. 8
( 12)


nally planned to hold a referendum to decide the territory™s future. It
soon became apparent, however, that the morale of the Portuguese
forces “ white and black “ was too low to control the situation for even
278 Africa since 1800

a few months. There were strikes in the docks at Beira and Louren¸ oc
Marques, and rural uprisings directed against plantations owned by
whites. Portugal™s new rulers accordingly gave up the attempt to
negotiate a constitutional settlement and, in mid-1974, signed the
Lusaka Accord with Machel, which left FRELIMO in full control
of the country. In spite of some resistance by Portuguese settlers,
mainly in Louren¸ o Marques, independence was achieved in June
Following the apparent victory of Neto™s MPLA in Angola and
of Machel™s FRELIMO in Mozambique, both countries were gov-
erned along rigid Marxist lines, with much emphasis placed on the
mobilisation of the whole population to create new socialist soci-
eties, free of both their colonial and much of their older African
inheritance. In both countries, most of the European settlers ¬‚ed
during the early months of independence. Both governments, how-
ever, showed themselves to be pragmatic in so far as their external
relations were concerned. The MPLA honoured the understanding
not to interfere with the Cunene power stations, but nevertheless
provided assistance to the SWAPO guerrillas who were in¬ltrating
South-West Africa from Angola. In 1978, South African forces re-
taliated by raiding the SWAPO base at Cassinga, some 200 km (150
miles) inside Angola, and such raids continued into the 1980s. Again,
while accepting support from Russia and Cuba, Angola retained its
commercial agreement with the American Gulf Oil Company to ex-
ploit the oil of Cabinda. Mozambique, for its part, provided full sup-
port to the Rhodesian nationalist forces which operated from bases
in Mozambique in launching their offensives inside Rhodesia, in
reprisal for which Mozambique had to suffer many destructive raids
by Rhodesian government troops. On the other hand, Mozambique
maintained correct diplomatic relations with South Africa and tol-
erated the continued recruitment of large numbers of Mozambican
migrant workers for the South African gold mines, and itself em-
ployed South African staff to run the railway and harbour facilities
of Maputo, which was the new name for Louren¸ o Marques.
By the late 1970s, events were proving how hollow had been the
victories of both the MPLA and FRELIMO. The socialist policies
pursued by the Angolan and the Mozambican leaders were proving
equally disastrous on the economic side and, in both countries, civil
Road to Independence: Central Africa 279

war was once again becoming widespread. In Angola, the forces of
UNITA had been defeated but not broken. Under Savimbi™s capa-
ble leadership, and with much South African and some Zambian
help, the movement recouped its losses and was able to continue
its struggle against the Luanda government. In this struggle, much
depended on the future of South-West Africa. The MPLA did not
feel secure enough to get rid of the Cubans and come to terms with
Savimbi until South-West Africa had become independent of South
African garrisons. But South Africa, covertly backed by the United
States, would not grant independence to South-West Africa without
at least a promise of Cuban withdrawal. In Mozambique, a shadowy
˜anti-Marxist™ guerrilla movement called RENAMO (The Nationalist
Resistance Movement of Mozambique), which was initially recruited
and trained by the white government of Ian Smith, began attacking
FRELIMO forces and disrupting local services. After 1980, patronage
of RENAMO passed to South Africa, although through agencies over
which the South African government probably had little control, and
its operations became more widespread and more destructive than

From Rhodesia to Zimbabwe
As was to be expected, the Rhodesian UDI produced a crisis with
worldwide rami¬cations. Here, almost at the end of the long story
of African liberation movements, was a minority of 250,000 white
Rhodesians asserting their right to rule in independence over more
than 4 million Africans. Yet, no country in the outside world was
prepared to intervene by force of arms “ certainly not Britain, which
was still in international law responsible for Rhodesia. The British
government refused to recognise the declaration and successfully
prevented its recognition in all other capitals of the world. Working
through the UN, it went on to organise a series of ¬nancial and com-
mercial sanctions, which were agreed to by most governments, but
which were not always enforced by those governments upon their
own citizens. South Africa and Portugal refused to operate sanc-
tions at all, and there is no doubt that this was what mainly enabled
Rhodesia to survive. Above all, oil “ the one external commodity re-
ally vital to the Rhodesian economy “ continued to reach the country.
280 Africa since 1800

In the meantime, however, more militant action was being
launched against Rhodesia from the outside. Between 1967 and
1970, ZAPU, together with the African National Congress of South
Africa, organised a number of guerrilla incursions into the Zambezi
valley from Zambia. Then, late in 1972, ZANU started an offensive
into north-eastern Rhodesia from the FRELIMO-held enclaves in
Tete district. As the scale of guerrilla attacks increased, so did that of
the regime™s counter-insurgency measures, which were helped until
1975 by South Africa. These included the construction of security
fences along the border with Mozambique, the herding of the local
population into ˜protected villages™, and the designation of ˜no-go™
areas, where anyone breaking the curfew could be shot on sight.
Early in 1973, Smith closed the border with Zambia in retaliation
for Kaunda™s support of the ZAPU guerrillas. The coup in Portugal
in April 1974 implied that Mozambique would soon be an indepen-
dent state hostile to Rhodesia, which thus became considerably more
From about 1974, guerrilla activities were conducted by armies
which were distinct from the political parties which formally con-
trolled them “ ZAPU™s Zimbabwe Independence People™s Army
(ZIPRA) and ZANU™s Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army
(ZANLA). In 1975, Robert Mugabe left Rhodesia for Mozambique,
where he played an important part in directing the war, working
closely with President Machel. By 1976, guerrilla activities had esca-
lated into outright war fought on a number of fronts and, by 1979, the
nationalist forces had succeeded in penetrating deep into Rhodesia,
almost as far as Salisbury itself. South Africa became increasingly
concerned by the scale of the con¬‚ict and changed its policy from
one of support for the white government into one designed to pro-
mote the emergence of a ˜friendly™ black government installed in an
independent Zimbabwe. As early as 1974, the South African prime
minister, Vorster, tried without success to negotiate with the nation-
alist leaders, and the next year he even joined forces with President
Kaunda of Zambia to put pressure on the Rhodesians. In 1976, Ian
Smith made one attempt to achieve an ˜internal settlement™ by hold-
ing talks with Joshua Nkomo: when they failed, Nkomo left Rhodesia
for Zambia. Later that year, the American secretary of state, Henry
Kissinger, visited southern Africa and, as part of a wider mission,
Road to Independence: Central Africa 281

met all the main actors in the Rhodesian drama. Astonishingly, he
obtained Smith™s agreement in principle to settle for African ma-
jority rule within two years, but the only response of Nkomo and
Mugabe was to escalate the ¬ghting and to form a Patriotic Front to
unite the efforts of ZAPU and ZANU. At length, in 1978, Smith con-
cluded an internal settlement with the ˜moderate™ African element,
led by Bishop Muzorewa, Sithole, and Chief Chirau, with whom he
agreed to share power, pending one-man/one-vote elections in April
1979. By this time, the strains of the mounting struggle were clearly
beginning to tell upon the European population. Whites were emi-
grating in signi¬cant numbers, even though compelled to leave most
of their property behind them when they did so. Of those who re-
mained, many were by now conscripted at least for part-time ser-
vice in the defence forces. Despite strenuous attempts to Africanise
the army, it became increasingly doubtful how wholeheartedly such
forces would ¬ght against their fellow countrymen in the guerrilla
movements. And the Rhodesian economy showed signs of disinte-
grating under the burden of war.
Thus, when Bishop Muzorewa emerged victorious from the elec-
tion of April 1979, it was apparent that, even though Rhodesia had
taken the momentous step to a mainly black government, there
would be no lasting peace and no international recognition until
the nationalists in exile had been accommodated. Lord Carrington,
who became British foreign secretary in May 1979, at once addressed
himself to this problem. Essentially, it was a matter of persuading
Muzorewa and his colleagues to submit themselves to a fresh elec-
tion, to be held after a brief period of resumed British rule, during
which the exiles would be permitted to return to the country and join
fully in the election campaign. Equally, it was necessary to persuade
the exiles to drop their military activities in favour of political action
and to trust in the fair conduct of the election. Carrington™s initiative
received much support at the routine meeting of Commonwealth
prime ministers at Lusaka in August. Leaders of the front-line states
joined in putting pressure on the various parties to attend a consti-
tutional conference in London, which in the event dragged on from
September until December. Just before Christmas, it was judged that
suf¬cient mutual trust had been achieved for Lord Soames to be sent
as governor, with wide powers but no force other than a contingent
282 Africa since 1800

