Understanding Modern South Africa



  Colonial Era
In 1912, the African National Congress (ANC) was formed to fight for black African rights against British colonial government then ruling South Africa. 

South African Independence from Colonial Rule

In 1948, South Africa’s National Party (NP) was elected to power and the NP began to legalize the system of apartheid they inherited from the British colonial
government. This system separated the country’s population into racial and tribal groups: Various Black Tribes, Coloureds, Asians, and Whites.

If you were born an African, Coloured, or Asian, it meant that your life was circumscribed by racist traditions illegally practiced for centuries which in 1948 became laws and regulations that crippled the growth, dimmed the potential, and stunted the lives of blacks.

Oppression Worsens
In 1960, the ANC was banned and at that stage the ANC, along with other political groups, started a guerilla campaign against the National Party.

During this Cold War era many prominent ANC members supported Communist
ideology. This in turn led many white Christians to believe they were fighting
communism. They saw it as their Christian duty - according to Romans 13 - to give their lives to uphold the white nationalist government and to maintain law and order in the country.

In 1961, Nelson Mandela went underground to continue the Freedom Struggle. It became a violent struggle. In the guerilla war many blacks and whites died.
Many ANC leaders were imprisoned. Nelson Mandela was arrested and jailed in 1962. Officials moved him to prison on Robben Island in 1963.

Because of century-long tribal hatred and clashes between several black groups, some tribal leaders requested the white national government to assist them in establishing their own homeland governments (reservations) where they could govern themselves. In the 1970’s the KwaNdebele area became a self-governing homeland for the Ndebele tribe.

Sharpeville, Soweto, Sophiatown and other townships were set up in order to
provide temporary accommodation to African residents until they would one day be moved to their homelands. This temporary accommodation, however, became permanent and laws were enacted to keep blacks in these poorest areas and away from urban areas where whites resided.

Beginning of the End

In July 1985, a State of Emergency was declared that gave police broad powers in dealing with black protesters and large scale violence. Tensions increased
dramatically at this stage. Hundreds of people were brutally killed in townships,
including those suspected of being traitors in support of the government.

Peter William Botha resigned in 1989, and Frederik Willem de Klerk took office and began implementing a series of reforms.

South Africa was in turmoil. Both internal and international pressures led the
National Party to consider Constitutional change.

In 1990, after 27 years in prison for the freedom of his people, Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were released from prison and negotiations for power sharing between all groups in the country were finally being considered.

Nearly all apartheid provisions were abolished in 1991, and after much negotiation, Mandela and de Klerk won the Noble Peace Prize in 1993 for their efforts to promote a peaceful transition to a new democratic dispensation in South Africa.

A New Era

April 27, 1994 was the date for the first ever national, non-racial, one-person-one-vote election. For the first time in South African history, the black majority would go to the polls to elect their own leaders.

In May 1994, Nelson Mandela was sworn in as President and South Africa entered a new period of its history.

A new flag, new names for old apartheid-era places, free school lunches for all children, new housing projects, better health care, and the promotion of both white and black values all became part of the campaign for South Africa’s transformation.

In 1996 President Nelson Mandela formally announced that he would not seek
another term as president and would recommend Deputy President Thabo Mbeki to succeed him in 1999.

After years of negotiations, a new constitution was approved in December 1996 and entered into force in February 1997. It was implemented in stages and included barring discrimination on any basis, including race, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, language, religion, and physical disability, the constitution guarantees broad freedoms of speech and association and is considered one of the most liberal in the world.

South Africa today faces challenges such as black poverty, land rights, job creation, affirmative action, massive corruption, unemployment, poor educational system, a shortage of housing, high crime, a tremendously high rate of emigration of highly skilled people, but it has overcome a multitude of discord, segregation and political violence. A main cause of these problems is a lack of trust and communication between the different cultures of South Africa.

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