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South Africa in the 60s


Mangosuthu Buthelezi in SOuth Africa
Mangosuthu Buthelezi in SOuth Africa

Prime Minister Verwoerd was assassinated in September 1966 and John Vorster, who had been minister of justice, police, and prisons, was chosen to succeed him. One of the important challenges facing South Africa during Vorster’s tenure as prime minister was the increasing hostility of states surrounding South Africa. Angola and Mozambique achieved independence in 1975, and their new governments were opposed to the South African government’s policies of apartheid. Liberation struggles were underway in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Namibia in the mid-1970s, causing an atmosphere of unrest.

In the late 1960s Stephen Biko and other black students founded the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), which was loosely based on the Black Power movement in the United States. In South Africa it emphasized black leadership and non-cooperation with the government or with bantustan leaders, who were considered collaborators with the government. The BCM was involved in establishing the South African Students’ Organization (SASO) for black students. In 1969 SASO split from the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS), a white-led but nonracial liberal organization, and from the University Christian Movement. Biko, the president of SASO, believed blacks had to provide their own leadership in the liberation process.

SASO and the Black Peoples Convention (BPC), a coalition of black organizations, held rallies in September 1974 to mark the independence of Mozambique, despite a government ban on such meetings. Many were arrested, including several of the leaders, who were then prosecuted and sentenced. The BCM had a formative influence on students and young South Africans, who played a crucial role in the liberation process. In September 1977 Stephen Biko died after being mistreated while in police custody.

The 1970s witnessed the emergence of a Zulu-based ethnic organization called Inkatha, which became the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). The IFP was led by Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi and rejected early by the ANC because the ANC opposed its exclusive ethnic character and close cooperation with the existing white power structure. These differences turned into violent confrontations in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1991 investigations revealed that the South African government had given covert training and financial support to Inkatha in an effort to foster division among black organizations in the country.

The 1970s were also marked by a new and revitalized phase of black trade unionism even though government restrictions continued to limit unions’ political effectiveness. The dependence of the South African economy on black workers created a powerful political and economic force, and from the 1970s onward this growing power was demonstrated by a series of illegal boycotts and strikes. The growth of militant worker and youth organizations in this period was a clear indication that banning the nationalist movements had not ended black resistance.

It was not until 1981 that black trade unions could be officially registered and black workers were given the right to strike. The power of the black trade union movement continued to grow and played a central role in ending apartheid and in the transition to black majority rule. "South Africa" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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