Honestly, who really 'ended' apartheid?

2015-02-19 17:06

So much has been said about the shenanigans that transpired during SONA. Personally, I am convinced that the doctrine of ‘Zanuism’ that brought ruin to Zimbabwe and entrenched Mugabe’s 35 year rule has finally been imported by South Africa’s ruling elites.

Think about it; the National Intelligence Agency is now being dragged in to political battles preserve the dignity of the president, armed police to deal with troublesome opposition in Parliament, increasing resource nationalism by the ruling party (and Xenophobic, soon to be racist and tribalist land policies), blatant breaches of the constitution, and genocidal terms like cockroaches used to label opposition…

BUT, For now I am more troubled by the historical narratives surrounding the end of apartheid because beyond electoral realities, the legitimacy of those in Parliament in South Africa to a large extent derives from these narratives about the roles that parties and persons contesting for power played in bringing down apartheid.

That who initially formulated and institutionalized apartheid is a less an evasive enigma to decipher than the question of “who exactly ended it?” Who really ended apartheid?

A few notably figures and movements have either voluntarily usurped credit or have been undeservedly bestowed with the honour of defeating racist Afrikanerdom, most notably among such ‘creditees’ you find uMkhonto We Sizwe and the ANC, FW de Klerk and the Nationalist Party, PAC and APLA, in fact some international commentators have gone as far as even giving full credit to the then political prisoner former President Mandela.

But, let us now move from skewed struggle narratives, strategically doctored histories and propaganda to painfully cold facts, and hopefully come to a sober determination as to who really deserves credit for the ultimate death of the blood thirsty juggernaut of white supremacy and apartheid (For now let’s suppose that white supremacy and de facto apartheid structures indeed collapsed in 1994).

Let us first look at uMkhonto We Sizwe and the ANC. There were notable strategic bombings of the apartheid state’s critical infrastructure and collapsing buildings of the internal colonizer’s national interest, but the movement cannot claim to have singly handedly ended apartheid. There exists no record of a direct confrontational all-out war between the MK army and the apartheid South African Defence Force (SADF), neither is there a single battlefront of conventional warfare where an ultimate battle for the state occurred with MK on one side and the SADF on the other side, like we read happened between the Patriotic Front (ZIPRA and ZANLA Forces) and Rhodesian Forces in Zimbabwe for example.

Violent crackdowns and minor pockets of confrontation did occur, MK hunts by SADF were rife and flashes of micro-level unconventional warfare did occur, but an all-out war and a conventional battle for the Union Buildings and the executive-administrative control of the state between MK and SADF unfortunately escaped historical record if indeed it occurred.

So with the absence of an all-out war, or even a single conventional battlefield confrontation, and considering that MK was only operating underground using tactics of unconventional warfare it is, unfortunately, an ahistorical and misinformed position to claim that MK overthrew the apartheid system. But, more importantly, if MK cannot claim full credit for defeating apartheid, then to give that credit to Former President Nelson Mandela who had been locked up for 26 years by then, is beyond a mere historical inaccuracy, it is a blatant lie.

Neither MK and the ANC nor Mandela himself can be credited for unilaterally ending apartheid, now, let us move on to the last apartheid head of state FW de Klerk and Nationalist Party.

South African history is littered with demonstrations to show that FW de Klerk and the NP were a de facto embodiment of apartheid itself. There is no way even beyond hell that they were going to voluntarily give up more than 300 years’ worth of benefits of whiteness and economic dominance by simply yielding to ‘good conscience’ and relinquishing power to Blacks out of free will. Something bigger than conscience and free-will had coerced them to suspend the administration of white supremacy. And we are told that they only did so because apartheid had become administratively unsustainable. Bantustans and the security budget, in combination with other factors such as international sanctions, political pressure and civil disobedience had driven the state to bankruptcy. Put crudely, the white racist state had run out capital to invest in the oppression of Blacks people.

Now, since De Klerk and his lot did not willingly give up apartheid, it means they inherited it when it was already a ‘dead system walking’ or rather a failed system in implementation when they chose to open room for political negotiation. The call to negotiate was only made because apartheid had become a point of vulnerability itself and not a system of exercising strength. FW de Klerk and the NP did not end apartheid. It had already died an ‘administrative death’ when they denounced it as official policy.

In his capacity as leader of the Nats, FW de Klerk only made official announcements of his government’s denouncement of its continued implementation as official policy in Parliament. But by then it was already a dead system. They had no funds to implement it. It had accumulated too much political resistance from the masses and too much international pressure. Hence the only reason why the NP Government agreed to give up Afrikanerdom is because it was already administratively dead a system.

Otherwise had apartheid still been worth to the white supremacists of 1989 what it was worth to their forefathers before them they would not have given it up, they were going to fight, and fight and fight and fight for it just like their preceding generations had done since the days of Van Riebeeck himself.

