Thula Simpson's 'History of South Africa' explores the country’s tumultuous journey from the aftermath of the Second Anglo-Boer War to the Covid-19 pandemic. Drawing on never-before-published documentary evidence – including diaries, letters, eyewitness testimony and diplomatic reports – the book follows the South African people through the battles, elections, repression, resistance, strikes, insurrections, massacres, economic crashes and health crises that have shaped the nation’s character. In the extract below, Simpson examines sanctions under apartheid.
Stanley Uys used his Sunday Times column on 15 November 1964 to speculate whether historians might point to Wednesday that week, the 11th, as the date when it became clear that apartheid was unworkable. On that day, the white Artisan Staff Association had officially accepted a Transport Ministry argument that manpower shortages in Durban’s railway workshops required the admittance of forty non-whites into semi-skilled jobs.
Paul Sauer (of the 1940s Sauer Commission) was the minister of lands when he delivered a speech in Humansdorp on 19 April 1960, declaring that Sharpeville had closed the ‘old book’ of South African history. He claimed the pass system and liquor laws had ripened natives for revolt, and would be changed. He was rebuked a day later by the acting prime minister, Eric Louw, who told the House of Assembly – without naming any names – that the prime minister alone could make policy announcements.