South African Party Long Linked to Apartheid Takes Its Final Bow

Clare Nullis, AP, Apr. 11

CAPE TOWN, South Africa—The party linked to decades of white racist rule in South Africa formally left the political stage Saturday, with its leader apologizing for “a system grounded in injustice.”

The New National Party—the successor to the National Party that led apartheid—approved its dissolution at a meeting of its federal council in Johannesburg. This followed a decision taken last April after a humiliating defeat in national elections to join forces with the ruling African National Congress.

“What we do today is part of our contribution to finally ending the division of the South African soul,” said NNP leader Marthinus van Schalkwyk.

“It cannot be denied that the forerunner of the NNP, the NP, brought development to a section of South Africa, but it also brought suffering through a system grounded in injustice,” van Schalkwyk said.

The National Party, which came to power in 1948, presided over 48 years of systematic and often brutal oppression of the country’s black majority, who were denied the right to vote or to mix with whites.

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The white-led Democratic Alliance, which won 50 seats last year and is the biggest opposition party, immediately invited the 257,000 “politically homeless” NNP voters into its fold.

“Our home must become their home,” said Alliance leader Tony Leon. “They have been betrayed by the NNP and, come the end of this weekend, will not be represented in national or local government.”

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