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History, Negotiations and Change

Archbishop Desmond, nonviolent protests, Asian voters, Independent Electoral Commission, CODESA

F. W. de Klerk succeeded P. W. Botha in 1989 as head of the National Party and later that year as president of South Africa. Soon after taking office, de Klerk permitted large multiracial crowds in Cape Town and Johannesburg to march against apartheid. He met with Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu and other black leaders, ordered the release of many black political prisoners, and lifted the ban on antiapartheid organizations such as the ANC. With the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990, serious negotiations began over the transition to a post-apartheid South Africa.

The negotiation process proved long and difficult. De Klerk’s NP was unwilling at first to consider transferring power to the country’s black majority and tried vigorously to institute minority veto power over majority decisions. The ANC then staged general strikes and other nonviolent protests to try forcing the NP to change their position on the issue. The Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), which opened in December 1991, finally led to a compromise between the NP and the ANC. Eventually, as a result of compromises on both sides, an agreement was reached on November 13, 1993, which pledged to institute a nonracial, nonsexist, unified, and democratic South Africa based on the principle of “one person, one vote.” A Transitional Executive Council was formed to supervise national elections and install new national and provincial governments.

South Africa’s first truly nonracial democratic election was held on April 27, 1994, and was declared “substantially free and fair” by the Independent Electoral Commission. Nearly 20 million votes were cast and the ANC received an impressive 63 percent, just short of the two-thirds majority that would have given it the power to write the new constitution on its own without negotiating with other parties. The NP won a surprising 20 percent of the votes because of substantial support from Coloured and Asian voters who feared ANC domination. Only two other parties were able to win the 5 percent minimum for a cabinet seat in the coalition government: Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the Freedom Front, a coalition of white extremist groups.

The ANC won substantial majorities in seven of the nine newly established provinces, the exceptions being in the Western Cape region where the NP defeated the ANC, in part because of the support of Coloured voters, and in KwaZulu-Natal where the IFP was credited with a majority of the votes despite a number of voting irregularities. The PAC and the liberal Democratic Party had limited appeal for the electorate and made poor showings. Nelson Mandela was elected president of a coalition government by the National Assembly, and he chose Thabo Mbeki as one of two deputy presidents. Former president F. W. de Klerk was chosen by the NP as the other deputy president. In June South Africa rejoined the Commonwealth of Nations.

Article key phrases:

Archbishop Desmond, nonviolent protests, Asian voters, Independent Electoral Commission, CODESA, Thabo Mbeki, liberal Democratic Party, black leaders, Commonwealth of Nations, National Party, Klerk, IFP, coalition government, national elections, Nelson Mandela, negotiation process, National Assembly, Tutu, new constitution, Botha, ANC, ban, Convention, PAC, exceptions, NP, electorate, president of South Africa, transition, principle, Cape Town, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, sides, Johannesburg, power, agreement, votes, head, majority, office, person, parties, position, year, issue


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