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In 1910 the two Boer republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State and the two British colonies of the Cape and Natal formed the Union of South Africa. Four lawyers founded the Natal African National Congress in 1912. Africans were pushed into slums by the 1913 Land Act, the 1923 Urban Areas Act, the 1926 Color Bar Act, and the 1927 Native Administration Act. The Congress began protesting the pass laws in 1919 when 700 demonstrators in Johannesburg went to prison. Two years later soldiers massacred 163 blacks for refusing to vacate white land in the eastern Cape. In 1922 thousands of striking miners marched in Johannesburg; Prime Minister J. C. Smuts called in the army and air force, and 153 strikers were killed with more than five hundred wounded. During the 1930s General Barry Hertzog led the National Party, and after gaining two-thirds of the parliament he removed the last 11,000 black voters from the rolls in the Cape. A bill allowed Cape Town blacks to elect seven white representatives in parliament and twelve blacks to the advisory Native Representation Council. The African National Congress (ANC) elected the physician Albert Xuma president in 1940.
Albert Luthuli was born in 1898 in Rhodesia; ten years later his father died, and his family returned to South Africa. Albert was educated by American Congregational missionaries, and from 1921 to 1935 he taught teachers at Adams College. To reconcile Christianity with his Zulu heritage he sponsored a cultural society for the study of Zulu folklore. He became the Zulu chief of 5,000 people at Umvoti in 1936 but continued to preach every Sunday.
Nelson Mandela was born July 18, 1918 in Umtata, capital of the Transkei in South Africa. His father was a chief of the Thembu people in the Xhosa nation and had four wives; after losing his fortune and his title, he died when Nelson was nine years old. Nelson studied English as well as Xhosa. In 1937 he went to the Wesleyan College at Healdtown before studying law at Fort Hare, the only university open to blacks in South Africa. The food was so terrible that Mandela resigned during a protest. He returned to the Transkei; but when the regent arranged a marriage for him and his friend Justice, both young men decided to run away instead and went to Johannesburg. Mandela completed his B.A. degree in 1942.
Moved by the democratic principles of the Atlantic Charter signed by Roosevelt and Churchill, the African National Congress (ANC) formulated African Claims demanding full citizenship for Africans. Anton Lembede spoke and wrote to get people to think of themselves as Africans, instead of as Xhosas or Zulus, and to overcome their feelings of inferiority by looking to heroes such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and Haile Selassie. At the ANC conference in December 1943 they proposed forming a Youth League and did so on Easter Sunday in 1944. Lembede was elected its president, Oliver Tambo secretary, and Walter Sisulu treasurer; the executive committee included A. P. Mda and Nelson Mandela. The Youth League rejected communism as a foreign ideology. In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela admitted that he went so far as to break up Communist Party meetings by tearing up signs and capturing the microphone. Lembede, Sisulu, and Mandela wanted to exclude whites from the League, but others such as Tambo disagreed. Communist J. B. Marks led a successful strike of 70,000 miners and in 1945 was elected president of the League.
Luthuli joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1945. That year he was elected to the Native Representative Council, and they demanded the government abolish all discriminatory laws. At its annual convention in December 1945 the ANC drew up a bill of rights for full citizenship. Prime Minister J. C. Smuts appointed the Fagan Commission, which reported in 1948 that complete segregation in South Africa was not only undesirable but also impossible. When the Smuts government passed the Asiatic Land Tenure Act in 1946, the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) and the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) launched a two-year campaign of nonviolent resistance in which two thousand people went to jail. The leaders, Drs. Dadoo and Naicker, were sentenced to six months hard labor. While Dr. Xuma was speaking at the United Nations, the Youth Leaguers organized an ANC boycott of the Native Representative Council. Xuma opposed this and Lembede's call to boycott the visit of British royalty in 1947, but the charismatic Lembede died of a stomach ailment. That year Mandela was elected to the executive committee of the Transvaal ANC. In 1948 Luthuli spent nine months lecturing to churches, schools, and fraternal organizations in the United States, warning that communism, Islam, materialism, and secularism were threatening the soul of Africa. He recommended combining Christianity with African culture.
In the 1948 elections Dr. Malan's National Party won a large plurality over the United party of General Smuts and began to implement its apartheid policy that denied Africans permanent residence in the towns. Malan pardoned those who had supported Nazi Germany, and his government took the vote away from the Coloreds (Africans of mixed race). Mixed marriages were prohibited in 1949, and the Immorality Act made sexual relations between white and nonwhite a crime. The Population Registration Act defined all South Africans by race, and the Group Areas Act restricted where they could live under the apartheid system. The Youth League demanded that Dr. Xuma, the ANC president, support a program of action, or they would elect someone else. He refused, and Dr. Moroka was elected president and Sisulu secretary-general. Mandela could not get permission from his law firm to attend the 1949 conference, but Oliver Tambo was elected to the national executive committee. The Communist Party and the Indian Congress proposed a general strike for May 1, 1950 and the ANC convention approved the Freedom Day. The South Africa government then passed the Suppression of Communism Act, which made any protest of state policy illegal. On May 1, Malan sent in 2,000 police to disperse protestors, and their guns killed eighteen people.
The ANC planned a national day of protest for June 26, 1950 and was supported by the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) and the African People's Party (APO). Nelson Mandela was won over to multi-racial nationalism and coordinated the various actions from the office by phone. Because he had a driver's license, Mandela was chosen to deliver a letter to Prime Minister Malan demanding repeal of six unjust laws by the end of February, 1952. Luthuli had been elected president of the Natal branch of the African National Congress in May 1951, and a year later they announced a defiance campaign with the SAIC and the communist-influenced white Congress of Democrats. The Indians had past experience under Mahatma Gandhi's leadership and were influenced by his son Manilal Gandhi. Mandela accepted nonviolence as a tactic as long as it was effective. A banned person could not meet with any designated organizations and was allowed to speak to only one person at a time without risking imprisonment. After J. B. Marks was banned, Mandela was elected president of the Youth League.
The first stage of the Defiance Campaign included entering prohibited areas without permits, using "Whites Only" facilities, and staying in town after curfew. On June 26, 1952 some 250 ANC leaders risked arrest by infringing color-bar regulations, and in the next five months more than eight thousand people went to prison without a single incident of violence on their side. The volunteers refused to pay bail or a fine. The police raided the offices and homes of ANC and Indian leaders on July 30, and two weeks later they arrested Dr. Moroka, Mandela, Sisulu, Marks, Dadoo, Yusuf Cachalia, Ahmed Kathrada, and thirteen other leaders for "promoting communism." By then they were bailing out. Although the campaign had no full-time organizers, during this period ANC membership increased from 20,000 to 100,000. Mandela and Tambo formed a law partnership in August, and they had much work defending Africans from prosecution by apartheid laws. In October and November the police killed several Africans, and blacks killed a few white civilians. Luthuli was ordered by the secretary of Native Affairs, Dr. Eiselen, to resign from the ANC or from his chieftainship. He refused, and the Native Commissioner dismissed Chief Luthuli in November 1952; he was banned from all South African towns for a year. The next month Luthuli was elected president of the ANC with Mandela as the deputy from the Transvaal. Luthuli disagreed with communists such as Walter Sisulu, but he accepted them as allies in the struggle for social justice. During the Cold War he agreed with the neutral foreign policy of India's prime minister Nehru. In December after a trial Justice Rumpff sentenced the twenty leaders to nine months but suspended them for two years.
