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Though these formal negotiations lie at the heart of the process of change with which we are concerned, they are only part of what was a complex, multi-faceted transition.
Much political violence accompanied the transition, though, some of it the result of deliberate destabilisation campaigns aimed at subverting the transition.
Though always a minority, over the centuries Whites developed a system of supremacy that by the 1960s had become the most elaborate system of racial discrimination ever devised.
Yet that system was dismantled in little more than a decade.
More than three centuries of racist rule came to an end.
As White pioneers moved inland from the Cape they established their power over the indigenous people and subordinated them to White rule.
It brought home to the government the impossibility of continuing to rule as before, provided the opportunity for Nelson Mandela to begin talks with the government, and led directly to the increased sanctions that helped put such pressure on the regime that it began to negotiate, at a time when the ending of the Cold War provided new opportunities for a breakthrough to a new order.
Talks between people linked to the government and members of the ANC began to break down old enmitiesand establish trust. Why those negotiations were successful is another question that can only be answered through a detailed examination of the events of the early 1990s.
If historians are pushed to establish a hierarchy of causes for the breakthrough to negotiations, most would probably place the mass uprising in the townships during the mid-1980s at the top of their list.
In the new order born in the early 1990s, all citizens were for the first time equal in law, irrespective of race.
The end of apartheid and the surrender of political power by the White minority to the majority constitutes, in the long perspective of history, a key turning point, and one of world historical importance.
On the one side lies “the past of a deeply divided society characterised by strife, conflict, untold suffering and injustice”.
On the other is “a future founded on the recognition of human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence and development opportunities for all South Africans, irrespective of colour, race, class, belief or sex”. An issue is contested if different people put forward different, sometimes conflicting, points of view about itencapsulate- express a great deal of information briefly and clearly The way the particular bridge of the Interim Constitution was built – first in the negotiation process begun at Kempton Park in December 1991 and then through the work of the Constitutional Assembly between 19 – is discussed in detail in Chapter 3.