Essay: Reasons behind the ending of the Apartheid

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  • Reasons behind the ending of the Apartheid
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In this research, I intend to analyse reasons behind the ending of the Apartheid along with evaluating if sport was the main reason. The word ‘Apartheid’ is used to explain the segregation that arose in South Africa based off of the colour of their skin. This EPQ will be split off into sub sections regarding political views, sporting ideologies, social views and also economic reasons all with the intention of explaining the ending of the Apartheid, a controversial topic in world history. Within each section I intend to assess how they affected the Apartheid and how they are thought to of been the reason it ended. In this project, I intend to focus solely on these factors and aim to come to a valid conclusion via secondary research.

Within the sport section, views from other countries and also South Africans themselves will be portrayed in order to fully explain why sport had such a huge impact on the Apartheid.

The political section will explore political beliefs of both the government and foreign governments along with the people of South Africa themselves.

The economic part of this project puts a heavy stress on sanctions issued to South Africa during the Apartheid.

Finally, the social section looks to assess and analyse the beliefs of the people of South Africa and their reactions towards the Apartheid and how they played a part in its demise.


I decided to base my EPQ on the many reasons of the Apartheid ending as it gives me a chance to broaden my knowledge of history, a subject I did for GCSE but not A Level, whilst allowing myself to pursue a topic which interlinks with sport without overlapping with my A Level Physical Education. I chose this topic for numerous reasons, primarily because it is a huge area of modern history that affected countless numbers of people and is of personal interest to me. Furthermore, my interest in sport allowed me to come across the Apartheid through the South African rugby team and since then has been of huge interest to me. Along with this, with racism being such a huge topic in the modern day that still needs to be addressed, I thought exploring this topic would expand my knowledge on racism in the 1900s and help me to understand why it arises and where it comes from and potentially stumble across information that could explain why it may occur in certain countries within certain sports.

Racism is defined as a prejudice or discrimination towards someone’s race due to believing your race is superior. When assessing the racism that took place in the form of the Apartheid, it’s clear to see it was discrimination against the black people, leading to white Afrikaans reaping the benefits of one race being targeted and discriminated against. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the noun Apartheid has the meaning of “a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on the grounds of race” and originated in the late 1940s by the Afrikaans with the literal meaning of separateness in the Dutch language. Views from society differed all over the world, evidently with the black race all over the world being completely against this method of segregation known as the Apartheid and with many white people across the globe also not in full support of the movement.

The Apartheid was put into place in 1948 when the National Party came into power. The National Party immediately began enforcing some pre-existing rules on racial segregation and also created more guidelines and rules for the black people of South Africa to follow. However as previously mentioned, they enforced pre-existing rules meaning that the begins of the Apartheid took place much before we realise with the Land Act of 1913 forcing non-white South Africans to live in reserves. However, in 1991, President F.W. de Klerk and his government began removing ideologies of the Apartheid slowly reducing racism and leading to a reunited South Africa in many ways such as the people, the government and also their international relationships with other foreign countries that potentially may have been against the idea of the Apartheid. The official ending of the Apartheid was the 27th of April 1994. The reasons behind the ending of the Apartheid and the reuniting of the previously mentioned are going to be assessed and analysed within the discussion section of this essay.



The ending of the Apartheid occurred in 1994 and is without a doubt down to sport in some way, however depending on personal views people may see sport as a more or less important factor behind the ending of the Apartheid. The effect of the Apartheid on sport was massive, at times there were white only South African Rugby teams, the South African Rugby team are commonly known as the Springboks. Furthermore, the South African cricket team was also made of the white race only. Officials that were going to represent the nation in global competitions were also only white. It was clear that national sport was set up solely with the intention to accommodate the white race and do whatever it could to racially discriminate against those of a black skin tone. At the time in South Africa, “whites claimed blacks had neither the ability nor the interest to play modern sport” (Booth 382). They used this to justify the Apartheid at the time.