The South African government banned the ANC in the reserves (bantustans); 52 leaders were banned for six months, and Mandela was forbidden to leave Johannesburg. Mandela suggested a strategy that was called the M-Plan so that they could communicate from small cells by street up to ANC branches. Government authorities threatened to evict Mandela and Tambo from their law office because of the Urban Areas Act. In 1953 the ANC called off the resistance campaign so as not to help the National Party in the elections. The Public Safety Act authorized the minister of Native Affairs to suspend civil liberties, and the Criminal Laws Amendment Act set punishments of three years' imprisonment for any protests against laws and five years for inciting others to do so. Soon after Luthuli's first ban expired, he was banned again for two years. Mandela began to question whether violence would be needed to overturn the power of the white minority; but he was reprimanded by the ANC executive committee and agreed to defend the policy of nonviolence in public. He urged Walter Sisulu to ask the People's Republic of China for weapons, but the Chinese rejected the request. In April 1954 the Law Society of the Transvaal tried to disbar Mandela because of his political activities, but expert lawyers working for free won his case in court. Efforts by the ANC and the TIC were unable to stop the government from using 4,000 police and soldiers to remove more than 60,000 people from Johannesburg's popular communities of Sophiatown, Martindale, and Newclare in February 1955 even though ten thousand people had gathered to hear Chief Luthuli speak.
The parliament had passed the Bantu Education Act in 1953, and the Native Affairs minister Hendrik Verwoerd said that the Bantu needed no education in European society above a certain level of labor. In protest of the government take-over, Bishop Ambrose Reeves closed his schools in Johannesburg that had ten thousand students. The transfer to the Native Affairs department was scheduled for April 1955, and the ANC planned a boycott. Schools were improvised, and the government made offering unauthorized education a crime.
Professor Zachariah Matthews suggested drawing up a Freedom Charter for all Africans. A coalition of groups formed the Congress of the People (COP) and chose Luthuli as chairman with Sisulu (ANC), Yusuf Cachalia (SAIC), Stanley Lollan (South African Colored People's Organization), and Lionel Bernstein (Congress of Democrats) as secretaries. The South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) was formed in March 1955 and collected workers' demands for the Charter. After widespread and extensive discussions, three thousand delegates, including three hundred Indians, two hundred coloreds, and one hundred whites, met at Kliptown near Johannesburg in June and agreed on the Freedom Charter before the police disbanded them after two days of meetings. The preamble reads as follows:
We, the People of South Africa,
declare for all our country and the world to know:
that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white,
and that no government can justly claim authority
unless it is based on the will of all the people;
that our people have been robbed of their birthright
to land, liberty and peace by a form of government
founded on injustice and inequality;
that our country will never be prosperous or free
until all our people live in brotherhood,
enjoying equal rights and opportunities;
that only a democratic state, based on the will of all the people,
can secure to all their birthright
without distinction of colour, race, sex or belief;
And therefore, we, the people of South Africa,
black and white together-equals, countrymen and brothers
adopt this Freedom Charter;
And we pledge ourselves to strive together,
sparing neither strength nor courage,
until the democratic changes here set out have been won.1
Because communists in the Congress of Democrats had also participated, the government of South Africa prepared treason charges. Although the Freedom Charter called for national mineral wealth to be restored to the people and industries be controlled to benefit the people, it also stated, "All people shall have equal rights to trade where they choose, to manufacture and to enter all trades, crafts, and professions."2 On September 27, 1955 more than a thousand police officers raided the homes and offices of five hundred people. In March 1956 Mandela was banned for five years. After pass laws were extended to women, the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) was formed, and 20,000 women protested at Pretoria in August. In December the police arrested 156 leaders, including Mandela and Luthuli. The Congress responded by organizing a bus boycott in which 45,000 people walked to work for three months, and to avoid a general strike the government required employers to subsidize the bus fares.
In 1957 the ANC Women's League became active, and about two thousand women were arrested at the Central Pass Office in Johannesburg. They stayed in prison for two weeks before bailing out, and Mandela and Tambo defended most of them in court. Luthuli said, "When the women begin to take an active part in the struggle, no power on earth can stop us from achieving freedom in our lifetime."3 At the end of 1957 the government dropped the treason charges against Luthuli and sixty others because they failed to prove a Communist conspiracy or the use of violence; a year later charges were dropped on 64 more, leaving thirty on trial. Luthuli spoke to audiences of all races emphasizing the dignity of the individual and the importance of defending it. When Chief Luthuli was assaulted at an Afrikaans university, Henderik Claasens was sentenced to three months and a fine. The treason trial went on for three more years. The evidence on Mandela amounted to 400 pages; Capetown university professor Murray testified on Marxism for 23 days, and Chief Luthuli was a defense witness for three weeks. Luthuli distinguished the nonviolent from pacifists who refuse to defend themselves; he believed that nonviolent men and nations have a right to defend themselves when attacked.
After Mandela's wife Evelyn became too dissatisfied because of Nelson's dedication to the freedom movement, they decided to divorce. Mandela was attracted to young Winnie and married her in June 1958. That year another general election occurred in which three million whites could vote while thirteen million Africans were excluded. The ANC, other Congresses, and SACTU called for a three-day strike during the April elections. They campaigned against the National Party; but the strike was a failure, and the Nationals increased their popular vote by more than ten percent.
Luthuli believed in a multi-racial society, but Africanists wanted Africa for Africans only. At the 1958 ANC conference Luthuli's leadership survived a challenge by the Africanists who believed that white communists and Indians were dominating the ANC; so they formed the Pan-African Congress (PAC) under the leadership of Robert Sobukwe in April 1959. That month Luthuli proposed a boycott of farms and factories owned by National party supporters. The potato boycott was most effective, and some manufacturing concerns made concessions. Luthuli published "Boycott Us" to encourage those in other countries to boycott South African goods even though it meant sacrifices for the Africans. He hoped that nonviolent methods would reconcile the races and prevent the country's destruction. Luthuli was banned again in May 1959, this time for five years. In 1959 the parliament of South Africa created eight isolated bantustans for different ethnic groups, and they excluded non-whites from universities. Now 70% of the population was confined to 13% of the land. People in Sekhukhuneland refused to pay taxes; their main chief and other counselors were arrested or banished, and the new chief was perceived as a government puppet and was assassinated. In February 1960 British prime minister Harold Macmillan spoke to the South African Parliament and urged them to change their racial policies because "winds of change" were liberating Africans. Seventeen former colonies in Africa were scheduled to become independent states in 1960. Demonstrations against requiring passes for women were provoking clashes with the police.
At their conference in December 1959 the ANC agreed to begin a nation-wide anti-pass campaign on March 31, 1960, but the Pan-African Congress launched their campaign to resist the Pass Laws on March 21. Their leaders turned themselves in at the Orlando police station, and Sobukwe was sentenced to three years in prison. On the first day 75 police fired on thousands of unarmed demonstrators at Sharpeville in the Transvaal, killing 69 Africans and wounding 178. News reports of the Sharpeville massacre spread around the world, and for the first time the United Nations Security Council condemned South Africa. Luthuli was testifying for the defense at the treason trial in Pretoria. He immediately called for Africans to stay home from work on March 28 to mourn the victims, and he publicly burned his Reference Book on March 26. Arrests for Pass Law violations were suspended the next day. Mandela and many Africans destroyed their Reference Books on March 28, but most renewed them a week later. The Pan-Africanists called for continued resistance, and some churches and schools were burned. On March 30 the Government declared a state of emergency and arrested 234 people; Luthuli, who had a weak heart, was assaulted by a prison guard and was taken to a hospital. Oliver Tambo escaped and found political asylum in Bechuanaland. On April 5 the South African Parliament banned both the Pan-African Congress and the ANC. More than two thousand people were detained without being given trials. In April the thirty defendants in the treason trial dismissed their lawyers as Mandela and Duma Nokwe began defending themselves and the others. During the emergency they were held in the Pretoria jail.
