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South Africa Modern History

After the victory in the 1948 elections, the Nationalist Party began to implement apartheid. The basic idea was that the blacks would live in special "home countries". Such were established for every African people group on land assigned to the blacks by the Land Act 1913.

In "white" areas the freedom of movement of blacks was restricted and they had to carry special passports. The government banned marriage across racial boundaries. Blacks and whites were kept separate in public places such as restaurants, hospitals, trains, post offices, public toilets etc. Even park benches were provided with signs for whites or for non whites. Violations were severely punished.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing South Africa. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

Millions of blacks were forced to relocate to the home countries despite the need for labor in white society. Instead, barracks were built for the male workers, for example at the mines, and they have to live far from their families. The ANC tried to deal with the injustices with non-violent protests, which however became unsuccessful.

The Sharpeville massacre in 1960 became a turning point. Then white police killed 69 blacks who conducted a peaceful demonstration. After the massacre, the African resistance movements were banned from the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan-African Congress (PAC). They went underground and initiated armed resistance and sabotage actions. The regime struck back with an effective police force and the consequences for the apartheid opponents became devastating. But their struggle was attracted international attention. In 1961, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to ANC leader Albert Luthuli, who has long adhered to the non-violence line.

Contemporary History of South AfricaMandela in prison

South Africa became a republic in 1961 and left the British Commonwealth because of its criticism of apartheid. In 1962, Nelson Mandela, leader of the ANC's armed branch of the National Spear (Umkhonto we Sizwe), was arrested. Together with seven other leading ANC members, he was sentenced in 1964 to life imprisonment charged with treason. The convicted were sent to Robben Island prison island outside Cape Town. There was a long-lasting political silence over black society. South Africa had had several decades of economic growth, but resources had been very unevenly distributed.

In the 1970s, the cost of apartheid became apparent. While poverty prevailed in the overcrowded homelands, the business sector suffered from a shortage of educated workers and the domestic market of the industry was weak. As leading Africans acquired financial interests in the industry, they gradually joined the criticism of apartheid voiced by the English-speaking elite of the business community. This contributed to the emergence of a new policy within the Nationalist Party. The 1976 Soviet uprising seemed in the same direction. The uprising was triggered when school students in the black suburb of Soweto outside Johannesburg were shot to death by police, demonstrating that the language of Africans, Afrikaans's, would become the language of instruction alongside English. Concerns erupted across the country and hundreds of people were killed, many of them children.

Apartheid loosens up

Under PW Botha, who became Prime Minister in 1978, new professions for blacks were opened and the ban on intermarriage was lifted. A group broke out of the Nationalist Party and formed the Conservative Party, when Botha proposed a new constitution with a parliament in which colored and Asians would have separate chambers beside the whites. However, the blacks would not be allowed to sit in the three-chamber parliament. The apartheid opponents then gathered in a joint organization, the United Democratic Front (UDF), to fight the constitution. However, it was voted on in 1984, the same year that Botha was elected president. The UDF campaign grew in strength with strikes and uprisings in the black towns. In 1985, Cape Town police shot 20 people to death on the anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre. Confrontations also increased between black groups. In the Natal province, many casualties were demanded in settlements between the Zulu people of the Inkatha movement and ANC supporters, who believed that Inkatha betrayed the fight against apartheid.

Western Europe and the United States imposed financial sanctions on South Africa during the second half of the 1980s, demanding increased rights for blacks. However, the white regime did not allow itself to be upset. African nationalism was portrayed as communist inspired and the ANC as a communist front organization. The military and the security services were given greater influence and South Africa was getting increasingly stronger by the police state. The development was broken since Botha resigned as leader of the Nationalist Party in 1989 and succeeded by Frederik Willem de Klerk. In the same year, communist regimes in Eastern Europe, and thus the main argument of the national government, to maintain apartheid - the communist threat - fell.

ANC is allowed

In 1990, de Klerk repealed the ban on the ANC, the PAC and the South African Communist Party.In connection with this, Nelson Mandela was released after 26 years in prison. The government and the ANC met for talks and in 1991 de Klerk argued parts of the apartheid laws. At the same time, Mandela was elected ANC leader. A multi-party conference began work on a new constitution, political prisoners were released and ANC members in exile could return. The ANC interrupted the armed struggle. White extremists tried to sabotage the new cooperation attempts by terrorist acts. But the worst threat was the growing violence between supporters of Inkatha and the ANC. When it became clear that the police had given secret assistance to Inkatha, the ANC left talks with the government for a time. Inkatha jumped off for good when the party failed to realize its demand for full regional autonomy. In 1993, however, Parliament was able to adopt a provisional constitution. After Inkatha withdrew its threat of electoral boycott and the violence in KwaZulu-Natal decreased significantly, in April 1994 South Africa was able to conduct its first general, democratic elections. The ANC won a clear victory with close to two-thirds of the votes. Almost all ANC voters were black. The Nationalist Party, which was not only supported by whites, received a fifth of the vote. Inkatha got about a tenth.