of military ˜monitors™ 1,400 strong, to supervise the reabsorption of
some 25,000 guerrilla ¬ghters and the conduct of the election which
followed only two months later.
The result of the election of February 1980 was probably a sur-
prise to all who took part in it. Of 100 seats in the new parliament,
Muzorewa™s party won three and Sithole™s party none. Of the exiles,
Joshua Nkomo™s party, which had enjoyed the hospitality of Zambia
and the material support of the Soviet Union, won twenty seats, all in
Matabeleland. The overwhelming victory, with ¬fty-seven seats, went
to Robert Mugabe™s ZANU/PF, the party with a reputation for uncom-
promising Marxism, which had been hosted in exile by Machel of
Mozambique. The remaining twenty seats were reserved for whites,
and all went to the Rhodesian Front. If there was momentary dismay
felt in western countries, this was certainly reciprocated in those of
the Soviet bloc, whose satellites were not even invited to the indepen-
dence celebrations which followed on 18 April. Meanwhile, Mugabe™s
early speeches and public statements had been reminiscent of those
of Jomo Kenyatta when he assumed power in the Kenya of 1963.
Reconciliation was the keynote. Pragmatism rather than dogma was
to be the guiding light. Black and white would walk into the future
arm-in-arm and with full con¬dence.
TWENTY. The Long Road to
Democracy in Southern Africa

D uring the years between 1945 and 1980, while the rest of Africa
was making the transition from colonial rule to independence
under African governments, the principal country of southern Africa
was moving ¬rmly in the opposite direction. The reason was not that
the 9 million or so Africans who lived there were any slower in devel-
oping political consciousness than those living in countries farther
north. To the contrary, missionary education in South Africa went
back to the middle of the nineteenth century, and by the middle of the
twentieth, there were black professors, black doctors, black clergy,
black journalists, and a host of other professional people who were
at least as able as their contemporaries in other African countries to
see the signi¬cance of the United Nations Charter and the coming
withdrawal of the British from India. Black South African delegates
had attended the Fifth Pan“African Congress in Manchester in 1945
and were in touch with the emerging political leaders of tropical
Africa like Nkrumah and Kenyatta. By December 1945, the African
National Congress (ANC) of South Africa had formally and publicly
demanded one-man/one-vote and freedom of movement, residence,
and land-ownership. Its of¬cials were already lobbying at the United
Nations, and even presenting petitions from the Africans of South
West Africa asking for a UN trusteeship to replace the League of
Nations Mandate.
What made the difference in South Africa was the existence of a
white community of some 4 million, by far the largest and longest

284 Africa since 1800

established in the whole continent, which had long controlled the
whole civil and military apparatus of the state and was independent
of any outside power. The white South Africans, especially those of
Dutch descent, had long ago lost touch with relatives in Europe, and
they took it for granted that their children and grandchildren would
remain in Africa and continue to enjoy the same political and eco-
nomic privileges as themselves. Until the Second World War, these
privileges had not needed to be very forcefully asserted. Up to this
time, all the rest of Africa, and much of southern Asia, had been ruled
by much smaller white minorities than their own, and South Africa,
like Rhodesia, had been regarded as an honorary member of the
colonial club. Any differences in the way Africans were governed in
South Africa were regarded as matters of method and timing rather
than of fundamental ideology. But when, in 1945, Britain announced
the intention of withdrawing from its Indian empire, and when the
independence of some West African territories began to be talked of
as none too distant, white South Africans were quick to see that their
privileges would either have to be surrendered or else defended by
the use of more and more coercion.
Internally, the war had brought important changes in South Africa.
Considerable numbers of young white men, mostly from the English-
speaking community, had joined the armed services and fought in
campaigns in North Africa and Europe. Africans, Coloured peo-
ple, and Indians had joined the non-combatant medical and labour
services. The civilian jobs of the white soldiers, which had been
mostly in industry and commerce, were taken partly by ˜poor white™
Afrikaners who had been pushed off the land and partly by Africans
migrating from the rural areas. Thus, Afrikaners consolidated the
important position they already occupied in the industrial sector of
the economy, while many Africans moved into skilled or semi-skilled
jobs from which they had previously been debarred. The war years
witnessed an immense growth of mining, but even more of man-
ufacturing industries. South African factories became major sup-
pliers of small arms to the Allied forces. As a result, the size of the
labour force increased “ and almost entirely from the non-white pop-
ulation groups. The new factories and the increased mining activi-
ties were nearly all in the established urban centres “ Johannesburg
and its satellites in the Transvaal, and the ports of Cape Town, Port
The Long Road to Democracy in Southern Africa 285

Elizabeth, and Durban. The number of people of all groups living in
South Africa™s burgeoning cities vastly increased.
After 1945, the wartime government led by Jan Smuts appeared
uncertain and vacillating in the face of the mounting political and
economic pressures. By turns liberal and authoritarian, they adhered
to no clear-cut policy to deal with South Africa™s problems. Smuts
realised that something would have to be done to alleviate the misery
of South Africa™s huge African urban population and the bitterness
and confusion brought about by discrimination. In the 1948 elec-
tions, Smuts™s United Party was narrowly defeated by the National
Party, led by D. F. Malan, some of whose supporters had succeeded
in frightening voters with the allegation that certain of Smuts™s min-
isters were in favour of granting full political equality, which would
result in a ˜coffee-coloured race™. The determination to remain dom-
inant, and the corresponding fear of being ˜swamped™ by the African
majority, was one which motivated nearly all whites. Only a handful
believed in “ and worked for “ a free and equal society. Most whites
clung to the notion of baaskap, and most were prepared to see the
government of their choice using force to maintain it. At the theo-
retical level of political science, apartheid emerged among Afrikaner
intellectuals of the late 1930s and 1940s. At its most ideal, the doc-
trine looked forward to a South Africa that would be geographically
divided between the white race and the various African ˜nations™ “
Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho. Among most whites, however, apartheid was
little more than a digni¬ed name for baaskap. As the Nationalist
prime minister Strijdom put it, ˜Call it paramountcy, baaskap or
what you will, it is still domination. I am being as blunt as I can.
I am making no excuses. Either the white man dominates or the
black man takes over™. Indeed, the early National Party governments
showed little interest in implementing the main proposals of the
apartheid programme. Instead, they smothered the non-white peo-
ple of South Africa with a mass of restrictive and discriminatory leg-
islation, withdrawing rights, drastically limiting choice, and rigidly
de¬ning inequality. The meagre political rights of the Cape Africans
and Coloured people, entrenched in the Union Constitution of 1910,
were removed “ those of the Coloured people in the course of a long
and bitter constitutional con¬‚ict between 1951 and 1956 and those
of the Cape Africans in 1959.
286 Africa since 1800

Every aspect of the lives of Africans, Coloureds, and Indians was
affected by the torrent of legislation. A list of even some of these
Acts of the white parliament indicates their range and scope. The
Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act 1949 and the Immorality Act
1950 prohibited members of different races from having any inti-
mate relations. The Population Registration Act 1950, which made
race a legal as well as a biological concept, was particularly insulting
in de¬ning a Coloured person in purely negative terms, as ˜a person
who is not a white person or a native™. The Abolition of Passes and
Co-ordination of Documents Act 1952 made it compulsory for all
African men (and later women) to carry a ˜reference book™, a new
term for the old ˜pass™, and established a countrywide system of in-
¬‚ux control to regulate the movements of Africans and to restrict
their entry into the urban areas. The Group Areas Act 1950 and its
amendments, and the Separate Amenities Act 1953, attempted com-
plete physical and social separation of the races by the removal of
Coloured people, Indians, and Africans to the outskirts of cities and
towns, rigid segregation in sport and other recreations, the use of
separate facilities on trains and buses, and of separate seats in pub-
lic parks, all of which led to a rash of ˜Whites Only™ signs across
the length and breadth of the land. The Native Laws Amendment
Act 1957 consolidated the control over Africans in urban areas,
which had ¬rst been attempted in the 1923 Urban Areas Act. The
amended Industrial Conciliation Act 1965 legalised job reservation
for whites and precluded Africans from the process of industrial
conciliation over wages. The Suppression of Communism Act 1950,
the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1953, and the Unlawful Organi-
sations Act 1960 aimed at the total suppression of all but the tamest
opposition, and were almost unequalled for their harshness in the
democratic countries of the western world. Only a few legislative
measures of the National Party (NP) governments in the 1950s were
overtly ideological. The most important of these were the Bantu
Education Act 1953 and the Extension of University Education Act
1959, which took African primary and secondary education out of
missionary control and created separate and inferior institutions of
university type for non-whites. These Acts made education an in-
strument of government policy in attempting to reshape and control
men™s minds. H. Verwoerd, then minister of native affairs, said of the
1953 Act,
The Long Road to Democracy in Southern Africa 287

