Within the formerly colonized territories of Africa, the multiethnic makeup and turbulent history of South Africa is certainly not unique. South Africa is unique, however, when it comes to particulars, first of all because of the country’s first-hand experience with one of the most vile and violent regimes known to man. It was from this nature of the subject matter that my decision to cover the topic arose. The uniqueness of South Africa’s history also shaped the method of analysis. Thus, I present the reader with a single-case study, which is one of the established qualitative methodologies in social sciences. My work clings to the camp within the academia that utilizes the single-case study not to derive generalizations and universally applicable lessons, which is extraordinarily difficult, as the proponents of this generalizing approach to case studies readily concede – but to do what it is best suited for, that is provide a detailed insight for its own sake. My thesis does not aim at theorizing, in other words producing a so-called instrumental study. By virtue of its scope, it is a work of the other type, which happens to be termed unique. For the purpose of the thesis, the case shall be spatially and temporally delimited to the state of South Africa of the latter half of the twentieth century. Where it is deemed indispensable for the force of the argument and illustration, the line of explanation is stretched to encompass the early years of the twenty-first century, as well. In a unique single-case study, the case of choice is simultaneously the subject of scrutiny (Drulák 29-56). Throughout the thesis, chronology of events is adhered to, with care invested in preventing the chronological unfolding from being detrimental to overall readability.
In the first section, entitled Apartheid, special attention is devoted to the definition of the term and contextualizing thereof. The respective subsections are thematically distinguishable while generally chronological. An attempt to briefly familiarize the reader with the pre-1948 background is presented, orientating the reader in the early post-war political arena. The principal figures and political entities on both sides of the barricade are described, the historical background and ascent to ardent activism of the ANC illuminated, and importantly, all the crucial laws – the legislative pillars – of apartheid are interpreted. The section guides the reader through the tumult of 1970s and 1980s into the early 1990s, when the transitional negotiations began. The Freedom Charter, an important blueprint that would be recalled almost 50 years from its inception, is analyzed, as are other landmark sociopolitical developments such the Soweto Uprising of 1976 and the Black Consciousness movement. Due to the limitations of extent, the coverage has to be restrained and the author refrained from devoting too much space to events and developments of second-rate importance.
The second section, entitled Transition, contains the information crucial for understanding the subsequent period of democratization. First, the dealings of the Afrikaner National Party, which had monopolized the state security apparatus and used it against its own citizens generally and internal opposition in particular, with the Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress are retraced. Then, the champions of neoliberalism enter the scene via the lengthy consultations in a corporatist manner, with labor progressively pushed to the margin. The Reconstruction and Development Programme is presented in detail, as are the consequences of its being taken advantage of by the old bureaucracy, capital, think-tanks and advisors. Initially, the content of the progressive agenda enclosed in the RDP is presented in order to contrast it with blatant ignorance and infringements against the redistributionist goals that it championed. The end of the section finalizes the bleak picture with the discussion of the land reform and foreign debt repayment.
Democracy, the third section, draws the link from the mid-1990s into the early years of the next decade. One of the main themes of the section is the malfunctioning of state when it came to fulfilling developmental role, due to a large part to the ANC’s adoption of a neoliberal macroeconomic agenda, dubbed GEAR. Around the turn of the century, things have started to change and the finishing subsections of the thesis thereby concentrate on the analysis of what and how was reconceptualized and effectively altered.
The conclusion briefly summarizes the main facts and arguments discussed in the work’s three main sections.
The Concept of Apartness
“If mixed development [of Europeans alongside Africans] is to be the policy of the future in South Africa, it will lead to the most terrific clash of interests imaginable. […] The only possible way out is […] a development divorced from each other. That is all that the word apartheid means” (Clark and Worger 124). These are the words of Hendrik Verwoerd, the minister of native affairs in the first National Party government and later prime minister of South Africa, addressing a meeting of the Native Representative Council, a meeting comprised mostly of Africans (or the Bantu, as Verwoerd addressed them). It was 1950, the year when the white-dominated government of South Africa enacted several of the legislative pillars of apartheid. At various points throughout the speech, Verwoerd was arguably frank to his own beliefs, even though presenting them as mere factional standpoints: “The European must remain master and leader.” And: “In [case of] conflict, the Europeans will, at least for a long time, hold the stronger position” (123-24). At other points, Verwoerd terribly lied: “There is thus no policy of oppression here, but one of creating […] for the Bantu […] a development of their own” (125). For one thing, calling what the apartheid regime got underway ‘development’ does not do justice to the term. More, what if not oppression had it been that enabled the white settlers to hold onto their position of privilege and power up till then. In that speech, Verwoerd acknowledged the existence of a group within the European population with a dissenting opinion. On them, too, his ‘benevolent’ words touched: “[T]he other section of the European population which is prepared to grant representation to the Bantu in the country’s government […] do[es] not yet realize that a balance of power may thereby be given to the non-European with which an attempt may later be made to secure full and equal franchise on the same voter’s roll. The moment they realize that, […] this latter section will also throw in its weight with the first section in the interests of European supremacy…” (124).
