(A) European Colonisation:

Dutch Colonisation:

Dutch East India Company (VOC) traders, under the command of Jan van Riebeeck, were the first people to establish a European colony in South Africa. The Cape settlement was built by them in 1652 (a century and a half after the discovery of the Cape Sea Route) as a re-supply point and way-station for Dutch East India Company vessels on their way back and forth between the Netherlands and Batavia (Jakarta) in the Dutch East Indies. The support station gradually became a settler community, the forebears of the Afrikaners, a European ethnic group in South Africa.

  • The local Khoikhoi had neither a strong political organisation nor an economic base beyond their herds. They bartered livestock freely to Dutch ships but as Company employees established  farms the Khoikhoi became displaced in the ship-related commerce.
  • Conflicts led to the consolidation of European landholdings and a greater degree of Khoikhoi society breakdown. Military success led to even greater Dutch East India Company control of the Khoikhoi by the 1670s and the Khoikhoi became the chief source of colonial wage labour.
  • By 1700, the traditional Khoikhoi lifestyle of pastoralism had disappeared and following British rule in 1795 the establishment of the Cape’s socio-political foundations were firmly laid.
  • The Dutch transported slaves from Indonesia, Madagascar, and India as labour for the colonists in Cape Town. As they expanded east, the Dutch settlers met the southwesterly migrating Xhosa people in region of Fish River.A series of wars, called the Cape Frontier Wars, were fought over conflicting land and livestock interests.

The British Conquest

  • In 1795, France occupied the Seven Provinces of the Netherlands, the mother country of the Dutch East India Company. This prompted Great Britain to occupy the territory in 1795 as a way to better control the seas in order stop any potential French attempt to reach India and  Australia as Cape Town could be used as an interim port for long voyages to India and Australia.
  • The British sent a fleet of nine warships and, following the defeat of the Dutch militia and took control of the territory.
  • The Dutch East India Company transferred its territories and claims to the Batavian Republic (the Revolutionary period Dutch state) in 1798, and ceased to exist in 1799.
  • Improving relations between Britain and Napoleonic France, and its vassal state the Batavian Republic, led the British to hand the Cape Colony over to the Batavian Republic in 1803 (under the terms of the Treaty of Amiens).
  • In 1806, the Cape, now nominally controlled by the Dutch Batavian Republic, was occupied again by the British after their victory in the Battle of Blaauwberg. The temporary peace between Britain and Napoleonic France had crumbled into open hostilities, whilst Napoleon had been strengthening his influence on the Batavian Republic (which Napoleon would subsequently abolish later the same year).
  • The British, who set up a colony on 8 January 1806,hoped to keep Napoleon out of the Cape, and to control the Far East trade routes.
  • In 1814 the Dutch government formally ceded sovereignty over the Cape to the British, under the terms of the Convention of London.

Consolidation Of British Control:

  • The British annexed the Cape Colony in 1806, and continued the frontier wars against the Xhosa; the British pushed the eastern frontier through a line of forts established along the Fish River and they consolidated the territory by encouraging British settlement.
  • The British started to settle the eastern border of the colony, with the arrival in Port Elizabeth of the 1820 Settlers.
  • During the 1820s both the Boers (original Dutch, Flemish, German, and French settlers) and the British 1820 Settlers (The 1820 Settlers were several groups or parties of white British colonists settled by the British government and the Cape authorities in the South African Eastern Cape in 1820) claimed land in the north and east of the country. Conflicts arose among the Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho and Boer groups who competed to expand their territories.
  • In the first two decades of the 19th century, the Zulu people grew in power and expanded their territory under their leader, Shaka. Shaka’s warfare led indirectly to the crushing that devastated and depopulated the inland plateau in the early 1820s.
  • An offshoot of the Zulu, the Matabele people created a larger empire that included large parts of the highveld. (The Highveld is the portion of the South African inland plateau which has an altitude above approximately 1500 m, but below 2100 m, thus excluding the Lesotho mountain regions to the south-east of the Highveld)

File:Great Escarpment map 1.png

  • British began to introduce the first rudimentary rights for the Cape’s Black African population and, in 1833, abolished slavery.
  • The resentment that the Dutch farmers felt against this social change, as well as the imposition of English language and culture, caused them to trek inland en masse. This was known as the Great Trek, and the migrating Afrikaners departed from the Cape Colony settled inland(future Natal, Orange Free State and Transvaal regions). They formed the “Boer republics” of Transvaal(South African Republic) and the Orange Free State.(Free State).
  • The Natalia Republic was a short-lived Boer republic, established in 1839 by local Afrikaans. The republic was conquered and annexed by Britain in 1843. After the British annexation, Boers trekked north into what later known as the Orange Free State, and the Transvaal.

