Half Title
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 List of maps
 South African security law and...
 White politics in transition: Multidimensional...
 Between the hammer and the anvil:...
 Racial proletarianization and some...
 Democratizing the united democratic...
 Worker solidarity, differentiation,...
 Decolonization in Southern Africa...
 South Africa and SADCC: Economics...
 Conflict in southern Africa: The...
 South Africa’s contradictory regional...

Title: Apartheid unravels
Publisher: University Press of Florida
Full Citation
External Link: http://www.upf.com
 Material Information
Title: Apartheid unravels
Physical Description: x, 251 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Davis, R. Hunt Jr.
Dygert, Jill ( Maps )
Publisher: University of Florida Press
Center for African Studies
Place of Publication: Gainesville
Publication Date: 1991
Copyright Date: 1991
Subject: Apartheid -- South Africa   ( lcsh )
Apartheid -- Afrique du Sud   ( rvm )
Politics and government -- South Africa -- 1978-1989   ( lcsh )
Politique et gouvernement -- Afrique du Sud -- 1978-1989   ( rvm )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: South Africa
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references and index.
General Note: Papers originally presented as part of the Carter lectures on Africa at the University of Florida in 1987 and 1988.
Statement of Responsibility: edited by R. Hunt Davis, Jr.
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Rights Management: Copyright 1991 by the Board of Regents of the State of Florida. This work is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/. You are free to electronically copy, distribute, and transmit this work if you attribute authorship. However, all printing rights are reserved by the University Press of Florida (http://www.upf.com). Please contact UPF for information about how to obtain copies of the work for print distribution. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work). For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the University Press of Florida. Nothing in this license impairs or restricts the author's moral rights.
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alephbibnum - 001674009

Table of Contents
    Half Title
        Page i
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Table of Contents
        Page v
    List of maps
        Page vi
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    South African security law and the growth of local and regional violence
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    White politics in transition: Multidimensional uncertainty
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    Between the hammer and the anvil: The quandary of liberalism in South Africa
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    Racial proletarianization and some contemporary dimensions of Black consciousness thought
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    Democratizing the united democratic front: The muddy slope
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    Worker solidarity, differentiation, and the manipulation of ethnicity: Conflict at Vaal Reefs, 1984-1986
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    Decolonization in Southern Africa and the labor crisis in South Africa: Modernizing migrant labor policies
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    South Africa and SADCC: Economics of the southern African region
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    Conflict in southern Africa: The case of Mozambique
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    South Africa’s contradictory regional goals
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Full Text

Apartheid Unravels

Atlantic Ocean

Indian Ocean



Edited by R.Hunt Davis, Jr.


VAAY~T'~aw ili~l i~;it

Maps by Jill Dygert

Copyright 1991 by the Board of Regents of the State of Florida
All rights reserved
Printed in the U.S.A. on acid-free paper

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Apartheid unravels / edited by R. Hunt Davis, Jr.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-8130-1069-1
1. Apartheid-South Africa. 2. South Africa-Politics and
government-1978- I. Davis, R. Hunt.
DT1757.A66 1991 91-469
305.8'00968-dc20 CIP

The University of Florida Press is a member of University Presses of Florida,
the scholarly publishing agency of the State University System of Florida.
Books are selected for publication by faculty editorial committees at each of
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University Presses of Florida, 15 Northwest 15th Street, Gainesville, FL 32611.


List of Maps vi
Foreword by Peter R. Schmidt vii
Preface ix

Introduction: Apartheid Unravels 1
R. Hunt Davis, Jr.
1. South African Security Law and the Growth of Local and
Regional Violence 18
A. S. Mathews
2. White Politics in Transition: Multidimensional
Uncertainty 33
Kenneth W. Grundy
3. Between the Hammer and the Anvil: The Quandary of
Liberalism in South Africa 58
C. J. Driver
4. Racial Proletarianization and Some Contemporary Dimensions
of Black Consciousness Thought 77
C. R. D. Halisi
5. Democratizing the United Democratic Front:
The Muddy Slope 100
Karl S. Beck
6. Worker Solidarity, Differentiation, and the Manipulation of
Ethnicity: Conflict at Vaal Reefs, 1984-1986 119
Robert Shanafelt
7. Decolonization in Southern Africa and the Labor Crisis
in South Africa: Modernizing Migrant Labor Policies 142
Pearl-Alice Marsh
8. South Africa and SADCC: Economics of the
Southern African Region 165
James Cobbe
9. Conflict in Southern Africa:
The Case of Mozambique 182
Allen F. Isaacman
10. South Africa's Contradictory Regional Goals 213
Patrick O'Meara

Contributors 228
Index 233


1. Southern Africa Frontispiece
2. South Africa, Including the So-Called Homelands 7
3. Mozambique 205



Apartheid Unravels is the third volume of Carter Lectures published by
the Center for African Studies, and the second in a series that the
center is co-publishing with the University of Florida Press. The first
volume in the jointly published series is Structural Adjustment and
African Women Farmers, edited by Christina Gladwin.
The Center for African Studies honors Gwendolyn Carter (1906-91)
by hosting annually either clusters of lectures in a conference format
or a series of thematically related individual lectures. The Carter
Lectures have come to be widely recognized as a means of important
discourse on some of the most critical issues facing Africa today.
Apartheid Unravels is both a timely and an in-depth analysis of the
crumbling underpinnings of the South African system of apartheid
Peter R. Schmidt, director
University of Florida Center for African Studies



It is especially fitting that this edited volume, analyzing as it does the
fundamental and deep-seated changes taking place in Southern
Africa, should appear as part of the Carter Lectures on Africa series.
For more than four decades Gwendolen M. Carter played a central
role in the growth and motivation of Africanist scholarship in the
United States. In particular, her name has been associated with the
study of South Africa. Beginning with her landmark analysis of
apartheid politics, The Politics of Inequality (1958), she has been the
author or coauthor of innumerable books, articles, and essays that
serve as the foundation for the work of other scholars who have
engaged in research and writing on contemporary South Africa. Sadly,
Gwendolyn Carter died at her home in Orange City, Florida, on 20
February 1991, as this book was in production.
The authors originally presented the papers collected here at the
University of Florida lecture series entitled "The Exploding Crisis in
Southern Africa," which was composed of two symposia in 1987 and
a separate single lecture in 1988. Gwendolen Carter presented the
after-dinner address for the first symposium, speaking on "The Politics
of Inequality-A Retrospective View." Neither her address nor the
papers of three contributors to the symposia are part of the present
volume. J. Mutero Chirenje of the University of Zimbabwe addressed
the issue of "Zimbabwe: The Ordeal of a Frontline State." Unfortun-
ately, his untimely death in September 1988 prevented the prepara-
tion of his paper for publication. The other two papers were by
Thomas G. Karis, City University of New York ("Who Will Rule South
Africa? Emerging Black Leadership and the Problem of Democracy"),
and Winston P. Nagan, University of Florida ("International Law,
Legitimacy, and Crisis"). Conversely, Karl Beck and Robert Shanafelt
did not present their chapters as papers for the original lecture series
but instead prepared them specifically for this volume. All the authors
have thoroughly revised and updated their chapters, most as recently
as summer and fall 1990.
The Carter Lectures on Africa Committee and the Center for African
Studies, University of Florida, sponsored the lectures that led to this
volume. Members of the committee contributed significantly in help-
ing conceptualize the overall theme for the lecture series and in select-
ing those to be invited to present papers. Funding for the 1987-88
Carter Lectures on Africa came from the Center for African Studies,


x Preface

including its Title VI National Resource Center Grant from the U.S.
Department of Education, from a grant the Ford Foundation provided
for the lecture series, from the Public Functions Policy and Lectures
Committee and from the President's Concession Fund of the Uni-
versity of Florida, and from individual contributors to the Carter
Lectures on Africa account at the University of Florida Foundation.
The provost of the University of Florida provided additional funds to
help defray publication expenses for this book.
Cody A. Watson provided valuable assistance in preparing the final
manuscript. Thanks are also due the two outside reviewers for the
University of Florida Press who made helpful suggestions for both the
authors and the editor. In recognition of Gwendolen Carter and its
own long association with her, Indiana University Press granted per-
mission for adapting the first two maps. Lisa Compton greatly
enhanced the final appearance of the book with her careful

R. Hunt Davis, Jr.

Introduction: Apartheid Unravels


Nelson Mandela's internationally televised walk through the gates of
Victor Verster Prison to freedom on 11 February 1990 demonstrated
in a most dramatic fashion that South Africa's apartheid order is
unraveling. The last decade of the twentieth century opened with
South Africa's political sphere in a state of flux. Not since the events
leading up to the watershed election of 1948 has there been a similar
potential for new political forces to bring about a fundamental realign-
ment of South Africa's political structure. To be sure, the apartheid era
has not yet ended. One of the conclusions that emerges from the con-
tributions to this volume is how structurally embedded apartheid is
throughout the institutions of South African society. Indeed, the pro-
longed spate of intra-African violence in Natal that began in the late
1980s and the outbreak of extensive fighting in August 1990 in the
Transvaal townships constitute striking manifestations of apartheid's
structural legacy for South Africa. Yet apartheid is ideologically bank-
rupt and a spent force.
There have been for some time numerous indicators of the crisis of
the existing order. White politics has fragmented. The governing
National party (NP) reached its zenith in the late 1970s, increasing its
parliamentary majority from 116 to 135 (out of a total of 164 seats) in
the 1977 election and, according to an opinion poll, garnering the
support of 67 percent of the electorate in 1978 (Schlemmer
1980:263-64). Although the NP managed to hold onto its overwhelm-
ing parliamentary majority until the end of the 1980s, winning, for
example, 123 of 166 seats in the 1987 election, its hold on the elec-
torate has steadily slipped. As Kenneth Grundy notes in his chapter,
the NP began to lose its claim as the voice of the volk with the forma-
tion of the Conservative party (CP) in 1982. Its share of the total vote
fell steadily, so that in 1989 it received only 48 percent of the votes
cast and returned to power with only 93 seats. International pressure
on South Africa to end apartheid has progressively mounted and, with
the exception of England (at least while Margaret Thatcher was prime
minister), remains unified even with the release of Mandela. The
economy has been in the doldrums for several years, suffering from a
weak currency, major structural weaknesses, and international sanc-
tions. Most important of all has been the resurgence of black political


power even before the beginning of 1990. This resurgence took sev-
eral forms, including the articulation of black political thought, the
emergence of a strong and militant labor movement, a successful
quasi-military offensive that has deprived the government of control
of the black townships, and aboveground political organizations such
as the United Democratic Front (UDF) and then the Mass Democratic
Movement. Furthermore, this black resurgence gathered momentum
in the face of determined government efforts to quash it.
It was against this background of a mounting crisis, both internal
and external, that President F. W. de Klerk took the series of steps that
led to the unbanning of the African National Congress (ANC), the
Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), the South African Communist party
(SACP), and other organizations and the freeing of a number of polit-
ical prisoners, the most widely known of whom was Nelson Mandela.
Following this has been the beginning of face-to-face negotiations
between the government and the antiapartheid opposition, most
notably the ANC.
To help clarify the relative positions of the contending parties, this
introduction first examines the historical context in which the dra-
matic events of late 1989 and early 1990 took place. It then discusses
the insights that the chapters provide into the unraveling process that
is taking place within South Africa and how events within that coun-
try affect the Southern African region as a whole. Finally, it presents
certain conclusions arising out of the chapters about the future that
looms ahead for South Africa as the apartheid era draws to a close.

The Context

southh Africa has clearly been in the grips of a profound crisis since the
mid-1980s, a crisis that originated with the open revolt against the
apartheid state that broke out in September 1984 and led the govern-
ment to declare a state of emergency in parts of the country in July
1985, to be followed by a nationwide state of emergency in June
1986. It is, most immediately, this crisis that has undermined the
apartheid order and produced the pressures that led to the govern-
ment's decision to release Nelson Mandela.
The heart of the crisis lies in the demography and political history
of South Africa. It is a country of some 36 million people, 85 percent
of whom are black (11 percent Colored and Asian, 74 percent African)
and 15 percent of whom are white. Over the course of the twentieth
century, white South Africans have developed an absolute monopoly
of political and economic power through which they have managed to
reserve the overwhelming share of the country's wealth and income


for themselves. In 1980, for instance, whites earned 65 percent of the
national income while Africans earned only 25 percent (Wilson and
Ramphele 1989:20-21). Due to South Africa's domination of the
political economy of the entire Southern African region, whites have
also managed to divert much of the resources of neighboring coun-
tries to their own purposes. While the whites have been the beneficia-
ries of the apartheid political system, it is the Africans who to a
significant degree have provided the labor that has made the wealth
possible. Yet they have derived little economic benefit from this labor.
Indeed, their lot has been largely one of poverty, which is deep and
widespread and is a result of "inequality that is as great as in any other
country in the world" (Wilson and Ramphele 1989:4). The white
monopoly of power has come under increasing challenge in recent
years, both from within and without the country. For a long time the
government's response to this challenge has been to persist on the
apartheid course it had first charted in 1948, but under the new state
president, F. W. de Klerk, it came to the conclusion that it could no
longer maintain an overt apartheid order.
The critical questions, then, are, what are the causes of this crisis
that seems to have finally broken the apartheid order, and why did
the crisis erupt in such dramatic fashion in recent years? Or, put
another way, why did a crisis of such magnitude not grip the country
so fully and thoroughly after the upheavals associated with the
Sharpeville massacre in 1960 or the Soweto student revolt in 1976?
Yet another way to pose the question is to inquire into why white rule
has continued in South Africa long after it disappeared elsewhere on
most of the continent-the early 1960s for most countries; the mid-
1970s for Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau; 1980 for
Zimbabwe; and, finally, 1990 for Namibia.
In seeking an answer to the central question of the timing of the
crisis in South Africa, it is necessary to examine the complex set of
internal and external factors that have produced the current situation.
The internal factors refer to domestic pressures on the South African
government; the external factors are the international pressures on
the apartheid system. Although these factors are, of course, inter-
linked both across and within the two broad categories, they are dis-
cussed here as discrete categories and subcategories strictly for pur-
poses of analysis.

Internal Factors
Important though the external factors have been in undermining the
apartheid order, the internal factors have been far more significant.
Indeed, if it had not been for the internal pressures on the apartheid


system, the external pressures would never have been brought to
bear. For purposes of analysis, we will focus on four sets of internal
factors:'demographic changes,- political processes, administrative con-
trol, and ecpnomic realities.
SDemographic changes in South Africa have done much to make the
apartheid system ultimately untenable. One critical dynamic is the
growth, both absolute and relative, of the country's population
groups. When the first census for the Union of South Africa was taken
in 1911, there was a population of approximately 6 million, of whom
4 million (67.3 percent) were Africans, 1.3 million (21.4 percent)
were white, and about 650,000 (11.3 percent) were Asians and
Coloreds. In 1960, at the time of the Sharpeville crisis, the population
had surpassed 16 million, with nearly 11 million (68.3 percent)
Africans, some 3 million whites (19.3 percent), and nearly 2 million
Asians and Coloreds (12.4 percent). The estimated current population
is 36 million, of whom nearly 27 million (74 percent) are Africans, 5.4
million (15 percent) are whites, and 3.6 million (11 percent) are
Asians and Coloreds. As the percentage of whites in the total popula-
tion shrinks, so does the ability of the privileged minority to maintain
control over a steadily growing majority.
- The second dimension of demographic change is that of African
urbanization. Throughout the twentieth century, a majority of white
South Africans have lived in urban areas (53 percent in 1904, 88 per-
cent in 1980), as have a majority of Coloreds (51 percent in 1904, 77
percent in 1980). The African population has been much slower to
urbanize, largely because of stringent government barriers to this pro-
-cess. In 1904, only 10 percent of black South Africans lived in urban
areas, and the figure had not yet doubled by the eve of World War II.
By 1980, however, 33 percent of the country's Africans were urban-
ized (Wilson and Ramphele 1989:26). To this figure, however, must
be added a phenomenon culiar to South Africa-that of large-scale
"displaced urbanization." A massive urbanization has taken place in
the bantustans, the officially designated African "homelands," with
perhaps as many as 56 percent of the inhabitants of these supposedly
rural areas having been urbanized. Some of this concentration has
occurred within officially designated towns, but most "has taken place
in huge rural slums which are 'urban' in respect of their population
densities but 'rural' in respect of the absence of proper infrastructure
or services" (Murray 1988:117). The ability of Africans to contest the
government's authority has risen in almost direct proportion to their
increased urbanization.
4 The third dimension is that of social mobility, involving as it does
growing levels of education and professional and skilled job opportu-
nities'.While educational opportunities for blacks are severely limited


in comparison to those for whites, and while levels of educational
attainment are heavily skewed in favor of whites, Africans have
nonetheless made great educational strides. In 1927, for example,
53.6 percent of those enrolled in South African schools were white; by
1977, only 16.4 percent were white. Furthermore, the number of
Africans at the secondary level has shot up dramatically, rising from
35,000 in 1955 to 658,000 in 1979 (Marcum 1982:16-17).increasing
levels of education also mean that the black professional class, though
still very small, has been expanding, thus providing, in turn, an
enlarged leadership cadre. For example, Steve Biko, the central figure
in the emergence of the Black Consciousness Movement, was a medi-
cal student, and Mamphela Ramphele, codirector of the Second
Carnegie Inquiry into Poverty and Development in South Africa, is a
medical doctor. Finally, there is the growth of semiskilled and skilled
employment opportunities for Africans. The pool of migrant workers
remains vast, and hundreds of thousands of blacks receive sub-subsis-
tence level wages for their labor. But the steady industrialization of
the South African economy has led to the broadening of improved job
opportunities (and wages) for blacks, since the number of white
workers available to fill these positions has long been insufficient. One
hallmark of this process has been the rapid growth of African labor
union membership, increasing from 603,000 in 1969, when the gov-
ernment was still actively repressing the organization of African work-
ers, to 1,616,000 in 1984 (Adam and Moodley 1986:183).
" In the political realm there have b en several processes at work that
have interacted upon each other. 'he first has been the exclusion of
Africans from constitutional politics and then from citizenship. This
process began with the Act of Union (1910), which established the
political and constitutional structure for modern South Africa. Under
its provisions membership in Parliament was limited to white males,
and blacks had the franchise in only one of the four provinces. Next
came the Separate Representation of Native Voters Act (1936), which
removed African voters in the Cape Province from the common voting
roll and provided them with three (white) representatives in
Parliament. In 1960 the government enacted legislation that abolished
the Cape African vote altogether, and then in 963 it pushed through
self-government for the Transkei bantustan. -laving eliminated all ves-
tiges of African participation in the constitutional politics of the coun-
try, the government then began to remove Africans from the ranks of
its citizens. The so-called independence of the Transkei in 1976 stipu-
lated that all Africans who supposedly originated from the Transkei
were henceforth citizens of that state and had forfeited any claims to
South African citizenship. Three other bantustans soon followed the
Transkei to "independence"-Bophuthatswana (1977), Venda (1979),


and Ciskei (1981)-while the other six were to assume self-governing
status. The 1984 constitution completed this process by setting up
three separate houses of Parliament, one each for whites, Coloreds,
and Asians, while relegating the African political future to the bantu-
stans. In 1985 the government backed off somewhat from the implica-
tions of the 1984 constitution when President P. W. Botha promised to
restore South African citizenship to those who lived permanently out-
side the "independent" bantustans and to consider dual citizenship for
the remainder. At the same time the government reiterated its com-
mitment to the bantustans' role in the constitutional order.
qne African revolt against the government over, among other
issues, the new constitution, which broke out in late 1984 and contin-
ued on into 1986, had compelled Botha to revise his stand on African
citizenship. This revolt also exemplified the progressively intensifying
African militancy that was a response to the government's exclusion
of Africans from the constitutionally sanctioned political process. The
origins of this militancy lay in the 1940s with the revival of the ANC
and the formation of the African National Congress Youth League
(ANCYL). With the adoption of the Programme of Action (1949), the
ANC moved into a phase of boycotts, strikes, and demonstrations that
brought it into open conflict with the government. The Freedom
Charter (1955) set forth an alternative vision of the future, in which
South Africa "belonged to all who lived in it, black and white." The
formation of the PAC in 1959, with its claim that South Africa was an
African country, heightened the level of African political militancy.
This militancy escalated even further when, in response to govern-
ment banning in 1960, both the ANC and the PAC adopted the strat-
egy of sabotage and then armed struggle. The emergence of the Black
Consciousness Movement in the late 1960s, the widespread strikes by
African workers in the early 1970s, the 1976 revolt that broke out first
in Soweto and then spread to the rest of the country, the renewed
revolt in the mid-1980s, and the formation of the United Democratic
Front in 1983 all symbolized the intensification of African efforts to
throw off the yoke of apartheid. Furthermore, the process of grass-
roots "empowerment" that began with the Soweto revolt and gath-
ered steam in the early 1980s served to institutionalize the anti-
apartheid revolt and make it the dominant political force in South
Africa. In large part the unbanning of the ANC, the PAC, and other
organizations and the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in
February 1990 are a direct result of this African political militancy.
N~he third element in the political context is that of increasing gov-
ernment repression of those opposed to apartheid. This process began
with the Suppression of Communism Act in 1950 and continued with
the passage of increasingly draconian legislation that A.S. Mathews

South Africa
Including the So-called Homelands

Homeland People
1. Bophuthatswana Tswana
2. Lebowa North Sotho
3. Gazankulu Shangaan and Tsonga
4. Venda Venda
5. Swazi Swazi
6. Qwaqwa South Sotho
7 Kwazulu Zulu
8. Transkei Xhosa
9. Ciskei Xhosa
10. South Ndebele South Ndebele

South Africa


describes in his contribution to this volume. The nationwide state of
emergency declared in 1986 and the further crackdown on political
organizations in 1988 represented yet further intensification of this
process. As Mathews indicates, while the government justified its
actions in terms of national security, what in fact occurred was that
the regular flow of harsher and harsher security measures intensified
rather than stemmed internal conflict. South Africa has perhaps
reached the end of this road under President de Klerk, since for the
first time in the history of National party rule the government has
relaxed rather than further intensified internal security measures.
thbird set.of internal factors are those related to the administrative
control of the African population. Since the formation in 1910 of the
Union of South Africa, the government has steadily tightened its con-
trol over the African population. wo keypieces of earlier legislation
were the Natives Land Act (1913), which limited African land owner-
ship to 7 percent of the surface area of the country (later increased to
13 percent), and the Natives (Urban Areas) Act (1923), which estab-
lished the legal basis for strictly limiting African urbanization. After
the 1948 election, the process of exerting administrative control over
Africans intensified. In short order, the government passed the
Population Registration Act (1950), which classified people according
to race; the Group Areas Act (1950), which enabled the government
to limit occupation of an area to a specific population group; and the
Bantu Education Act (1953), designed for better control of Africans
through their education. In addition, the pass laws were strengthened
for more effective control of the movement of individual Africans. The
development of the bantustan program, designed for more effective
political control, was also a part of this process. While effective to
some degree, ultimately the increasingly rigid administrative control
structure failed in its purpose. It was, after all, an anti-pass law
demonstration that sparked the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, and
widespread unrest and popular opposition against authoritarian
administration gripped the bantustans in early 1990.
Economic factors have contributed significantly to the unraveling of
the apartheid order. In many ways, the success of apartheid has been
dependent on the success of the bantustans, but their increasingly des-
perate poverty has undercut their viability. For example, in 1975 the
mean annual income of Africans in the bantustans was less than half
that of Africans in the metropolitan areas (R925 compared to R2,017;
Wilson and Ramphele 1989:25). Since then, many hundreds of thou-
sands of Africans have been resettled in the bantustans, having been
forcibly removed from the rural white areas. Such individuals were
usually completely destitute, thus adding another heavy burden to the
already tottering social and economic structures of the bantustans.1


Another significant economic factor contributing to the weakening
of the apartheid order is the changing position of African labor. One
facet of this has been the broadening and diversification of the South
African economy, which has expanded from its earlier agricultural
and mining base into manufacturing. As Pearl-Alice Marsh notes in
her chapter, there has been as a consequence a shift away from
migrant labor and toward a more stabilized labor force. A measure of
this change is the emergence of the strong African trade union move-
ment, which in turn has led to an upsurge in strikes. For instance, the
number of person-days lost to strikes nearly quadrupled between
1974 and 1984 (Adam and Moodley 1986:183, 186).
Just as the changing nature of the South African economy led to an
expanded and more diversified role for African labor, so too has there
been an alteration in the economic "need" for Africans. As long as the
economy rested on mining and farming and thus was export oriented,
as was the case for the most part up to the 1960s, the purchasing
power of Africans was of negligible consequence. As manufacturing
assumed a more prominent role, however, the economy became
increasingly dependent upon the domestic and regional markets
where South African products could compete effectively. As a leading
economist of South Africa has noted, over time, as manufacturing and
commerce "have become more capital-intensive and mechanised,
their need for skilled labour and for longer production runs has
increased, and this has raised the costs to them of apartheid, which
keeps skilled labour scarce and expensive, and limits the domestic
market [and here one could add the regional market] because of low
black wages" (Lipton 1988:53).
The economic factors we have been examining so far involve those
related to deeper structural shifts that have placed the apartheid econ-
omy under severe strain. The more recent economic downswing has
provided further aggravations. For most of the 1980s, South Africa has
faced a situation of "low growth accompanied by high inflation, low
investment and rising taxation." Domestic economic problems have
been further complicated by the country's weakening international
position, and the late 1980s has seen "the economic noose tightening
around the South African economy." Of particular importance was
the 1985 refusal of U.S. banks to roll over their credits, thus forcing
the South African government to declare a partial moratorium on its
foreign debt repayment (Robinson 1988:205-06).

