The Collapse of Apartheid and the Dawn of Democracy in South Africa, 1993

Reacting Consortium Press | Now Available | ISBN 978-1-4696-3316-9

This game situates students in the Multiparty Negotiating Process that took place at the World Trade Center in Kempton Park, South Africa, in 1993. The object of the talks, and the object of the game, is to arrive at a consensus for a new constitution for a new post-apartheid South Africa in the midst of tremendous social anxiety and violence. Just as the cultural setting of South Africa was immensely diverse, so also is the game. Racial diversity—white, black, Indian—is only one dimension of diversity; in fact, by the time of the talks, racial diversity was less critical than were cultural, economic, and political differences. The game, then, requires students to seek to build consensus in the midst of profoundly puzzling complexity and a web of surprising alliances.

The South Africa game is focused on the problem of how to transition a society conditioned to profound inequalities, harsh political repression, and great social and cultural diversity to a democratic, egalitarian system of governance. How, in other words, should a society shape itself ethically? Because the issues are complex and not strictly racial, the game forces students to ponder carefully the meaning of democracy as a concept. They are typically surprised at what they find—that justice and equality are not always comfortable bed-partners with liberty and that healthy democracy may sometimes not be best expressed through counting votes even though universal suffrage was one of the most important symbols of new democratic beginnings for South Africa. Indeed, they learn the important lesson that democracy in a diverse setting requires creative collaboration, compromise, and consensus building more than vote-gathering. Students engage in questions of justice based in principles established in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the Freedom Charter of 1953, and the ideas of Stephen Biko and Nelson Mandela; many parties also have their own key texts (such as Gandhi, Marx, or Mill) from which some of their principles derive.


 "The transition to majority rule in South Africa has often been described as a 'miracle.' This makes a nice story, but doesn’t do justice to the tremendous efforts of flawed mortals who pulled the country back from the brink of civil war.  By asking students to inhabit self-interested positions in this divided society, The Collapse of Apartheid conveys the real and terrifying possibility of failure and teaches  that the South Africans made their own miracle." 

- Nancy Jacobs, Professor of History, Brown University 

"This is a beautifully designed game on a decisive moment in contemporary history. The authors have very deftly framed an emotionally charged historical setting, one marked by racial violence and conflict, around issues of democracy, justice, and rights. The game will be especially valuable for American students confronting the complexities of race in a context very different from the modern United States."

- Ian McNeely, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, University of Oregon

About the Authors:

John C. Eby is an associate professor of history at Loras College.

Fred Morton is a specialist in the history of South Africa and Botswana. He taught at the University of Botswana and Loras College and has co-authored four books and published numerous articles on Botswana and South Africa, with particular reference to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.