  • British immigration continued in the Cape, even as many of the Afrikaners continued to trek inland, and the ending of the British East India Company’s monopoly on trade led to economic growth.
  • At the same time, the long series of border wars fought against the Xhosa people of the Cape’s eastern frontier finally died down when the Xhosa partook in a mass destruction of their own crops and cattle, in the belief that this would cause their spirits to appear and defeat the whites. The resulting famine crippled Xhosa resistance and ushered in a long period of stability on the border.
  • Peace and prosperity led to a desire for political independence. In 1854, the Cape Colony elected its first parliament, on the basis of the multi-racial Cape Qualified Franchise. Cape residents qualified as voters based on a universal minimum level of property ownership, regardless of race.
  • Executive power remaining completely in the authority of the British governor did not relieve tensions in the colony between its eastern and western sections

Responsible Government and return of wars:

  • In 1872, after a long political battle, the Cape Colony achieved “Responsible Government” under its first Prime Minister, John Molteno. Henceforth, an elected Prime Minister and his cabinet had total responsibility for the affairs of the country. A period of strong economic growth and social development ensued, and the eastern-western division was largely laid to rest. The system of multi-racial franchise also began a slow and fragile growth in political inclusiveness, and ethnic tensions subsided.
  • During the Dutch and British colonial years,racial segregation was mostly informal, though some legislation was enacted to control the settlement and movement of native people, including the Native Location Act of 1879 and the system of pass laws. Power was held by the ethnic European colonists.
  • The discovery of diamonds in 1867 around Kimberley and gold in 1884 in Transvaal  started the Mineral Revolution and increased economic growth and immigration. It led to return of instability and intensified the European-South African efforts to gain control over the indigenous peoples.The struggle to control these important economic resources was a factor in relations between Europeans and the indigenous population and also between the Boers and the British.
  • The Anglo-Zulu War: It was fought in 1879 between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom. Following Lord Carnarvon’s successful introduction of federation in Canada, it was thought that similar political effort, coupled with military campaigns, might succeed with the African kingdoms, tribal areas and Boer republics in South Africa. In 1874, Sir Henry Bartle Frere was sent to South Africa as High Commissioner for the British Empire to bring such plans into being. Among the obstacles were the presence of the independent states of the South African Republic and the Kingdom of Zulu land and its army. The Zulu nation spectacularly defeated the British at the Battle of Isandlwana. Eventually though the war was lost resulting in the end of the Zulu nation’s independence.
  • First Boer War (1880–1881): The Boer Republics successfully resisted British encroachments during the First Boer War (1880–1881) using guerrilla warfare tactics, which were well suited to local conditions.
  • The rise to power of the ambitious colonialist Cecil Rhodes. On becoming the Cape’s Prime Minister, he instigated a rapid expansion of British influence into the hinterland. In particular, he sought to engineer the conquest of the Transvaal, and although his ill-fated Jameson Raid failed and brought down his government,
  • Jameson raid:  (29 December 1895 – 2 January 1896) It was a botched raid on  Transvaal Republic carried out by a British colonial statesman Jameson and his Company mercenaries and Bechuanaland policemen. It was intended to trigger an uprising by the primarily British expatriate workers  in the Transvaal but failed to do so.The raid was ineffective and no uprising took place, but it was an inciting factor in the Second Boer War and the Second Matabele War.
  • Second Boer War (1899–1902): The British returned with greater numbers, more experience, and new strategy in the Second Boer War but suffered heavy casualties through attrition; in spite of which they were ultimately successful.
  • The politics of the colony consequently came to be increasingly dominated by tensions between the British colonists and the Afrikaners.
  • Rhodes also brought in the first formal restrictions on the political rights of the Cape Colony’s Black African citizens.
  • Union of South Africa: Eight years after the end of the Second Boer War and after four years of negotiation, an act of the British Parliament (South Africa Act 1909) granted nominal independence, while creating the Union of South Africa on 31 May 1910. The Union was a dominion that included the former territories of the Cape and Natal colonies, as well as the republics of Orange Free State and Transvaal. After formation of Union of South Africa,The Cape Colony of Britain began to be called Cape of Good Hope Province, or Cape Province.

