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Dismantling Of Apartheid

The outbreak of the Soweto riots in 1976 marked the denouement in the South African struggle. Students in the Johannesburg township rioted when the government made Afrikaans the language of school instruction in science subjects. Combating police bullets with sticks and stones, hundreds of students were killed. Others fled the country. The ANC set up recruitment stations in Mozambique from which refugees were transferred for military training. Coloured students in Cape Town intensified their activism. Unrest continued around the country and lasted well into 1977, having a deleterious effect on the economy. Refugees, both male and female, began to infiltrate the country to conduct acts of sabotage.

South Africa's protective buffers began to erode in 1975 with the independence of Angola and Mozambique, followed by that of Zimbabwe in 1980, allowing for increasing guerrilla infiltration into the country. After the Muldergate information scandal, P. W. Botha, minister of defense, became prime minister in 1978. Muldergate was an information scandal in which substantial sums of money allocated to buy international media support for apartheid was funneled to the Citizen, a pro-government newspaper in Johannesburg (Saunders, p. 116). The disclosure and attempted cover-up precipitated dissension within the ranks of the National Party. Botha's total strategy combined militarism and reform.

Recognizing the potential for a racial bloodbath, the Nationalists sought a "consociational democracy" in which no racial group would dominate. In an effort to bring legitimate leaders to the negotiating table, a campaign began to free the long-imprisoned ANC leader Nelson Mandela in the early 1980s. The president (formerly prime minister) proposed a tricameral parliament with chambers for Asians, Coloureds, and whites. The exclusion of those classified African led to the formation of the United Democratic Front to coordinate activism within the country.

In the mid-1980s major Western powers initiated econ-omic sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Governmental negotiations began in 1990, when Mandela was released from prison. The ANC and other liberation organizations were "unbanned," or legitimized. An interim constitution was written, and elections were held in 1994. The ANC was victorious nationally.


Helen Gavronsky was born to Lithuanian Jewish immigrant parents near Johannesburg in 1917. She married Moses Suzman in 1937 and had two daughters. Later she returned to the University of the Witwatersrand to complete her B.A. Then she was hired as a lecturer in economic history. The United Party invited her to run for a seat in Houghton, a northern suburb of Johannesburg, in 1952. With the support of her husband, she successfully ran for the seat, which required her absence from her family while residing in Cape Town half a year. In parliament Suzman was a proponent of racial equality, South Africa's return to the commonwealth, rule of law, and the administration of justice. During her tenure in parliament she visited prisons, townships, and "resettlement areas" in the rural homelands. She was in parliament when Hendrik Verwoerd was assassinated and visited Nelson Mandela on Robben Island and in Pollsmoor Prison.

Often at odds with the United Party over apartheid legislation, she formed the Progressive Party in 1959 and became its sole representative. After fourteen years, six colleagues joined her in 1974. Although it was unpopular to participate in an increasingly oppressive apartheid parliament, Suzman was a vigorous advocate of racial equality. Despite their admiration, many black South Africans were critical of her antisanctions stance in the 1980s.

Suzman received many international honors, including honorary degrees from Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard; the United Nations Human Rights Award (1978) and Medallion of Heroism (1980); and the Liberal International Prize for Freedom (2002). Suzman left parliament in 1989 but continued her activities in the Helen Suzman Foundation, which is devoted to liberal causes.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Anticolonialism in Southeast Asia - Categories And Features Of Anticolonialism to Ascorbic acidApartheid - Historical Background, Rise Of Afrikaner Nationalism, Black Resistance, Apartheid Legislation, Gender Issues, Nelson Mandela