How Far Has the Importance of Nelson Mandela in the Ending of Apartheid Been Exaggerated?
How far has the importance of Nelson Mandela in the ending of apartheid been exaggerated? It can be argued that the importance of Nelson Mandela in the ending of apartheid has been greatly exaggerated. Apartheid ended due to a combination of long term and short term events. The ANC represented the main opposition of apartheid while protests and rebellions caught the attention of the world, international sanctions put pressure on the south African government and something had to be done before their economy completely fell apart.
De Klerk shocked the country when he took the first step towards abolishing apartheid although, the spark of light and face of rebellion, Mandela, provided the inspiration to make the end of apartheid possible. Nelson Mandela’s contribution and dedication to South Africa’s struggle in achieving freedom and equal rights for every South African led to his popularity and respect in South Africa. In the 1950’s, Mandela began working on ending the apartheid. In 1964, he was arrested and imprisoned for trying to overthrow the government, but continued his fight even from his prison cell.
Nelson Mandela presented the people of South Africa with a leader in their struggle, providing the inspiration needed for a drastic change. He became a symbol of hope and inspiration. He planted the idea in the people that there was something they could do about their situation. Nelson Mandela’s role in bringing Apartheid to an end was very important, however, there were many other factors that contributed to the ending of Apartheid. Firstly, the African National Congress, also known as the ANC, was a major factor in ending Apartheid. t was founded in response to the injustice against black south africans at the hand of the government then in power. By 1919 the anc was leading a campaign against passes that black people were forced to carry, but then the anc became dormant in the mid-1920s . at this time black people were also represented by the ICU and the previously white-only communist party, but neither played a major part in the ending of apartheid. in 1930s J. T Gumede (president of the ANC) was voted out of power and this led to the ANC becoming largely ineffectual and inactive.
Although after being remodeled as a mass movement in the 1940s the ANC responded militarily to attacks on the rights of black South Africans, as well as calling for strikes, boycotts, and defiance. The ANC represented the main opposition to the government during apartheid and therefore they played a major role in resolving the conflict through participating in the peacemaking and peace-building processes. Infact by the late 1980s the ANC became the most popular political movement although it can be argued that it was a result on Mandela’s influence.
Protests were extremely important in ending Apartheid and believed to be more influential than Mandela. Protests against pass laws were quite common but the Sharpville massacre is what caught the attention of the world. The Sharpville massacre was one of the worst civilian massacres is south African history. It was reported in the Chronicle of the 20th century that “56 Africans died and 162 were injured when police opened fire in the black township of Sharpville. ” This cannot be thought of as completely accurate as it was published in a newspaper.
The government was in control of the newspapers and may have been altered to give the impression it was not as bad as it seems. What’s more, a white reporter, Joanmarie Fubbs said “I saw a policeman taking his rifle-butt to several women who were trying to retrieve bodies. They weren’t shot down but they were rifle butted and kicked and booted” This could be thought of as more accurate as it was not published in government controlled newspapers, more so that it came from a white reporter. It could be argued that a black person could have tried to distort the event even further.
There were many peaceful protests but the sharpville massacre sticks out because of the extreme violence. Violence played a major part in the end of apartheid. More-so than the protests because of the attention it brought to the situation of black South Africans. There was considerable labour unrest and strikes were common. There were also occasional bomb attacks. On the 21st march, in Langa, Cape town. a mass march to langa police station was organised. The plan was to surrender themselves guilty of not carrying their passes, and as there were so many of them the police could not arrest them all.
At this time an identical plan was created in sharpville and turned into what would be known as the sharpville massacre. Due to the event in sharpville the march was called off and a ban was placed on gatherings. However later that day protestors gathered again. The police ordered the protesters to disperse and baton charged them and the protestors retaliated with stones. Langa was very tense that night as angry protestors barricaded the streets and looted policemen’s homes. The death toll by the end of the day in Langa was three, shot and killed by white policemen.
