Despite public demonstrations, UN resolutions, and opposition from international religious societies, apartheid was applied with increased rigor in the 1960s. In 1961 South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth of Nations rather than yield to pressure over its racial policies, and in the same year the three South African denominations of the Dutch Reformed Church left the World Council of Churches rather than abandon apartheid. Although the policy of apartheid was continued under Prime Minister John Vorster, there was some relaxation of its pettier aspects, and this accelerated under his successor, P. W. Botha.
Probably the most forceful pressures, both internal and external, eroding the barriers of apartheid were economic. International sanctions severely affected the South African economy, raising the cost of necessities, cutting investment, even forcing many American corporations to disinvest, for example, or, under the Sullivan Rules, to employ without discrimination. In addition, the severe shortage of skilled labor led to lifting limits on African wages, and granting Africans the right to strike and organize unions. Unions, churches, and students organized protests throughout the 1970s and 80s. Moreover, political, economic, and military pressures were exerted by the independent countries of sub-Saharan Africa.
As a result of these pressures, many lesser apartheid laws—such as those banning interracial marriage and segregating facilities—were repealed or fell into disuse by 1990. In 1991 President de Klerk obtained the repeal of the remaining apartheid laws and called for the drafting of a new constitution. In 1993 a multiracial, multiparty transitional government was approved, and fully free elections were held in 1994, which gave majority representation to the African National Congress.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.