The revolution in Portugal lead to the end of colonial rule in Africa. In 1975, Angola and Mozambique became independent and South Africa lost an important ally. South Africa refused to establish diplomatic relations with these new majority rule governments, but rather gave support to the opponents of those governments.
By the 1980s the principle opposition in Angola was UNITA, while in Mozambique it was RENAMO. Both movements were supplied with military hardware and equipment from South Africa and America. The French and the Israelis also supplied arms and military transport.
South Africa pursued a two-pronged policy:
It harassed its neighbours with military incursions and bombing raids.
It also organised sabotage campaigns, concealing mines, placing bombs and planning assassinations.
This affected countries with no military support from the Soviet Union, like Botswana and Lesotho. In the case of Angola, South African aggression began only months after independence, with an invasion at the Namibian border which took the South African Defence Force (SADF) 300 kilometres north to Lubango.
While South Africa carried out its destabilising policy, the front-line states continued to be economically dependent on South Africa. Mozambiquan men, for example, continued to cross the border to South Africa to work on the mines.
When Zambia had an election there would be an influx of South African goods in the shops. Hastings Banda, the President of Malawi, alone had diplomatic relations with South Africa.
Beginning of a new era
• Cold War - a state of hostility between America and the Soviet Union (and their respective allies) but with no military engagement.
• Socialism - a political theory and system where the means of production and distribution are controlled by the people.
• Capitalism - an economic system based on private ownership and driven by the motivation of profit.
• Communism - Karl Marx's theory, describing a historical process in which capitalism is overthrown by the working class, with the state taking over property. It is also a system of government.
• Marxist Leninism - Marx's theory modified by Lenin's idea that imperialism is the final stage of capitalism.
• Front-line States - countries bordering on South Africa. It includes Lesotho, which is surrounded by South Africa.
The South African government wreaked havoc throughout southern Africa for thirty years. In the end, it was forces of change outside the continent that shored up its aggressive behaviour. In 1989 the Berlin Wall was breached and the rule of Communism began to falter. The anti-Communist message seemed now very hollow.
In South Africa, the whole edifice of apartheid was by now beginning to feel the strain. Multinationals were increasingly sensitive to the stigma attached to investing in South Africa and perceived it to have a negative effect on their corporate image.
The war South Africa had waged on its neighbours was no longer even supported by the majority of white South Africans. For them, an unacceptably high number of young white South African men had died because of it. With the end of Communism and the Cold War, the white minority regime in South Africa lost its pivotal role as far as America was concerned. For its part, the new Former Soviet Union no longer had any desire to be involved in expensive wars abroad.
The clamour everywhere from the public was for multiparty democracy. Finally it was the big economic institutions and the private sector which brought South Africa, and the single party states of Africa, to heel. Without democracy there would be no aid, no trade, no investment. That was the message from the multinationals and the IMF alike.
A Marxist vision for Africa
"For the oppressed peoples and classes, for the peoples and workers who have taken control of their destiny, Marxism is a shining path, a sun of hope and certainty that never sets, a sun that is always at its zenith.
Marxism, the science of revolution, is the fruit of practice, of mankind's struggle for a better future and so is renewed and developed through human practice. The experiences of revolutionary struggle of the Mozambiquan people provides an illustration of this principle.
Dear comrades, our history validates the thesis that the motive force of history is class struggle. Class struggle was and is a reality on the African continent."
- President Samora Machel of Mozambique. Speech given in Berlin, 11 April 1983.
Less than a year later, President Machel was pressured by the Americans into a humiliating peace agreement with President P.W. Botha of South Africa, who immediately broke the letter and spirit of the accord by continuing his support of the rebel Renamo movement.