(C) Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa(1893- 1914):

  • Gandhi was 24 when he arrived in South Africa to work as a legal representative for the Muslim Indian Traders based in the city of Pretoria. He spent 21 years in South Africa, where he developed his political views, ethics and political leadership skills.
  • Indians in South Africa were led by wealthy Muslims, who employed Gandhi as a lawyer, and by impoverished Hindu indentured labourers with very limited rights. Gandhi considered them all to be Indians, taking a lifetime view that “Indianness” transcended religion and caste. He believed he could bridge historic differences, especially regarding religion, and he took that belief back to India where he tried to implement it.
  • The South African experience exposed handicaps to Gandhi that he had not known about. He realised he was out of contact with the enormous complexities of religious and cultural life in India, and believed he understood India by getting to know and leading Indians in South Africa.
  • Discriminations faced by Gandhi: In South Africa, Gandhi faced the discrimination directed at all coloured people. He was thrown off a train at Pretoria after refusing to move from the first-class. He protested and was allowed on first class the next day. Travelling farther on by stage coach, he was beaten by a driver for refusing to move to make room for a European passenger. He suffered other hardships on the journey as well, including being barred from several hotels.  In another incident, the magistrate of a Durban court ordered Gandhi to remove his turban, which he refused to do.
  • These events were a turning point in Gandhi’s life and shaped his social activism and awakened him to social injustice. After witnessing racism, prejudice and injustice against Indians in South Africa, Gandhi began to question his place in society and his people’s standing in the British Empire.
  • Gandhi extended his original period of stay in South Africa to assist Indians in opposing a bill to deny them the right to vote. He asked Joseph Chamberlain, the British Colonial Secretary, to reconsider his position on this bill. Though unable to halt the bill’s passage, his campaign was successful in drawing attention to the grievances of Indians in South Africa.
  • He helped found the Natal Indian Congress in 1894, and through this organisation, he moulded the Indian community of South Africa into a unified political force.
  • In 1896, he returned to India and enlisted support from some prominent Indian leaders. He then returned to South Africa with 800 free Indians. Their arrival was met with resistance and an inflamed mob attacked Gandhiji physically. Gandhiji exercised `self-restraint’. His philosophy of winning the detractors with the peaceful restraint had begun.
  • In January 1897, when Gandhi landed in Durban, a mob of white settlers attacked him and he escaped only through the efforts of the wife of the police superintendent. However, he refused to press charges against any member of the mob, stating it was one of his principles not to seek redress for a personal wrong in a court of law.
  • During the Boer war Gandhi volunteered in 1899-1900 to form a group of ambulance drivers. He wanted to disprove the British idea that Hindus were not fit for “manly” activities involving danger and exertion. Gandhiji enlisted 1100 Indians and organized the Indian Ambulance Corps for the British. They were trained and medically certified to serve on the front lines. Gandhi and his bearers had to carry wounded soldiers for miles to a field hospital because the terrain was too rough for the ambulances. Gandhi was pleased when someone said that European ambulance corpsmen could not make the trip under the heat without food or water. General Redvers Buller mentioned the courage of the Indians in his dispatch. Gandhi and thirty-seven other Indians received the War Medal.
  • Inspite of the Indian support, the Transvaal Asiatic Department continued its anti-Indian regulations. Gandhiji chose to support the British as he felt, “The authorities may not always be right but as long as the subjects owe allegiance to the state, it is their clear duty to…accord their support”.
  • Gandhiji was now the recognised leader of South Africa’s Indian community. By 1901, he returned to India with his family. He travelled extensively in India and even opened a law office in Bombay.He had to return to South Africa on the request of the Indian community in 1902.
  • By 1903, Gandhiji had begun to lead a life of considerable discipline and self-restraint. He changed his dietary habits, he was his own doctor, he embraced the Gita and he was confronting untouchability. By 1906, after undergoing many trials and tribulations of self-abnegation and eventually brahmacharya (celibacy), he had became invincible to face the South African government.
  • Influenced by John Ruskin‘s preaching of rustic life, Gandhiji organized Phoenix Farm near Durban. Here he trained disciplined cadres on non-violent Satyagraha (peaceful self-restraint), involving peaceful violation of certain laws, mass courting of arrests, occasional hartal, (suspension of all economic activity for a particular time), spectacular marches and nurtured an indomitable spirit which would fight repression without fear.
  • In 1906, when the British declared war against the Zulu Kingdom in Natal, Gandhi encouraged the British to recruit Indians. He argued that Indians should support the war efforts to legitimise their claims to full citizenship.The British accepted Gandhi’s offer to let a detachment of 20 Indians volunteer as a stretcher-bearer corps to treat wounded British soldiers. This corps was commanded by Gandhi. The experience taught him it was hopeless to directly challenge the overwhelming military power of the British army—he decided it could only be resisted in non-violent fashion by the pure heart.
  • In Sept 1906, the Transvaal government promulgated a new Act compelling registration of the colony’s Indian population(The Black Act). At a mass protest meeting held in Johannesburg on 11 September that year, Gandhi adopted his still evolving methodology of Satyagraha (devotion to the truth),for the first time. He urged Indians to defy the new law and to suffer the punishments for doing so. The community adopted this plan, and during the ensuing seven-year struggle, thousands of Indians were jailed, flogged, or shot for striking, refusing to register, ,burning their registration cards or engaging in other forms of nonviolent resistance.
  • The government successfully repressed the Indian protesters,Gandhi was sentenced to two months in jail (the first time), but the public outcry over the harsh treatment of peaceful Indian protesters by the South African government forced South African leader General Smuts, himself a philosopher, to negotiate a compromise with Gandhi in 1908. Gandhi was attacked for compromising with General Smuts. Unfortunately, Smuts broke the agreement and Gandhiji had to relaunch his satyagraha.
  • In 1909, he was sentenced to three months imprisonment in Volkshurst and Pretoria jails. After being released, he sailed for England to enlist support for the Indian community.
  • In 1910, Gandhi established an idealistic community called ‘Tolstoy Farm’ near Johannesburg, where he nurtured his policy of peaceful resistance.
  • In 1913, he helped campaign against nullification of marriages not celebrated according to Christian rights. He also launched his third satyagraha campaign by leading 2000 Indian miners across the Transvaal border. By December, he was released unconditionally in hope of a compromise.
  • Gandhiji’s ahimsa (non-violence) had triumphed. Victory came to Gandhiji not when Smuts had no more strength to fight him but when he had no more heart to fight him. Much later General Smuts declared that men like Mahatma Gandhi redeem us from a sense of commonplace and futility and are an inspiration to us not to weary in well doing….’
  • Gandhi’s ideas took shape, and the concept of Satyagraha matured during this struggle.
  • After blacks gained the right to vote in South Africa, Gandhi was proclaimed a national hero with numerous monuments

