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Heads of Government

Leadership during the rise and fall of apartheid:

South African History in the 20th Century was dominated by the rise and fall of apartheid, a form of government based on racial classification that placed power and privilege in the hands of a small minority of people of European decent and disenfranchised the large majority of the nation’s population who are of African decent.

The bitterness of two Anglo-Boer wars, fought between the British and Afrikaners (White South Africans primarily of Dutch decent) provided soil within which the Afrikaner nationalist ideology of apartheid could grow. In the tussle between Afrikaner and English South Africans, it was ultimately, South Africans of colour who lost out.

The men who oversaw the rise and fall of apartheid were the nation’s heads of government. In 1910 the two former Afrikaner colonies of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State were united with the two British governed colonies, the Cape and Natal to form the Union of South Africa under the British Crown. From this time, the South African government was led by a Prime Minister.

Although they were Afrikaners, the early Prime Ministers, Botha and Smuts took a reconciliatory stance between Afrikaner and English South Africans. Under Hertzog, privileges for working class Whites were entrenched and Blacks were further disenfranchised.

Apartheid, however, only became official government policy under the leader of the Afrikaner Nationalist Party, Prime Minister DF Malan who came to power in 1948. His successors built on this policy...

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