Open menu Close menu Open Search Close search Open sharebox Close sharebox
. . Support our Sponsor

. . Flags of the World Maps of All Countries Home Page Countries Index

South Africa National Party
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
    << Back to South Africa Government

    In the early 1990s, the National Party (NP), led by President de Klerk, led the white community in radically transforming the apartheid system and ushering in nonracial democracy. This process also served to transform the NP into a modern democratic party, while at the same time depriving it of the uninterrupted political dominance it had enjoyed for some forty-five years.

    The present-day NP emerged out of Afrikaner organizations of the early 1900s. Founded by General J.B.M. Hertzog in January 1914 as an expression of Afrikaner ideology and ethnic nationalism, the NP sought to strengthen racial separation and to oppose British rule in South Africa. The NP, in alliance with the Labour Party--a white organization led by Colonel F.H.P. Creswell--defeated General Jan C. Smuts's ruling South African Party (SAP) in parliamentary elections in 1924. In 1933 the NP formed an alliance with the SAP, and the alliance was formalized in 1934 as the United South Africa National Party, or the United Party (UP). The merger prompted staunch segregationists from Cape Town to establish the Purified National Party under the leadership of Daniel F. (D.F.) Malan, to counteract the UP's relatively moderate positions on race. The UP ruled until it was unexpectedly defeated by Malan's party (then known as the Reunited National Party, owing to a reconciliation with a conservative faction of the UP) in parliamentary elections in May 1948. After the 1948 elections, the victorious alliance--again under the banner of the NP--ruled without interruption until April 1994.

    The NP's dominance over political and security organizations gave it a vast patronage pool for its mostly Afrikaner constituency. Numerous cultural, social, economic, and religious organizations also furthered Afrikaner interests, including the Afrikaner Broederbond (later Broederbond, or Brotherhood), Nasionale Pers (National Press), South African National Life Assurance Company (Sanlam), the Voortrekkers (a scouting organization), the Federation of Afrikaner Cultural Organisations (Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurvereniginge--FAK), Helpmekaar (an Afrikaner social service organization, roughly translated "mutual aid"), and Volkskas (People's Bank).

    Although the party did not publish membership figures, much was known about its organization--a federal structure divided into four provincial parties, linked through a Federal Council. At the lowest level were the party's local branches, consisting of 500 or fewer members. Local branches in rural areas reported to a District Council, which comprised a leader, a deputy leader, a secretary, and elected representatives from each local branch in the district. In addition, local branches elected Constituency Divisional Councils. Above each divisional council were a Head Council, a Provincial Congress that met annually, and a provincial leader. At the apex of the NP was the thirty-seven-member Federal Council that met at least once a year. The national leader of the NP, who until 1994 was also the state president, was elected by the party's parliamentary delegates in caucus.

    Under P.W. Botha's leadership in the 1980s, the NP began to change directions, first to reform, and then to dismantle, apartheid. Although these reform initiatives led to a number of splits within the NP, the reformist wing (referred to in party parlance as verligte , or "enlightened") was sufficiently strong, its parliamentary delegation sufficiently disciplined, and its national leadership sufficiently cohesive to enable the party to remain in power as its members vigorously debated the question of reform. The NP quickly recovered after its conservative faction, led by Transvaal NP leader Andries Treurnicht, abandoned the party in February 1982 in protest against the proposed "power-sharing" constitution that established the tricameral parliament. Treurnicht launched the Conservative Party (CP), which gained immediate parliamentary representation through the conversion of seventeen NP members of parliament. The NP nonetheless retained its majority in the next elections in 1987.

    The most dramatic changes in the NP began in 1989, when President Botha relinquished his party leadership following a stroke and was replaced by then Minister of Education F.W. de Klerk. De Klerk committed himself to establishing a new postapartheid South Africa, over the objections of Botha, who had retained his position as president. The NP's Federal Council in June 1989 went on to pass a five-year plan to reform apartheid. As de Klerk and Foreign Minister Roelof ("Pik") Botha prepared to discuss their planned political reforms with Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda later that year, President Botha objected to the pace of the proposed reforms, and he opposed any plan to hold discussions with Kaunda. In August 1989, his intransigence finally prompted the cabinet to ask him to resign. He did so in a televised broadcast, and de Klerk succeeded him as president. In national elections in September 1989, the NP under de Klerk's leadership remained in power both in the national House of Assembly and in the provincial legislatures, and de Klerk was confirmed as president for another five-year term.

    The NP then spearheaded the reform process that paved the way for the postapartheid political system (see Constitutional Change, this ch.). The NP also sought to project a new party image. In 1990 it launched a nationwide recruitment drive for new members of all races, appointed a new management council and new regional secretaries to oversee its reforms, and established new training programs for party leaders, to emphasize racial tolerance. These changes broadened the party's parliamentary support. In May 1991, five MPs deserted the Labour Party, which since 1965 had represented the interests of the coloured community, to join the NP delegation. Their view that the new NP best represented the interests of their community was rejected by most of the Labour Party, but the NP continued to seek the support of the roughly 1.6 million voters in the coloured community.

    As the April 1994 elections approached, the party tried new approaches to win support among the country's black majority. One of its campaign tactics was to emphasize its active role in dismantling apartheid and to portray itself as the liberator of the country's black population. The NP also portrayed the ANC as intolerant of political dissent.

