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A Journal of Crime, Conflict & World Order
Social Justice Vol. 18, Nos. 1-2 (1991)

Introduction: South Africa in Transition

Gregory Shank

A View from North America

We are pleased to publish this timely special issue of Social Justice on the historic transition taking place in South Africa today. This volume complements an earlier issue on South Africa that appeared a year before the State of Emergency and counterinsurgency war were unleashed against anti-apartheid forces in 1986. That volume, entitled "State Terrorism in South Africa," characterized Pretoria's international lawlessness and included an analysis of the Freedom Charter, a document central to understanding current constitutional negotiations.

This issue has been more than a year in the making. I traveled to South Africa in January-February 1990 on the educated guess that significant change was in the offing, only to experience the history-making unbanning of the anti-apartheid organizations and the release of Nelson Mandela. My goal had been to pose questions to activists in the anti-apartheid movement that would give readers of Social Justice insight into the processes of change -- and the new conflicts created by these changes -- that is unavailable in the conventional media. Was apartheid giving way to the democratizing tendencies of the social movements? If so, in what ways would progressives have to readjust their worldviews? How did the new political landscape in southern Africa relate to equally massive shifts taking place in the economies and at the level of state power in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union? What would be the major obstacles to the creation of a non-racial state in South Africa?

I was particularly interested in how events in South Africa would resonate in the United States. Surely they would rekindle both hope and skepticism given the tortured national history of black-white relations (as well as Native American relations, as emphasized by Nelson Mandela in his comparison of U.S. reservations to South Africa's Bantustans during his June 1990 visit). I do not wish to imply that the situations in these two countries are comparable -- historically, politically, or economically -- or that developments in either country represent the fulfillment of some historical ideal or the abstract evolution of rights, rather than the outcome of human aspirations and struggles for social justice. Nonetheless, U.S. history has many parallels with that of South Africa, from the initial white settlers' promotion of human rights for themselves while either engaging or acquiescing in black enslavement and codifying their disenfranchisement for eight decades after the signing of the Constitution of 1789, through the Civil Rights Movement's challenge to legal discrimination or "racial separateness" in the late 1950s and 1960s, to the structural inequality based on exclusion by skin color that continues in the U.S. today. As such, the movement for equality in South Africa is simultaneously a critique of progress so far in the U.S., for the residents of Soweto or Inanda would surely abhor conditions in South Central Los Angeles or Chicago's South Side. It forces North Americans to ask whether South Africa's new constitutional order will be able to assure basic rights for all citizens while reversing a legacy of privilege for the white population that has rested on the dispossession of the black population and their forceful removal from their lands. It also raises the question of whether these parallels ironically will become divergences as the achievements of the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S., including affirmative action programs, are dismantled while advances in the struggle for equality take place in South Africa.

Despite popular imagery to the contrary -- at least in the United States -- it was not South Africa's Afrikaans-speaking population who in an excess of racism invented the apartheid system.1 Such a notion is analogous to the once widespread misconception that white racism in the U.S. has been endemic only to the Southern states. Underlying each political system is a globally integrated and expanding system of economic exploitation that has generated, and was conditioned by, racist ideologies and a racially structured hierarchy of economic and political power.2 An essential feature characterizing the operation of the system at a global level, which movements for democracy on both continents must grasp, is the compatibility between liberal democracy and gross historical forms of exploitation -- slavery in the Americas, colonization (with its negation of basic rights), apartheid in South Africa, and repressive counterinsurgency states elsewhere in the Third World, which are the actual forms global capitalist expansion has taken, in contrast to the ideological view that centers on equality before the law and electoral democracy as imperatives of this economic system.

The historical transition from racial capitalism in South Africa (1652-1948) to the apartheid program introduced in 1948 shares some similarities with the earlier changes in the U.S. from the slave codes to the Jim Crow laws. A new level of struggle was institutionalized in 1947 in the context of the anticolonial upsurge when the United Nations first condemned segregation practices. As part of the postwar expansion of the U.S. economy, social peace was cemented by an agreement with organized labor that significantly increased wages in exchange for a no-strike pledge and a rise in productivity, while for people of color, measures were introduced to end the post-Reconstruction patterns of legalized segregation of black and white citizens. President Truman integrated the armed forces in 1948, and the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the 1954 Brown vs. the Board of Education decision that segregation was unconstitutional.

As Wallerstein has pointed out (1991), both developments were shaped in the crucible of a U.S. world order -- which he calls The Great American Peace -- that brought with it unparalleled American prosperity. The price paid internationally was the maintenance of order in the Third World, including support of South African lawlessness against the post-revolutionary states in southern Africa. Domestically, the cost was that of relative deprivation. "It was precisely the integration of trade unions into the political establishment and the ending of legal segregation combined with the real increase in the incomes of skilled workers and the middle classes that brought to the fore the degree to which there were exclusions. The U.S. had moved from its pre-1945 situation when only a minority were prosperous to its post-1945 one where the majority felt prosperous, or at least moderately so. This was a trigger to action for the excluded, action that took the form of new consciousnesses -- most notably black (and later other minority groups') consciousnesses and women's consciousness" (Ibid.).

