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Negotiations to End Apartheid in South Africa Essay


The white rulers of the National Party (NP) initiated the apartheid system in South Africa. The system segregated the Africans from accessing certain privileges, and it became a policy in1948. The policy required inhabitants of South Africa to be classified into racial groups, where, one was black, white, colored, or Indian.

People were obligated to reside in particular areas depending on their race. The National Party deprived the blacks of their citizenship, and they had to become Bantustans. The blacks could not access quality education, quality healthcare services, and other public services.

The oppression caused various incidences of violence and protests in the 1980s. The imprisonment of the anti-apartheid leaders infuriated the blacks and it caused instability across the nation.

Blacks were ready to oppose the governing National party through all ways and means. The state was repressive to the actions of the blacks and it responded by facilitating state sponsored violence.

Brief description of the negotiation

Although the governing national party reformed the apartheid system, the reformations could not stop the Africans from opposing the government. The African National Congress (ANC) had strongly believed that the apartheid government would never negotiate unless they used force.

Moreover, the ruling National Party had earlier on banned the ANC because of its armed struggle to fight for democracy. However, in 1990, President Frederik Williem De Klerk began the negotiations to finish apartheid in South Africa. The ANC could not turn down the offer to negotiate with the National Party.

While still in prison, Nelson Mandela got in touch with the anti-apartheid leaders, and he obligated them to put forward proposals to negotiate. During that period, the government had always had secret talks with Nelson regarding his intentions.

The ANC, Afrikaner intellectuals, and the white business leaders held meetings to discuss the issue of ending apartheid. President De Klerk played a significant role in influencing the whites to accept change.

Nelson Mandela was set free in 1990, and thereafter, intensive negotiations to stop apartheid commenced. Formal negotiations occurred between the governing National Party and the government, and in 4 May 1990, the two groups agreed to end armed struggle and focus on having political negotiations (Thomson, 2012).

Thereafter, there was no more violence, and the two groups stated discussing crucial matters. The release of political prisoners, immunity, education, and political rights were crucial matters that were discussed in the negotiations.

Through various struggles in the negotiations, the two parties agreed to release political prisoners, ban dangerous weapons, and create an elected constitutional assembly (Marx, 2000). The assembly would develop new regulations and amend the constitution accordingly.

Issues versus the interests of the parties involved

The governing National Party had self-interests, where the whites wanted to have some privileges over the blacks. In the negotiations, the National party insisted on having a special minority right to favor the whites.

They wanted a favored power sharing strategy based on group rights, so that they could have an opportunity to serve in the government.

On the other hand, ANC was concerned with the apartheid issue. It is worth noting that the governing National party was not happy with the entire proceedings; they wanted to remain in government and continue oppressing the Africans.

From one time to another, planned assassinations would occur in regions resided by the blacks. The ANC would respond by suspending the negotiations to protest against the killings. It is because of the cleverness of Nelson Mandela and De Klerk that the ANC and the governing National Party were able to agree.

Mandela defused the tense situations by ordering people to be calm, as he knew what he wanted for his nation. The situation worsened as the Afrikaner Resistant Movement rammed the building where negotiations were taking place, but Nelson Mandela could not give in to the ill intentions.

Finally, an agreement was reached, and the citizens were free to carry out elections and choose their leaders. The National Party became powerless, and it had to drop its demands for the minority rights for the whites.

The two parties agreed on a power-sharing translation that would allow multiple parties to take part in the government proceedings. South Africa was reborn and it established a government of national unity.

Ethical behaviors and tactics used in the negotiation

Various incidences came up to agitate the negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa. The killings in Sebokeng in 1990 infuriated the ANC leaders who had to suspend the negotiations to protest the killings.

The negotiations resumed once again, but before long, the Inkathagate scandal occurred in July 1991 to disrupt the entire exercise. Research indicates that the National Party was using the scandals as a tactic to disrupt the negotiations.

The Goldstone Commission of inquiry confirmed the allegation by exposing the government’s support for the violence in the towns resided by the blacks. The government was using a third force, where armed security officers could attack and kill the blacks to raise the eyebrows of the black leaders.

However, Nelson Mandela appealed for calmness as he recognized the intentions of the people behind the planned assassinations. He simply ordered for forgiveness for the time being, and promised to resume formal investigations after the negotiations.