In such claims, Verwoerd and others drew upon South Africa’s long tradition of racial discrimination. As early as 1652, the economy of the Dutch-colonized Cape of Good Hope was based on slave labor. After the abolition of slavery (in 1830), the one thing that the Dutch settlers and the British imperialists were able to agree on was white supremacy and racial segregation. Even in 1948, South Africa was only one among many colonized societies where discriminatory practices were the rule, and, not least, was still part of the British Commonwealth. In the Southern states of the USA, African Americans were still second-class citizens and subject to arbitrary brutality by state organs and individual supremacists alike, at a time when the Civil Rights Movement was not yet conceived of. Importantly, the National Party (NP) won the elections in South Africa in 1948 with apartheid as its rallying cry. Thus, the Party was given a mandate1 by the (white) electorate to implement its program. Since their winning of the majority of parliamentary seats was only due to a constitutional provision providing for greater representation of rural, as opposed to urban, areas, the NP rushed to implement the program out of fear of losing the subsequent election. Apartheid was in effect endorsed by a miniscule minority of the country’s total population in 1948, but became the official policy for the next 40 years. D. F. Malan was appointed prime minister – the same Malan who at the outbreak of the Second World War (in parliamentary opposition at the time), wanted to ally with Nazi Germany (42).
Surprised by their ending up in opposition, the United Party (UP) headed by former war-time prime minister Jan Christian Smuts moved to criticize the apartheid proposals as impossible. Smuts questioned the practicability of complete separation of races, claiming that the prospective Native Reserves could not become home for all Africans, since they could only accommodate 40 percent of the native population. He literally referred to Africans as “our worker[s]” who “must be shaped into an economic instrument” (43). No great sympathy for the African on his part can be inferred from such terms. After all, it was the same Smuts who passed over in silence the demands posed by the ANC when the movement presented him with ‘Africans’ Claims in South Africa’ in 1943.2 And it was the same Smuts whom Naboth Mokgatle, author of The Autobiography of an Unknown South African (1971), remembered as saying to the aforementioned D. F. Malan, when Malan asked him whether he included non-whites in the formulations of the Charter of the United Nations (which Smuts helped draft), that he “did not include them in those words. They […] will never be our equal” (37, 39).
The White Supremacy Consensus
In the election year, both parties issued reports outlining what they perceived as the key issues and the possible solutions. The Second World War effected a massive influx of Africans into the cities to work in manufacturing industries. Africans began to outnumber whites in urban areas and competition for jobs worried the white electorate.3 At the same time, even the National Party – its commercial wing, respectively – acknowledged the need for African workers to alleviate the serious labor shortages, while simultaneously endorsing segregation and strict control measures on Africans. The so-called Fagan Report presented by the United Party essentially advocated the status quo: it reiterated that total segregation was impracticable and the Africans in the cities were a reality that everyone ought to reconcile with. At the same time, the UP denied any allegations that it would make any concessions to Africans in terms of political rights (40).