South Africa lifted the state of emergency on August 31, 1960, but more than 5,000 people were still being detained. Luthuli was sentenced that day for burning his Reference Book; but already having been imprisoned for five months, he was released on condition that he not commit a similar offense for three years. The Government implemented its Bantu administration and replaced traditional chiefs with those loyal to the Government. At the All-African Convention at Pietermaritzburg on March 25, 1961 Mandela was allowed to speak to an audience for the first time in five years, and Luthuli recommended defiance of apartheid and "active sacrificial service." The chief urged the Commonwealth prime ministers meeting at London to expel South Africa from the Commonwealth, and at Capetown the South African Colored People's Congress nominated Luthuli for president of the newly forming republic of South Africa. On March 29, 1961 the long treason trial finally ended as Justice Rumpff announced acquittals for all the accused. Mandela sent a letter to Prime Minister Verwoerd demanding a national constitutional convention or they would stage a three-day strike from May 29 to the day South Africa was to be proclaimed a republic. Mandela advocated the stay-at-home tactic because the enemy could not easily strike back.
Nelson Mandela went underground and disguised himself as a chauffeur or gardener to avoid detection. He began suggesting a turn toward violent methods. Although the Communist Party was considering forming a military wing, at a meeting in June their secretary Moses Kotane believed the nonviolent methods could work if they were imaginative and determined enough, warning Mandela that violence could provoke the enemy into massacring innocent people. Chief Luthuli insisted that the ANC remain nonviolent, but he said that Mandela and others were free to form an independent military movement. The Communist Party decided to support an armed effort, but the Indian leaders wanted to stay with nonviolence. J. N. Singh said, "Nonviolence has not failed us; we have failed nonviolence."4 Mandela joined with communist Joe Slovo and Walter Sisulu to form the Spear of the Nation (Umkhonto we Sizwe or MK). Their strategy was to begin with sabotage that would damage the state but not be violent to individual persons, and they recruited demolitions experts. On December 16 when South Africans were celebrating Dingane's Day, MK attacked electric power plants and government offices in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, and Durban with home-made bombs; one of their men was accidentally killed. At the same time the MK Manifesto was distributed in leaflets explaining their national liberation movement. Ironically, Albert Luthuli had just returned from Oslo, where he had received the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 1961.
Mandela managed to escape the police for seventeen months. In February 1962 he attended the Pan African Freedom Movement for East, Central, and Southern Africa (PAFMECSA) conference in Addis Ababa. From Ethiopia he traveled to Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Guinea, and Uganda, raising money and support for the armed struggle. In London he stayed with Oliver Tambo, who had set up ANC offices there and in Ghana, Egypt, and Tanganyika. Mandela went back to Addis Ababa for eight weeks of military training. In June 1962 South Africa enacted the Sabotage Act with penalties ranging from five years to death. Returning to South Africa in July, Mandela met secretly at Liliesleaf Farm with Sisulu, Kotane, Govan Mbeki, Dan Tloome, J. B. Marks, and Duma Nokwe. He visited Luthuli at Groutville, and disguised as Cecil Williams' chauffeur they headed for Johannesburg; but on August 5th police cars stopped them and arrested Mandela. In prison he found that Walter Sisulu had also been arrested.
Mandela chose to defend himself and asked Joe Slovo to be his legal advisor. While he was awaiting trial in prison, the MK sabotage campaign was led by Raymond Mhlaba and Joe Modise. The banned African National Congress (ANC) held its conference in Bechuanaland in October, the month of Mandela's trial. He was not charged with any violence, and in his trial he accused the government of being the criminals; he was sentenced to three years for inciting a strike plus two years for leaving South Africa without a passport. He joined Sobukwe in the Pretoria prison. Sisulu was sentenced to six years; but he appealed and was released on bail. The movement advised him to go underground, and Sisulu did so. Meanwhile the United Nations General Assembly had voted for sanctions against South Africa for the first time.
In May 1963 the government of South Africa enacted what was called the Ninety-Day Detention Law, authorizing the detaining of any person without a warrant for ninety days, which could be extended indefinitely. When Sobukwe's sentence ended, he was redetained and sent to Robben Island, where he was isolated in a cottage for six more years. Mandela was also transferred to the island. In July the police captured most of the MK commanders at Liliesleaf in Rivonia. Mandela was also charged with sabotage along with Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni, Bob Hepple, Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi, Dennis Goldberg, Rusty Bernstein, and Jimmy Kantor. Arthur Goldreich and Harold Wolpe escaped from prison along with two Indians.
The Rivonia trial began in December, and the state called 173 witnesses. They were tried for sabotage and conspiracy because these were much easier to prove than treason under South African law. The charges included sabotage, guerrilla warfare, conspiracy to aid invasion by foreign military, and soliciting and receiving funds from foreign countries for these purposes. As they each pleaded not guilty, they accused the government of being criminal. In his long statement Mandela admitted that he had planned sabotage, but he denied that they had moved on to the second step of guerrilla warfare. He emphasized that they were still committed to not harming human life. He concluded with the following words:
During my lifetime I have dedicated myself
to this struggle of the African people.
I have fought against white domination,
and I have fought against black domination.
I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society
in which all persons live together
in harmony and with equal opportunities.
It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.
But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.5
Most of the defendants expected that the gallows was likely. However, Justice de Wet had been appointed by the party of Smuts; all the defendants decided not to appeal even if they got the death penalty. He found Kantor and Bernstein not guilty but sentenced all the others to life imprisonment.
On Robben Island all the warders and none of the prisoners were white. Mandela and the other Africans and Indians from the ANC decided to continue their fight against apartheid in the prison. To avoid pressure to work faster, they worked at half speed. Blacks were given short trousers and were treated like boys. Mandela asked for long ones; but when given them he refused to wear them unless all the blacks were given long trousers. Rules preventing communication were strict. Each prisoner was only allowed two visits and two letters per year; they had to be immediate family members, and anything but family matters was censored. The prisoners used bribery and blackmail just to get a daily newspaper. They worked in the limestone quarry for thirteen years, but after 1966 they were allowed to talk while they worked. They struggled to improve their conditions and to be able to study for degrees. Mandela wrote that the only organization that really responded to their complaints was the International Red Cross. The ANC prisoners supported a hunger strike by other prisoners without even knowing what the issue was; but fasting was usually ineffective because they could not alert people on the outside. Winnie Mandela had difficulties trying to visit her husband Nelson, and she lost two jobs as a social worker. In May 1969 she was charged under the 1967 Terrorism Act and was detained for seventeen months. Section 6 of the Terrorism Act allowed the police to detain and interrogate anyone suspected of terrorism or of withholding information related to terrorism.
