Imposed Identities: A Comparative Analysis of the Formation of the Anglo-Indian and Coloured Identities


  • Mark Faassen


In March 1991, amid sweeping reforms in South Africa’s political structure, the National Party suddenly opened its membership to all races.  Within two months of the announcement, five MPs from the Labour Party, the traditional “Coloured party”, rose in the House of Representatives and crossed the floor to join the former party of Apartheid.  Peter Marais, a Coloured member of the President’s Council, proclaimed that, “the National Party without its apartheid policy is the natural home for the majority of the Coloured community.”[1]  By June 1993 the Labour Party had lost its majority position in the House of Representatives[2] as a result of continual defections by Labour MPs.  Most joined the National Party.  With only twenty-seven members left, the party officially dissolved itself in 1993.  Meanwhile outside the realm of official, parliamentary politics, the radical Coloured political organization, the United Democratic Front, was similarly disintegrating.  Many of its leaders and activists left for positions with the African National Congress.  Others left politics altogether.[3]  Thus by the end of the transition period to democracy, both of the organizations that fashioned and mediated Coloured politics in the 1980s disappeared, as members opted for whiter or blacker pastures.