Home History 322 lecture list Wallace G. Mills Hist. 322 13.5 White Political Parties

South African Political Parties

- this outline is intended as a quick reference.

Unionist Party—1910

- its members were imperialist, mainly English-speaking; most representatives were elected from Natal, the smallest province with few Afrikaners, where many people were concerned about being submerged in the new Union.

- although they were in opposition, in fact the party worked to help Botha & Smuts against the more nationalist Afrikaners under Hertzog.

- it merged with South African Party in 1920.

South African Party—1911

- it was an amalgam of various parties from the pre-Union period; there were several powerful political leaders from various colonies so that initially it was uncertain who would or should be leader. Leaders included: Gen. Louis Botha and Gen. Jan Smuts from the Transvaal, Gen. Hertzog of the Orange Free State, and John X. Merriman from the Cape.

- the moderate Louis Botha (assisted by Smuts) was asked to form the 1st gov’t and become the 1st prime minister; this quickly became the pattern for minority, English-speaking whites in South Africa— support the most moderate of the Afrikaner politicians as a means to avoid domination by more extreme nationalist Afrikaner politicians.

- the SAP was always rather heterogeneous and often brought together people who were united primarily by opposition to Afrikaner nationalist parties. It even had a ‘liberal’ wing, which came to be led by the younger Jan Hofmeyr.

National Party—1913

- the National Party was formed by Afrikaner nationalists, led by Gen. Hertzog. It was especially concerned about education policy and the dangers of anglicization. Hertzog had been a member of the 1st Union gov’t, but he had been dropped because of his attempts to get an education bill passed that would segregate white children into separate Afrikaans and English schools.

- by the standards of Malan’s party later, Hertzog’s party was relatively moderate as far as whites were concerned.

Labour Party—founded before W. W. 1

- it grew during the labour-capitalist struggles following W. W. 1.

- it entered a coalition with Hertzog’s National Party 1924-1933 to form the Pact Government.

- it lost ground in the 1928 election; in spite of the fact that the National Party won an outright majority and no longer needed the Labour Party to maintain a majority, one Labour cabinet minister was kept on as a member of the gov’t until the financial crisis and the formation of the National Government formed by the United Party in 1934.

- it continued as a minor party until after W. W. 2.

United Party—1934

- the decision to stay on the gold standard for currency (South African pound) after Britain abandoned it during the depression had produced a severe currency crisis; it was felt that only a national coalition of the main political parties in a national government (the idea of a national gov’t to replace party gov’t to deal with emergencies, such as a war or the great depression—Britain too had turned to a national coalition gov’t to deal with the crisis of the depression) could restore confidence.

- this brought a coalition (later a merger) between the South African Party (Smuts) and National Party (Hertzog) and the formation of the United Party; the merger was never complete as the old identities remained strong.

- after the rupture over the declaration of war in 1939, Hertzog and a number of followers (not all former ‘Nat.s’) left the party; although it retained the name, the United Party became increasingly like the South African Party. In fact many people and newspapers used the old name and referred to members as SAPs

- in 1953, there were secessions by people who formed the Liberal and Progressive Parties (see below).

- in 1970s there were further splits and the party broke into at least 3 separate factions in 1975.

‘Purified’ National Party—1934

- this was the party formed by D. F. Malan and his supporters as a result of dissatisfaction with the watering down of nationalism in the newly formed United Party. It inherited the name and became the new National Party.

- it won the election in 1948 and remained in power until the transitional gov’t was formed under Nelson Mandela in the early 1990s; in power, this party created and implemented the ‘apartheid’ state.

Dominion Party—1934

- this party was formed among English-speaking whites dissatisfied with the down-playing of imperial ties and the formation of the United Party (Hertzog was disliked for his moves to strengthen South African symbols at the expense of imperial symbols).

- it gained most of its support in Natal (there was a secessionist movement there and in a way it was the rebirth of the Unionist Party); it always remained a minor party but, along with the Labour Party, helped to give Smuts a majority in support of joining the war on the side of the Allies against the Axis powers in 1939 and throughout the war.