The newly elected parliament appointed ANC leader Nelson Mandela as president. The ANC's Thabo Mbeki became the first vice president, the Nationalist Party's de Klerk second vice president and the Inkatha leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi got the post of interior minister. Before the elections, the parties had agreed to form a unifying government that would run until the next election in 1999.

High flying plans

The government adopted a major program for reconstruction and development. In five years, one million new homes would be built, all children would receive free ten-year education, all residents would receive affordable healthcare and all households would have access to clean water. 30 percent of the agricultural land would be redistributed and 2.5 million new jobs were promised. But the goals were only partially achieved, due to lower economic growth than expected and bureaucratic obstacles. The ANC's Allied Communist Party and the trade union movement criticized the market economy's focus on politics.

Local elections were held in 1995, but because of the continuing political violence, the elections in KwaZulu-Natal were postponed. By then, for a decade, the violence had claimed over 14,000 lives. Violence decreased after mediation and elections could be held in 1996. Inkatha, who had his main support in the countryside, prevailed. After the Parliament adopted a new constitution in 1996, the Nationalist Party left the unity government, where it was considered that the opportunities for influence were small.

In 1997, FW de Klerk left the post as party leader. In the same year, close to 80-year-old President Mandela resigned as ANC leader and succeeded Thabo Mbeki. The government's biggest hardship was the rising unemployment. The dissatisfaction in black townships was exploited by radical ANC politicians such as the agitator Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (former wife of Nelson Mandela. However, she lost her influence when she was convicted in court in 2003 for multiple cases of corruption and theft.) conditional imprisonment.)

Election success for ANC

Despite the problems, the 1999 parliamentary elections were a great success for the ANC. The party received two-thirds of the vote and 266 of the 400 seats in the National Assembly. The new Nationalist Party (formerly the Nationalist Party) received only 28 seats. The role of largest opposition party was taken over by the liberal middle party Democratic Party (DP), with 38 seats. Inkatha received 34 seats.

ANC leader Thabo Mbeki was elected president by the newly elected parliament after compatriot Nelson Mandela. But Mbeki lacked the representative's natural authority and his ability to deal with difficult societal problems was questioned in the coming years. He was criticized, among other things, for his unwillingness to acknowledge the link between the HIV virus and AIDS, but also for the government's arms dealings. Among other things, South Africa bought 28 Swedish Jas plans for about SEK 17 billion. The giant order was criticized by those who would rather see the money go to social initiatives. The arms purchases were also surrounded by accusations of corruption and blackout.

Ahead of the April 2004 parliamentary and provincial elections, Inkatha and the largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA, formerly the Democratic Party), formed an election alliance to better challenge the ANC. But the ANC, which promised to halve unemployment and poverty by 2014, won a big victory. The party was able to count close to 70 percent of the vote to Parliament, while the DA took just over 12 percent and Inkatha seven percent. The new Nationalist Party did not even reach two percent. The party had lost its core voters on cooperation with the ANC. The new parliament elected Mbeki for president for a second five-year term. When Mbeki formed the government, Inkatha's leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, became without a ministerial post for the first time in many years.

In the following years, domestic policy was dominated by a number of corruption deals. In 2005, Vice President Jacob Zuma of the ANC was forced to leave his post after a court appointed him as a participant in a corruption case linked to the government's arms purchase in 1999. Zuma's financial advisers had been sentenced to 15 years in prison, among other things for receiving bribes from a French arms company. The dismissal of the popular Zuma created tension within the ANC, where the leftist forces demanded that he regain his post. Zuma was also charged in a rape case but was acquitted in the spring of 2006. Later that year, the prosecutor dropped the charge of corruption because of a procedural error. That decision was overturned in 2007 by the Supreme Court of South Africa and Zuma was prosecuted for corruption and money laundering, among others.

In December 2007, Jacob Zuma was elected new party leader for the ANC, thereby dismissing incumbent President Thabo Mbeki from the party leader post. When Zuma and his phalanx won the power struggle, the party adopted a proposal to close down the state prosecutor's special group for corruption investigations. The group that was independent of the police had been effective and uncomfortable for many politicians, even in Mbeki's camp. In September 2008, Thabo Mbeki resigned as president after extensive criticism. The ANC appointed the party's vice-president Kgalema Motlanthe, to the post of acting president until the 2009 elections.

In January 2009, the country's highest court of appeal declared that 23 Jacob Zuma could again be prosecuted for corruption. After all, the ANC announced that Zuma would still remain as the party's candidate when Parliament was elected president after the parliamentary elections on April 22, and in early April, the corruption charge against Zuma was terminated. The Prosecutor's Office explained that it was not "possible or desirable" to continue the prosecution after taped telephone calls showed that the legal process had been manipulated.

The ANC won, as expected, a big victory in the parliamentary elections in 2009 but went back slightly compared to the previous election. The Democratic Alliance strengthened its position and came second ahead of the newly formed party Cope, formed by outbreaks from the ANC. Inkatha lost ground and finished in fourth place. In May, Parliament appointed Jacob Zuma as new president.

 
 

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