The end of the 25-year prosperity initiated a period of vast change and transition not unlike those of 1815, 1919, and 1945. Alterations in post-1945 political arrangements resulted in the so-called Reagan Revolution, which represented the abandonment of the welfare-state alliance with labor and the minorities. Similarly, it appears to have led to the emergence of a new configuration of class forces at the elite level in South Africa. There, the National Party has abandoned two central elements of the alliance that made possible their 1948 victory (and apartheid): the agricultural and white working-class sectors of its constituency.

The current transition in South Africa has the potential to bring about real forms of equality that have yet to materialize in post-Civil Rights Movement America. This country's second Reconstruction began with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But with the dissipation of the protest movement, state and municipal electoral work ascended to dominance in the 1970s and resulted in the placement of black mayors in almost all the major metropolitan centers and, in 1989, of a black Governor in Virginia. These efforts resulted in far less power than anticipated and certainly far less than hoped in terms of improvements in the standard of living for African Americans. Nonetheless, this historical achievement is one of the bases for the great resonance that exists between the two movements: Martin Luther King's birthday is celebrated in Soweto, and Nelson Mandela receives a hero's welcome throughout the United States. The limitations of a civil-rights strategy based on legal equality perhaps could explain the unwillingness of democratic South Africans to have Mandela cast as another King. Full social and economic equality are imperative for black political power to be meaningful.

Despite its relative decline as a leading world-economic power, the United States remains sufficiently wealthy for it to become one of the most social-welfare-oriented nation-states in the world, with one of the most advanced redistributive structures. For it to do so will require a rupture with current social welfare priorities, which do not adequately serve a large sector of the white population, much less seriously intervene via affirmative action to overcome or reduce inequalities that have accumulated as a result of past discrimination. As a national minority, African Americans will find the rewards associated with affirmative-action programs, for example, to depend on the good will of the executives and legislators representing the dominant culture. In resource-rich South Africa, once majority rule is a reality and land reform has been implemented, parliamentarians representing the historically disenfranchised majority should have a stake in carrying out genuine affirmative action -- assuming, that is, that current changes do not result in the formation of a new elite with little or no interest in carrying out popular aspirations for social justice.

In any event, both the wealth and increased possibilities of equality of opportunity will create new challenges for the United States and South Africa. Each will serve as magnets to a steady stream of migrant workers from the South (the "third and fourth worlds"), where the decline in the standard of living shows every sign of accelerating. Each could find itself constructing barriers to protect citizens' welfare entitlements and other redistributive mechanisms from the just demands of noncitizens who will become essential to the functioning of their respective economies. In this way, the current surge of equality could produce a new round of exclusions from economic, political, and social rights.

Prospects for Short- and Long-Term Change

As the global restructuring of capitalism continues to unfold in the 1990s, the locus of change and instability will continue to be in the South and the East. The breakdown of Cold War logic -- always fuzzy at best with regard to the South -- has opened the way for an emergent world order whose contours at the onset of the 21st century are unclear and whose potential for regional military and ecological destruction could easily outweigh its promise of greater adherence to democracy and social justice. For South Africa's forces of order, represented by the National Party under Frederik de Klerk, the new political ambience has undermined the ideology of anticommunism -- and to a lesser extent, its counterterrorist sibling. For the forces of liberation, represented by the African National Congress (ANC) under Nelson Mandela, it has served to blunt the anticapitalist thrust of those who found resonance in socialism as an ideology because of the linkage between apartheid and capitalism.

Undoubtedly, each of these leaders will find a place in history for their respective roles in ushering out a morally reprehensible system, just as each will receive criticism for moving too slowly. The true test, however, will be whether they are capable of maneuvering beyond their respective historical constraints: one's belief in the ultimate justness of an inherently polarized historical system that distributes rewards globally along a continuum of color and the other's belief that the power of the state secured through national liberation struggles may be able to override the logic of that global system to provide not only national sovereignty but also economic salvation to the dispossessed.

There is a temptation by some analysts to view the almost worldwide challenge to totalitarian structures as emanating from a common source and representing the victory of the liberal-democratic state and the freedom of the individual. To be sure, perestroika in the Soviet Union, democratization and marketization in Eastern Europe, and the transformation of apartheid in South Africa appear to represent responses to the larger pattern of global economic and political realignment. Yet far from the fruition of an historical ideal, the watershed years 1989-1990 were forced upon South Africa's apartheid regime and on the Eastern command economies by the collapse of the post-World War II political order, the relative decline of U.S. dominance, the unilateral withdrawal of the Soviet Union from the Cold War, and the actions of the mass democratic movements that took advantage of this political opening.