- it contested the election in 1948 but disappeared later in the unity behind the United Party in the attempt to defeat the Nat.s in the 1953 election.

Afrikaner Party—1941

- this party was formed by Havenga (a long time friend and supporter of Hertzog) after Hertzog’s death. Havenga had been a prominent politician and long time finance minister before Sept. 1939; he had followed Hertzog into opposition to declaring war on Germany.

- Havenga was persuaded to join the National Party cabinet in 1951; the N. P. government needed to build its majority to remove Coloured voters from the common rolls (this was an ‘entrenched’ right in the constitution and required a two-thirds vote of both houses of parliament sitting together).

- the Afrikaner Party disappeared into the National Party.

Liberal Party—1953

- it was formed by academics and other white ‘liberals’ after the failure to defeat the National Party and bring the United Party to power; its most prominent leader was the author, Alan Paton.

- it advocated a non-racial franchise; its leaders were frequently arrested and banned;

- it was banned and disappeared by early 1960s.

Progressive Party—c. 1953

- it was also founded in the wake of the failure to defeat the Nat.s in 1953; it was kept going by the money and influence of Harry Oppenheimer.

- it strongly opposed apartheid, but it never adopted the idea of one person-one vote.

- it never had great electoral success (often it had only 1 elected representative—Helen Suzman) but the courage and doggedness of Ms. Suzman gave it much greater influence than numbers would indicate. For many years, it was said that even though she was only one person, she was the real opposition in parliament.

Progressive Federal Party—1975

- the Progressive Party had adopted federalism as a means of solving some of the political problems of multi-racial character of South Africa; it made significant gains in the 1974 election.

- with the disintegration of the United Party, the largest faction joined with the Progressive Party to form the Progressive Federal Party and became the largest opposition party.

Conservative Party—c. 1979

- the earliest ‘verkrampte’ split from the National Party occurred in 1968 when Albert Hertzog (the son of Gen. Hertzog) and a few followers were dropped from cabinet and from the Party. Hertzog formed the Herstigte Nationale Party (Restored National Party—HNP). Although the HNP had significant support in several elections it contested, it never succeeded in winning a seat in parliament. It was still a significant factor in the 1981 election.

- there was another split in the National Party when Connie Mulder was disgraced in a scandal and lost out to P. W. Botha to succeed John Vorster in 1978; Mulder helped to form the original Conservative Party.

- in 1981 Dr. Andries Treurnicht objected to Botha’s proposal for power-sharing (with Coloureds and Indians, not Africans) in a new three chamber parliament (whites, Coloureds and Indians); Treurnicht lost and was driven out of the National Party. Treurnicht and his followers joined and took over the Conservative Party. It became the largest opposition party and the official opposition.

Democratic Party—c. 1989 or 1990

- in the 1980s, most attention was focused on the struggle between the Conservative and National parties. Even Botha’s modest revisions to apartheid were being fought tenaciously by the Conservative Party and De Klerk’s moves to dismantle apartheid produced a frenzy of outrage (including fascist-like groups which were threatening violence). In this battle among Afrikaners, other political parties were marginalized and many non-Afrikaner whites began to support the National Party as a less extreme, preferable option to the Conservative Party.

- the Democratic Party was formed by those who were advocating a non-racial South Africa (the National Party under De Klerk was still trying to avoid majority rule by favouring some sort of arrangement of power-sharing among the different racial groups); the Democratic Party was formed in the wake of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and was the first party to open membership to all racial groups, including Africans, even though the latter had not achieved any recognition of political rights. Its political position was close to that of the ANC.

- it was an interim solution, but it contested the 1994 election on its own, apart from the ANC but had only limited success. The ANC has been trying to absorb people like those who supported the Democratic Party.

- with the legalising of the ANC and PAC in the early 1990s, politics were thrown open. Not only did the ANC and PAC set up open political parties, but a large number of new parties emerged. A total of 23 parties were recognised and contested the 1994 election.

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