South Africa - From Apartheid to democracy

Term Paper, 2004

25 Pages, Grade: 1,3 (A)


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. South Africa after the foundation of the Union
2.1. South Africa in the 1910s
2.2. Election of 1924 and the economic crisis
2.3. South Africa during World War II
2.4. South Africa’s black population

3. Apartheid
3.1. The elections of 1948
3.2. Rigid segregation: the establishment of Petty and Grand Apartheid
3.3. Resistance against the Apartheid regime
3.4. Homeland Policy
3.5. The Black Consciousness Movement
3.6. Reforming the Apartheid State
3.7. The end of Apartheid in South Africa
3.8. South Africa’s first democratic elections

4. Conclusion
The further development of South Africa

5. Appendix

1. Introduction

“This is for all South Africans, an unforgettable occasion. It is the realisation of hopes and dreams that we have cherished over decades. The dreams of a South Africa which represents all South Africans.

It is the beginning of a new era. We have moved from an era of pessimism, division, limited opportunities, turmoil and conflict.

We are starting a new era of hope, reconciliation and nation building.

We sincerely hope that by the mere casting of a vote the results will give hope to all South Africans and make all South Africans realise this is our country. We are one nation.” [i]

Ten years after Nelson Mandela’s statement after the first democratic elections in South Africa, the nation is going to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the first elections on April 27, 2004.

I am trying to expound South Africa’s development from the foundation of the Union of South Africa to the elections of 1948 and the establishment and consolidation of the Apartheid regime to the peaceful revolution in the early 1990s in the following.

2. South Africa after the foundation of the Union

2.1. South Africa in the 1910s

After the foundation of the South African Union, politics were mainly determined by British-Afrikaner antagonism, as well as the questions of South African independence and the equality of the Dutch language respectively Afrikaans and English.

The first elections after the foundation of the South African Union, in which only white men were allowed to vote, were held in 1910. The elections were won by the South African Party (SAP) under the leadership of Louis Botha, who was, like Hertzog and Smuts, a famous general of the South African War. The SAP was a party which fought for Afrikaner interests, but there were also English-speaking members in the first government.[ii] The party members tried to create a feeling of unification after the foundation of the South African Union among white South Africans. The outbreak of World WarI was perceived, at least by a small proportion of the Afrikaner population, as an opportunity to achieve the Union’s independence from the British Empire. Following an order from London, South African forces invaded German South West Africa[iii]. They also fought in Northern France and German East Africa, which was later given to South Africa as a consequence of the Treaty of Versailles.

A small group of Afrikaner and their generals who openly rebelled were a challenge to the Administration led by Smuts and Botha, but did not threaten the government to the same extent as did the separation of J.B.M. Hertzog from the South African Party . Hertzog, who was a member of the Union’s first cabinet, decided to resign and formed his own neo-republican National Party since he and Louis Botha had divergent ideas concerning South Africa’s independence. White South African nationalism’s primary aim was to exclude and subordinate people of colour. The difference between the South African nationalism of Hertzog and Afrikaner nationalism was slight, if there was one at all. The establishment of the Natives Land Act of 1913 was the first step towards segregation, and one of the most important and far-reaching laws. The Natives (later Blacks) Land Act clearly divided the country into land of two different categories: African reserves on the one hand, white farming land on the other hand. The co-existence of black and white people was clearly determined. It was prohibited for black people to live outside the areas that were defined by the government as reserves and white people were not allowed to possess or acquire property within the boundaries of the reserves. The Act also included the impossibility of shifting one area into another, but was not accepted by the courts of the Cape Province because it was made impossible for coloured people to acquire land, which was necessary to be allowed to vote.

Even though 70% of the population was black, initially only 7% of the land was given to them. In 1936 this percentage was increased to 13%[iv].

The Natives Land Act also put an end to a well-established method known as share-cropping, which allowed Blacks to use land of white owners for a compensation except for labour.

In 1915, the Union’s second elections took place, in which Hertzog’s National Party took advantage of the unpopularity of Smuts’ decision to enter the war, while the South African Party’s support among the population was on the decline. Four years later, Jan Smuts seized control over the SAP after Louis Botha’s death. In order to preserve power, Smuts fused the SAP and the Unionists, a party mainly supported by South Africans who were loyal to England. However, the Labour Party managed to gain further votes by acting in favour of the white industrial workers of the Witwandersrand.

In 1918, the so-called Afrikaner Broederbond was founded; an organisation which remained more or less insignificant until the 1930’s. Its objective was to promote Christian National culture.

The end of World War I coincided with an economic period of recession and later depression. In order to reduce their costs, mining companies decided to replace white workers with those of colour. The steps carried out by the powerful Chamber of Mines engendered anger and protests among white middle class workers and their wives, who saw their jobs and standard of living threatened. This led to a strike in the gold mines in 1922, known as the Rand Revolt.

The revolt was crushed by the military forces, killing approximately 150 people and wounding more than 600. The discontent about the harsh actions was directed towards the Unionists who now belonged to Smut’s SAP.

2.2. Election of 1924 and the economic crisis

As a consequence of the Rand Revolt an opposition pact consisting of Hertzog’s National Party and the Labour Party won the election of 1924

However, unemployment remained one of the key issues to be tackled. One attempt was made by establishing the Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Lewensassuransie Maatskappy (SANLAM), in which small Afrikaner savings and incomes amalgamated, and of the Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Trust Maatskappy (SANTAM)[v]. Both the credit institution and the life insurance were regarded as counter-balances to British (or Jewish) capital and used their funds for investments in order to improve the economic situation of the Afrikaners.