Racial relations cannot improve if the wrong type of education is given to the
Natives. They cannot improve if the result of Native education is the creation
of frustrated people who, as a result of the education they receive, have expec-
tations in life which circumstances in South Africa do not allow to be ful¬lled
immediately, when it creates people who are trained for professions not open to

The long succession of NP governments did not tamper with the
Westminster model of parliamentary democracy. Elections were held
regularly, and opposition parties were allowed to function within the
safe con¬nes of the all-white electorate. The party™s steadily growing
electoral successes were an indication both of the support which
it had built up among some English-speaking electors as well as
among the great majority of Afrikaners. In 1974, the NP held 82 per-
cent of the seats, the highest proportion gained by any one party
in South African history. The of¬cial opposition, the United Party
(UP), failed to ¬nd an alternative policy to that of the government
and slowly broke up. The Liberal Party was much more outspoken in
its criticism of the regime, and individual members of it were pros-
ecuted under the government™s repressive laws. In 1965, the gov-
ernment introduced the Prohibition of Political Interference Act,
which made it illegal for anyone to belong to a racially mixed po-
litical party, whereupon the Liberals decided to disband. Another
liberally inclined movement, the Progressive Party, was founded in
1959, and this slowly captured the liberal wing of the United Party.
By 1975, it had become the Progressive Reform Party, which won
seventeen seats in the elections. The rump of UP members divided
into two smaller parties. Meanwhile, within the NP there emerged a
group of right-wing Afrikaners who considered that the party leaders
were insuf¬ciently resolute in their racial policies. During the 1960s,
the party became divided between a so-called enlightened group of
verligtes and the hardliners, or verkramptes. The verligtes were in
favour of ˜positive apartheid™, including a policy of detente and di-
alogue with black African states, while the verkramptes were con-
cerned to uphold baaskap. In 1969, the extreme verkramptes formed
a new party, the Herstigte Nasionale (Reconstituted National) Party.
The HNP never won any seats in parliamentary elections, but its
political activities, combined with those of the verkramptes who re-
mained within the NP, acted as a powerful brake on the government™s
verligte tendencies.
288 Africa since 1800

As was only to be expected, following the sheer mass and brutality
of government legislation, the 1950s saw political activity by non-
whites on an unprecedented scale. There were widespread multi-
racial demonstrations against the government™s determination to do
away with the Coloured people™s franchise. These were joined by
white groups such as the short-lived ex-servicemen™s Torch Com-
mando and the more durable women™s Black Sash movement. Then,
in 1952, the African National Congress (ANC) “ led by Albert Luthuli,
Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, and Walter Sisulu “ swung into
a concerted campaign of passive resistance to various discrimina-
tory rules and regulations, including the carrying of passes. Already
in 1951, the government had armed itself with the Suppression of
Communism Act, which left the minister of justice to decide which
persons or organisations were communist. In 1953, it enacted fur-
ther repressive legislation, enabling it to declare a state of emer-
gency, to arrest people for passive resistance and hold them without
trial, and to ban people to speci¬c rural areas. This inspired many
white radicals, not all of whom were communists, to side with the
African opposition, as did the main Coloured and Indian groups.
They formed a Congress Alliance, which in 1953 held a Congress of
the People at Kliptown near Johannesburg. There a Freedom Charter
was adopted, opening with the words ˜We, the people of South Africa,
declare for all our country and the world to know . . . that South Africa
belongs to all who live in it, and that no government can justly claim
authority unless it is based on the will of all the people™. The govern-
ment™s reaction was to charge 156 leaders of the Congress Alliance
with high treason. However, the trial was bungled and, after four
years of legal wrangling, all the accused were acquitted.
Meantime, important changes were taking place within the main
African opposition movement. The ANC split between those who
supported the multiracial ideal enshrined in the Freedom Charter
and those who pursued more speci¬cally African aims. The latter
group, led by Robert Sobukwe, formed the Pan“Africanist Congress
(PAC) in 1959. Despite the arrest of most of the leaders, mass demon-
strations continued, the most successful being a bus boycott at
Alexandria in the Transvaal. In 1960, the PAC launched a further
campaign of passive resistance to the pass laws, and this led to the
most tragic of all the confrontations between the white government
The Long Road to Democracy in Southern Africa 289

and the African people opposing it. On 21 March 1960, police ¬red
on a peaceful and unarmed crowd at Sharpeville in the south-
ern Transvaal, killing seventy-two people and wounding some 186,
including women and children. A few days later, 30,000 Africans
marched into the centre of Cape Town from their ˜location™ at Langa
some miles away. Some of them were killed by police-shooting at
Sharpeville immediately became the signal for worldwide condem-
nation of the South African regime, and the government was clearly
shaken both by the strength of the African opposition and by the
international reaction to the killings. Nevertheless, three days later,
a state of emergency was declared, most of the leading opposition
leaders were arrested, and both the ANC and the PAC were pro-
claimed unlawful organisations. Both of these organisations now
realised that they had come to the end of the road which led through
peaceful non-violent resistance, and both turned reluctantly to vio-
lent methods. The ANC mounted the Umkonto we Sizwe (Spear of
the Nation) to sabotage government installations, while the PAC was
involved in Poqo, which aimed to terrorise whites. The decade of
peaceful demonstrations was characterised by Albert Luthuli, who
was elected president of the ANC in 1952, and who was banned to
a remote corner of Zululand for launching a de¬ance campaign in
1959. He was honoured internationally by a Nobel Peace Prize, and
was grudgingly suspended from his banning order so that he could
travel to Norway to receive it. He died in 1967 and, toward the end
of his life, he wrote the following moving re¬‚ection:

Who will deny that thirty years of my life have been spent knocking in vain,
patiently, moderately and modestly, at a closed and barred door? What have been
the fruits of moderation? The past thirty years have seen the greatest number
of laws restricting our rights and progress, until today we have reached a stage
where we have almost no rights at all.

The non-violent de¬ance campaigns and demonstrations were
largely urban affairs, organised by a middle-class African elite. Given
the increasingly tight control exercised by the security forces, it be-
came a major problem for the ANC and PAC leaders to mobilise
mass support. In rural areas, however, different kinds of resistance
movements emerged, which were independent of the ANC and PAC
290 Africa since 1800

and much more dif¬cult for the government to deal with. The most
widespread and prolonged of these occurred in various parts of the
Transvaal, and also among the Pondo people of the Transkei. Here,
after three years of bitter con¬‚ict, the government declared a state of
emergency and launched a full-scale war against the Pondo. Many
people were killed, and many more injured before open resistance
came to an end. The state of emergency remained in force through-
out the setting up of a Bantustan in the Transkei and, indeed, was
continued by the Matanzima government there.
The crushing of open resistance in Pondoland, together with the
massacre at Sharpeville, marked a turning point in the history of
South Africa. With some members of the outlawed ANC and PAC
turning to violent resistance, the government had the occasion to
operate even more draconian repression. In 1962, the security police
captured Nelson Mandela, who had been operating underground
for more than a year-and-a-half, and in July 1963, the rest of the
ANC Umkonto leadership at their secret headquarters at Rivonia
Farm near Johannesburg were rounded up. The ensuing trial ended
with Mandela and eight others receiving life sentences. The six black
accused were sent to join Robert Subukwe, the leader of the PAC, on
Robben Island, a bleak rock set in the rough seas off Cape Town.
Meanwhile, a veritable reign of terror destroyed the underground
African opposition, as well as less dangerous organisations like the
radical Indian, Coloured, and white movements, and created such
an atmosphere of repression that even the respectable Liberal Party,
as we have seen, felt obliged to give up the struggle.
During most of the thirty years of National Party rule, the South
African economy expanded rapidly and brought great prosperity to
the state and to the white population which dominated it. The bases
for what could almost be called an economic miracle were the im-
mense natural resources of the country; the ability of the skilled
whites to support a fast-growing manufacturing sector; and the avail-
ability of a large, cheap, and strictly controlled labour force. South
African economic growth between 1948 and the early 1970s was one
of the highest in the world, rivalled only by that of Japan and certain
peculiarly fortunate mini-economies like that of Singapore. Because
of the very wide disparity in wages between white and black, the
prosperity was not equally shared. Whites enjoyed one of the highest
The Long Road to Democracy in Southern Africa 291

