A Journalist's Perspective on South Africa

Other Factors That Led to Apartheid's Downfall

I hope that Endgame will lead people to look more deeply into the factors that led to the downfall of apartheid. That downfall had "many parents" — as Franklin Thomas, then chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation backed Commission on United States Policy Toward Southern Africa, reminded me recently — including the talks dramatized in the film.

Other talks had an important effect as well. At a secret session facilitated by Thomas, Mbeki met Pieter De Lange, then head of the powerful Afrikaner Broederbond (literally meaning the Afrikaner brotherhood, the male, white Protestant organization that was the secretive intellectual driver of apartheid). Their meeting broke the ice between them — likely over a whiskey or two — and they continued their conversation on their own. Those meetings led to the formation of one of the relationships that helped end apartheid. The Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, led by former heads of state, also held talks between both sides looking at the potential for negotiations.

Likewise, one cannot overstate the importance of international economic sanctions in pressuring the South African government to end apartheid. As the Michael Young character says in the film: "Sometimes economics succeeds when politics fails."

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