In the near term, these dramatic changes in the political sphere will lead to South Africa's reincorporation into the world community of nations. A constellation of reasons led the government into power-sharing discussions with the ANC. First, de Klerk had the insight and courage (that his predecessor Botha lacked) to see that the far Right could be defeated electorally. Although the state's repressive apparatus nearly annihilated the United Democratic Front at one point, a resurgent level of activism and opposition on the ground also played a central role. The cutting off of financial credits from Western banks severely affected the growth rate of the South African economy and triggered a net capital outflow of more than $10 billion, mainly through debt repayment. Devaluation of the rand and the rolling over of the debt were elements in the timing of the changes. The South African government's loss of legitimacy in the 1980s had also undermined the military prowess and ideological hegemony underpinning its ability to effectively operate a cheap labor system. In addition, loss of the war in Angola provoked a domestic crisis. Yet the government continues to operate from a position of relative strength in relation to the progressive opposition by virtue of its near monopoly on repressive force, the still-enormous economic resources at its command, and because of the enormous cost it extracted from the anti-apartheid forces both in lives and organizational dislocation.

In the end, however, apartheid structures under the hegemony of the National Party since 1948, like Eastern Europe's one-party Stalinist model, could no longer continue as before.3 The de Klerk government had begun to speak of power-sharing and to release senior ANC political prisoners, including former ANC Secretary Walter Sisulu, from prison in October 1989. The bans on mass protest were lifted and the government began to chip away at the nation's petit apartheid laws by ordering desegregation of some neighborhoods, shopping areas, and public facilities. Further, the government's death squad activity -- and implicitly the security and intelligence structure (the National Security Management System) that had been running the country since the declaration of the State of Emergency in 1986 -- was not only scandalized in the press, but also condemned and investigated by the de Klerk government.

This set the stage for a promised vast expansion of rights, which would find legal expression in the constitutional negotiations, and economic expression in the redistributive proposals for a new dispensation for the black majority. These negotiations will also determine who will stay and who will emigrate, taking with them skills and part of the national patrimony. Further, they will lead to political pressure on the anti-apartheid social movement to transform itself into a political party that can respond to the government's reform initiatives and form coalitions that will isolate the segregationist Right. By June 1991, after a 17-month reform program, the de Klerk government had met most of the conditions imposed by the international community for the lifting of sanctions. It had abolished all the country's major race laws, including the Immorality Act, the Land Acts, the Group Areas Act, the Separate Amenities Act, and the Population Registration Act, a process that ended most legally sanctioned segregation in the country after decades of racial discrimination. Registration under the Population Registration Act of 1950 had effectively determined the rights and privileges of South Africa's 36 million inhabitants for the rest of their lives -- where they could live, whom they could marry, even what public transport they could use -- and was the building block for hundreds of apartheid laws that have protected privilege for 5 million whites and denied the vote and other economic rights to 30 million blacks, as well as limited the rights of the 3 million people of mixed descent and the nearly 1 million of Indian descent. Nonetheless, existing lists of people's races were to be maintained so long as another vestige of institutional racism, the 1983 Constitution, remained in force. Keeping the population register in place allowed the government to keep apartheid laws on the books that grant lower state pensions to blacks than to whites, and that allowed government-run state schools to remain segregated if they wished. In addition, the government implicitly sanctioned residential segregation by allowing neighborhoods to draw up "norms and standards," while refusing to redistribute land to blacks, particularly the 3.5 million South Africans forcibly removed from their property.

The 1983 Constitution barred the black population from representation in Parliament, granting only whites, Asians, and people of mixed race, known as Coloreds, representation in the national legislature. Thus, by mid-1991, the dismantling of legal apartheid had proceeded only to the stage of discussing how to institute one-person, one-vote democracy for the first time in South Africa. Constitutional negotiations between the government and the ANC stumbled on the ANC's demand that a constituent assembly be set up independent of the government, to be followed by an interim government that would oversee South Africa's first free elections -- a process that had worked effectively in Namibia under United Nations' auspices. Yet the government effectively sabotaged the talks through its complicity in and refusal to seriously stem the ongoing violence aimed primarily against ANC members.

Hanging in the balance for both political forces is the lifting of international sanctions against South Africa. With the repeal of the Population Registration Act, the de Klerk government met all conditions of the U.S.'s 1986 Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act except the ANC demand that all political prisoners be released. Anti-apartheid forces in the United States and leaders of most African states took the position that sanctions should not be lifted until a new South African constitution is adopted.