standards of living in the world, and it was this standard that they
were prepared to defend by force if necessary. From the mid-1970s
onward, partly as a result of the great increase in the price of oil,
the economy started to fall back and to experience high in¬‚ation;
1976“7 was the year with the lowest growth since 1945. Foreign
investors and foreign companies operating in South Africa were be-
ginning to come under pressure from the international community,
at least to pay equal wages to all their employees in South Africa,
and the question of sanctions was frequently discussed. A further
result both of the downturn in the economy and in the change from
labour- to capital-intensive industrial processes was the growth of
unemployment. It was estimated that in 1979, there were 2 million
unemployed Africans, out of a total African labour force of around
8 million. Following the policy of separate development, many of
the African unemployed were repatriated from the cities to their no-
tional rural homelands, where they helped to increase the desperate
poverty caused by a rapid growth in the African population.
The fundamental step in the implementation of separate develop-
ment was the turning of the African reserves “ the lands left to the
natives after the massive expropriation of land by Europeans in the
nineteenth century “ into Bantustans or Homelands. The ¬rst move
in this direction came with the Promotion of Bantu Self-Government
Act of 1959, which provided for the setting up of ˜territorial authori-
ties™ in ˜national units™, based on the lands occupied by the main tribal
or language groups. The premise of the whole apparatus of separate
development was set forth in the preamble to the Act, which said,
˜The Bantu peoples . . . do not constitute a homogeneous people, but
form separate national units on the basis of language and culture™. Af-
ter more than two centuries of con¬‚ict, interaction and close integra-
tion into South Africa™s urban economy, this premise was of doubtful
validity. Moreover, the fact that the 13 percent of the country™s total
area which constituted the African reserves could not begin to ac-
commodate the African population of 1960, let alone the numbers
of anything up to 50 million expected by the end of the century, did
not deter the regime, which set about its apparently impossible and
contradictory task with verve. The ten Homelands were Transkei and
Ciskei (Xhosa), Kwazulu (Zulu), Qwaqwa (Southern Sotho), Lebowa
and South Ndebele (Northern Sotho), Bophuthatswana (Tswana),
27. South Africa and the Bantustans.
The Long Road to Democracy in Southern Africa 293

Gazankula (Shangaan and Tsonga), Venda, and Swazi. None of these
Homelands occupied continuous blocks of territory; even the largest,
the Transkei, had white lands jutting right into it. This territory re-
ceived a measure of self-government in 1963. Elections were held,
the voters including not only those Xhosa resident in Transkei, but
also all people of Xhosa origin, many of whom had lived in the ur-
ban areas for generations and had no ties with their notional home-
lands. A minority of the ˜popular™ vote, together with the support of
the appointed chiefs in the new Transkei parliament, enabled Kaiser
Matanzima to form an administration. He was one of a number of
traditional leaders who were prepared to support the policy of sep-
arate development.
One of the more controversial ¬gures to emerge in the 1970s was
Chief Gatsa Buthelezi of Kwazulu. He used his position to criti-
cise the racial inequalities perpetuated and reinforced by the South
African government. He would not allow Kwazulu to go beyond a
limited degree of autonomy, and continued to oppose the political
fragmentation implied in separate development. His example was
followed by the leaders of seven more of the ten Homelands. Transkei
received its formal grant of independence in 1976 and was followed
by Bophuthatswana in 1977. Neither state was recognised by any
other country, and both were refused membership in the UN and the
OAU. In Transkei, the Emergency laws which had been in operation
since 1960 were incorporated into a new Public Security Act passed
by the Matanzima government in 1977, which also set up a Transkei
Intelligence Service to take over the functions of the South African
Bureau of State Security (BOSS). However, the initial good relations
did not last long. A dispute over the status of the Xhosa who lived
outside the Transkei grew so bitter that, in 1978, the Transkei broke
off all relations with South Africa. Although the rift was later papered
over, cordial relations were never restored.
In 1979, more than 9 million Africans “ double the entire white
population of South Africa “ lived outside the Homelands, in the so-
called white areas. Of these, 4 million lived and worked on the white-
owned farms, while 5 million lived in the urban areas. These urban
Africans were those subject to the greatest pressure of the dis-
criminatory policies under which they had to live out their daily
lives. In¬‚ation, poverty, social disruption, employment insecurity, an
294 Africa since 1800

increasing crime rate, a high level of violence “ together with the con-
stant threat of deportation to distant and unknown ˜homelands™ “
all combined to make people desperate and humiliated. The largest
urban area was Soweto, the huge African city to the south-west
of Johannesburg. A high proportion of the population there con-
sisted of schoolchildren and teenagers. Compared with Africans in
the rural areas, these children had received a modicum of educa-
tion, enough to raise their expectations and to make them aware
of their grievances. The immediate cause of the outbreak of vio-
lent resistance among them in June 1976 was the decision of the
white authorities to impose Afrikaans as the medium for teaching
in secondary schools, but behind it there lay the general dissatis-
faction of youngsters with the whole content of Bantu education.
Compared with the excellent facilities provided for white children,
Africans had every reason to feel deprived. In 1975“6, an average of
R644 was spent on every white school pupil, compared to R42 on
every black one. The reaction of African youngsters was frustration,
rage, and hatred. The school strikes spread rapidly. Soon, most of
the other African urban areas in the Transvaal were affected and,
by August 1976, the unrest had spread to Port Elizabeth, the Ciskei,
and the western Cape. The police responded brutally but effectively
and, by 1977, several hundred persons had been killed. Amongst a
few other minor concessions, the government quietly dropped its
Afrikaans language proposals.
Although nothing else equalled the impact of the school strikes,
the closing years of the 1970s witnessed an intensi¬cation of some
other forms of African resistance, and it was at this time that the
repressive force of the South African government acquired its ugli-
est pro¬le. African university students had in 1969 broken away
from the National Union of South African Students to form the
South African Students Organisation (SASO). This was soon fol-
lowed by the emergence of a new political party, the Black People™s
Convention (BPC). Although both SASO and BPC encouraged other
non-white groups to participate, they played a leading role in the de-
velopment of a speci¬c Black Consciousness or Black Power move-
ment. The two organisations staged pro-FRELIMO rallies in 1975.
When the school strikes added to these disturbances, the government
The Long Road to Democracy in Southern Africa 295

of B. J. Vorster pulled out all the stops. All leading Africans and some
of their white supporters were rounded up and detained under the
various security laws. One of those held in custody was Steve Biko,
the founder of SASO and one of the most respected and in¬‚uential of
the new generation of African leaders. Biko was arrested in Graham-
stown in August 1977 and held and interrogated at Port Elizabeth
prison. He was transferred to Pretoria jail for further interrogation
and died there on 12 September. Although the magistrate at the in-
quest found that ˜no one was criminally responsible™ for Biko™s death,
the evidence suggested that he had died of injuries received during
interrogation. Between 1976 and 1979, ¬fty or more persons were
known to have died while in detention under South Africa™s security
legislation. When another well-known hardliner, P. W. Botha, took
over as prime minister from B. J. Vorster in 1978, there were few
people in South Africa who suspected that he would begin the la-
borious process of modifying and ultimately dismantling apartheid.
Yet, so it was to prove.

The Protectorates and South-West Africa (Namibia)