As Mabogo Percy More's popular view informs us, “no one expects colonialism to commit suicide”. So white supremacists couldn't smash the machinery of apartheid themselves after centuries of perfecting it. Instead if they had sufficient resources even in 1989 to effectively implement discrimination they were going to continue with it like their then allies in Israel did, and are still implementing apartheid against Palestinians even to this day.

As de Klerk later remarked in 2010, “For many years I supported the concept of separate states…I still believed in 1990 that independent states had a place[apartheid independent states=Bantustans]” in South Africa. Surely, a man of such convictions cannot be said to have ended apartheid.

I will not waste my time with the PAC and IFP. Common sense will direct even the worst wishful thinker to the correct historical facts to prove that the PAC and APLA despite strong ideological and military campaigns did not bring down apartheid on their own.

As for the IFP, FW De Klerk was right in saying “had we offered Buthelezi a Zululand with Richards Bay harbour he would have accepted”, I believe him. I believe De Klerk. All that Shenge and his ring of traditionalists were gunning for in the 90s was an ‘exclusive Bantustan’, a modernized little tribal kingdom where Zuluness could be exercised without Xhosa interruptions, he was not fighting for the executive control of Union Buildings or the end “separate republics”, as De Klerk remarked, if one ‘independent republic’ with a harbour city had been given to him he would have complied.

So if it was not IFP, PAC, not NP, and not ANC (and certainly not NGOs and white liberals of the time) then, who ended apartheid? Try to figure that out

In the meantime my guess is that apartheid died a natural death, not at the hands of one dominant actor but it died of a syndrome, a combination of diseases the most effective of which was civil ‘ungovernablity’ brought about by UDF and that of administrative resources deficiency in the form of bankruptcy of the state. Otherwise if anyone can claim credit for ending apartheid it will surely be neither De Klerk nor Mandela, neither will it be MK or APLA, it was the collective and ungovernable masses of the people most of whom constituted the United Democratic Front.

Of course, Black South African masses were effectively sold back to the system they had fought when CODESA and the TRC came (perhaps that was better than war), but they are a people who deserve credit for slowly but surely bringing institutionalized white supremacy to its knees.

Look at it this way. Mandela and his gallant cohort of Rivonia Trialists were in jail. Tambo was in exile. The ANC was banned. White liberals claiming to be against the Nats were hypocritically enjoying most of the privileges of whiteness (whites only varsities, reserved jobs, loans etc). MK was underground -just dancing, toyi toying and if they felt like fighting they will occasionally bomb a few civilian or infrastructural nodes. IFP was enjoying unfettered Zuluness in their ‘homeland’, governing a traditionalist homestead KwaZulu and in bed with apartheid leaders. Other ‘impimpis’ were selling out on their own people. White churches were preaching ‘separateness of the nations of God’...

But the people of this country who lived and breathed apartheid in public and defecated it in their privacy were the only real force that catalyzed the death of apartheid. And one day, upon reaching their breaking point from suffering in the hands of corrupt elitist pseudo-revolutionaries they will realize that all they need to regain their power is not a pack of lawless empty headed anarchist in red berets and red overalls but a collective consciousness of their own self-defined common good and effective self-government at community level driven by the ‘harambe’ mathra.

With such a collective consciousness, they will realize that apartheid was not ended by those who governed when it crumpled, neither was it ended by those who ruled after it fell, it was ended by themselves, the same masses that were enslaved by it, worked for it, lived it, ate it, breathed it, and were murdered by it day after day.

Of course South African people will always have to stay vigilant. For in the process of organizing their collective consciousness, there shall rise some among them who will claim to have founded that collective consciousness as part of their ‘revolutionary struggle' (clowns like the EFF or idealist like the DA) as did most of South Africa’s post-apartheid society who have claimed not only a monopoly of struggle history in general but specifically a monopoly of credentials for the demise of apartheid.

I know some have already baked tormenting insults for me for even counting de Klerk among those who ended apartheid, but clearly such people have forgotten that appalling and shameful article on The Independent on 02 February 2010 entitled ‘FW de Klerk: The day I ended apartheid’. Reread that and you will realize that the man not only had the honour of ending apartheid thrust upon him, but he also accepted it!

On the other hand, some are disgusted by my argument that ANC and MK did not end apartheid; their usual is insult is that “you are ‘counterrevolutionary’”. I am not surprised, doctored histories have victimized millions of people in Africa; So rife are falsified and sweetened struggle narratives that give revolutionary lustre to organizations and heroes of liberation movements (ZANU PF, ANC, SWAPO, FREELIMO etc) to a point where they now alienate the millions of masses who were on the ground shaping that struggle one resistance campaign at a time, fighting oppression one bullet at a time, battling imposed inferiority from one white supremacist to another and building a republic one community at a time.

Isn't it a disgrace to watch living elites and pseudo-revolutionaries all across Africa today sipping champagnes, giving fancy speeches in high places and basking under the glory of dead martyrs and claiming to have ‘liberated the people’?

News24 Voices Terms & Conditions.


AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.