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The ending of white minority rule in South Africa was achieved only because of Nelson Mandela

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Apartheid was a major historical event, and perhaps the biggest event in South Africa’s history. Apartheid is a policy of racial segregation, the word means ‘separateness’ in Afrikaans. It was introduced in 1948 by the white minority and made sure that the whites were superior in every possible way. However, the whites ruled over the blacks before this, using them as slaves for agricultural work and mining during the 1800s, and such racism was not new. Apartheid did not last for fifty years, and it was officially abolished in 1994.

This was because the black people fought back, the most memorable and famous black person to do so being a man called Nelson Mandela. He went on to become the president of South Africa with a strong feeling of the country being free at last. This essay will discuss whether Mandela was the soul reason for Apartheid being abolished, and what he did to aid it. Nelson Mandela was born on July 18th 1918, in a remote village. He studied law at the University of Witwatersrand, this led him to set up the first black law firm in Johannesburg, where he fought court cases for wrongly treated black people.

In 1947, Mandela became the African National Congress’ (ANC) Youth Secretary, and although the government banned Mandela from the ANC three times, he carried on working for it. He was also banned from attending the ‘Congress of the People’ which drew up the ‘Freedom charter’, however he supported it fully. This charter included such points as ‘Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children. ‘ On December 5th 1956, at a dawn raid, Mandela was one of the 156 people arrested and accused of high treason for his protests against apartheid.

The trial did not end until 1961 but he, and all the other defendants were found not guilty. After the Sharpeville massacre, the ANC and PAC (Pan-African Congress) were both banned. These two organisations then turned their thoughts to more violent means of protest – the ANC’s group was named ‘Umkhonto we Sizwe’, meaning ‘Spear of the Nation’ or MK for short. The commander-in-chief of this guerrilla army was Mandela. MK bombed government buildings and other targets such as pass offices, post offices and electricity pylons.

Mandela was put on trial in 1962 for visiting other countries and drumming up support; for this he was charged with five years imprisonment. Later in the same year, the government passed a new law known as the Sabotage Act. This meant anyone found guilty of sabotage could be sentenced to death. Mandela was one of several accused of sabotage at the Rivonia Trial in October 1963. Here, the police produced evidence of a campaign of sabotage planned at Rivonia HQ. Mandela, who knew he was facing a life sentence no matter how good his defence, gave in and admitted to planning acts of sabotage and helping to set up MK.

This courtroom was also the setting of his four and a half hour statement, which some said was a ‘milestone in South African history’. Mandela was inevitably handed his life sentence along with some other defendants. But, with Mandela in jail, could the abolition of Apartheid be attributed purely to him? He was unable to contribute for 28 years to any campaigns, although he did inspire others. In 1994, he became the first ever black president of South Africa, and helped the former President (De Klerk) destroy Apartheid once and for all.

Therefore, Mandela was not perhaps the biggest reason why apartheid ended, but he was inspired by a trend sweeping Africa during the 1950s and 60s called African Nationalism. This meant that white governments were replaced with new black governments. It appears that the trend began in the north of the country and gradually worked its way down, with countries further north gaining independent rule before those further south. For example, Tunisia (at the very top of Africa) came into black rule in 1956, Cameroon and Congo (more central) in 1960, and Botswana (neighbouring South Africa) in 1966.

In February 1960, Harold Macmillan took a tour of Africa. He witnessed African Nationalism in many countries and was inspired by seeing blacks ruling themselves – he wanted South Africa to be the same. His tour ended in Cape Town – here he explained to the white government what he had seen; and what he hoped to see in South Africa’s future. Macmillan’s ‘wind of change’ speech criticised the South African government. In it he said that the aim of the Commonwealth was ‘… to create a society which respects the rights of individuals’.

By 1968, only Portuguese colonies and South Africa were still ruled by whites. Verwoerd – the leader of South Africa – did not like the criticism of apartheid and decided to try to make South Africa a republic, with its own president. This was achieved in 1961, and it made the country that much more isolated from the rest of the continent. There was a lot of pressure from the United Nations on South Africa. The new black African nations wanted to see the back of apartheid and so each one joined the UN.