External Factors
':.4Basically, the external set of factors concerns South Africa's eroding
position in the global community. The country emerged from the

Second World War with an enhanced international standing because
of its important contribution to the Allied war effort. Furthermore, its
domestic politics were not subject to criticism, let alone opprobrium,
in an era when the major Western states were all colonial powers and
the United States had its own legislated as well as social segregation.
Prime Minister Jan Smuts also played a key role in the founding of the
United Nations, for he was the person who drafted the original decla-
ration of aims in the U.N. Charter's preamble (Davenport 1978:312).
South Africa's international position began to erode in the postwar
era primarily because of two factors. The first was the emergence of
the former colonial countries to independent status; the second was
the accession to office of the Nationalist government in 1948. This
government, with its nearly exclusive focus on domestic affairs, was
isolationist and thus far less responsive and attentive to foreign affairs
than its predecessor had been. It was, of course, the Nationalists who
were responsible for institutionalizing apartheid. The result was the
juxtaposition of newly independent countries that expressed a deep-
seated repugnance for any political order based on racial privilege and
exclusion with a government in South Africa not only committed to
such principles but also embarking through apartheid on entrenching
white supremacy even more systematically and fully than it had been
in the pre-1948 segregation era. South Africa was well on its way to
becoming "a skunk among nations."2
where have been a number of crucial steps in the process of South
Africa moving from its position as a member in good standing among
the so-called community of nations to that of a pariah states The first
of these involved the enlargement of the community of nations itself
in the late 1940s and early 1950s as former colonies became indepen-
dent (e.g., the Philippines in 1946, India and Pakistan in 1947, Burma
in 1948, Indonesia in 1949, Egypt in 1952). The Bandung Conference,
convened in 1955 with twenty-nine Afro-Asian states in attendance,
symbolized the emergence of the anticolonial bloc of nations, a bloc
that was decidedly anti-South African. Next came independence for
sub-Saharan Africa, beginning with Ghana in 1957 and taking a
quantum leap in 1960 when fourteen French colonies became inde-
pendent along with Nigeria, Somalia, and Zaire. These African states
dedicated themselves in their foreign policy to the eradication from
the ;ontinent of colonialism and its associated racial domination.
In the 1960s South Africa's international position deteriorated still
further. First came South Africa's withdrawal from the British
Commonwealth in 1961. Then came the onslaught of "U.N. resolu-
tions condemning South Africa's policies wholesale, with massive
majorities and almost no defending votes.... The formation of the
Organization of African Unity [in 1964]...provided the decoloniza-




tion crusade with a central organization, if not a high command"
(Davenport 1978:318). The World Court's decision in 1966 to revoke
South African trusteeship over Namibia marked yet another defeat on
the international front. South Africa's biggest international success
during the 1960s was to prop up and support the barrier of white-
ruled states (Angola, Mozambique, and Rhodesia) that lay between it
and the African-ruled states to the north. The 1974 military coup that
toppled the Portuguese government and subsequently set the stage for
the independence of Angola and Mozambique partially destroyed
South Africa's buffer. The independence of Zimbabwe in 1980
finished off the rest of it.
southh Africa entered the 1980s more isolated than ever before. It
did find some temporary solace in the election of Ronald Reagan to
the U.S. presidency, for his administration's "constructive engage-
ment" policy implied that the U.S. government would work through,
rather than against, the existing white government to bring about
change. The British government under Margaret Thatcher took a sim-
ilar stance. By the middle of the decade, however, the growing anti-
apartheid movements in the West overcame the opposition of conser-
vativegove-rnments to implement economic sanctions against South
Africa, The most dramatic event in this process was the 1986 congres-
sional override of President Reagan's veto to enact the Comprehensive
Anti-Apartheid Act. Sanctions in turn led to severe economic prob-
lems for South Africa, as James Cobbe describes in his chapter. In the
end, the international pressures on the South African government
proved too great for it to adhere unalterably to apartheid, a point that
Nelson Mandela noted when crediting international sanctions in part
for his release from prison (New York Times, 12 February 1990).

The Interaction of External and Internal Factors
\fow do all of these factors come together? Externally, South Africa
emerged from World War II as a respected member of the interna-
tional community. As a consequence, its handling of its domestic
affairs received little meaningful challenge from other members of this
community. Bythe1980s, however, it was .almost completely isolated
internationally, with its domestic policies under severe censure and its
economy subject to a broad range of economic sanctions. Internally,
the 1984 constitution helped trigger a major revolt that the country's
Changing demographic patterns helped sustain and make much
harder to control than was the case with either the Sharpeville crisis in
1960 or the Soweto rising in 1976. Furthermore, events in South
Africa were much more in the international spotlight than they had
been during the previous crises. The condition of the South African

economy also made it more difficult for the government to contain
the revolt, given the increasingly complex dependence on skilled and
stable African labor and domestic and regional markets. At a point
when the South African government needed economic growth to pro-
vide it with the flexibility and resources to respond to the rising tide of
black demands, its international isolation and the tightening economic
noose undercut its ability to do so. Finally, the government had placed
all of its bets, so to speak, on the bantustans. In doing so, however, it
had wagered on a fading horse, for the bantustans proved incapable of
sustaining the apartheid order.
Where does all of this lead? South Africa remains a powerful state
with the strongest economy on the African continent. Yet its future is
more questionable than at any time since the 1948 electoral victory of
the National party. No longer will we see a scholar writing, as did R.
W. Johnson (1977:16), that "the most striking feature of the demise of
white South Africa... is that it has constantly been prophesied and
that it has not come about." Instead, as the contributors to this volume
clearly demonstrate, the apartheid order, while not yet finished, is
most decidedly unraveling. Furthermore, the far-reaching changes
now underway have decided implications not only for South Africa
itself but for the entire Southern African region.

The Papers

The papers fall into five categories. The first of these, consisting of the
paper by A.S. Mathews, focuses on the nature of the South African
state and the type of control it has sought to exert through its security
laws. Looking toward the future, Mathews raises the problem of
attempting to build a postapartheid order along democratic lines in
the context of a legal system that for so long has increasingly resem-
bled a police state.
The second category of papers is concerned with the beneficiaries of
the apartheid order-white South Africans-who for the first time in
more than four decades confront a situation that seems certain to
destroy the political economy under which they have prospered. As
Kenneth Grundy notes, this is producing a situation in which white
politics, reflecting the broader fortunes of the apartheid order, finds
itself in a state of transition and multidimensional uncertainty.
According to C. J. Driver, those white liberals who over the years have
opposed the totalitarianism inherent in the apartheid state, if not as
equally the benefits they have derived from it, find themselves,
Kerensky-like, caught in a tightening vise between increasingly mili-
tant opponents and defenders of the existing order.



A third category of papers examines the black opposition, which, as
C.R.D. Halisi notes, developed along three lines during the 1970s in a
context in which the established liberation movements (the ANC and
the PAC) were banned. The groupings that emerged were those of
neo-ethnicity, radicalized youth, and the labor movement. Among the
youth in particular Black Consciousness thought became especially
significant. Karl Beck's paper illustrates how in the mid-1980s, with
the emergence of the UDF (founded in 1983), the ANC position of
multiracialism reasserted itself in organizational form in a widespread
reaffirmation of working toward a future South Africa built along
the lines of the Freedom Charter. Yet, as Halisi argues, Black Con-
sciousness thought remains a powerful current in the black political
The fourth category of papers discusses black labor, which finds
itself in a stronger economic and political position than ever before in
its history. The strongest single union is the National Union of
Mineworkers (NUM), and its leader, Cyril Ramaphosa, has become
one of the most powerful African political figures. As Robert Shanafelt
notes, however, there are deep fissures within NUM along lines of
both occupational differentiation and ethnicity that threaten worker
solidarity and provide openings for both large-scale capital and the
state to play various factions against each other. The evolution of
NUM into a powerful organization whose membership includes a
large element of migrant workers from outside South Africa belongs
to the wider context of the organization and mobilization of black
labor that Pearl-Alice Marsh analyzes in her chapter. The origins lie in
the emergence of a white-based interstate system in Southern Africa
that in turn produced a regional labor structure. During the last two
decades, national-based economies have steadily displaced the earlier
race-based regional economy, leading in turn to significant changes in
the pattern of migrant labor. Black labor unions such as NUM have as
a consequence achieved sufficient power to participate in shaping the
labor system of the present and the future.
South Africa's domination of a regional race-based labor system
brings us to the final category of papers, those that examine the coun-
try's presiding role over the politics and the economy of Southern
Africa as a whole. As James Cobbe notes, South Africa continues to
overshadow and dominate the newer national-based economies of
the region. The emergence of the Southern African Development
Coordinating Conference (SADCC), however, along with the emerg-
ing structural weaknesses of the South African economy itself, has
served to weaken the country's hold over the economy of the region
as a whole while at the same time creating uncertainty and holding
the potential for widespread economic insecurity in Southern Africa.



The implications of attempting to establish a national-based economy
with control over labor and other resources while yet remaining to a
significant degree economically dependent and subject to South
Africa's contradictory foreign policy can readily be seen in Allen
Isaacman's discussion of the experience of Mozambique. According to
Patrick O'Meara, South Africa confronts a paradoxical choice in its
policy toward the region-that of whether to continue to regard it as a
hinterland to exploit and cultivate or as the haven of its real and
potential enemies to attack and keep off guard. Even a postapartheid
South Africa will have to confront complex issues of establishing
smooth economic and political relations with the other states of the
region who through SADCC have attempted to rid their own
economies of South African domination.


That the apartheid order is clearly unraveling is evident in this volume
as well as in other studies.3 Despite having resorted for decades to
increasingly draconian security laws, the state has proven unable to
hold the opposition in check. Faced with this realization, it has dra-
matically reversed course under the leadership of President F.W. de
Klerk. At the opening of Parliament in 1990, for instance, de Klerk
announced the lifting of bans on opposition political organizations
and his intention to free Nelson Mandela, an event the world watched
on 11 February. At the start of the 1991 parliamentary session, the
state president noted his government's intention to dismantle much of
the rest of the formal apartheid system. Specifically, legislation would
soon be introduced to repeal "the cornerstones of apartheid"-the
1913 Land Act, the 1966 Group Areas Act, the 1984 Black Com-
munities Act, and, most surprising and significant, the 1950 Pop-
ulation Registration Act. Africans, however, still remain without the
Already badly split, the government's outright renunciation of
apartheid has caused white politics to fracture even further. Increasing
numbers of whites (largely English-speaking) were already pulling
away from apartheid and seeking some vaguely defined, more demo-
craticalternative. Some have now even begun to look to the ANC for
leadership. Moreover, the National party, already split between a
ve~ligte element that sought to reform apartheid and a verkrampte.ele-
ment that sought to maintain the status quo, has been further weak-
ened by its leadership's abandonment of apartheid. Some of its more
hardline verkrampte elements have split off and moved into the right-
wing opposition camp. In turn, the right wing is increasingly vocal




and militant: Conservative party members of parliament walked out
on de Klerk as he addressed the opening of the 1991 session. The lib-
eral element, mostly white and English-speaking, argues for "classic"
Western-style democracy. Squeezed by militants on both sides, how-
ever, this group is failing to attract sufficient support from those in the
middle who opt for neither of the militant camps yet are unwilling to
co2rmit themselves to a liberal future.
The "African voice" is increasingly asserting itself in South African
politics, thereby contributing significantly to the progressive collapse
of the apartheid order. But which African voice? Is it the radicalized
young, who have fallen under the sway of Black Consciousness and
conduct their politics accordingly? Their political arguments are per-
suasive, but their organizational skills are less so. Is it the Charterists,
based in the UDF from its founding in 1983 until it disbanded in 1991,
whose vision is that of a democratic South Africa? Organizationally
they seem to be in the ascendancy, especially with the unbanning of
the ANC (the UDF had served as its surrogate within South Africa
while it was outlawed and in exile) and the release of its long-impris-
oned leader, Nelson Mandela. As the Charterists begin to operate fully
aboveground, however, will they be able to meet current demands
and expectations? The continued PAC opposition to any negotiation
with the government in Pretoria, reiterated at its December 1990
party congress, suggests difficulties ahead for those who adhere to the
Freedom Charter as the blueprint for South Africa. Or is it the voice of
Inkatha and its leader, Chief Gatsha Buthelezi? While he may be "the
man you can't ignore" (Tygesen, 1991), it is difficult to view him as
more than a Zulu voice, let alone the Zulu voice, or a voice for the
aspirations of Africans in general.
Or is the African voice that of black labor, the once slumbering
giant now awakening? It has the economic base and the organiza-
tional strength to give force to its latent militancy and hostility to the
apartheid order that has so ruthlessly exploited it. Yet, though it has
considerable solidarity, black labor remains incomplete and divided by
internal fissures and external pressures such as the rivalry between
Charterists and Pan-Africanists and between Inkatha and the ANC.
Finally, what of the African voice (or voices) from elsewhere in the
region? Will the other Southern African states continue to maintain
SADCC as a bulwark against the South African giant, invite a demo-
cratic South Africa to join them, or disband SADCC and pursue
national-based strategies that might include seeking to become incor-
porated into South Africa itself?
In short, the African voice is not singular in nature but plural. In
the past, this fact has helped to weaken the antiapartheid opposition
and allowed the state to play off one faction against another. It still


provides potential for those in power to enhance their position by
building on divisions among its opponents. De Klerk's bold moves (in
the context of the past half century of South African political history)
seemingly constitute an effort to carve out a new base for continued
National party rule. Much of the Inkatha-based violence in the town-
ships may also stem from such an effort. Even as the apartheid state is
unraveling, elements of the old order (e.g., large-scale capital) will try
to find among the antiapartheid forces sufficient allies to enable them
to retain power and privilege. At the same time the antiapartheid
ranks are seeking ways to overcome their differences so as to gain
power (the Mandela-Buthelezi meeting in January 1991 is a case in
point). An excellent place, then, to begin assessing the strengths and
weaknesses of the forces in play in South Africa is in the contributions
to this volume. They provide a sound vantage point for understanding
southern Africa today and from which to peer into its future.


1. For a discussion of the policy of forced removals, numbering more than
3.5 million between 1960 and 1983, see Roger Ormond (1986:131-38).
Ormond in turn was relying on the research carried out by a team of
researchers known as the Surplus Peoples Project.
2. This epithet is taken from the subtitle of Les de Villiers's South Africa: A
Skunk among Nations (1975). Ironically, de Villiers, who served as a South
African diplomat in North America for ten years, intended his title to
underscore what he viewed as the hypocrisy and double standards of the
international community when it came to dealing with South Africa.
3. For a sampling of some of the best studies, see Davis (1987), Greenberg
(1987), James (1987), Libby (1987), and Lonsdale (1988).


Adam, Heribert, and Kogila Moodley. 1986. South Africa Without Apartheid.
Berkeley: University of California Press.
Davenport, T. R. H. 1978. South Africa: A Modern History. Toronto: University
of Toronto Press.
Davis, Stephen M. 1987. Apartheid's Rebels. New Haven: Yale University
de Villiers, Les. 1975. South Africa: A Skunk among Nations. London: Tandem.
Greenberg, Stanley B. 1987. Legitimating the Illegitimate. Berkeley: University
of California Press.
James, Wilmot G., ed. 1987. The State of Apartheid. Boulder: Lynne Rienner.
Johnson, R.W. 1977. How Long Will South Africa Survive? New York: Oxford
University Press.



Libby, Ronald T. 1987. The Politics of Economic Power in Southern Africa.
Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Lipton, Merle. 1988. "Capitalism and Apartheid." In South Africa in Question,
ed. John Lonsdale, 52-63. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Lonsdale, John, ed. 1988. South Africa in Question. Portsmouth, NH:
Marcum, John A. 1982. Education, Race, and Social Change in South Africa.
Berkeley: University of California Press.
Murray, Colin. 1988. "Displaced Urbanization." In South Africa in Question, ed.
John Lonsdale, 110-33. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
New York Times. 1990. 12 February.
Ormond, Roger. 1986. The Apartheid Handbook. Harmondsworth, U.K.:
Penguin Books.
Robinson, Anthony. 1988. The African Review. Saffron Waldron, Essex, U.K.:
World of Information.
Schlemmer, Lawrence. 1980. "Change in South Africa: Opportunities and
Constraints." In The Apartheid Regime: Political Power and Racial Domination,
ed. Robert M. Price and Carl G. Rosberg, 236-80. Berkeley: University of
California Press.
Sparks, Allister H. 1990. The Mind of South Africa. London: Heineman.
Tygesen, Peter. 1991. "The Man You Can't Ignore." Africa Report (January-
February): 50-53.
Wilson, Francis, and Mamphela Ramphele. 1989. Uprooting Poverty: The South
African Challenge. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.




South African Security Law

and the Growth of Local and

Regional Violence


%4he root cause of internal and cross-border violence in South Africa is
the imposition on the black people of the country of the policy of
apartheid-a policy that its nonconsenting victims correctly perceive
to be inhuman, discriminatory, and unjust. Apartheid as recently as
the late 1980s was neither dead nor dying, notwithstanding the
final benedictions pronounced over it by the licensed comedians of
the state such as Minister of Cooperation and Development Piet
Koornhof."he transformation of apartheid from theory into fact has
been recorded by Joseph Lelyveld (1986), whose documentation of
the impact of forced removals and geographical segregation of blacks
is the most telling and heartrending account yet published. This phys-
ical segregation constitutes one of the basic essentials of apartheid
that remain entrenched, the others being race classification and white
monopoly of power and wealth. Violence arises directly from the
maintenance of these basics through state-sanctioned or "structural"
; Two features of government policy in particular have heightened
the prospects of a violent outcome to South Africa's political conflict.
The first is the ruling party's obsession with ethnicity and the resultant
ordering of society into ethnic camps. Nothing could be more explo-
sive than the channeling of political conflict along ethnic lines. The
second feature of official policy that exacerbates violence is the denial
(implicit in apartheid) of meaningful political rights to the newly
mobilized black work force in South Africa. When the masses are
drawn into a process of rapid modernization, the failure or refusal to
develop institutions of political participation through which awak-
ened aspirations can be expressed is, as Samuel P. Huntington
(1968:47) has observed, a direct and major cause of violence in the
modern state.


South African Security Law

One could legitimately ask whether it is not precisely the function
of a security system, and in particular of the South African security
system, to deal with and eliminate the violence of which we have
been speaking. The response to that question is clear. Even if the secu-
rity system is an acceptable one, in the sense that it is directed
specifically at violence or nondemocratic efforts to subvert the institu-
tions of the state, its employment might still be criticized and even
condemned on the grounds that the system is overburdened with
responsibilities beyond its capacity. There are many tasks that can be
effectively undertaken only in the political sphere and which, if they
are not resolved there, place an impossible burden on the security
system. Clearly, one of the reasons for the current disorder in South
Africa is that the authorities have been seeking to solve by security
action social problems that should be addressed politically though
recently they have at least initiated efforts at finding political solu-
tions. But the South African security system is not an acceptable one,
and its focus is by no means confined to violence or subversive attacks
upon the state. It is true that the security laws are framed in such a
way that violent acts against the state can be punished and persons
and groups practicing subversion can be restricted by detentions, ban-
nings, and the like. But the reach of the laws, both on paper and in
practice, is far wider than that. The security laws are also directed and
used against those who oppose the government and its policies.
Black opponents of the government, whether in education, the
media, trade unions, or community work, are bound, sooner or later,
to come into conflict with the security system, which has become one
of the chief props of apartheid. It may be argued that its main function
is to control extraparliamentary opposition to apartheid. The system
represents, according to Tapia-Valdes's typology of national security
policies, "a permanent policy of exercising stricter socio-political con-
trol by granting to the national security establishment a degree of
power formerly applicable only during a state of emergency." This
author's characterization of the "national security state" is fully appli-
cable to contemporary South Africa: "This enlarged security structure
represents a 'militaristic' view of the political conflict which requires
control of dissidence. Civilian, military and police roles are blended in
order to 'manipulate' national security as a pretense to justify the use
of the police and armed forces in backing a determined civilian politi-
cal project and status quo." (Tapia-Valdes 1982:9-10). An almost per-
fect expression of this tendency is to be found in the secretly devel-
oped National Security Management System-a system of local
administration in which the security forces are playing a shadowy and
sinister role in the repression of community dissidence.1
The managers of the South African security system present them-


selves, not altogether surprisingly, as the operators of a true law-and-
order enterprise and deny that they are in the business of sociopolitical
control. It is worth a momentary diversion to analyze the techniques
by which this spurious, but not totally unsuccessful, claim to legiti-
macy has been developed. It has taken in the bulk of the white popu-
lation (including some of its more discriminating members such as
judges), some black South Africans (of which Charles Sebe, former
head of the Ciskeian security force, is a prime example),2 and a sub-
stantial number of outsiders. The legitimating philosophy of the secu-
rity system has been that of resistance to total onslaught. In this
context, total onslaught is defined as a Communist-inspired and Com-
munist-directed attack against South Africa conducted by all available
means, including military, spiritual, and psychological assaults on the
South African population. Because the attack is conceived as multi-
dimensional, the resistance to it must be conducted at all levels, and
what would be described in a democracy as an intrusion into the free-
doms of thought, conscience, and expression has been represented in
South Africa as a defensive action against the all-pervasive and
destructive influences of Communist subversion in Africa.
.-he philosophy of resistance to the total onslaught has depended
for its persuasiveness on a number of deliberately engineered confu-
sions. In particular, it involves the confusion between black national-
ist resistance and Communist subversion and between the liberation
war and the worldwide phenomenon of terrorism.3 The use of a
number of legitimizing techniques in which South African legal tech-
nicians are quite skilled has artfully veiled these confusions and the
real objectives of the security system. South Africa still declares states
of emergencies, thereby preserving the illusion that "ordinary" law
prevails in normal times. In fact, the ordinary law goes well beyond
what most Western societies enact as emergency law, while emer-
gency law is almost comparable to the worst examples of totalitarian
excess. An imposing cloak of legality consisting of elaborate (but gen-
erally ineffective) procedures and safeguards, detailed (but generally
inoperative) criteria for official action,4 and extensive court participa-
tion (without, however, any real power of control) have skillfully cov-
ered over the basic aims of the security system. (South African minis-
ters are fond of saying that the victims of security action are free to
approach the courts, forgetting to add that the courts that are so
approached are usually powerless to help.) The skillful manipulation
of the theory of total onslaught and the obsessive legalism of the inter-
nal security program have concealed with considerable success the
real objective of national security in South Africa-political control.
The containment of violence, although it is undoubtedly sought by
the managers of the system, iS of secondary importance. Expressed



