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Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa

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  1. Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa By Ben Morse and George Venables

  2. Apartheid South Africa • Segregation laws instituted from early C20th; • General Pass Regulations; 1905 • Land Act; 1913 • Colour Bar Act; 1926 • 1912: African National Congress established, challenges apartheid laws through courts. • 1948: National Party elected and begins introducing Apartheid programme institutionalising segregation; • Population Registration Act; 1950 • Reservation of Separate Amenities Act; 1953 • Suppression of Communism Act; 1950 • 1949: ANC youth wing led by Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo takes control of ANC. Calls for active resistance against Apartheid. • 1951/2: Defiance Campaign by ANC. • 1960: Pan-Africanist Congress established as breakaway from ANC, organises national protests. Peaceful protest in Sharpeville township fired on and 69 protestors killed. • 1961: Government declares State of Emergency to repress ANC and PAC, 18,000 arrests. Resistance moves underground and launches violent campaign by Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). • 1962: Nelson Mandela arrested for terrorism and 1964 sentenced to life imprisonment. • 1970: Black Homeland Act established semi-autonomous black homelands (Bantustans).

  3. 1970’s: Black Consciousness movement formed at universities led by Steve Biko. • 1976: Soweto protests by students, met by police and between 23 and 600 killed. • 1977: Steve Biko arrested and murdered in police custody. • 1983: United Democratic Front founded as alliance of anti-apartheid organisations calling for nonviolent action. • 1985: Congress of South Africa Trade Unions established to lead industrial action against apartheid. State of Emergency declared increasing repression, 30,000 arrested, ANC respond with new military campaign. • 1980’s: International pressure increased with trade sanctions and disinvestment. ANC, UDF and COSATU form alliance. • 1989-1993: National Party under de Klerk begin apartheid reforms and open negotiations with ANC. • 1990: Mandela released. • 1990-1993: Apartheid regime dismantled. • 1994: Universal elections, ANC wins in landslide.


  5. Why was it used? • Initial attempts at Nonviolence had proved unsuccessful e.g. Sharpeville Massacre • It had been successful in other countries e.g. Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Vietnam • An armed struggle could rely on support, training and resources from neighbouring countries and other foreign nations e.g. the Soviet Union

  6. Methods of Violent Resistance • Methods of violence took a number of different forms and were carried out by a number of different groups. They varied in organisation, levels of discipline and brutality • Groups included the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe(Spear of the Nation) and Amabutho(Comrades) • Tactics: • sabotaging railway lines, • attacking police stations, • bomb attacks on power plants, military bases and recruiting offices • car bombs • attacking policemen • attacking councillors/ conspirators with the Apartheid government

  7. Why violence failed • Strength of the South African Army and bodies of civil control • The armed movement lacked the adequate resources and numbers to pose a serious threat • South Africa’s landscape not suitable for guerrilla warfare • Rather than attracting support for the cause, it often alienated large numbers of both white and black South Africans

  8. The Role of Violence Stephen Zunes on the role of violence in the fall of apartheid, ‘A violent strategy would have led inevitably to spiralling escalation, with the state having the strategic edge at every turn in the foreseeable future. Even had the blacks eventually won, it would have probably left millions dead and a ravage country…Armed resistance would probably have attracted many of the least disciplined elements from African society under apartheid, thus blurring the distinction between revolutionary actions and hooliganism. This would have resulted in a widespread debasement of morals of an entire generation of South African needed to rebuild their country, a problem which had proved to be difficult enough, even with the relatively limited revolutionary violence that did occur.’ Stephen Zunes in ‘The Role of Nonviolence in the Downfall of Apartheid (Oxford, 1999)

  9. Role of Nonviolence

  10. Nonviolence - Background • Long tradition of nonviolence activism against racism in South Africa eg Gandhi’s campaigns in 1910’s for equal right for South African Indian population. • Gandhi influenced early ANC leaders eg Albert Luthuli and John Dube to believe in nonviolent action. • ANC’s Defiance Campaign of 1951/2 was first attempt at mass nonviolent action against apartheid. Based on protests and non-cooperation with unjust apartheid laws. Failed due to government repression in reaction to outbreaks of black violence. • 1970’s return to nonviolence led by Steve Bikoand Black Consciousness movement. Promoted ‘psychological liberation’ through black pride followed by ‘physical liberation’ by nonviolent action and civil disobedience. • Biko and Black Consciousness generated unity amongst black community against apartheid regime, something violence had failed to do, which was central to the overthrow of apartheid government. • Led to establishment of UDF by Archbishop Tutu in 1983 from over 400 civil, church, student and workers anti-apartheid organisations and acted as national committee to lead nonviolent action against apartheid.