These nations knew how powerful the UN was, and expressing their anti-apartheid views influenced the organisation so that it became increasing critical of South Africa. Also, in 1963, the black African nations came together to form the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which made the abolition of apartheid in South African one of its main aims. In 1969, the leaders of fourteen eastern and central African nations drew up the Lusaka Manifesto, in Zambia. It emphatically commented on what they hated about apartheid and showed their readiness to help the blacks living in South Africa.

It made statements like ‘In… South Africa, there is an open and continued denial of the principles of human equality’ and ‘… a rejection of racialism, not a reversal of existing racial domination’. Without African Nationalism, black governments would not have replaced white governments; Macmillan’s ‘wind of change’ speech – which urged whites to step down – probably would not have happened; black countries may not have joined the UN and the OAU and the Lusaka Manifesto might not have been drawn up. Ergo, African Nationalism was incredibly important in ending apartheid, and it inspired Mandela heavily.

Along with the impact of African Nationalism, the South African government itself helped to end apartheid because of the mistakes it made. Vorster was the South African Prime Minister when these mistakes happened, and came to light. He came to power eighteen years after apartheid had begun in 1948 and had to deal with a culmination of problems. Vorster also introduced a new problem that directly contributed to the ending of apartheid. During Vorster’s time as Prime Minister there were growing signs that apartheid had begun to digress from its main aim of ensuring that whites who owned businesses benefited most.

In the 1960s, a technological revolution started and this meant that more people were needed to do higher skilled jobs and there were just not enough whites to do these jobs. The government was forced to impale itself on its own sword – it undermined apartheid laws and gave black people the jobs that they had previously been banned from. Blacks realised that this gave them more power to bargain for better conditions and higher wages. Between 1973 and 1975, illegal black trade unions even went on widespread strikes!

Vorster became uneasy and unsettled about this new-found power and so he set up two investigations – the Riekert and Wiehahn Commissions, to find out about the strikes and shortage of labour. This proved to be a big mistake, as in 1979 they recommended ditching the laws that reserved jobs for white people and also legalising African trade unions. By changing these laws, the government itself started the downfall of apartheid. In 1973, Vorster made the biggest mistake of his career – The Muldergate scandal. This scandal was a huge scale ‘propaganda war’ to make apartheid look good and silence critics in South Africa.

It took its name from the supporter of the plan – Dr Connie Mulder (Vorster’s Minister of Information). In total it cost the South African government 64 million rand (£40 million), this was spent on bribes, projects and more bribes. South African tax payers money was used to buy shares in an international news agency and to buy newspapers and magazines in South Africa, the USA, Norway, Britain, France and Germany. This way the government could control what was said in this media and published apartheid propaganda. Much money was spent on bribing politicians in the USA, Britain, Japan and the Seychelles.

Also, tax payers money was splashed out on buying expensive luxury properties in Miami, Cannes, London, Soweto and South Africa to entertain friends and client of the South African government. Of course this puppetry could not last forever, and Vorster was found out. This meant that white tax payers realised apartheid must be wrong if so much money was needed to make it look good, and now not even the whites felt they could trust the party of apartheid. The scandal made tax payers see that Vorster was wasting their money, and the white Africans blamed the government.

In 1977, Vorster gave up being Prime Minister on the grounds of ‘ill health’ and took on the less demanding job of President. But he was eventually forced to resign in disgrace in 1978. So bribery and corruption do not go down well with tax payers. And in conclusion, the mistakes that the white government, and Vorster in particular, made did to a large extent help to cause the end of apartheid. Another important reason why apartheid ended was due to international pressure on the government of South Africa, including the use of sanctions and boycotts.

In Britain, groups held protests against apartheid. For example, Anti-Apartheid campaigners wore badges that had slogans like ‘Boycott products of apartheid’. Also, the South African rugby team was condemned for not having any black players in their side. Pickets were organised outside Barclays Bank because it continued to do business with South Africa. More important than small-scale individual boycotts was the international pressure from sanctions. Many organisations wished for sanctions to be put into place – the United Nations, OAU, African nations, Europe and the West.

Sanctions imposed were economic, political and sporting. When an economic sanction is imposed it means that other countries refuse to trade with the condemned country. Political sanctions were put in place – for example – when South Africa was forbidden to join the UN in 1974. Sporting sanctions like the cancellation of the South African cricket team’s tour of the UK were also put in place. However, two countries did not support the use of sanctions against South Africa, and even more unfortunate was that these two countries were the UK and USA. The UK was the biggest single investor in South Africa.

