After the early promise of talks about talks, all parties, including Buthelezi, felt they were being asked to give up too much. Nevertheless, all did agree to a first round of formal negotiations at the end of 1991 in a process called the CODESA. They met in the anodyne environment of the WTO in Johannesburg. The South African process was distinctive in that it did not involve external mediation and it incorporated a very wide range of political groupings. The public proceedings, at least, were not simply a negotiation between the ANC and the NP. The government's central aim was still to devise a constitutional strategy that might protect minorities, and ideally, create a constitutional veto in the hands of whites. 
23 of 29

CODESA negotiations

  • CODESA started badly with a highly public spat between Mandela and de Klerk. The latter spoke last at the opening ceremony; Mandela claims that he agreed this, as a favour to de Klerk, in order to cement goodwill. De Klerk decided to open up by publicly condemning the ANC for failing to disband MK and remaining committed to violence.
  • Mandela was so incensed that he broke with protocol, strode onto the podium and publicly lambasted de Klerk for misusing agreement to have the last word. In his autobiography, Mandela said de Klerk 'began to speak us like a schoolmaster admonishing a naughty child'.  
  • He claimed that the government was perpetuating violence by secretly funding covert organisations 
  • Nevertheless, progress was made at CODESA, meeting in 5 working committes, and significant agreements were reached in the next few months. There would be a single undivided country, a multi-party democracy with a universal non-racial franchise, a bill of rights, separation of powers. Private property would be protected. There would be some form of transitional executive council but the NP held out over the issue of minority rights. They envisaged a form of power sharing, rather than a full transfer of power to a majority government likely dominated by the ANC
  • Inkatha tried to entrench the position of the Zulu king. Buthelezi argued for a strongly federal system. Federalism was attractive to homeland leaders and other minority groups. The white liberal democratic party thought this system would limit centralised power. Afrikaners thought even if they couldn't get a majority, they could achieve influence over regions
  • Given disagreements, CODESA was suspended and de Klerk held a whites-only referendum in March 1992 on the question ' Do you support continuation of the reform process which the state president began on 2 Feb 1990 and which is aimed at a new Constitution through negotiation. De Klerk won 69% majority of a high turnout. He did this to defuse right wing white vigilante groups but the referendum angered black people because it excluded them. 
24 of 29

Violence and popular mobilisation

  • CODESA 2 reassembled in May 1992 but soon broke down because violence undermined negotiations. In June 1992, residents in the township of Boipatong in the Vaal Triangle were massacred by hostel dwellers. Police or 'third force' collusion was not proven but was widely suspected. The ANC thought that the government was doing little to control such violence in the hope that it would divide African communities. 
  • The ANC believed not only that they should try to keep the armed struggle, but also that mass demonstrations were essential to keep the political initiative. Many Africans also believed that they should take the revolutionary approach
  • In Eastern Europe, for example in East Germany, mass demonstrations had recently helped to unseat governments. In these cases, ironically, it was regimes sympathetic to the Soviet Unio, that had been such staunch supporters of the ANC, which fell. Throughout the 4 years of negotiations, elements in the ANC argued strongly for mass action.
  • One of their key targets was the homeland governments - still seen as props for apartheid, and as hostile to ANC mobilisation in the rural areas. The ANC fixed on the Ciskei where the self-styled Brigadier Gqozo had taken power in a  military coup in 1990 and publicly challenged the ANC. Civic organisations and residents' associations openly challenged Gqozo and the tribal authorities- they had clearly won a majority of support in this old heartland of the ANC. In sep 1992, the ANC organised a huge march of 80k people, led by Chris Hani, head of the SACP and MK. Gqozos troops shot at protesters, killing 29 and injuring over 200. 
  • The PAC had fared badly in exile, riven by leadership disputes and unable to develop a secure base. Most of the militant black consciousness youth, who might overwise have been drawn to PAC, found their way into the ANC and MK. On returning from exile, however, the PAC's armed wing, by then named the APLA, did succeed in recruiting locally. The PAC had never restricted itself to sabotage and it did not suspend the armed struggle as part of the negotiation process, which it largely rejected. In 1993, the APLA staged a number of dramatic attacks on white civilian targets. These incidents did not attract significant support among black South Africans, who were generally moving in a different direction. 
  • Multi-party talks were restored at the beginning of 1993 and strong personal links forged between two of the chief negotiators: Ramaphosa of the ANC and Roefl Meyer of the NP. They were deeply conscious of being of being part of a historically significant process that was attracting intense international attention.The process was nearly undermined again in April 1993. White right wing renegades assassinated Chris Hani. South Africa truly stood on the edge that moment, with the possibility of a mass armed uprising. Mandela made a televised address, which successfully appealed for calm.
  • These threats, together with the PAC killings, the intensity of mass protests, and the civil conflict in the township, seemed to open the abyss of uncontrolled violence and civil war. The need for negotiations now seemed more urgent than ever.  
25 of 29