From the 1880s, Basutoland and Bechuanaland, and from the end
of the Anglo“Boer war Swaziland, were ruled by Britain as protec-
torates. They were administered by colonial civil servants working
under a British high commissioner who was also the governor“
general of the Union of South Africa. This was a divided au-
thority which re¬‚ected the peculiar situation of the three small
countries, which were landlocked, completely or partly surrounded
by South Africa and economically dependent upon it. The constitu-
tion of the Union provided for the eventual incorporation of the pro-
tectorates, and South African governments periodically demanded
that this should take place “ the last occasion being as late as 1963.
Britain resisted these demands on the grounds that transfer required
the consent of the people concerned. Instead, the protectorates were
gradually developed toward self-government along the same lines as
the tropical African colonies. The hope was that perhaps this might
help to bring nearer the sharing of power between the races in South
Africa itself. Political parties were, therefore, encouraged to grow up
296 Africa since 1800

in each country, which represented the different tribal af¬liations of
each, as well as the slight differences about the attitude which they
should adopt toward their powerful white neighbour.
In Bechuanaland, the Bechuanaland Democratic Party, led by
Seretse Khama, the chief of the Bamangwato people, won the pre-
independence election of 1965 and carried the country through to
independence in the following year, when its name was changed to
Botswana. Seretse became president and soon emerged as one of
Africa™s foremost statesmen. Botswana was one of the few African
states to retain a multiparty system. The exploitation of big dia-
mond, cupro-nickel, and other mineral resources enabled it to be
less dependent on South Africa than its two sister states, although
it still relied heavily on South Africa for its external communica-
tions. In 1977, an all-weather road was constructed to the north-
ern tip of Botswana, where at Kasungulu on the Zambezi it shared
a short common frontier with Zambia; here, a ferry crossing pro-
vided a slender link with the black African states to the north. After
Seretse™s death in 1980, his vice-president, Quett Masire, became
head of state and continued the cautious policies of his predeces-
sor. In 1989, the World Bank reported that Botswana had the best
record of any African country in maintaining an annual increase
of 12 percent in gross national product for more than a decade
on end.
Basutoland became an independent kingdom in 1966 and changed
its name to Lesotho. It was governed by the Basutoland National
Party (BNP), under the leadership of Chief Leabua Jonathan, who
not only retained close economic links with South Africa, but also for
a time played along with the South African policy of ˜d´ tente™ with
neighbouring black African states. In 1970, the BNP lost an election
to its main rival, the Basutoland Congress Party, whereupon Chief
Jonathan, with the connivance of the South African government and
with the help of a small paramilitary police force of South African
and British mercenaries, staged a coup. The king, Moshweshwe II,
was banished for a time and, after his return, played little part in
politics. Thus, Lesotho became in effect a one-party dictatorship, al-
though, as time went on, Chief Jonathan gradually distanced himself
from the South African regime.
The Long Road to Democracy in Southern Africa 297

Swaziland was the last of the protectorates to regain its indepen-
dence, in 1968. The Swazi king, Sobhuza II, was a traditionalist of
the old order, and played a much larger role in politics than his coun-
terpart in Lesotho. Before independence, there were a number of po-
litical parties, but Sobhuza organised one of his own, the Mbokodvu
Party, and manipulated the elections in 1964 so as to secure its vic-
tory. The Mbokodvu Party was proudly nationalist, and many of the
younger and more radical Swazi joined it. In 1968, the British im-
posed a Westminster type of settlement whereby Sobhuza became,
in theory, a constitutional head of state. Sobhuza put up with this
until 1973, when he took over the government himself and withdrew
the constitution. He reinstated a number of so-called traditional in-
stitutions which were supposed to provide an exchange of political
views between the monarch and his subjects. The system became
more dif¬cult to maintain as economic and social changes gathered
momentum. The king had to keep a wary eye both upon his own
subjects and on the resident foreigners, among whom were many
South African farmers, who owned nearly 40 percent of the land. He
had also to watch the Marxist in¬‚uences emanating from neighbour-
ing Mozambique. At the time of his death in 1982, Sobhuza was the
oldest reigning monarch in the world.
Despite its great size, South-West Africa, which from the 1970s
on was generally known to the outside world as Namibia, had a
population of less than 1 million people, of whom nearly 100,000
were whites, mostly Afrikaners, but also some of German descent.
The largest group of African people were the Ovambo, who lived in
the far north, astride the Angolan frontier. The other main Bantu-
speaking group were the Herero, whose ancestors had suffered so
severely at the hands of the Germans (see Chapter 12). There were
also scattered Khoi-speakers, such as the Nama. At the end of the
Second World War, the South African government refused to accept
the authority of the UN Trusteeship Council over the territory, which
it proceeded to govern as if it were a ¬fth province of the Union. The
all-white electorate sent its representatives to the South African par-
liament, and most of the repressive legislation of the South African
system was applied in the territory. The Odendaal Plan, published in
1964, proposed to bind South-West Africa even more closely to the
298 Africa since 1800

Republic and to create nine ethnic Homelands on 40 percent of the
land, the remaining 60 percent being reserved for whites.
Meanwhile, a number of African political movements had de-
veloped, of which the South-West Africa People™s Organisation
(SWAPO) was the largest and enjoyed the best international con-
nections, especially at the UN and the OAU. Faced with the Oden-
daal Plan, SWAPO turned to armed resistance, which started with
small-scale guerrilla actions, mostly in the Ovambo country near the
Angolan frontier. In 1966, the UN was persuaded to revoke South
Africa™s mandate, awarded by its predecessor, the League of Na-
tions. In 1971, the International Court ruled that South Africa should
end its occupation of Namibia. In the same year, the Ovambo and
other African groups mounted a general strike, whereupon the South
African administration declared a state of emergency and forcibly
broke up the strike. In 1973, Homelands were set up for the Ovambo
and Kavango, which were granted a limited form of self-government.
The scale of violence mounted in the territory as the security forces
used harsh methods in attempting to deal with the disruptive ac-
tivities of SWAPO, which were mainly directed against the of¬cial
Homeland leaders. The most signi¬cant event in the confrontation
over Namibia was, however, the Portuguese withdrawal from An-
gola and the consequent civil war between the MPLA government in
Luanda and the UNITA guerrillas operating in the south of Angola.
With the help of the MPLA, SWAPO was now able to mount much
more substantial military actions in Namibia from bases in Angola.
South African forces retaliated from their big military base at Groot-
fontein in northern Namibia, from which they also aided the UNITA
guerrillas opposing the MPLA.
In 1975, South Africa tried to seize the political initiative by hold-
ing a constitutional conference of ˜representatives™ of all the ˜peoples™
of Namibia, without reference to SWAPO or the UN. The Turnhalle
Conference, as it was called, concluded with a statement to the ef-
fect that Namibia should obtain independence from South Africa in
1978, but that the separation into ˜homelands™ and ˜the white area™
should continue under some kind of South African guarantee, which
implied the continuance of some kind of control. Neither SWAPO nor
the UN would accept the Turnhalle proposals. The western members
of the UN Security Council attempted mediation, but, in the end, the
The Long Road to Democracy in Southern Africa 299

South African government announced its decision to hold elections
in the territory based on the Turnhalle scheme. Behind all the overt
diplomacy, the real nub of the Namibian situation was that South
Africa, covertly encouraged by the United States, was unwilling to
remove its military forces from Namibia so long as Russians and
Cubans were aiding a Marxist government in Angola. Namibia had,
in fact, become a buffer zone in the Cold War, and would remain so
through most of the 1980s.
During the years from 1945 to 1980 and beyond, South Africa™s ex-
ternal relations were governed mainly by the reaction of other states
to its internal policies and practices. This was not only on account
of what had already happened there, but even more because of what
might happen in the future. There were many states in the world
where governments representing a minority of the population tyran-
nised over the majority, controlling the internal and external move-
ments of their people, using secret police and informers to sniff out
the slightest manifestations of dissidence, and practising torture in
their interrogation chambers and assassination outside them. There
were many governments in the world, many even in Africa, which
had killed far more of their own citizens than the government of
South Africa had yet done. What was unique to South Africa was
that these crimes and injustices were compounded by the explosive
factors of race and colour. When a Steve Biko died in the hands
of white policemen, every black man in the world felt personally in-
volved. The one last shooting ¬‚ame in the ¬re of Pan“Africanism was
the desire of every self-governing black nation to free its brothers in
the south. Even Idi Amin sought to pose as a hero in this crusade,
knowing that other African states would ¬nd it harder to criticise his
internal regime if this item of his external policy was aligned with

