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Thu, 10.02.1986

The Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 is Passed

*On this date in 1986, The Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 was passed and enacted by the United States Congress.  

The act was initiated in 1972 by Congressman Ronald Dellums in reaction to the plight of blacks in South Africa and demanded the end of apartheid.  The bill was re-introduced in 1986 and brought up for a vote despite Republican efforts to block it to give Ronald Reagan's sanctions time to work. It initially passed unexpectedly in the House in June 1986 after Republicans agreed to a voice vote in the hope that the bill would die later in the process, thus ending any possibility of sanctions. Reagan publicly opposed the bill.  

In August 1986, the Senate passed a version of the Anti-Apartheid Act with weaker sanctions by a margin of 84-14. Democratic leaders in the House agreed to accept the weaker Senate version of the bill for it to have sufficient bipartisan support to avert a possible veto.  Reagan vetoed the compromised bill on September 26, calling it "economic warfare" and alleging that it would mostly hurt the impoverished black majority and lead to more civil strife.  Republican Senator Richard Lugar, then chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, led the charge to override the veto, turning against a president he had typically supported. 

This override marked the first time in the twentieth century that a president had a foreign policy veto overridden.  Apartheid opponents in the United States and South Africa applauded the vote, while critics argued that it would be either ineffectual or lead to more violence. 

The law imposed sanctions against South Africa and stated five preconditions for lifting the sanctions that would essentially end the system of apartheid, which the latter was under at the time. Most of the sanctions were repealed in July 1991, after South Africa took steps towards meeting the preconditions of the act, with the final vestiges of the act being repealed in November 1993.  

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