  11. Nonviolence – Final Push • From ‘83 ANC and UDF stepped up nonviolent action against apartheid, aimed to make black population ‘ungovernable’. • Used program of protests, economic boycotts, tax/rent refusal, non-cooperation and establishment of parallel institutions such as clinics, law practices etc. All worked to subvert and delegitimize apartheid rule. • Central to nonviolent campaign was labour activism, which had been increasing from ‘70’s. • ‘85 Trade Unions unified into Congress of South African Trade Unions to organise national strikes and boycotts. In alliance with ANC and UDF led campaign of economic militancy eg ‘87 20,000 railway workers on strike for 60 days, ‘89 national strike of 5 million. • Actions terrified government and devastated South Africa’s economy, forced government to institute State of Emergency, revealing power of nonviolent action. • Combination of these nonviolent pressures eventually forcing government into negotiations with ANC from ‘89.

  12. Why Nonviolence? • Nonviolence wasn’t followed on moral grounds by most black activists, but chosen as practical option in reaction to the monopoly of force held by the apartheid regime and failure of violent methods in the ‘60’s. • Nonviolence only fully embraced from ‘80’s following the failure of MK violence and successes of UDF to unite black population. • ANC leaders Mandela, Tambo and Sisulu, although influenced by actions and philosophies of Gandhi and later Martin Luther King, were all willing to use violence to defeat apartheid and established ANC’s military wing. Mandela only studied Gandhi and developed his belief in nonviolence once imprisoned. • Biko and Black Consciousness was strongly influenced by Frantz Fanon and Black Power movements and called for ‘physical liberation’ of Africa, and never fully rejected the use of violence. Biko only supported nonviolence as a tool of black unity and due to the political realities of apartheid South Africa. • Few black leaders, notably Luthuli and Archbishop Tutu, believed unconditionally in nonviolent action as the only means to defeat apartheid.

  13. The Role of Foreign Nations

  14. The Role of Foreign Pressure • From the end of the Second World War, much of the world had condemned the form of government practiced in South Africa. • Despite this, little was done to change it until the 1980s and the emergence of the organised and disciplined nonviolent movement in South Africa • Whilst it took nearly sixty years of struggle by South Africans to bring down Apartheid, foreign sanctions saw an impact after just ten years

  15. Foreign Nonviolent Protest • Despite the Soviet Union’s decision to support the ANC’s armed wing with arms, support for the South African’s cause for equality came largely in the form of Nonviolent resistance. • This included: • Chase Manhattan bank recalling loans made to the SA government • Investments made by city governments and universities were sold if the companies did business in South Africa • American and British businesses ceasing to trade with other businesses connected to South Africa

  16. Governor of the South African Reserve Bank in May 1989, ‘if adequate progress is not made in the field of political and constitutional reform, South Africa’s relationships with the rest of the world are unlikely to improve…In that event South Africa will probably remain a capital-exporting and debt-repaying country for years.

  17. Why did the system of Apartheid fall? • Nonviolent action clearly central to collapse of apartheid regime. Why did it succeed? • Nonviolent campaigns unified black population behind single cause, whereas violence had been divisive. Also attracted support from white population. • Once black population united into single movement held massive economic and social power as made up 80% of South Africa’s population, therefore, capable of destabilising South Africa through non cooperation, strikes, boycotts etc. • Gained international support leading to sanctions and disinvestment by foreign states and firms. • Undermined violence as cornerstone of apartheid regime, (‘political ju-jitsu’). • However, nonviolent action cannot be seen as sole factor for fall of apartheid, threat of violence and racial war, emphasised by surge of violence and terrorism in late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s, also forced de Klerk to negotiate.