South Africa appeared to defend their actions regarding participation in the Olympics claiming that the Olympic movement should not concern itself regarding the Apartheid. South Africa were in fact invited to the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico however African nations threatened to boycott the competition leading to South Africa’s invite being withdrawn. This can be considered as one of the early signs foreshadowing the collapse of the Apartheid in the future. The International Olympic committee regarded the Apartheid as an African issue (Booth 384). With African nations prepared to boycott the Olympic games it attracted a lot of attention to the Apartheid, a ‘government policy’ in the words of Brundage the fifth president of the international Olympic committee (IOC). This all resulted in South African to be banned from the Olympics in 1962 and having their invite withdrawn from Mexico City Olympics in 1968. Evidently a country like South Africa, with such sporting prowess and an outstanding modern day reputation based off ability, for the people of the country they wouldn’t be able to support their nation. Ultimately for the top-level athletes representing their nation in the Olympics can be considered their goal and not being able to do so based off a ban stemming from a racial policy is likely to infuriate many athletes and cause some resistance to the policy of the Apartheid and potentially be where the views of many countries began to change in favour of anti-Apartheid resistance.

With the IOC implementing this ban, many other sports organisations and committees followed suit, however rugby was potentially the one sport that initially didn’t follow. Many other top level rugby nations carried on playing the Springboks and many tours were carried out however protestors at matches became too much and eventually nations such as New Zealand decided to abandon South Africa. Along with being frustrating for fans and players and anyone involved or with an interest in the National team, it proved to financially affect the nation’s economy which was boosted by the Springboks reputation on the rugby pitch. These other nations withdrew from touring to South Africa as they couldn’t bring black players too. Nations like New Zealand were hugely affected as their rugby heritage is based massively off of the Maori culture so in order to restore the political relation with New Zealand, the South African government allowed New Zealand to bring Maori players. This was a massive, overlooked point as it was the first time the Apartheid had been hugely undermined. With opposition such as New Zealand being allowed Maori players, it wasn’t long before South Africa allowed this too. However, it was a long process resulting in allowing black people to play sport to eventually allowing them to trial for the Springboks in 1977 and the first black springbok to be picked in 1980. Being given a South African rugby jersey allowed you to wear the badge of your country, a symbol of being part of the team. This gave many black people the feeling of belonging in the country and being a part of it, however it was clear the true feeling of belonging wouldn’t’ arise until they had the right to vote. In the words of General H.R. Klopper, “sport must be for all, regardless of race” (Booth 478).

Another sport that played a huge part and creating a resistance to the Apartheid movement was cricket and it all began through one player, Basil D’Oliveira. This one cricketer brought apart the D’Oliveira affair which regarded his selection for a tour of South Africa. Basil D’Oliveira was looking a likely selection for the MCC tour of South Africa based purely off ability however it was clear South Africa weren’t keen for a man of not white skin colour to tour their country and play cricket proving that the white race wasn’t superior (www.6). Before the tour, bribes were offered, politicians were involved and public opinions from South Africa were portrayed in order to prevent Basil D’Oliveira representing the MCC. The English nation backed D’Oliveira and supported his right to play for his country and English views on the Apartheid were starting to harshen and look to be more in favour of anti-Apartheid schemes. Unfortunately for cricket fans across the globe it saw the MCC withdraw from their tour of South Africa due to claims from South African national party leader Vorster that the MCC tour was looking to achieve particular political goals through a cricket tour, these claims were deemed to be “ludicrous” by Dennis Howell, labour sport minister (www.6). Although the MCC tour was withdrawn and South Africa’s return tour of England was cancelled, many rebel tours were undergone by nations such as England and the West Indies however players who participated in these tours were met with strict sanctions resulting in a lifetime ban of cricket in some cases ending player’s career’s. These lifetime bans prove to the general public across the world that the resistance to the Apartheid was beginning to pick up speed and growing in size and was no longer accepting the policy, but trying to counter it. However not all nations were against the Apartheid scheme and many decided to keep ties with South Africa due to political interests. Cricket is known as a massive sporting boycott but it’s clear the main reason it took place was due to the fact many cricketing nations have players of a black skin tone, for example teams such as Pakistan and India, both nations with a strong cricketing background. Sports like rugby were primarily white dominated so during the whole-time period of the Apartheid, South Africa were never removed from the International Rugby board. With some form of international relation between South Africa and other nations and no removal of South Africa from the International Rugby board, it was evident that the Apartheid still had many loyal supporters that agreed with their policies and were prepared to support what they believed for a long time. This is most likely what prevented the Apartheid from ending earlier, the fact it still had support and had a government at that current period of time that fully believed in its policies.

