In the course of the late 1970s and the 1980s the rigid Verwoerdian model developed during the heyday of apartheid began to break down. The National Party government experimented with a number of reforms designed to adjust apartheid to changing economic and social circum- stances, while still retaining a monopoly of political power. But the spiral of resistance and repression intensified. By the mid-1980s virtual civil war existed in many parts of the country, with the army occupying black townships and surrogate vigilante groups adding to the conflict. The state retained control with military power, detentions and increased repres- sion; but the vast majority of South Africa’s population was alienated from the state to an unprecedented degree. Meanwhile, international condemnation grew and economic sanctions began to bite. The impasse was broken only when the exiled ANC and PAC were unbanned in 1990 and the new State President, F.W. de Klerk, made a qualified commitment to meaningful change. Negotiations between the state and the newly unbanned movements, although accompanied by violent conflict and widespread suspicion of state intentions, finally led to the creation of a new democratic constitution, and the election of an ANC-led government in 1994. The collapse of apartheid and the avoidance of a prolonged racial bloodbath was one of the major success stories of the late twentieth century, although economic and social problems remained overwhelming in magnitude.
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