South African Security Law

differently, faced with the choice between reduced political control
accompanied by less violence on the one hand and full political con-
trol accompanied by greater violence on the other, South Africa's
rulers have consistently opted for the latter as indicated by the secu-
rity program they have adopted. Although the de Klerk government
has now conceded the need to share political power, the state's secu-
rity apparatus remains in place.
Since security legislation has been framed broadly enough to
inhibit the articulation of grievances and the development of nonvio-
lent pressures for reform by disenfranchised South Africans, the
growth of violence can hardly be a surprising phenomenon to those
who have imposed the security clamps on the South African people.
There is no better recipe for revolutionary resistance than that of
blocking the channels of grievance articulation and redress available
to a voteless, seriously disadvantaged section of society. This is espe-
cially true when that section is a majority whose political servitude is
a consequence of the imposed and irrational criterion of race. The leg-
islative blocking of these channels has been carried out with an open-
eyed deliberation. The principal organizations through which black
grievances and demands could be articulated were either banned or
neutralized by individual banning, detentions, and other forms of
legal or extralegal reprisals until President de Klerk rescinded these
measures in February 1990. The case of the United Democratic Front
(UDF) is instructive in this regard. Even though it was not banned
until February 1988 (when the government used its emergency
powers to ban it, along with sixteen other organizations, for the dur-
ation of the declared state of emergency), its leadership suffered
grievously under a wide range of legal actions (as defined by security
legislation) brought to bear on it. Furthermore, the state had declared
the organization itself an affected organization under the provisions of
the law, thereby depriving it of funds from abroad.
Under security legislation the right to hold public meetings and
processions is practically nonexistent-all outdoor meetings (except
sports gatherings) are illegal without prior government approval.
Indeed, the mass public demonstrations in Cape Town, Johannesburg,
Pretoria, and other cities in the week following the September 1989
elections were the first such gatherings that the government had
approved. Yet within a week or so afterward police arrested more
than 150 demonstrators who attempted to hold a meeting after
having refused to seek a permit (on the same day, right-wing white
extremists held a meeting that had received government approval and
at which there were calls for the execution of Nelson Mandela). The
government regularly prohibits indoor meetings of opposition groups,
either specifically or on a blanket basis. The press, especially the black


press, is subject to extensive security law controls that include ban-
nings (such as of the World, the Soweto daily newspaper), the require-
ment of a forfeitable deposit of up to R40,000 as a condition of the
registration of a newspaper, and extensive restrictions on what may
be published. Arbitrary restrictions on freedom of movement, assem-
bly, association, and expression regularly violate the individual rights
of black leaders and activists.
The surprise and outrage expressed by the ruling elite at the violent
explosion that has followed this process of screwing down the lid on
South Africa's seething social cauldron is largely feigned. The outcome
was entirely predictable. The dissembling nature of the rulers' reaction
is sometimes evident in the ill-contained glee with which government
authorities attribute the latest atrocities to the opposition movements.
However inexcusable and unjustifiable, acts of violence thus bear a
direct relationship to the government policy of holding down the lid
and simultaneously sealing all outlets and safety valves.
The South African internal security system may be condemned
today as one that has manifestly failed to contain violence and disor-
der. The first of the draconian laws of the era of National party rule,
the Suppression of Communism Act in 1950, was enacted at a time
when the country was in a state of peace. The Survey of Race Relations
(South African Institute of Race Relations 1950-51:21) of that year
records only two activities demonstrating unrest-a one-day work
stoppage and a peaceful protest meeting against apartheid legislation.
In 1985, after three and a half decades of tough law-and-order
medicine, unrest accounted for 824 deaths and 2,615 injured persons.
In the same year there were 136 so-called guerrilla incidents (South
African Institute of Race Relations 1985:533, 541). These data do not
read like the success story that the managers of the security system
claim for their operations. Deaths, property destruction, and acts of
insurgency did ultimately decline under the state of emergency
declared in 1986. The pattern of ever-increasing violence after each
campaign of repression does not appear to have been broken, how-
ever, if the violence in Natal and the Transvaal townships is any indi-
cator. It is difficult to see how it can be until reform touches the essen-
tials of inequality and security law measures are directed at real
subversives rather than opponents of the system.
With the foregoing remark about the political victims of the secu-
rity system we come to the nub of the problem of so-called national
security in South Africa-the grotesque overreach of security legisla-
tion. From the perspective of social stability, the problem with the
security laws is that they are excessively broad and indiscriminate and
that they tend to create more enemies than they can eliminate. The
security crackdown after the 1976 disturbances drove thousands of



South African Security Law

young blacks across the borders of South Africa and into ANC training
camps. Several years later there was a dramatic increase in guerrilla
attacks in the country. The crackdown of the mid-1980s, which was
far fiercer than the actions taken in 1976, would no doubt in time
have produced its own counterreaction of insurgency violence if it
had not been forestalled by the events of February 1990. It is not
enough, therefore, to criticize the security system for its failure to con-
tain violence. The system must also be condemned as a begetter of
violence in South Africa and across its borders. This is a serious charge
that calls for extended analysis and justification.

Trends in South African Security Legislation

The security system's capacity for generating violence is due princi-
pally to two trends in security legislation of the past four decades. The
first is the progressive tendency of freeing the security authorities
from legal accountability for their actions. The second tendency is
more recent but overlaps with the first and consists of the steady
reduction, to the point of elimination, of the political or public
accountability of the security authorities. Both trends have a direct
bearing on the growth of violence. A separate examination of each is
necessary to assess their import.
Diminished legal accountability for security actions has been a fea-
ture of South Africa's security system from the outset. Reduced
accountability to the law has always been implicit in any emergency
government, but this has generally been tolerated because emergen-
cies are usually short-term affairs in the nature of intervals between
periods of full accountability for official action. The permanent nonac-
countability of security authorities is a totally different matter and
cannot be acceptable in a society that puts any value upon individual
freedom and democracy. This is more strongly the case where
accountability is not merely reduced but actually eliminated. So-called
ordinary security legislation in South Africa (nonemergency legisla-
tion) provides examples of partial, substantial, and total exemption
from accountability to the law. Some examples of each will be helpful
in measuring the South African security system's conformity to the
rule of law.

Partial Nonaccountability
Persons charged with security law violations (terrorism, subversion,
sabotage, intimidation, furthering the aims of communism or of a
banned organization, and so forth) are brought before the ordinary


courts, which in the main apply basic fair-trial procedures. With
respect to security crimes, therefore, the authorities remain responsi-
ble to the law, and in contrast to the Soviet Union, for example, there
are frequent acquittals in South African political trials. But the
accountability in the sphere of security crime is limited by a number of
factors. First, some security crime charges are excessively broad or
vague (or both). Thus, once the decision to charge is taken, conviction
may be a predictable outcome. This is disturbing where the crime
encompasses acts of extraparliamentary opposition, such as passive
resistance or strikes. Second, the extended interrogation of state wit-
nesses held incommunicado provides the police with the opportunity
of manipulating the prosecution case, and convictions based on
coerced evidence and confessions carry no conviction, to make a poor
pun. Third, the imbalance between the mighty resources of the state
in political trials and the vulnerability of the accused (who is fre-
quently held incommunicado until the trial) can be so severe as to
jeopardize the fairness of the trial.

Substantial Nonaccountability
When the security authorities take extrajudicial action against persons
perceived to be security threats, they operate substantially outside the
constraints of the law. This has generally been achieved by making the
power to take such action conditional on "the opinion" of the author-
ity concerned. The banning of individuals and organizations is condi-
tional upon the opinion or state of satisfaction of the designated
authority that a threat to state security exists. According to the courts,
if this opinion or state of satisfaction is apparently genuine the restric-
tion cannot be challenged as being unsupported by objectively present
reasons or facts. Most forms of detention in South Africa may be
ordered if the empowered official believes that incarceration is justified.
Detention orders, then, are generally proof against legal challenge.
An exception to this is section 29 detention, which depends upon the
official in question having "reason to believe" that the detention is
justified.5 This phrase, the appeal court recently held in the Hurley
case, means that the official must act upon proven grounds for detain-
ing the suspect.6 While this judgment introduced a welcome measure
of court control, it is not applicable to other forms of detention (such
as indefinite preventive detention under section 28). Furthermore, a
new form of detention (section 50A detention), introduced in a bill
published (significantly, perhaps) on the same day that the Hurley
judgment was delivered, nullified the court's decision. It follows that
that form of detention is still effectively beyond court supervision.
This applies also to detentions under emergency law.



South African Security Law

Total Nonaccountability

The clearest example of a security power that falls into the realm of
nonlaw (or Lon Fuller's "patternless exercises of power") is the minis-
terial power to ban meetings.7 This power is challengeable only on the
mythical ground of proof of bad faith or improper purpose on the
minister's part. In effect, the minister has an absolute power to control
assemblies of two or more persons in public or private places in South
When we turn our attention to emergency legislation, as distinct
from the supposedly ordinary legislation discussed above, the powers
all fall into the substantially or totally nonaccountable categories.
Emergency detention, for example, may be ordered without any prior
hearing, without the control of review committees, and according to
the subjective discretion of the detaining authorities. In the few cases
where the courts have released emergency detainees, the arresting
authority has been guilty of so blatant a misuse of power that its bad
faith or reliance on improper considerations has proclaimed itself (as
in the case of the arrest and detention of a nun who had objected to a
police assault on a young township dweller during unrest operations).
Where the authorities do not act with obvious impropriety, the deten-
tion is practically beyond the control of the courts and therefore not
subject to legal controls. There are three instances, in particular, of
powers that appear to fall into the absolute category (total nonac-
countability) and are a cause of grave concern to those who hope for a
peaceful resolution of conflict in South Africa. Each requires separate

The Indemnity Clause
Acts of indemnity are usually passed after the conclusion of an emer-
gency to exempt those responsible for restoring law and order from
legal liability for bona fide but illegal actions taken during the crisis. In
all three emergencies declared in South Africa under the Public Safety
Act of 1953, the security forces have been exempted in advance from
civil and criminal responsibility for actions taken under the emer-
gency regulations which the authority in question genuinely believed
to be necessary. This prior licensing of illegal conduct virtually frees
the authorities from the restraints of law so long as they believe their
emergency actions to be necessary to terminate unrest. What the
security forces believe to be necessary can be gauged from incidents
such as the notorious 1985 "Trojan horse" ambush in which several
young persons (including a boy twelve years old) were shot dead after
being trapped into stoning a police vehicle. Another telling piece of


evidence is the instruction sent to divisional commissioners of police
before the shootings at Uitenhage that those who threw petrol bombs
should be eliminated.

The Search and Seizure Clause
The security forces have power under the emergency regulations to
enter premises for purposes of search and seizure at any time and
without the requirement of a warrant. Once on the premises they are
authorized to take such steps as they deem necessary for the mainte-
nance of law and order or the safety of the public. Blacks in South
Africa have never enjoyed security of hearth and home. Even the
remnants of that security were swept away by the emergency search
and seizure power.

The Use of Force Clause
If the presence or conduct of any person is deemed by a commis-
sioned, warrant, or noncommissioned officer of the security forces to
be a threat to public safety or order, the officer concerned may order
such persons to disperse or desist from such conduct and, if they do
not do so immediately, may employ such force (including lethal force)
as he deems necessary to secure compliance. The effect of this emergency
provision is to free the security forces almost entirely from legal con-
trols in dispersing groups or preventing unwelcome conduct. The cri-
teria for the use of any force used, including lethal weapons, are
expressed in terms of official belief and are therefore subjective in
Though these powers are emergency powers that should lapse with
the lifting in 1990 of the 1986 state of emergency, they can be reintro-
duced on an area basis under a new provision of the Public Safety Act
of 1953.9 This provision, introduced in 1986, permits the minister of
law and order to declare areas of the republic to be unrest areas and to
exercise for these areas the same powers of legislation as the state
president may exercise in times of national emergencies. The provi-
sion in effect provides for a "no hassle" localized emergency. When
these micro-emergencies are introduced, we can be fairly certain that
the lawless powers conferred by the three provisions just discussed
will be brought into effect. Official lawlessness has possibly been per-
petuated for South Africa even when a government representing the
majority of the population takes power.
The second major feature of recent security legislation is that of
steadily diminishing public accountability for security force actions
and conduct. The Official Secrets Act, one of the dubious blessings that



South African Security Law

imperial Great Britain conferred upon commonwealth countries, has
always facilitated secret military and security operations and seriously
limited the democratic accountability of the martial power in the
state. In 1975, South Africa invaded Angola. The ensuing war was
successfully maintained as a state secret for several months by the
threatened use of official secrets and defense legislation. Sub-
sequently, the government used the Official Secrets Act of 195610 to
block publication of a book that almost certainly contained informa-
tion about South Africa's military adventures across the borders of
Angola and Mozambique."1 Defense and official secrets legislation also
blocked disclosure of the extent of government involvement in the
abortive Seychelles coup, and the relevant parts of the trial of the mer-
cenaries that followed were held in camera.12 Operating behind the
screen of secrecy laws, the ruling party managed to turn the sanctified
policy of noninterference in the affairs of nearby countries into its
opposite without any political accountability for this drastic reversal.
Military strikes, assassinations in neighboring states, and possibly even
parcel bombs-the full repertoire of "dirty tricks"-thereby became
the new norms of conduct of the security/military arm of government
as it was progressively freed from public accountability.

Secrecy and the Growth of Official Lawlessness

Until quite recently South Africa's security authorities remained
accountable to the public for internal operations. Though there were
exceptions, such as legislation protecting the police and prison author-
ities from "untrue" disclosures and the secrecy surrounding the treat-
ment of detainees, by and large the nature and extent of internal-
security operations could be published and were made known by the
media. This changed dramatically and perhaps permanently with the
promulgation of nationwide emergency regulations on 12 June 1986
when a number of repressive controls on the media were introduced.
Though some of these regulations were quickly struck down by the
courts, they were amended and reenacted and had these main effects:
(1) the exclusion of all journalists, cameramen, and reporters from
places where unrest is taking place; (2) a prohibition on news or com-
ment on unrest or on security force actions in unrest areas; (3) a ban
on pictures, sound recordings, or films of any kind of unrest activity or
security force action to counter it; (4) the imposition of prepublication
censorship with the power to ban a publication for periods of three
months for violating censorship provisions. These controls limited
news and comment about unrest and security force activities to
official releases from, or reports approved by, the Bureau of Infor-


mation or other government departments. In short, a "Ministry of
Truth" told the public what it should believe as long as the state of
emergency was in force.
It is significant that the impenetrable screen enveloped security
force conduct after the expression of internal and external outrage
about the frequently brutal manner in which not only unrest but also
peaceful demonstrations and protests were being put down. The
South African government sought to have us believe that the main
reason for the growth of violence and disorder in South Africa was
that such matters were reported in the media. This was a farcical claim
that was meant to divert attention from the prime causes of violence
and to give the security forces a free hand in dealing with alleged trou-
blemakers. After legal accountability for security operations had been
virtually eliminated, only public accountability remained as an obsta-
cle to complete freedom of action. The 1986 emergency measures
removed the final obstacle and gave the security authorities, both
legally and politically, a free hand in dealing with opponents of the
government. With this development, the locus of power shifted deci-
sively to the military-security alliance.
The security enactments briefly reviewed here had the effect of
establishing the security forces as a substantially lawless power in the
state. In addition, the security authorities positioned themselves
beyond effective political control, allowing them to act with little sense
of accountability to the public. A major result of these developments
was a massive increase in official violence against the opponents of
the government both within South Africa and across its borders. The
extent of official internal violence clearly emerges from a comparison
with Northern Ireland. In seventeen years of civil strife in Northern
Ireland, the security forces were responsible for 265 deaths. In 1985
alone, South African security forces killed approximately 400 persons.
The percentage of persons killed by the security forces in Northern
Ireland has been 10.8 percent of those dying in the violence, while in
South Africa the security forces were responsible, at the time of writing,
for more than 50 percent of unrest deaths. Moreover, the figure of 50
percent actually represents a decline, since in earlier years, before the
phenomenon of so-called black-on-black violence had appeared, the
ratio of official to other killings must have been considerably higher.13
The South African government would no doubt explain the growth
of official violence simply as a state response to the increasingly vio-
lent attacks upon itself and those who support its policies. It also has
sought to justify this violence by distinguishing between state-sanc-
tioned force (which is morally acceptable if not actually good) and
antistate violence (which is not just unacceptable but actually evil).
Both explanations are simplistic and self-serving. I leave aside the



South African Security Law

moral argument except to say that the earlier part of this paper has
sufficiently illustrated the poverty of the ruling party's claim to legiti-
mate use of violence. Turning to the argument that official violence is
no more than a reaction to antistate violence, several points need to
be stressed.
First, the use of force by the authorities has become increasingly
undiscriminating and ferocious. Nothing illustrates this better than
the extent to which young children are becoming the victims of secu-
rity force action, including torture.14 Such repression produces its
own harvest of hatred and counterviolence. Some very moderate
voices in South Africa have given expression to this lesson. Speaking
from his chair in an Afrikaans university, Professor Lourens M. du
Plessis (1985:233, 236) has warned that "coercion from above...tends
to give rise to chaos from below." Sometime earlier, advocate D.P. de
Villiers (1983:393, 415), speaking from within the ranks of the ruling
party, said that drastic measures are likely to be ineffective and coun-
terproductive in the longer term. The counsel of these quieter voices
was scarcely heard during the 1980s in the din of growing conflict in
South Africa.
The second point to note is that in the entire history of resistance to
apartheid, the most fateful decision taken by the ruling party was to
suspend the legal and political controls applicable to the security
forces. The implications of this step have been well expressed by Paul
Wilkinson (1977:42, 124) as "the creation of a power-hungry security
apparatus" and the growth of general chaos in which "private armies
and vigilante groups will spring up like a jungle of weeds." These
words are disturbingly appropriate to the South African situation. As
official lawlessness has increased, violence and terror have become
commonplace in many communities. Vigilante killings and property
destruction, political assassinations, Mafia-style gunning down of ene-
mies, and public executions (usually by necklacing) became everyday
occurrences. There is growing evidence that the security forces are
involved in some of this violence and that they do little to prevent it
when directed against antigovernment elements. Lawlessness at the
center-within the very agencies that are responsible for law and
order-is like a corrosive acid that is bound to spread through the
whole system. Though the security forces have not, as a rule, created
violence, their lawless interventions have provided a powerful impe-
tus to its growth in the society. The situation has become even more
volatile with the growth of right-wing resistance to de Klerk's efforts
at reaching an accommodation with the anti-apartheid forces.
Finally, due to the inadequate and sometimes nonexistent rule-of-
law controls over the security authorities, they have been able to neu-
tralize and indeed eliminate black leaders even when these leaders


have been moderate and nonviolent. One result of the war on black
leaders has been the steady replacement of moderate leaders with
more militant ones who are not infrequently committed to violence as
"the only language that the white man understands." Another
significant result has been the creation of leaderless mobs and the
growth of anarchic or unstructured violence in the country. Once
again, the contribution of the security laws to these developments is
both direct and significant.
The increasing resort to force, the suspension of political and legal
controls over the security forces, and lack of adherence of the security
authorities to the rule of law all served to make it impossible to accept
official violence in South Africa as a simple and natural response to
antistate subversion and terror. Freed from the constraints of law and
political accountability, the security forces pushed conflict resolution
decisively in the direction of a military (and therefore nondemocratic)
resolution. Secrecy laws ensured that this process took place by stealth
and without adequate evaluation or public debate of its frightening
When we turn from the internal to the cross-border situation, the
same phenomenon of an exponential growth of violent incidents is
evident. Guerrilla raids into South Africa and defense force strikes
across the border until recently regularly took place and were publi-
cized and widely known. There is, however, a darker side to regional
conflict in Southern Africa of which knowledge, within South Africa
at least, is rather shadowy. The reference here is to defense force
involvement in regional conflicts such as the RENAMO/FRELIMO
conflict in Mozambique, the toppling of Chief Jonathan in Lesotho,
and the Angolan civil war. In all these situations there has clearly
been a South African involvement, but the use of official secrets and
defense legislation has effectively concealed its exact nature and
extent. Occasionally, the statutory veil is lifted when unavoidable
publicity follows the more blatant acts of aggression, such as the sei-
zure and abduction of two Swiss nationals from Swaziland. In the
main, however, security legislation has ensured that the full facts
cannot be made known. More importantly, it has made impossible
adequate public debate and evaluation of the repercussions on
regional peace and stability of what appear to be the imperialist/mili-
tary ambitions of a regional superpower. Depending on the degree of
success de Klerk enjoys in adhering to the course he has charted for
his government, the portents could still promise growing regional
conflict and continued public ignorance in South Africa as to where
policy would be leading. It would be well if Andrei Sakharov's words
could be heeded in South Africa before it is too late. In an interview
(Observer, 11 January 1987) given just after his release from exile, he



South African Security Law

said "A state is bound to be more dangerous if it is governed not
openly by the people, but secretly by political forces that are not
widely known or understood."


1. See, for example, Sparks (1986). The de Klerk government has reportedly
dissolved the NSMS.
2. See Lelyveld (1986), chapter 6, for a discussion of Sebe.
3. Part of the persuasiveness of the total onslaught philosophy is that it rests
upon partial truths of a mainly self-fulfilling kind. The ANC has resorted
to armed struggle, which some termed terrorism, and has had contacts
with other liberation movements, which again have been charged with
terrorism, and its cooperation with Communists and the support it has
received from Communist regimes are well known. These are develop-
ments for which government policy must accept a large share of the
4. The criteria for official action, despite being detailed and specific, are in
reality determined largely by official whim.
5. Section 29 of the Internal Security Act 74 of 1982.
6. Minister of Law and Order v. Hurley 1986 (3) SA 568 (A).
7. Section 46(3) of the Internal Security Act 74 of 1982.
8. Metal and Allied Workers Union v. Castell N.O. 1985 (2) SA 280 (D).
9. Section 5A of the Public Safety Act 3 of 1953. Since the withdrawal of the
national emergency, a number of areas have been under emergency rules
as "unrest areas."
10. Now replaced by the Protection of Information Act 84 of 1982.
11. Sv. duPlessis 1981 (3) SA 382 (A).
12. S v. Hoare 1982 (4) SA 865 (N).
13. For a brief discussion of these figures, see Mathews (1986:278).
14. Affidavits claiming the torture of young children were read out in
Parliament by Helen Suzman at the beginning of the 1987 session
(Sunday Tribune, 8 February 1987). Official figures released by the min-
ister of law and order indicated that 91 children under fourteen years of
age and 167 children under age fifteen were being detained.


de Villiers, D. P. 1983. "Change in Respect of Security Legislation." In Change
in South Africa, ed. D.J. van Vuuren et al. Pretoria: Butterworths.
du Plessis, Lourens M. 1985. "Thoughts on Law, Order and State Security."
Tydskrifvir die Suid-Afrikaanse Reg.


32 Mathews

Huntington, Samuel P. 1968. Political Order in Changing Societies. New Haven:
Yale University Press.
Lelyveld, Joseph. 1986. Move Your Shadow: South Africa, Black and White.
Johannesburg: Jonathan Bell.
Mathews, Anthony. 1986. Freedom, State Security, and the Rule of Law: Dilemmas
of the Apartheid Society. Cape Town: Juta and Co.
South African Institute of Race Relations. 1950-51. Survey of Race Relations in
South Africa. Johannesburg: South African Institute of Race Relations.
-- 1985. Race Relations Survey. Johannesburg: South African Institute of
Race Relations.
Sparks, Allister. 1986. "Botha's Secret Army." Observer, 28 December.
Tapia-Valdes, I.A. 1982. "A Typology of National Security Policies." Yale
Journal of World Public Order 10, no. 22.
Wilkinson, Paul. 1977. Terrorism and the Liberal State. London: Macmillan.


