Opposition in South Africa: The Leadership of Z.K. Matthews, Nelson Mandela, and Stephen Biko

By Tim J. Juckes | Go to book overview

4
Apartheid, Mass Action, and the Opposition's Future

The 1948 election was a crucial watershed in the evolving South African society. The white voters of South Africa chose to stand firm against a postwar movement that was building throughout the colonial world. The moves to open political and social systems were especially marked in Africa. Independent countries would begin appearing in the north, and even at this early stage, the countries to the south sensed the changed world. Over a decade later, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan spoke in the South African Parliament of the "winds of change" to express what he perceived to be an inevitable process of change moving throughout the continent ( Macmillan, 1966).

In 1948, the white voters of South Africa showed clearly their defiance against these winds of change that followed in the wake of the Second World War. Instead, the white voters of South Africa tried to go it alone. The National Party had focused its fear mongering on the black population, and, conveniently for its cause, the decolonization movement rallied the whites within South Africa ( de Villiers, 1975). This election asserted the Afrikaner nationalist sentiment that independence and freedom from outside interference was fundamental to their survival ( Thompson, 1985).

Earlier policies can be seen as precursors of apartheid, but the 1948 election marked a dramatic transition in South African politics. In the years before 1948, it was possible to believe that the voices from the far right would continue but would never win a majority of white support. Even after

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