The political prisoners formed their own university. Walter Sisulu taught the history of the ANC, Ahmed Kathrada the history of the Indian struggle, and Mandela political economy. Mandela also used his legal skills to help some inmates with their appeals. Once Mandela was taunted into threatening a warder and was going to be charged; but he responded by indicting the racist prison system as a whole, and the prosecutor withdrew the case. Mandela worked at night writing his memoirs, and Mac Maharaj smuggled out a complete copy upon his release in 1976. They buried the originals in three parts in the garden; but one of them was discovered, and Mandela, Sisulu, and Kathrada lost their study privileges for four years. Also in 1976 the minister of prisons, Jimmy Kruger, came and offered Mandela a shorter sentence if he would recognize the Transkei government of his nephew K. D. Matanzima; but Mandela disagreed with the collaboration of his nephew and declined. After the Soweto uprising, young people from the South African Students' Organization (SASO) and the Black People's Convention (BPC) began arriving at Robben Island. They had radical attitudes and considered the older prisoners too moderate. Mandela welcomed them, and SASO leader "Terror" Lekota and others decided to join the ANC. They were in the second year of a go-slow work strike and began demanding an end to all manual labor.
On May 16, 1977 Winnie Mandela was banished to the Brandfort township. In June 1978 the ANC guerrilla fighter Solomon Mahlangu was sentenced to death, and he was executed on April 6, 1979. The Robben Island prison began broadcasting their censored version of the news in 1978. Some newspapers with numerous holes were allowed, and movies were occasionally shown. In 1979 discrimination in the meals was ended, and the Africans, Indians, and Colored all got the same food. Because almost all the prisoners were now political, the siphoning off of the better food by kitchen workers decreased. India selected Mandela for its Nehru Human Rights award. In 1980 the ANC began a "Free Mandela" campaign, and the MK stepped up its sabotage activities. In reaction P. W. Botha and General Magnus Malan militarized the country with their "total onslaught" policy. When Matanzima deposed the Transkei king Sabata, Mandela advised supporting Sabata and because of popular sentiment refused to meet with his nephew.
Stephen Bantu Biko was born on December 18, 1946 at King William's Town in the Cape Province. After his older brother was arrested, Steve was expelled from Lovedale High School in 1963. He graduated from St. Francis College boarding school in 1966 and began studying medicine at Natal University. Biko was elected to the Students' Representative Council (SRC) and worked with the multi-racial National Union of South African Students (NUSAS), but he complained it was dominated by white liberals. In 1968 he was elected the first president of the all-black South African Students' Organization (SASO); they included the Indians and Colored (mixed race) who were categorized as non-white in the apartheid system. Their purposes were to help the non-white students make known their grievances, establish their identity, protect their interests, heighten their confidence, and solve their problems.
For the SASO newsletter Biko wrote a regular column called "I Write What I Like" which was often signed by Frank Talk. In 1971 he wrote an article about how fear is used in South African politics. Once the Europeans had cruelly imposed themselves on the Africans, fear was used to perpetuate their domination. Attempts by blacks to protest were intimidated by security visits, banning orders, house arrests, and worse. Europeans were not respected for such injustices, but they were feared. Whites claimed an exclusive monopoly on comfort and security. Yet because of their greed for power and wealth, they continued to feel insecure. Biko criticized blacks who agreed to prop up such a system. In a paper on Black Consciousness, he urged them "to operate as a group in order to rid themselves of the shackles that bind them to perpetual servitude."6 He argued that blacks cannot reform a system that implies acceptance of its injustice; instead blacks must completely transform the system. In South Africa the whites were the haves, and the blacks were the have-nots. The one major force that Black Consciousness had to challenge was white racism. Biko also wrote on black theology within the context of the black man's suffering.
After completing three years of study, Biko was dismissed from the university in 1972. He was a leader in the Black Consciousness movement, and in July they formed the Black Peoples' Convention (BPC). Biko began working for Black Community Programs (BCP) in Durban and contributed to the Black Review. In February 1973 several SASO and BPC officials were banned; Biko was restricted to King William's Town for five years. He founded the Eastern Cape branch of BCP and worked as branch executive until he was banned from doing that also at the end of 1975. That year he founded the Zimele Trust Fund to support political prisoners and their families and the Ginsberg Educational Trust to help black students. In 1975 Biko was one of many black militants detained for 137 days without being charged.
When Mozambique was near its independence from Portugal in 1974, rallies were organized in South Africa. On the evening before the rallies of September 25, Minister of Justice Jimmy Kruger announced that SASO and BPC were banned until October 20. Nearly five thousand people gathered outside Curries Fountain Stadium in Durban. The police released dogs, and many fleeing people were arrested and injured. Police raided the SASO offices in October and arrested SASO and BPC activists. Nine people including Lekota were eventually indicted and were held in jail for nearly sixteen months as the trial went on for 136 days with 61 state witnesses and 21 for the defense. They were charged under the Terrorism Act, which states that a person is guilty of terrorism if he (or she) "with intent to endanger the maintenance of law and order in the Republic or elsewhere, commits any act or attempts to commit any act."7 This Act also placed the burden on the accused to prove that one did not have such intent. Although no physical act of terrorism was alleged, the nine were prosecuted for the ideas of "black consciousness" which the government feared could cause terrorism.
Biko had not been charged because he was already restricted to King William's Town; but as the foremost proponent of Black Consciousness he testified for the defense for four and a half days during the first week of May 1976. He explained that black people were oppressed by "institutionalized machinery" that caused them to develop in a state of alienation. He said they tried to get blacks to grapple with their problems by "conscientization." They asked foreign investors to help build up the humanity of blacks, and they encouraged foreign companies to criticize South Africa's racist policies. For Africa he suggested, "As black people live in Europe on terms laid down by Europeans, whites shall be subjected to the same conditions."8 He said they believed that voting should be on the basis of one person, one vote, and they advocated the economic sharing of black communalism. He also explained that they were committed to using peaceful means. Finally in December 1976 Justice Boshoff found all the defendants not guilty of eleven counts because SASO and BPC were not revolutionary organizations; but he convicted them of conspiracy to commit acts that would further racial hostility and for holding rallies in support of the Mozambique liberation movement (FRELIMO). He sentenced six of the defendants to six years and the other three to five years. Since 1950 more than 40,000 Africans had been incarcerated under the repressive apartheid system.
The government of South Africa was spending more than six times as much for each white student than it did for each black student. In 1974 the government began to deliver textbooks in the Afrikaner language, and students organized to protest in 1975. On June 16, 1976 about 15,000 schoolchildren in Soweto rallied against the government's attempt to impose the Afrikaner language on half their classes. The demonstration was peaceful until the police began shooting and killed a student. Then the children fought with sticks and stones, and riots spread in the townships of South Africa. Students boycotted the schools. On August 4, about ten thousand adults joined 12,000 students in the first major political strike in South Africa since 1961. Many black schoolchildren were shot by police, and 700 people had been killed by October 1977; 2,430 students were being detained. Students organized against proposed rent increases in Soweto, and the Government's control was replaced by the more democratic Committee of Ten. Biko recommended smaller demonstrations but more of them so that the police would not kill so many people. He believed that boycotts were helpful and pointed to the sports policies adopted by most countries toward South Africa's apartheid.
After being arrested in August 1976, Biko was detained for 101 days. A few days after his release he sent a memo to and met with US Senator Dick Clark on American policy toward Azania, which is what he called South Africa. The memo urged President Jimmy Carter to reverse US policies and implied that he could use trade boycotts, an arms embargo, and withdrawal of investments even though Biko was prohibited for calling for such things. Biko suggested that the United States could demand the release of political prisoners and stop tolerating bantustan leaders such as Gatcha Buthelezi, Matanzima, and Lucas Mangope. Biko rejected the division into Zulus, Xhosas, and Pedis but wanted to unite the Africans of Azania against their common enemy. Biko was arrested and released again in March and July 1977; he was never accused of any violence, and he was never convicted of a crime.
