The governing National Party agreed to open its membership to all races Friday when the last of four provincial congresses voted to support the proposal of President F.W. de Klerk.
"Our goals are beyond reproach, and we can say with elation that the National Party is on course," de Klerk told 1,000 congress delegates meeting in Pretoria.All four provincial congresses easily passed the measure, which called for eliminating racial qualification for membership. Approval by the congresses permits the party hierarchy to make the change.
The move represented a sharp reversal for the National Party, which implemented the apartheid system of racial segregation and white dominance after gaining power in 1948.
The party has traditionally been the political domain of Afrikaners, the Dutch-descended whites who dominate the government.
Despite the move, it was not clear if many blacks would join the National Party. African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela has said any prominent black would be commiting political suicide if he joined the governing party.
Even if blacks were to join the National Party, South Africa's constitution prohibits them from voting in national elections.
De Klerk has pledged to end apartheid and negotiate power-sharing with the black majority. He also has sought the lifting of international economic sanctions imposed against South Africa to protest apartheid.