Nelson Mandela, the outstanding leader of that movement, paid a handsome tribute to India and its leaders in a letter smuggled out of Robben island prison in
Peter Young By Peter Young Press reports of remarks by the Prime Minister in New York last month in praise of the Nassau Accord ought to stimulate renewed interest in the role played by The Bahamas in the eventual ending of apartheid some 25 years ago. There has now been a proposal locally to erect a statue to mark what has been claimed was the start of the process of forcing the white minority government to abandon apartheid and hand over power to black majority rule.
However, before pursuing such an idea, it might be helpful to test the validity of this claim and to understand the significance of the Nassau Accord by examining the long and well-documented history of the struggle against apartheid.
Having served in the British Apartheid and the struggles in life of the black people in South Africa during the s, I have to confess to a special interest in the subject. Apartheid — defined as the separate and parallel development of people according to their colour and race -- was introduced in South Africa by the Afrikaner-dominated National Party following its election victory in In a nation where whites made up about 14 percent of the population and owned almost all the wealth including the best land, apartheid developed into a way of protecting the privileges and way of life of the white community and of reserving the land for themselves.
Black people were stripped of their rights as citizens and their dignity as human beings by being systematically dispossessed of land and homes and denied the opportunity to work except to provide cheap labour for whites in their designated areas.
Condemnation of such a system soon followed. Imposed by brute force, it was widely regarded overseas as being morally repugnant and unacceptable in a civilised world. It was also opposed by many within the white community in South Africa itself. The Sharpeville massacre in — the shooting by police of many black demonstrators -- attracted international opprobrium, and opposition to apartheid grew rapidly while an anti-apartheid movement became active with its headquarters in London which also became the base of the banned African National Congress.
It is significant that, as the former colonial power, Britain, whose interests lay in maintaining economic and trade links and promoting peaceful change, was resolute in condemning apartheid including allowing London to become a centre for overseas resistance.
A Commonwealth sporting boycott was imposed and there was gradual economic disengagement by private sector UK companies through reduced trade and investment. Thus, pressure on the South African government was systematically ratcheted up. According to observers at the time, even in the late s it was becoming apparent to the white elite within the country that the grand apartheid plan was failing.
The illusion that whites could be the majority in areas they had claimed for themselves faded as white control over the rapidly growing black urban population was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain.
The unravelling of apartheid now became inevitable. Following the bloody Soweto riots inpolitical violence grew in spite of steps to share power between whites, coloureds and Indians in a tricameral parliament. But there was gradual acceptance that the key to the future was negotiation with the ANC and the black majority and that the government would have to consider a new constitutional framework to accommodate their political aspirations without bringing about majority domination and suppression of the white minority.
So, by the early s the government had decided to abandon the policy of apartheid and agreed to work for a unified nation.
Nonetheless, in the face of rioting and continuing unrest a state of emergency was declared. Meanwhile, Britain had successfully negotiated the end of white minority rule in neighbouring Rhodesia which became an independent Zimbabwe in only later to suffer under the increasingly tyrannical rule of Prime Minister, and later President, Robert Mugabe.
It also established an Eminent Persons Group, which included Sir Lynden Pindling, which later visited South Africa but turned out to be largely ineffective as genuine dialogue between the government and the ANC was beginning to stall. At the Nassau meeting, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was isolated over her stance against imposition of sanctions which she believed would weaken the South African economy and slow down reform while damaging the living standards of the poorest in society.
She also considered sanctions - rather than maintaining dialogue and encouraging reform - would be counterproductive at a time when the government was taking steps to get rid of apartheid.
Eventually, after separate sanctions by the US government, some measures by the European Community and by Commonwealth countries were put in place following a Special Commonwealth Conference in which it had been agreed at Nassau should review progress.
It is interesting that during this period Margaret Thatcher was engaging in a direct dialogue with President P W Botha. They met during his tour of Europe which included Britain, and soon after the Nassau CHOGM she wrote to him urging a public announcement of specific steps towards the ending of apartheid including the release from prison of Nelson Mandela.
This fascinating correspondence was highly classified at the time but can now be found online. Following further negotiations, South Africans went to the polls in and the outcome was seen as a turning point.
The election was won by the National Party and was regarded as an endorsement of the accelerated reform programme that constituted substantive change.
A year later most of the apartheid laws were scrapped. Nelson Mandela was released in by new South African president F W de Klerk and this set in train a chain of events which led to the first fully democratic elections in South African history in It is clear from all this that the ending of apartheid was a gradual process over many years involving negotiation and international pressure on the white minority government to bring about meaningful reform.
The meeting in Nassau was one element of the process of intensifying that pressure. It was not the start of the process, as has been suggested, but it helped to maintain the momentum of an anti-apartheid struggle that was long and tortuous and ultimately successful.
Since the use of force to end apartheid had been ruled out, tools like sanctions and a sports boycott had to be deployed. Although action by the international community was important, the significance of the diplomatic role and personal interaction between politicians, officials and individuals on both sides should not be underestimated as those concerned sought to convince public opinion within South Africa that apartheid had to be brought to an end in the face of worldwide condemnation.
Thus, in the view of some historians, the realisation that eventually dawned within the white community that apartheid was not only fundamentally wrong but also unworkable in practice was crucial — and it was this which originally sounded its death knell.
More like this story.Life under Apartheid. For white South Africans the s was a decade of boom and unprecedented prosperity.
For black South Africa, the s saw apartheid harden . Apartheid was a system of racial segregation in South Africa founded in to Under apartheid people were divided into groups of your race the biggest was black, white, colored and Asian.
The majority of the black people were sent to their “native country” but in . Apr 01, · the time of the law of apartheid, which meant that black people were separated from the white people, black people were the ones who suffered the most because of the lack of education, low income, violence, gangs, and the emergence of A.I.D.S.
Mandela, a black South African, dedicated his life to stand up to the apartheid in South Africa. In when he was just 24 years old, Mandela became a member of the African National Congress (ANC). Black youth are grappling with the question of the meaning of freedom in post-apartheid South Africa.
They seek an antidote to their reality wherein blackness continues to be mocked and marginalised.
In , the National Party (NP), representing Afrikaners, won the national election on a platform of racism and segregation under the slogan of 'apartheid’. Apartheid built upon earlier laws, but made segregation more rigid and enforced it more aggressively.
All Government action and response was decided according to the policy of apartheid.