South Africa in the 1960’s

From the beginning of the Sixties, internal tension increased in the South Africa (proclaimed a republic on May 31, 1961), due to the growing opposition of the black majority against the harsh policy of racial segregation: from the African National Congress (banned from March 1960) a sabotage campaign was launched in December 1961, to which the government reacted with the General law amendment act (June 1962), which aggravated the penalties for any act of sabotage in the broad sense; in July about a hundred “subversive” personalities were sent to confinement (among them the Nobel Peace Prize winner A. Luthuli, who died in 1967). In May 1963 a new law authorized the arrest without arrest warrant, and for 90 days, of every politically suspect person; in the first half of the year the authorities arrested over three thousand members of Pogo (pure, in the Xhosa language), a revolutionary organization created in 1961 by the Pan-African Congress (declared illegal in March 1960); then numerous leaders were arrested of the African National Congress, some of whom received life sentences (June 1964) for “paramilitary recruitment, communist militancy, sabotage”. From 1963 to 1965 – while the acts of sabotage continued – massive arrests continued (further legislative provisions extended the term of pre-trial detention to 180 days) and sentencing sentences for a total of 8,000 years of detention. At the end of 1965 (when there were 5,000 political prisoners), efficient prevention and repression had stifled all African resistance within the South Africa, while the African exponents (about 2,000 had taken refuge abroad) were now convinced of the inevitability of an armed struggle.

The political line of HF Verwoerd (head of government since 1958, assassinated by a white man in September 1966) did not change with his successor, BJ Vorster, Minister of Justice since 1961 (the 1966 elections had confirmed the majority in the Nationalist Party); indeed, in 1967 new laws accentuated the control over the movement of people. The exigencies of repression had led during the 1960s to an increase in staff and allocations for the police and the army, while any decision to embargo military supplies to the South African Republic remained ineffective. The constitution in October 1969 of the reconstituted Nationalist Party (Herstigte Nasionale Party) by A. Hertzog, son of gen. Hertzog, and other exponents expelled from the Nationalist Party, supporters of apartheid on extremist positions, it led to new elections (April 1970) which saw the new formation defeated. The Nationalist Party (117 seats instead of 119) retained the majority, while the United Party (led by Sir De Villiers Graaff), with a more liberal tendency, went from 37 to 47 seats, expanding the consensus but in very specific sectors (a seat went to the Progressive Party). The white opposition – which found expression especially in the Christian Churches and in some university circles (in May 1970 thousands of students demonstrated against the government and a few hundreds were arrested) – however, remained ineffective. With a series of (formally illegal) strikes in 1973 the black workers, supported by the premier of the Bantustan of the Zulu, obtained appreciable wage increases and partial recognition of the right to strike. With the 1970s, the achievement of autonomy by the Bantustans (autonomous territorial entities populated by single African ethnic groups) and the political positions taken by the rulers of those territories brought a further element to the complex internal situation of South Africa. The project to create the Bantustans had been implemented since 1960. With the Transkei Constituion Act, on May 24, 1963, the Transkei (Bantustan of the Xhosa) was born with a Legislative Assembly of 109 members (64 tribal chiefs appointed by the government and 45 elected) and a government with limited competences (budget, teaching, customary justice, of local interest, etc.); elections were held in November 1963 and a government was formed chaired by leader Kaiser Matanzima, supported by the South African government, while 38 of the 45 elected were in favor of V. Poto, who proposed a multiracial policy. Then some economic progress had been made, particularly in the agricultural sector (founding of the Bantu Homelands Corporation, 1965, authorization, by the Promotion and Economic Development of the Bantu Homelands Act, of white private investments within the Bantustans, 1968). Other Bantustans subsequently obtained autonomy, at the request made by them and accepted by the government on the basis of the provisions of the Bantu Homelands Constituion Bill (February 1971): on April 30, 1971 the Tswana, called Bophuthatswana, on August 1, 1972 the Ciskei (Xhosa ethnic group), Lebowa (Sepedi ethnic group) in October of the same year, Gazankulu (Shangaan) and Vhavenda (Venda) in February 1973, Kwazulu (Zulu) in April. Contrasting the South Africa project – for which the Bantustans had to respond to the logic of apartheid, also dividing the various African ethnic groups among themselves – the rulers of the Bantustans criticized the central government, calling for a federation of those territories after the attainment of independence and their equal relationship with white South Africa. Transkei and Bophuthatswana achieved formal independence on October 25, 1976 and December 6, 1977, respectively. For South Africa political system, please check

In the international arena, the South Africa has found itself increasingly isolated, due to the repeated condemnations of the UN against apartheid and against the refusal to subject the former mandate of South West Africa to the control of the UN itself (see Namibia); the moral isolation (which has repeatedly led to the exclusion of the South Africa from international meetings and events, including sporting events), however, was matched by a significant increase in economic relations with foreign countries, in particular with Western countries, interested in the possibilities investment and the significant market potential of South Africa. Even the strategic position of the South Africa, which controls the passage between the Indian and Atlantic oceans, cannot be overlooked by Westerners. Strengthened by this position and its economic development, the South Africa has exercised leadership in southern Africa, tying to itself, on economic grounds, some African states (Malawi, whose president visited the South Africa in 1971, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland) and supporting the Portuguese presence and the Rhodesian regime; the independence of the Portuguese territories (1974-75), however, profoundly changed the picture, leading to a revision of the South Africa policy, which became favorable to an agreed solution to the Rhodesian problem (it therefore carried out, together with Zambia, mediation between the white government and nationalist forces) and an evolving situation in Namibia. The meetings between Prime Minister Vorster and US Secretary of State Kissinger in the summer of 1976 contributed to that revision, while the internal situation of the South African Republic remained unchanged. Verkrampte) and moderates (Verligte) – does not seem capable of offering any outlet to the policy of apartheid, which even risks damaging the interests of economic development, as well as constantly threatening the internal peace of the country and the equilibrium of the southern region. In fact, in June 1976, in Soweto, a negro suburb of Johannesburg, a violent student protest against the planned mandatory nature of the Afrikaans language in schools was bloodyly suppressed. At the institutional level, the contrast between moderates and intransigents led first to the election of Vorster to the presidency of the Republic and then to his resignation in June 1979; he was succeeded by M. Viljoeen.

South Africa in the 1960's