Nelson Mandela was undoubtedly an important figure in bringing about the collapse of the apartheid system in South Africa between 1960-1994. He encouraged the start of mass and widespread, often violent, action by the black South African community and it was largely down to him that, once released from jail, negotiations for a new Government succeeded. He was also undeniably a figurehead for the anti apartheid movement. He won the Nobel peace prize in 1993 for his contribution towards the end of Apartheid. He was also elected as the first black President of South Africa in 1994. However there are many other key factors and key figures that also contributed to its collapse. The part played by Black South African protestors and the outside world who brought heavy pressure to bear on the Nationalist Governments but not be underestimated. Ultimately it was this that forced FW De Klerk to take the brave decision to abandon Apartheid. Some credit must finally be given to FW De Klerk who started the negotiations to dismantle the system of Apartheid.
For both Mandela and the ANC, Sharpeville was a turning point in their fight against Apartheid. Sixty nine protestors were killed and over one hundred and eighty injured when the police opened fire, claiming that they were having stones thrown at them by the crowd. The crowd were all unarmed. After this massacre the ANC decided that they should treat violence with violence and that passive resistance was not working. They wanted to try and commit acts that would draw attention to their plight. This meant sabotage. However the ANC was banned soon after Sharpeville. So it was at this point that Mandela and the ANC formed ‘the Spear of People’, otherwise known as MK. It bombed targets such as pass offices, post offices and electricity pylons. Mandela left South Africa in early 1962 to try and arouse world wide support of the ANC. When he returned to South Africa he was constantly having to dodge the police and stay underground. This gave him the name, ‘the black pimpernel’. The setting up of MK was a major change because previously the ANC had relied entirely on peaceful methods so when Mandela did this, he was taking a giant step in a new direction.
... official policy, the ANC declared 'South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white,' and worked to abolish apartheid. After antiapartheid riots ... sentenced to death, banished, or imprisoned for life, like Nelson Mandela. The 1984 constitution opened parliament membership to Asians and Colored ...
Mandela was finally caught in June 1962 in a police trap between Johannesburg and Durban. The Police had no proof he was involved with the Spear of the People. Instead they charged him with minor
offences such as organising strikes and leaving South Africa without a valid passport. However in 1963 the police discovered his connections with the spear of the people when they raided Lilliesleaf farm in 1963 and found papers linking Mandela to them. The Rivonia trial followed and Mandela was charged with ‘recruiting people for training in sabotage and guerrilla warfare for the purpose of violent revolution’. He and 6 others were given life imprisonment. Many expected the punishment to be the death penalty, however there was a lot of media covering the trial and the South African Government was worried by possible worldwide criticism. During the Rivonia Trial 1963-64 Mandela became globally famous for his dignity and quality of his oratory. Although Mandela’s attempt to be a rebel leader failed, it was also a triumph because of the publicity he still got even behind bars he was still making people aware of the poor treatment of blacks during apartheid due to the fact the situation was still being put in world newspapers.
For the majority of his prison sentence, Mandela was on Robben Island. Here he became an international figure. He never gave up and was constantly campaigning for better conditions in the prison. He impressed visitors who came to see him and became a symbol for the struggle against apartheid. In doing this he alerted the world to the struggle against Apartheid and gain support for it. Towards the end of his sentence he was moved to Pollsmoor prison. Then in February 1985 President P.W. Botha offered Mandela conditional release in return for renouncing armed struggle. Mandela refused these terms and was then moved to Victor Verster prison in 1988, where he was released on 11th February 1990. The fact that Mandela refused to get out of prison early was very important because it made it harder for the South African government who were desperately looking for an excuse to release him in this time of oppression. The main architect behind his release was F W De Klerk. He had arranged meetings with Mandela to discuss the terms of his release between 1985 and 1989. Mandela only wanted to be released if the ANC was unbanned and the other ANC members in prison be free alongside him. It is very important that Mandela was willing to compromise with De Klerk after his release to ensure a smooth transition to black majority rule. South Africa could have ended in a major black against white conflict and potentially a civil war could have been on the cards.
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Despite Mandela having a significant role in ending the apartheid, there are also other factors that also contributed and help bring down apartheid. One of which is the weaknesses of Verwoerd’s policy. Like Tomlinson before him, Verwoerd looked forward to the time when, because of developments in the Bantustans, blacks would move to them from the cities and the proportion of white to blacks in the ‘white’ areas would shift to the whites’ advantages. He was confident that by 1978 this shift would be clearly visible. Verwoerd refused to face the realities of South Africa’s economic and population growth. The country’s growing manufacturing industries needed a well-educated and well-trained black workforce living close to their factories. They also wanted a better-off urban black population to buy their products. Since the black population was growing so fast – from 11million in 1960 to 21million in 1980 – his hope for ‘whiter’ cities was a fantasy.
