ON THIS DAY    2 February      Graphics version >>   BBC News >>
Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
1990: De Klerk dismantles apartheid in South Africa

VIDEO : Celebrations on the streets of Johannesburg

The President of South Africa has lifted the 30-year ban on leading anti-apartheid group the African National Congress.

In a televised speech at the opening of Parliament in Cape Town, President FW de Klerk announced restrictions would be lifted on the ANC, the smaller Pan Africanist Congress and the South African Communist Party, which is allied to the ANC.

He also made his first public commitment to release jailed ANC leader Nelson Mandela, but he did not specify a date.

The reforms will allow active opposition to apartheid for the first time in 40 years of National Party rule.

Many observers were surprised by the scope of the reforms - which included a return to press freedom and suspension of the death penalty - signalling a partial end to the 25-year-old state of emergency.

'Recipe for problems'

Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: "He has taken my breath away".

Mr Mandela's wife, Winnie, remained sceptical.

She said: "We are not going to accept a bone without meat. The unbanning of the ANC, the South African Communist Party and the Pan-African Congress in the prevailing South African climate is simply a recipe for further problems."

Other critics complained about the government's failure to completely lift the state of emergency, as the ban on TV and photographic coverage of unrest continues.

Mr de Klerk explained this was precautionary so that the authorities could monitor the progress of the reforms.

Speaking about the release of political prisoners, he said: "It does not signify in the least the approval or condoning of crimes of terrorism or crimes of violence committed under their banner."

The Conservative opposition has demanded a referendum on the white reaction to the new measures.

World leaders praised Mr de Klerk.

US President George Bush said he welcomed the decision to dismantle apartheid but emphasised further action would be needed before economic sanctions could be lifted.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has written to Mr de Klerk to congratulate him for his courage.

In Context
Nelson Mandela was released on 11 February 1990

President FW de Klerk lifted the remaining apartheid legislation in 1991.

The ANC became South Africa's first democratically elected government in April 1994.

Nelson Mandela became the country's first black president on 10 May 1994 aged 75.

He retired in the middle of 1999 and was replaced as president by Thabo Mbeki.


Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
^^ Back to top |