What would you consider the most decisive or influential forces to bring down apartheid in South Africa?

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What would you consider the most decisive or influential forces to bring down apartheid in South Africa?

The dark days of Apartheid finally came to an end in 1990 when the “Father” of South Africa, Nelson Mandela was released from prison. In many ways it can be argued that the abolishment of apartheid is attributed to Mandela and in part this is true. However, the factors which led to the downfall of the repressive Apartheid regime are not as simple as assigning it to one sole determinant, but a combination and culmination of varying factors. The main influential forces herein discussed can be classed into 3 categories. Firstly, internal pressure from the black protest and its political parties; secondly, the international isolation which enforced economic sanctions and sporting boycotts; and finally, the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union as the cold war relaxed (US Department of State, 2001). As such this essay will briefly outline these main influences which brought down Apartheid and assess which played the most profound part in its demise.

The oppressive actions of the government inflicted on the black community were well known before the 1960’s. However, the most prolific years in the anti-apartheid movements occurred after this time in the form of internal resistance from small and isolated groups (Louw, 2004). These groups were unable to join forces due to the lack of knowledge and understanding of the widespread nature of the regimes actions and the fading belief in their freedom, which thus dulled the effect of anti-apartheid movements. The bans issued upon the ANC and other large scale political parties along with their leaders further reinforced the isolation of groups and lack of coordinated “struggle” (Callinicos, 1994).  In an effort to overcome the limitations of this isolated resistance and boost black resistance actions, black consciousness became one of the defining movements. Spearheaded by Steve Biko, this grassroots effort was forged from the political vacuum left from the bans imposed on the large political groups such as the African National Congress (ANC) and Pan African Congress (PAC) (Clark & Worger, 2004). Biko intended for this political conscious movement to help black citizens celebrate their “blackness” and take pride in their blackness as it was an important phase in their own personal liberation (Clark & Worger, 2004). In an ideological manner, the movement aimed to help the black community move away from their perception of themselves as second class citizens. Other prominent leaders of the time included Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo. Walter Sisulu was a South African anti-apartheid activist and member of the African National Congress. He was an active member of the ANC and travelled around the world gaining support for the apartheid struggle. Oliver Tambo was also a member of the ANC and worked alongside Sisulu trying to gain political power against apartheid as well as organising protests and riots to convince the South African Government to change (Louw, 2004). These three men as well as many other activists inspired the black communities to take a stand against the biased laws. They inspired and motivated protests such as the Soweto riots, the Vaal Triangle uprising, the Sharpeville Massacre and many other demonstrations (Callinicos, 1994). In undertaking these demonstrations, they fuelled Oliver Tambo’s notion of making Apartheid ungovernable.

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With so many prolific leaders and large-scale anti-apartheid political groups in action within the country, it begs the question as to why the apartheid regime did not collapse at least a decade earlier than it did. One of the reasons is attributed to the fact that there was a lack of centralised and combined ideology and action despite the rise of black violence and belief in their cause. Disagreements existed between the ANC and their ally the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) (Callinicos, 1994).  The UDF came into existence in 1983 and was an important ...

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