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Thirty years ago, a majority of White South African voters approved a referendum supporting the dismantling of apartheid, the country’s harsh institutionalized system of racial segregation.

President F.W. de Klerk won a mandate to end apartheid and share power with the black majority for the first time by scoring a landslide victory in the Whites-only referendum on reform.

From The San Diego Union-Tribune, Wednesday, March 18, 1992:

S. Africa buries apartheid

Whites give go-ahead for sharing of power

By Barry Renfrew, Associated Press

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — President F.W. de Klerk today won a mandate to end apartheid and share power with the black majority for the first time by scoring a landslide victory in a whites-only referendum on reform.

Based on results from all 15 election districts, de Klerk had 68.7 percent of the vote. De Klerk won all but one of the reporting districts, including four traditionally pro-apartheid districts. Voter turnout was 85.7 percent, much higher than expected.

“Today we have closed the book on apartheid,” the president told cheering supporters in Cape Town.

De Klerk’s margin of victory exceeded most predictions and cleared the way for him to continue reforms on scrapping apartheid and giving blacks the vote. It was an unprecedented declaration for peace and compromise by whites in a nation branded for decades as an intractable stronghold of racism.

White and black political leaders said it was clear that most whites believed sharing power with the nation’s black majority was the only solution to South Africa’s problems.

“White voters have faced up to reality,” said Ken Andrews, a lawmaker of the liberal Democratic Party, which backed de Klerk’s governing National Party.

Helen Suzman, the veteran anti-apartheid activist, said: “At last South Africa has embarked on a new course.”

Nelson Mandela, president of the African National Congress, hailed the victory, saying: “An overwhelming ‘yes’ vote means the process (of democracy) is definitely on course.”

Andries Treurnicht, leader of the pro-apartheid Conservative Party, conceded defeat. “De Klerk has won . . . that is clear,” he told reporters.

Patrick Lekota, another leader of the ANC, the nation’s main black opposition group, told a rally in Johannesburg that the days of white minority rule were almost over. “We say it’s the last time the white constituency votes by itself. We’ve had enough of that,” he said.

Right-wing groups opposing de Klerk said they would not abandon their struggle for a white homeland despite their poor showing in the referendum.

De Klerk’s victory came as thousands of blacks marched peacefully in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria to protest their continued exclusion from power. The ANC called the marches to protest the presentation of the annual budget Wednesday in Parliament in Cape Town, where blacks are not represented.

A rival black group, the Pan Africanist Congress, denounced the referendum despite the result. “The all-white referendum is an obscenity and an insult to the dispossessed masses of our country,” it said.

Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com

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