The National Party was the political party that governed South Africa from 1948 to 1994. Its two main goals were: 1) establishing South Africa as a Republic independent from British sovereignty and 2) institutionalizing Apartheid, a series of government policies that established racial segregation and helped whites maintain political and economic control.
The party was formed in 1912 by Afrikaners, white people of Dutch, French, and German descent. The National Party began gaining political dominance in 1924, while its founder, J.M.B Hertzog, was Prime Minister of South Africa. Under his leadership, the government passed laws undermining the votes of non-whites and strengthening the voting power of the National Party. In 1948, they became the ruling government party and began to institute policies of Apartheid.
From growing opposition to Apartheid, in the 1980’s the Nationalist Party reformed its policies. It granted political representation to coloureds and Indians. However, the party still refused to grant more political rights to blacks until 1989, when prime minister, F.W. De Klerk, realized Apartheid could not be realistically maintained. In 1989, upon winning the party’s last election, the National Party pledged to end the Apartheid. The black political party, African National Congress was legalized, and after being incarcerated for 27 years, Nelson Mandela was freed.
In 1994 African National Congress won South Africa’s first nationwide multiracial election, thus ending the National Party’s long dominance in South African government. The National Party was officially dissolved in 2005.
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