Last week Investec Asset Management ran advertisements about its change of name to Ninety One. "The dismantling of apartheid started in 1991 – the year that we began," was the key sentence. A happy coincidence, no doubt, but only a half truth.
Investec Asset Management might indeed have launched itself in 1991, but by then the dismantling of apartheid had been under way for almost a quarter of a century.
The man who started the process was none other than John Vorster. He it was who announced in 1967 that Maoris could be included in New Zealand All Black rugby teams touring to play against the Springboks. The alternative would have been calling off a tour to South Africa due in 1970.
Most people dismissed this policy change as inconsequential. But a handful of rebel National Party (NP) MPs saw it as the thin end of the wedge and launched a right-wing breakaway party in an effort to prevent Prime Minister Vorster from going further. That, however, did not stop him.
In 1973, when tens of thousands of black African workers went on an illegal strike in Durban, he did not lock them up. Instead, he changed the law to give them the same rights to strike as white, coloured, and Indian/Asian workers had long enjoyed. In the same year Mr Vorster announced that the government would no longer resist erosions of the industrial colour bar. And six years later, in 1979, the colour bar was removed from the Industrial Conciliation Act, with the result that black African workers and their trade unions now had the same collective bargaining rights as other workers.
First sport. Then the workplace. Next for deracialisation were property rights, long denied to black Africans. In 1978 the NP government announced that urban Africans would be permitted to obtain their homes on 99-year leases. A few years later the government went further when it launched its "great housing sale" in which half a million state-owned houses would be sold to their occupants. By the end of the 1980s more than 40% of state-owned houses in black African townships had been sold to their occupants.