In contrast to this moderate program, the National Party’s Sauer Report put forward an extremely repressive vision of governance, which nevertheless proved effective in mobilizing the support of white voters. Those voters had seen the rising presence of Africans in their neighborhoods and were voicing demands for tougher action. During the war, the government loosened the restrictions regulating the movement of Africans into the cities. The result was a massive migration from the desolate conditions in the country into the urban centers. The special townships in which Africans could legally reside were becoming inadequate for the accommodation of large numbers of newcomers. A number of squatter camps sprang up, mostly clusters of shacks without proper sanitation. One such camp which was among the largest (with more than twenty thousand inhabitants) arose near Johannesburg and later became the township of Soweto. That the horrible living conditions created fertile soil for social unrest comes as no surprise, and so South Africa after the war was ripe with protests from African unions, political organizations and squatters. While the commercially-minded faction of the NP accepted the need for African labor and promoted ‘practical’ apartheid via stringent supervision by special government agencies of the movement into and out of the urban areas (a policy later known as ‘influx control’), there was another wing – which included teachers, lawyers and workers’ organizations – advocating ‘total segregation’ which they deemed morally justifiable. Under total segregation, they understood a complete removal of all Africans from the economy. Women and children would be relegated to the countryside, to reside in the fabricated ethnic ‘homelands’, whereas only male migrant workers would be hired for the most menial of jobs in the cities, and so would not threaten the ‘dignity’ of white labor. The Sauer Report embraced total segregation as an ideal – a goal that would take a lot of gradual steps over many years to achieve. The report expressed a vision of the desirable future, in which Africans entering the cities would be obliged periodically to return to the countryside and seek employment with the (mostly Afrikaner, i.e. white) farmers. As a matter of course, the natives would be denied national parliamentary representation and remain disenfranchised (36, 41). After the won elections, however, Nationalist politicians were still struggling to clarify the conception of apartheid. Hendrik Verwoerd, the minister of native affairs and chief ideologist, left the relation of apartheid and total segregation intentionally blurred in his explanations. “Total policy is not the policy of our party and it is nowhere to be found in our official declarations of policy,” Prime Minister Malan remarked (44). The United Party’s position was far from dissenting: they endorsed the essential inequality of different racial groups, policies prohibitive of racial intermixing and also the same sort of labor regulations that the NP promoted. But there were other people who disagreed and saw through Verwoerd’s fancy language. “It is not the thirst for such a negative state of affairs as ‘separation’ in itself that has so […] multiplied votes. It is something [...] much more appealing. In a word, it is ‘white supremacy, now and always,” wrote Trevor Huddleston, Anglican minister and early critic of apartheid, in 1955 (44-45). Huddleston’s words ring true when checked against the series of laws enacted thereafter. The apartheid legislation reflected one central tendency: South African citizens would be entitled to different treatment and different rights and privileges, according to their ascribed racial category. Moreover, codified in legal principles was that whites ought to receive more favorable treatment than natives and that, in marked contrast to the United States segregationist legislation, separate facilities did not necessarily have to be equal (not even de jure). Indeed, apartheid became distinguished from other discriminatory policies by the length and depth that the Nationalist regime was prepared to go to institutionalize white rule, racialism, inequality and intrusive surveillance (45). Importantly, early on, the apartheid proposals also received the support of the Dutch Reformed Church, which formulated a biblical justification – for example, its 1954 pronouncement read: “God divided humanity into races, languages and nations. Differences are not only willed by God but are perpetuated by Him. Equality between natives, coloureds and Europeans includes a misappreciation of […] His Providence” (52).
The Early Legislation, the Key Legislation
As mentioned above, the National Party government lost no time in turning their proposals into reality. Already in 1949, the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act (No. 55) criminalized marital unions between whites and members of other racial groups. The government then worked hard to make 1950 in fact the most pregnant year in terms of enacted restrictive legislation of key importance. Immorality Act (No. 21) of 1950 expanded the scope of an earlier prohibition (instituted by a 1927 Act of the same name) on sexual relationships between whites and Africans to a comprehensive ban on sexual relations between whites and any non-whites. One of the cornerstones of subsequent apartheid legislation soon followed: the Population Registration Act (No. 30 of 1950) established mechanisms for the categorization of each South African based on their race. Each citizen had to be classified as White, Coloured or Native (later Bantu). The process of registration was to be handled by the Department of Home Affairs (47).4
(x) “native” means a person who in fact is or is generally accepted as a member of any aboriginal race or tribe of Africa; …
(xv) “white person” means a person who in appearance obviously is, or who is generally accepted as a white person, but does not include a person who, although in appearance obviously a white person, is generally accepted as a coloured person. (Population Registration Act)
Section 5 of the Act established that every person whose name was included in the register was to be classified by the appointed Director of Census as white, coloured or native, and in the case of coloureds and natives, each citizen was to be labeled according to the ‘ethnic or other group to which he belongs’. Section 18 made it an offence punishable by a fine, imprisonment, or both, for any person to make a false statement for the purposes of the Act; lend, alter or destroy any identity card; or fail to notify the Director of Census about change of residence. Each person was also obliged to produce an identity card duly whenever asked by an authorized officer (Population Registration Act). The attributes reflected in ascribing a racial category included habits, speech and demeanor, and education. Indians, whom the NP refused to accept as permanent habitants of the country, were either included in the Coloured category or recognized as ‘Asian’. Later amendments (1962, 1964, 1967) to the Act put greater emphasis on appearance in order to counter the practice among light-skinned Africans of passing as whites, and also added the criterion of descent, in order to further frustrate assimilation (Clark and Worger 46).5