(B) South Africa from 1910-1961:

  • The Natives’ Land Act of 1913 severely restricted the ownership of land by blacks; at that stage natives controlled only 7% of the country. The amount of land reserved for indigenous peoples was later marginally increased.
  • In 1931 the union was fully sovereign from the United Kingdom with the passage of the Statute of Westminster, which abolishes the last powers of the British Government on the country.
  • In 1934, the South African Party and National Party merged to form the United Party, seeking reconciliation between Afrikaners and English-speaking “Whites”. In 1939 the party split over the entry of the Union into World War II as an ally of the United Kingdom, a move which the National Party followers strongly opposed.
  • In 1948, the National Party was elected to power. It strengthened the racial segregation begun under Dutch and British colonial rule.
  • The Nationalist Government classified all peoples into three races and developed rights and limitations for each. The white minority (less than 20%) controlled the vastly larger black majority. The legally institutionalised segregation became known as apartheid. While whites enjoyed the highest standard of living in all of Africa, comparable to First World Western nations, the black majority remained disadvantaged by almost every standard, including income, education, housing, and life expectancy.
  • The Freedom Charter, adopted in 1955 by the Congress Alliance, demanded a non-racial society and an end to discrimination.

(a) The formation of the Union of South Africa

South Africa has had a complicated history. The first Europeans to settle there permanently were members of the Dutch East India Company who founded a colony at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652. It remained a Dutch colony until 1795, and during that time, the Dutch, who were known as Afrikaners or Boers (a word meaning ‘farmers’), took land away from the native Africans and forced them to work as labourers, treating them as little better than slaves. They also brought more labourers in from Asia, Mozambique and Madagascar.

In 1795 the Cape was captured by the British during the French Revolutionary Wars, and the 1814 peace settlement decided that it should remain British. Many British settlers went out to Cape Colony. The Dutch settlers became restless under British rule, especially when the British government made all slaves free throughout the British Empire (1838). The Boer farmers felt that this threatened their livelihood, and many of them decided to leave Cape Colony. They moved northwards (in what became known as ‘the Great Trek‘) and set up their own independent republics of the Transvaal and Orange Free State (1835-40). Some also moved into the area east of Cape Colony known as Natal.

In the Boer War (1899-1902) the British defeated the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, and in 1910 they joined up with Cape Colony and Natal to form the Union of South Africa. The population of the new state was mixed: Approximately 70 per cent were black Africans, known as Bantus; 18 per cent were whites of European origin; of these about 60 per cent were Dutch, the rest British; 9 per cent were of mixed race, known as ‘coloureds’; 3 per cent were Asians. Although they made up the vast majority of the population, black Africans suffered even worse discrimination than black people in the USA.

