chapter  6
20 Pages

Church Leadership, State Repression, and the "Spiral of Involvement" in the South African Anti-apartheid Movement, 1983-1990

U n April 27, 1994, millions of South Africans, of all racial and class backgrounds,

voted in that country's first democratic election, ending forty-five years of apartheid

rule and more than three hundred years of segregated rule. The 1994 election swept to

power by an overwhelming majority the African National Congress (ANC), the African

continent's oldest liberation movement. The apartheid system, established in 1948, was

a highly institutionalized system of segregation, accompanied by massive human rights

abuses. Under this system, black South Africans, who comprise eighty-seven percent of

the population, were forced to live on only thirteen percent of the land. At the time of

birth, each individual was classified according to one of four racial groups-whites, col-

oreds, Indians, and Africans. This racial categorization determined all aspects of a per-

son's life from the time of birth until death-including residency, education, occupa-

tion, health benefits, even where one could be buried. In the 1970s, the South African

government spent fourteen times as much on the education of a white child as on that

of an African child. Through the creation of ethnically separate "homelands," black

South Africans were stripped of their citizenship, and forced to travel long distances to

"white" South Africa, where they often worked. There they were deprived of all civil

and human rights, and were subject to massive harassment by the South African gov-

ernment. Until 1994, no black had the right to vote or to be represented in the govern-

ment. Those who dared to protest these human rights abuses were subject to repression,

torture, and, often, death.