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About this book

Providing a much-needed antidote to recent revisionist attempts to 'rehabilitate' apartheid, this major new text by a leading authority offers a considered and substantive reassessment of the nature, endurance and significance of apartheid in South Africa as well as the reasons for its dramatic collapse. Paying particular attention to the international dimension as well as the domestic, the author assesses the impact of anti-apartheid protest, of changing attitudes of Western governments to the apartheid regime and the evolution of South African government policies to the outside world.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Apartheid’s Global Significance

Abstract
Apartheid was labelled a crime against humanity by the United Nations General Assembly as early as 1966. By contrast, a freelance journalist from Cape Town, Andrew Kenny, claimed in an article published in 1999 that apartheid had saved South Africa from Communism.1 Even after its demise apartheid has continued to be a source of both academic controversy and political contention. The struggle against apartheid produced one of the towering figures of the twentieth century, Nelson Mandela. His standing was a reflection not just of his own extraordinary qualities but also of the significance the world attached to the miracle of South Africa’s transition to democracy in 1994. The triumph of liberal-democracy constituted an amazing conclusion to the story of South Africa in the twentieth century. During the long years of Mandela’s imprisonment such a development had seemed wildly improbable. There was a broad consensus among analysts that white minority rule could not last for ever on the southern tip of the African continent, but those who predicted its demise rarely predicted such a benign political outcome. Indeed, it had been widely feared that apartheid would end in a racial bloodbath with a profound impact on race relations in the rest of the world.
Adrian Guelke

2. The Debate on the Nature of South African Racial Policies: Totalitarian or Colonial?

Abstract
The assertion that the government of South Africa prior to 1994 was totalitarian is generally based on one or other of two grounds. They were the arbitrary behaviour of agents of the state seemingly unconstrained by law or legal principle and the manner in which the country’s racial policies affected the lives of its citizenry in all aspects from the cradle to the grave. Admittedly, in some accounts a clear distinction was not made between these two aspects of the governance of South Africa. Consequently, it became relatively common for both the racial policies adopted by the country’s white minority regime and the security measures it took to defend itself to be identified with the single word apartheid. This issue did not arise in the context of segregation, but what made it part of the debate on the nature of white minority rule in South Africa was the question as to whether it was qualitatively different from apartheid or not. Since segregation tended to be associated with the European colonial era, one implication of the assertion that apartheid was not qualitatively different from segregation was that colonial was a more appropriate label for South African racial policies than totalitarian.
Adrian Guelke

3. Origins of Racial Policy: Consequence of an Imperialist War or the Prejudice of the Frontier?

Abstract
There has been contention over the causes of the Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1902 for more than a hundred years. Even with the establishment of an entirely new political dispensation in South Africa that owes nothing to that conflict and the dawn of a new millennium, the argument has continued to rage over the role that gold played in the war. Radicals going back to John Atkinson Hobson at the outbreak of the conflict have argued that gold was central to a quintessentially imperialist war. Liberals and conservatives have dismissed these claims and have focused on unconnected political and strategic factors as both the ostensible and the real causes of the conflict. For example, Frank Welsh argues:
The last thing the mine-owners needed was a war. Millions of pounds of investments in plant and equipment, together with all the mine-workings, would be at risk; there was no question of war leading to increased prices or more sales after the fighting was over; the best that could be hoped for would be that production would not stop for too long, and that at least running costs would be reduced, although the considerable expenses of servicing capital and maintenance would remain … In the face of this, the claim made by some Marxists, even such eminent historians as Dr Eric Hobsbawm, that ‘the motive for war was gold’ hardly deserves serious consideration.1
Adrian Guelke