Finally, Nelson Mandela achieved his goal, and in 27 April 1994, South Africa was a democratic nation that held a peaceful election. For the first time ever, millions of South Africans were able to vote for their leaders of choice.

Nelson Mandela was elected as president, and the constitution took the centre stage to govern the South Africans. The humility, perseverance, and persistence of Nelson Mandela brought the victory of justice for all citizens (Warner, 2007).

Best alternative to the negotiation (BATNA)

BATNA is the second best alternative to take if parties in a negotiation fail to come to an agreement. In this case, the National Party wanted some special minority rights for the whites. In case the parties did not come to an agreement with the African National congress, it would be the best alternative.

The blacks could have their freedom, and the whites could have some special treatments in their daily errands. However, ANC had to be cautious of the special minority rights that the National Party wanted least they go back to apartheid.

BATNA is not a safety net in any way, but it is indispensable in every negotiation. It brings in the reality that negotiations may have various outcomes, and the negotiators should be ready to accommodate any of the outcomes.

Worst alternative to the negotiation (WATNA)

WATNA is the worst alternative that parties in a negotiation can take in case they fail to come to an agreement. The National Party was still interested in overruling the blacks and oppressing them. On the other hand, the blacks were tired of the apartheid system and they were ready for a battle.

The worst alternative would be settling in for a battle as the National Party had also shown interests in battling through the planned assassinations during the negotiations. A battle between the powerful governing National Party and the furious Africans would be the worst experience in South Africa.

Previous wars had already caused massive deaths, and certainly, a national war between the two great parties would wipe out the population in South Africa in a matter of days.

Integrative negotiation strategy proposal

Integrative negotiations occur if the concessions are intended to benefit both parties equally. The win-win negotiation strategy would occur if the two parties agree on a decision that would bring mutual benefits to both parties. The integrative strategy proposal would entail the listed steps.

  1. Identify the interests of the members of each side. In the negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa, the National Party wanted some special rights for the whites while the ANC wanted to end apartheid.
  2. Create adverse options: The concession should allow every person to contribute towards or against certain parts of the negotiation.
  3. Choose the wisest decision: Since the disputants are joint problem solvers, they should choose the best decision of the available options.
  4. The two groups should choose decisions based on interests and not positions. They ought to work together to impose fair principles.
  5. The two groups should use reasoning that yields to principles, and they should not pressurize anyone.
  6. After applying the above approaches, the two groups should be able to come up with win-win opportunities. In this case, both parties would realize the win-win opportunity if equality is attained between the whites and the blacks.

Distributive negotiation strategy proposal

Distributive negotiation involves two parties that struggle to win a negotiation. The more one side gets, the more the other side looses. Distributive bargaining may occur in cases where there is no other alternative. The distributive strategy proposal would entail the listed steps.

  1. Identify the interests of the members, and identify the minimum or maximum offer that the other group would accept before surrendering.
  2. Groups should guard their information and use tricks to obtain information from their opponents.
  3. The group that manages to obtain as much information as possible about its opponent can concede or hold on to their decisions.
  4. The groups can thereby present their matters and demand their concessions.
  5. The entire process should include use of force, pressures, and the main aim is to win the negotiation as the opponent looses. In this case, the distributive negotiation strategy would apply if the blacks won and the whites became insignificant in South Africa.


From the discussions, it is evident that De Klerk, the National Party leader, played a significant role in ending apartheid in South Africa. Although he was a white, De Klerk desired to see South Africa transforming into a multi-racial democracy.

He wanted all the citizens in South Africa to have equal voting rights and equal rights to access all public services.

The humility, cleverness, and selflessness of Nelson Mandela enabled South Africans to obtain their independence. The two leaders, De Klerk and Nelson Mandela, are inimitable leaders who will remain in the world history forever.


Marx, A. W. (2000). Apartheid’s end: South Africa’s transition from racial domination. Ethnic & Racial Studies, 20(3), 474-496.

Thomson, A. (2012). A more effective constructive engagement: US policy towards South Africa after the comprehensive Anti-apartheid Act of 1986. Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies, 39(3), 371-389.

Warner, J. (2007). Different lessons from the South African experience. Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics & Culture, 14(4), 74-79.

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