Courtesy Reuters

South Africa: The Politics of Fragmentation

The white minority régime in South Africa should not be thought of as a conservative government It is, instead, a radical right-wing government which has successfully transformed South African society to conform to the ideology of apartheid. Apartheid is an élitist ideology advocating racial separation and the entrenchment and perpetuation of white domination. Apartheid has fragmented South Africa into racial and ethnic groups, and established an authoritarian racial hierarchy which permeates all aspects of society and concentrates political, economic and military power in the hands of the state; the entire apparatus is controlled by the Afrikaners- the dominant group among the whites, who in turn are the dominant group in the society as a whole.

Although it enjoys a virtual monopoly of power, the Nationalist government is discovering that the costs of maintaining the artificial order of the society which it has created are rising. There are significant indications of social disorder and growing opposition within South Africa which point to a conflict. Though its resolution may be delayed by increased repression, violent confrontation seems inevitable, for the mechanisms to resolve it do not exist within South African society. And the conflict may also involve many other nations.


In 1948 the Nationalist Party gained power with a majority of seats in Parliament but a minority of the votes cast. By 1966 it held 126 of the 166 seats and had won 58 percent of the white vote. On gaining power the Nationalists moved systematically to entrench themselves within Parliament, and to extend their power beyond it by enlarging the power of the state. In successive moves the few Colored people still on the common (white) voters' roll were removed. The white representatives of the Black people (who had consistently expressed anti-government positions) were removed. The white- dominated political groups which had Black support or were in favor of a common (nonracial) society, or majority rule, were systematically banned (Communist Party, 1950; the Congress of Democrats, 1962); rendered ineffective by attacks on their leadership (Liberal Party) ; or

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