White Politics in Transition:

Multidimensional Uncertainty


It is possible to discern two simultaneous trends in white South
African politics today. On the one hand, we can see discord, division,
bitter hostility, and internecine struggle for control of the government
and for the conscience of the white nation. Hopes have been raised by
domestic and regional accommodations. Yet at the same time, there is
a growing polarization of the polity along racial lines. Because of
white efforts to gain black allies, to divide blacks, and to set black on
black, middle-of-the-road politicians of all races are in danger of being
isolated and rendered ineffectual. Both the fragmentation and the
polarization are reflected over the past fifteen years in the mounting
militarization by the parties to the struggle and, in particular, by the
government. South Africa's militarization is partly a set of policy
responses to what many regard as an increasingly hostile world and to
the internal challenge to white rule. It also reflects a change of mood,
a pernicious drift into a war mentality.
These trends and processes have already been well described and
documented (Cock and Nathan 1989; Dean 1986; Frankel 1984;
Grundy 1987, 1988). They span a number of social dimensions-from
religious doctrine and the churches to the economy, education, and
daily routine. They affect all racial groups, all age levels, and all
regions-rural and urban areas, the homelands, the so-called
"national states," and neighboring states. It will not be easy to trans-
form a mind-set that for years has shaped interracial politics.
In this regard the struggle of the 1980s and 1990s is, to borrow a
much-criticized appellation, a "total onslaught." It is total, not in the
sense that the strategic planners and National party politicians use the
term to depict a structured, externally fomented and orchestrated
attack on every component of the white state, but total in the dynamic
sense of a tidal wave rising up and enveloping all in its bore.
In most respects we are dealing with a social issue that involves all
population groups. Normally it would be unwise to chop up the study


of South African politics into neat racial compartments. There is no
question that the turmoil among whites represents disagreement over
how best to deal with the tide of black rage. Yet as Stanley Uys (1986)
so presciently wrote: "The single, inescapable fact of life in SA today is
that nothing is going to change in the white-black conflict until the
mould of white politics is broken, because that is where the guns and
the power are. This is the starting point. And there is abundant evi-
dence that the mould one day will crack." Blacks may someday acquire
the means to smash that mold, but at present most are still struggling to
survive. White politics is important chiefly insofar as it addresses or
fails to address the questions of black power and majority rule.
The symptoms of the breakdown in the white polity could be seen
in the ideological and policy confusions, the ferment, the heightened
tensions, the lack of confidence and trust in all quarters, the pattern of
constitutional experimentation (within, for blacks, unacceptable
parameters), the preparations for a violent showdown, and the retreat
by some into rigidity. The impending crisis in white politics is real, yet
the struggle with black nationalism is deadlocked. It could remain so
for years. It is a costly stalemate-especially for the insecure black
community-but it has not hurt the dominant white citizenry enough
to force all of them to entertain radical restructuring of the regime. We
are witnessing a transitional politics that changes a lot and yet seems
to move at a snail's pace.
Because of the presence of a competitive and often critical white
press, there is an element of wishful thinking in the coverage.
Journalists seem to want to see changes on a scale they can compre-
hend. They want to spin controversy and portent out of each disclo-
sure. In South Africa's white political arena (mainstream media really
do not or are not allowed to follow carefully black politics), subtle
shifts, defections, criticisms, and rumors are amplified into trends, and
every trend is seen as having profound implications for the future.
Still, I do not hold with those who maintain that white politics is irrel-
evant. In fact, what happens in the white polity quite directly affects
the nature, the means, the pace, and the eventual outcome of the
black struggle for power. But bear in mind that a measure of balance
is required to find meaning and direction in the parade of events. Like
the critical intelligence analyst, we must filter out the "noise." In this
paper I try to fit the more recent developments in white politics into
the total South African picture.

The Fraying of the White Polity

In three distinct areas of white politics, the fabric of order and control
is unraveling. First, in the arena of electoral and partisan politics, deep



White Politics in Transition

divisions have emerged that are leading to a realignment of partisan
identities. Second, in a related public and high-profile arena, parlia-
mentary politics seems to be less and less relevant. Not only is the
sequence and pattern of parliamentary affairs new and unclear, but
Parliament's lack of leadership and power has led to shifts among
white politicians toward extraparliamentary efforts to move the
system. Third, in the less open give-and-take of politics within gov-
ernment and within the administrative structures of the state, we can
see the emergence of power centers no longer fully obedient to the
dictates of government and increasingly developing their own agendas.
In short, fragmentation is leading to a restructuring of white politics in
ways less familiar to some long-standing South Africa observers.

Electoral/Partisan Politics
In the twenty-one years from the time the National party (NP) gained
control of government until the Herstigte Nasionale party (HNP) was
formed in 1969, there was no serious challenge to the NP from within
the party or the Afrikaner nation. The NP was the voice of the volk,
and all efforts were made to preserve that exclusive claim. During the
1969 parliamentary session a former cabinet minister, Dr. Albert
Hertzog, accused the NP of deviating from its original principles. In his
view, only Calvinist Afrikaners could be entrusted with rule in South
Africa. Prime Minister B.J. Vorster called an election to weed out the
"rebels." This precipitated the resignations of Hertzog and three other
M.P.s, who then formed the HNP. But the crude threat from the right
posed by the HNP had little immediate electoral impact. HNP candi-
dates usually lost their deposits. At its peak in 1981, the HNP garnered
only 11 percent of the vote. No HNP candidate won a seat in a general
election, and not until a 1985 by-election was the HNP able to focus its
resources and thereby gain a seat. Today the HNP is virtually dead. In
the 1989 election, it totaled only 5,501 votes nationally.
A far more serious threat from the NP's right was posed in March
1982, when Dr. Andries Treurnicht, a member of the cabinet and
leader of the NP in the Transvaal, along with several other NP mem-
bers was expelled from the party. Others resigned party membership.
There had been speculation that Treurnicht and his followers might
join the HNP. But Jaap Marais, then the leader of the HNP, had never
forgiven Treurnicht for failing to join the HNP back in 1969. The alli-
ance on the right never came about. Instead, Treurnicht and his
fifteen supporters founded the Conservative party (CP), and they
were joined by Dr. Connie Mulder and his National Conservative
party, a feeble 1979 creation.
With the formation of the CP, the HNP lost much of its support. A
1982 survey showed that HNP support had fallen to 2.7 percent of the


electorate (from 6 percent three months earlier), and the CP received
the support of 18.3 percent (South Africa Institute of Race Relations
1983:13). Still, the CP's entry into the partisan picture held out the
promise of a consolidation of right-wing politics. The CP has a consid-
erable following among lower- and middle-class Afrikaners and
among the lower ranks of the civil service, the police, and the defense
force. Prior to the May 1987 election, the CP held eighteen seats in the
House of Assembly, only two of which they had won at the polls
under the CP banner (in by-elections). In the 1987 election the CP
won twenty-two seats and became the official opposition. Had the
HNP and the CP not split the right-wing votes, the CP might have
gained thirty seats. In fact, right-wing appeal is even greater. If South
Africa used some form of proportional representation the CP-HNP fol-
lowing would have rendered at least forty-nine seats.
The October 1988 elections for local and municipal councils further
marked the CP as a growing force in white politics, but they also
demonstrated the boundaries of that powo4. The CP did especially well
in the Transvaal, carrying sixty of the ninety-five municipalities
(including Pretoria, where it failed to win a single constituency in the
1987 parliamentary election). In Natal and the Cape Province, the CP
made virtually no impact. The vigor with which some CP-controlled
councils went about resegregating public facilities and central business
districts showed how fanatic is their commitment to old-fashioned
apartheid. But it also showed how impractical they were as politicians.
This was borne out in the 1989 general election when the CP did
poorly in constituencies where their local governmental policies had
been enacted.
The CP and other right-wing political elements are a vocal and omi-
nous reality that have served notice on the NP that it has moved too
quickly to the left and that the falloff in popular, mostly Afrikaner,
support will end its hold on the white citizenry. This is no hollow
threat, as the now discontinued Progressive Federal Party (PFP) con-
tended. The ultraright is not a paper tiger. An unsure NP jumped at
the right's every move. In that respect, the right's presence was used
to justify the government's resistance to demands for significant polit-
ical reform. Now President de Klerk seems determined to reconfigure
the NP base.
In fact, that very lack of serious movement toward reform under
P.W. Botha accounted for the emergence of a group of maverick
M.P.s, the so-called New Nats, on the NP's left (van Heerden 1986).
Most stayed in the NP and had an especially vocal role in the 1989
election campaign. Albert Nothnagel, for example, had written that
no lasting peace in South Africa can be achieved without the African
National Congress (ANC). Although he had been forced to recant,



White Politics in Transition

nowadays people at the heart of NP power utter similar views and act
on them. Others, such as Wynand Malan (M.P.-Randburg) and Dr.
Denis Worrall (until early 1987 the ambassador in London) resigned
the party and ran as independents in the 1987 election. Malan was
victorious while the other independents were defeated, Worrall by
only thirty-nine votes. The NP easily captured Parliament, holding
123 out of 166 elected seats, yet the government was pinioned
between two wings of the party, forced to reconcile incompatible
Other political parties were also in disarray. The New Republic
party (NRP), which had held five seats in Parliament and had been
reduced to one in 1987, was wracked with defection. Beginning in
1984, some of its leaders joined the NP and others retired. Other
senior members announced their resignations because of an NRP elec-
tion pact with the PFP. Many in the NRP regarded the PFP as "soft" on
security issues and on the ANC. Considering that just four years ear-
lier the NRP had campaigned in support of the NP's endorsement of
the constitutional referendum, the switch in alliances was surprising.
But it did nothing to save the NRP, which today is defunct.
The PFP had been the official opposition for years prior to the 1984
election. Its representation fell from twenty-seven to nineteen seats
and its majorities were reduced in several other constituencies. Still, a
proportional representation system would have inflated the support
for a PFP-NRP-independent coalition to around twenty-nine seats. In
keeping with the unsettled tenor of politics, the PFP also faced dissat-
isfaction on both its right and left fringes. In February 1986 PFP leader
Dr. Frederick van Zyl Slabbert and the chairman of the party's federal
council, Dr. Alec Boraine, surprised the country when they resigned
from the party and from Parliament just a few days into the parlia-
mentary session. Slabbert (1986) claimed that his presence in the
Parliament left him with an "overwhelming feeling of absurdity"
when measured against what was really happening in South Africa.
He vowed to work for an end to apartheid, but outside of the disillu-
sioning parliamentary scene. Longtime PFP parliamentarian Helen
Suzman (1986) expressed a more conventional PFP view, determined
to use her parliamentary voice for liberal change. (In 1989, however,
she announced that she would not stand for reelection in the
September elections due to "personal reasons.") On the right Horace
van Rensburg had been criticizing his party, and eventually he was
forced to resign. He was defeated as an independent in his bid for
reelection to Parliament. Further postelection defections on the left,
including the PFP national chairman and a second M.P., left the party
with only sixteen elected seats and the feeling that it was unable to
expand its influence beyond white parliamentary politics. The three


October defectors promptly enrolled in the National Democratic
Movement, but they were subsequently reunited with their PFP col-
leagues when the Democratic party was formed in 1989.
The PFP had constantly grappled with the dilemma of moral recti-
tude versus pragmatic politics. Should it be true to its nonracial princi-
ples and thereby risk becoming a perpetual and ineffective gadfly and
opposition party, or should it seek to win elections, appeal to the
white center, challenge the NP for power, but in so doing water down
its nonracial message? The 1987 electoral results and the events since
1989, however, have led many progressives to question whether they
have any serious national appeal to an all-white electorate. Issues
such as defense, national military service, dealing with the ANC, con-
stitutional compromises and even legislative reform, and police
excesses played on divisions in the PFP. These divisions and the
prospect of a purge of the PFP right hovered about for some years, in
fact, since the Progressives absorbed members of the disbanded
Reform party in 1974 and the United party in 1977.
After months of behind-the-scenes and sometimes public jockeying
for advantage, in February 1989 a new party was launched, seeking to
bring together those to the left of the NP in Parliament. The
Democratic party (DP) stands for universal suffrage and the rule of
law in a nonracial South Africa. It sees itself as a bridge, participating
in the white House of Assembly and yet open to links with extra-
parliamentary organizations, including the ANC even when it was still
banned. Initially it unified the PFP, the National Democratic
Movement, and the Independent party, together holding twenty-two
seats in Parliament. More impressive was the national appeal of two of
its leaders, Denis Worrall and Wynand Malan, plus the national elec-
toral base of the PFP, led by Zach de Beer. Yet personality, tactical, and
policy differences sap the DP on its fringes. The problem for a party on
the left is simple: can it inspire those who have lost confidence in pro-
pelling reform from within the parliamentary system? Whether the
unification (which may be too strong a word) of the parliamentary
parties of the left will reinvigorate what passes for liberalism in South
Africa is open to question. The 1989 election helped to provide a par-
tial answer.
The formation of the DP was designed to rectify the absence of any
viable, largely white parties to the left. By its very nature the liberal
tradition in South Africa had difficulty remaining united. The PFP was
rooted in the capitalist economic order. So insignificant were the PFP
and the NRP that Adam and Moodley (1986) did not even accord
them a section of their own in the chapter titled "Conflicts in White
Politics." American journalist Joseph Lelyveld, despite his close
acquaintance with PFP members such as Helen Suzman, made little of



White Politics in Transition

the PFP impact in his Pulitzer Prize winning book Move Your Shadow
President de Klerk's initiatives may have stolen the march on the
DP. The NP has won over many English speakers and Afrikaners who
had followed Wynand Malan into the DP coalition. Malan himself
subsequently quit Parliament and stepped down as DP co-leader in
1990. The NP has also made serious overtures toward the ANC and by
so doing virtually seized the DP's own agenda. Now there is deep
debate in the DP as to whether it should continue as the opposition on
the left within Parliament, combine with the NP against the right-
wing threat, or identify with the ANC and thereby try to position itself
for a central role in the "new" South Africa.
In sum, all the major parties show signs of disunity. One can sense,
since the 1981 election, a drift toward what in effect is a three-party
system. The 1981 election, everywhere but in Natal, amounted to a
two-party contest-liberals (PFP) against the ruling conservatives
(NP). That sort of analysis, although fundamentally correct then,
would be terribly simplistic today. The brooding omnipresence of the
reactionary right, so long in the wings, materialized in the form of
the CP and the militant, quasi-Nazi movement, the Afrikaner Weer-
standsbeweging (AWB). Together the CP and the HNP captured 29.3
percent of the 3.1 million white votes in 1987. The NRP and the HNP
fluttered about the sidelines and, except in selected constituencies, had
little overall impact on the outcome. By 1989 opposition on the right
had registered 31 percent of the white votes. Twenty HNP candidates,
however, lost their deposits. The NRP had gone out of existence.
This view of a three party system is not shared by all analysts.
Professor Willem Kleynhans (Financial Mail, 26 September 1986,
59-60) sees South Africa drifting again toward "two real camps" in
white politics: a broadly based grouping of "progressives" centered in
the reform-minded NP against conservatives sharing the philosophy
of Verwoerd and the old NP. Thus, he regards the NP and the PFP as a
natural coalition arrayed against a CP-HNP alliance. The great issue is
"color." The right wants to preserve racism, and the reformists favor
varying degrees of movement away from racial discrimination. From
various by-election results, Kleynhans discerned considerable progres-
sive support for NP candidates. But the petulant behavior of State
President P.W. Botha toward reform made one wonder how far the
NP was prepared to bend in order not to break.
The alignments within and between parties are still too fluid to
group them into two camps. But it is possible to see the emergence of
a three-cornered partisan alignment. The dominant force is the center
and moderate left of the NP, joined by a few former NRP and PFP con-
servatives. This combination stands for shared power provided whites


exercise a disproportionate role. It is prepared to entertain serious
change to deflect external pressures and to mollify and co-opt moder-
ate black opinion. This element still perceives of race politics in group
terms. Power sharing with whites retaining dominance seems to be
this faction's unstated marching song.
To the right is a vocal and uncompromising constellation of forces
led by the CP. Some on the right of the NP feel comfortable with CP
views if not the CP's fellow travelers. They are complemented and
kept militant by the AWB and other extraparliamentary fanatics. The
rightist factions favor racial separation, the old Verwoerdian order.
They would like to return to the days when blacks were firmly and
ruthlessly suppressed, without apology or guilt.
The leftmost white grouping in Parliament could be called reform-
ist. As presently organized, the Democratic party is prepared to work
toward power sharing, but one suspects that its underlying mentality
(often unstated) is also that white power must be afforded a dispro-
portionate share of influence and protection through constitutional or
legal means. The first electoral test in 1989 demonstrated that the DP
is more than a convenient cluster of those to the left of the Nats.
Because of the direction in which white politics is heading, the nature
of resistance and change in South Africa is such that the reformist
coalition seized the opportunity to jell.

The 1987 Election
On the surface, the election of May 6, 1987, was an empty and point-
less exercise. Eighty to 85 percent of the adult citizenry were not eligible
to vote. As a test of the workings of the new constitution the election
was worthless, since neither of the two other racial groups involved in
Parliament were permitted to vote.
As the first general election since dissident M.P.s broke away from
the NP in February 1982 to form the CP, it served as a general barom-
eter of CP strength nationally and of white resistance to reform. Yet as
a test of white opinion, the election was suspect. The positions of the
parties were unclear and the white fears expressed at the polls were
fairly predictable. State President P.W. Botha claimed that he held the
election early because he wanted to learn what white voters would
say about "reform." But NP reformist intentions had never been
clearly articulated. Delay had been very much a part of the Botha
agenda. He made reference to the two centuries that it took the
United States to achieve real political rights for blacks. He hinted that
the Swiss historical model-it took from 1291 to 1848-is more
appropriate for South Africa. The fact is that Botha had nothing to



White Politics in Transition

offer black South Africans, at least on his own defined terms. His
offers to negotiate with blacks who unconditionally renounce vio-
lence went a-begging. The gap was wide and those who were trying to
build bridges were unable to demonstrate strong foundations on
either bank of the divide.
In short, under Botha there was no evidence that "reform" remotely
achieved its goals. On the contrary, the insecurities of change, the
inequities of apartheid, and the repression of the state precipitated a
black uprising and defiance that smoldered out of control. Moreover,
no one in the ruling party seemed prepared to lead South Africa out of
the hurting stalemate (Grundy 1990; Zartman 1988).
Another feature of the 1987 election was that the threat to govern-
ment itself at the polls was almost negligible. No ruling party in South
Africa has ever lost an election to a rival on its left. To be sure, the NP
was not in the best of health. The threat of defection from New Nats
was real. Some 24 percent of NP members expressed dissatisfaction
with the pace of reform (South Africa Digest, 6 March 1987, 3; Weekly
Mail, 13 February 1987, 5). NP supporters (52.6 percent of the 1987
electorate) were divided nearly equally on the issue of racial integra-
tion (limited though they may envision it). About one-third said
"yes," one-third "no," and one-third "don't know." Twenty-four Nat
M.P.s, a fifth of the parliamentary caucus, did not stand for reelection.
Natural attrition and a desire to avoid a bloodletting in the volk
explained this unusually high number. But bloodletting occurred, for
this election and that of 1989 and the subsequent mobilization of the
hidebound right were public manifestations of a continuing broeder-
twis (brothers' quarrel) among the Afrikaner people.
In fact, a great deal of this generalized dissatisfaction again broke
surface after P.W. Botha's "mild" stroke in January 1989. Within two
weeks he resigned the party leadership and was promptly replaced by
F.W. de Klerk, the NP leader in the Transvaal. With leadership split
between an NP chief and a state president, Botha prepared to return to
work. To his dismay, the NP caucus and the federal council called for
him to step down as president in favor of de Klerk. A crisis was
averted when Botha bowed to the near-unanimous pressure and indi-
cated that he would resign as president after a general election, later
scheduled for September 1989.
Although the NP was easily returned to power in 1987, it had suf-
fered some embarrassments, too. The NP fell steadily in popularity
(from 57 percent of the total vote in 1981 to 52.6 percent in 1987 and
48 percent in 1989). But in light of the weakened state of the other
parties, the NP did not suffer the loss of many seats in 1987. But 1989
was different.


The 1989 Election

The parliamentary elections of September 1989 took place in an atmo-
sphere of ferment and confusion. Chief among the issues was the
leadership of the National party. Many in the party were anxious to
get on with consolidating forces behind the new party leader, de
Klerk. But Botha not only felt personally slighted by being forced to
step down as party leader but was also determined to stay on as state
president until after the election. The rivalry came to a head in August
when de Klerk announced that he would visit President Kenneth
Kaunda of Zambia before the election; Botha publicly criticized this
policy and complained that he had been excluded from the decision.
Within days he was forced to resign the presidency, and he did so bit-
terly on national television.
The DP, however, had its own leadership problems. As a merger of
various groupings on the center-left, the party ended up with three
leaders (Worrall, de Beer, and Malan). The NP media campaign
focused on what it called the Three Blind Mice. Still, enthusiasm ran
high in DP and CP circles. They gained added hope from the perfor-
mance and exposure of opposition candidates in the debates on state
television and from the fact that in 1987 many of the seats were
decided by very narrow majorities. A small shift of votes might bring
about a significant shift of seats. Some analysts were predicting a hung
Parliament in which no single party would gain an absolute majority
of seats. Then government would be forced to call a second election or
to search for coalition partners, either the DP, the CP, or defectors
from these groups.
This turned out to be wishful thinking. The NP was returned to
power with ninety-three seats. It lost seventeen seats to the CP and
twelve to the DP. One seat ended in a CP-NP tie. The DP won thirty-
three seats, not quite the combined PFP-NRP total from 1981. But
it did manage to win back voters it had lost in its 1987 debacle. Its
20 percent of the electorate still tends to concentrate among
English-speakers in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Natal. The CP
took thirty-nine seats and 31 percent of the vote. It managed to break
out of its Transvaal heartland, gaining seats in the Free State and Cape
Province for the first time. So many NP seats were carried by thin
majorities (under 1,000 votes) that a hung Parliament might soon
be within reach.
Although the NP lost to the right and left combined only 30,000
votes from its 1987 result, it won only 48 percent of the white votes.
So it formed a government with the votes of only 6 percent of the
adult population of South Africa-hardly the mandate the NP boasted.
The NP seemed lucky in a way: it managed to convince many that its



White Politics in Transition

vague vision of change will work while at the same time others
believe that the NP is the best hope for avoiding change. The "man-
date" is muddied at best and hardly adequate to justify the major shifts
necessary to sustain the status quo.
Apartheid was firmly in command, if not in name, at least in effect.
Fully 81.6 percent of those who voted in 1987 decided that apartheid
in some form is the solution to South Africa's problems. The combined
CP, HNP, and NP vote in 1989 was 80 percent, and given de Klerk's
continued insistence on "group"-based law, apartheid in some guise is
likely to be preferred and maintained.
Given the NP victory and the rise of de Klerk, it would be helpful to
discuss the policy direction of the NP. Certainly the balance of forces
within the NP is as crucial as the relative strength of other parties. On
the surface there were few ideological/policy differences between
Botha and de Klerk. If anything, de Klerk's past record indicated an
even more conservative leaning than Botha's. De Klerk had been
Botha's loyal lieutenant, leading the move to oust Treurnicht from the
NP in 1982. Their differences might be characterized as stylistic and
managerial. Botha was often irascible, vindictive, and belligerent with
his colleagues and even his close associates. He sought, on occasion, to
humiliate those who disagreed with him, even though he needed
their cooperation. De Klerk, on the other hand, has emerged with a
reputation for patience, compromise, and tolerance of criticism in
party ranks. He promised a major reformist thrust (but so did Botha
make such promises from time to time). Currently, most Nats are pre-
pared to take de Klerk at his word. The NP might well return to the
reformist path lost sight of (and scorned by the black leadership) in
the last few years. Cooperation among those on the right wing might
have reduced the NP majority. But significantly, the CP successes in
1987 and in the 1988 municipal elections had for a while a chilling
effect on NP winners in marginal constituencies.
The 1987 and 1989 elections, then, can be regarded as transitional
or positioning elections. The issue was not who won-that was a fore-
gone conclusion-but who came in second and what the outcome and
the campaign itself demonstrated with regard to Afrikaner cohesion
and to the English speakers' proclivities. Which party is best posi-
tioned to replace the Nats, or, if it is to be the Nats in the future, who
will set the ideological tone for the party? The elections were, at best,
an imprecise barometer of an increasingly fragmented yet still danger-
ous white minority.
In a fashion, many of these questions have been answered and
others have been deferred. It seems clear that the NP, although not
well organized and generally without enthusiasm, emerged from the
voting in command of the government and its vital institutions. The


NP succession issue, barring a major stumble, seems to have been
resolved. De Klerk went into the election with a reservoir of popular-
ity that Botha had never achieved.
On the other hand, a number of questions remain unanswered.
The status of the opposition, to the right and to the left of the Nats, is
uncertain. The CP is active, yet it is periodically embarrassed by the
antics of its right-wing fellow travelers, who it is often reluctant to
criticize. Its geographical appeal is bounded, and hence it risks being
regarded largely as a provincial phenomenon. On the left, the DP
responded well in the 1989 election, and yet its diverse composition
hints of possible disintegration should the major political questions be
posed in a divisive fashion. In fact, de Klerk's dynamic approach to
negotiations may have rendered the DP irrelevant. In that regard, the
1989 election again serves as an indicator of future trends.