Ultimately the resistance displayed by many nations regarding playing South Africa with their policies on skin colour without a doubt had some impact on the downfall of the Apartheid affecting and influencing other aspects such as the social reasons. The boycotts were deemed as a way to encourage a response, “But as a tactic the sports boycott is limited to either bringing about negotiations or limited concessions: it cannot force the multi-racial movement to surrender or capitulate” (Booth 386).


The noun ‘sanctions’ is a phrase viewed as “a punitive action by one state against another, designed to force a change of policy without resorting to overt aggression” (Brewer 36)

During 1986 through till 1991, the biggest economic sanctions were enforced by some of South Africa’s most important trading partners, the USA and also Japan. The USA stopped importing certain steel and iron based products which was important to the South African economy. One of the most notable sanctions was that of the oil embargo which proved to have great effects on South Africa. The oil embargo being the reduced supply of oil coming from places such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states therefore leading to increased prices of things such as petrol in South Africa affecting the South African economy and becoming “a source of social unrest” (de Klerk 183). However, although the sanctions had some affect, they weren’t as effective as initially thought due to all the loopholes within the sanctions that were imposed which allowed South Africa some ways around their economic ‘punishment’ for the Apartheid scheme. Along with this, Switzerland didn’t partake in the economic sanctions which proved to be a huge factor behind the success of the Apartheid. Switzerland didn’t partake as they believed that economic sanctions weren’t the way to solve political issues. Ceilings were put on certain capital exports and required licences in order to prevent some trades through Switzerland. With 0.7% of Switzerland’s trade involving South Africa, it is evident that their contributions were very minimal and had little impact so Switzerland can’t be accused of having a part to play in prolonging the Apartheid.

With many believing the sanctions were a huge part in the demise of the Apartheid, numerous members of the public are unaware of the fact that before the economic sanctions were imposed, South Africa had already suffered their biggest cash outflow leading to a substantial amount of debt building up. This occurred a year before Apartheid rules and boundaries regarding trade were imposed on South Africa. It is estimated that the trade sanctions affected South Africa at 1.3% annual GNP (Gross national product) and the combination of both trade and financial sanctions were at 1.5% annual GNP. This shows us that these sanctions affected the South African economy however it is thought that it unqualified blacks were affected the most by these economic changes and that the unemployment rates of white males in South Africa continued to stay low. The economic sanctions did have a part to play regarding the Apartheid, however it can be thought that potentially these sanctions ended up punishing the already suffering party (black people) in South Africa and had a moderate at best impact on changing political views towards the Apartheid ideologies. In the words of President Reagan, “Our aim cannot be to punish South Africa with economic sanctions that would injure the very people we are trying to help”.


The social section explains how the South African people protested the campaign along with members of other nations. It goes on to explore the methods used by those of the Anti-Apartheid that weren’t relevant to sport or controlled by the government. The most obvious methods used consist of different campaigns and protests, some being violent protests.

The most well-known form of protest was the Soweto uprising which took place on the 16th of June 1976. The reasons behind the protest was the fact that the Bantu Education Department had decided the language of Afrikaans was to be used in half of the subjects that were taught in primary and secondary school in South Africa. Due to the fact, a large amount of the National Party spoke Afrikaans, it was potentially viewed by the black people as the language of those trying to eliminate the black race through the Apartheid scheme causing a negative reaction from black students. The uprising took place in the form of a around ten thousand students marching towards the Orlando soccer stadium singing songs about freedom and carrying signs protesting the Apartheid scheme and the decision of speaking Afrikaans within school(www.2). However, police were quick to try and shut this protest down and attempted to send them back to where they came from using tear gas and warning shots. This ended up causing many of the protestors to flee however some decided to hurl stones at police officers. The Soweto uprising proves to be a huge part of South African history and can be considered as one of the biggest social impacts seen to this day. The aftermath of this movement made it much harder to maintain peace, along with social and political stability throughout this time period and led to a massive increase in black resistance giving many people the confidence to protest the Apartheid movement as if students were willing to risk their lives, it would likely have influenced many people to join the future protests and bring down this awful government scheme.

