End of the Apartheid to Present


The resistance to apartheid was initially peaceful, influenced by the pacifist movement of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was particularly influential in South Africa because he began his career in civil resistance in South Africa, where he spent 21 years during the late-19th and early-20th centuries developing his political views and methods before returning to India. However, in 1960 the apartheid regime banned the formation of anti-apartheid parties. With organization made illegal, parties such as the African National Congress (ANC) were forced underground and turned to armed resistance. These illegal parties argued convincingly that their armed resistance to apartheid was just. Unfortunately, though the ANC had a policy of attacking only military and police targets, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of 2003 found that the majority of casualties were civilian. 

The rise of militant opposition to apartheid, though arguably necessary, made it unpopular with the conservative whites who were in charge of the country. Many saw the opposition to the regime as threats to Christian values, a view not helped by the Soviet financial support the ANC and other resistance groups received. The collapse of the Soviet Union left the ANC without the financial support they needed, but did not dampen the fervor with which they opposed the unjust, inhuman system of apartheid. Luckily, despite increased government crackdown on opposition groups and extra-judicial killings and assassinations throughout the 1980s, the international community was on the side of the ANC and its allies. By the end of the 80s, international sanctions, economic stagnation, and civil unrest strengthened the call for a representative democracy. 



Even though the leaders of the government were attempting to crackdown on opposition, intelligence officials realized the end of the apartheid was coming. Niel Barnard, leader of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) began meeting in secret with the imprisoned Nelson Mandela. He hoped to find enough common ground with Mandela to further a peaceful transition away from apartheid, preferring that to a costly, bloody civil war. As the two began to trust each other, Barnard had Mandela transferred to a more comfortable prison. The nature of these meetings has led them to be called the initial “talks about talks.” 

South African president PW Botha began meeting with Mandela in secret as well. In the 90s Botha would speak out against apartheid reform and become the oppositional leader to Mandela. Though little progress was made in these secret meetings they laid the groundwork for future negotiations. In 1989 Botha had a stroke and was forced to resign the presidency. FW de Klerk was elected as his successor, a staunch conservative who, while Minister of Education, supported continued segregation of South African universities. 

Nevertheless, de Klerk was suddenly spearheading the “verligte”--or enlightened forces of the ruling party. This movement had come to believe that apartheid was doomed to fail and favored starting negotiations while there was still time to get reasonable terms. However, many within the resistance were already of the opinion that the time for negotiations was past. 



In 1990 Parliament de Klerk announced the end of the nearly 30 year ban on certain political organizations such as the ANC. He also announced the release of Nelson Mandela, who had spent the last 27 years in prison for his work in opposing the apartheid. 1990 saw much progress. In May the government granted immunity to South Africans living in exile and announced the release of political prisoners. August saw the suspension of armed resistance and the end of a years long state of emergency. Within two years plans for a Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) were in place. 

CODESA I and II were ended by the Boipatong Massacre in June of 1992, where militant Zulu murdered 45 residents of Boipatong. Mandela accused de Klerk of complicity in the massacre. The ANC took to the streets with civil protests, resulting in the Bisho massacre in September of 1992 where 29 protesters were killed. Following the tragedy, the ANC and the National Party restarted negotiations to end apartheid. 

They continued for the next six months when tragedy struck again with the assassination of Chris Hani, a leader within the ANC, on April of 1993. The assassination was at the hands of right-wing extremists, bringing the country to the brink of disaster. A year later, on April 27, 1994, South Africa held the first fully democratic elections with universal adult suffrage.

Over three days, nearly twenty-million votes were cast. The African National Congress, led by Mandela, won 62% of the vote. April 27 is now a South African national holiday: Freedom Day