One, two or many? Aspects of South African Debate on the concept of Nation

This document describes South African concepts of a nation, a subject that provoked debate over the decades, and gave rise to political differences in the movement against apartheid. Many concepts are discussed, by various political groups, especially the ANC/SACP, the PAC, Black Consciousness and Inkatha. There is a degree of homogeneity in the concepts of the nation that evolved among South African opposition parties. They connected nation-building with socialism. All of them, except Inkatha, stressed the role of the black working class in the process of nation-building. Nation was conditional on ideology. All parties recognised the existence of cultural differences in South Africa , but differed on how to deal with them. Ethnicity was the focal point of the apartheid doctrine, and also for the liberation movements. Most interpretations of nationhood by South African anti-apartheid movements were based on rejecting apartheid concepts. Apartheid came to an end, and we are witnessing a tendency for different concepts to draw closer together than before. The mobilising role of the alternative concepts of nation is not over; they serve the purposes of mobilisation in the struggle for power. South Africans experience a cross-section of identities in their everyday lives, and a particular understanding of a concept of nation may not be a priority on the list.