Constitutional agreements

  • In April 1993 a Multi-Party Negotiating Forum was established to take up the agreements reached at CODESA and it  formed a Negotiating Council. By June 1994 they were able to set a date for democratic elections in April 1994. This was essential in providing a clear process of peaceful electoral politics around which the various parties could mobilise their resources and direct their political energies. Buthelezi provided to be the most intransigent and removed Inkatha from much of the negotiating process. In fact, his participation in the first election was in doubt until very soon before & it was only a guarantee of recognition of the Zulu king that led him to compromise.
  • Negotiators also established a Transitional Executive Committee in Sep 1993, which began to take control of government. In many respects, this accorded with the NP's aim of power sharing rather than a transfer of power.
  • An interim constitution was established in November 1993. At its proclamation, both Mandela and de Klerk spoke for national unity and had been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. The constitution could only be an interim measure as it had been achieved by negotiation and had not been approved by the people in the election. 
  •  Both sides made concessions in the final constitutional arrangements but ultimately it was clear that in achieving a fairly centralised, unitary state, the ANC would most likely take power. The electoral system favoured big parties.
  • De Klerk wanted an extended transition period with a rotating presidency, which was comprised as Mandela wanted to keep peace. The ANC also agreed to a interim Government of National unity which incorporated major parties
  • The constitution gave the president a lot of power but the ANC agreed to other measures that constrained a revolutionary transformation of the country, which included a bill of rights and an independent constitutional court.  ANC also promised to protect property which pleased the whites as they didn't have to give up economic gains. 
  • South Africas election was controlled by the Independent Electoral Commission. There was not time to develop a voters roll and al that was needed was an identity card meaning a lot of blacks could vote 
26 of 29

Elections

  • The ANC won 62.6% of the vote, including the great majority of non-Zulu speaking Africans. The CP and COSATU retained a separate organisational identity but contested the election behind the ANC as a part of a Tripartite Alliance. The NP won 20.4%, broadly speaking the white vote plus a significant proportion of Coloured and Indian voters. Inkatha won 10.5%, probably more than half of Zulu speakers. Support for right-wing Afrikaners dropped from about 600k to 425k and this now translated into two percent of the vote for the Freedom Front
  • Perhaps most surprising were the weak results of the Liberal Democratic Party and the PAC. The Democratic Party received only 1.7% of the vote. Clearly, the NP appealed successfully for the unit among the minorities in the hope that it would secure them some protection and influence. This was in some senses surprising because the NP ha directly discriminated against Coloured and Indian people over a long period. 
  • Support for the PAC dwindled to 1.25% so that they barely secured representation in Parliament. Thier hostility to the negotiation process, disorganisation, commitment to violence and radical policies were clearly out of tune with the moment and they did not again become a force in South African politics. 
27 of 29

The Government of National Unity

  • In the negotiation process, the four provinces and ten homelands were recombined as nine provinces. These were given provincial executives and legislatures as well as important responsibility in areas of social provisions such as health and education. In the 1994 election, the ANC won seven provinces while the National party won the western cape and Inkatha won KaZulu Natal. 
  • Given that the overall ANC was widely expected, the result in certain respects was a good outcome for political stability. The ANC did not win a two-third majority and so could not easily make constitutional changes without support from other power. The NP and Inkatha felt included in post-apartheid & a part of the political process. 
  • Mandela became South African president with Mbeki and De Klerk as deputies. Mandela saw reconciliation as a central goal. The compromises made ensured that SA experienced a political transition rather than a revolution
  • The ANC was free to dismantle the remains of apartheid and to pass a great range of legislation. The majority party gained political control and set the basis for more fluid racial interactions. The ANC passed a Restitution of Land rights act designed to compensate for the worst example of forced removal from land
  •  Economic, as well as racial inequalities, remained a central legacy of apartheid. COSATU had grown from 460k in 1985 to 1.3m in 1994 and secured legislation favourable to the unions. State employment was rapidly Africanised. 
  • The transition to full democracy ensured accepted and support from the international community including Western democracies, the commonwealth and rising Eastern powers. The ANC and Mandela tried to ease the transition internationally and pay tribute to those who had supported the struggle. Economic and sporting boycotts also ended. 
28 of 29

Conclusion

  • South Africa experience an extraordinary transition. In 1948, a minority government of Afrikaners, representing barely 12% of the total population, had embarked on a journey which isolated the country and left a long shadow. Their policy of apartheid was based on rigid ideas about race. They reserved full political rights for those classified as whites and protected them by discriminating against others. In the long term, the NP promised to subdivide the country and provide alternative independent homelands for black people 
  • However, most black people experienced apartheid as severely repressive. Most rejected the inequalities imposed on them. The homelands were by no means an equal division of the land resources of the country. In any case, the great majority were committed to SA remaining a single country. In the 1950s African nationalism increasingly attracted a mass following as African people saw themselves as black South Africans. Although the ANC split and was banned, this phase of political mobilisation provided the roots of the political transition during the 1990s. 
  • The popular struggle against apartheid within and outside the country was a major and sustained global movement for human rights and political equality. It was threatened by intransigence and civil conflict. Yet most whites saw that they had little option but tor relinquish political power, and the ANC leadership, particularly Mandela, understood the need for compromises. 
  • This relatively peaceful negotiations in SA and non-racial democratic political outcome represented an achievement not only for South Africans but for the world as a whole. 
29 of 29

Comments

No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all South Africa resources »