South Africa as an Example of Stability and Diversity after the Apartheid Era


Pierre Célestin Bakunda – TRANSCEND Media Service

South Africa’s Transformation Through the Conflict Resolution Mechanism

From 1948 to 1994, South Africa witnessed a drastic and violent racial segregation. This has greatly affected and contributed to economic, social and political delays to the country. Let’s observe first the conflict resolution mechanism implemented in the country, as well as the current transformation of the country. Finally, we will briefly conclude on future hopes associated with this region, due to its recent inclusion in BRICS.

In the seventeenth century, South Africa experienced Dutch colonial domination. Then the XV eighteenth century, the English took possession of the country. The country was divided into two regions, the Transvaal and the Orange Republic, belonging to the Boers. However, the discovery of diamonds and gold quickly attracted the British who imposed their domination. This marked the beginning of discrimination in the country, between English and Afrikaners or Boers White to Black. In 1910, the White community created the Union for South Africa. As a result in 1912, Black Africans created the African Nationalist Congress (ANC). It was then in 1948 that apartheid was implemented. Since the sixties, members of the Black South African community no longer had the right to marry or even mix with white community. Ghettos completely separated populations. In 1963, Nelson Mandela, a black human rights activist was imprisoned. In 1976, violent student riots supervened in Soweto. Nine per cent of the white population imposed inhuman laws on 91% of the black community, Indian and mestizoes. In 1980, the first reforms placed restrictions on the black trade unions. In 1990, Mandela was released and subsequently elected during the first democratic elections in 1994 therefore officially bringing an end to apartheid.

Thus, through the three pillars for racial fighting, Mandela, Tutu and de Klerk, South Africa was able to reconcile and begin its democratic development. Indeed, the implementation of “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” favoured a kind of crisis exit based on trust, forgiveness, safety and restorative justice (restorative) (not repressive / punitive), so that the black and white communities could begin to live together on equal footing. From a political point of view, democracy was established in 1994, which helped president Nelson Mandela and his successors, Mr Tambo Mbeki, encourage economic trade. Consequently, exports of precious materials now account for 6% of GDP, industry, mainly automotive, reached 15% of GDP, agriculture 2.6% of GDP, services including tourism, the Exchange Banks, telecommunications, 60% of GDP. The main trading partners are China, USA, UK, Germany. Opening today replaces the exclusion of the past.

Enjoying a growth of 4.8% per year (average before the crisis), a stable political system, South Africa was able to join the BRICS (FORMALLY BRIC) on 24 December 2010, as well as recieving a seat in the Security Council of the UN. This international recognition can only result in a positive outcome for the country,  by attracting new investors (including China hoping to get their hands on a new market of one billion consumers in the whole Africa). This in turn shall encourage social growth within Africa, with breakthroughs in science, technology, and education.

The Choice of South Africa in Relation to Turkey, Mexico and South Korea to Join the Club of Five Emerging Countries

South Africans have been slow to realize that their large population could be a developmental asset. From the late nineteenth century, political tensions raged between the English and Dutch, each wanting to obtain such valuable territory. Conflict, which is commonly called the Boer war, was followed by many decades of discrimination, where white farmers (Afrikaners) enslaved the black community. These racial, political and economic divisions resulted in the highest form of exclusion, isolating South Africa and thus becoming known as the country of apartheid. Marginalizing the black population of South Africa, the country was deprived of a substantial part of its workforce, thus inhibiting the country’s development.

However, Nelson Mandela’s election in 1994 marked the end to apartheid. As a result, the ANC (African National Congress) announced their plans to regain economic stability – crucial to the development of all South Africans.

Let’s focus on how the ANC achieved stability since the 2000s, and then we will discuss the consequences of such economic stability, revealing that South Africa is part of the five famous emerging countries.

Nobel Prize winner for Peace and listed as one of the 100 greatest people of the twentieth century in  “The Time Magazine”, Nelson Mandela was instrumental in giving back to the South African acclaim. In 1994, he worked with the ANC to open up the country economically.  This promoted national reconciliation, uniting both the white and black South African communities. The organization of the Rugby World Cup 1995 is in itself a great opportunity to unite the country with the rest of the world. Beyond the magnificent victory of uniting this once troubled country, investments from abroad have now regained South Africa’s credibility to the World Trade Organization, (WTO).

Economic stability of South Africa is also due to the country’s inherent advantages. With a strong workforce, the country can exploit its many and varied natural resources. In addition to its plentiful mineral and agricultural resources, South Africa is a much-loved tourist destination with its luxury safaris. This is an important source of employment for the country. Before 1994, large multinational corporations chose to settle in countries that were more politically stable. Since the end of apartheid, South Africa has become the strategic destination for companies who want to establish themselves on the ground in Africa, developing a market for the future.

South Africa is a country that appears to be economically stable. But this is not all. It is one of five major emerging countries with this new stability. It implements a skill-set that cannot be seen in Mexico, Turkey or South Korea.  Firstly unlike South Korea, South Africa is a great country in a continent that still has no real economic leader. Where South Korea has the technology to develop, South Africa derives its growth through domestic consumption and its many natural resources.

Turkey is a large country of increasing importance but it is not the most influential country on the continent. South Africa has the advantage of playing the leading role in the development of Africa. Intermediary between other emerging countries (BRIC: Brazil, Russia, India and China) and the rest of Africa, South Africa illuminates the whole of Africa economically through investments it receives from its partners, allowing South Africa, in turn,  to invest in the rest of Africa.

Finally, Mexico is a country from which people depart to work in the United States because unemployment is high and civil violence is not controlled. South Africa is instead a country that attracts workers from other neighbouring countries such as Botswana and Zimbabwe. South Africa has a force of attraction that Mexico doesn’t have.

Economic growth, influence and drive – these are the words that describe South Africa. The country has rewritten its history over the ink stains of its apartheid years. Nelson Mandela is no longer president, but his successors Tabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma have been capable to continue along the same path for the benefit of all South Africans. The organization of the 2010 World Cup was a success on all levels. Boosting employment, tourism promotion, security, townships, etc. were the priorities. Of course, inequalities are still present in South Africa, but it would appear that the country has a bright future. After all, the future of the world is Africa and without South Africa the continent is still in trouble. The challenge for South Africa is therefore to realise the dreams of other BRICS countries such as Brazil – a country with great potential due to its natural resources, but must reduce inequality and insecurity in the cities.


Pierre Celestin BAKUNDA, Ph.D. is a Professor of Sociology of Africa at EDHEC Business School and ESPEME School of Business in Lille, France and a researcher in Social Sciences. His focus is Conflict Transformation and Reconciliation in African Great Lakes Region. He is a Peace Activist who attended Peace Studies Programmes at the European University Centre for Peace Studies, EPU, Schlaining, Austria, and Wold Peace Academy, WPA, Basel, Switzerland. He is the author of Rwanda, the Inferno of Implicit Rules, L’Harmattan, July 2006, Paris; and his thesis, the Implicit Rules of the Rwandan Society and their Impact on Social, Political and Economic Development, Anrt Press, Lille, October, 2007 and a lot of articles on Africa.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 15 Apr 2013.

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