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Pact Government

South Africa's Pact Government of 1924 to 1933


The Pact government in South Africa was formed in 1924 by a coalition between the two main opposition parties: Hertzog's National Party and Cresswell's Labour Party. It came to power, defeating Smuts' South African Party, on 17 June 1924.

Two main groups were represented by coalition. The white miners (unionists) who had shown in the 1922 Rand Revolt (the third challenge by mine owners against white job protection) that they had political clout. The general strike which they called rapidly grew into armed insurrection and was only ended by the intervention of the army (and an air and artillery bombardment). The striking miners were championed by Cresswell and the Labour Party. The second group, Afrikaner farmers, resented Smuts' support for industrialists (especially the mine owners) who were pulling cheep Black labor away from the farms. The Afrikaners were championed by Hertzog's National Party.

One of the main accomplishments of the Pact government was the introduction of the Civilized Labour Policy (Beskaafde Arbeidsbeleid). A major step towards the apartheid regime of the 50s, the Pact government introduced legislation which reinforced preferential treatment for white farmers and workers. Protective tariffs were introduced for local industry, the agricultural sector received subsidies, and new, state-run, South African Iron and Steel Corporation was formed (Suid Afrikaanse Yster en Staal Industriele Korporasie, ISCOR, founded through the Iron and Steel Industry Act, No. 11 of 1928). Whites obtained sheltered employment in the public sector, specially on the railways, and a minimum wage (for Whites) was introduced.

Pact government increasingly moved towards Afrikaner nationalism: Afrikaans was adopted as an official language through the Official Languages of the Union Act No. 8 of 1925, and a new national flag was introduced (Nationality and Flag Act No. 40 of 1927). Racial segregation became a popular theme of political debate, and South African Blacks experienced further restrictions on mobility and tenancy. Indians were denied the right to become South African citizens.

In the 1929 election, the National Party won a majority, but members of Creswell's Labour Party remained cabinet ministers. The Pact government came to an end in 1933 when the National Party formed a coalition with Smuts' South African Party -- many of Creswell's followers had joined Smuts' SAP. In 1934 the majority of the National Party and the South African Party 'fused' to form the United Party, with Hertzog retaining the post of prime minister. DF Malan and 19 others left to form the Gesuiwerde Nationale Party, (GNP, Purified National Party).

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