South Africa's Struggle for Human Rights
The History of Rights in South Africa
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: Ohio University Press
Series: Ohio Short Histories of Africa
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The immediate spur to writing this book was an invitation by my friend and colleague Paul Betts to write an article on human rights and social rights for a conference he was helping to organise in Berlin in 2010. Snow-bound Britain prevented our reaching Germany, and I was left with an incomplete paper requiring a great deal more work. ...
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South Africa’s transition to a post-apartheid democracy, so often referred to as a ‘miracle’, is widely celebrated as a triumph for global human rights. The country’s new Constitution, its Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the moral authority of Nelson Mandela stand as exemplary proof of this achievement. ...
2. Burgher republicanism and colonialism
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The earliest context in which it makes sense to speak of rights in South Africa relates to citizenship status or ‘burgerschap’. At the slave-holding Cape, ‘free burghers’ were independent colonists, typically ‘Boers’ (farmers) who succeeded in moving beyond the strict controls of the governing Dutch East India Company ...
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In the first place, a small but vocal humanitarian and emancipationist lobby became active in advocating the abolition of slavery and measures to free Khoekhoe servants and child ‘apprentices’ from conditions of effective serfdom. Their networks of influence extended beyond the Cape to mission societies and evangelical campaigning groups ...
4. Liberalism and its challenges
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The humanitarian impulses of the Cape liberals should not be overestimated: with rare exceptions, liberals were motivated more by the desire to expand the realm of citizenship and rights for white colonists rather than for Africans. The institutions that they so assiduously built – ranging across the fields of commerce, ...
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In the period of post-war reconstruction (1902–10) and, even more, in the post-Union (1910–48) era, Afrikaners and English-speakers found common cause on the colour ‘question’. The creation of the new South Africa as a white man’s country entailed that blacks be subjected to unprecedented ideological and political scrutiny. ...
6. The Second World War and its aftermath
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During the Second World War the ANC underwent revival as a mass-based organisation, its radicalism spearheaded by members of the newly constituted ANC Youth League, whose Johannesburg-based activists (including Anton Lembede, A.P. Mda, Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela) were increasingly prominent. ...
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The Afrikaner nationalist government which came to power in 1948 on the promise to bring about ‘apartheid’ (though its meaning was as yet by no means clear) successfully preyed on white fears that Smuts’s party contained closet liberals and that any concessions to blacks would result in the calamity of racial intermixture. ...
8. Internationalising rights
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International condemnation of apartheid was led by the United Nations. At the very first meeting of the General Assembly in 1946 strong criticism was registered at South Africa’s treatment of its Indian citizens. The dramatic confrontation between Mrs Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit and General Smuts signalled the ebbing authority of the old Commonwealth ...
9. The embrace of human rights
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The efflorescence of human rights organisations in South Africa during the 1970s and 1980s was closely associated with the rise of civil society and nongovernmental institutions. These anti-apartheid bodies tended to operate largely independently of mainstream (and banned) political organisations like the ANC, ...
10. Setting the new nation to rights
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Among the many parallels between the history of Afrikaner and African nationalism is their near simultaneous – and, frankly, unlikely – rediscovery of the utility of human rights from the mid-1980s.183 This occurred at the height of the ongoing state of emergency, which tipped the country close to anarchy and civil war. ...
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Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: Ohio Short Histories of Africa