The Breakthrough in South Africa
Faced with this situation, the white government of South Africa
made some efforts to break out of its growing isolation at the tip
of the African continent. While continuing to cultivate its economic
links with the western countries and Japan, it tried hard to launch the
notion that it could be both a valuable trading partner and a source of
300 Africa since 1800

development aid to many countries within Africa. During the 1960s
and 1970s, Verwoerd and Vorster established close relations with
Lesotho and Malawi and held ˜dialogues™ with countries as far a¬eld
as Ivory Coast, Liberia, Ghana, and the Malagasy Republic. South
African goods were on sale in many African countries which did
not of¬cially admit South African visitors or permit the over¬‚ight of
South African planes. Botswana, Zambia, Zaire, and Zimbabwe were
all to some degree dependent on South African railways for their ac-
cess to the sea. And even Mozambique had to balance its budget
by continuing to send labour migrants to South Africa in exchange
for government-to-government payments in gold bullion. In 1969, a
fourteen-nation conference of African states issued the Lusaka Man-
ifesto, which re¬‚ected above all the thoughts of Presidents Kaunda
and Nyerere. The manifesto laid down guidelines for future dialogue
between South Africa and other African states, suggesting that this
could be fruitful only after South Africa had shown itself ready to
change substantially the policy of separate development. Given such
readiness, other African states would recognise that there might be
a considerable interval before majority rule was achieved. But, al-
though Vorster and other ministers occasionally spoke favourably of
this approach, the words and deeds of white South Africans until the
late 1980s generally implied a ¬rm rejection of what could have been
a unique opportunity to escape from their self-imposed impasse.
There was, however, one kind of warning which the cabinet of P. W.
Botha could not ignore, and it was that which came from the internal
leaders of South African industry and commerce. It told them that
with steadily growing clarity that the hitherto brilliant progress of
the South African economy would soon grind to a halt unless fresh
sources of skilled and semi-skilled labour could be recruited from
the ranks of the black population, which already numbered some 29
million and was expected to rise rapidly by the end of the century.
These would be the main consumers and producers of the future,
and it was inevitable that most of them would live and work in and
around the white cities and not in the countryside or the Bantustans.
F. W. de Klerk, then a rising younger minister, says in his autobiog-
raphy that his exposure to the management of the economy during
the early eighties had convinced him that it would be impossible to
maintain economic growth on the one hand and to succeed with the
The Long Road to Democracy in Southern Africa 301

implementation of the homeland policy on the other. ˜I ¬rmly be-
lieve™, he says, ˜that economic growth was a far more powerful agent
for change than any of the other factors “ including sanctions and in-
ternational pressure™. And he goes on with the surprising statement
that a special and presumably secret committee within the cabinet
developed ˜a new policy framework, which constituted a 180-degree
change in policy for ever away from apartheid, separate develop-
ment and racial discrimination. The proposed framework accepted
the fundamental principles of one united South Africa, one person
one vote, the eradication of all forms of racial discrimination, and
the effective protection of minorities against domination™.1 The new
framework was accepted by the Federal Congress of the National
Party in Durban in August 1986 and by the restricted electorate of
apartheid South Africa in 1987.
No doubt de Klerk™s retrospective account of policy developments
in the 1980s glosses over large differences of opinion regarding the
timing of constitutional change that was actually envisaged. Never-
theless, as the memoirs of Nelson Mandela make clear, at least some
of the ministers of P. W. Botha™s cabinet were taking real and signif-
icant action to prepare some of the political prisoners on Robben
Island for freedom to resume their political activities in civil society.
Already in March 1982, Mandela and three of his fellow prisoners
had been transferred to a prison near Cape Town, where they had ac-
cess to newspapers and radio broadcasts. In 1985, he contacted the
government, saying that in his view the time had come for it and the
ANC to enter into negotiations. ˜We had been ¬ghting against white
majority rule for three quarters of a century. We had been engaged
in the armed struggle for two decades. Many people on both sides
had already died . . . It was clear to me that a military victory was a
distant if not impossible dream. It simply did not make sense for
both sides to lose thousands if not millions of lives in a con¬‚ict that
was unnecessary . . . It was time to talk™.2 The government™s response
came slowly, but, by December 1988, Mandela had been moved to
Victor Verster prison near Paarl, into a large house, with servants
and a cook, and where he could receive visitors. It was clear that he

F. W. de Klerk, The Last Trek, London, 1998, p. 72. Ibid., p. 109.
Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, New York, 1994, p. 457.
302 Africa since 1800

was being groomed for release within the foreseable future and for
a star role in all that was to follow. All this shows that, while keep-
ing its real views secret from the electorate, the government had
appreciated that major changes could come about peacefully only
by securing the cooperation of the leaders of the ANC, both those in
prison and those in exile and that, among them all, Mandela would
be the one with whom they could best hope to do business.
From 1988 at least, only two serious impediments to decisive ac-
tion remained. The ¬rst was the presence of Cuban mercenaries in
Angola, and it was settled by the withdrawal of the Cubans in 1989.
The second was the personal reluctance of the aging President Botha
to pull the trigger, and it was solved by his suffering a stroke in Jan-
uary 1989, followed by his resignation the following August. He was
succeeded in mid-September by F. W. de Klerk, who on 2 February
1990 announced to an astonished world that the time for recon-
ciliation and reconstruction had arrived, and that his government
would shortly be rescinding the prohibition on the African National
Congress and the South African Communist Party as well as releas-
ing Nelson Mandela unconditionally from his long imprisonment.
The most extraordinary feature of the whole episode was that, a year
later, the government sought the approval of the white electorate in
a referendum and won it by a handsome majority. There was a long
way still to go before the actual sharing of power could begin, but the
direction of change appeared henceforward to be immutable. South
Africa had at last joined the rest of the continent “ in intention, if
not yet in fact.
TWENTY ONE. The Politics
of Independent Africa

T he African states which gained their independence during
the 1950s and 1960s, mostly by peaceful agreement with the
former colonial powers, were born in an atmosphere of political
euphoria. They had inherited from their colonial predecessors work-
ing systems which, whatever their limitations in respect of personal
freedom and whatever the long-drawn-out insult of alien rule, had
provided a framework of internal and external security; ef¬cient and
disinterested administration; sound ¬nance; a basic economic in-
frastructure of roads, railways, harbours, and airports; and at least
the beginnings of modern social services in education, health, and
community development. To these, the new African leadership ap-
peared at ¬rst to have added the vital element of political legitima-
tion by mobilising an impressive proportion of the ordinary citizens
in support of political parties organised on the western democratic
pattern. ˜Seek ye ¬rst the political kingdom™, said Kwame Nkrumah,
˜and all these other things shall be added unto you™.
Leaders of the new states at ¬rst felt so con¬dent of the internal
cohesion of their countries that many of their earliest efforts were
directed to foreign affairs. To secure their frontiers, they had to forge
new ties with the neighbouring African states, while outside the con-
tinent, they had to develop relationships with those industrialised
countries other than the former colonial powers which might help
them as trading partners, as sources of investment, and as donors
of aid for their educational and other needs. Ideology played some
part in these contacts, with some states forming a westward-leaning

304 Africa since 1800

˜Monrovia bloc™, while others more radically socialist joined a pro-
Soviet ˜Casablanca bloc™. But these and other groupings proved
ephemeral. Most African statesmen soon learned that it was best
to cultivate relations with both eastern and western outsiders and to
play one off against the other. In terms of aid, this was the period
of the ˜children™s crusade™, when many thousands of idealistic young
men and women from western Europe and North America spent
a year or two teaching, mostly English or French, in newly estab-
lished primary schools in the rural areas of African countries from
Algeria to Madagascar and from Sierra Leone to Zambia. In France
and Belgium, they were known as co-op´ rateurs and given exemp-
tion from military service as an incentive. Members of the American
Peace Corps enjoyed the same privilege, and service in Africa be-
came an alternative to the Vietnam war. In Britain, the government
subsidised a number of voluntary organisations, the largest being
Voluntary Service Overseas. During the early years of African inde-
pendence, these young people played a signi¬cant part in expanding
African educational systems and in bringing a consciousness of the
outside world to the new generation of African schoolchildren. The
eastern-bloc countries, lacking the relevant languages, could do little
to rival them.
Within the continent, Nkrumah™s vision of a United States of Africa
found little support, and even the tentative regional federations
formed during the colonial period in French West and Equatorial
Africa, the Central African Federation and the more limited East
African Community, soon broke down into their component parts as
soon as the element of outside compulsion was removed. For a brief
period, with the attempted secession of Katanga from the Congo
(see Chapter 18), it looked as though this tendency to ¬ssion might
go much further, but the decisive intervention of the United Nations,
using contingents from other African countries, turned the scales. In
1963, there emerged the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), a con-
sultative body with its headquarters in Addis Ababa, which offered
a useful mechanism for settling disputes between African states as
well as providing a collective voice on those matters where there was
substantial agreement, such as the common struggle against the re-
maining areas of colonialism in Angola and Mozambique, Rhodesia,
and South Africa. It became a fundamental principle of the OAU that
The Politics of Independent Africa 305

the frontiers inherited from the colonial period should be treated as
sacrosanct both as to border disputes between states and to acts of
secession within them.