By mid-July, 1991, however, the European Community, the United States, and Japan began the process of removing sanctions. Sanctions have played an important, albeit ambiguous, role despite the hypocrisy of leaders of states, such as Presidents Reagan and Bush, whose opposition to them was blocked by the Congress. Economic sanctions would have much more quickly precipitated the collapse of apartheid had they been rigorously enforced. According to an economist for one of South Africa's leading mining and industrial companies (Bethlehem, 1988: 298-300), although the data are difficult to assess, the powerful impression remains that after passage of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, trade continued despite sanctions, and to the extent that particular countries were compliant, the business was taken up by others happy to take advantage of the opportunities afforded. For example, while the trade of the U.S. and Britain with South Africa declined, Japan's trade revealed a relative increase.4

Options for the Anti-Apartheid Movement

An assessment of the options available to any future majoritarian government in South Africa must be placed in the regional context. The new political ambience is characterized by the withdrawal of East European and Soviet military, infrastructural, and economic support -- the latter always inadequate to the task of fostering an alternative economic zone for Third World development, but far from inconsequential -- for the liberation movements and post-revolutionary states in Mozambique, Angola, and South Africa. On the negative side, that assistance also carried with it the baggage of "far too little democracy and far too much inflexibility in socioeconomic policies in southern African socialist circles" (Saul, 1991: 148). What remain as development options are reliance on the IMF and World Bank, forging workable regional economic organizations, or, in the worst case, continued isolation.

Indebtedness in Africa stands at $100 billion, and South Africa, no less than other states in the region, has witnessed in the 1970s and 1980s an ever-growing dependence upon export markets, falling terms of trade, and a rising international debt burden. African borrowing from multilateral sources (the IMF and World Bank) is currently estimated at 8.5% of the continent's gross domestic product. High interest rates and low levels of new capital have resulted in a net transfer from Africa to the West estimated at $6 billion in 1989. In April, the Rev. Leon Sullivan exhorted the 35 million African Americans to press the U.S. government to cancel Africa's debt, and Nigeria's President Ibrahim Babangida demanded that the countries of Europe and the Americas set up a massive program of aid and "total debt write-offs" for Africa "because services of our forefathers in the American plantations were unrewarded and unpaid for...[and] because the exploitation of Africa during the period of colonial rule further impoverished us and enhanced the development of the West" (cited in Hunter, 1991; see also San Francisco Chronicle, April 20, 1991).

To the chagrin of African heads of state, external sources of development capital have been diverted by the marketizing trends in Eastern Europe. According to the Institute for International Economics, over the next decade Eastern Europe's economic reforms will benefit Western Europe but hurt developing countries due to higher interest rates and a drop in their labor-intensive exports. The study estimated that over the next five years, between $30 and $90 billion of net capital would go to Eastern Europe -- less than previously predicted but enough to push international interest rates up between one and three points, causing fiscal havoc in the indebted poorer countries. The resulting transfer of wealth will benefit industrial countries that serve as the world's creditors, perhaps with the exception of the United States, the world's largest debtor nation (UPI, 1991a).

The second requirement for development, the absence of war among and within the nations of southern Africa, particularly Angola, Mozambique, and South Africa itself, has been attained at great cost. The long ordeal of the Reagan Doctrine -- U.S./South African-sponsored economic destabilization and military rollback of post-revolutionary governments -- has left weakened state and party structures. The return of these embattled states to the IMF-World Bank fold, and their engagement in multiparty elections that could replicate a Chamorro/UNO-style model in Nicaragua, measure the success of the Doctrine. Of course, the settlements in southern Africa were, in fact, negotiated: South Africa's military setbacks in Angola in 1987-1988 and international sanctions contributed to Namibian independence; the loss of South African ground support over the Namibian border, in turn, severely diminished UNlTA's military prospects. Nonetheless, some analysts suggest that the terrain of struggle has simply shifted to the electoral arena, which could succeed in installing former "freedom fighters" where military means have reached a stalemate (Hunter, 1991; Martin, 1991; Nesbitt, 1991).

In light of the improbability of military victory, the U.S. and South Africa are seeking a win in the political arena through a policy of economic and political destabilization similar to that used in Nicaragua. After that small Central American country was sufficiently demoralized and worn down by war and the economic embargo, its electoral process was successfully manipulated to serve U.S. interests. If non-racial elections are held in South Africa, it would be unrealistic to believe that the Bush administration would not do its best to maximize the prospects of that country's white elite and of black opponents of the African National Congress (ANC). This interest may stem from long identification with the white minority regime. However, absent the active U.S. constituencies for UNITA [because of corruption and human-rights reasons] and the apartheid government of South Africa, it is unlikely despite its interests and sympathies that the [then] war-preoccupied administration would be paying much attention to southern Africa (Martin, 1991: 41).

The support for Mozambique's Renamo, Angola's UNITA under Jonas Savimbi, and South Africa's Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi by U.S. right-wing think-tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, as well as by conservative political action committees and congressmen, has been extensively documented. This constituency explains, in part, Buthelezi's easy access to the Oval Office. It also portends support for "moderates" in South Africa's non-racial elections. Considering that a recent survey indicates that if free and fair elections were held today (that is, if black South Africans could vote), urban blacks would elect the ANC with 71% of the vote, and only 4% for the National Party and 3% for Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party, a massive infusion of funds would be required to lessen the ANC's appeal (Wren, 1991).