Biko's last arrest was on August 18, 1977 when his car was stopped at a roadblock outside of King William's Town. He was kept naked and manacled in the Port Elizabeth jail for the next twenty days. When a magistrate visited him on September 1, he complained that he had not been allowed to wash. On September 6 the police interrogated Biko from 10:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. All night he was left handcuffed with a leg chained to the wall. The next morning at 7 a.m. he was released from the handcuffs and manacle but was given several blows to the head, apparently causing the brain damage that led to his death six days later. After being examined by doctors and spending time in the prison hospital, on September 11 he was put into a land rover naked and manacled and driven 740 miles to Pretoria, where he was left on the floor of a cell and died after several hours. Pathologists reported that the cause of death was the three brain lesions from blows to the head. Biko's funeral was attended by 15,000 people despite police efforts that kept thousands more away. Bishop Desmond Tutu spoke about how injustice and oppression can dehumanize both victims and perpetrators.
Biko was the 46th detainee to die while being interrogated by South African police since the detention law of 1963, but no one was ever charged for these homicides. Donald Woods, editor of the Daily Dispatch, became a close friend of Biko and wrote a personal biography. He praised Biko for his wisdom, humor, compassion, understanding, brilliancy of intellect, unselfishness, modesty, and courage. He noted how Biko would sit in the back during meetings and after others had spoken would offer incisive suggestions that others would accept. Woods tried to persuade South African authorities that Biko was a man of peace who was standing up for his principles and could be a moderating influence in bringing about the reconciliation needed. Instead of heeding this advice, the government began investigating Woods and banned him on October 19, 1977. He wrote his book about Biko secretly and then escaped from South African with his family.
Steve Biko saw the Black Consciousness movement as a way to emancipate the entire continent of Africa by making whites realize they are not superior but human and blacks that they are not inferior but also human. When a reporter noted that most blacks are really brown, Biko replied that whites are actually pink. Biko was committed to using only nonviolent methods. The Black Peoples' Convention (BPC) operated within the law. Thus it was not a communist organization and had no military wing.
In April 1982 Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Raymond Mhlaba, and Andrew Mlangeni were transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor prison in a suburb of Cape Town. In August the ANC activist Ruth First was murdered by a letter bomb. In December the ANC's MK used bombs to damage the unfinished Koeberg nuclear power plant and other military targets of the apartheid regime. That month the South African army killed 42 people while attacking the ANC outpost in Maseru, Lesotho. In May 1983 MK used its first car bomb against a military intelligence officer in Pretoria. In November, P. W. Botha's referendum to form chambers in Parliament for Indians and Colored was passed by white voters; but they could be vetoed by the white portion of the Parliament, and eighty percent of Indian and Colored voters boycotted the election to these two houses in 1984. The colored priest Allan Boesak had called a meeting that led to the forming of the United Democratic Front (UDF) with delegates from three hundred civic associations, churches, unions, student groups, and sports bodies. They opposed the racially separate chambers that excluded black Africans.
Mandela told visiting dignitaries that he wanted a non-racial South Africa without segregation by homelands and with one-person-one-vote for a nonracial Parliament. He called the concessions that repealed some apartheid laws such as the Mixed Marriages Act and the Immorality Act a "pinprick," warning that the ANC could make governing difficult even if it could not win a military victory. Yet Mandela indicated that he wanted the whites to continue to live in South Africa after they shared power with the Africans. When Americans asked Mandela why he did not stay with the nonviolence of Martin Luther King, he reminded them that the United States had constitutional guarantees to protect equal rights; but South Africa was a police state based on inequality that used force against nonviolent protests. He noted that even Jesus used some force to expel the moneychangers from the temple.
Violence increased in 1984. In October a force of 7,000 police and soldiers raided nearly 20,000 homes and arrested 350 people. The UDF organized a massive stay-away-from-work-and-school day on November 5 in the Transvaal, and 6,000 of the 800,000 strikers lost their jobs. By the end of the year 160 people had been killed, and more than a thousand were detained. On January 31, 1985 President Botha announced in Parliament that he would release Mandela if he "unconditionally rejected violence as a political instrument." Mandela rejected the offer and sent a message that was read by his daughter Zindzi to a cheering UDF rally at the Soweto stadium, asking Botha to renounce violence, dismantle apartheid, unban the ANC, free political prisoners, and guarantee free political activity. While Mandela was having a prostate operation, he was casually visited by Kobie Coetsee, the minister of justice. Next Mandela was transferred to a large three-room cell by himself. He sent a letter to Coetsee suggesting talks.
Meanwhile demonstrations continued to be suppressed violently; 879 people were killed in 1985, and 1,298 in 1986. Some blacks had taken to "necklacing" those they considered traitors by burning a car tire around their necks. At a black funeral Bishop Desmond Tutu saved a suspected informer from being murdered by a mob. Tutu had been given the Nobel Peace Prize for 1984, and in August 1985 he defied the ban to lead a funeral procession in Daveyton, pleading with the officers for pity and the dignity of a burial. Pope John Paul II criticized apartheid, and the US House of Representatives voted 380-48 for economic sanctions against South Africa. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) was founded in December 1985.
At the beginning of 1986 Oliver Tambo promised that South Africa would continue to be ungovernable until apartheid was destroyed and power was transferred. Seven eminent persons from the British Commonwealth conference visited Mandela, who advised them to see Tambo in Lusaka because he was the head of the movement. Mandela proposed that if the government withdrew its soldiers and police from the townships, the ANC might suspend the armed struggle to prepare for talks. More than a hundred thousand blacks had been arrested for pass violations the previous year; but in April the pass laws were repealed, and those people were released. However, Botha ordered air raids on ANC bases in Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, and on June 12 he declared a state of emergency. Mandela contacted the head of the prisons and asked to see Coetsee again. Mandela wrote to Tambo that he was negotiating only to set up a meeting between the ANC executive committee and the South African government. Mandela had meetings for months with government officials, discussing such issues as giving up the armed struggle and socialism. He explained that the ANC was only defending itself from violence and that they would prefer to use peaceful methods if the state renounced violence. He believed that the Freedom Charter called for "African-style capitalism" and that he had not changed his mind. He did not want to drive the whites into the sea but promised to respect the rights of the minority.
Mandela complained about dampness in his cell, and in 1988 he was taken to a hospital to be treated for tuberculosis. In December he was moved to a comfortable warder's house and was allowed a cook. In January 1989 P. W. Botha suffered a stroke; the next month he resigned as head of the National party but continued as state president. By the beginning of 1989 more than 30,000 political activists had been jailed in the last two and a half years. In February they went on a nationwide hunger strike, and most of those detained were released. The UDF allied with the COSATU to form the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) and began planning civil disobedience to challenge apartheid. F. W. de Klerk became president of South Africa in August 1989, and in September he allowed Tutu and Boesak to lead a big march in Cape Town. In October he released all the ANC leaders except Mandela, and they were not banned from speaking.
Early in 1990 the ANC secretary general Alfred Nzo admitted that they could no longer depend on Soviet support for a war against Pretoria. On February 2 de Klerk announced in Parliament the lifting of the bans against the ANC, the PAC, the Communist Party, and 31 other organizations. Nelson Mandela was released at Cape Town on February 11 to jubilant crowds. At a press conference he expressed his loyalty to the African National Congress (ANC). Reflecting on his 27 years in prison, he said that his anger toward whites diminished while his hatred of the apartheid system increased. He noticed that poverty and conditions had worsened in many ways. At a Soweto stadium he asked students to return to school, pleaded for less crime, and said there could be no freedom without civility and peace. Rivalry between Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the ANC caused violence between Zulus, killing 230 people in March. Mandela asked them to end the war. On March 26 the police killed twelve demonstrators, and Mandela suspended the talks with de Klerk. Mandela met with African leaders at Lusaka and toured Africa. He visited Robben Island to persuade 25 MK prisoners to accept the government's pardon.