    The NP failed to gain many black votes in the April 1994 elections but nonetheless won the second-largest vote--20.4 percent of the total, gaining eighty-two seats in the National Assembly. The NP won a majority in the Western Cape, garnered the second-largest vote in seven provinces, and ranked third in KwaZulu-Natal. Despite its second-place performance in the elections, the NP--by virtue of its long-term political dominance--still exerts strong influence in the state bureaucracy and the country's security forces.

    Inkatha Freedom Party

    The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP, also Inkatha) is a Zulu-based political party, based in its ethnic stronghold, KwaZulu-Natal. It is the ANC's main rival in the black community. Between 1970 and 1990, Inkatha portrayed itself as a moderate and democratic organization, contrasting its views with extremist positions within the ANC. But in the early 1990s, the IFP became increasingly intransigent in its efforts to preserve its traditional power base in KwaZulu, while the rest of the country was moving closer to nonracial democracy under the now moderate NP and ANC leadership.

    Inkatha was originally established in 1922 as a cultural movement to promote the Zulu heritage. It was rejuvenated in 1928 by the Zulu king, Solomon ka Dinuzulu, as Inkatha ya kwa Zulu (Organization of the Zulu). During this phase, controversy arose over the party's activities. For example, critics claimed that funds collected from Natal's impoverished black population were misused to pay for King Solomon's lavish life-style. Others suggested that the organization's 1928 constitution, written by a white lawyer from Durban at the urging of white businessmen in Natal, was intended to ensure that the party would express the interests of the traditional tribal elites, the conservative black petite bourgeoisie, and a few white power brokers. After a period of relative inactivity, and following an unsuccessful attempt to revive it in 1959, Inkatha ya kwa Zulu was reestablished as a political organization in March 1975 by KwaZulu's chief minister, Mangosuthu (Gatsha) Buthelezi. Buthelezi renamed the organization Inkatha Yenkululeko Yesizwe (National Cultural Liberation Movement). In August 1990, following the unbanning of antiapartheid organizations, Inkatha proclaimed itself a political party, the IFP, with membership open to all races.

    From its primarily Zulu political base, Inkatha has played an important role in national politics. In 1977 it was the largest legal black movement in the country, having an estimated 120,000 members; by the late 1980s, its leaders estimated their membership at 1.5 million (considered highly inflated by the inclusion of the party's 600,000-member Youth Brigade and 500,000-member Women's Brigade). It has never managed to recruit many members outside the Zulu community, however.

    The IFP in the 1990s is a tightly knit and authoritarian organization, dominated by Buthelezi. Its political structure consists of local branches organized into regions and provinces. The IFP's four provincial councils are led by the IFP National Council. Provincial delegates elect representatives to the annual general conference, where delegates to the National Council are elected each year. The IFP's power base is rooted in three sources--the former KwaZulu homeland bureaucracy, which the party controlled by virtue of its dominance over the local legislature and provincial government; the Zulu traditional leaders--i.e., chiefs and headmen; and the Zulu population, including the inhabitants of large squatter settlements near several cities, especially Johannesburg and Durban.

    Although Inkatha and the ANC had close ties in the early 1970s, their relationship deteriorated after that. Inkatha became especially threatened by ANC organizing efforts among educated and urban Zulus. The ANC criticized Buthelezi for becoming the leader of the KwaZulu homeland, and thereby accepting the government's demographic manipulation for apartheid purposes. The ANC pressed for a more militant antiapartheid campaign and waged a propaganda war against Buthelezi, demonizing him as a "stooge" of apartheid. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, this rivalry degenerated into violent conflict, spilling over into townships and rural areas, and claiming the lives of thousands of black South Africans.

    Some Western observers and South African political leaders hoped that the IFP, rooted in Zulu tradition and Western in its outlook in support of a federalist democracy and free enterprise, would attract moderate South African blacks to its ranks. That prospect dimmed in the climate of escalating violence leading up to the 1994 elections. Buthelezi protested against his being sidelined by what he considered "ANC-NP collusion" in the negotiating process, and in early 1994 he announced that the IFP would boycott the country's first free elections.

    The IFP ultimately participated in the elections, after the ANC and the NP agreed to consider international mediation on the issue of provincial autonomy and agreed to reinforce the status of Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini and the Zulu homeland. The party's late entry cost it popular support at the polls, however. The IFP managed to win barely one-half of the vote in Natal and only 10.5 percent of the nationwide vote, with most of its support in KwaZulu and the area around Johannesburg.

    The IFP's commitment to Zulu autonomy remained strong after the elections. In May 1994, at a caucus of the KwaZulu legislative assembly, Inkatha formed a new society called Iso Lesizwe, or Eye of the Nation, with Chief Buthelezi as its president. The new organization dedicated itself to pursuing Zulu autonomy "within the parameters of democratic and pluralistic forms of government and along with all the other peoples living in the ancestral territory of the Zulu nation." Debate over this issue intensified in 1995 and 1996.

    Data as of May 1996

    NOTE: The information regarding South Africa on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of South Africa National Party information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about South Africa National Party should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

Support Our Sponsor

Support Our Sponsor

Please put this page in your BOOKMARKS - - - - -

Revised 10-Nov-04
Copyright © 2004-2020 Photius Coutsoukis (all rights reserved)