Title page for ETD etd-10042005-105712

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Van Wyk, Barry
Email bjvwyk@gmail.com
URN etd-10042005-105712
Document Title The balance of power and the transition to democracy in South Africa
Degree MHCS (History)
Department Historical and Heritage Studies
Advisor Name Title
Prof A Mlambo Co-Supervisor
Dr J E H Grobler Supervisor
  • no key words available
Date 2004-11-17
Availability unrestricted
This is a study of the transition to democracy in South Africa. Within a broad theoretical framework it poses and addresses the seminal historical question of why apartheid ended as it did, and why democracy superseded apartheid in South Africa. This study delineates South Africa’s transition as the ultimate consequence of the clash between the enforced political constructs of apartheid and the inexorably prevailing economic realities in South Africa.

The political superstructure of apartheid was implemented from 1948 in order to impose certain strictly political interventionist measures over and above the general structural economic concerns of the South African polity. The concomitant yet less politically prominent economic components of this interventionist programme initially complemented the as yet underdeveloped configuration of the South African economy, and hence a period of rapid economic growth and industrialisation ensued after 1948 that temporarily obscured the long-term structural deficiencies of the South African economy. Eventually, however, the economic framework imposed under the aegis of the political balance of power induced a sustained structural economic crisis in South Africa. From roughly the mid-1970s, South Africa’s hitherto virtually exponential annual economic growth rate was transposed into a period of economic degeneration.

In an attempt to offset the damaging regression of the South African economy, a myriad of reform initiatives resulted from the realm of government that sought to blunt the manifest aspects of apartheid while not infringing on the core political safeguards of White hegemony inherent in the political balance of power. It was only with the advent of the 1990s, however, that FW de Klerk endeavoured to reach a settlement with the hitherto banned ANC. Yet De Klerk’s unprecedented liberalising actions of the early 1990s initially retained residual elements of the political balance of power in the form of demands by the NP for the protection of minority rights in the forthcoming democracy. Nevertheless, the growing global consensus of the late 1980s advocating the primacy of negotiations, coupled with the involvement of numerous international actors and the excruciating process of negotiations in South Africa of the early 1990s would lead the ANC to progressively jettison its initial interventionist policies, while the NP would likewise come to abandon its insistence on minority rights.

Thus in 1994 a governmental environment prevailed in South Africa intent on addressing the exigencies of the South African economy as its prime policy objective in the absence of concerns related to a forced political preponderance. This epoch is enunciated in the study as the economic balance of power. In toto, the economic balance of power and the antecedent political balance of power are collectively articulated as the balance of power, and this theoretical construct is utilised in this study to explain South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy.

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