  • The whites dominated politics and the economic life of the new state, and, with only a few exceptions, blacks were not allowed to vote.
  • Black people had to do most of the manual work in factories, in the gold mines and on farms; the men mostly lived in barracks accommodation away from their wives and children. Black people generally were expected to live in areas reserved for them away from white residential areas. These reserved areas made up only about 7 per cent of the total area of South Africa and were not large enough to enable the Africans to produce sufficient food for themselves and to pay all their taxes. Black Africans were forbidden to buy land outside the reserves.
  • The government controlled the movement of blacks by a system of pass laws. For example, a black person could not live in a town unless he had a pass showing that he was working in a white-owned business. An African could not leave the farm where he worked without a pass from his employer; nor could he get a new job unless his previous employer signed him out officially; . many workers were forced to stay in difficult working conditions, even under abusive employers.
  • Living and working conditions for blacks were primitive; for example, in the goldmining industry, Africans had to live in single-sex compounds with sometimes as many as 90 men sharing a dormitory.
  • By a law of 1911, black workers were forbidden to strike and were barred from holding skilled jobs.

(b) Dr Malan introduces apartheid

After the Second World War there were important changes in the way black Africans were treated. Under Prime Minister Malan (1948-54), a new policy called apartheid (separateness) was introduced. This tightened up control over blacks still further.

Apartheid as an officially structured policy was introduced after the general election of 1948. Legislation classified inhabitants into four racial groups—”black”, “white”, “coloured”, and “Indian”, and residential areas were segregated. Until then, most settlements had people of different races living side by side. Group Areas Act of 1950 put an end to diverse areas and determined where one lived according to race.

(For political reasons, the classification of “honorary white” was granted to immigrants from Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea— countries with which South Africa maintained diplomatic and economic relations.)

Why was apartheid introduced?

  • When India and Pakistan were given independence in 1947, white South Africans became alarmed at the growing racial equality within the Commonwealth, and they were determined to preserve their supremacy.
  • Most of the whites, especially those of Dutch origin, were against racial equality, but the most extreme were the Afrikaner Nationalist Party led by Dr Malan. They claimed that whites were a master race, and that non-whites were inferior beings. The Dutch Reformed Church (the official state church of South Africa) supported this view and quoted passages from the Bible which, they claimed, proved their theory. This was very much out of line with the rest or the Christian churches, which believe in racial equality. The Broederbond was a secret Afrikaner organization which worked to protect and preserve Afrikaner power.
  • The Nationalists won the 1948 elections with promises to rescue the whites from the ‘black menace’ and to preserve the racial purity of the whites. This would help to ensure continued white supremacy.
  • The first grand apartheid law was the Population Registration Act of 1950, which formalised racial classification and introduced an identity card for all persons over the age of 18, specifying their racial group.

(c) Apartheid developed further

Apartheid was continued and developed further by the prime ministers who followed Malan: Strijdom (1954-8), Verwoerd (1958-66) and Vorster (1966-78).

The main features of apartheid:

  1. There was complete separation of blacks and whites as far as possible at all levels. In country areas blacks had to live in special reserves; in urban areas they had separate townships built at suitable distances from the white residential areas. If an existing black township was thought to be too close to a ‘white’ area, the whole community was uprooted and ‘re-grouped’ somewhere else to make separation as complete as possible. There were separate buses, coaches, trains, cafes, toilets, parks benches, hospitals, beaches, picnic areas, sports and even churches. Black children went to separate schools and were given a much inferior education. But there was a flaw in the system: complete separation was impossible because over half the non-white population worked in white-owned mines, factories and other businesses. The economy would have collapsed if all non-whites had been moved to reserves. In addition, virtually every white household had at least two African servants.
  2. Every person was given a racial classification and an identity card. There were strict pass laws which meant that black Africans had to stay in their reserves or in their townships unless they were travelling to a white area to work, in which case they would be issued with passes. Otherwise all travelling was forbidden without police permission.
  3. Marriage and sexual relations between whites and non-whites were forbidden; this was to preserve the purity of the white race. Police spied shamelessly on anybody suspected of breaking the rules.
  4. Under the homeland system, the government attempted to divide South Africa into a number of separate states, each of which was supposed to develop into a separate nation-state for a different ethnic group. The Bantu Self-Government Act (1959) set up seven regions called Bantustans, based on the original African reserves. It was claimed that they would eventually move towards self-government. In 1969 it was announced that the first Bantustan, the Transkei, had become ‘independent’. However, the outside world dismissed this with contempt since the South African government continued to control the Transkei’s economy and foreign affairs. The whole policy was criticized because the Bantustan areas covered only about 13 per cent of the country’s total area; over 8 million black people were crammed into these relatively small areas, which were vastly overcrowded and unable to support the black populations adequately. They became very little better than rural slums, but the government ignored the protests and continued its policy; by 1980 two more African ‘homelands’, Bophuthatswana and Venda, had received ‘independence’.
  5. Africans lost all political rights, and their representation in parliament, which had been by white MPs, was abolished.