Parliamentary/Extraparliamentary Politics
Since the institution of the tricameral Parliament in 1984, legislative
politics has been somewhat experimental. Procedures are sometimes
worked out in process. Trial and error is common and the parties and
structures seem to operate in the dark. Particularly unsure of them-
selves are the Colored and Indian chambers and their members. The
NP government and the drafters of the constitution carefully assured
that NP predominance would be maintained over all (Boulle 1984).
Although members of the House of Delegates (Indian) and House of
Representatives (Colored) and the white opposition party members
outnumber the NP, in the aggregate and on the standing committees,
the Colored, white, and Indian members vote separately, in "blocs,"
and are required to consult their caucuses before voting. There is no
commitment to consensus government.
If, by chance, the NP should be unable to get its way in Parliament,
government has a backup in the sixty-member President's Council,
two-thirds of whom are white. The council has both decision-making
and advisory functions. It examines selected problems at the request
of the state president (e.g., the Group Areas Act and the Reservation
of Separate Amenities Act), and its specialist committees may look at
the more general issues (economic, social, or constitutional affairs). Its
primary function is to offer advice to Parliament.
When disagreements arise among the three houses of Parliament,
and even when the white House of Assembly is opposed by the other
two chambers, the state president decides on his own whether to
submit the disagreement to the President's Council. When the Houses
of Representatives and Delegates refused to pass two controversial
security bills put before them in 1986, President Botha used the



White Politics in Transition

President's Council with its NP majority to override them. Only the NP
and the CP voted for the bills. All the Colored and Indian parties and
the PFP opposed them. Opponents objected both to the procedures
used to present the bills and to the substance of the bills. Yet the bills
were enacted into law. Of course, the government could also declare a
state of emergency under the Public Safety Act, as it did in June 1986,
to assert its will over parliamentary objections.
The case of the 1986 security bills is unusual because it involves
members of Parliament opposing government initiatives and support-
ing a more active defense of political and civil liberties. Far more
common criticisms of Parliament are that it lacks courage and imagi-
nation and that it serves merely to legislate government policy deci-
sions. The real reason for the inadequacy of Parliament has been the
growing concentration of power in the hands of the executive. Since
P.W. Botha became prime minister in 1978, the Parliament (until
1984 only a white House of Assembly) has declined in importance, as
has the parliamentary caucus of the NP. How ironic it is that outsiders
demanded that the South African government negotiate with genuine
black leaders, when the government under Botha did not even con-
sult seriously its own party caucus.
Parliament today is little more than the public phase of a decisional
process controlled by the cabinet. As a public institution that is sup-
posed to embody the principles of open debate and deliberation,
Parliament is unwieldy. The tricameral legislature does not work as
smoothly as the NP had hoped. It has not deflected outside world pres-
sure, nor has it convinced South Africans that it is inclusive and
"multiracial." Parliament has compounded managerial awkwardness,
especially in those rare instances when it refuses to rubber-stamp gov-
ernment's decisions arrived at in camera.
The DP and the CP realize the impossibility of bending Parliament
to their legislative purposes. Nonetheless, they attempt to use ques-
tion time and the debates to force government to reveal more and
more information regarding government corruption, emergency con-
ditions, budget, and the security situation. Although Parliament
remained the only quasi-reliable official source of information under
the state of emergency, the fact is that under Botha government dis-
closed less and less information under the generalized excuse that dis-
closure would not be in the country's interests. Particularly on the
issue of security, questions were dodged. The sort of data that were
compiled on blacks in the security forces back in the late 1970s and
early 1980s would not have been made public in the final Botha years
(Grundy 1983). Parliament might also be used, as it had been by the
PFP, to make public what it had independently come to learn about
the emergency. But even these practices were severely curtailed, and


especially the media's right to report them, when government con-
tended that parliamentary reports must not promote the cause of
"undemocratic organizations." The official opposition is no longer to
the left of government, but even before the 1987 election centrist-left
parties appeared to be rethinking their role as publicists on apartheid
and civil liberties (Star, 20 December 1986; Financial Mail, 2 January
1987, 21 and 24).
Institutionally, since Botha came to power, and even more
markedly since the 1983 constitution came into force, white politics
evolved from a constitutional parliamentary limited democracy into a
de facto bureaucratic/security autocracy. The 1983 Republic of South
Africa Constitution Act vested vast powers in the executive arm of
government, powers that, to a large extent, the Botha government
had already exercised before the new constitution was in place. Other
than the occasional but necessary legislative authorization (especially
regarding the expenditure of state funds), government was conducted
largely without parliamentary cooperation.
Even if, under the new constitution, the executive is unable to
obtain the legislation it proposes, it can resort to extraparliamentary
powers. In addition, the state president now enjoys greater security of
tenure vis-a-vis Parliament than did prime ministers under the 1961
republican constitution. Even a majority of parliamentary members or
chambers cannot force his removal. Built-in "fail-safe" provisions pre-
vent politicians in the Colored and Indian chambers from removing
the state president. The State Security Council under Botha served as
an "inner cabinet," further removing the executive from moderate
black influence and from parliamentary oversight, indecision, and
recalcitrance (Grundy 1988).
The de Klerk style is still in flux, especially in light of the fluid
agenda of negotiation with the black majority. The sensitive and deli-
cate nature of his position vis-a-vis the black majority and the ANC
and his growing unpopularity among his Afrikaner constituents mean
that he must feel free to move swiftly as challenges arise. The powers
centralized under Botha serve de Klerk well, but as he exercises them,
he further alienates the most uncompromising white voters, many of
whom seem determined to act against black militants, independent of
government policy.
In sum, power in the white polity comes from the top down, and
decisions are arrived at in camera, not in public (Dean 1986). Even the
white chamber of Parliament is increasingly powerless. The NP caucus
in the House of Assembly listens to the state president, not the other
way around. This secretive style of government came to blanket poli-
tics at the local and regional as well as national levels. The pervasive
National Security Management System (NSMS) and its web of com-



White Politics in Transition

mittees and subcommittees hardly encouraged representative govern-
ment, as A.S. Mathews has so clearly shown in the previous chapter,
unless we are speaking of representing the security and civil services
rather than the citizenry. Since the NSMS was Botha's instrument,
however, not de Klerk's, de Klerk in late 1989 took steps to down-
grade it and to remove it from defense force influence. Government
uses Parliament when it can and avoids Parliament when it must.
Often it is rule by administrative fiat. If there is to be a fundamental
change in South Africa, even among white South Africans, it will
likely take place outside of Parliament, not within it.
Blacks have always been excluded from the centers of power. More
recently whites have come to realize the implications of this and have
formed groups that reflect the bankruptcy of parliamentary politics.
The Slabbert and Boraine resignations speak directly to the powerless-
ness of the legislature, not just for progressives but for all parties.
A plethora of new white groups, on the right and on the left, have
emerged to try to encourage extraparliamentary change. It would not
be possible at this juncture to describe the politics of all of these
groups. On the left, the End Conscription Campaign (banned in
August 1988), Slabbert's Institute for a Democratic Alternative for
South Africa, and the Johannesburg Democratic Action Committee, to
name just three, seek to educate and move the white citizenry toward
nonracial, unitary, and democratic governmental forms. Some largely
white organizations are affiliated with the United Democratic Front.
They also seek to close the racial divisions in society and to create
nonviolent and national means to end apartheid and the insensitive
and exploitative capitalist structures. Their members sense that
Parliament, as presently constituted and chosen, is an inadequate
instrument for radical change.
The right has not given up entirely on Parliament. Indeed, the CP as
the official opposition intends to use Parliament to broadcast its views
and hopes eventually to form a government. Many other right-
wingers are prepared to abandon Parliament altogether if middle-of-
the-road Nats should be pushed to concede too much (which, to the
right, means virtually any concession) to black sensibilities. Within
the long-established Afrikaner organizations are vocal and uncompro-
mising fringes. The Broederbond, the Ruiterwag, the Dutch Reformed
churches, the press, diverse professional and cultural associations,
student and sports groups, and trade unions have all faced revolt
and dissent.
More importantly, more militant right-wing groups have been
formed and have grown in strength. They include the Blanke
Bevrijdingsbeweging (White Liberation Movement, banned in
November 1988 and unbanned in February 1990), the openly violent


Wit Wolwe (White Wolves), the separatists of the Vereniging van
Oranjewerkers (Society of Orange Workers) and the Boerestaatparty,
the Afrikaner Volkswag (a "nonpolitical" cultural organization that
seeks to offset "liberal influences"), and the Afrikaner Weerstands-
beweging (AWB), a paramilitary neo-Nazi organization with its own
"Blitzkommando." There are dozens of smaller right-wing fringe fac-
tions. Some of these groups have allied with reactionary parties. Some
seem ready to take up arms, to launch a new Boer war. Most seem to
abide by the maxim "Dominate or be dominated." Most work exclu-
sively outside the formal institutions of electoral politics. But as a
growing phenomenon they testify to the right wing's disenchantment
with even modest, conservatorial changes forced upon the NP.
Although formally extraparliamentary, these groups have an impact
on the ruling party, on the CP, and on their members in Parliament
and at local and provincial governmental levels.
The search for alternative political models goes on constantly in
South Africa and not just on the fringes of electoral/parliamentary
politics. Conservative bridge building, it might be called. The essential
purpose is to hit upon formulas to conserve, as much as possible, the
semblance of order and Western (read "white") power and influence
in a perceived ominous, Third World (read "black") sea. Many of the
schemes so devised fasten on providing inducements for whites to stay
on (bills of rights, weighted voting, parity in legislative bodies, territo-
rial juggling, and federal divisions) at the same time that they experi-
ment with ideas of "power sharing," group- or race-based cooperation
and consultation, and even limited majority rule. At base, however,
what most have in common is a group-based framework in which the
franchise, the distribution of seats, or the weight of political influence
at the central, provincial, and local levels is founded on group identity
rather than on numerical, majoritarian, or nonracial considerations.
Perhaps the most publicized but probably stillborn experiment to
bridge the impasse was played out in Natal province. There, after
months of hard bargaining, an agreement was reached in November
1986 by twenty-four of thirty-seven delegations that participated in
an indaba, or high-level conference. The indaba participants sought a
multiracial regional government for Natal and for the black bantustan
of KwaZulu. Theirs was an innovative set of proposals that encom-
passed a bicameral legislature and an executive that included majority
and minority parties. The proposed legislature was to consist of a one-
hundred-seat lower chamber elected on the basis of one-person, one-
vote by proportional representation, and a fifty-seat upper chamber
with ten seats each for Africans, Indians, Afrikaners, and English
speakers, and ten additional seats for people who do not wish to be
classified racially or culturally. Another crucial issue involved the pro-



White Politics in Transition

posed division of authority between the central government in
Pretoria and the proposed government of "KwaNatal." But the group
basis of so many of its provisions rendered the proposal unsatisfactory
to black progressives.
Experimentation may be necessary to save South Africa. Many lib-
erals in South Africa and some conservatives in the West hope that
cooperative provincial and regional plans can be implemented that, if
they should work, would have a demonstration effect on the populace
and on the central government and might lead South Africa out of its
current violent stalemate. No sooner was the KwaNatal plan
announced, however, than it was rejected by the Natal leader of the
NP (Weekly Mail, 5 December 1986, 12-13). The proposal did not, he
said, provide for "effective and equal powersharing." Later, at the
opening of Parliament in 1987, P.W. Botha offered a more definitive
rejection of the plan. In addition, many political candidates who advo-
cated an indaba-like solution fared badly in the parliamentary election.
The indaba was doomed from the start. The two major forces in the
South African struggle, Afrikaner nationalism and radical black
nationalism, were not party to the agreement. They refused to partic-
ipate, although the NP opted for observer status. A constellation of
radical popular black organizations-the ANC, UDF, PAC, and Black
Consciousness groups-declined invitations from the outset. Inkatha,
the Zulu "cultural" organization, was the only major black body to
sign the agreement. Black nationalists regard the indaba as a ruse to
prolong white control by using black "collaborators," such as Chief
Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha and the Indian parties. The
Afrikaner cultural and commercial organizations that participated in
the deliberations either refused to sign or abstained. They reflect, pre-
sumably, the long-standing Afrikaner fear that English-speaking
whites might enfranchise blacks and then ally with them to end
Afrikaner political domination.

Divisions within the Executive Branch
A further evidence of the fragmentation of white politics is the growth
of divisions within the executive branch itself. Simply put, even if a
firm direction for change should be decided upon by government, by
Parliament, by the NP, and in concert with the ANC, it is not alto-
gether clear that the policies would or could be implemented.
Within the executive are pockets of resistance, offices and agencies
and departments less committed, indeed, downright resistant, to
change and reform. The civil service, in particular, has a reputation for
dragging its feet on reform. High-court rulings such as the Rikhoto
judgment of 1983 regarding residence rights under the Blacks (Urban


Areas) Consolidation Act have been slow to be enforced. The repeal of
the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act of 1949 has changed little, and
applications for waiver of the Group Areas Act for mixed-race couples
are denied more often than not. The active cooperation of the massive
state bureaucracy is imperative if reform or, more important, radical
change is to move at a pace necessary to deflect the masses. That coop-
eration is not likely.
Competition for influence, especially regarding foreign policy and
security policy, is intense. To appreciate why, it is necessary to address
the impact of the rise of the security establishment and the growing
militarization of the country. Suffice it to say here that while the
white government pleads frustration because it claims not to know
who speaks for black South Africans, it is not clear, on some issues,
who speaks for white South Africa. Either the government has used
this fragmentation as an effective dodge or excuse for its inaction, or,
in fact, there is a struggle at the top for determination and control of
The government under Botha developed no coherent program.
Given the present distribution of power, the content of reform is con-
fusing. Nationalist control of the polity is assured, yet Afrikanerdom is
split. As Adam and Moodley (1986:69) contend, the reform process
may develop its own dynamic, but for now, under de Klerk it faces
profound resistance. Neither power bloc is unified and able to assure
compliance. Energies for too long were centered on control and
repression of the black populace and on resistance to external sanc-
tions. The collective morale of the white establishment is more divided
and disorganized than it has ever been since the Nats took power, and
de Klerk has only slightly improved that picture. Most whites realize
that the old order cannot be restored, that some change is imperative
to preserve white interests even if the white oligopoly of legitimate
power cannot be justified or held.
In restructuring white politics, ad hoc conservative politics has led
to a shift in the arena of white politics from the parties and Parliament
to the executive, the bureaucracy, and the security establishment. The
regime until Mandela's release was in retreat-economically, ideologi-
cally, diplomatically, and politically, but not militarily. The retreat was
toward the ultimate base of white power, the instruments of force.


Perhaps the most dominant feature of life in South Africa these days is
the increased prospect of negotiation and significant restructuring,
with their conflicting meanings to the various parties, alongside the



White Politics in Transition

continued militarization of diverse aspects of politics and society
(Grundy 1987, 1988). Certainly for someone who has been victimized
by the South African authorities, it would be fair to say that the
regime has all along possessed militaristic tendencies. Violence, coer-
cion, and repression have been and still are the handmaidens of the
racist order.
Nonetheless, one can discern since the Soweto uprising in 1976 and
especially after P.W. Botha took over as prime minister in 1978, a per-
nicious militarization of the South African polity. Although de Klerk
has made efforts to downgrade the "securocrats," the evidence is still
unclear that this has occurred. And because of Botha's official
orientation, many segments of society have taken up the theme. By
militarization is meant the process of imbuing individuals and hence
institutions and groups with a belief that their lives and fortunes are
most obviously a product of coercion and violence. As a result they
perceive their problems at base as issues of power, which they nar-
rowly define in coercive terms. For wide segments of the populace, life
becomes a series of circumstances associated with asserting domi-
nance and protecting, in physical terms, life, space, rights, privileges,
and possessions.
Central to this trend has been the rise of what might be called the
security establishment. Diverse public and some private institutions
and agencies charged with the management of security, strategy, and
defense have grown in size and importance in national life. Many of
these bodies compete with one another for influence and budgetary
favor. But taken as a group, they stand as an effective force proclaim-
ing a consistent if not uniform militaristic perspective on state policy.
Their sometimes insecure, often pugnacious weltanschauung sees
public issues primarily in terms of defense of the South African
regime. From that perspective they have demanded and have been
given a greater voice in policy issues not normally regarded as defense
or security issues.
A form of Gresham's law of militarism has applied, by which the
cooperative, negotiable, and compromisable have been driven out by
the violent and assertive. The heavy-handed wielding of power has
been rationalized. Moderation, tolerance, and cooperation have
retreated. The military metaphor has replaced the diplomatic and the
conciliatory. There have been occasions and even longer periods
when negotiation appeared to be popular in government circles, but
invariably the government has returned to the ultimate foundation of
the racist state, coercion.
The establishment of the Conservative party as official opposition in
1987 only added to this trend. In the words of its leader, Andries
Treurnicht, "Minority rights cannot be protected democratically. A


minority must have military power so that it can assert itself"
(Financial Mail, 10 April 1987, 57).
It is not necessary to document the increased levels of violence,
including civil unrest, detentions, protests that become violent, and
bombings; the spread of weaponry, beatings, and political intimidation;
the frequent deployment of the South African Police (SAP), the South
African Defense Force (SADF), and special auxiliary forces; and the
rise in vigilantism and free-lance banditry. The spiraling effects of this
heightened insecurity under the guise of reestablishing stability were
pervasive. What emerged in South Africa is what Richard A. Falk
(1971) has called, when looking at the larger global context, a "self-
help War system": a set of social and political relationships in which
activists assumed and expected that violence was likely to be used to
settle conflicts with other groups and among hostile factions in their
midst, and even if negotiation is in process, the ability to demonstrate
coercive power provides the effective leverage in "peaceful" talks.
How many times had P.W. Botha or Magnus Malan or Adriaan Vlok
justified the use of force and warned of their intentions to use more?
The SADF threatened that it had "not even started to use [its] muscle
and capabilities" against neighboring states. Opponents of South Africa
were told that they were safe nowhere. But the government was not
alone in threatening violence. Eugene TerreBlanche of the AWB pos-
tures for the extreme right with characteristic bravado: "I want to tell
the world out there and the ANC: Touch the Boer nation and we'll
blast you until you are level with the ground!" (Star, 2 June 1986, 15)
For members of the South African right, kragdadigheid is a way of
thought and of life. Their newfound popularity and militancy have pre-
cipitated a need for counterorganization among blacks, in self-defense.
Overall, however, the mood of white South Africa is less pessimistic
than it was under Botha. An early 1988 survey (du Pisani 1988:5-6)
indicated that 55.8 percent of whites think that a Namibian-type guer-
rilla war will eventually develop in South Africa. A similar 1986
survey reported that 71.1 percent of whites held that opinion.
Partisans of left and right white parties were even more convinced of
war's unavoidability. However, more and more whites are convinced
that the SAP and SADF can control the domestic unrest. Some three-
quarters of those interviewed felt some confidence in the security
forces. A mark of the division among communities was that only 26.5
percent of the white respondents felt that "South Africa's blacks have
a good reason to take up arms against the government." De Klerk's
unbanning of antiapartheid groups, his release of Mandela, the end to
the state of emergency, and the launching of talks, seem to have
opened white eyes to the seriousness of black grievances even as they
have further polarized the white citizenry.



White Politics in Transition

The primary impact of militarization was modal, atmospheric, and
paradigmatic. It remains to be seen if the more positive attitude
toward talks has similar ramifications. When segments of society
behave as if confrontation and armed struggle are inevitable, the ten-
sion escalates.
If the white ruling elite is not unified, its members share what has
been called a survival ideology, the lowest common denominator of a
divided ruling class under siege. All whites did not share the view that
they faced a "total onslaught," and even some who perceived an
onslaught contend that the way to deal with it is to remove the causes
for discontent and protest. For them, if the regime were to revert to a
full-scale police state, this would precipitate deep ideological cleavages
among the white elite. It would test the bonds of racial cohesion. It
would leave the vaguely united white front further fractured. Today,
the idea of "total onslaught" has been widely discredited.
Militarization was also manifest in a variety of policies, most openly
in the deployment of SADF troops in the townships and the home-
lands deep inside South Africa. Several current strategic themes indi-
cate that defense force planners are increasingly concerned with the
domestic scene. What in the past had been the responsibility of the
departments of police, justice, Bantu affairs, internal affairs, commu-
nity development, and law and order, for example, now includes and
in some instances has become a major responsibility of defense. And
since the independence of Namibia and the pressure for a cease-fire
on Angola, the redeployment of these forces in South Africa is more
An important development in the shifting security situation and
one with wide political ramifications was the increased insinuation of
military and security considerations into South African policy making.
Indeed, there had been a growing, direct involvement of security
personnel in the decision-making process at all levels of government.
This was manifest chiefly in the National Security Management
System, whose rise to prominence had been called by the Weekly Mail
(3 October 1986, 1 and 12-13) "the army's quiet coup." While this
may be an exaggeration, it does draw attention to a neglected feature
of South African politics. Most of the attention has heretofore been
paid to the State Security Council (SSC) (Dean 1986; Geldenhuys and
Seiler 1984). The SSC was at the pinnacle of the NSMS. Formally it
was a cabinet committee that met twice a week and "advised" the cab-
inet on security matters. In reality its conception of security was
The SSC, its work committee, and the interdepartmental commit-
tees beneath them were just the tip of the iceberg. What was revealed
was an elaborate network of operative bodies fleshing out the NSMS.


There were 9 joint management centers (JMCs) operating at the
regional level, 82 sub-JMCs, and 320 mini-JMCs at local levels.
Virtually the entire country, to one degree or another, was drawn into
the security network. It was a parallel administration, one not subject
to the ordinary constraints of elective politics. It touched all manner of
public issues. The provision of water or housing, for example, may not
normally be regarded as a security question, but if a local mini-JMC
sensed that lack of these services might lead to a riot or a protest, then
it became a security matter (Boraine 1989). The NSMS reflected the
"total strategy" against the "total onslaught." Furthermore, should
ordinary civil government falter or break down, the JMCs were in
place to provide an alternate administrative structure. The civilian and
military arms of government were locked together, often under mili-
tary direction. The resistance and resulting instability since 1984
speeded up this process. De Klerk's effort to gain control of this alter-
native administration was as much an element of intrawhite politics
as an approach to black protest.
Aware that it would be costly, if not impossible, to fight both an
external and an internal war simultaneously, some SADF thinkers
urged domestic political, economic, and social reforms to defuse the
tense conditions in the townships and a firm demonstration of power
to assert their control. The proposed strategy was one of using the
carrot and the stick in tandem, of keeping the "enemy" off balance.
To establish domestic order, SADF personnel were increasingly
deployed throughout the country. The Civic Action program ostensi-
bly provided the carrots. The armed troops were the stick. But in the
end, the purpose was singular-to tamp down and contain the revolu-
tion and to keep control in the hands of the NP government. The
policy of coercion, the stick, was most evident and commanded the
attention of the citizens and policymakers. A succession of executive
orders, regulations, and legislation gave the security forces greater lati-
tude in suppressing resistance. The two states of emergency, from June
1985 to March 1986 in selected magisterial districts, and nationwide
from June 12, 1986, until October 1990, were the most comprehensive.
SADF personnel received authority (formerly reserved to the
police) to search for and seize articles and, in some instances, to detain
people and disperse crowds. Government regulations are still enforced
with zeal beyond reason. Much of this is legally beyond the scrutiny of
the media and the courts. No single issue seems to have focused black
anger and opposition to the government more than the presence of
the army in the townships. Among whites, a "Troops Out" campaign
was launched by the End Conscription Campaign, but it achieved little
more than sensitizing some white national service recruits and their
families to their own collaboration with repression.