The sharpville massacre and the langa shootings had a great impact on apartheid, the damage done was costly and the government had become ungovernable. Violence caused the protests to be a major factor in the end of apartheid because it was so costly. The South African government was already in bad shape and could not deal with the ungovernable public. Also the violence caught the attention of international relations, and frankly, they were appalled. Another factor believed to be more influential than Mandela would be the international pressure. This was a major cause mainly because of the sanctions.
The embodied rejection of White domination in South Africa, in the form of protests, strikes and demonstrations caused a decade of uncontrolable mass action in resistance to the imposition of even harsher forms of segregation and oppression. People all over the world were shocked to see the violence in events like the Sharpeville and Langa shootings. They also saw the events occurring between the South African government and extremist groups like the ANC. Internal opposition to Apartheid had grown strongly and many areas of South African cities, inhabited by black South Africans, had become ungovernable.
In 1962 the UN General Assembly requested that its member sever their political, fiscal and transportion ties with south africa. In 1968, it proposed ending all cultural, educational and sporting connections also. After much debate, by the late 1980s the United States, the United Kingdom, and 23 other nations had passed laws that placed various trade sanctions on South Africa and a significant amount of foreign investment had withdrawn from South Africa. After the adoption of sanctions, South Africa experienced severe economic difficulty. The government was falling apart and without support from other countries it wouldn’t recover.
It was forced to abolish apartheid. Although without the violence other countries wouldn’t have been so appalled that they felt they had to step in. De Klerk played a crucial part in the anti-apartheid movement as he was president and had the power to end apartheid whilst Mandela didn’t. Overall, making the end of Apartheid a joint combination of both FW de Klerk’s efforts in the negotiations between the National party, although more so, Mandela’s and the ANC’s progress and constant dedication which helped to bring about the end of minority rule.
At the time, this move by the government was quite unexpected, but in retrospect, an inevitability. The prime minister of South Africa in 1989 was PW. Botha, however after having a stroke, and being forced into bitter resignation, was replaced by FW de Klerk. De Klerk was commonly thought to be conservative and agree with segregation but his first speech on 2nd February 1990 announced plans to legalise the ANC, PAC and SACP and also that political prisoners, including Mandela, would be released.
He said he wanted to work with political groups to form a new constitution for South Africa. Although De Klerk’s decision was a great step forward for blacks, there were many possible reasons for his drastic change in government. A journalist in Cape Town at the time wondered if De Klerk fully realised what he was doing. It is possible that De Klerk believed that there could be some clever power sharing system that allowed nationalists to keep hold of some of their power.
Furthermore the advice he was receiving from economists was grim, is he did not do something the situation would get much worse and as a deeply religious man it can be argued that De Klerk believed God had chosen him to lead his party in a new direction. In conclusion it can be argued that Mandela’s contribution to the ending of apartheid is greatly exaggerated. The ANC was an organisation black people could support, it gave them hope for the future and reminded them they could have a life without oppression and segregation.
Not only did the ANC organise protests, it acted as the fuel for others to continue to protest and object. The protests were made largely effective by the governments resort to violence, which caught the attention of the world. International pressure played a critical role due to the economic sanctions they imposed on South Africa. The continuing violence in South Africa caused disinvestment as the atmosphere was no longer conductive for business thus withdrawal of foreign investors.
President de Klerk was instrumental in starting negotiations for change to majority rule, starting with a shared leadership between Mr Mandela and President de Klerk. The collapse of the Communist Socialist Soviet Republic also contributed. The American government withdrew military aid to the South African government as the African resistance was no longer perceived as Communist inspired. Although the influence of the ‘Father Figure’, Nelson Mandela can never go unmentioned. His very existence inspired all those who were fighting for the end of Apartheid – white and blacks side by side.
Mandela was, though, probably more important than the ANC and other organisations. On the whole Mandela’s work largely contributed to the end of Apartheid yet he was not the most important factor. Overall, all of these factors fostered South African ideas against apartheid and subsequently started them to look for their own freedom. If these events did not happen in the same time frame, the same result may not have occurred. But, the coincidence of each of these individual factors led to the cumulative effect of an end to apartheid.