U.S. electoral management is not the only scenario. Whereas power-sharing in Southern Africa contained elements of a military stalemate, in Eastern Europe the democratic revolution was, except for Romania and perhaps Yugoslavia, carried out by peaceful means and was quite beyond the control of Western wishes. "Roundtable" discussions led to the incorporation of oppositional sectors into the centers of state power, although this was often followed by elections that generally assured the victory of right-of-center forces promising the cornucopia of capitalism. Nonetheless, the economy, except in the former German Democratic Republic, remained in the hands of the former Communist Party nomenklatura -- even in Poland where the most strident steps toward a market economy were taken. Privatization of state-owned industry formed the centerpiece in restructuring efforts toward a competitive market economy. In general, however, the capital needed to buy out and revitalize state industry along intensive lines came to be monopolized by the nomenklatura and illegal sectors internally, or possessed by foreign corporate interests. Privatization on this basis would be to either sanction a circulation of elites or effectively sacrifice national sovereignty.

Similar obstacles obtain in South Africa, where economic life has long been characterized by highly concentrated ownership in the private sector (a tendency accelerated by sanctions), but ironically also in the large state sector, the customary whipping boy of conservative fiscal theory. One element in the restructuring of apartheid was a government plan to sell state corporations and public enterprises -- powerful monopolies in airlines, railroads, the harbors and highway network, telecommunications and electricity companies, armaments and phosphate industries, petroleum pipelines, abattoirs [slaughterhouses], and main television and radio outlets -- to offset the budgetary crisis. Privatization is opposed by the ANC, which has endorsed a mixed economy of state, cooperative, and private ownership, because selling existing state corporations would place important assets in private hands and strip a new non-racial government of resources (estimated at $80 to $200 billion in value) needed to redistribute wealth more equitably. In response, the government shifted to a "commercialization" policy, forcing the corporations to be run as if they were privately owned and responsible for profits and losses. Shares in some industries have been offered to employees -- similar plans are circulating in Hungary -- but the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) opposes this because "workers who buy shares will be reluctant to take industrial action" (Wren, 1990). The ANC favors the development of an independent trade union movement for South Africa. This is required, among other reasons, to secure the interests of workers independently of the parties negotiating or participating in joint ventures between the state and private sectors.

Privatization, a standard North-inspired strategy, has not worked elsewhere in Africa (Hunter, 1991: 36). A primary reason for its failure is the reluctance of investors to cope with crumbling roads, irregular water supplies, and unreliable telephone and electrical systems -- a legacy of Western policy. South Africa's economic profile, however, gives it the potential to become a variant of the newly industrializing countries (South Africa exports primarily raw materials, bulk farm produce, and non-alloy steel to the core and other NICs, while importing mostly manufactured goods and electronic goods). Its economy is characterized by a relatively efficient, industrialized core surrounded by a black periphery. The ANC's economic strategy therefore relies on "growth through redistribution," which centers on infrastructural investments such as electrification to create a multiplier effect in job creation and retail sales growth.5 Massive state spending will be required to provide adequate schools, hospitals, housing, and essential infrastructure (roads, sewers, telephone and electrical lines, etc.) for the black population. But jobs are also immediately needed: the economic distortions imposed by apartheid and exacerbated by Western sanctions have caused severe unemployment, with the ANC estimating that seven million blacks are already unemployed and another 200,000 will face dismissal this year (Wren, 1991).

Violence and the State

Clearly, the process of constructing a unitary, non-racial state in South Africa faces enormous obstacles. If it cannot meet the high expectations of black South Africans for real improvements in their standard of living, political difficulties lie ahead. It must overcome the structural violence that is a legacy of apartheid: dispersed and impoverished "homelands," the attendant migrant-labor system, with its disruption of family life, single-sex hostels, and subsistence wages. Forced relocations, poor housing, the high urban crime rate, plus endemic rural underemployment and child malnutrition must be dealt with programmatically.

Whether inside or outside the government, the ANC will continue to be the central organizational force capable of rebuilding South Africa on terms favorable to the majority population. Since it resumed operating within South Africa, the ANC has taken on the task of forging an effective oppositional alliance and organization-building after 30 years of banishment and repression. For the ANC, such measures have included attempting to overcome the historical antagonism between it and the Pan-Africanist Congress and solving its "internal/external" problem by dissolving the United Democratic Front into the ANC. At its historic July 1991 conference in Durban, the ANC decided not to transform itself from being a "liberation movement" into a conventional political party as favored by the government and plans instead to organize millions of South Africans onto the streets in mass antigovernment protests -- "demonstrations of the kind that toppled Eastern European governments," in the words of one working commission member (UPI, 1991b). Members recommended against participation in a government-backed all-party congress until the government had taken concrete steps to end the violence in the black townships, since it is used by the government to weaken the ANC. Further, it was recommended that the ANC strengthen its four main strategies -- mass protest action, building up its army, strengthening its underground structures, and lobbying more effectively for international pressure against the government.