The Anti-Apartheid Movement was a British boycott movement which was one of the main opposition to the Apartheid scheme. The Anti-Apartheid movement(AAM) worked with the aim to damage the structure of the Apartheid scheme resulting in being known as one of the biggest solidarity movements in world history. In order to be effective it began to develop links with a few political parties to try and take down the Apartheid scheme in every way through the form of boycotts regarding sport and economic ways, two things previously touched on earlier in this essay. The AAM brought awareness to the British public of the harsh truths of the Apartheid and used volunteers and actors to promote this Anti-Apartheid propaganda (www.3). The numerous numbers of public speakers and posters spread the support amongst Britain leading to an increase in resistance against the Apartheid.
Another social factor contributing to the demise of the Apartheid was the ANC, originally the South African Native National Congress. This was a group for educated black people in 1919 that began resistance to the Apartheid in 1949. They supported strikes and non-violent protests attempting to bring down the apartheid (www.4). Mandela was also involved in 1952 where the Defiance Campaign began which was where people purposefully broke apartheid laws and didn’t resist arrest. They believed an influx in prisoners would make the justice system collapse. For example, this caused black people to get on white buses and white areas causing 8,000 people to be put into jail. In 1959, certain members broke off Into the PAC pursuing freedom in the form of violence. Although the actions of the ANC had no direct effect on bringing down the apartheid, it helped to create awareness for the scheme across the world and gave hope to many of the oppressed black people all throughout South Africa helping to show them that people were doing what they could to gain freedom. With the ANC showing constant disapproval to the Apartheid scheme, it made sure that there were still people contesting their right to freedom as if certain groups such as the ANC stopped protesting there is a chance that many other black people would also stop contesting and eventually there may be very minimal resistance to the Apartheid regime.

The Soweto uprising had such a huge impact on creating support and awareness for the Anti-Apartheid movement so I believe it had a greater short term impact on bringing down the Apartheid whereas the AAM worked as a long-term solution in creating constant awareness amongst Britain on a regular basis. The ANC were important to black people at the time as they represented parts of the black population. They went about their protests in a largely peaceful way in order to prevent a negative impression on their campaign. Upholding these rules was vital in securing support from other people as no would back an illegal and violent organisation. All three tactics were huge in providing a form of resistance against the government structure and ideologies. Without either the Soweto uprising, the AAM or the ANC it is likely that it would have taken much longer for any form of major resistance to occur from political parties. These three mentioned forms of resistance had the potential to encourage and almost ‘entice’ the governments to respond as organisations with little money and support were managing to create a form of resistance. If young school children are willing to risk their lives for what they thought and what we know is right, then the government had to respond in some way to show their families and themselves that their efforts didn’t go to waste and were massively important in generating schemes that looked to bring down the Apartheid.


In the 1980s the international criticism and resistance towards the Apartheid was heating up and becoming a major talking point across the world. Therefore in 1990 President Frederik de Klerk, the South African president at the time, made the decision to free Nelson Mandela( www.5). Mandela was originally a leader of a military set up known as Umkhonto we Sizwe and as he was a leader, he was sentenced to life in jail in 1962. Along with releasing Nelson Mandela, President de Klerk also lifted the ban he originally placed on any anti-Apartheid political parties which allowed negotiations to take place. Surprisingly the white minority approved the negotiations that were to lead to democratic change. As Mandela was aiming for a peaceful change regarding perceptions of race, he began a process with the aim of securing ‘inclusive’ elections. The release of Mandela proved to be important to the black people and showed that de Klerk was willing to negotiate with the black people of South Africa.

A government ideology that all white people must partake in military service at 18 and also again throughout their life at intervals seemed to frustrate and discriminate against many white people. This regime was important in maintaining a form of military structure and also political structure, arguable two things that were most important to the Apartheid (Roberts 55). This resistance showed to the public that the Apartheid regime wasn’t indestructible and they could contest aspects of it that didn’t suit them.