Over 600 firms had interest in South Africa, including Boots, Barclays and Shell. Ten percent of all the UK’s foreign investment was placed in South Africa, this was worth £11 billion. So, if the UK and USA pulled out, the stood to lose a lot of money. Sanctions were therefore not as effective as they should have been. In addition, South Africa had many natural resources, and so it could produce everything it needed anyway. Furthermore, South Africa was very wealthy, so it was hard for others to enforce sanctions totally, as they needed South Africa’s resources eg.

It had 83% of the world’s platinum. Companies found ways around the laws against trade with South Africa – this meant that the sanctions were not as powerful as they could have been. Also, there was a political motivation – neither Thatcher nor Reagan agreed with apartheid but the fear of communism led them to choose the lesser of two evils. South Africa is the most powerful nation in Africa, and if communism was introduced here, it would be likely that the rest of the continent would follow suit.

South Africa was seen as a Cold War ally and so sanctions were not fully implemented and so were not as effective as they could have been. However, the partial sanctions still took a huge toll on South Africa – so much so that in 1985 the government declared a State of Emergency! This worried foreign investors, who promptly withdrew money from the country. As a result, the Rand’s value decreased significantly – this led to increase in unemployment amongst black people who were more encourages to fight for their own rights. These sanctions did cause difficulties for the white government, and cost it millions.

Unfortunately, sanctions were not fully introduced until 1986, and even when they were they did not cover all the aspects they should have. Therefore, sanctions were not that important in ending apartheid for many reasons. They were not fully implemented until 1986 – 38 years after apartheid began and they were not supported by the major powers of the world. Also, the sanctions punished blacks before whites. South Africa’s bounty of natural resources made the success of sanctions that much harder. Ergo, sanctions were not the biggest factor in ending apartheid.

The ending of white minority rule could also be put down to the individuals who also worked to try to end apartheid. For example, F. W. de Klerk played a crucial role in dismantling the framework of apartheid. De Klerk became president on the 20th September 1989, and on the 2nd February 1990, he made a 35 minute speech that practically saw the end of apartheid. He unbanned the ANC, the PAC, the Communist Party and 30 other organisations; he freed political prisoners and suspended the death sentence. Nine days after this, he released Nelson Mandela from prison without conditions.

From May 1990 to April 1994, apartheid fell. In 1990, racial segregation in health care stopped, the Separate Amenities Act was repealed, Johannesburg City Council abolished housing segregation and the State of Emergency caused by sanctions ended. In 1991, the Group Areas Act and Land Act and the Population Registration Act were both repealed. In 1993, government departments abolished all apartheid rules and the whites-only Parliament. And in 1994, multi-party, non-racial elections took place. However, there were other individuals who contributed to the end of apartheid, including Chief Albert Luthuli.

He was the black President of the ANC and he believed in non-violent opposition to apartheid. His ways earned him much respect from white people and black people, and in 1961 he was given the Nobel Peace Prize. Also, a Father Trevor Huddleston who was a white priest who worked in a black township between 1944 and 1956. He fought relentlessly for the rights of black people, and because he was so outspoken he was in constant conflict with the government and the police. He brought the attention of the world to the disgusting happenings in South Africa in a book about his experiences called Naught for your Comfort.

Women also took part in the struggle to end apartheid. Margaret Ballinger and Helen Suzman were two white women who worked hard against apartheid. Lillian Ngoyi and Helen Jospeh organised a rally against apartheid, which 20,000 women joined. Therefore, apartheid cannot be attributed to one person, as many helped to finally shut down apartheid. Like Mandela, F. W. de Klerk may have played a vital role in this, but the ending of apartheid was clearly not just down to him. In conclusion to this essay, I disagree that the ending of Apartheid could be purely attributed to Mandela.

I believe that all the factors discussed in this essay added together to end apartheid and if one was removed then it might not have happened when it did. African Nationalism helped the white governments to be replaced with black governments, and helped black people to join major organisations such as the UN. Also, I believe that African Nationalism strongly influenced Mandela and many others. Therefore, this leads me to conclude that African Nationalism may have been the most important reason to ending apartheid, but without all of the other reasons, it may not have been so effective.

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