Ten years after apartheid legally ended in South Africa, the political party responsible for over 50 years of brutal racism and segregation has disbanded. After a series of defeats, including a huge letdown in last year’s general election where the party won less than two percent of the vote, on Saturday The New National Party (NNP) voted itself out of existence.
Former South African President F.W. de Klerk called for the establishment of a new political party in the wake of the broken NNP, renamed so in 1997 from The New Party. For a political force, responsible for introducing apartheid based on racist white supremacy, the third multiracial elections in the history of South Africa held in 2004 were particularly bitter.
de Klerk recently told the BBC that “the dissolution of the National Party creates a void in the party political scene in South Africa.” And while the current ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), holds a long record of resistance against racism, de Klerk says that many whites and other minorities feel disempowered under the ANC.
Although last year the NNP joined forces with the ruling ANC in an unprecedented political unification in an attempt to increase supporters, public interest faltered and the NNP failed to attract the Black majority.
“We need a fairly young person without any political baggage to stand up and be counted and say ‘we are going to fill this void’.” said de Klerk.
“I think there is a need to establish something to take the place of the National Party, but hopefully without the historical baggage which the National Party carried and which also played a role in its demise,” he added.
The National Party established a system of apartheid in 1948 which lawfully condoned the displacement and disenfranchisement of the black majority and Asian and colored (mixed-race) minorities and solitarily ruled until democratic elections in 1994. After the fall of apartheid, the ANC won in the first multiethnic elections in the history of South Africa.
In 1990 the then party leader de Klerk released beloved South African activist Nelson Mandela from prison. Mandela became the first black South African president while de Klerk became deputy president.
Recently, current party leader Marthinus van Schalkwyk apologized for the apartheid years under the National Party, which he said was “a system grounded in injustice”. He said the dissolution of the party was throwing off the yoke of history and was their contribution to finally ending the “division of the South African soul”.