White Politics in Transition

In the overall domestic context, we saw the regime trying to foster
a defensive and security perspective among leaders in a variety of
civilian institutions. The authorities tried to engage the industrial and
financial elite in advisory roles. They sought to establish civil defense
programs at various economic installations (state and private). The
National Key Points Acts seek to provide for the defense of important
facilities. Commandos are required to be organized throughout the
economic community. All facets of business have been made security
conscious. In South Africa's current economic doldrums, security is
one of the few growth industries. Most important, a viable defense
industry was created to counter sanctions, boycotts, and embargoes
and to assure domestic supplies of strategic materiel. A number of
decisions regarding domestic production of nonstrategic products
have been shaped by government pressures relating to the NP percep-
tion of onslaught.
In education, the media, research, and constitutional revision,
security is still a key consideration. Certainly many whites resist this
tendency. Parents, for example, counter efforts by government to pro-
pagandize their youngsters at schools. Many criticize school cadets,
veld schools, visits by SADF representatives to schools, recruitment in
the schools, and field trips to military installations. Militarization has
grown but is not uniformly accepted.
The militarization has been internationalized as well. In the face of
a mobilizing black resistance, the already militarized state apparatus
has engaged in diverse policies that threatened and weakened other
governments in the Southern African region (Grundy 1987). The state
did this under the pretense of striking at ANC and South West African
People's Organization (SWAPO) operatives in exile. But this, of course,
was only part of the picture. Much has been undertaken in clandes-
tine actions directly involving SADF and related units or else by proxy
forces either created or aided by the South African government.


The tendencies discussed above-greater pressure for white unity in
the face of the "revolutionary onslaught," growing militarization of
large sectors of the citizenry and the polity, and the further fragmen-
tation of the white elite-were to be expected. The white polity never
has been fully unified. It was almost inevitable that when confronted
by a serious and of necessity violent challenge from the black major-
ity, already existing cleavages would widen over how best to address
the dissatisfaction, protest, and threat.
Despite the economic and political advantages of their skin color,


many white South Africans do not accept the ideological baggage
associated with apartheid. Others who do are not prepared to risk all
to defend what they know to be morally unacceptable. Still others see
this as a time of opportunity-a chance to address problems
definitively, a chance to restructure society along more equitable lines
that might lead to an inherently more stable order. Tensions, in short,
bring out the best in some people, the worst in others. But common
problems do not inevitably mean solidarity-unless they are allowed
to destroy entirely the openness and vitality of white society. That, of
course, is very much a possibility. Today the regime is not sure where
it is heading, but at least it seems open to participation by all popula-
tion groups.
Oh, for those crystalline days when Professor Gwendolen M. Carter
(1959) drafted her pathfinding study, The Politics of Inequality (1958;
rev. ed. 1959). The Nats knew what they wanted and where they
were going. The Liberals likewise saw a preferred future with clarity.
The United party, more muddleheaded and disputatious, still had
some cohesion and direction. Today there are as many constitutional
schemes and political proposals as there are politicians-and more
still, for the continuous social changes lead to continuous modifi-
cations, adaptations, and emendations. The South Africa of thirty
years ago and the South Africa of today could hardly be more differ-
ent. In that bygone era, those in power saw their land ostensibly as a
tabula rasa on which white dreams and aspirations could be etched.
At that time, Professor Carter was correct when she wrote: "Through-
out much of the discussion of South African affairs in this book
non-Europeans have been virtually disregarded. This is because, in
practice, they have relatively little to say about the political, economic
or social policies which affect their lives" (1959:417).
Yet Professor Carter also appreciated that it would never stay that
way. Blacks would, in the end, become "the most important factor of
all" in South Africa's future. Blacks would eventually speak out, assert
themselves, and act on those demands. Therein lies the apparent con-
fusion and chaos of the present white political scene. A large part of
the white political contest is caught up in responding to black initia-
tives and in trying to anticipate black reactions to white initiatives.


Adam, Heribert, and Kogila Moodley. 1986. South Africa Without Apartheid:
Dismantling Racial Domination. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Boraine, Andrew. 1989. "Security Management Upgrading in Black
Townships." Transformation 8:47-63.



White Politics in Transition

Boulle, L. J. 1984. Constitutional Reform and the Apartheid State: Legitimacy,
Consociationalism and Control in South Africa. New York: St. Martin's Press.
Carter, Gwendolen M. 1959. The Politics of Inequality: South Africa since 1948.
2d ed. London: Thames and Hudson.
Cock, Jacklyn, and Laurie Nathan. 1989. War and Society: The Militarisation of
South Africa. Cape Town: David Philip.
Dean, Barry. 1986. "Control by Cabal." Leadership 5(4): 58-62.
du Pisani, Andre. 1988. What Do We Think? A Survey of White Opinion on
Foreign Policy Issues. No. 4. Johannesburg: South Africa Institute of
International Affairs.
Falk, Richard A. 1971. This Endangered Planet: Prospects and Proposals for
Human Survival. New York: Random House.
Financial Mail. (Johannesburg). 1986 and 1987.
Frankel, Philip H. 1984. Pretoria's Praetorians: Civil-Military Relations in South
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Geldenhuys, Deon, and John Seiler. 1984. "South Africa's Evolving State
Security System." Paper presented at the International Political Science
Association meeting, West Berlin, September 15.
Grundy, Kenneth W. 1983. Soldiers Without Politics: Blacks in the South African
Armed Forces. Berkeley: University of California Press.
-- 1987. "Regional Coercion for Domestic Domination: South Africa's
Militarization at Home and Abroad." Paper presented at a conference on
"Militarisation in the Third World" at Queen's University, Kingston,
Ontario, January.
1988. The Militarization of South African Politics. Rev. ed. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
-- 1990. "Some Thoughts on the Demilitarization of South and
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Zartman, I. William. 1988. "Negotiations in South Africa." Washington
Quarterly. 11 (4) (Autumn):141-58.



Between the Hammer and the Anvil:

The Quandary of Liberalism

in South Africa


Because this essay constitutes a personal view of the future of South
African liberalism in the context of the escalating violence and insta-
bility of the region, I must begin with various disclaimers. First, I am
not a scholar; I am a headmaster-what North Americans would call a
high school principal-and, in my not very spare time, a writer,
mainly of fiction. More than seventy years ago, lan Hay noted that "a
Headmaster is too busy a personage to keep his own scholarship tuned
up to concert pitch; and if he devotes adequate time to this object-
and a scholar must practise almost as diligently as a pianist or an acro-
bat if he is to remain in the first flight-he will have little leisure left
for less intellectual but equally vital duties" (Hay 1915:5).
Furthermore, I have, to a large extent, been excluded from the
future of South Africa; this is partly by my own choice-I chose to
leave South Africa in 1964 after serving two years as president of the
National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) and four weeks in
police detention and solitary confinement under the old Ninety Day
Detention Act. I did not choose to have my South African passport
taken away from me in 1965, nor to have my citizenship revoked, nor
to become the prohibited immigrant in that country which I still am-
though I have twice in recent years been allowed to visit briefly a
brother who has since died of cancer. I did not choose to have my first
two novels banned in South Africa. One has recently been unbanned
and republished, but one has been rebanned (Send War in Our Time, 0
Lord [1970]); the South African authorities are not strong on irony.
However, I did choose to disengage myself physically from South
Africa, and, in a sense, that disqualifies me from talking about its
future. In self-defense, I would say I am not of the right stature for
quietly subversive work, and I did not relish the idea of spending most
of my life in and out of jail, which I suspected would be a main conse-


Between the Hammer and the Anvil

quence of a commitment to South African politics. I was also fairly
sure then-as now-that it is not the proper role of white liberals to
be sacrificial lambs; yet for a white liberal to keep out of jail is all too
easy. Lacking the faith of the political martyr and the selfless ambition
of the scholar, I confess I also lack the chutzpah of the genuine jour-
nalist; I retreat from revolutions, takeovers, intrusions, and telephone
calls. So, when I am not a headmaster, I am a writer of what purports
to be more truth than actuality; and perhaps there is inevitably an ele-
ment of imaginative fiction in this essay, since I am describing what
has not yet happened.
In disclaiming scholarship, I must also refer to my biography (1980)
of the South African radical politician Patrick Duncan. Though I sup-
pose it must be counted as a work of scholarship, its motivating force
was not scholarship but a desire to understand and explain a compli-
cated man-a novelist's purpose rather than a scholar's. May I also
inform those who do not know the book (I fear, judging by its lack of
sales, a large majority of any audience) that much of the scholarship
was provided by my research assistant for the book, Tom Lodge, a
genuine scholar by any reckoning, as a study of his book, Black Politics
in South Africa since 1945 (1983), will surely reveal. One may not dele-
gate scholarship, but one may make good use of scholarly friends, as I
have done in this essay and elsewhere.


Before I say what I think is happening in South Africa and then
extrapolate some of what I think may happen, I must explain some-
thing about the meaning of the term liberal in South Africa.' There are
problems in any discussion involving this term; like the word romantic,
it has come to mean so many things that it may have ceased to serve
any useful function as a verbal sign. In South Africa whites often use
liberal to mean "nonracial," and some joined the now disbanded
Liberal party only because they and it were nonracial. Since
Communists also claimed to be nonracial, Communist and liberal
became synonymous, though not to Communists, liberals, or Liberals.
There were, for instance, some in the Congress of Democrats who
called themselves liberal, though never "liberals": that is, on the white
left, the adjective liberal was less pejorative than the substantive liberal
or the designation Liberal. There were some who joined the Liberal
party who would, in most other societies, have called themselves
socialists, and some who would have called themselves conservatives.
The extent of one's liberalism in the Liberal party could sometimes be
defined in terms of the lengths to which one was prepared to go in


opposing racialism and the government; thus Patrick Duncan was
very liberal, a "left-wing liberal." Sometimes one's left-wing-ness in
the Liberal party could be defined in terms of one's commitment to
socialism; in those terms Patrick Duncan was not very liberal, or he
was a "right-wing liberal." Sometimes liberal was defined in relation
to the Congress movement, the alliance of anti-apartheid organiza-
tions in the 1950s headed by the African National Congress (ANC). As
Brian Bunting wrote: "There is no ideological unity in the Liberal
Party, there are only Liberals and Liberals. One wing of the Liberal
Party can almost be described as reactionary; but another wing is
moving ever closer to the Congress point of view, and already works
closely with the Congresses in some centres" (Bunting 1957:18). In
those terms, Duncan was very liberal in his desire to cooperate with
the Congresses but reactionary in his attitude to communism. Yet
another complication is that whereas many whites used liberal or lib-
eralistic in a pejorative sense of "nonracial" (also "impolitic," "imprac-
tical," "dangerous," and "wicked"), many blacks (not only in Southern
Africa) used liberal in a sense of "halfhearted," "condescending," or,
occasionally, as a synonym of "bourgeois," or "not in favor of com-
plete equality of white and black."
Yet for all the problems of the term and for all the lack of ideologi-
cal unity in the Liberal party, there were ways in which most mem-
bers of the Liberal party were liberal, in more familiar and positive
senses of the word. They were reformists rather than revolutionaries
(some Liberal party members became revolutionaries after 1960 but,
when discovered, were expelled from the party). Most, if not all,
would have accepted the adjective liberal in front of their substantive
nomenclature: liberal socialist, liberal capitalist, liberal conservative,
and so on. Many, though not all, were gradualists. They thought social
change disrupted fewer lives if it did not occur without warning and
preparation. Most disliked thinking of people in groups and preferred
to think of them as individuals; while by no means all were egalitar-
ian, nearly all preferred moral and political judgments based on indi-
vidual worth rather than on race or class. Most had some notion of
democracy, if not all were democrats. Many thought there was a con-
nection between morality and politics.
I need to complicate the problem still further by saying that in
South Africa white liberals, white socialists, and white Communists
tended to live rather similar kinds of lives, though their backgrounds
were often very different. They tended to be intellectuals-that is,
they cared about ideas, books, and the arts. Because they were in
opposition to the government and (at least) to the most easily visible
parts of the social system, and because they were in a small minority





Between the Hammer and the Anvil

The Verkrampte View

First, there is the verkrampte vision: the extreme right-wing view
(history with rifles) which states that whites won South Africa by
force of arms and will keep it by force of arms. God intended them to
have this country, and He will make sure they keep it. It is difficult for
educated and sensible Westerners to grasp the full force-or even the
simplistic attractiveness-of this view. Everyone negotiates in the end,
does he not? You and I know, do we not, that life is a compromise?
One gives a little, one takes a little, things work out in the end...and
actually, we are inclined to think that this eventual settling of the bal-
ance is good. The notion of the Aristotelian mean lies deep in the
dominant political culture of the West. Not so for the verkramptes.
The verkrampte vision is embedded in Afrikaner consciousness, and it
has surfaced before. At the end of the Boer War, the group of Boers
who would not accept the terms of the Peace of Vereeniging but
wished to continue fighting were known as the bittereinders (bitter-
enders). The son of one of them, P.W. Botha, served as prime minister
and then president of South Africa between 1978 and 1989.
We must go further than that: the triumph of Afrikaner national-
ism depends on a theory of political as well as racial purity.
Compromise is a specter that terrifies Afrikaner politicians; part of
F.W. de Klerk's bravery in talking to Mandela and the ANC lies in his
facing the inevitable cries of "Compromise!"-not as praise but as an
allegation of weakness. One of the constraints on any Afrikaner politi-
cian is the knowledge of the whispering campaign that destroyed
General Hertzog after the formation of the United party and was the
precursor of the triumph of the purified Afrikaner Nationalist party in
1948. The Afrikaners of the Western Cape are still liable to the taunts
of ware Afrikaners, ware Boereseuns (true sons of the Boers). Their
ancestors stayed at home in the comfortable Cape while the truly
committed trekked into the supposedly empty interior to escape the
British-and there is no doubt but that the verkramptes harness the
immense psychological force of the Great Trek to pull their latter-day
wagons. They could have enjoyed economic progress, comfort, and a
position in the world if they had stayed in the beautiful Cape, but that
meant compromise, and so they went into the fastnesses on the other
side of the mountains. Add to these images the Old Testament images
of a chosen race carving out from the wilderness a new Zion promised
by God, and you may understand why I say these people will not be
bought off, nor are they going to be frightened by economic boycott.
Indeed, the puritanical basis of much of their belief makes economic
boycott attractive to them because it promotes self-sufficiency, and


they can fall back on images of belt-tightening, dispensing with luxuries
and living on water, salt, dried meat, and rusks biltongg and biscuit).
One must not think of the verkramptes as simply a group-
TerreBlanche and the rest. There are, of course, actual verkrampte
individuals; they have a party and some seats in the House of
Assembly, and they are totally and publicly committed. However, the
verkramp is part of the character of the Afrikaner people. To ask why
an Afrikaner politician, purportedly a verligte (enlightened), is behav-
ing in a verkrampte way is to misunderstand. In the middle of enlight-
enment, like a stone in a peach, is the verkramp-though I shall
shortly explain why the fruit of enlightenment seems rather worm-
eaten, despite its apparent freshness.

The Ultrarevolutionary View
The polarity of the verkrampte is the unrelievedly violent revolution-
ary. One would think that no one in his or her right mind would
assert that violence is ever anything but a last resort. It is possible,
however, to argue that because the verkrampte or bittereinder is so
deeply a part of the Afrikaner character, true liberation will never take
place until the wars that were lost are fought again and won. What
whites used to call the Kaffir Wars are known by black South Africans
as the Wars of Dispossession; if blacks are to possess their country
again, they must fight for it. Just as the Afrikaner says, "We fought for
this country, and we won," so the black ultrarevolutionary says, "This
country will not be ours again until we have spilled our blood for it."
It may too easily be seen as a kind of Roman despair: there is nothing
left for black South Africans but to die in battle or fall on their own
swords. Some commentators claim that is what the Sowetan
schoolchildren feel; what little I have been able to discover of their
motives and behavior makes me feel that the defiant courage of those
who throw stones at armored personnel carriers is not despair but
something closer to what the Algerian theorist of violence, Frantz
Fanon, described:
For the colonized people this violence, because it constitutes
their only work, invests their characters with positive and
creative qualities. The practice of violence binds them
together as a whole, since each individual forms a violent
link in the great chain, a part of the great organism of vio-
lence...The mobilization of the masses...introduces into
each man's consciousness the ideas of a common cause, of a
national destiny and of a collective history. At the level of
individuals, violence is a cleansing force. It frees the native
from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inac-



Between the Hammer and the Anvil

tion; it makes him fearless and restores his self-respect."
(Fanon 1965:73-74)

The Verligte View

Between these polarities I wish to isolate three other visions of South
Africa's future. The first is that of the verligte, the so-called enlight-
ened Nationalist. There is no doubt that in the twenty-one years I was
absent from South Africa (1964-85), there was a noticeable change in
the surface appearance of apartheid. In my very first moments back in
my country, I was delighted to find that I no longer had to check
whether the lavatory or bench or public entrance was for whites or
nonwhites. There is no doubt that, along with the removal of the signs
of apartheid has come greater integration in, for instance, restaurants,
hotels, and shops. I would not think the change deeply significant,
though it would be silly not to welcome it. Much more significant, to
my mind, was that the old open-doored houses of my childhood were
now locked, barred, and burglar-alarmed, protected by high fences
and often patrolled by large dogs.
Yet the verligte is an element in Afrikanerdom that must be taken
into account. It was characterized, with startling force and simplicity
in June 1986 by Donald Masson, retiring president of the Afrikaner
Institute of Commerce: "If we really want to lose everything, then we
must hang on to everything now" (Sampson 1987:11). A black radi-
cal, hearing that remark, would quite properly say, "What you mean
is that you want to concede, not as much as you should, but as little as
you can safely get away with; your concern is not justice or equality,
but your own skin." In other words, enlightenment is concessionary;
and (I speak as a headmaster now) concessions rarely produce the
expected effects. This does not mean one should never make conces-
sions, but one must do so in conscious humility that they may have
surprising results. Indeed, I would suggest that is one of the themes of
this essay: too often in talking of the future of South Africa there has
been a simplistic analysis of likely consequences of any particular
action or set of events. This is as true now in the euphoric aftermath of
Nelson Mandela's release as it was beforehand.

The Ameliorist View
A step further than enlightenment is the ameliorist vision of the
future, sometimes called the Oppenheimer thesis. More accurately, it
is the O'Dowd thesis because its original author was Michael O'Dowd,
a president of NUSAS in the early 1950s and now a senior official in


the Anglo-American Corporation (see O'Dowd 1974). The thesis
(wildly oversimplified, because for all one's reservations one must
acknowledge O'Dowd's considerable scholarship) argues that the con-
cessionary position is inevitable and the revolutionary view nonsensi-
cal: there has never been a successful revolution in an industrial
state-indeed, one might even argue that industrial states cannot
have revolutions, and South Africa is, in broad terms, industrial to at
least a European level. That being the case, the truest analogy to
South Africa's situation would be Europe in the nineteenth century,
where increasing industrialization produced not only urban misery
but also an emergent middle class and then a gradual process of the
extension of political rights to follow in the train of economic advance-
ment. In other words, one really needs to do nothing in South Africa
except to create wealth, because economics will do everything else.
I first heard this theory in 1961 from O'Dowd himself, three years
before his thesis appeared in printed form, and the inchoate objections
I felt then are now more firmly rooted in my mind.2 First, it seems to
me an inhuman thesis because it removes from consideration all
aspects of life other than the economic; indeed, it reminds me of the
sillier versions of Marxism in which the importance of anything other
than economic forces is denied. There are times when, in the words of
less intelligent people than O'Dowd, the ameliorist position seems
similarly asinine. Second, in giving due weight to economics, the
O'Dowd thesis ignores the actuality of racialism. The argument is that
economic advancement and economic necessity will render racialism
first obsolete and then inconceivable. To that point of view all I can
say is that my own version of South Africa understands racialism as an
intransigent and deeply powerful element in the culture of white
South Africans and particularly in Afrikanerdom.
Allow me to digress from the discussion of the five views of the
future to suggest that one of the reasons the phenomenon of Black
Consciousness was treated more seriously by South African liberals
than by South African Marxists is that Marxists tend to assume that
once the economic causes of racialism are removed, racialism itself
will cease to exist. The liberal view would see racialism as caused by
more complex circumstances than economic forces alone, and so
Black Consciousness, which is rooted in a psychological analysis of the
effects of oppression, found much more intellectual favor among lib-
erals than among Marxists. I would argue similarly against the
O'Dowd thesis; it is a kind of upside-down Marxism, and I would in
fact claim, ironically, that one of the positive effects of the O'Dowd
thesis has been to force Marxists in the Congress movement to be a
little less simplistic in their analyses than they used to be. In disputing
that O'Dowd's thesis is big enough to fill the whole bed, however, I



Between the Hammer and the Anvil

would not wish to underestimate the importance of the economic
forces at work in South Africa. Obviously, they are hugely important:
the use of black purchasing power as a political lever; the growth of
black trade unions; the new urban black middle class, caught between
radical youth in the townships and the repressive machinery of
Afrikanerdom, but itself an active force, not a passive recipient of
change. The international moves toward divestment and economic
sanctions are still very much Congress policy, though it is an interest-
ing illustration of the gap between expectation and effect that some
black unions now regret that they are no longer negotiating with
mainly liberal overseas directors and multinational officials but with
white South Africans less prone to accept pressure for change. It is
equally ironic that in terms of the O'Dowd thesis, the use by blacks of
their economic power internally is seen as a positive step forward,
whereas external economic sanctions are seen as retrogressive inter-
ference with supposedly natural economic forces. Even if one does not
accept O'Dowd's thesis in all its aspects, the idea that economic reform
will happen inevitably and so prevent violent political upheaval with
widespread bloodshed and economic chaos is attractive both to the
liberal and the conservative. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

The View of the Congress Movement
The last vision of the future I propose to outline is the more conven-
tional revolutionary one; I call it the Congress view for obvious rea-
sons. Briefly, the outlook developed as follows: For years and years-
for more than half a century, in fact-the Congress movement tried
peaceful means to resist oppression and to persuade their rulers to
nonviolent change. The tactic failed. According to the Marxist wing of
the Congress movement, the strategy did not work because it could
not work: it was romantic resistance, an early phase in the struggle,
based on an incorrect analysis of the class structure of Southern
Africa. According to the other wing-the Gandhian wing, to use a
convenient shorthand-it failed because the Afrikaners were so
utterly intransigent. The proper Gandhian theory of passive resistance
is satyagraha (soul-force), by which the soul of the oppressed triumphs
over the soul of the oppressor because it is prepared to suffer more
than the other is prepared to inflict suffering-even to suffer death.
But peaceful resistance did not change the Afrikaners because they
were incapable of change. So, reluctantly rather than joyfully, the
Congress movement and its allies turned to violence against objects,
rather than against people. More recently, however, there have been
two developments, the first being the realization that one may hardly
destroy a gun without harming the hand that holds it, and second, the


recognition that the innocent have to suffer sometimes in the cause of
a wider necessity.
Now I have referred to "the Congress movement and its allies," but
actually one of the first groups involved in the sabotage of public
installations (railway lines, power pylons, and so on) was not a
Congress group at all but a group of young liberals in the African
Resistance Movement (ARM). I am tempted to write more about
ARM, although I have already written a heavily fictionalized account
(Driver 1969) of its origins, ambitions, and downfall and of the subse-
quent bombing of the Johannesburg railway station by John Harris, a
minor and a peripheral member of ARM, though the only one to be
executed-and he died, incidentally, with far greater heroism than
the way one or two leading figures in the ARM managed to find
themselves in police detention. No one, however, has written a schol-
arly account of the group. (The only nonfiction book that has been
written about ARM is so appallingly inaccurate and ignorant that I
cannot bring myself to advertise it even by mentioning the title.) But
the point I need to make here is that ARM was essentially a group of
liberals-primarily members of the Liberal party of South Africa,
though they were ultimately expelled from this group. In the South
African context, to be a liberal (in a broad sense) did not necessarily
preclude the view that to achieve change violence would, regrettably,
be necessary. To assume that the violence could be limited to objects
and not harm the innocent was unwisely romantic, such as the sad
case of Harris's unheeded warning to the police that he had planted a
bomb demonstrates.
Organized guerrilla activity in South Africa now appears to be
largely in the hands of the military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we
Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). The beating of blacks by white youths is
hardly a new phenomenon, nor is the violence of the police. The so-
called suicides in police custody, the shooting of prisoners "because
they tried to escape," and random murders are endemic. There
appears to be a great deal of unorganized violence by blacks, much of
it directed against the easiest targets: other blacks-police informers,
government servants, and no doubt the occasional social parasite or
innocent bystander falsely accused. The latest and most hideous ver-
sion is necklacing, by which a tire is placed over a victim's head and
arms so he is immobilized, petrol is poured inside the tire, and then
the petrol is set afire. "Instant" it possibly is, though rather slowly
instant, but "justice" it certainly is not, because there has been no due
process of law, not even in a revolutionary sense, and liberals believe
in the law, for all its imperfections! "Slow murder" might be a better
description, and one notes with relief that more people are condemn-
ing the practice and that fewer are apologizing for it. I mention it



Between the Hammer and the Anvil

mainly because I would not want anyone to suppose that I talk about
revolutionary violence without recognizing what may actually
happen in revolutionary violence. Bombs in shopping arcades chop
off the legs of children as well as the arms of policemen.