Preliminary talks with the government began in May 1990, and Joe Slovo of the Communist Party and MK commander Joe Modise were allowed to participate. The state of emergency was lifted except in Natal. Mandela traveled abroad to promote continuation of the sanctions against apartheid South Africa. He met with British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and in New York city he was cheered by a million people. He addressed a joint session of the United States Congress, talked with President George H. W. Bush, spoke before Canada's Parliament, and met with Prime Minister Mulroney. The death toll in South Africa from political violence reached a high of 3,460 in 1990, and in July about forty ANC members were arrested. Slovo suggested that the ANC suspend the armed struggle for the negotiations, and Mandela supported that. On August 6 the ANC and the government agreed on the Pretoria Minute. Mandela learned of collusion between the Inkatha Party and the security forces that had caused many murders. In December the ANC held a conference in Johannesburg with more than fifteen hundred delegates.
Mandela met with Buthelezi to reduce the violence, but neither the Inkatha party nor the ANC members kept the accord. The ANC asked de Klerk to dismiss two ministers, ban the carrying of weapons in public, dismantle secret counterinsurgency units, and investigate misconduct by security forces; when he refused, the ANC suspended the talks in May 1991. In July at their first annual conference inside South Africa in thirty years Mandela was elected ANC president. Winnie Mandela had become an aggressive activist, and she was convicted of kidnapping and accessory to assault. Nelson believed she was innocent, but they separated the next year. In December 1991 the government, the ANC, and other parties in South Africa began the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA). Observers from the United Nations, the British Commonwealth, the European Community, and the Organization of African Unity also attended. On the first day Mandela and the ANC agreed to let de Klerk speak last; but his negative criticism provoked a reply from Mandela in which he stated that they would not turn in their weapons until they were part of the government that was collecting them. He complained that the government had been financing covertly the Inkatha violence.
While attending the world economic forum at Davos in February 1992 Mandela renounced economic nationalization, though the ANC still wanted to do some state planning. De Klerk put his reform process before the white voters on March 17, and 69% approved of the negotiations. On April 10 the popular Chris Hani, who was general secretary of the Communist party, was shot dead near Johannesburg; but an Afrikaner woman identified the assassin's car, and he was captured. To calm the rioting that killed seventy people in the Cape and Natal, Mandela made a crucial speech praising the white woman's action. Two weeks later Tambo died of a stroke.
The second CODESA began in May 1992, but the white minority was trying to hang on to a veto power. The ANC planned "rolling mass actions." On June 17 an Inkatha raid killed 46 people at Biopatong. In July the United Nations Security Council heard arguments from Pik Botha and Mandela. The UN passed a resolution calling for those responsible for the Biopatong massacre to be held accountable, and they sent Cyrus Vance as an envoy to encourage the resumption of talks. The ANC called a general strike, and on August 3 and 4 more than four million people stayed home. When 70,000 marched to Bisho's stadium on September 7, troops killed 29 people and wounded more than two hundred. Later that month Mandela and de Klerk signed a Record of Understanding as a basis for the negotiations, agreeing on a single elected assembly to serve as a transitional legislature to adopt a new constitution. Chief Buthelezi rejected it and withdrew from the negotiations. De Klerk insisted on a two-thirds majority for deciding crucial issues; but Mandela held out for majority rule, and on November 18 they agreed on an interim constitution.
The ANC executive committee decided to support the government's demand for proportional representation in the cabinet, and both agreed on a five-year government of national unity in February 1993. The next month de Klerk announced that South Africa had secretly manufactured six atomic bombs; but they had joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1991, and now the weapons and their technology were dismantled. The ANC was opposed to nuclear weapons, and Mandela repudiated all weapons of mass destruction. The ANC favored making Africa a nuclear-free zone. Thus South Africa became the first nation to renounce nuclear weapons after having obtained them.
In June a forum with 26 parties, which included Inkatha, the Pan African Congress, and the Conservative party, set the first one-person-one-vote election in South Africa for April 27, 1994. President Clinton awarded Mandela and de Klerk the Philadelphia Liberty Medal and promised generous aid after the election. Mandela and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1993. Mandela donated the money from his prize to children's charities; later he would give a third of his salary to similar charities. In March 1994 Inkatha members tried to sabotage the election and killed 53 people. Ten days before the election Mandela and de Klerk debated each other on television. Mandela later admitted that he asked twenty businessmen for at least one million rands each for his campaign, and only one did not comply. The voting was by party, and the ANC got 63%, the National Party 20%, and Inkatha 11%. The assembly elected the president, and on May 10 Mandela was inaugurated as president with de Klerk and Thabo Mbeki as his deputies.
During the Government of National Unity (GNU), President Mandela had a cabinet that represented all the major parties, and he handled most issues in a non-partisan manner. He appointed Winnie Mandela minister of Arts; but her diamond deals and large expenses led to scandal, and Nelson Mandela dismissed her from the government. He appeared in court in March 1996 to ask her for a divorce. During the ANC conference at the end of 1994, Mandela asked for fiscal discipline to avoid waste and inefficiency. Sometimes he let his deputies Thabo Mbeki or de Klerk preside at cabinet meetings, but Mandela could take over whenever he wanted. Buthelezi had been appointed minister of Home Affairs, but his relationship with Mandela was still stormy. Mandela wanted to abolish capital punishment, and the new court declared it unconstitutional. The court over-ruled two of Mandela's proclamations affecting elections in the Western Cape, and he quickly accepted their judgment. Joe Slovo was minister of Housing, but he died. Lack of experience and education made it difficult to find many black managers. Mandela treated black and white civil servants with special attention and often won their support.
In May 1996 de Klerk announced that he and his National party were withdrawing from the government. He wanted the Inkatha party to leave also, but Buthelezi stayed. Mandela acted more as head of state, and he let Thabo Mbeki preside over most cabinet meetings and take over more of the governmental administration. In December 1997 Mandela gave up his presidency of the ANC, and Mbeki was elected without opposition. Mandela spoke for four hours about the problems of the government in a wide-ranging and controversial assessment. By then the ANC's moderate economic policy was even endorsed by the trade unionists and communists. Mandela was still attracted to women and began to travel and live with Graça Machel, widow of Mozambique's former president. They got along very well and married on the day before his 80th birthday. Two thousand people were invited to the celebration, and some conservatives criticized the extravagance and his pardoning of nine thousand prisoners.
The ANC's Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP) was designed to meet basic needs, improve human resources, strengthen the economy, democratize society, and reorganize the public sector. They had ambitious goals and problems, but some of the accomplishments were remarkable. By the year 2000 nearly five million people had access to clean water for the first time from 236 water projects completed since 1994. Five million people were also accommodated by the 1,129,612 houses that were given government subsidies as the government spent R40 billion on housing over six years. Rural homes with electricity increased from 12% to 42%. By the end of 1998 about five hundred new health clinics were serving an additional five million people. President Mandela immediately doubled the annual HIV/Aids budget from R21 million to R42 million, and by 1997 it was up to R80 million. They increased the number of condoms distributed from five million in 1994 to 140 million in 1997. More than ten thousand secondary school teachers had been trained by 1998.
