The Unraveling of Apartheid Essay

1365 WordsDec 7, 20126 Pages
The unraveling of apartheid The government was successful at containing opposition for almost a decade, and foreign investment that had been briefly withdrawn in the early 1960s returned. Such conditions proved to be only temporary, however. A new phase of resistance began in 1973 when black trade unions organized a series of strikes for higher wages and improved working conditions. Stephen Biko and other black students founded the Black Peoples Convention (BPC) in 1972 and inaugurated what was loosely termed the Black Consciousness movement, which appealed to blacks to take pride in their own culture and proved immensely attractive. On June 16, 1976, thousands of children in Soweto, an African township outside Johannesburg, demonstrated against the government’s insistence that they be taught in Afrikaans rather than in English. When the police opened fire with tear gas and then bullets, the incident initiated a nationwide cycle of protest and repression. Using its usual tactics, the government banned many organizations such as the BPC, and within a year the police had killed more than 500, including Biko. These events focused worldwide attention on South Africa. The UN General Assembly had denounced apartheid in 1973; four years later the UN Security Council voted unanimously to impose a mandatory embargo on the export of arms to South Africa. The illusion that apartheid would bring peace to South Africa had shattered by 1978. Most of the homelands proved to be economic and political disasters: labour was their only significant export, and most of their leadership was corrupt and unpopular. The national economy entered a period of recession, coupled with high inflation, and many skilled whites emigrated. South Africa, increasingly isolated as the last bastion of white racial domination on the continent, became the focus of global denunciation. At that

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