South Africa

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1910: Louis Botha and fellow Afrikaner Gen. Jan Smuts form the South African Party (SAP) in 1910, with Botha as prime minister under a constitution that provides no bill of rights. Deep-seated fears of the African majority spur the SAP to ensure white supremacy through racist legislation limiting social, economic, and personal freedom for blacks (Africans), people of mixed race (Coloreds), and Indians.

1911-1918: The South African Native National Congress (SANNC) forms in 1912, pursuing equality through "constitutional change." In 1914 Afrikaner nationalist J.B.M. Hertzog forms the National Party. He strongly opposes South African participation in World War I, calls for increased segregation of Africans and whites, and criticizes the SAP for appeasing British businessmen, particularly mine owners.

1919-1923: Prime Minister Smuts legislates segregated systems for administrative and legal affairs for blacks and whites, and drastically curtails African access to urban areas. Looking to cut costs, mine owners hire more low-cost African laborers, angering Afrikaners who respond with a series of strikes that are violently suppressed by Smuts. The SANNC is renamed the African National Congress (ANC) in 1923.

1924-1938: Hertzog wins 1924 and 1929 elections promising to preserve a "white South Africa." His policies yield leverage and opportunity to whites in the workplace. In 1934 he joins Jan Smuts in forming the United Party (UP), to stave off extreme nationalist D.F. Malan's calls for further segregation, less cooperation with English-speakers (British), and full recognition of Afrikaner culture and language.

1939-1947: Hertzog and Malan create the Reunified National Party in 1939, protesting Smuts's decision to enter World War II on the Allied side. Several extreme Afrikaner nationalist groups voice unqualified admiration for Nazi Germany. By 1946, nearly 25 percent of all Afrikaners are members of the paramilitary Ossewabrandwag (Brigade of the Oxwagon Sentinel). Smuts's popularity continues to slip.

1948: Malan campaigns for strict enforcement of white job reservation, a mixed-marriages ban, and the establishment of "native" political bodies on African reservations in lieu of parliamentary representation. He also advocates the periodic forced return of African laborers to rural areas in an effort to discourage permanent urban residency while maintaining a cheap labor supply for Afrikaner farmers.

1949-1955: The apartheid system forms the basis for Malan's government. Apartheid enforces racial segregation affecting everyday activities (petty) and racial discrimination restricting land and political rights (grand). The National Party legislates the creation of separate but not equal facilities and institutionalizes the principle that whites deserve favorable treatment over Africans, Coloreds, and Indians.

1956-1963: South Africa becomes a republic in 1961 as voters easily approve severing ties with Britain. Hendrik Verwoerd, considered the architect of apartheid, sweeps the elections. He liberally applies the repressive "banning" policy, which criminalizes opposition activity, to dissenting people and organizations, including the ANC and the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC).

1964-1973: Looking to normalize trade relations with other African nations, John Vorster adopts an "outward-looking" foreign policy. He receives black dignitaries, and his easing of some petty apartheid laws leads to the integration of select public facilities and transportation. Mandela and Walter Sisulu are sentenced to life in prison. Legislation allowing detention without charge or representation passes.

1974-1979: Violence in Soweto sparks spontaneous riots and demonstrations. Police respond with brutality. By the end of 1976, conservative figures estimate 575 dead and 2,400 wounded, mostly children. Police arrest student leader Steve Biko in 1977 and announce his death -- of "natural causes" -- a month later. The events fuel the Black Consciousness movement and generate severe international sanctions.

1980-1984: P.W. Botha's "total strategy" includes the implementation of a tri-cameral parliament under an executive presidency, with coloreds (85 seats) and Indians (45 seats) represented, but Africans excluded and whites (178 seats) in control. Two-thirds of whites approve the constitutional reform in 1983. The antiapartheid United Democratic Front (UDF) forms, quickly growing to three million strong.

1985-1986: Chaos in the townships and crushing sanctions force P.W. Botha to backpedal while attempting to regain control of the Republic. He unexpectedly repeals some of the most offensive apartheid laws, easing freedom of movement for Africans and eliminating prohibitions against mixed marriages. Still, police detain thousands of activists while Botha tightens press restrictions and bans the UDF.

1987-1992: Amid growing realization that segregated development cannot work, many white leaders accept the need to incorporate Africans into the political system. A delegation holds talks with the banned ANC in Senegal in 1987. Replacing deceased Prime Minister Botha in 1989, F.W. de Klerk shocks the nation by releasing Sisulu and Mandela from prison and lifting the ban on the UDF, ANC, and PAC.

1993-1994: The ANC wins 252 of 400 National Assembly seats in the '94 elections, just shy of the two-thirds majority needed to independently rewrite the constitution. The NP wins 20 percent of the vote (82 seats), earning the right to name a deputy president (de Klerk). Zulu leader Mangosutho Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party, standing in sometimes violent opposition to the ANC, wins 11 percent (43 seats).

1995-1997: The new constitution of 1996 guarantees equality, civil rights, freedom, and liberty. It mandates a representative, multiparty government and independent judiciary and recognizes nine provinces with limited local autonomy. Dissatisfied with his diminished role, de Klerk resigns from politics in 1997, reducing the NP to a regional opposition party. Also that year, Mandela resigns as ANC president.

1998-2000: Mandela retires from public office in 1998. Thabo Mbeki wins the 1999 elections as the ANC almost wins a two-thirds majority. Opposition is splintered, with no other party garnering as much as 10 percent of the vote. Politically motivated violence that had plagued the KwaZula-Natal region dissipates when the ANC and IFP sign a 1999 treaty, ending years of heated dispute.

2001-2003: Another vestige of the past disappears in highly symbolic fashion as the New National Party, successor to apartheid's National Party, merges into the ANC. The ANC remains solidly in power despite internal policy divisions. Nelson Mandela remains a much-loved and influential elder statesman. After several years of hedging, the government takes a stronger stand to support anti-HIV/AIDS campaigns.

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Categories: Overview | Political | Economic
Graphs: Growth | Income | Inflation | Unemployment | Well-being | Trade Volume | Trade (CAB) | Debt | Spending

Related: LinksView all categories for years from to | See Full Report | Print