David Welsh—The Rise and Fall of Apartheid
In this detailed and thorough work, David Welsh traces the emergence of apartheid in South Africa in 1948 to its demise in 1994. This scholar explores the dynamics contributing to the transition of South Africa from a racial oligarchy to an inclusive democratic social order. His stated theme is that, “The transition occurred relatively peacefully because the principal antagonists, the African National Congress (ANC) and the National Party (NP), mutually recognized that neither could win the struggle on its own terms; the conflict was deadlocked, and perpetuating it would cause horrifying loss of life and serious damage to a potentially prosperous economy.”  The author uses the term “Afrikaner” in reference to individuals known previously as “Dutch” or “Boers” prior to the nineteenth century. He uses the term, “black” to refer to African, Coloured and Indian, collectively.
David Welsh informs us that land, labor and security were the main issues centering around black and white issues. Therefore, chiefdoms had to be dealt with because they represented threats to the acquisition of land and labor, and were potential sources of resistance to white rule. By the end of the nineteenth century all the territory that eventually became the Union of South Africa was under white control. The advent of South African apartheid in 1948, had been preceded by a state of racial segregation. “Apartheid would entrench and extend what were already established institutions and apply them more ruthlessly.”  In the forty-six years under National Party rule, apartheid underwent three phases: widespread discrimination and more intense National Party power; settling Africans on homelands or reserves; and the erosion of apartheid and Afrikaner nationalism. The chief aims of apartheid were to eliminate competition between black and white in the labor market and to thwart African urbanization.
Welsh attributes the downfall of apartheid to several factors in addition to those noted above: “shifts in the social order; rapid African population growth; increasing strength of the black power bloc with decreasing strength of the white power bloc; international isolation; recognition of African trade unions; and especially the unprecedented diplomacy in the leadership of Nelson Mandela and F.W. De Klerk.”  Also, the churches of major denominations made a big impact for change not only by condemning apartheid as sinful, but also, denying any theological basis for it. Prominent theologians refuted any arguments that gave biblical legitimacy to apartheid. A variety of church councils passed condemnatory resolutions and strongly criticized apartheid consistent with the validation of biblical precepts. Over time, De Klerk supposedly espoused a maxim that “What was morally wrong could not be political right.”  He is the only known ex-leader of an authoritarian state that made a formal apology for the harm and grief apartheid caused millions of South Africans under his command as head of the state.
I view this seminal work by Welsh as the quintessential portrayal of leadership diplomacy in adverse, conflicting or hostile situations in general and of cross-cultural leadership in particular, under the same conditions. The problem-resolution situation played out between F.W. De Klerk (NP) and Nelson Mandela (ANC) is a prime example of the necessity of appropriating dialogue fused with emotional, cultural and spiritual intelligence. To this list I would add ethical and moral intelligence as well. This was no easy feat for these leaders by any stretch of the imagination.
Welsh relates that during the negotiations, the tension between Mandela and De Klerk was so enormous, it almost drove the country to civil war. However, “Both men recognized that the other was a vital partner. Mandela recognized that De Klerk was the only white leader who could take the white population out of the corner into which apartheid had painted them; and De Klerk realized that Mandela’s towering authority would be vital to keeping the volatility of the masses in bounds as the process got under way and popular expectations burgeoned.”  Welsh points out how risky and fragile the negotiation process was in that, “Both Mandela and De Klerk, went far out on a limb, well ahead of their followers, to persuade them that negotiation was the only realistic option. For negotiations to succeed, the principal antagonists must keep their constituencies in line. Both the NP and the ANC managed to achieve this, despite having to make concessions.”  Mandela is quoted as saying, “There are times when a leader must move out ahead of the flock, go off in a new direction, confident that he is leading his people the right way.” 
The relationship between Mandela and De Klerk, survived the transition and continued far into the democratic phase of the government. Mandela later publicly praised his contributions stating, “We quite possibly could have fallen into the destructive racial war which everyone foresaw, had it not been for the daring farsightedness of F.W. De Klerk.  De Klerk denies he had a Christian conversion experience, but like the Apostle Paul instead of being chief persecutor to a group of people, he embraced their cause and even became a staunch advocate for the very same population he persecuted. In the new constitution for the nation De Klerk co-authored with Mandela, he proposed major reforms regarding social justice for the oppressed and marginalized.
This book provided me with a more in depth understanding of the historical and cultural challenges some South Africans have had to endure and it takes concepts of global leadership to another level. This is a good study for the upcoming Fall Advance to Cape Town.
- David Welsh, The Rise and Fall of Apartheid (Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2010), 566.
- Ibid., 52.
- Ibid., 566.
- Ibid., 569.
- Ibid., 381.
- Ibid., 575.
- Ibid., 364.
- Ibid., 577.