Spotlight on Afrikaners' role against apartheid

FUNDAMENTALISTS who believe that People's War and suchlike mass pressures caused apartheid to collapse will probably bristle at Professor David Welsh's argument that the "movementawayfrom apart-heid to majority rule would have taken far longer and been much bloodier were it not for the changes undergone by Afrikaner nationalism itself".

In one chapter, Fissures and Fractures in Afrikaner Nationalism, Welsh notes that in the mid- to late 1980s, younger Afrikaners started to differ with their elders who had sired and nurtured racial discrimination.

The manifestations were protests against conscription for the army and the war in Namibia-Angola, anti-establishment rock music that had departed from the patronising Boeremusiek, and alternative Afrikaans journalism led by Max du Preez's Vrye Weekblad newspaper.

"Without the widespread recognition among whites in general, and Afrikaners in particular, that apartheid had not only failed, but that its lingering residue posed a danger to white survival, the transition could not have succeeded (as relatively peacefully as it did)," Welsh contends.

The retired academic should be praised for acknowledging that no single factor satisfactorily explains the "miracle" political transition.

He inter alia credits the Soweto uprisings, and the growing strength of black opposition.

Notes Welsh: "Black resistance in the 1980s had its roots in what had gone before, but its scope, intensity and durability was far greater than what had occurred in 1960, after Sharpeville, or in 1976-77."

Welsh was born in the Mother City and educated at the Cape Town and Oxford universities. He taught at UCT from 1963 until he retired in 1997. He has written two books, The Roots of Segregation (with Frederick Van Zyl Slabbert) and South Africa's Options.

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