The economy had its challenges. The price of gold was down; labor became more expensive; and capitalists avoided Africa to invest in Southeast Asia. In May 1998 speculators gambled with the currency, and the rand lost a quarter of its value against the US dollar in two months. Archbishop Tutu criticized the salary increases for the members of Parliament who were making thirty times the average income, but he believed that Mandela's leadership saved the country from destruction. Mandela reminded them that corruption was a problem that South Africa and the ANC had to face. Allan Boesak was charged with embezzlement, and in 1999 he was convicted and sentenced to six years. Although the number of murders leveled off after 1994, other serious crimes continued to rise. A quarter of the previously all-white police force quit; 874 policeman were murdered; and three hundred committed suicide. Mandela accused the right-wing newspapers of giving crime extra publicity in order to discourage foreign investors.
The more conservative policy of Growth, Employment, and Redistribution (GEAR) was announced in 1996 and emphasized deficit reduction, limited government, tariff reduction, privatization, and linking productivity to wages. GEAR was aimed at helping the economy grow quickly in order to provide jobs for those seeking work.
Mandela became a diplomatic peacemaker and had come to rely on brains more than blood for thinking. The apartheid regime had developed its own arms industry to counteract the sanctions, and by 1989 the Armaments Corporation of South Africa (Armscor) employed 130,000 people and gave work to a thousand subcontractors. In the 1990s South Africa's defense spending decreased by more than fifty percent. In 1993 de Klerk had the moral restraint not to sell arms to Rwanda and Burundi for R45 million because of their civil wars. In 1994 the sanctions against South Africa's arms sales ended, and Denel tried to promote arms manufacturing and sales. They were selling $40 million in weapons to Zaire that were probably headed for Rwanda, and in September 1994 the new government discovered they were sending guns to Yemen and appointed a commission under Justice Cameron to investigate. Three Armscor executives were charged with fraud and resigned.
After receiving Cameron's report the government formed the National Commercial Arms Control Committee (NCACC). Some wanted to create jobs by increasing exports, and Denel planned to expand exports by 300% over five years. The government discerned which nations could buy arms based on their human rights, adherence to international law, and internal considerations. In 1995 the NCACC rejected a R2.1 billion arms deal with Turkey, but chairman Kadar Asmal lifted the ban two years later. Arms became South Africa's second largest exporting industry in 1997, a year when the exports were more than double the average of the previous five years. In July 1997 Mandela visited Indonesia and urged President Suharto to grant democratic rights to East Timor, but he also agreed to supply him with weapons. Mandela rationalized the sale of arms to other countries for their national defense, and in 1998 South Africa sold weapons (in decreasing order of magnitude) to Algeria, United States, Thailand, Switzerland, Rwanda, Peru, Denmark, Colombia, Brazil, and Australia.
The South Africa National Defense Force (SANDF) combined the previous army with the ANC's liberation movement and the homelands' forces. At first the Foreign Affairs department still had mostly Afrikaners, but in 1998 Mandela appointed Jackie Selebi director-general. The cautious Alfred Nzo was foreign minister, but Thabo Mbeki took a more influential role. In November 1995 at the Commonwealth Summit in New Zealand, President Mandela was using "quiet diplomacy" in regard to Nigeria until General Sani Abacha had Ken Saro-Wiwa executed. Mandela accused Abacha of judicial murder and called for sanctions; but he could not convince British prime minister John Major, and his appeal to the UN Security Council also failed. Nigeria had valuable oil but was eventually suspended from the Commonwealth until Abacha died in 1998. In the region Mandela worked with the eleven other nations of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). In 1998 Mandela and Mbeki were traveling when acting president Buthelezi approved a force of 600 South African peacekeepers to intervene in Lesotho. Mandela approved the policy, and his relations with Buthelezi improved.
Taiwan had contributed $10 million to the ANC in 1993 for their election campaign, and later they donated one billion rands for South Africa's RDP; but in November 1996 Mandela recognized the People's Republic of China (PRC). Early in 1997 the United States objected to South Africa selling Syria tanks for $650 million, and senators threatened to cut off aid to South Africa; but Mandela resented the interference and also met with Libya's Qaddafi and Cuba's Fidel Castro. When Qaddafi showed him how American bombers had destroyed his presidential palace, Mandela criticized nations that try to be police for the world. Mandela argued that those suspected of bombing the Lockerbie flight should be tried in a neutral country because the same country should not be prosecutor and judge. In March 1999 Mandela was able to persuade Qadaffi to turn over the two suspects in exchange for the lifting of UN sanctions against Libya.
Mandela supported the effort to ban landmines. In February 1997 South Africa imposed a complete ban on anti-personnel mines, and in May they promoted the Ottawa process by hosting an OAU conference on banning landmines. Jackie Selebi became chairman of the negotiations for the Landmine Treaty that began at Oslo in September. By December 1997 the Ottawa Convention had been signed by 120 nations, though the US, China, and Russia refused. Mandela spoke to the United Nations General Assembly on September 21, 1998. He expressed his concern for the dire poverty in the world and the many challenges to fulfilling the promises of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He noted that South Africa was working with Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, and Sweden to eliminate all nuclear weapons from the world.
Mandela did not run for re-election in 1999. In his last annual speech to Parliament he reflected on how equality, the right to vote, and freedom of speech had come to be taken for granted in a nation where most people did not have those rights before 1994. In a farewell speech on March 29 Mandela was naturally proud of how they had achieved democracy and revolution by a "profoundly legal path." In June 1999 the ANC received 66% of the votes, and Thabo Mbeki was elected president. In the 2004 elections the National Party received less than two percent of the vote and dissolved itself the next year.
The interim Constitution for South Africa ended with a section called "National Unity and Reconciliation," which began as follows:
This Constitution provides a historic bridge
between the past of a deeply divided society
characterised by strife, conflict, untold suffering and injustice,
and a future founded on the recognition of human rights,
democracy and peaceful co-existence
and development opportunities for all South Africans,
irrespective of colour, race, class, belief or sex.
The pursuit of national unity,
the well being of all South African citizens and peace
require reconciliation between the people of South Africa
and the reconstruction of society.
The adoption of this Constitution
lays the secure foundation for the people of South Africa
to transcend the divisions and strife of the past,
which generated gross violations of human rights,
the transgression of humanitarian principles in violent conflicts
and a legacy of hatred, fear, guilt and revenge.
These can now be addressed on the basis
that there is a need for understanding but not for vengeance,
a need for reparation but not for retaliation,
a need for ubuntu (humanity) but not for victimisation
In order to advance such reconciliation and reconstruction,
amnesty shall be granted in respect of acts, omissions and offences
associated with political objectives
and committed in the course of the conflicts of the past.9
The ANC had already appointed commissions in 1991 and 1993 to investigate abuses of human rights in ANC detention camps, and the executive committee publicly apologized for its collective responsibility. Those in the ANC believed that most of the violations were by the apartheid regime, and law professor Kadar Asmal suggested a truth commission. Alex Boraine of Justice in Transition studied prior truth commissions and lobbied with thirty South African organizations. De Klerk wanted amnesty for those in the apartheid regime, but the ANC would not let them grant amnesty to themselves. Jose Zalaquett had served on the Chilean National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation, and he recommended that amnesty should be based on acknowledgements of truth so that people will know for what one is being pardoned. He also suggested that democratic approval of the amnesty process enables the nation to forgive, and the purposes of amnesty should included reparations and prevention.