The Complexities of Pluralism in South Africa

Let me summarize these five views of South Africa's future:
1. The verkrampte version, an Afrikaner future very much like
the Afrikaner past, with the blacks safely subservient in
their own provinces or fleeing from brilliantly accurate
2. The ultrarevolutionary version, which says, "We won't own
this land again until we have won it with our blood."
3. The verligte version, in which the Afrikaners, having
recruited the bulk of the English speakers to their side, also
persuade the Indians and especially the Coloreds to join
federal forces against the world. Whether their world
includes the black states in which black South Africans
have gained their national citizenship and the independent
black states within or on the South African borders depends
on how quiescent those states are; if they are not, South
Africa has many means at its disposal to destabilize them or
to impose a puppet government. Careful but gradual con-
cessions, along with international diplomacy and, now,
careful negotiation with the ANC-especially an ANC as it
exists after the collapse of Soviet hegemony-would pro-
duce a slow change within South Africa, so slow as possibly
to be imperceptible but enough to persuade the Western
world that change is happening. The light in enlightenment
has very low amperage.
4. The ameliorist version, by which a judicious sharing of eco-
nomic wealth and a gradual creation of a black middle class
would prevent a revolution and promote a less-than-per-
fect but still not offensively undemocratic society: a second-
best society, perhaps, but not ravaged by violent revolution.
Again, negotiation will be crucial.
5. The revolutionary version, which sees blacks and their allies
winning an urban guerrilla war after a long, dreadful, and
necessary but ultimately successful struggle. The ANC still


has not entirely abandoned this possibility and will not
until it sees real evidence that the government is converted
to real democracy. How long will it wait? That is a critical
No doubt you are waiting for me to commit myself to one view: that is
exactly what I am not going to do, though I trust I have presented
each view persuasively enough to make some readers think each is
likely. Though I risk the weakness I mentioned before, that liberals
may sometimes think the truth is so multifarious that everything is
true, I wish to assert that all these futures are going to happen, indeed
may already be happening.
Each scenario is not discrete but rather is part of a spectrum.
Indeed, in Anthony Sampson's brilliantly informed study Black and
Gold: Tycoons, Revolutionaries and Apartheid (1987), the argument is
taken a step further. First, "it is absurd for western governments or
companies to expect Pretoria to make reforms by itself, to dismantle
the structure of apartheid." Revolution of some kind is inevitable;
however, judicious use of Western resources, especially in the border-
ing states, would help ensure that the revolution would be "as blood-
less and manageable as possible." "The longer the west refuses to face
up to a future black majority, the more anti-western it is likely to
be"-and the prime power of the West is in the hands of the tycoons,
the managers of the multinational companies (Sampson 1987:
263-265). If one wanted to place Sampson's position in the spectrum
of the five visions of South Africa's future, it would fit somewhere
between the ameliorist and the conventional revolutionary perspec-
tives. The heart is ameliorist, but the head is revolutionary.
The moral repulsion one feels for institutionalized racialism has
made one think of South Africa as much more monolithic than in fact
it is. It is a very diverse and pluralistic country. To make this claim is
risky, because it is so often heard as a prelude to an argument in favor
of apartheid or as an argument in favor of gradualism. I want to use it
in a much more complicated way, however, because I want to include
all aspects of the pluralism-historical, cultural, racial, regional, lin-
guistic, economic, local and psychological. What is going to happen in
South Africa is all the futures mentioned and more. Of course, in an
absolute sense, the future of South Africa is very certain indeed.
Anthony Trollope, who visited the Cape in 1876, put it clearly and
starkly: "South Africa is a country of black men-and not of white
men. It has been so; it is so; and it will continue to be so. In this
respect it is altogether unlike Australia, unlike the Canadas, and
unlike New Zealand . the important person in South Africa is the
Kafir and the Zulu, the Bechuana and the Hottentot,-not the
Dutchman or the Englishman" (Trollope 1968: 332-333).



Between the Hammer and the Anvil

The processes by which that certain future will happen, as well as
the times and the places, are very uncertain indeed-and much more
complex than anyone has yet (as far as I know) said. The argument is
always between scenarios: nonviolent or violent, revolutionary or
ameliorist, long and nasty violence or short and sharp. My position is
that the arguments "between" are absurd. Nonviolent change is hap-
pening; so is violent change. Violent opposition to change is happen-
ing; concessions are also being made. Violent opposition to change is,
in some instances, masquerading as violent change-the hand
grenade may be thrown into the cinema by a PAC man or by a
hireling of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB, the Afrikaner
resistance movement), which wants the PAC and the ANC to be
regarded as indiscriminately murderous. In the same town, the ANC
may be organizing a boycott of a chain of white-owned shops that is
causing a reexamination of financial policy in the area. It is not one
scenario or another that is true; all are true, though they may not
happen in the same sequence, or the same place, or at the same time.
One partly appropriate word is balkanization, but even that is too
superficial. From the time of the formation of the Union of South
Africa in 1910, there have been regional variations of a major kind.
The partial implementation of geographical apartheid, the indepen-
dence of the former British and Portuguese colonies, and the United
Nations' supervision of Namibia's transition to independence in 1990
have accelerated that process. It is a fact that in some areas of South
Africa there has been what amounts to a tacit and temporary balkan-
ization. A great deal of political theorizing in South Africa is based on
the large urban example. The small town is a less familiar notion, but
it needs to be taken into account in the sociology of revolution. So
think of a small town in South Africa where black purchasing power is
such that if it is withdrawn almost totally, a great many white busi-
nesses may be pushed into bankruptcy. In two such areas (I have it on
good but unattributable authority) an accommodation has been
reached between the white town council and white chamber of com-
merce on the one side and the black township on the other, which
effectively leaves the white town ruled by whites and the black town
ruled by blacks. The power of the police is tamed and discipline is
maintained by black vigilantes. I have not done any research on this
situation, but I have been told that there is one small town where
there is not merely a tacit agreement but an actual signed written
accord between the local chamber of commerce and a committee rep-
resenting the black township. Local political concessions would result
in a discontinuation of a very effective boycott of white businesses by
black consumers.
While I cannot state authoritatively that this is true, I would not be


surprised if it is. Given the talks going on between ANC delegations
and state government and between Mandela and de Klerk about the
future of South Africa, one would presumably find similar dialogue
occurring at a local level. Of course any agreement is dependent on a
quiescent local police force. All it takes for a precarious-and illegal-
modus vivendi to be toppled is for a vigorous and rigorous new chief
of police to take over or for a guerrilla group to begin operations in
the area.
I should also report that I have heard-and again, it is hearsay evi-
dence-that in some areas there has been considerable conflict
between the police and the army. In the account I was given the con-
flict was between a local police force psychopathically determined to
enforce the letter of the law and a local army group anxious to try to
keep the black population moderately cooperative. Again, I cannot
quote my source without endangering it, but I can say that one could
expect this kind of conflict. Within the police force itself local South
Africans recognize distinctions of discipline and professionalism: the
"greens," the "browns," and the "blues." A white South African I
know, who regularly enters a particularly nasty black township in a
particularly nasty town, goes into the black township under armed
guard. Because he is in these circumstances a volunteer, he can
demand certain safeguards. One of them is that he will not go into the
township with policemen of the locally recruited variety, because he is
much more afraid of them than he is of the local population. He is less
unhappy with the professional police and least unhappy with the
army units attached to the police locally. They have a limited job to do
and they do it and nothing else. Given that the army has behaved
with indiscriminate brutality along the border areas, this internal dis-
tinction is particularly noteworthy.
Let me continue to complicate the scenarios. For instance, one that
is occasionally mentioned is the possibility of an army coup. There are
already areas in South Africa where the army rules, as evidenced by
the localized state of emergency, and this pattern is bound to con-
tinue. The influence of the army on government is considerable, and
surely there will be times when the army takes over the government.
However, it will not happen as a stage in a process. It will happen inci-
dentally and out of any order.
Another scenario often mentioned is that of partition. In a sense,
that has already happened in the creation of the bantustans, and the
fact that they are nominally under black rule should not prevent one
from acknowledging that they show even less respect for individual
rights and personal liberty than does the central state. In other words,
partition need not result in one democratic and another undemocratic
state but may result in two undemocratic states. It is possible to have



Between the Hammer and the Anvil

two small towns within fifty miles of each other where in one town
there is racial cooperation of a kind that makes one hopeful for the
future of South Africa and in the other there is racial confrontation of
cataclysmic horror, where a young white visitor from overseas
addressing any civil word to a black resident is hissed at with bitter
loathing as a matter of course.
A scenario we have not yet seen-as far as I know-is a communal
explosion in which a large element of the black community sets out to
kill as many whites as possible. South Africa came close to this situa-
tion at the time of the Pan-Africanist Congress when in the early
1960s it inspired the insurrectionary movement called Poqo (see
Lodge 1983:241-55), and the more recent Soweto rising demonstrates
that there is a capacity for reckless self-sacrifice in the thrall of racial
anger. The localized and indiscriminate uprising of blacks against
whites will, however, surely happen sooner or later, and it will be
horrible. The reverse has certainly happened, and I doubt if we can
begin to know the full extent of the carnage. However, when a gov-
ernment is prepared to settle out of court a case for damages after
police have opened fire on a black funeral procession, then communal
violence is at least two-sided.
Let me continue the complications. South Africa today is in a phase
when the emergence of legal and semilegal black trade unions seems
of enormous importance. As I was first drafting this essay, the miners
were on strike: the 170,000 striking members of the official union
were joined by either 60,000 workers (if you believe the Chamber of
Mines) or 160,000 (if you believe the miners' leaders). We have been
waiting for such developments for twenty years. Why has it taken so
long? The black workers did not have the muscle beforehand; their
employers would simply sack them and bring in new hands-from
Mozambique, from the Rhodesias, from Bechuanaland. Things have
certainly changed, but will it last? Is this the beginning of the end? I
hope so, but I doubt it-we have had too many beginnings of the end
for me to believe in them anymore. I think it is very significant that
blacks are beginning to assert their economic power not just as pro-
ducers but as consumers as well. However, strikes can be broken.
What I wish I knew more about is deliberate inefficiency-industrial
sabotage, to give it a grand title. In Schindler's List (Keneally 1982), the
Jews whom Schindler has rescued from the concentration camps
make armaments, but nothing ever quite fits.
Yet on a Karoo farm run by a deeply conservative white farmer, I
saw in 1986 an example of worker participation I would be surprised
to find anywhere on a farm in Western Europe. Each laborer there
owns a proportion of the main herd of Angora goats, and his goats run
with the whole herd. So the better the herd does the better the laborer


does. In terms of the Karoo farms of my childhood, that seems close to
a revolution in attitude, even if not in ownership of the land.
There is one other certainty I would add to my assessment of the
eventual outcome and of the complexity of the processes that are
occurring and will occur in South Africa, and that concerns the time
scale. The processes, some of which have already begun though not in
any hierarchical or temporal order, will take a very long time to reach
a conclusion. Violence of one kind may be succeeded not by revolu-
tionary change but by nonviolent reform; concessions may result in
communal uprisings; apparently successful sanctions may result not in
a weaker outh Africa but a stronger one; and so on. The cry "How
long, 0 Lord, how long?" will be met, I fear, with a steady gaze and a
shake of the head by all except the foolish optimist or the sanguine
revolutionary. The release of political prisoners and the return of the
exiles are events devoutly to be welcomed and cheered; but there is
much work still to be done, and premature optimism is the parent of

What Is to Be Done?

What is the function of liberalism in this complexity? Has it a func-
tion, or a future, at all? Should it declare itself an outmoded creed and
seek to convert to one of the revolutionary radicalisms? Or should it
take refuge in ameliorization, or fit a breathing device in a coffin and
bury itself for a generation or two? The Procrustean view sees the lib-
eral crushed between the hammer and the anvil, the hammer of the
Congress movement and the anvil of Afrikanerdom. On this bed may
lie only the true revolutionary. The first problem is that the bed of the
true revolutionary tends to have rather a movable shape. Last year's
orthodoxy is next year's heresy, and great guerrilla leaders often end
up jailed in their liberated country. The hammer has been known to
miss the anvil entirely.
Moreover, the Congress movement is by no means ideologically
single-minded, even in its international and exiled form, where the
influence of the Soviet Union has been very strong. Its leadership is by
no means entirely illiberal. It is not just an historical oddity that one of
the former officers of the ANC was the chaplain-general and its presi-
dent, Oliver Tambo, is avowedly a Christian, as are a great many other
black South Africans. Within South Africa, the United Democratic
Front (UDF) constituted by all accounts a heterogeneous movement
containing many disparate forces. For instance, the old Africanist side
of the Congress movement, some of which formed itself into the Pan-
Africanist Congress (PAC), appears to have returned to the larger fold.



Between the Hammer and the Anvil

The splits and expulsions that characterized an earlier phase of the
ANC and the PAC in exile do not seem to have happened in the
UDF-nor, indeed, in the ANC anymore, thanks largely to the gener-
ous leadership of Oliver Tambo.
In other words, it is simply not enough to say that the liberal will
have no place. Ask almost any black South African how he or she
regards the Black Sash-run by white women of a generally conserva-
tive liberal kind-and one will hear evidence of the complexity which
I have asserted. Mandela himself spoke most generously of the Black
Sash and of NUSAS upon his release from prison, the latter particu-
larly because of its role in the Education Scheme it ran for political
prisoners. At the same time, one has to accept the limitations of the
place of the liberal, particularly if one is white. Though I have many
admirable friends who were left almost totally bereft politically by
Frederick van Zyl Slabbert's startling decision to abandon parliamen-
tary politics, one must, I think, applaud his decision. His Institute for a
Democratic Alternative for South Africa (IDASA) is likely to prove a
more useful vehicle for liberalizing the inevitable change in South
Africa than will quasi-parliamentary opposition. Of course, part of the
result of what some called his desertion was the apparent "move to
the right" in the most recent whites-only election. I cannot see that as
very significant, however, because there is no evidence that a move to
the left would have produced any more concessions than would a
move to the right, and in any case, concessions rarely produce their
intended effects.
What, then, do the white liberals do? They talk, they listen, they
argue, they write, they speak out-but they do not pretend to be
black, nor do they pretend that their moral suffering is a patch on the
actual suffering of the black opposition. They are prepared to go to jail,
but they probably no longer take the Gandhian view that their going
to jail may soften the hearts of their jailers. They are perhaps even
prepared to die for the cause, though they do not pretend that dying
will increase their virtue or necessarily advance social and political
change. They see that the true leaders are the black leaders, and they
will take proper account of this leadership, even when they reserve
the right (as all good liberals must) to dissent. They long for the
restoration of the rule of decent law.3 They hope, by their witness, to
keep alive some of the ideas that will inform the society they hope will
eventually allow people to live decent and orderly lives in South
Africa. And, they are probably not optimists.
None of these ideas is original. More than half my lifetime ago,
when I was president of NUSAS, I presented a paper to a seminar at a
Methodist youth camp called Bothashill. It earned NUSAS, and me
personally, considerable opprobrium from most white South Africans;


but among the black members of NUSAS-and other South African
blacks-it earned a certain respect that is still not entirely forgotten.
What I said then is still true, and it makes more sense now than when
I said it in 1964. I think the same may possibly be true of this essay, in
twenty years' time.


1. This paragraph, and the two that follow, are substantially a quotation
from Driver (1980:128-30). For further discussion of the meaning of lib-
eralism in its main global context, see Bramstead and Melhuish (1978)
and Raz (1986).
2. Although O'Dowd did not publish the paper containing his thesis until
1974, his ideas had already become well known since his paper had been
circulated widely in its original unpublished form from its initial appear-
ance in 1964.
3. For a detailed definition and defense of a liberal theory of law, see
Dworkin (1981).


Bramstead, E.K., and R.J. Melhuish, eds. 1978. Western Liberalism. London:
Bunting, Brian. 1957. "Multi-Racial Conference." Liberation (Johannesburg).
Driver, C. J. 1969. Elegy for a Revolutionary. London: Faber.
1970. Send War in Our Time, 0 Lord. London: Faber.
-- 1980. Patrick Duncan: South African and Pan-African. London:
Dworkin, Ronald. 1981. Taking Rights Seriously. New impression with a
"Reply to Critics." London: Duckworth.
Fanon, Frantz. 1965. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press.
Hay, Ian. 1915. The Lighter Side of School Life. London: T.N. Foulis.
Keneally, Thomas. 1982. Schindler's List. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Lodge, Tom. 1983. Black Politics in South Africa since 1945. London: Longmans.
O'Dowd, Michael. 1974. "South Africa in the Light of the Stages of Economic
Growth." In South Africa: Economic Growth and Political Change, ed. A.
Leftwich, 29-44. London: Allison and Busby.
Raz, Joseph. 1986. The Morality of Freedom. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Sampson, Anthony. 1987. Black and Gold: Tycoons, Revolutionaries and
Apartheid. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
Trollope, Anthony. 1968. South Africa. Volume 2. Reprint of 1878 edition.
London: Dawsons of Pall Mall.




Racial Proletarianization and Some

Contemporary Dimensions of

Black Consciousness Thought


During the 1970s, with the established South African liberation move-
ments still in exile, three distinct social forces found new expression in
black politics. These were neo-ethnicity (as exemplified by Inkatha,
the organization headed by Chief Gatsha Buthelezi ostensibly to pro-
mote Zulu cultural and political interests, and Bantustan leadership),
radicalized youth (Black Consciousness and student movements), and
the black working class (independent trade unions).
Ethnic leaders drew their strength from long-standing ethnic iden-
tities. These politicians sought to forge new political constituencies
from old ethnic loyalties in the hopes of wielding power in both rural
and urban communities and of gaining greater government patron-
age. In this respect, these were neo-ethnic, rather than ethnic, leaders
who most often campaigned with government support. For many
black South Africans, however, the political legitimacy of bantustan
leaders was compromised by their close association with the policies of
the government. The South African state manipulates ethnic divisions
as a counterweight to racial and class solidarity and seeks to link class
formation to "traditional" institutional residues in the hope of encour-
aging the formation of a more conservative and state-aligned black
segment of the bourgeoisie. The pernicious reification of ethnicity in
South Africa is well known. Apartheid ideology can be usefully
viewed as a racist "anthropology," one which categorizes Africans as
perpetual "tribesmen" (Crapranzano 1987).1 Perverted ethnic institu-
tions have been incorporated into capitalist and state structures.
Whether signified by the induna (boss boy) in the mines or the chief in
the homelands, a degraded version of African culture legitimatess"
both segregation and apartheid.
On the other hand, ethnic-based resistance has contributed to con-
temporary nationalist movements. The memory of resistance by chiefs


78 Halisi

serves to remind black Africans that their plight as a conquered people
is not in all instances the result of complicity. Ethnic and racial con-
sciousness can be at one and the same time mutually supportive and
antagonistic forms of consciousness. Well into this century, "chiefs still
had considerable power over the daily lives of their subjects, and it is
this, in part, that explains the retention among migrants of the ideol-
ogy of precapitalist social formations" (Marks 1986:110).
The social engineering of ethnicity has been the organizational cor-
nerstone of South African state strategy; ethnic-based incorporation
has allowed for minor restructuring from above and for a distinctive
form of class formation. Scholars who stress its colonial character
argue that the South African state as presently structured is incapable
of accommodating the basic African demands for full citizenship and
common political institutions; nor is it in a position to accommodate
any significant segment of the African population: hence its continued
reliance on repression.
An opposing view contends that the state has a strategy of accom-
modation that owes a great deal to its incorporation of ethnic struc-
tures.2 The fact that black state auxiliaries inherit the legitimation crisis
of the regime should not be confused with an absence of power or
influence. As a result of Pretoria-style social engineering, a substantial
number of politicized urban Africans deeply resent ethnic-group politi-
cians and all that they have come to represent. The aspirations of urban
Africans have been thwarted by the government's institutionalization
of tribal identity. Still, ethnicity cannot be dismissed as a mere chimera,
and ethnic leaders often represent politically important constituencies.
Obviously, ethnic politics will not be the foundation for a "post-
apartheid" South Africa-that would contravene the very meaning of
the term. Arend Lijphart (1987), the major consociationalist theorist,
has continued to insist that ethnicity need not be inconsistent with
postapartheid planning and may indeed be compatible with demo-
cratic constitutional reform. If the European, Soviet, and American
experiences are any indication, ethnic influences on a postapartheid
democratic process will not totally disappear. The centrality of ethnic
divisions to apartheid ideology, as well as the state's divisive ethnic-
based "reform" agenda, has discouraged radical movements from
articulating a realistic policy on ethnicity. The role of ethnicity in a
postapartheid South Africa remains a controversial question both in
academic and political discussions. Should the process of reform initi-
ated by President F. W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela in 1990 result in
the establishment of a credible electoral system, and should liberation
movements be converted into full-fledged political parties, the inter-
play of ethnic, racial, and class constituencies will form the basis of a
new real politique.

Racial Proletarianization

Even as ethnic-based resistance gathered strength, radical black
students and youth, the second of the social forces mentioned above,
rejected the ethnicization of black politics. In many respects, the Black
Consciousness Movement (BCM) evolved as a counterethnicity
movement; its young members were the victims of government
experimentation with retribalization policies. They were compelled to
speak their ethnic languages in elementary school while having their
academic futures determined by proficiency in the two official
European languages. If sociolinguists are correct in their contention
that language provides the primary medium for consciousness forma-
tion, it is not surprising that the Soweto rebellion of June 1976 began
over the government's language policy. The preoccupation of
apartheid ideologues with ethnicity has prompted Neville Alexander,
the articulate theorist-activist from the Cape Action League (CAL), to
conclude that "ethnicity is a substitute in modern social theory for the
concept of 'race'" (1985:36).
The largely mission-educated older generation of leaders, while
rejecting the homelands policy, were never as uncompromising on
the issue of ethnicity as was the Soweto generation, which suffered
more directly from the policies of Bantu education. In the face of gov-
ernment-imposed ethnic nationalism, the BCM was prompted to
reconstruct black nationalism as a theory of antiethnicity. The term
Black was an explicit rejection of the primacy of Colored-ness, Indian-
ness, Zulu-ness, Xhosa-ness, and so forth. Some of the most well
known Indian members of the BCM refused to join specifically Indian
organizations on the grounds that they fostered ethnic division.
The BCM criticized even antiapartheid groups affiliated with the
United Democratic Front (UDF) for their refusal to reject the name
Indian or Colored-not to mention the despised Zulu nationalism of
Inkatha. The attempt by the most de-ethnicized part of the black pop-
ulation to transcend ethnicity-to construct black unity as a new cul-
ture of resistance-constituted simultaneously the most utopian and
radical dimension of the Black Consciousness platform. The rejection
of neo-ethnic politics led the BCM to formulate Black Consciousness
as the nemesis of ethnic identity. The question of how Black
Consciousness theory should interpret ethnicity as well as how the
movement should relate to ethnic-based politicians and movements
and indeed to the ethnic sentiments of the black masses remains a
recurring theoretical problem, even though the official antiethnicity
stance of the BCM has been uncompromising.
Nonetheless, the limitations of many of the ideological constructs of
the period became obvious with the growth of the independent work-
ing-class movement, the third of the social forces to find new expres-
sion in black politics of the 1970s. Beginning with the landmark


Durban strikes of 1973, black trade unions organized hundreds of
thousands of black workers within an incredibly short span of time.
The existence of black independent trade unions challenged all vari-
eties of non-working-class leadership to consider the needs of the large,
complex, and diverse black working-class majority. The new working-
class politics, however, also confronted older ideological cleavages.
By the 1980s, a variety of new community and labor federations
sought to reconcile these social forces ideologically and organization-
ally. Black exclusivism of the radicalized youth (and previously of the
Pan-Africanist Congress [PAC]) and nonracialism, represented in its
radical variant by the African National Congress (ANC) and the UDF
and in its moderate form by Inkatha, have retained their currency as
competing ideological/organizational strategies. The legacy of racial
proletarianization,3 the development of class relations under the aus-
pices of racial domination, makes the tension between nonracial and
Black Consciousness perspectives an integral part of black political dis-
course in South Africa. Racial nationalism and nonracial democracy
contain two distinct but entwined visions of black liberation. As core
values, both racial autonomy and racial equality will continue to
shape black political thought.

