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Recent History of South Africa

The most significant change occurred in South African long history at late nineties. After a long struggle and series of violence a stable peace was finally brokered in 1990. The domestic situation was far from resolved. Violent responses to black protests increased commitment to a revolutionary struggle, and the United Nations finally imposed economic and political sanctions. But in the mid-1980s, black-on-black violence in the townships exploded. Although bitter lines were drawn between the left-wing, Xhosa-based ANC and the right-wing, Zulu-dominated Inkatha movement, such distinctions are simplistic in the context of the massive economic and social deprivation of black South Africa. There were clashes between political rivals, tribal enemies, opportunistic gangsters, and between those who lived in the huge migrant-workers' hostels and their township neighbours. President PW Botha detained, tortured and censored his way to 1989, when economic sanctions began to bite, the rand collapsed and reformist FW De Klerk came to power.


As the bargaining continued, both Mandela and de Klerk made concessions, with the result that both of them ran the risk of losing the support of their respective constituencies. While whites were loath to forfeit their power and privileges, blacks had hoped to win complete control of the state. A majority of white voters endorsed the negotiating process in a referendum in 1992, but both white and black extremists tried to sabotage the process through various acts of terror.

Mandela and de Klerk finally reached a peaceful agreement on the future of South Africa at the end of 1993, an achievement for which they jointly received the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. In addition, leaders of 18 other parties endorsed an interim constitution, which was to take effect immediately after South Africa's first election by universal suffrage, scheduled for April 1994. A parliament to be elected at that time would oversee the drafting of a permanent constitution for the country. The temporary constitution enfranchised all citizens 18 and older, abolished the homelands, and divided the country into nine new provinces, with provincial governments receiving substantial powers. It also contained a long list of political and social rights and a mechanism through which blacks could regain ownership of land that had been taken away under apartheid.

The ANC won almost two-thirds of the 1994 vote, the National Party slightly more than one-fifth, and the IFP most of the rest; all three received proportional cabinet representation. The ANC also became the majority party in seven of the provinces, but the IFP won a majority in KwaZulu-Natal, and the National Party - supported by mixed-race (people formerly classified as "Coloured" under apartheid) as well as white voter - won a majority in Western Cape. Mandela was sworn in as president of the new South Africa on May 10 before a vast jubilant crowd that included the secretary-general of the UN, 45 heads of state, and delegations from many other countries. Thabo Mbeki, a top official in the ANC, and de Klerk both became deputy presidents.

In 1999, after five years of learning about democracy, the country voted in a more normal election. Issues such as economics and competence were raised and debated. There was some speculation that the ANC vote might drop with the retirement of Nelson Mandela. The ANC's vote didn't drop - it increased, putting the party within one seat of the two-thirds majority that would allow it to alter the constitution. Thabo Mbeki, who took over the ANC leadership from Nelson Mandela, became president in the 1999 elections.

South Africa since Mandela

Mbeki replaced Mandela as president of the ANC in December 1997 and became president of the country after the ANC's triumphant win in the June 1999 elections. Mbeki pledged to address economic woes and the need to improve the social conditions in the country.

In November 2003 the government finally approved a major program to treat and tackle HIV/AIDS. Prior to that time, the government had refused to provide anti-AIDS medicine through the public health system. The ANC was again victorious in the April 2004 elections, and Mbeki was elected to serve another term. The landslide election victory, garnering 70% of the vote and ensuring Mbeki being in power until 2009.

In 2010 South Africa was the first African nation to ever host FIFA's World Cup.

South Africa had entered the 21st century with enormous problems to resolve, but the smooth transition of power in a government that represented a majority of the people - something unthinkable less than a decade earlier - provided hope that those problems could be addressed peaceably.

In March 2005 deputy president Jacob Zuma - who was widely held to be Mbeki's successor as president of the ANC and, eventually, as president of the country - was dismissed by Mbeki amid charges of corruption; the next year Zuma stood trial for an unrelated charge of rape. He was acquitted of rape in May 2006, and the corruption charges were dropped later that year. Despite the repeated allegations of wrongdoing, which his supporters claimed were politically motivated, Zuma remained a popular figure within the ANC and was selected over Mbeki to be party president at the ANC conference in December 2007, in what was one of the most contentious leadership battles in the party's history.

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Last Updated on Wednesday 29th December 2010