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Equality and Compromise in South Africa
In South Africa, from 1948 until 1994, there was a system of legal racial segregation known as apartheid. Under apartheid, laws stripped black people and other minorities of their rights and dignity. However, in 1994, through the efforts of a reform-minded President Frederik De Klerk and the ANC leader Nelson Mandela they brought an end to apartheid.
De Klerk‘s political career began in 1969, when he was elected to the House of Assembly, one of the houses of Parliament. He quickly moved up in the National Party where he was appointed head of several ministerial divisions including: mines and energy affairs, internal affairs, national education and planning. During this time in his career, de Klerk earned a reputation for supporting segregated universities and was not known to advocate reform.
In February 1989 he was elected head of the National Party. Only seven months later, after president P.W. Botha stepped down due to a stroke, de Klerk became South Africa’s new President. As President, de Klerk committed himself to the reform of the apartheid system. He entered into talks with representatives from four official racial groups (white, black, colored and Indian) to negotiate a post-apartheid constitution. De Klerk ordered the release of political prisoners including anti-apartheid activist and future South African President Nelson Mandela and lifted the ban on political groups such as the African National Congress and Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania.
In 1991 de Klerk’s efforts culminated in the government’s repeal of the apartheid legislation, which was strongly supported by white voters. De Klerk, Nelson Mandela and several other representatives drafted a new constitution which led to multi-racial national elections resulting in the victory of the ANC and Mandela. In 1993, de Klerk received the Nobel Peace Prize along with Nelson Mandela for their contributions to the establishment of nonracial democracy in South Africa and ending apartheid.