Democracy, Autocracy, and Military Rule

Within the newly independent states, political leaders soon realised
that to mobilise public support behind programmes of mass edu-
cation and economic betterment presented problems very different
from the simple issue of indigenous as against alien rule on which
they had ridden to power. The very basis of nationality, to which all
states laid claim, was nothing but a colonial superstructure hastily
erected over very diverse populations still speaking many different
languages, in which only a small minority of the best-educated peo-
ple had any strong sense of an allegiance wider than the ethnic group.
Faced with this situation, few African leaders saw any useful solu-
tion in the confrontational party politics of the western world. All of
them were, by western standards, men of the political left, and most
of them saw much more relevance in the Marxist“Leninist idea of
a political party as the instrument of a vanguardist elite, tolerating
no organised opposition, and designed to enlist the masses behind
a single philosophy and political programme. In Africa, such a con-
ception of the party could be justi¬ed as ˜nation-building™, and there
were many observers in the West as well as the East who were ready
to justify it on that score.
The idea of single-party politics seems to have entered the conti-
nent mainly through the Francophone states of West Africa, where
Houphou¨ t-Boigny in the Ivory Coast and S´ kou Tour´ in Guinea in-
e e e
stalled what were virtually single-party regimes even before the for-
mal transfer of power. By the middle of the 1960s, most of the other
Francophone countries, with the notable exception of Senegal, had
followed suit. In English-speaking Africa, it was the Ghana of Kwame
Nkrumah which led the way, while in eastern Africa, the Tanzania
of Julius Nyerere, the Malawi of Hastings Banda, and the Zambia of
Kenneth Kaunda were not far behind. Nyerere, especially, attempted
in his public speeches and writings to defend the change to ˜African
socialism™ on the grounds of its consonance with the traditional po-
litical ideas of pre-colonial Africa, where the elders had talked things
306 Africa since 1800

through ˜under the shade of the big tree™, aiming at unanimity rather
than confrontation: only when consensus had been achieved did the
presiding chief translate it into an executive command, which all
then jumped to obey.
In practice, however, the vanguardist party proved to be an in-
sidious growth leading to the domination of the many by the very
few. Lacking opposition parties, parliaments withered, and minis-
ters reigned without any check on their actions. Appointments and
promotions in the civil services, the police forces, the judiciary, and
the state corporations became subject to party patronage. The party
network extended all through society and down to the village level,
explaining and activating government policy, but also listening and
reporting to higher authority. Suspected deviants were harried by le-
gal and extra-legal means. Vanguardist parties had their bullyboys,
often disguised as youth movements, ready to move in and rough up
a village which was resisting collectivisation or a university where
too much freedom of speech was being practised.
Changes in the socialist direction came not suddenly, but piece-
meal. In Ghana, for example, which obtained independence in 1957
under a constitution on the Westminster model, a one-party state was
not formally declared until seven years later, but, already in 1958,
a Preventive Detention Act was passed, which was used not only
against members of the opposition but also against dissidents within
the ruling CPP. The Industrial Relations Act of the same year brought
the trade unions under government control. In 1960, the country
became a republic, with a new constitution which gave sweeping
powers to Nkrumah, who now became president instead of prime
minister. In 1964 came the declaration of single-party rule, by which
time the CPP had degenerated into a party of avaricious time-servers.
As western disapproval mounted, Nkrumah moved ever closer to the
Soviet bloc. He maintained his support for independence movements
in other countries and continued to speak and write about the need
for Africa to unite, but his version of African socialism, aptly called
Nkrumahism, amounted to little more in practice than the construc-
tion of some industrial and infrastructural projects which proved
vastly expensive and resulted in little that was economically useful.
The president himself became increasingly isolated from ordinary
Ghanaians, secluding himself at ¬rst in the old Danish slave-trading
The Politics of Independent Africa 307

fort at Christiansborg and, later, in a military barracks on the out-
skirts of Accra, where he could be defended by a specially recruited
presidential guard armed with weapons superior to those of the reg-
ular army. Ironically, it was by the army that, in 1966, he was deposed
while absent on a visit to China. Nkrumah had inherited one of the
most prosperous of African countries, with a healthy balance of pay-
ments and a strong reserve of foreign currency. After nine years of
his rule, Ghana was bankrupt, food and consumer goods were in
short supply, and all government services had deteriorated beyond
recognition. He died, little mourned, as a pensioner of S´ kou Tour´
e e
on an island off the coast of Guinea.
The military coup in Ghana was not the ¬rst such episode to af-
fect independent Africa. In Egypt, the rule of King Farouk had been
overthrown by the of¬cer corps as early as 1952. In Sudan, the army
had taken over in 1958 from the ¬rst civilian government, elected
only two years earlier. In Togo, the army had intervened in 1963 to
install a new civilian president and, in 1965, General Mobutu, who
had been a leading ¬gure in the army mutiny of 1960 (see Chapter
18), established himself as the president of the Congo, henceforward
renamed Zaire. During 1966 and 1967, however, military coups suc-
ceeded each other right across the middle part of the continent. Mil-
itary rulers took over power in B´ nin, Togo, Upper Volta, and the
Central African Republic. And, in Uganda, a civilian prime minister,
Milton Obote, used the army to overthrow the constitutional gov-
ernment of the country. By far the most sinister of these episodes,
however, was the succession of coups in Nigeria, which brought the
richest and most prosperous of the new states of middle Africa to
the very brink of disintegration and ruin.

From Military Rule to Civil War

Nigeria™s constitution, which had been negotiated with great care
by the British government with the Nigerian politicians, provided
for a federal structure with a central authority and three partially
autonomous regions. At the federal level, politics revolved around
the inescapable fact of northern predominance, by virtue of the size
and population of this mainly Muslim region. Since independence
in 1960, the federal prime minister had been the conservative and
308 Africa since 1800

highly respected nominee of the Northern People™s Congress, Sir
Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Two censuses and elections, held in 1963
and 1964, although alleged to have been fraudulently conducted,
merely con¬rmed this political reality. At the regional level, politics
was dominated by the three most numerous ethnic groups “ Hausa
in the north, Yoruba in the south-west, and Ibo in the south-east.
In interregional matters, the Yoruba, having many Muslims among
them, tended to side with the Hausa. The odd men out were the Ibo,
who were solidly Christian and had the best-educated elite, whose
members became widely spread in trade and literate jobs across the
other two regions. They tended to feel both indispensable and ill-
appreciated and, in January 1966, a group of young, mostly Ibo,
army of¬cers turned upon the politicians, assassinating Balewa and
the prime ministers of the northern and south-western regions, and
installing a military regime with an Ibo, General Ironsi, as head of
state. Resentment mounted in the other two regions. Ibo living in
the northern towns were massacred and, in July, a group of northern
of¬cers murdered Ironsi and installed Lieutenant-Colonel Gowan, a
northern Christian, in his place. The military governor of the eastern
region, Lieutenant-Colonel Ojukwu, thereupon took steps to with-
draw his region from the federation. Secession was formally declared
in May 1967, when Ojukwu proclaimed the independence of the new
state of Biafra.
There were many reasons why the federal government could not
endorse the secession, but the most urgent was the fact that the oil
¬elds on which Nigeria depended for its revenues and its balance of
payments were nearly all situated in Biafra. It was, in fact, a parallel
case to that of the Katanga in 1960, when Tshombe had attempted by
secession to monopolise the main mineral wealth of the Congo for
the bene¬t of one of its provinces. And so in Nigeria there began the
civil war, which was to last three years and to cost the lives of more
than a million Nigerians. At ¬rst, the Biafran forces, being better
prepared, were able to overrun much of the area between Benin and
Lagos. But federal troops soon pushed them back and carried the
war into Biafra. By the middle of 1968, Biafra was reduced to an
enclave in the Ibo heartland crowded with starving refugees, who
congregated around the only functioning airstrip at Uli. That the
war still lasted for a further eighteen months was due to Ojukwu™s
1960 Nigeria inherited 3 states
from British colonial administration: Sokoto
Northern, Western, and Eastern. Katsina
West was divided into West BORNO
and Mid-west ZAMFARA

1967 12 states created
The number had risen to

36 states by 1997
1982 New Federal Capital
city of Abuja completed BAUCHI
Bauchi GOMBE

