Critical junctures in South Africa

By Kristy Charlton

A critical juncture is seen as the moment “when there are two possible choices to choose from and once selected it becomes difficult to return to the initial point when other alternatives were available”. At this juncture, change is possible.

On the 27th of April 1994, South Africa held their first multiracial democratic elections. The democratic elections saw the power shift to the social democratic political party known as the African National Congress (ANC) as well as the countries first black president Mr. Nelson Mandela. Before the rainbow nation was created, South Africa was a nation of segregating its race, land and its political ideals, this was known as Apartheid.

A critical juncture led to this shift in power from the National Party, consisting of an all-white government and promoting Afrikaner nationalism, to a social democratic multiracial political party.

During the ruling of the National Party from 1948 many demonstrations were held against the party and the police, one being the Sharpeville massacre where police opened fire on a group of unarmed blacks associated with the Pan-African Congress (PAC), an offshoot of the ANC. There were also demonstrations for having Afrikaans as the medium language of the country, another retaliation from the oppressed members of society.

The NP held power during an economic recession and on 1973 the United Nations denounced apartheid and heavy sanctions were placed on the country.

A combination of the sanctions, retaliation of the black communities, the rise of the ANC and the release of Nelson Mandela from Robin Island led to a critical juncture. This critical juncture led to a new constitution, elections that led to a coalition government with a non-white majority and the end to the apartheid system. The ANC shifted the country to a democracy; their power shift influenced a new constitution of fair and equal rights among all racial and gender groups.