Forces in the unofficial alliance between the National Party and the Inkatha Freedom Party have attempted to drive a wedge into the ANC by attacking the South African Communist Party's (SACP's) participation in it. Inkatha's Buthelezi has publicly attacked Chris Hani, a SACP and ANC member, chief of staff of the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, and ANC National Executive Committee member, as a "hard-line Stalinist," and the ANC-SACP linkage was a factor in Washington's freezing of $10 million in congressionally appropriated funds to promote the democratic process (Evans and Novak, 1991, and Ottaway, 1991b). The alliance is solid, but according to Hani, there are long-term strategic differences: "the ANC does not see itself going beyond the post-apartheid era, where there is a mixed economy," while the SACP ultimately embraces socialism (Goodman, 1991: 14). According to Nelson Mandela, the SACP has declared its cooperation with the ANC only up to the point of the overthrow of the apartheid state; thereafter, the ANC will follow its own program, which is not socialist, and the SACP will promote their own socialist line (UPI, 1991c).

In the near term, however, of all the obstacles in the transition from authoritarianism to democracy in South Africa, perhaps the most troublesome is the endemic conflict and violence (analyzed comprehensively in the articles that follow), which have not only blocked ANC organizing efforts, but have also resulted in the death of thousands of its supporters. South Africa has experienced its worst period of violence since the unbanning of the ANC. In response to evidence of government collusion in the violence via a "third force," the ANC called for the dismissal of Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok and Defense Minister Magnus Malan. The government's public relations response was twofold: on the one hand, it has attempted to discredit the ANC as the source of the violence, and, on the other, it has sought to persuade South Africans -- by now accustomed to the intervention of heavily armed police, often driving armored cars, at scenes of anti-apartheid actions and in the townships -- that the state has begun to make every effort to control the violence.

With regard to the latter, although de Klerk did instruct the police to shift their focus from "political control" to "crime prevention," their primary orientation remains a paramilitary one. South Africa experiences one of the highest crime rates in the world and police statistics have shown a 28.6% increase in murders from 1989 to 1990 -- 39 murders per 1,000 of the population, a figure that is about six times the U.S. rate of eight or nine per 1,000. Thus, effective crime control and a professionalized police force are urgent necessities. Yet township residents have complained bitterly about police disinterest in fighting crime in their areas while the South African Defense Forces (SADF) announced possible plans "to protect white suburbs with commando units." After Nelson Mandela warned that the political violence in South Africa's black townships -- which has killed nearly 10,000 people since 1984 -- could spread to white areas, in June 1991 nearly 60,000 police officers, or about two-thirds of South Africa's 96,000 strong police force, took part in "Operation Blitz," a nationwide crime prevention operation that was supposed to trace illegal weapons and stolen vehicles. Police systematically pulled drivers and passengers from their vehicles over an eight-hour period, arresting 4,593 people mostly on traffic- or alcohol-related offenses.

Government maneuvering for control over domestic and international perceptions on the nature of, and obstacles to, change has centered on its efforts to discredit the ANC -- and the idea that South Africa's black majority is capable of governing the nation -- while promoting an alliance with procapitalist black forces. The government has portrayed South Africa's violence as the result of ANC efforts to make the country ungovernable, claiming that the states of emergency were declared to restore the law and order necessary for the reform process to proceed. Black-on-black violence and killing (critics call it black-on-black policing), the government argued, call for extraordinary preventive measures. Mass detentions were justified as efforts to isolate troublemakers and stabilize the situation. The overriding importance accorded to the security of the state has thereby subordinated the protection of citizens to the maintenance of the existing order. According to Tomaselli (1991: 25), the greatest threats to the state were seen as "radicalism" and "communism," terms usually applied to anyone sympathetic to the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM). Aligned against "radical elements" were the "forces of moderation," which included Bantustan leaders, conservative township business people, and administrators loyal to the state patronage system, as well as vigilante forces, including Inkatha. In the words of the Minister of Law and Order, "the Police intend to face the future with moderates and fight against radical groups."

The issue of ungovernability also surfaced in the international arena. In February 1991, South Africa's Finance Minister, Barend du Plessis, and Reserve Bank Governor Chris Stals warned that maintaining international sanctions, especially the constraints on international credit, could create unemployment on a scale that would make the country ungovernable within five years. Again in April 1991, President de Klerk linked sanctions with trouble-making radicals and promoted moderates as the basis of stability: "a new constitution in South Africa...will and must be framed within the principles of real democracy.... Nothing can stop this process. It may be delayed by radicals trying to make the country ungovernable, but nothing can stop the process.... Investors can rest assured that the moderate majority in South Africa will make sure stability is maintained."