4. Segregation: Home-Grown or Imported?

Abstract
In his seminal comparison of the southern states of the United States of America and South Africa, John W.Cell describes segregation as ‘a phase, the highest stage, in the evolution of white supremacy’.1 According to Cell, usage of the term ‘segregation’ in its modern meaning of racial discrimination dates from the 1890s in the case of the United States of America and from the 1900s in the case of South Africa. The timing was not coincidental. South African segregationists paid close attention to the American example.2 Saul Dubow notes that the term was used at the 1902 opening of the parliament of the Cape Colony, as well as in the report in 1905 of the Lagden Commission.3 However, there were clearly precedents for segregation in practices that date much earlier than the 1890s in the United States of America and the 1900s in South Africa. Complicating the question of origins is that segregation, like apartheid, consisted of a number of different strands. That also makes it difficult to put a definite date to the start of the era of segregation in either country. Thus, in the case of South Africa, some writers attach most importance to the framing of an overall approach to ‘native policy’ as it was described; others to the actual passage of legislation to enforce segregation.
Adrian Guelke

5. The Theory and Practice of Apartheid: Was There a Blueprint?

Abstract
While there were (and still remain) sharp disagreements among analysts as to the role that the slogan of apartheid played in the HNP’s election victory in 1948, the Nationalists themselves had no doubt that they had been given a mandate to put apartheid into practice. Further, they acted on this assumption so that a number of apartheid’s main legislative pillars were put into place during Malan’s first term of office. This was in contrast to segregation, the legislation of key aspects of which was enacted over a period of decades. For example, more than thirty years passed between the recommendation of the Lagden Commission that the Cape’s non-racial franchise should be abandoned and the removal of African voters from the common roll in the Cape.
Adrian Guelke

6. South Africa in a Post-Colonial World: Modernising or Eroding Apartheid?

Abstract
A week after Verwoerd’s assassination on 6 September 1966, the National Party parliamentary caucus chose the Minister of Justice, Police and Prisons, Balthazar Johannes Vorster, as his successor. He was unopposed. Vorster owed his election as Prime Minister to the role he had played in crushing African nationalist opposition to the government. Having been interned during the Second World War for pro-Nazi sympathies as a member of the Ossewa Brandwag (OB), he had a controversial past that added to his reputation as a tough, authoritarian leader. In fact, he was by no means as formidable a figure as his predecessor. He was far more collegial in the way he ran his government. A great deal of leeway was left to individual ministers. While operating with the broad ideological framework established by Verwoerd, Vorster was also more flexible in his interpretation of policy. At the same time, the need for adjustments to existing practices became more pressing during Vorster’s premiership as the world moved further into a post-colonial era. He was in power for just over twelve years. That left its mark on both the implementation and interpretation of apartheid, which is reflected in the literature on the politics of South Africa that appeared during his premiership.
Adrian Guelke

7. From Vorster to Botha: New Departure or Militarised Cul de Sac?

Abstract
On 25 April 1974, the day after South African whites voted in a general election, the outcome of which strengthened the Vorster government’s hold on power, there was a leftwing military coup d’état in Portugal. It overthrew the country’s long-standing dictatorship. The coup was a reflection of the strains placed on Portuguese society by the continuing wars in the country’s African colonies. It had profound implications for the whole of Southern Africa. The abrupt change in Portugal meant that the transition to majority rule in the country’s colonies would follow a revolutionary rather than an evolutionary path. In fact, the overthrow of Portugal’s dictatorship reinforced the trends towards radicalism in the other countries in Southern Africa. Whereas the sources of the radicalism of the early 1970s had been primarily internal in each case, after the coup the interaction between events in the different countries became marked. There was a widening and intensification of the guerrilla war in Rhodesia as a result of Frelimo’s coming to power in Mozambique. Demonstrations by supporters of Black Consciousness in 1974 in favour of Frelimo underlined the impact of the changes flowing from the Portuguese coup on black opinion in South Africa. But far more significant was the role that events in Angola, particularly the defeat of South African military intervention in the country’s civil war, played in encouraging the Soweto uprising that began in June 1976.
Adrian Guelke