The Political Reconciliation of New Social Forces

During the 1980s, violent internecine confrontations have erupted
between the two wings of an ideologically divided nascent black bour-
geoisie in alliance with, or in competition for, the allegiance of black
youth and the middle and working classes. The black working class is
divided along the lines of migrant and urbanized workers-this
includes the unemployed and gangster elements, each of which has
been recruited on both sides. The working class taken as a whole
includes a substantial number of Colored and Indian workers as well.
The political content of contemporary township violence differs from
that surrounding the Soweto rebellion in that there is today a greater
degree of internecine violence. The reconciliation of established polit-
ical movements and the new plethora of social forces has required ide-
ological reconstruction from major political groupings.
Inspired by the ANC and its document on a postapartheid South
Africa, the Freedom Charter, the UDF leads a racially inclusive, politi-
cal movement. Its vision of the future is of an essentially social-demo-
cratic polity where neither ethnicity nor race is the basis of power.
Upon his release from prison, ANC veteran Walter Sisulu, when asked
by reporters if he anticipated a black head of state in his lifetime, reit-
erated his organization's view of a nonracial democracy: "We don't



Racial Proletarianization

judge people in terms of color. We are talking about a democratic
method whereby a black man can be president or a white man can be
president" (New York Times, 16 October 1989).
Alternatively, at talks initiated in March 1987, KwaZulu Chief
Minister Gatsha Buthelezi, the Natal provincial government, and other
civic leaders discussed the possibility of regional power sharing
between blacks and whites (O'Meara and Winchester 1987). Advo-
cates of nonracialism in South Africa, while receptive to white partici-
pation, are still forced by circumstance to organize on a primarily racial
basis. Yet attempts to implement the Freedom Charter's principles,
more than any other democratic manifesto, have inspired new demo-
cratic thought both within and outside of the nonracial framework.
Duncan Innes and Stephen Gelb (1987:558) divide the demands of
the Freedom Charter into four categories: (1) security of employment
and adequate wages; (2) increased provisions of goods and services,
such as food, clothing, housing, transport, and social services; (3) full
democratic rights including democratic organs of self-government;
and (4) nationalization of mines and industry and redistribution of
land. A heated debate between advocates of nonracial and Black
Consciousness interpretations has resurfaced with the adoption of the
Freedom Charter by the UDF. Africanist and Black Consciousness
thinkers continue to reject what they would consider the multiracial-
ism (as opposed to genuine nonracialism) contained in the Freedom
In opposition to the Freedom Charter, Black Consciousness group-
ings have promulgated the Azanian Manifesto approved at the
Azanian People's Organization (AZAPO) conference in Hammans-
kraal in June 1983. Implicit in this statement is a more direct correla-
tion of racial domination with capitalist exploitation. As an alternative
to nonracial strategies, the BCM advocates an exclusively black multi-
class coalition as a means of assuring black leadership within the
Not unlike other black movements, the black trade unions include
a mainstream committed to nonracial democracy, in the form of the
Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), while the
National Council of Trade Unions (NACTU) functions as a vocal Black
Consciousness opposition. On 1 May 1986, Inkatha formed the United
Workers Union of South Africa (UWUSA), which espouses a pro-free-
enterprise and antidisinvestment program. The Federation of South
African Trade Unions (FOSATU), before it disbanded to join COSATU,
recognized that migrant labor was Inkatha's Achilles' heel. FOSATU
therefore adopted a strategy of vigorously organizing Zulu workers
and representing their interest as workers without directly challenging
Inkatha's political hegemony in Natal. In hindsight, FOSATU's


approach proved sagacious. In the late 1980s and continuing into
1990, Natal would experience the most extreme manifestations of
internecine warfare between Inkatha and UDF loyalists. Some town-
ship moderates and ethnic politicians have recruited-often with the
assistance of the South African police-vigilantes to contest the chal-
lenge of radicalized youth, popularly known as comrades. Inkatha also
organized its own Youth Brigade as a counterforce to ANC/UDF youth

Racial Politics and the Transfiguration of Class Analysis

Racial privilege has been the linchpin of apartheid and therefore state
power rests on psychological as well as political foundations. In prac-
tice, "white democracy" and "white welfare capitalism" are the result
of an intraracial coalition of white classes that transcends ethnic dis-
tinctions. The racial coalitions that have sustained apartheid have
begun to disintegrate; segments of the capitalist class favor a liberal-
democratic alternative to apartheid. In a liberal democracy, economic
elites would depend on political institutions to reduce the intensities
of social conflict and discontent. The great dilemma faced by the white
minority regime has been how to permit even limited economic redis-
tribution without a fundamental expansion of democratic participa-
tion. Hence, the political reform of the organization of white power
has proven more difficult than racial reform within industrial capital-
ism. Thus the National party, with increasing difficulty, has worn two
hats-the party of capitalist development and that of white
Clearly, the distorted political economy of apartheid operates in
conjunction with a racist social psychology. Racism is a personal
imperative of white rule. The internalization of racial norms is a
requirement for white mobilization on behalf of racial privilege.
Despite their different approaches to racism, both nonracial and Black
Consciousness thinkers challenge the negation of black subjectivity.
An ethnographic study of a small white South African community
reveals an almost total inability on the part of respondents to compre-
hend the feelings of black people without resorting to racial
massification-the inability to view black South Africans as distinct
and feeling individuals (Crapranzano 1987).
While racial domination remains the fulcrum of politics in South
Africa, the relationship between state racial policies and capitalist
development constitutes the central problem that underlies much of
the scholarship on South Africa. Similar concerns influence debates
within the black movement. All groups within the antiapartheid



Racial Proletarianization

movement must address the question of black solidarity. Nonetheless,
anticapitalist black thinkers have been most concerned with the rela-
tionship between socialism and black struggle-a project that has gen-
erated a variety of analyses. AZAPO, the contemporary manifestation
of the BCM, has gravitated toward the view that race is class. This is
the core assumption of those political thinkers who seek to reconcile
exclusivist black nationalism with Marxism. Conversely, multiracial
Marxists believe that class alliances across racial lines are both possible
and desirable. In either case, black political thinkers in South Africa
have to deal with the internal relationship of race and class. During
the past ten years, the emphasis on racial domination has been sup-
planted by more class-based interpretations of black struggle.
For the purposes of this analysis a central question is, might not
racial proletarianization transfigure a class understanding of black pol-
itics? The use of class concepts in explanations of racial domination
represents an attempt by black radicals to indigenize class analysis; it
should therefore be investigated as a dimension of black political
thought. This interconnection is also important for empirically based
studies of contemporary Marxist thought. For, as Ernesto Laclau
(1979:12) has observed, the attempt to extend Marxism beyond the
Eurocentrism of the Second and Third Internationals has contributed
to its maturation. Afro-Asian nationalism and socialism greatly con-
tributed to the revolutionary fervor of the Third International and
racial struggles were accorded greater revolutionary significance. So
strong was the myth of Afro-Asian solidarity as a political/psychologi-
cal force that it produced an attempt to create a Third World
International at Bandung in 1955.
With respect to racial issues, however, mainstream Marxism has
been primarily nonracial in persuasion. Thus, analytical categories
crucial to the Black Consciousness tradition are not easily conceptual-
ized within an orthodox Marxist framework. In both South Africa and
the United States nonracialist/integrationist and black republican/
Black Power approaches provide black activists with competing con-
ceptual frameworks and organizational strategies. At issue is whether
racial domination is merely an instance of class exploitation. By apply-
ing Marxism to questions of racial liberation, left-wing Black
Consciousness thinkers transfigure many of the fundamental tenets of
Marxist thought.
In-depth studies of black nationalist movements suggest that
Marxism has appealed to black radicals as a guide to racial as well as
class politics. Peter Walshe (1971) and Gail Gerhart (1978) have found
that the African National Congress Youth League was far more con-
cerned with the multiracial implications of Marxism than with stan-
dard disputes over the nature of class struggle. As Neville Alexander


observes with respect to black radicals in the Western Cape after
World War II, "The Westernising aspects of Marxism automatically
appealed to a youth being threatened with a retrogressive policy of
tribalization" (1986:9).
In both South Africa and the United States, left-wing black nation-
alists have experimented with "Black Marxism" as a result of the non-
racial propensity of orthodox versions of Marxism. AZAPO has taken
this theoretical path and its theoreticians argue that true freedom can
only come with South African socialism-with the abolition of both
racism and capitalism.
Since 1978, the main Black Consciousness organizations have been
AZAPO and later the National Forum Committee (NFC), a federation
of community organizations with which AZAPO is affiliated. Just as
there has been a realignment of the nonracial tradition through the
UDF, so too with the black republican tradition-that strand of black
nationalism which argues uncompromisingly that a liberated South
Africa (Azania) must be under black rule. Opposition to the ANC and
the South African Communist party (SACP), with which the ANC has
developed a fraternal relationship from the 1940s onwards, has
always been expressed by black nationalist organizations such as the
PAC and black Marxist groups like the Non-European Unity
Movement (NEUM). The PAC opposed the ANC's relationship with
the Communists on primarily racial grounds, while NEUM combined
both racial and class issues in their objection.
In response to the UDF's nonracialism, the NFC has forged a loose
alliance of black nationalists and black Marxists. This has been drama-
tized by the fact that both AZAPO, with its origins in the BCM, and
CAL, with its origins in NEUM Marxism, function within the NFC.
Lybon Mabasa, a member of the AZAPO executive, provides a telling
list of intellectual influences that include both racial and socialist, civil
rights and Black Power thinkers-Kwame Nkrumah, Frantz Fanon,
Lenin, Marx, and Rosa Luxemburg (Gastrow 1985:144). On the other
hand, Neville Alexander, the CAL theoretician who was expelled from
NEUM in July 1961, insists that "race is not only irrelevant, from a sci-
entific point of view it is a non-entity; it simply does not exist"
(1985:36). The basic tenets that unite adherents to the otherwise
eclectic NFC are (1) the rejection of whites in black liberation politics,
(2) opposition to the Freedom Charter, and (3) a critique of the two-
stage theory of the struggle for socialism (Lodge 1985:18). Disagree-
ments, however, have surfaced within the NFC regarding the role of
whites in the liberation struggle.
Where race and class are combined, a more radical, if not consistent,
brand of Marxism is possible since the black race and the working
class are taken to be virtually the same. By the 1930s, the leadership



Racial Proletarianization

of NEUM and its chief theoretician, I.B. Tabata, were attempting to
reconcile class and race within a black Trotskyist analysis. Nonracial
Marxists were no less aware of the challenge of the race-class issue. In
a famous letter written in 1934, Moses Kotane, a respected black
South African Communist, called for the Africanization (and by this
he also meant the Bolshevization) of the SACP. Kotane noted that in
Europe class consciousness had developed immensely but that in
South Africa national and racial consciousness still predominated. He
readily confessed that it was difficult to convince black workers that
they shared a common plight with their counterparts across the racial
divide (Kotane 1981:119-20).
This perception was readily understood by the Africanists, who
broke with the multiracial ANC in 1959 to form the uniracial PAC. In
exile after 1962, the PAC was attracted to Maoist versions of racial
militancy but failed to formulate a coherent theory of racial revolu-
tion. Instead, the PAC virtually adopted the position of Tabata and the
NEUM. Critical of the ANC/SACP alliance, both organizations contend
that in the South African context multiracial Marxism is by definition
reformist. Both the PAC and the NEUM considered the Soviet-aligned
SACP to be dominated by a clique of white left liberals and charged
that the Communist party, fearing true black power, would cling to
multiracialism and a reformist political agenda (Jordaan 1968:12-20).
Even when rival black nationalist groups have adopted aspects of
Marxian analysis, as have the ANC, PAC, and NEUM, they remain
divided over how to interpret the relationship between socialism and
black nationalism. George Padmore remarked that on such questions
South African radicals are the "best hairsplitters in Africa" (1972:339).
Therefore, whatever may be the immediate political rationale, the
alliance between AZAPO and CAL has deep historical roots in the tra-
dition of black revolutionary thought.
The Soviet Union, which has always favored the ANC, continues to
view the immediate struggle in South Africa as one for democracy
(not socialism) and nonracialism, although socialism may result from
a later stage of popular and working-class struggle against capitalism.
Soviet-oriented Marxists have favored multiracial coalitions; more
radical black nationalists, when they have embraced Marxism, tend to
favor anti-Soviet approaches. With China's withdrawal of financial
support from Southern African liberation movements, factions more
oriented toward a theory of racial struggle were forced into extinction
or compromise and even collaboration with South Africa. In a cogent
and lasting analysis of Southern African liberation movements in
exile, John Marcum (1972:267-68) observed that Moscow has tended
to support movements led by the well-educated, multiracial, urban-
ized elite with some grasp of Marxism-Leninism. Beijing, on the other


hand, leaned toward uniracial or nonwhite, less well educated (except
for the top leadership) groups, and it preferred peasants or manual
workers rather than intellectuals. Hindsight has allowed many ana-
lysts to conclude simplistically that "liberation losers" have always
been racial reactionaries and bearers of an "incorrect line."
In racially divided South Africa, black-movement theorists have
been forced to comprehend both race and class and to assert the possi-
bility of either intraclass/interracial solidarity (black and white unite
and fight) or intraracial/interclass solidarity (working or middle class
leadership of a multiclass exclusively black movement). Under the
conditions of racial proletarianization, as racially divided working and
bourgeois classes develop, two forms of populist ideology are possible:
a nationalist populism that dissolves class differences into assertions of
national or racial solidarity and a socialist populism that asserts that
the termination of capitalism will automatically resolve racial inequal-
ity. Socialist populism can be of either a Black Consciousness or mul-
tiracial variety. These two forms of populist thought differ on the
question of what constitutes national consciousness-is it black (racial)
or multiracial (all South Africa's people minus apartheid)? In this
analysis, populism is conceived as an alternative to both socialist and
liberal thought. It may be the most prevalent theory of democracy in
the non-Western world. Like socialist and liberal democracy, populist
democracy has failed to eliminate class rule. Although populism shares
an affinity with the socialist critique of capitalist society, it ultimately
stresses national, racial, or ethnic rather than class consciousness.
As was true of its European counterparts, the emergence of the
working class as an independent center of political activity in South
Africa has forced black revolutionary thinkers to examine black poli-
tics in light of mass democratic principles. By the mid-1970s, both
Black Consciousness and nonracial-oriented groups had come to rec-
ognize that neither approach resolved the problem of intraracial class
distinctions. This recognition, encouraged by the growth of the inde-
pendent trade union movement, prompted much reconsideration of
the relationship between community-based antiapartheid and trade
union movements. Trade union federations, protective of the interests
of workers, have on occasion accused the antiapartheid leadership of a
policy bias toward the emergent black bourgeoisie. In order to protect
the interests of workers, unionists have demanded worker control of
trade unions. Both Black Consciousness and nonracial organizations
now agree that the principle of working-class leadership should be
respected within the antiapartheid movement.
But while COSATU defines working-class leadership in the broad-
est possible terms and would welcome white workers, for NACTU
working-class leadership means in practical terms the leadership of



Racial Proletarianization

the black working class. Since the overwhelming majority of workers
are black, the question is moot, except for the role of white intellectu-
als in the trade union movement. Black Consciousness organizations
demand black leadership and control of the labor and community
opposition to apartheid. Soon after its formation in 1985, COSATU's
leadership agreed to adopt the Freedom Charter. This was done with
the apparent understanding that the document will be interpreted so
as to encompass the specific interests of workers. Some activists view
the Charter as a blueprint for a socialist rather than a nonracial demo-
cratic society.
The ANC has gradually sought to distance itself from a purely racial
or socialist analysis of South African politics. In exile it expelled both
its radical black nationalist and Marxist factions but now confronts
complicated theoretical (and organizational) problems as it attempts
to stake out a credible centrist position as a legal opposition inside the
country. As early as 1984, Thabo Mbeki, a leading member of the
ANC, emphasized that the ANC is not a socialist party, although many
of its members are committed to a socialist future for South Africa.4

Black Consciousness and New Left Thought

In South Africa and in the United States, the politics and thought of
the New Left, together with the Black Consciousness and the Black
Power movements respectively, constitute distinct variations of a gen-
erational theme. White and black intellectuals of the same generation
have rarely been members of the same organizational cadres and have
not shared a common political perspective on the experiences of their
generation. Black Consciousness thought, as a critical reconstruction
of the black South African political tradition, is distinguishable from
traditional black nationalism. When this is not appreciated, the sub-
tleties of the relationship between Black Consciousness and New Left
radicalism is missed.
Looking back, "Terror" Lekota, national publicity secretary of the
UDF, contends that the political writings of the BCM are vastly infe-
rior to the Freedom Charter. His description of his own political evolu-
tion, however, captures the generational politics of the period: "The
banning of the ANC in 1960 . plus the exiling of uncompromising
opponents of apartheid opened a wide and yawning gap between the
following generations and those who had gone before. . We were
determined to discover our history. We knew that as long as we
remained untutored in the history of struggle we would repeat the
mistakes of the past" (Lekota, 1986:197). In its original manifestation,
Black Consciousness philosophy, as a moment in the history of black


political thought, was a South African contribution to the worldwide
development of New Left critical theory. Dick Howard (1984:8)
defines a critical theory as the paradoxical formulation of a norm that
seeks to negate the conditions of its own possibility. Black
Consciousness philosophy found aspects of liberalism, Marxism, and
even black nationalism to be forms of noncritical theory. In other
words, when these three perspectives were applied to the contempo-
rary dimensions of racial domination, they either functioned in some
manner to defend the status quo or sought to define liberation in a
way that obfuscated the political and psychological dynamics of racial
During this same period, many white radicals were engaged in a
similar process of rethinking the definition of class, the relationship of
class struggle to politics, and the meaning of "revolutionary subject" in
contemporary capitalism. New Left experimentation with revolution-
ary thought transcended ideological boundaries and revived concern
with the issue of human emancipation as a transideological project.
New Left social theory "rejects capitalist reform, socialist and commu-
nist social systems as well as the social theories that justify them.
Social inequality, elitist authoritarian hierarchy and repressive manip-
ulation are seen as the common coordinates of bureaucratic domina-
tion which lie behind ideological mystifications buttressing each of
these systems. In place of such structures, New-Left social theory
posits the possibility of an egalitarian society free of the alienation
characteristic of contemporary society" (Hirsh, 1981:6).
Black Consciousness thought offered a critique of capitalism that
was radical without being explicitly Marxist, and democratic while
offering a critique of the limits of South African liberalism. A distinctly
Black Consciousness approach to liberalism remains a central part of
the Confederation of Unions of South Africa-Azanian Confederation
of Trade Unions (CUSA-AZACTU) (which later became NACTU)
demand for black leadership of the trade union movement: "Liberals
have one common characteristic and that is they want to lead and
direct the pace of our struggle" (CUSA/AZACTU 1987:2). Indeed, this
approach to liberalism is very close to the view of both the PAC and
NEUM that liberals (all white radicals) constitute a fifth column
within the opposition movement. The BCM's critique of liberalism
upset many white sympathizers but its major challenge was offered to
the black movement itself. Simply stated, the central contention of
Black Consciousness philosophy was that heightened racial awareness
and solidarity had to be the primary goal of the liberation movement.
The lack of racial consciousness was rooted in black self-hatred and
this had major political implications: the black person's low sense of
self-esteem fostered political disunity, allowed ethnic leaders and



Racial Proletarianization

other moderates to usurp the role of spokespersons for the black
masses, and encouraged a dependence on white leadership. Black
Consciousness philosophy was viewed by its advocates as an alterna-
tive to psychological and ideological complicity with racial oppression.
Critics of the BCM, including some who are deeply committed to
the ideas and methods of the previous generation, have not been gen-
erous in their assessments. It has often been pointed out that the BCM
failed to provide vanguard leadership to the youth and worker move-
ments (Hirson 1979; Mafeje 1978; Brooks and Brickhill 1980).
Another oft-repeated criticism of the BCM is that its racially based
political analysis ignored class and was therefore retrogressive, as was
its practice (Fisher 1977; Hirson 1979; Alexander 1985). With a few
notable exceptions, the BCM has not been evaluated as a philosophi-
cal or social movement by critics who have stressed its failure to pro-
duce a vanguard party.5
What may have been the most revolutionary aspect of the early
BCM was its essentially nonstatist orientation. Not only did it oppose
the apartheid state, but it did so without viewing itself as a "state
coming into being." Consistent with its revolutionary self-perception,
during its heyday the BCM refused to form another liberation move-
ment that would make black unity more difficult, and it gradually
called upon the emerging black middle class to commit "class suicide"
on behalf of popular leadership. BCM strategy sought to capture the
ground of spontaneity somewhere between the politics of sectarian-
ism (the squabbles between the ANC, PAC, and NEUM) and that of
reformism (the bantustan leadership).
The politics of the BCM has been shaped by the generational
dynamics of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Although many analysts
initially pigeonholed the BCM as an Africanist organization, thus link-
ing it to the PAC, the movement was always ideologically eclectic, and
so it remains. Some leading members of the BCM joined the ANC,
others the PAC. Those who remained inside the country became
members of either the UDF or the NFC as well as various trade unions.
Cyril Ramaphosa, general secretary of the National Union of
Mineworkers (NUM), an affiliate of COSATU, began his career as an
activist in the BCM, as did many others.
The late Steve Biko sought to combine theoretical elements from
ANC, PAC, and NEUM analyses. During his testimony at the South
African Students Organization/Black People's Convention (SASO/BPC)
trials held between February 1975 and January 1976, Biko refused to
criticize any of the factions of the liberation leadership; he openly
acknowledged the contributions of leaders committed to either violent
overthrow of the apartheid state or communism. Biko defended the
liberatory tradition in all of its manifestations. He even lamented what


he considered to be the waste of able leaders, like Gatsha Buthelezi,
who chose to operate from a government-sponsored platform.6
Presently, AZAPO functions as an opposition within the nonracial
mainstream of the antiapartheid movement. While they are often
accused of being sectarian themselves, the leading advocates of the
Black Consciousness position contend that sectarianism (the belief
that everyone who disagrees with my party's political position is an
enemy) constitutes one of the most dangerous developments in the
liberation struggle (Alexander 1986:13). The rhetoric of spontaneity,
central to Black Consciousness thought of a decade ago, has shaped
the self-perception of many contemporary activists. Noncollaboration,
however, is the BCM's most consistent policy stance. Strini Moodley
describes the role of AZAPO as that of a watchdog of the liberatory
struggle. He believes that AZAPO must work to reinforce the doctrine
of noncollaboration and to prevent any type of sell out arrangement
(Gastrow 1985:199). Black politics during the present decade has been
marked by both increased confrontation with the state and a far
greater degree of internecine warfare between black movements. The
rationale for confrontation with the police and military may be
ungovernability, but the rationale for internecine warfare is the
"policing" of the form negotiations will eventually assume. In this
regard, AZAPO's and the NFC's staunch policy of non-collaboration
may represent the most uncompromising position within the black
Eddie Webster observes that "the rise of Black Consciousness in
South Africa coincided with the renewal of Marxist thought in uni-
versities in Britain, Europe and North America" (1985:45). Black and
white intellectuals have addressed political issues within the confines
of historically segregated societies. With specific reference to South
Africa, the government's hostility to universal educational norms and
its constant intervention in the educational process have turned the
campus into an arena of permanent protest. The racially based
unequal allocation of educational resources and the denial of black
civil rights also ensure that intellectual politics will have a Black
Consciousness dimension. The philosophy of Black Consciousness is
distinguishable from the BCM, or any other specific organizational
manifestation, and will continue to be a factor in South African politics.
Today, as in the past, the left-wing intelligentsia in South Africa is
divided over the race-class question. Disputes between Black
Consciousness and neo-Marxism are not only expressions of conflict
among generational cadres but also expressions of power relations
within a highly radicalized multiracial intelligentsia. While the NFC
probably has less of a proletarian following than the UDF, both AZAPO
and CAL have strong intellectual followings (Lodge 1985:18). Thus,



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