Political Transition in South Africa
I am not an expert on most of the things I write guides about, but my information either comes from my own experience, or from a ton of research (and no, Wikipedia is not real research). Like everyone else, I can make mistakes, so if I ever get something wrong, please let me know.
I’m obviously a bit of a history and politics nerd, and I’ve always found the modern transitional period of South Africa to be utterly fascinating but also very misunderstood. In this guide, I will do my best to explain the transition from the Apartheid state to the modern democratic state. Unfortunately, the topic is very specialized and I won’t really be going to the history of Apartheid in South Africa as much as I should, so if you need anything explained, let me know. Most of this guide is based off of a paper I wrote (and got an A on) for a college course, so if you want more details, I can suggest some really great books and articles about the issue.
The institution of Apartheid in South Africa was built on a history of discrimination against blacks and Indians by whites and of the Dutch by the British. Apartheid was established by nationalistic Afrikaner politicians as a way to maintain white supremacy in South Africa. Under Apartheid, starting in 1948 following an electoral victory by the Afrikaner nationalism party, the country was split into four groups, white, Indian, coloured, and black. starting in 1950, everyone over the age of 18 was required to register as a racial group, which was then used to disenfranchise and discriminate against black and coloured South Africans.
The international community, for the most part, did not support Apartheid. Starting in the 1960’s, the United Nations encouraged countries to disinvest from the South Africa, using economic measures and sanctions to try to pressure the South African government into ending Apartheid. South Africa was not allowed to participate in many international events, including the Olympics, FIFA, and most upsetting to the white minority, international rugby and cricket tournaments. Obviously, the use of sanctions was complex and is a whole other guide for another time.
There were two major players in the transitional period, Nelson Mandela (who I’m sure everyone knows about) and F.W. de Klerk, who I consider to be a mix of unsung hero, product of racial politics, and the right guy at the right time. de Klerk was a member of the historically racist and conservative Nationalist Party; Mandela was one of the founders of the banned African National Congress, and he had been sentenced to what amounted to life in prison for his political activities. However, when de Klerk was appointed as the successor to Botha, the old leader of the Nationalist Party, he called for a non-Apartheid South Africa and lifted bans on the ANC.
Starting in 1990, de Klerk and Mandela began to meet in order to work out a peaceful political transition. de Klerk, who, remember, was pretty conservative, wanted a very, very slow transitional period, with an appointed transitional government and a presidency that rotated between white and black South Africans. Mandela wanted a transition that was a single stage of a democratic election. The negotiations did collapse several times, and political groups on the far left and far right boycotted the transition process. However, by 1992, the government and the ANC had reached an agreement and had scheduled South Africa’s first democratic elections for 1994.
Nelson Mandela and the ANC won over 60% of the vote in 1994, bringing about a transition to a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-party South Africa. de Klerk and Mbeki served as his deputies and helped make sure transition went smoothly. Obviously, the transition was not perfect; no transition can be. An ambitious land redistribution campaign never really worked as ANC leaders had intended it to, racist Apartheid politicians were able to have power in the government, and there are still troubling levels of income inequality in South Africa today.
So, if you want to set your roleplay in an interesting time and place, and you care about issues of equality and justice, I hope this very basic guide helps you out. And again, message me if you want good sources for further research.