This week our doctoral cohort was challenged to read a book that has a shifting backdrop of global politics. There shouldn’t be any surprise since our program centers on global leadership. The author wanted us to see a struggle between those maintaining and defending one system, while the other concedes to threats or violence through an unorganized coalition to challenge those systems.
Apartheid refers to a system of segregation and discrimination in South Africa. “In 1948, on the coming of apartheid, South Africa was already a comprehensively racialized, segregated state.” Every system in every country, has had its share of segregation and some still have discrimination, although we try to deny its existence. In Africa, it was a segregation of public facilities, social events, housing and employment opportunities. “The core of apartheid was the attempt to thwart, neutralise or abort the African urbanization that – from the segregationists’ point of view – had begun to assume such alarming proportions.”
Last weekend, my wife had us watch Hidden Figures for our family movie night. The movie is based on a true story of three African-American women: Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. The film depicts segregated facilities at NASA but highlights the biographies of three women who were instrumental in John Glenn’s orbit of the earth in 1962. NASA had to make an inclusive transition from their segregation to accomplish their desire to become innovative.
South Africa in the same sense had to make its transition from racial segregation to an inclusive democracy, although the white minority fought against it (vii). “The segregation of the pre-1948 era served the interests of major sectors of white society, especially agriculture, mining and labour, in an ad hoc, even pragmatic or instrumental, way in comparison with what was to come.” According to Walsh, the key component for the successful transition was leadership because Mandela and De Klerk were responsible for leading and managing any potential unruly support. Before diving a little further in the review of David Welsh’s The Rise and Fall of Apartheid, let’s walk memory (history) lane. Governor van Riebeeck ordered the building of a fence between blacks and whites in Cape Town in 1659 so Africans never had the opportunity to buy land (limited amount) until the Natives Land Act of 1913. However, when the National Party (NP) was voted into power in 1948, they institutionalized racial segregation openly and legally. At the time of the vote in 1948, the majority of the Afrikaners were white, which meant they also had preferences in jobs. “One of the apartheid’s chief aims was the elimination of competition between black and white, invariably to the benefit of whites.”
Welsh chose to divide the apartheid into three phases to help readers understand the transitional period over a 46-year period (NP rule from 1948-1994):
- 1948 – 1959: The NP increased its power and strengthened the existing segregation.
- We also saw in 1950, The Population Registration Act. “In significant respects the linchpin of the apartheid system was the Population Registration Act of 1950, which in principle sought to classify every South African according to ‘race’.”
- In 1950, “The Group Areas Act of 1950 was another fundamental pillar of apartheid” because it subsumed all previous legislation (Welsh, 55).
- 1959 – 1966 (‘separate development’): This was “introduced in the hope that an increasingly hostile world would accept that preparing ‘homelands’ (bantustans) for self-government was analogous to the decolonization process occurring in Africa.”
- 1966 – 1994: Different initiatives were created to support the government. We also saw an erosion of apartheid as African nationalism unified and later a process of a negotiated settlement.
Controversy and Fall of Apartheid
David Brokensha provided 5 simple questions in his review of Welsh’s book, which he believes are topics of controversy regarding the fall of apartheid.
- “What was the relative significance of the roles played by de Klerk and Mandela?
- How effective were international sanctions—including the economic sanctions placed on South Africa’s athletics, arts, and education?
- How directly did the protests by international students, the World Council of Churches, and United Nations contribute to the fall of apartheid?
- What was the importance of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the armed wing of the ANC, also called “The Spear of the Nation,” which carried out 1200 attacks between 1976 and 1989?
- Did the South African Military and NP political leaders know and authorize thousands of violent and illegal acts of brutality, or were these acts mainly the result of “rogue elements”?”
The answer to these questions provides a balanced perspective on the transition from a segregated behavior to democracy.
Welsh tells us that South Africa is better than it was before under apartheid, which is an indication that democracy has and still is surviving (Welsh, 578). The author provides a great analysis of apartheid in South Africa to show how a complex shift and change in politics evolved in a negotiated transition (one that had a painful process). Overall, this was a great read in preparation for a trip to Cape Town later this year.
 Welsh, The Rise and Fall of Apartheid, 47
 Ibid., 57
 Ibid., 47
 Ibid., 56
 Ibid., 54
 Ibid., 52
 David Brokensha. David Welsh. The Rise and Fall of Apartheid. Johannesburg and Cape Town (2009): 1-3. David Welsh. The Rise and Fall of Apartheid. Johannesburg and Cape Town. Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2009. Web. 24 May 2017.