After three hundred hours of debate, the new Parliament of South Africa passed the National Unity and Reconciliation Act. Individuals could apply for amnesty for their politically motivated acts, but the pardon depended on their full disclosure. Unlike many of the previous truth commissions, in South Africa detailed accounts from perpetrators and institutions would make public much information so that it would be difficult in the future for people to deny what had happened. Those not applying for amnesty or not qualifying could still be prosecuted. Confessions before the commission could not be used as evidence in court cases, but they might help prosecuting attorneys do their own investigations.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) would give amnesty to perpetrators who confessed what they did and could show that their motives were political for actions between 1960 and December 6, 1993. The TRC soon got this deadline extended to May 10, 1994. The commissioners were to direct the work of the three committees on human rights violations, on reparations and rehabilitation, and on amnesty, plus the investigation unit. The President was to select the commissioners, but Mandela invited the public to make suggestions and set up a panel that reduced three hundred names to 25 nominations. From these on December 15, 1995 Mandela chose fifteen and appointed Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu as chairman with the Methodist leader Boraine as his deputy. Later two more commissioners were added to make the commission more representative. Mandela stated that he did not approve all fifteen but selected them for the sake of national unity. The commission had ten men and seven women; they were seven blacks, six whites, two colored, and two Indians. The National Party was successful in making the Amnesty Committee independent.
The hearings on human rights violations were held in civic centers, town halls, and churches throughout South Africa. A candle was lit to remember the victims, and hearings often began with prayer and the singing of hymns. The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) covered TRC hearings on radio daily and on television in a weekly report. When ANC leaders said they would not apply for amnesty because their fight against the apartheid regime was a "just war," Tutu threatened to resign from the TRC. However, the ANC decided to encourage its members to apply for amnesty, and Tutu remained as chairman. Early in the process 37 ANC leaders (including Thabo Mbeki) were given a general amnesty based on their assuming collective responsibility for any human rights violations committed by ANC members in the anti-apartheid struggle. This was criticized for going against the requirement of full disclosure, and the TRC challenged the Amnesty Committee in court before the National party could do so. In March 1999 the Amnesty Committee cancelled its amnesty of the 37 ANC leaders as an application outside their scope. They also denied amnesty to the murderers of Chris Hani and Steve Biko.
In August 1995 Eugene de Kock, a hit-squad commander for the South African Police (SAP) was convicted on 89 charges and was sentenced to life imprisonment, plus 212 years. Several of the SAP officers and former cabinet officials he implicated, such as General Johan van der Merwe, applied for amnesty. The Defense minister General Magnus Malan had a controversial trial for ordering the murder of thirteen people in KwaMakutha in 1987, but he was acquitted. Based on these cases, those in the police were more in danger than those in the army. The SANDF delayed investigations by resisting requests from the TRC research department for information from the military archives. Merwe's testimony led to Adriaan Vlok, the former minister of law and order, and he implicated former president P. W. Botha, who was head of the notorious State Security Council (SSC) but defied a subpoena to testify before the Commission. After the National Party left the government of national unity, they stopped cooperating with the TRC and often tried to block its work in court. Other legal challenges against the amnesty process were brought by the Azanian People's Organization (AZAPO) and by the relatives of Steve Biko and other murdered activists.
Before the report was published, the TRC notified those who
were going to be receiving derogatory findings. De Klerk used
this warning to get the findings on him blacked out of the report.
The ANC objected to its liberation struggle being criminalized
by the TRC. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission published
its five-volume report in October 1998. Mandela approved of the
TRC and declined to grant a general amnesty. Buthelezi and the
IFP had boycotted the TRC altogether, and controversy surrounded
the question of whether prosecutions of them would cause more
harm than good. Eventually they settled out of court, and the
TRC amended many passages on Inkatha from the report that originally
had blamed them for 30% of all the violations. The TRC was criticized
by many for providing more amnesty than reparations. The reparations
cases were divided into two classes-the victims of gross human
rights violations and those who suffered generally from the apartheid
system. As of November 2001 the Reparations and Rehabilitation
Committee processed 17,016 applications, and the total amount
paid for reparations was R50 million; but the final TRC report
of March 2003 indicated that reparations were still being delayed.
Out of nearly 22,000 applications only ten percent testified orally
in public. About 850 human rights violators received amnesty.
For many the process of reconciliation came to be symbolized by chairman Desmond Tutu. He was born on October 7, 1931 to Xhosa and Tswana parents. His father was a schoolmaster; because they were unable to afford a medical school, Desmond became a teacher as well. After three years of teaching, he rebelled against the inferior Bantu education system and decided to study religion. Tutu was ordained an Anglican priest in 1961. He earned a bachelor's and a master's degree from King's College in London and then taught theology in South Africa. Returning to England, he was an assistant director of the World Council of Churches from 1972 to 1975. After speaking at the funeral of Steve Biko, as the new bishop of Lesotho, Tutu took a more active political role in the struggle to overthrow the apartheid regime. He was appointed general secretary of the South African Council of Churches in 1978, but the next year the Government revoked his passport because of his criticism. Tutu emerged as one of the leaders of the United Democratic Front (UDF). His four main political objectives were equal civil rights for all, abolishing the passport laws, better public education, and an end to the deporting of Africans to the "homelands." In 1984 he was given the Nobel Peace Prize as a representative of the black South Africans' nonviolent struggle for brotherhood and democracy. In 1986 Tutu was elected archbishop of Capetown. He promoted the international economic sanctions against South Africa's apartheid regime; he castigated President Reagan for calling them a "historic act of folly," but in October the US Congress enacted mandatory sanctions against South Africa. During the 1989 elections Tutu led a protest march that police using whips chased off a whites-only beach.
When Tutu became chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he hoped that by opening the wounds to cleanse them the commission could stop the festering so that past evils would no longer haunt them. He noted that reconciliation depends on forgiveness, which must be based on acknowledging what was done wrong. Instead of the retribution of punishment, Tutu recommended restorative justice that corrects imbalances and heals broken relationships. He had compassion even for those who had imposed the apartheid system because no one was diminished more by it than the violators of human rights. He was happy to see people repenting because it restored not only their own decency but also helped to revive the integrity of the whole nation. Whites who had hated him during the struggle against apartheid were won over by his kindness. He forgave white perpetrators and had so much empathy for white victims that many blacks began to resent him. He knew that the therapeutic process of reconciliation would take a long time. Tutu applied the traditional Xhosa concept of ubuntu (humanity) in his Christian theology. He saw African communitarian values as "delicate networks of interdependence." Tutu described those who have ubuntu.
They are generous, hospitable, friendly, caring, and compassionate.
They share what they have.
It also means my humanity is caught up,
is inextricably bound up, in theirs.
We belong to a bundle of life.
We say, "A person is a person through other people."10
Tutu advocated terminating South Africa's weapons industry, and he criticized President Thabo Mbeki for stifling political debate. He condemned Israel's treatment of Palestinians as a form of apartheid, and he favored the West Papuans' movement for independence from Indonesia. He denounced the dictatorial Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and the timidity of South Africa's quiet diplomacy. Tutu has stood up for the rights of homosexuals in the Anglican Church because he believes their contributions are valuable. He protested the US invasion of Iraq and the abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and he has called for restorative justice in Iraq. Tutu spoke out against Pope Benedict XVI's policy against condoms that affects the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa.
1. Quoted in Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela,
2. Ibid., p. 152.
3. Ibid., p. 191.
4. Ibid., p. 238.
5. Ibid., p. 322.
6. I Write What I Like by Steve Biko, p. 49.
7. Quoted in Millard Arnold's introduction to Black Consciousness in South Africa by Steve Biko, p. xxvii.
8. Black Consciousness in South Africa by Steve Biko, p. 40.
9. Quoted in Commissioning the Past, p. 222.
10. No Future without Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu, p. 34.
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