8. The Pursuit of a Negotiated Settlement: Choice or Necessity?

Abstract
The crisis of white rule in South Africa in the mid-1980s was multidimensional. It began with the boycott in August 1984 of the elections to their chambers in the tricameral parliament by Coloured and Indian voters. This dealt a near-fatal blow to the country’s new constitution even before it had formally come into force. This was followed by a revolt in the townships in the Vaal Triangle in September 1984. The South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) estimated that 175 people were killed in unrest-related incidents in 1984, 149 of them between 3 September, when the revolt in the Vaal Triangle had begun, and the end of the year.1 The use of troops to quell the unrest politicised the trade unions, leading to a major stay-away from work on 5 and 6 November, ‘the largest political stay-away on record’.2 There was also a strong international reaction to the violence in the townships. In particular, the November stay-away, which coincided with President Reagan’s re-election for another four-year term, prompted a wave of protests against apartheid in the United States. Demonstrations coordinated by Transafrica focused on the South African embassy in Washington attracting extensive media coverage.
Adrian Guelke

9. The Unexpected Transition to Majority Rule: Analysing a Miracle?

Abstract
At the time of Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as President on 10 May 1994 after South Africa’s first democratic elections it was common to represent the country’s transition as a compromise between the forces of African and Afrikaner nationalism. Such a picture was powerfully reinforced by the fact that the last leader of the country under white minority rule, F.W. de Klerk, was inaugurated on the same day as one of his two Deputy Presidents. An extreme example is provided by Arend Lijphart’s explanation of the reasons for his optimism that South Africa’s first democratic system would work:
The first reason is that the newly founded democracy is clearly a consociational democracy. Second, it is not only a power-sharing system, but close to the optimal power-sharing system that could have been devised. Third, the background conditions for its satisfactory operation have become considerably more favourable than they were in the 1980s. Fourth, the outcome of the April 1994 elections augurs very well for South Africa’s democratic future.1
Lijphart then proceeds to elaborate on these points. His arguments are examined further below. But in the first instance, the sharp contrast between Lijphart’s view of the transition and that presented by Giliomee in his 2003 book, The Afrikaners, deserves to be underlined.
Adrian Guelke

10. The Worldwide Anti-Apartheid Movement: Peripheral or Crucial?

Abstract
The absence of international involvement in the negotiations that led to South Africa’s political settlement has been touted by some of the participants as one of the ingredients of the success of the process. They present an attractive picture of the problems of South Africa being solved by South Africans themselves. The National Party’s chief negotiator, Roelf Meyer, has argued that this is an important lesson of the South African case that is applicable to other conflicts.1 In particular, he has argued that what Northern Ireland needs is a new agreement negotiated among the parties in Northern Ireland themselves without the involvement of the British, Irish or American governments. The evident advantage of such an approach is that greater legitimacy would accrue to an agreement achieved without external intervention. In fact, it is partly because few wish to detract from the legitimacy of the South African settlement that the myth of external exclusion from South Africa’s transition is not more vigorously challenged. A strong case can be made that external pressures played an important role not only in creating the conditions for negotiations but also in influencing their outcome. The role of external pressures, more widely from the sports boycotts that began in the 1960s to the economic sanctions of the 1980s, forms the subject of this chapter.
Adrian Guelke

11. Conclusion: Taking the Long View on Apartheid’s Demise

Abstract
In Small World, David Lodge’s novel about academic conferences and pretensions, the hero, Persse McGarrigle, impresses a publisher by proposing to write a book on the subject of the influence of T.S. Eliot on William Shakespeare. Since Shakespeare died hundreds of years before Eliot was born, his subject is on the face of it absurd. However, as the hero explains, his point is that modern audiences cannot engage with Shakespeare as if in total ignorance of the subsequent history of English literature, including, obviously, the work of T.S. Eliot.1 This is a nice conceit and points to a fundamental truism. People’s views of the past are greatly influenced by the times in which they live. As the world constantly changes, historians will never ever be out of business since they can rely on a virtually limitless demand to reinterpret the past in the light of current events. The point has particular relevance to the interpretation of the rise and fall of apartheid, as it seems inevitable that perceptions of apartheid in this century will be fundamentally shaped by South Africa’s political development during the course of the next decades.
Adrian Guelke
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