It is distressing that this combination of smoke and mirrors has nearly succeeded in the international arena. Of course, critics had noted the self-serving nature of the government's "law and order" pronouncements and the hypocrisy involved in the white minority government's sudden concern with the tendency to solve political questions by force, since it was they who seized the country by forceful invasion, ruled it through brutal coercion, and then outlawed peaceful protest and opposition. In July 1991, however, the "Inkathagate" slush fund scandal broke, publicly revealing the government's role in fostering the violence and manipulating Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party with the aim of weakening the ANC. The scandal confirmed ANC charges that the government had been pursuing a two-track policy of "posing as committed to peace while waging a ruthless war against the ANC," and constituted a serious threat to the peace process in South Africa. Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok, Defence Minister Magnus Malan, Foreign Minister Roloef Botha, de Klerk, and his Finance Minister Barend du Plessis have been accused or implicated in the controversy surrounding the channeling of a $130 to $650 million top-secret slush fund maintained for a variety of dirty tricks (San Francisco Chronicle, July 23, 1991). Among the uses were the funding of the Inkatha-linked United Workers' Union of South Africa (UWUSA) during the past six years and of Inkatha rallies in 1989 and 1990, first at the request of the security police, which sought to counter the influence of the ANC after the release of Nelson Mandela, and then at the request of the Foreign Minister for two Inkatha anti-sanctions rallies. It has been well documented that Inkatha rallies in Durban and Johannesburg have often ended in rampages through black townships in which many ANC supporters have lost their lives.

Equally serious are press reports alleging that Defence Minister Malan's soldiers, dressed as Inkatha warriors, massacred black commuters on trains to foment violence between Inkatha and the ANC in order to weaken the latter. The New Nation, basing its report on statements from a former member of the army unit, claimed that a special forces unit based at Phalaborwa in the northeastern Transvaal trained Mozambicans and Namibians to fire AK-47s on passenger trains; at the same time, the black weekly City Press published the confession of a member of the largest gang in the Durban area, the Amasinyora, who stated that the SADF, Inkatha, and the police force of the KwaZulu homeland under Buthelezi's command had provided gangs with arms, training, and direction (Ottaway, 1991a).

Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu has stated that if allegations of the army's participation in township violence are proved, and if President de Klerk knew of this participation, then de Klerk should resign. Despite Constitutional Development Minister Gerrit Viljoen's defense of de Klerk (he claims the payments occurred before the reform process led to a change in policy regarding covert operations, taking effect a month after Mandela's release), both the leader of the right-wing Conservative Party, Andries Treurnicht, and the Deputy President of the anti-apartheid Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), Dikgang Moseneke, have called for the whole government to resign. The Democratic Party has called for the senior government ministers to step down. Buthelezi has refused to step down, but his personal secretary, M.Z. Khumalo, resigned after admitting that he knew about slush funds received by Inkatha from the South African government. The ANC has called for a full judicial inquiry, and has stated that only an interim government made up of members from various political organizations can lead the country away from apartheid. Any pretense to an emergent rule-of-law state under the transitional stewardship of the de Klerk government has been shattered. The peace process and negotiations are in great jeopardy; with another whites-only election a foreclosed option, and the integrity of the negotiating track in question, this again raises the specter of civil war.


1. Paternity for racist institutions in South Africa is equally attributable to the representatives of the British empire who fashioned the integrated system of economic exploitation in the region. Apartheid can be traced to the original landing of the English and the Dutch there. The English eventually established the first legal apartheid in Natal, but they did not set up the administrative structures to enforce it. When the Afrikaners took power in 1948, they created legal apartheid with enabling legislation. At the same time, the votes of part of the English-speaking polity would keep the National Party in office. In the 1948 elections, the Nationalist Party won support from four central groups, and welded these into a cohesive class alliance: agricultural capital, with promises to farmers of rigid influx control measures to stem the flow of labor from white farms and general control over African workers and a pricing policy that would guarantee a higher rate of profit to agriculture; white workers, particularly in the mining, metal, and building industries, with promises of rigid job color bars to protect especially Afrikaner workers' positions against the entry of black semiskilled and skilled labor, as well as increased welfare measures financed through an attack on monopoly profits and the nationalization of the gold-mining industry; the Afrikaner petty bourgeoisie, which had been the principal base of the Nationalist Party and the N.P.'s main organizational force in the formulation of its apartheid policies for the 1948 election; and small Afrikaner finance, commercial and manufacturing capital, spearheaded by its political vanguard, the secret Afrikaner Broederbond (Davis et al., 1988: 20).

2. See, for example, Davis et al. (1988: 2) for a fuller treatment of this complex topic in the South African context. The discussion becomes especially problematic when examining the production relations developed during the colonial period on two continents. I would simply add that in the dialectics of the relationship between slavery in the New World and the development of capitalism in Europe, each provided the necessary conditions for the other's growth. The enslaved African American population was involved in the production of value in a system of commercial exploitation that was an integral part of the international relations of the growing capitalist world economy. Racism has served to maintain this unequal international division of labor; racial prejudice and discrimination have served to segment the polity in specific nation-states and must be analyzed for their intersection with class politics in the same way that "ethnic" and "tribal" conflict are examined.

