The Apartheid rule had dominated the South African nation for a long time and the Nationalists practiced it with utter disregard for the minorities.[i] Walsh’s book introduces F. W. de Klerk as the leader of the Nationalist movement and as willing to accept the replacement of Apartheid by a more comprehensive and inclusive rule. The book then questions whether the white South African rulers cracked or they just yielded their noninclusive rule for a more Nationalist system of leadership.[ii] In fact, the timing of their actions was appropriate as it averted a revolution in South Africa. The book, however, demonstrates that the transformation in the rule of the white Nationalists was not a simple act: The white minority held strongly to their wagons and fought hard against the change. Fortunately, de Klerk considered changing this reviled rule which ultimately brought about a change in the system with relatively little bloodshed. The Soweto Uprising was “a seminal event in the decline of apartheid.”[iii]
In The Rise and Fall of Apartheid, David Welsh explores the history of the republic of South Africa from the early days when the Nationalists ascended to power in the 1948 to the dramatic collapse of its rule in the 90s. The book sets the Apartheid system in a historic context and explores the origin of the South African population, levels of slavery and the racism manifestation in the early days of Nationalist rule as well as the consolidation of the rule by the whites.[iv] This book is mainly focused on the evolution of Apartheid particularly at the time of Nationalist rule. It also focuses on the rise of the opposition as well as the collapse of the rule and its continuing legacy to date.
This book was written against the backdrop of a prolonged historic conflict that spanned different periods in the South African history where “apartheid was the cancer underlying the violence.”[v] Welsh argues that moving away from Apartheid to a majority rule would have been bloodier had the changes accepted by the Afrikaner Nationalists not happened. The leadership of the Africans and the minority whites eventually came together as they realized that they depended on each other and this steered the transformation process to its ultimate conclusion.[vi]
A Leader’s View and Experience
‘The then South African President Nelson Mandela shakes hands with his deputy and last state president of apartheid-era South Africa F.W. de Klerk after a meeting between the two on January 20th, 1995. Mr. Mandela and Mr. de Klerk said they had cleared up misunderstandings sparked by apartheid-era indemnities that had threatened the government of national unity.” Photograph: Shawn Baldwin/Reuters”
This book presents major significant lessons for leaders, particularly on selfless rule. This is evident from the actions of de Klerk and Nelson Mandela who worked together to abolish Apartheid rule.[vii] In fact, no one could believe that South Africa would smoothly transition from the white domination to an inclusive democracy. This was, however, facilitated by the leadership of the two groups who were selfless in their actions and put the interests of the people first. The National Party and the African National Congress leaders realized that neither could win the conflict on their own. They were different in culture, background, political style, and beliefs. This made Nelson Mandela and de Klerk seem like the unlikely liberators, yet they worked together and changed the perceptions of their people until the South Africans finally got the democratic system they deserved.[viii] From that perspective, leaders can learn that the interests of their subjects should always precede their personal gratification: That is what qualifies as servant leadership. Regardless of the prevailing circumstances, the two national leaders set their differences aside and negotiated for their people.
How was Jim Crow segregation
Different from South African apartheid?
[i]. John Whitson Cell, Highest Stage of White Supremacy: The Origins of Segregation in South Africa and the American South. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
[ii]. David Welsh, The Rise and Fall of Apartheid (Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball, 2009), p. 98–120.
[iii]. Ibid., p. 110.
[iv]. Ibid., p. 167.
[v]. Ibid., p. 313.
[vi]. Joyce F. Kirk, Making a Voice: African Resistance to Segregation in South Africa (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000).
[vii]. Daniel R. Magaziner, The Art of Life in South Africa (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2016).
[viii]. F. A. Mouton, “‘Going against the Creator’: FS Malan, Cape Liberalism and White Supremacy in South Africa, 1895–1936,” Journal for Contemporary History 32, no. 2 (2007): 144–63.