Also in 1950, the government carved racial barriers into the geography of the country. Whereas before, restrictions regarding land ownership were primarily imposed on Africans, whose possession of land had been limited to approximately 13 percent by the Natives’ Land Act of 1913 (and its 1936 amendment), the Group Areas Act (No. 41 of 1950) gave the Nationalist policymakers the authority to designate any area as fit for one group and force the existing occupants from other groups out of the area. Every inch of South African soil came to be racially defined. Under section 3, sub-section 1 of the Group Areas Act, it was the Governor-General who by proclamation could
declare that as from a date specified […], the area defined in the proclamation shall be an area for occupation by members of the group specified therein; or
declare that, as from a date specified […], the area defined in the proclamation shall be an area for ownership by members of the group specified therein. (Group Areas Act, emphasis added)
Section 5 established that in areas designated for ownership, no ‘disqualified’6 person or company could acquire immovable property (except with an official permit). Section 6 contained a distinctly racial flavor. Under this section, it was in the competence of the Minister of the Interior to establish a governing body “for any group area (other than an area for the white group).” Sections 9 and 12, for a change, created grounds for removals by prohibiting interracial transfers and sales of immovable property. In regard to the administration of the Act, the so-called Land Tenure Advisory Board was formed under section 24 to assist the Minister of the Interior. The final section worth mentioning here was number 31, which read:
(1) The Minister shall […] appoint inspectors […];
(2) Any such inspector may […]
(a) without previous notice, at any time during the day or night, enter upon any premises whatsoever and make such examination and enquiry as may be necessary. […]
(6) An inspector entering premises under sub-section (2) may be accompanied by an interpreter or any member of the South African Police. (Group Areas Act)
Placing the country’s black population under surveillance and supervision was symptomatic of the paranoia within the white minority. Not that the Natives had been unfamiliar with this kind of treatment before. Their movement, especially from the rural to the urban areas, was already curbed by segregationist practices. The primary aim of the Act was to codify residential separation into law. The government moved to set up separate (semi-)urban townships for Africans, Coloureds, and Indians, as well. The Group Areas Act affected the Indian community particularly harshly, as they had to move their businesses out of the city centers where they were no longer allowed to operate.7 Coupled with the Bantu Resettlement Act (No. 19) of 1954, it legalized the forced removals of thousands of people from the urban zones of Johannesburg and Cape Town. In the former, 60,000 Natives were moved out of the suburbs of Sophiatown, Newclare and Martindale in army trucks, escorted by armed police officers. In the latter, the removal of Coloureds from the District Six was the one that received a lot of media coverage. Each group was replaced by white Afrikaners. In a campaign referred to by the Nationalist government as ‘erasing black spots’, roughly 3.5 million Natives were removed from ‘white’ areas between the mid-1950s and mid-1980s (Clark and Worger 64-65).
With the Native Laws Amendment Act (No. 54 of 1952) and the ironically titled Abolition of Passes and Co-ordination of Documents Act (No. 67 of 1952), the government devised an easy method of identifying every citizen by race, anywhere and anytime. From the nineteenth century on, there was a tradition of legal documents, which Africans were required to have in order to legally enter a ‘white’ area. The practices varied regionally and the two aforementioned acts served to unify and regularize the use of passes nationally. Under the former act, African women were for the first time in history subjected to influx control. Section 10 postulated that Africans of both sexes could not remain in an urban area for longer than 72 hours, unless they had a special permit – a form of declaration of legal employment. No African person who had not been born in an urban area could legally reside there unless they could prove that they had resided or worked for the same employer there for 15 and 10 years, respectively. Regional versions of passes were replaced with a so-called ‘reference book’, a fairly detailed document8, and the inability to produce a reference book when requested by a police officer was a criminal offence (46).
Before the passes were introduced, the government hurried to do away with the political opposition coming from different racial groups. One of them was the interracial Communist Party of South Africa, against which the Suppression of Communism Act (No. 44 of 1950) was obviously aimed.9 Certainly, the National Party feared the influence that communism might have on the working classes. On the one hand, the Communist Party was outlawed. On the other hand, the act itself was so extensively defined, that communism as a label could be abused by the supremacist forces to signify any opposition to the Nationalist government – any activism/activities aimed at ‘bringing about any political, industrial, social or economic change within the Union by the promotion of disturbance or disorder’. The minister of justice was entitled to investigate and criminalize any organization, and ‘ban’ its members from public offices, usually for periods of five years, and also ban public gatherings deemed ‘likely to further the aims of communism’. A banned person was confined to a particular district and was banned from holding an office in trade unions or political organizations. Banned persons were further prohibited from attending (and speaking at) public gatherings – in fact, under the Riotous Assemblies Act (No. 17) of 1956, public meetings which could cause ‘feelings of hostility between Whites and Blacks’ were themselves outlawed. Prominent among the public figures affected by this legislation was Nelson Mandela (Clark and Worger 54, 57).10