(d) Opposition to apartheid

1. Inside South Africa

Inside South Africa, opposition to the system was difficult. Anyone who objected – including whites – or broke the apartheid laws, was accused of being a communist and was severely punished under the Suppression of Communism Act. Africans were forbidden to strike, and their political party, the African National Congress (ANC), was helpless. In spite of this, protests did take place.

  • Chief Albert Luthuli, the ANC leader, organized a protest campaign in which black Africans stopped work on certain days. In 1952 Africans attempted a systematic breach of the laws by entering shops and other places reserved for whites. Over 8000 blacks were arrested and many were flogged. Luthuli was deprived of his chieftaincy and put in jail for a time, and the campaign was called off.
  • In 1955 the ANC formed a coalition with Asian and coloured groups, and at a massive open-air meeting at Kliptown (near Johannesburg), they just had time to announce a freedom charter before police broke up the crowd. The charter soon became the main ANC programme. It began by declaring: ‘South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and no government can claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people.’ It went on to demand:
  1. equality before the law;
  2. freedom of assembly, movement, speech, religion and the press;
  3. the right to vote;
  4. the right to work, with equal pay for equal work;
  5. a 40-hour working week, a minimum wage and unemployment benefits;
  6. free medical care;
  7. free, compulsory and equal education.
  • Church leaders and missionaries, both black and white spoke against apartheid. They included people like Trevor Huddleton. a British missionary who had been working in South Africa since 1943.
  • Later the ANC organised other protest including 1957 bus boycott: instead of paying a fare increase on the bus route from their township to Johannesburg ten mile, away, thousands of Africans walked to work and back for three month until fares were reduced
  • Protest, reached a climax in 1960 when a huge demonstration took place again the pas laws at Sharpevilile, an African township near Johannesburg. Police fired on the crowd, killing 67 Africans and wounding many more. After this 15 000 Africans were arrested and hundred of people were beaten by police. This was an important turning point in the campaign: until then most or the protest had been non-violent; but this brutal treatment by the authorities convinced many black leaders that violence could only be met with violence.
  • A small action group of the ANC, known as Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), or MK, was launched; Nelson Mandela was a prominent member. They organized a campaign of sabotaging strategic targets: in 1961 there was spate of bomb attacks in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban. But the police soon clamped down, arresting most of the black leaders, including Mandela, who was sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben island. Chief Luthuli still persevered with non-violent protests, and after publishing his moving autobiography Let My People Go, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was killed in 1967, the authorities claiming that he had deliberately stepped in front of a train. Discontent and protest increased again in the 1970s because the wage of Africans failed to keep pace with inflation.
  • In 1976, when the Transvaal authority announced that Afrikaans (the language spoken by whites of Dutch descent) was to be used in black African school., massive demonstrations took place at Soweto, a black town hip near Johannesburg. Although there were many children and young people in the crowd, police opened fire, killing at least 200 black Africans. This time the protest did not die down; they spread over the whole country. Again government responded with brutality: over the next six months a further 500 Africans were killed; among the victims was Steve Biko a young African leader who had been urging people to be proud of their blackness. He was beaten to death by police (1976).

Note: A Xhosa born to the Thembu royal family, Nelson Mandela became involved in anti-colonial politics, joining the ANC and becoming a founding member of its Youth League. After the Afrikaner minority government of the National Party established apartheid in 1948, he rose to prominence in the ANC’s 1952 Defiance Campaign, was appointed superintendent of the organisation’s Transvaal chapter and presided over the 1955 Congress of the People. Working as a lawyer, he was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities and, with the ANC leadership, was unsuccessfully prosecuted in the Treason Trial from 1956 to 1961.

2. Outside South Africa

Outside South Africa there was opposition to apartheid from the rest of the Commonwealth. Early in 1960 the British Conservative prime minister, Harold Macmillan. had the courage to speak out against it in Cape Town; he spoke about the growing strength of African nationalism: ‘the wind of change is blowing through the continent · · · our national policies must take account of it’. His warnings were ignored, and shortly afterwards, the world was horrified by the Sharpeville massacre. At the 1961 Commonwealth Conference, criticism of South Africa was intense, and many thought the country would be expelled. In the end Verwoerd withdrew South Africa’s application for continued membership (In 1960 it had become a republic instead of a dominion, thereby severing the connection with the British crown; because of this the government had had to apply for readmission to the Commonwealth) and it ceased to be a member of the Commonwealth.