It is thought that the United States of America played a particularly large political role in the demise of the Apartheid. With the USA having their own segregation issues based off of skin colour earlier in their history, many people in the USA were looking to contest the regime. This was when African Americans were becoming impatient with the USA’s treatment of South Africa as these people had made the same attempts at equality earlier in their countries history. This was where the US created a movement “culminated in congressional passage of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid of 1986, which mandated a variety of sanctions designed to for the dismantling of Apartheid” (Schraeder 190). It became apparent that the relationship between the media coverage of violence in South Africa was what was to influence policymaking (Schraeder 218). Over time people began to organise protests and demonstrations in order to make American politicians react to the Apartheid and do something about it. Many people saw America’s first steps towards taking the Apartheid down solely as a form of appeasement. A key quotation, “In the 1980s, both the Reagan Administration’s policy of ‘constructive engagement’ and the anti-apartheid movement’s advocacy of sanctions focused on white South Africans-one through friendly persuasion and the other through economic arm-twisting (Mufson5). This explains initially the political resistance shown by the USA was not a big enough challenge to the regime. At the time, it can be seen that Reagans ineffective policy strengthened the Apartheid regime. American finally began to respond in 1986 when Congress passed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act (CAAA) completely going against Reagans wishes. It was the act driven through politics to create economic sanctions. Other countries followed America’s decisions to impose these sanctions which was touched on in the economic section of this essay. From here on in, all seemed to look better for South Africans thanks to America’s political intervention and it appeared the US set about to “bring about the complete dismantling of apartheid” (Schraeder233). In the 1989 election, de Klerk the chairman of the National Party made it clear he intended to end the regime slowly allowing the black majority to share the power with the white people and no longer suffer in the means of racial discrimination. His first steps in achieving this were to legalise protests against his government that weren’t violent allowing people to express their feelings without being oppressed. It can be thought that without the CAAA that was passed by the USA congress, the apartheid would have been dismantled at a later date in history. It put pressure on South Africa to respond to the USA gradually and also other countries who copied America when it came to certain sanctions. The CAAA benefits the USA as it helped show they agreed with the political morale’s of many people in the United States of America. The main negative towards the USA was the financial costs that they received by disinvesting in South African trade however this was something the USA was willing to risk in order to stand with the people of its country.


It is clear to see that either of the four mentioned categories had some form of effect on the bringing down of the Apartheid and each person’s view on what caused the ending is most likely to be different. With no conclusive evidence to express a certain reason being more important than any others it comes down to personal opinion on what we as individuals believe played the biggest part.

In analysing academic articles and websites surrounding the political, economic, sport and social factors, I do have an insight on to the extent sport affected the demise of this evil segregation campaign. In my opinion, sport had a greater impact than any of the other factors except potentially social factors for numerous reasons. It is clear to see that the sporting implications raised general awareness of the Apartheid. Furthermore, sport led to social views changing as when writing this essay, many of the sporting factors could have come under the social section as well. Along with this, sport also led to the political change of views for many people outside of South Africa and it would be naïve to completely rule out sport affecting other governments stands and views regarding the Apartheid.
Evidently the economic sanctions that were imposed on South Africa had some effect on the economy and even if the effect was minimal due to the already deteriorating South African economy they did have some effect. The economic sanctions were more likely to be a statement from other countries showing their disapproval to the Apartheid however without losing a trade partner that could affect their own country. Sport had a greater effect then these sanctions as when regarding economic sanctions, it comes down solely to governments to decide. When it came to sporting boycotts, they may have been decided behind the committee of each sport but the general public had a huge role when it came to expressing their feelings on the sport boycotts. A nation of sports fans is more likely to take notice of sports boycotts due to skin colour then economic sanctions.

When it comes to the political reasons behind the removal of the Apartheid’s structure, it appears that other nations governments played a bigger political role then South African’s government parties. This was due to the fact that parties couldn’t be set up to oppose the National Party during the Apartheid so it was tough to find political resistance to the regime in South Africa. This is again where sport linked in. South African teams being prevented from participating in many matches or competitions again helped to generate greater awareness that helped to portray the negatives of the regime. Therefore, the American government and potentially the English government would have been more likely to attempt an intervention politics wise in order to allow their sides to compete against South Africa in future to keep the nations fans at home much happier with the government. If the government didn’t stage an intervention or didn’t attempt to then ultimately, they wouldn’t get to play South Africa. The aim for countries that intervened was to bring down the Apartheid and the racism behind the regime.

Upon reading the essay, I believe sport had a tremendous impact in the removal of the Apartheid, it can be viewed as only generating awareness but those uninterested in politics were likely to take some notice when their hobby of sport was being affected. I believe sport had a greater impact then the political and economic sections however was similar to social in what they both achieved and wanted to achieve.

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