PW Botha began to make small efforts to dismantle apartheid; it was called by Desmond Tutu, ‘mere tinkering with apartheid’. He stood down in 1989 and this was when F W de Klerk came into power. The fact that De Klerk decided to secretly negotiate with Mandela and release him from prison in 1990 was a very clever move. He realised that the reality of daily life in South Africa was that black and white needed to live together and apartheid did not work. De Klerk knew if there was an election, Mandela would be voted PM. They power shared to avoid conflict. In 1990 he announced that the ANC and other organisations would be unbanned. Political prisoners not guilty of violence would be release and that Mandela would be released immediately.
... . The only good thing that can be said about apartheid in South Africa, is that it has lessened, and so has racial ... in Africa today, and it will never fully dissolve. However, apartheid has basically ended. In 1994, it was decided that black Africans ... to participate in the government. Apartheid's followers had lost their hold on black Africans. While apartheid accomplished what it was designed ...
De Klerk also realised that sanctions wouldn’t be lifted if Mandela stayed in prison. One of his main aims was to improve the economy. In 1977 there was the Gleneagle Declaration, which was an agreement that there would be no sporting contact in S.A and the commonwealth. Trade became difficult, countries refused to export with them. Overall investment declined as foreign banks withdrew their funds and cancelled new loans. By 1980 South Africa was spending more money abroad than was coming in from foreign investors. In 1982 the publication Business Environment Risk Information advised businessmen against investing in South Africa as a dangerous risk. By the end of 1987 40% of foreign own companies in South Africa had withdrawn from the country. One of the reasons there were boycotts on Africa was because of the international demands for Mandela to be released, also showing the impact he was making despite the fact he was in prison. When the economy was going wrong, this also reduced white faith in the apartheid system.
Due to the reduced trade and money from other countries it caused an economic crisis within South Africa. The South African economy couldn’t function without black people. The blacks could therefore use economy as a weapon and go on strike, boycott white businesses, ask foreign countries to boycott South Africa. There was also a great deal of pressure on South Africa from other countries and organisations. The United Nations condemned apartheid on many occasions. Between 1946 and 1980 the UN passed 158 resolutions concerning South Africa. However despite this most attempts by the UN to imposed sanctions on South Africa were not successful. This was since many countries wished to continue trading with South Africa. It supplied 83% of platinum, 78% of Manganese and 81% of Chromites. This meant that it was difficult for countries to stop trading with them. Also the rest of Africa’s Economies largely depended upon South Africa as the richest country in Southern Africa. Both President Reagan and Margaret Thatcher did not wish to take part in trade sanctions since they feared it would damage their economies too much and hurt the poor in South Africa.
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Some of the most effective opposition came from the frontline states because they were South Africa’s immediate neighbours. There were countries who felt that they were the worst. The rest of the world felt it was outrageous South Africa was invading its neighbours. The frontline states grew more hostile from the 1970s and South Africa failed to defeat them in the 1980s- in 1988 S.Africa effort collapsed and UN was to supervise provision of new constitution of elections. Frontline States gained independence.
In conclusion, Nelson Mandela was a remarkable individual who was responsible not only for building and leading an effective anti-apartheid movement, but also for helping to build a new free and equal political system to replace Apartheid between 1989-1994. However there were other factors and organisations that had a hand in its collapse. Without the sustained and widespread efforts of Black people in protest against injustice, there would have been little pressure on the National Party to change the system. While President Botha in the 1970’s and 80’s had tried to ignore and repress the anti apartheid movement it was clear that this was only a short term strategy. Internal protest when combined with pressure from the International community was crucial in forcing the white business community and the National Party to finally give in and abandon the system of Apartheid.
Nelson Mandela was important throughout the period 1960-1994 because even during his years in prison, he provided glue that bound together all of the opposition to apartheid in South Africa. He was such a powerful symbol that he helped to mobolise protestors against apartheid everywhere, and to encourage boycotts and sanctions against apartheid. Although it would not be right to say he was solely responsible, I believe it would be fair to say that he was the most important individual. He was determined throughout his life to obtain black rights and rid South Africa of apartheid and he was an iconic symbol in the struggle against apartheid.