  • The “Wind of Change” speech was a historically significant address made by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan to the Parliament of South Africa, on 3 February 1960 in Cape Town. He had spent a month in Africa visiting a number of British colonies. The speech signaled clearly that the Conservative-led British Government intended to grant independence to many of these territories, which indeed happened subsequently, with most of the British possessions in Africa becoming independent nations in the 1960s. The Labour governments of 1945–51 had started a process of decolonisation but this policy had been halted by the Conservative governments from 1951 onwards. Macmillan said:”The wind of change is blowing through this continent. Whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact”

3. The UN and OAU

The United Nations and the Organization of African Unity condemned apartheid and were particularly critical of the continued South African occupation of South West Africa. The UN voted to place an economic boycott on South Africa (1962), but this proved useless because not all member states supported it. Britain, the USA, France,West Germany and Italy condemned apartheid in public, but continued to trade with South Africa. Among other things, they sold South Africa massive arms supplies, apparently hoping that it would prove to be a bastion against the spread of communism in Africa. Consequently Verwoerd (until his assassination in 1966) and his successor Vorster (1966-78) were able to ignore the protests from the outside world until well into the 1970s.

(e) The end of apartheid

The system of apartheid continued without any concessions being made to black people, until 1980.

1. P. W. Botha

The new prime minister, P. W. Botha (elected 1979), realized that all was not well with the system. He decided that he must reform apartheid, dropping some of the most unpopular aspects in an attempt to preserve white control.

What caused this change?

  • Criticism from abroad (from the Commonwealth, the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity) gradually gathered momentum. External pressures became much greater in 1975 when the while-ruled Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique achieved independence after a long struggle. The African takeover of Zimbabwe (1980) removed the last of the white-ruled states which had been sympathetic to the South African government and apartheid. Now South Africa was surrounded by hostile black states, and many Africans in these new states had sworn never to rest until their fellow-Africans in South Africa had been liberated.
  • There were economic problems – South Africa was hit by recession in the late 1970s, and many white people were worse off. Whites began to emigrate in large numbers, but the black population was increasing. In 1980 whites made up only 16 per cent of the population, whereas between the two world wars they had formed 21 per cent.
  • The African homelands were a failure: they were poverty-stricken, their rulers were corrupt and no foreign government recognized them as genuinely independent states.
  • The USA, which was treating its own black people better during the 1970s, began to criticize the South African government’s racist policy.

In a speech in September 1979 which astonished many of his Nationalist supporters, the newly elected Prime Minister Botha said: “A revolution in South Africa is no longer just a remote possibility. Either we adapt or we perish. White domination and legally enforced apartheid are a recipe for permanent conflict.” He went on to suggest that the black homelands must be made viable and that unnecessary discrimination must be abolished.

Gradually he introduced some important changes which he hoped would be enough to silence the critics both inside and outside South Africa.

  • Blacks were allowed to join trade unions and to go on strike (1979).
  • Blacks were allowed to elect their own local township councils (but not to vote in national elections) (1981).
  • A new constitution was introduced, setting up two new houses of parliament, one for coloureds and one for Asians (but not for Africans). The new system was weighted so that the whites kept overall control. It came into force in 1984.
  • Sexual relations and marriage were allowed between people of different races (1985).
  • The hated pass laws for non-whites were abolished (1986).

This was as far as Botha was prepared to go. He would not even consider the ANC’s main demands (the right to vote and to play a full part in ruling the country). Far from being won over by these concessions, black Africans were incensed that the new constitution made no provision for them, and were determined to settle for nothing less than full political rights. Violence escalated, with both sides guilty of excesses. The ANC used the ‘necklace’, a tyre placed round the victim’s neck and set on fire, to murder black councillors and black police, who were regarded as collaborators with apartheid. On the 25th anniversary of Sharpeville, police opened fire on a procession of black mourners going to a funeral near Uitenhage (Port Elizabeth), killing over forty people (March 1985). In July a state of emergency was declared in the worst affected areas, and it was extended to the whole country in June 1986. This gave the police the power to arrest people without warrants, and freedom from all criminal proceedings; thousands of people were arrested, and newspapers, radio and TV were banned from reporting demonstrations and strikes.

However, as so often happens when an authoritarian regime tries to reform itself, it proved impossible to stop the process of change (the same happened in the USSR when Gorbachev tried to reform communism). By the late 1980s international pressure on South Africa was having more effect, and internal attitudes had changed.

