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In no other country where settlers established themselves in power had such a transition occurred. No turning point of such magnitude can be explained by reference to a single cause.
There is no doubt that remarkable personalities played key roles, chief among them Nelson Mandela himself, but no explanation that turns on personalities alone can be adequate.
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.
After centuries of ethnic and racial conflict, in the mid-1980s South Africa entered the most repressive phase of apartheid.In its Postamble the Interim Constitution remembers “the divisions and strife of the past, which generated gross violations of human rights, the transgression of humanitarian principles in violent conflicts and a legacy of hatred, fear, guilt and revenge”.The new Constitution is presented as providing “a historic bridge”.The transition was not derailed, as many expected and often seemed likely, but successfully completed, and it ushered in an era of political stability.To gauge the full significance of this turning point it must be remembered that it was not merely apartheid – defined either as a set of policies dating back to 1948 or, more broadly, as segregationist legislation dating back to the early twentieth century – that was overturned.