“Freedom is indivisible; the chains

on any of my people were the chains

on all of them, the chains on all of my

people were the chains on me.”

–Nelson Mandela


A referendum on ending apartheid in South Africa was held on 17th March 1990, and resulted in a win for the “yes” vote. 68.7% of white South Africans voted for the end to racial segregation, and thus approved constitutional reforms to grant legal equality to blacks. This ultimately led to the lifting of the South African apartheid that had been in place since 1948.

The referendum was based on the reforms proposed two years earlier by State President F. W. de Clerk, but was limited to only white voters. The reforms also included the suspension of capital punishment, the unbanning of different political parties, as well as the decision to release Nelson Mandela after 27 years of imprisonment.

Despite criticism by right-wing parties that accused the government of electoral fraud, the referendum results were put into effect. By 1991, all apartheid laws that restricted land ownership, specified separate living areas, and classified people by race were officially lifted, and eventually the first multi-racial elections held in 1994 resulted in Mandela becoming the first black South African President.