South African history: the death of apartheid

On 2 February 1990, FW de Klerk lifted restrictions on 33 opposition groups, including the ANC, the PAC and the Communist Party, at the opening of Parliament. On February 11 Mandela, who had maintained a tough negotiating stance on the issue, was released after 27 years in prison.

The piecemeal dismantling of restrictive legislation began. Political groups started negotiating the ending of white minority rule, and in early 1992 the white electorate endorsed De Klerk’s stance on these negotiations in a referendum.

Violence continued unabated, a massacre at the township of Boipatong causing the ANC to withdraw temporarily from constitutional talks.

In 1993, however, an agreement was reached on a Government of National Unity which would allow a partnership of the old regime and the new.

The optimism generated by the negotiations was shattered by the assassination of Chris Hani, the secretary-general of the Communist Party: only a prompt appeal to the nation by Mandela averted a massive reaction. At the end of the year an interim constitution was agreed to by 21 political parties.

First democratic elections

South Africa’s first democratic election was held on 26, 27 and 28 April 1994, with victory going to the ANC in an alliance with the Communist Party and Cosatu. Nelson Mandela was sworn in as President on May 10 with FW de Klerk and the ANC’s Thabo Mbeki as Deputy Presidents.

Mandela’s presidency was characterised by the successful negotiation of a new constitution; a start on the massive task of restructuring the civil service and attempts to redirect national priorities to address the results of apartheid; and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up primarily to investigate the wrongs of the past.

The story continued …

SAinfo reporter

Updated: July 2015

Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo material