Post-Apartheid South Africa

This is FREE sample
This text is free, available online and used for guidance and inspiration. Need a 100% unique paper? Order a custom essay.
  • Any subject
  • Within the deadline
  • Without paying in advance
Get custom essay


Less than 10 percent of South Africa’s population is white. Despite this, the white minority held the majority of power from the end of the 1940s until 1990. This was through apartheid, an oppressive system that instilled racial segregation into the fabric of everyday life in the nation. Steven Biko, a South African liberation activist is quoted with saying: “Apartheid- both petty and grand- is obviously evil.

Nothing can justify that a clique of foreigners has the right to decide on the lives of the majority”. In 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected president, bringing that to an end. Amazingly, the political power changed without violence or genocide. It was a rare case of a change in power without war. In the years that have passed, it has been a nation that has been watched closely by the rest of the world, to see whether it could continue to be a model country since the formation of its new constitution.

Whether or not the nation has successfully transitioned from a divided nation to one that is truly equal and stable is still a contentious topic. By exploring improving violent crime trends, the economic trends since the end of apartheid, as well as today’s current situation and leadership, it will be shown why changes needed to be made in South Africa. It will also show that while things are currently starting to look down, the government has successfully made things better over the last twenty years, and are definitely better than they were.

Significance of the Peaceful Transfer of Power

Throughout history, there have been countless transitions of power. What makes South Africa’s transition truly remarkable is the peaceful way in which it happened. Despite the social unrest that eventually led to the change in government, there was no civil war. Thanks to Nelson Mandela’s peaceful leadership, there was no widespread bloodshed or retaliation. While it would have been easy for the newly appointed government to retaliate against the people that had treated them unfairly for so long, they resisted.

In a similar situation in the nation of Rwanda, the Hutus were given power from the Tutsis that had held power over them. The newly empowered Hutu government did not resist. An estimated one million Tutsis were murdered. Genocides and mass killings such as this are not uncommon in the face of a change in power (“Rwanda”). The nation of South Africa avoided this. South Africa’s peaceful transition set a precedent, and an example for the rest of the world that it could be done.

Brief History of Apartheid and its End

In 1948, the system of apartheid began in South Africa. Laws passed first that made interracial marriage illegal, and continued to broaden. Over the next years many more laws followed. They forced people to live in segregated areas, were forced to go to separate schools, and were treated differently in nearly every facet (Twenty 4-6). Throughout these years segregation was prominent throughout government, education, and most important positions. This led to a very wide gap between the wealthy and the poor.

While the wealthy people were significantly wealthier than most other Africans, the amount of black South Africans in poverty was quite large (Bundy). These oppressed people began to resist peacefully in the late 60’s, and continued to for years. Many of those protestors were imprisoned for their beliefs. One such man was Nelson Mandela. Eventually, other nations began to apply economic sanctions to help sway the South African government to make changes. In 1990, Mandela was released from prison, and most of the laws of apartheid were repealed shortly. In 1994, the election was the first of its kind in South America as all ethnicities were allowed to participate (Twenty, 9).

Under the influence of this fair election, Nelson Mandela was elected president, and ended the system of apartheid that had been around longer than most of its citizens. The minority no longer oppressed the majority. In two years following the election, the new South African Government had developed and passed a new constitution for the nation. He was famous for focusing on mending the broken state, not on revenge or payback. He only led for a few more years before he passed power on to Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki would continue on building on the foundation that Mandela had laid down (Foster 21-23 ). While the future looked bright, there was lots to overcome.

Positive Things since Apartheid

While South Africa has set a precedent in transitioning power with minimal bloodshed, South Africa has still had a history of being a violent nation. Beginning in the late 1970s when political unrest began to be very apparent, violent crime rates began to rise. In fact, when Nelson Mandela assumed the presidency in 1994, the violent crime rate in South Africa were significantly high. A goal of the new government was to lower that number, and make South Africa a safer place (Twenty 138-140). Decreasing the violent crime rate is not something that can happen overnight though, as it takes time. But things did get better.

The murder rate dropped significantly over the next 15 years. It hit a low in 2011, as the murder rate per one hundred thousand had fallen from the upper 70s in the mid 90’s, dropping all the way to the low 30s (Kriegler). At that point in time it was very apparent that things had gotten much better since the end of apartheid. Unfortunately, in the years that followed that rate began to rise again, and it has gone up every year since. In 2017, the rate spiked and the murder rate was the highest it had been since 2000. If the murder rate shows anything, it confirms that the end of apartheid definitely had a positive impact on the safety of residents of South Africa.

Unfortunately, the country has started to reach higher numbers of violence again, as the nation begins to slip closer to the unstable state it was in 20-plus years ago. And despite the decreasing trend, the crime rates in South Africa have alarmed the international media for years. One sector of the violence includes the murder of farmers (Chothia). Since these farmers are largely white, it has caused certain groups to fear a white genocide. United States President Donald Trump has addressed this issue numerous times, largely on twitter. These claims have consistently been dismissed as false, and that when murder rates are very high, it will effect everyone, not just white farmers (Chothia). So, while things on the surface may seem to be at a boiling point in South Africa, statistically the crime rates are still an improvement from 15 years ago.

Crime rates are not the only thing that improved steadily in the years following the end of apartheid. According to a 20 year review released by the South African government to display the progress the nation has made since apartheid’s end, economic factors have also improved for the nation. According to this review, “between 1994 and 2008, South Africa’s economy grew by 3.2 percent per year (Twenty, 86).” However, sometimes numbers can be misleading. According to a recent report by the World bank, South Africa is the world leader in economic divide.

Despite the change in leadership, South Africa’s black citizens are still the majority of the poor and disparaged. In fact, the Twenty Year Review even admits that inequality throughout South Africa has actually gotten worse since the end of Apartheid. Over 60% of upper management and top level positions are still held by the white minority (RESEARCH, 12). And, the majority of the nation’s wealth is held by just one percent of the population (Sulla) Some South Africans feel like very little has changed for them personally since the end of apartheid. Some publications have published reports claiming that very statement (Goodman).

However, despite those claims, there is one major change that has significantly made things better since the 1990’s, and that is the growth of government assistance to the very poor. According to World Bank’s study, these programs have helped closed the poverty gap by twenty-nine and a half percent (Sulla XXV). That is very substantial growth, and does show signs of improvement, providing hope for the future. While decreasing unemployment, and finding a way to close the wage gap is the end goal, if the government can do more to help its citizens, and poverty rates go down, that is still a step in the right direction. Citizens being above the poverty line should be the end goal.


Despite the successes seen by South Africa in the years following apartheid, there is no denying that in recent years the nation has seen a significant trend for the worse. In recent years, corruption has taken center stage in the South African government. One major example is the presidency of Jacob Zuma, which created a large amount of controversy until it ended in February of 2018. Zuma himself has taken a large amount of the blame for several of the negative trends seen within the last several years. He began his political career in the 1970’s, as a protestor of the government. After years of being a political refugee, he returned in the early 1990’s, and was a large part of the government that took place following apartheid (“Jacob”). Despite this promising start, he has been in trouble numerous times.

Before he ever became president, Zuma faced accusations of accepting bribes and attempted rape charges. He would dodge those charges on his way to becoming president in 2009, replacing President Mbeki. Throughout his presidency, he would be dealing with corruption charges (“Jacob”). It his during the last 3 years of his presidency that the decline would be seen, and more violence would begin to show again. Many people in South Africa began to lose faith not only in Zuma, but the party as a whole.

This is significant because it is the same party which led to the rise of Mandela and the new constitution. Given the climate, he finally resigned (Bundy). Zuma’s failed presidency can be viewed as symbolic for the corruption rampant throughout the South African government. While the new leaders promise to end the corruption, only time will tell if they can avoid the same pitfalls that led to the problem in the first place. And maybe, they will find a leader that is up to the challenge of stepping into the big shoes that have been empty since Nelson Mandela left office.

Since the end of apartheid, the world has kept a watchful eye on South Africa. In the years following, the nation has seen a significant amount of growth. The government needed to change and adapt to solve the problems that were plaguing its nation. Since the installation of their new constitution, they have seen change. Crime rates have dropped, while economic growth has risen. The nation has seen poverty rates begin to lessen as well. The nation has achieved racial freedom, and elections are no longer dictated by race.

However, it has not all been positive. In the last two years the nation has seen murder rates climb back up to 15 year a high. Tensions are beginning to rise as talk, whether or not is true, begins of white South African farmers being punished. And in the past year the leader of the nation, President Jacob Zuma has left the office in scandal. These issues have led to some people and publications to draw the conclusion that South Africa is in a dire state and that the post-Apartheid government has failed. But as it has been pointed out, that is not true. Current trends have been negative, but South Africa has been largely successful in improving itself for its citizens throughout the years since. Only time will tell if the nation will be able to sustain that success and stop the current trends, but for the time being, it is still a successful, improved situation.


  1. Bundy, Colin J., and Martin Hall. “South Africa.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2 Dec. 2018, www.britannica.com/place/South-Africa/Postapartheid-South-Africa#ref336172.
  2. Chothia, Farouk. “South Africa: The Groups Playing on the Fears of a ‘White Genocide’.” BBC News, BBC, 1 Sept. 2018, www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-45336840.
  3. Foster, Douglas. After Mandela: the Struggle for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa. Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2012.
  4. Goodman, Peter S. “End of Apartheid in South Africa? Not in Economic Terms.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 24 Oct. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/10/24/business/south-africa-economy-apartheid.html.
  5. “Jacob Zuma Fast Facts.” CNN, Cable News Network, 22 Mar. 2018, www.cnn.com/2013/01/14/world/africa/jacob-zuma—fast-facts/index.html.
  6. Kriegler, Anine, and Mark Shaw. “Facts Show South Africa Has Not Become More Violent since Democracy.” The Conversation, The Conversation, 19 Sept. 2018, theconversation.com/facts-show-south-africa-has-not-become-more-violent-since-democracy-62444.
  7. RESEARCH BRIEF ON RACE AND EQUALITY IN SOUTH AFRICA 2013 – 2017. South African Human Rights Commission.
  8. “Rwanda Genocide: 100 Days of Slaughter.” BBC News, BBC, 7 Apr. 2014, www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-26875506.
  9. Sulla, Victor; Zikhali, Precious. 2018. Overcoming Poverty and Inequality in South Africa : An Assessment of Drivers, Constraints and Opportunities (English). Washington, D.C. : World Bank Group.
  10. Twenty Year Review: South Africa, 1994-2014. The Presidency, 2014.

Cite this paper

Post-Apartheid South Africa. (2021, Jul 26). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/post-apartheid-south-africa/

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Peter is on the line!

Don't settle for a cookie-cutter essay. Receive a tailored piece that meets your specific needs and requirements.

Check it out