The struggle against unemployment was one of the tasks of the new government, in which Hertzog became Prime Minister.

Another aim was the protection of “civilised labour”, by which any kind of work was meant that conformed to European standards, which means basically white labour[vi].

Important legal steps carried out during Hertzog’s incumbency paved the way for future segregation. In 1923, the Native Urban Areas Act, which reserved South African cities for Whites, while Blacks had only a temporally limited permission to reside, was passed.

The Immorality Act was approved in 1927 prohibiting sexual intercourse between Whites and Blacks. Three years later, the Riotous Assemblies Act banning non-white actions and permitting the government to dissolve assemblies forcibly, as opposed to the Riotous Assemblies and Criminal Law Amendment Act (1914), which targeted on white demonstrations, was passed.

The Administration under Hertzog also introduced “colour bars” taking advantage of the Mines and Works Act of 1911 and 1922 which excluded non-Whites from doing certain jobs (job reservation).

According to the Mines and Works Act of 1926, diplomas and certificates were no longer given to Blacks and Indians in order to preserve an advantageous position for white workers.

South Africa gained independence and equality inside the Commonwealth through the Balfour Declaration (and the Statute of Westminster of 1931) in 1926.

In late October 1929, the New York Stock Exchange crashed and led to a worldwide economic crisis. Millions of people around the world lost their jobs. In order to stimulate the national economy, the South African Administration decided on December 28, 1932 to take off the gold standard, which heavily influenced the further economic development and was the reason for a long-term boom in South Africa.

The South African Party and the National Party formed a coalition government in 1933 after political differences between the two parties had decreased. They even fused into the United South African National Party a year later. Their main political targets were the preservation of South Africa as an independency as well as a policy that ensured the advantages and privileges the white population enjoyed.

However, some members of Parliament from the Cape Province could not completely identify themselves with the United South African National Party because they considered the fusion as a subjection to British interests, namely capitalistic and imperialistic ones. The journalist and clergyman Daniel Francois Malan founded the Purified National Party[vii].

One of the more serious issues the Hertzog/Smuts Administration had to face was the massive increase of poverty among Afrikaners. According to a survey[viii], approximately one out of six white Afrikaners belonged to the so-called “Poor Whites”. Their main political interest was the preservation of their privileges since their fear was to have the same status and rights as a person of colour, consequently the government was urged massively to act in a way that was advantageous for the Poor Whites. The government tried to satisfy their demands by offering more jobs for civil servants than actually necessary and also passed a law that did no longer allow black people to go to the polls in the Cape Province. Instead of that, they were allowed to choose three white representatives from a separate list.

The United Party of Smuts and Hertzog was re-elected in 1938, despite of the fact that there were disputes between the two of them about South Africa’s position in the event of war.

Afrikaner nationalism found expression in a cultural organisation called Ossewabrandwag (Ox-Waggon Sentinels or OB) which was founded on the occasion of the centenary of the Great Trek. Under the leadership of J.H.J van Rensburg the organisation turned into a paramilitary organisation with about 300,000 members. One of the organisation’s aims was the establishment of a republic controlled by Afrikaners in South Africa. There existed also smaller groups with fascist programs, that were to a high degree similar to German National Socialism. One of them, called the New Order was under the leadership of the minister of defence, Oswald Pirow.

2.3. South Africa during World War II

In early September 1939, Hertzog brought forward a motion on South Africa’s neutrality, which was rejected by 80 to 67 votes. Smuts was elected Prime Minister and decided to enter war on the British side. Hertzog thereupon resigned since he was convinced that it would have been wiser to claim a position of neutrality for South Africa. This political defeat was the end of Hertzog’s political career. On September 6, 1939, South Africa declared war to Germany. However, Hertzog formed the Reunified National Party together with D. F. Malan and became its parliamentary leader, but was unpopular among the members of the Broederbond. Dr Malan became the leader of the Reunited National Party, which had many supporters among the Afrikaner population since Smuts’ decision to enter war was quite unpopular. Hertzog died on his farm in 1942.

Meanwhile, South African troops fought successfully in Italy-occupied Abyssinia, liberated Madagascar from the French and fought against Germany in northern Africa.

The war had a positive impact on the economy. In order to satisfy wartime demands it was necessary to employ thousands of new workers, namely Blacks, because the South African troops consisted to a great extent of Whites. The demand for new employees accelerated the process of urbanisation of Blacks, which was at the same time a new source for interracial disputes.



[ii] Hagemann, p. 59

[iii] Hagemann, p.60

[iv] Ross, p.88

[v] Ross, p.106

[vi] Ross, p.105

[vii] Ross, p. 109

[viii] Hagemann, p.65

Excerpt out of 25 pages


South Africa - From Apartheid to democracy
University of St. Gallen  (English Advanced Course)
1,3 (A)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
528 KB
South, Africa, From, Apartheid
Quote paper
Felix Kaemmerer (Author), 2004, South Africa - From Apartheid to democracy, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • guest on 5/28/2004

    Sehr brauchbare Arbeit!.

    Gute Arbeit in stilistisch sowie sprachlich sicherem Englisch, bestens als Vorlage zur Erstellung eines Referats oder einer Facharbeit zu gebrauchen!

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