Did white South Africa crack, or did its leadership yield sufficiently and just in time to avert a revolution? The transformation has been called a miracle, belying gloomy predictions of race war in which the white mirity went into a laager and fought to the last drop of blood. Why did it happen? Professor Welsh views the topic against the backdrop of a long history of conflict spanning apartheid's rise and demise, and the liberation movement's suppression and subsequent resurrection. His view is that the movement away from apartheid to majority rule would have taken far longer and been much bloodier were it t for the changes undergone by Afrikaner nationalism itself. There were turning points, such as the Soweto uprising of 1976, but few believed that the transition from white domination to inclusive democracy would occur as soon -- and as relatively peacefully -- as it did. In effect, however, a multitude of different factors led the ANC and the National Party to see that neither side could win the conflict on its own terms. Utterly dissimilar in background, culture, beliefs and political style, Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk were an unlikely pair of liberators. But both soon recognised that they were dependent on each other to steer the transformation process through to its conclusion.
David Welsh was born in Cape Town and educated at the Universities of Cape Town and Oxford. He joined the teaching staff of UCT in 1963 and retired in 1997 as Professor of Southern African Studies in the Department of Political Studies. He is currently Professor Extraordinaire in the Department of Political Science at Stellenbosch University. He has published widely on South African issues, and on ethnicity and politics in other divided societies. He is married to Virginia van der Vliet and lives in Rondebosch.