  • In August 1986 the Commonwealth (except Britain) agreed on a strong package of sanctions (no further loans, no sales of oil, computer equipment or nuclear goods to South Africa, no cultural and scientific contacts). British prime minister Margaret Thatcher would commit Britain only to a voluntary ban on investment in South Africa. Her argument was that severe economic sanctions would worsen the plight of black Africans, who would be thrown out of their jobs. This caused the rest of the Commonwealth to feel bitter against Britain; Rajiv Gandhi, the Indian prime minister, accused Mrs Thatcher of ‘compromising on basic principles and values for economic ends’.
  • In September 1986 the USA joined the fray when Congress voted (over President Reagan’s veto) to stop American loans to South Africa to cut air links and to ban imports of iron, steel, coal, textiles and uranium from South Africa.
  • The black population was no longer just a mass of uneducated and unskilled labourers; there was a steadily growing number of well-educated, professional, middle class black people, some of them holding important positions, like Desmond Tutu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 and became Anglican archbishop of Cape Town in 1986.
  • The Dutch Reformed Church, which had once supported apartheid, now condemned it as incompatible with Christianity. A majority of white South Africans now recognized that it was difficult to defend the total exclusion of blacks from the country’s political life. So although they were nervous about what might happen, they became resigned to the idea of black majority rule at some time in the future. White moderate were therefore prepared to make the best of the situation and get the best deal possible.

2. F. W. de Klerk

The new president. F. W. de Klerk (elected 1989). had a reputation for caution, but privately he had decided that apartheid would have to go completely and he accepted that black majority rule must come eventually. The problem was how to achieve it without further violence and possible civil war.  With great courage and determination, and in the face of bitter opposition from right wing Afrikaner group, de Klerk gradually moved the country toward black majority rule.

  • Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years in jail (1990) and became leader of the ANC. which was made legal.
  • Most of the remaining apartheid laws were dropped.
  • Namibia, the neighbouring territory ruled by South Africa since 1919, was given independence under a black government (1990).
  • Talks began in 1991 between the government and the ANC to work out a new constitution which would allow blacks full political rights.

Meanwhile the ANC was doing its best to present itself as a moderate party which had no plans for wholesale nationalization, and to reassure whites that they would be safe and happy under black rule. Nelson Mandela condemned violence and called for reconciliation between blacks and whites. The negotiations were long and difficult; de Klerk had to face ?growing opposition from his own National Party and from various extreme, white racialist groups who claimed that he had betrayed them. The ANC was involved in a power struggle with another black party, the Natal-based Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party led by Chief Buthelezi.

3. Transition to black majority rule

In the spring of 1993 the talks were successful and a power-sharing scheme was worked out to carry through the transition to black majority rule. A general election was held and the ANC won almost two-thirds of the votes. As had been agreed, a coalition government of the ANC, National Party and Inkatha took office, with Nelson Mandela as the first black President of South Africa, two vice-Presidents, one black and one white (Thabo Mbeki and F.W. de Klerk), and Chief Buthelezi as Home Affair’s Minister. A right wing Afrikaner group, led by Eugene Terreblanche continued to oppose the new democracy Afrikaner group, vowing to provoke civil war, but in the end it came to nothing. Although there had been violence and bloodshed, it was a remarkable achievement, for which both de Klerk and Mandela deserve the credit, that South Africa was able to move from apartheid to black majority rule without civil war.

(f) Mandela and Mbeki

The government faced daunting problems and was expected to deliver on the promises in the ANC programme, especially to improve conditions for the black population. Plans were put into operation to raise their general standard of living – in education, housing, health care, water and power supplies and sanitation. But the scale of the problem was so vast that it would be many years before standards would show improvement for everybody. In May 1996 a new constitution was agreed, to come into operation after the elections of 1999, which would not allow minority parties to take part in the government. When this was revealed (May 1996). The Nationalists immediately announced that they would withdraw from the government to a ‘dynamic but responsible opposition’. As the country moved towards the millennium, the main problems facing the president were how to maintain sound financial and economic policies, and how to attract foreign aid and investment: potential investors were hesitant awaiting future developments.

While continuing the former government’s liberal economic policy, Mandela’s administration also introduced measures to encourage land reform, combat poverty, and expand healthcare services.

One of Mandela’s most successful initiatives was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which looked into human rights abuses during apartheid regime. Assisted by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the commission’s approach was not one of taking revenge, but of granting amenities; people were encouraged to talk, frankly, and to acknowledge their came and ask for forgiveness. This was one of the most admirable things about Mandela, that although he had been kept in prison under the apartheid regime for 27 year, he still believed in forgiveness and reconciliation. The president decided not to stand for re-election in 1999 – he was almost 81 years old: he retired with his reputation high, almost universally admired for his statesmanship and restraint.

Mandela became an elder statesman, focusing on charitable work in combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through the Nelson Mandela Foundation. He is often referred to by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba, or as Tata (“Father”); he is often described as the “Father of the Nation”.

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