Road to democracy in South Africa
South Africa’s road to democracy began with activists fighting to eliminate apartheid. Major changes in democracy occurred between 1990 and 1994; the road to democracy was not easy for the leaders involved; they had to go through the challenges of negotiations due to violent attacks instigated by different interest groups. One of the obstacles leaders faced was the township violence during the negotiations to end apartheid.
The Sebokeng Massacre took place when Nelson Mandela was released from prison. The other massacre was in Katlehong in 1990 that began as a protest march against high rent and electricity prices. The Boipatong massacre took place the same year in one of the African National Congress (ANC) party strongholds. Violence took place in one of the largest provinces Kwa Zulu Natal. While a state of emergency was, declared violence continued with more people dying. These were the challenges faced by leaders during negotiation to end apartheid and fight for freedom.
After several-failed attempt to negotiate with the government, and increased violence in protest of government ban of political parties, the president’s announcement in Parliament on 2nd February 1990, changed the course of South Africa’s future. He dismantled the apartheid regime that ruled the country by lifting the ban on political parties like ANC and PAC. He ordered the release of all political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela in Robben Island. The president announced he was willing to work with political parties to create a more democratic constitution in South Africa.
After the announcement, ended violence and negotiations continued between the government official and the ANC leaders in Cape Town to discuss the way forward. The negotiation included granting immunity to prosecuted political offenders, releasing other political prisoners, allowing political leaders who went into exile to return to South Africa. On March 1993 marked the beginning of democracy in South Africa, a new multi party negotiation began to discuss a power sharing system where all parties would get equal representation in parliament.
Devolving power to the provinces was granted and people were to elect their leaders at the constituent assembly that would form an interim government to run the country for the next five years. All the parties were involved in drafting the new constitution and bill of rights was included in the Constitution for the first time. The negotiations agreed that the government would remain the highest authority and would facilitate the adoption of the new constitution and the upcoming elections. The government was to consult with all party authorities. The ANC promoted black advancement through an affirmative action and compensation of losses incurred during apartheid. ANC was keen to end the white rule by negotiating for a multi-party conference or constituent assembly.
During the April 1994, the election saw a major transition from an authoritarian rule to a more democratic country. The large queues seen at the voting stations were a clear indication that power was changing hands. This was the first election that allowed South Africans to participate in the democratic process by choosing their rulers regardless of their background. Nelson Mandela was elected the president as South Africa exercised their democratic right; all citizens were allowed to vote with over 19 million people voting. After the 3 stages of negotiations for the transition to liberate South Africans, apartheid was defeated, and black Africans were on the edge of attaining the long awaited freedom. When Nelson Mandela took an oath to serve the country, his famous words were “Never, never and never again shall the beautiful and will again experience such oppression”. There were many challenges that hindered democracy in the country, but eventually, through the persistence of its leaders, the country finally attained freedom.