3. Reviewers of an earlier version of this article questioned this comparison on the grounds that other parties have existed in South Africa. My point of departure is to examine similarities in transitions, and I admit to attempting to provoke the reader. Yet in pre-1989 Eastern Europe, Bulgarians pointed out their National Agrarian Union, the German Democratic Republic had four parties besides the leading Socialist Unity Party, and so on. South Africa's National Party controlled the commanding heights of the state at least as long as the East European Communist Parties did, and exercised enormous economic influence via the parastatals and state redistributive mechanisms. However, the comparison does break down given the existence of a large private sector and the absence of a constitutional provision specifically guaranteeing the leading role of the National Party -- but it has surely guaranteed the non-leading role of the black majority.

4. Today, South Africa's largest trading partners are Germany, Britain, the United States, Japan, Italy, and Taiwan (Associated Press, 1991).

5. According to the ANC's chief economist, Tito Mboweni, their "conception of redistribution is related to growth of the economy. Take the example of providing electricity to the townships. Providing more electricity creates more jobs, both within the electric company and elsewhere in the production of stoves, electric meters, fridges, and bulbs.... By meeting the basic need of electricity, you create a multiplier effect and it redistributes" (cited in Goodman, 1991).


Associated Press

1991 "Taiwan Is South Africa's Sixth Largest Trading Partner, Report Says." Cape Town (May 16).

Bethlehem, Ronald William

1988 Economics in a Revolutionary Society: Sanctions and the Transformation of South Africa. Craighall: A.D. Donker Ltd.

Davies, Robert, Dan O'Meara, and Sipho Dlamini

1988 The Struggle for South Africa: A Reference Guide to Movements, Organizations, and Institutions. Volume 1. London and New Jersey: Zed Books Ltd.

Evans, Rowland and Robert Novak

1991 "Zulu Leader's Solution to South Africa Problem." San Francisco Chronicle (May 1).

Goodman, David

1991 "Rethinking Socialism: Chris Hani Discusses the ANC's Post-Apartheid Economic Policy." Dollars & Sense 168 (July/August): 12.

Hunter, Jane

1991 "Breathing Space for Africa?" CovertAction Information Bulletin 36 (Spring).

Kraft, Scott

1991 "South Africa Abolishes Cornerstone of Apartheid." Los Angeles Times (June 18).

Martin, Phillip W.D.

1991 "The CIA in Angola: Legacy of War, Misery and Manipulation." CovertAction Information Bulletin 36 (Spring).

Martin, William G.

1991 "The Future of Southern Africa: What Prospects after Majority Rule?" Review of African Political Economy 50 (March).

Nesbitt, Prexy

1991 "Greasing the Killing Machine: U.S. Backing for RENAMO." CovertAction Information Bulletin 36 (Spring).

Ottaway, David B.

1991a "New South African Admission on Financial Aid to ANC Rivals." Washington Post(July 22).

1991b "ANC Indicates More Flexibility on Sanctions." Washington Post (July 8).

San Francisco Examiner

1991 "Pretoria under Fire for Help Given to Rival of ANC." Johannesburg (July 21): A-7.

Saul, John S.

1991 "From Thaw to Flood: The End of the Cold War in Southern Africa." Review of African Political Economy 50 (March).

Tomaselli, Ruth

1991 "Media Images of Violence: South Africa's 'Hidden Hand.'" CovertAction Information Bulletin36 (Spring).

United Press International (UPI)

1991a "Eastern Europe's Reforms Will Benefit the West, Hurt Third World, Study Says." Washington (May 21).

1991b "ANC Promises Mass Street Protests against White Minority Government." Durban, South Africa (July 6).

1991c "ANC Pres. Mandela Says No to Socialism in S. Africa as Apartheid Is Destroyed." Johannesburg (July 18).

1991d "South Africa Scraps Last of Five Major Apartheid Laws, Ends Segregation." Cape Town, South Africa (June 17).

Wallerstein, Immanuel

1991 "America and the World: Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow." Occasional Paper of the Braudel Center for the Study of Economies, Historical Systems, and Historical Systems. Binghamton, New York.

Wren, Christopher S.

1991 "Even in 'New South Africa,' Apartheid's Legacy Lives On." New York Times (June 23).

1990 "South Africa Retreats on Privatization." New York Times (November 13).

Citation: Gregory Shank. (1991). "Introduction: South Africa in Transition." Social Justice Vol. 18, Nos. 1-2 (1991): i-xv. Copyright © 1991 by Social Justice, ISSN 1043-1578. Social Justice, P.O. Box 40601, San Francisco, CA 94140.