Fifty-one years ago, on Feb. 3, 1960, the then Prime Minister of Great Britain, Harold Macmillan, a Conservative, addressed the South African parliament, governed by the party that had constructed apartheid as its basis of government. He made what has come to be called the “wind of change” speech. It is worth recalling his words:
“The wind of change is blowing through this continent, and whether we like it or not, the growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must all accept it as a political fact, and our national policies must take account of it.”
South Africa’s Prime Minister, Hendrik Verwoerd, did not appreciate the talk and rejected its premises and its advice. The year 1960 has come to be called the Year of Africa, because 16 colonies become independent states that year. Macmillan’s speech was in fact really addressing the issue of those states in the southern half of the continent that had significant groups of White settlers (and often great mineral resources), who resisted the very idea of universal suffrage in which Black Africans would constitute the overwhelming majority of the voters.