ZAMFARA Sharia States 2000“03 NO RTH E R N
Ni g
er Abuja




30 May 1967

Republic of Biafra proclaimed Nsukka

Abeokuta MID-

Greatest extent of Biafran Lagos Benin Enugu s

territory, August 1967 ro
Uli airstrip C

Bight of
Final territory of Biafra Warri EASTERN

April 1969 to fall of Owerri

Uli airstrip January 1970 Calabar


Oil ger

D e lta
Bight of
rt y

0 100 200 300 400 miles


0 100 200 300 400 500 600 km

28. Nigeria: four decades of independence.
310 Africa since 1800

skilful presentation to the outside world of Biafra as a brave little
Christian nation, hemmed in by overbearing Muslim persecutors
who were only interested in grabbing its wealth. He secured the sup-
port of four African governments, including Tanzania, and Zambia.
He obtained military supplies from France, South Africa, and Portu-
gal, all of which were for different reasons interested in diminishing
the stature of Black Africa™s most powerful independent state. He
successfully manipulated the non-governmental relief agencies into
providing cover for the airlift of arms to the enclave. But the federal
government was sustained politically by Britain and militarily by
the Soviet Union, which at that time was busily expanding its in¬‚u-
ence in the Muslim world of the Middle East and North Africa. And
the majority of African states were concerned, as always, with the
preservation of existing frontiers, and so favoured the federal cause.
At last, early in 1970, Biafra gave up the terrible charade. Ojukwu
¬‚ed to the Ivory Coast. Gowan was magnanimous in victory. There
were no major recriminations, and soldiers and civil servants were
successfully reabsorbed into the federal and regional structures. In
time, even Ojukwu was able to return to his homeland. And Nige-
rians in general felt themselves to be more a nation than they had
been before the war. The main political casualty of the war, however,
was civilian government, which became henceforward the exception
rather than the norm.
Military rule did not occur in every African country. A surpris-
ing number of civilian leaders “ Hassan II in Morocco, Bourguiba
in Tunisia, Senghor in Senegal, Houphou¨ t-Boigny in Ivory Coast,
Nyerere in Tanzania, Banda in Malawi, Kaunda in Zambia, and Tsir-
anana in Madagascar “ managed to maintain themselves in power for
a quarter of a century or more without losing control of their military
forces. Moreover, where it did occur, military rule was not always or
everywhere a disaster. In Nigeria, once the civil war was over, military
rule meant merely that senior soldiers ¬lled the ministerial posts and
the state governorships while a relatively ef¬cient civil service went
about its accustomed tasks. Most African governments during the
¬rst three decades of independence were autocratic, if not despotic,
narrowly based, and prone to corruption. In most cases, it made lit-
tle difference whether or not the head of state wore a uniform. Mil-
itary coups did, indeed, throw up a fair selection of very dangerous
The Politics of Independent Africa 311

and unpleasant characters. The most enduring and eccentric of these
was certainly Colonel Muammar Gadha¬, who, with all the oil wealth
of Libya behind him and with a very small home constituency on
which to spend it, was able to engage in an extraordinary variety of
external adventures. He attempted to destabilise one after another of
the Muslim or partly Muslim states to the north and south of the Sa-
hara by actively supporting opposition groups within them. He was
involved in numerous attempts to overthrow legitimate governments
by violence, including the assassination attempts against King Has-
san in 1974 and President Sadat of Egypt in 1976. He engineered an
unsuccessful coup against President Nimeiri in the Sudan in 1975,
and was connected with the terrorists who ¬nally murdered Sadat in
1979. Gadda¬ provided money and training for terrorist groups in a
number of West African states. He sent troops to Uganda in support
of his fellow Muslim Idi Amin in 1978, this being one of the few oc-
casions when he helped an established ruler. Although his numerous
interventions appeared to be impulsive and erratic, his underlying
motive was usually to export his own version of militant Islam, see-
ing himself as a latter-day prophet with a destiny to lead the faithful.
To this end, he spent huge sums of Libyan revenue in Black Africa
in campaigns to convert Christians and animists “ campaigns which
were sometimes surprisingly successful, as in Nigeria and Rwanda.
Chad, as we shall see, he regarded as his gateway to the south “ this is
quite apart from his claims to the mineral-rich Aouzou Strip, which
were based on colonial deals between France and Italy in 1935.
As dangerous as Gadda¬, although within a more con¬ned space,
was Macias Nguema, who ruled Equatorial Guinea “ which had been
Spain™s only tropical African colony “ for eleven terrible years, until
he was arrested and executed by his own soldiers in 1979. He and his
Fang henchmen from the mainland section of the country terrorised
the once prosperous island of Fernando Poo (Bioko) until all recog-
nisable civil life had been obliterated. Two other notoriously violent
rulers were Jean Bokassa and Idi Amin, both of whom had come
up through the non-commissioned ranks of the French and British
colonial armies. Bokassa turned the Central African Republic into
a mock-Napoleonic empire, spending a large part of the state™s rev-
enue on his own coronation. The French president Giscard d™Estaing
was his guest and joined him for a hunting expedition; eventually in
312 Africa since 1800

1979, the French tired of his excesses and engineered a coup to de-
pose him. Idi Amin™s rule in Uganda during the 1970s was only one
of three decades of civil strife in that country, but for the misuse of
military power it was almost unsurpassed.
When Uganda became independent in 1963, it was a prosperous
and well-run country, although there were deep-lying tensions, espe-
cially between the Nilotic peoples of the less developed northern half
of the country and the Bantu peoples of the fertile and more densely
populated south. These tensions rose rapidly to the surface in the
context of national politics. Soon after independence, Milton Obote,
a northerner, won power by allying himself with the parliamentary
representatives of Buganda, thus dividing the south. When this al-
liance threatened to break up, he used the army against the Kabaka
of Buganda, who was also the constitutional president of the whole
country, driving him into exile and then eliminating the special sta-
tus of Buganda within the state. In 1971, Obote was ousted by his
army commander, Idi Amin, a Muslim from the remote Kakwa tribe
living along Uganda™s border with the Sudan, who represented just
the kind of tough, uneducated valour that colonial armies had liked
to recruit.
Amin soon brought his northern soldiery with him to the capital,
and rewarded them by encouraging them to plunder the Asian shop-
keepers and other entrepreneurs on whom so much of the economy
depended. In 1972, in an effort to court popularity, he deported the
entire Asian population, some 30,000 in all, who had to seek asy-
lum in Britain with little more than the clothes they were wearing.
Like many another guilty tyrant, Amin spent the rest of his eight-
year reign trying to eliminate, one by one, the possible opponents
of his rule. His ¬rst mass victims were the soldiers from Obote™s
north-eastern Lango tribe, who were slaughtered in the thousands.
He replaced them with his own Kakwa and others from the distant
north-west, whose presence in the south was even rougher. Hav-
ing antagonised the southerners, especially the Baganda, he turned
to repressing them. Prominent people from all walks of life were
picked up in droves, incarcerated in horrible conditions, beaten,
and tortured. The chief justice and the Anglican archbishop were
among many others who were simply murdered. In an overwhelm-
ingly Christian country, Amin relentlessly promoted the cause of
The Politics of Independent Africa 313

Islam, building a huge mosque in the very centre of Kampala, taking
his ¬nancial support from Saudi Arabia and Libya, and encouraging
the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) to set up training camps
in Uganda. Finally, in 1974, as a diversion for his feuding army, he
invaded an obscure corner of north-western Tanzania on the pretext
of rectifying a misdrawn frontier line. President Nyerere, who had
been sheltering Obote since 1971, mounted a retaliatory invasion of
southern Uganda, where the local population gave every support to
the Tanzanian troops. Gadda¬ rushed in Libyan reinforcements, but
nothing could stop the Tanzanians, and Amin ¬‚ed the country to an
asylum in Saudi Arabia.
Unfortunately for Uganda, Nyerere used the prestige of his victory
to push for the restoration of his prot´ g´ , Obote, who “ after a du-
bious election “ returned to the presidency. After some ¬fteen years
of misrule by northerners, six of them by Obote himself, the south-
ern part of the country was in no mood to extend the experiment
or to wait for another election. Cells of armed opposition emerged
in the countryside and were more brutally repressed by Obote than
anything attempted by Amin. Gradually, the best of the opposition
coalesced around the National Resistance Army built up by Yow-
eri Museveni, who had gained his military experience ¬ghting with
FRELIMO against the Portuguese in Mozambique. Although the in-
cident which actually gave rise to Obote™s second ¬‚ight into exile
arose from faction-¬ghting within the national army in the north,
Museveni soon emerged as the leading ¬gure and became president
in 1986. The centre of power was thus restored to the south, where a
large majority of the population lived. There was still no lasting set-
tlement between north and south, but at least the huge task of moral
and material reconstruction could be begun where the possibilities
of a return to stability were greatest.
The southern Sudan, even more than northern Uganda, was a vast,
inaccessible and deprived region, culturally and ethnically very dif-
ferent from the Arabic-speaking north. The inhabitants found it very
dif¬cult to identify with a government composed mainly of north-
erners who tended to treat them as untutored savages, to be com-
pelled rather than persuaded (see Chapter 17). By 1967, relations
between Khartoum and its southern provinces had so deteriorated
that the Anyanya were demanding complete separation for the south.


. 8
( 12)