Apartheid in South Africa
Apartheid (“apartness” in Afrikaans) is a state-sponsored racial discrimination system that allowed South Africa’s dominant white minority to ruthlessly segregate and exploit the country’s black majority (UN, n. pag.). From 1948 to 1994, millions of blacks (including Asians, Bantus and Coloreds) were forcibly moved to government-controlled reservations (Africana, n. pag.). They were also stripped of their rights as South African citizens – certain laws dictated where they could live, what jobs were open to them and the kind of education that they could access (MSN Encarta, n. pag.). Those who were against apartheid were considered “communists” and were eliminated through strict security legislation, resulting in South Africa’s transformation into a police state (MSN Encarta, n. pag.).
South Africa already had a long history of white paramountcy and racism prior to the legalization of apartheid (MSN Encarta, n. pag.). At the height of the South African gold rush in the late 19th century, unfair regulations were imposed on black miners to prevent them from enjoying the same labor standards that white workers enjoyed (Hazlett, n. pag.). The Pass Laws, for intance, prohibited black workers from travelling without passports, residing within the proximity of their workplace and bringing their families with them (Hazlett, n. pag.).
After his victory in the 1948 South African general elections, Prime Minister Daniel F. Malan (1948-1954) included apartheid in the platform of the Afrikaner Nationalist party (HighBeam, n. pag.). As a result, the government forced large numbers of Asians and Coloreds to relocate to townships or black settlements (HighBeam, n. pag.). It was said that “between…1950 and 1986, about 1.5 million Africans were forcibly removed from cities to rural reservations” (HighBeam, n. pag.).
During the regime of Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd (1958-1966), apartheid evolved into a legislation called the Separate Development Policy (HighBeam, n. pag.). About 14% of the country’s land were granted to the Bantus as their homeland or Bantusan (HighBeam, n. pag.). However, they were still to be treated as aliens once they step outside of their respective Bantusans (HighBeam, n. pag.).
Blacks, Coloreds and Asians were under strict government survaillance whenever they travelled anywhere within the country (HighBeam, n. pag.). They were prohibited from voting or owning their own land (HighBeam, n. pag.). They were also provided limited residence and employment opportunities (HighBeam, n. pag.). They were not allowed to live and or work in the city without a special work permit (HighBeam, n. pag.). Even if they did have a permit, they cannot bring their families along with them, resulting in the breakup of many African families during apartheid (HighBeam, n. pag.).
Meanwhile, Blacks, Coloreds and Asians who were living in South Africa’s urban areas had to reside in city townships (HighBeam, n. pag.). They were also obliged to follow strict curfew and passbook regulations (HighBeam, n. pag.). Failure to produce their passbooks whenever the authorities searched for them was punishable with arrest and imprisonment for at least 30 days (HighBeam, n. pag.).
Apartheid intensified in the 1960s despite increasing opposition from both the United Nations (UN) and the South African public (HighBeam, n. pag.). Rather than abolish apartheid, South Africa withdrew its membership from the Commonwealth of Nations in 1961 (HighBeam, n. pag.). Due to their pro-apartheid stance, the three South African branches of the Dutch Reformed Church left the World Council of Churches in the same year (HighBeam, n. pag.).
However, international sanctions forced South African enterprises to employ without discrimination (HighBeam, n. pag.). The extreme lack of skilled labor also forced these companies to raise the wages of their African workers and grant them the right to strike and form unions (HighBeam, n. pag.). Furthermore, protests from South Africa’s progressive religious, labor and student organizations increased during the 1970s and the 1980s, drawing support from the independent countries of sub-Saharan Africa (HighBeam, n. pag.).
One of South Africa’s most famous anti-apartheid figures is Nelson Mandela (MSN Encarta, n. pag.). In 1951, he became the president of the African National Congress (ANC), a “multiracial nationalist movement which sought to bring about democratic political change in South Africa” (MSN Encarta, n. pag.). Mandela became one of the ANC’s four deputy presidents in 1952 (MSN Encarta, n. pag.).
In 1952, the ANC orchestrated the Defiance Campaign, wherein its members throughout South Africa publicly refused to comply with apartheid laws (MSN Encarta, n. pag.). By the late 1950’s, the ANC was already well-known for its militant stance against the South African government (MSN Encarta, n. pag.). In March 1960, it joined forces with its rival, the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) to protest the Pass Laws (MSN Encarta, n. pag.). But in the same month, the Sharpeville Massacre occurred, which resulted in both organizations being outlawed (MSN Encarta, n. pag.).
Under the charges of “incitement and leaving the country illegally” (MSN Encarta, n. pag.), Mandela was arrested in August 1962 and was penalized with incarceration for five years (MSN Encarta, n. pag.). He was later tried for sabotage, treason and violent conspiracy, to all of which he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in June 1964 (MSN Encarta, n. pag.). Mandela was kept under maximum security in Robben Island for the next 18 years, before being transferred to Pollsmoor Prison near Cape Town (MSN Encarta, n. pag.). He eventually became an “international symbol of resistance to apartheid” (MSN Encarta, n. pag.).
Mandela’s imprisonment did not stop the South African people from fighting apartheid. Throughout the 1980s, South Africa faced a host of social ills such as massive black unemployment, inadequate housing, skyrocketing rent prices, poor quality of black schools, and the surge in crime rate, particularly in the black townships (MSN Encarta, n. pag.). Violence between the people and the South African police ensued as a result, forcing the government to declare states of emergency several times within the decade (MSN Encarta, n. pag.).
To bring back peace and order in South Africa, the government tried to implement several modest reforms between 1984 and 1986 (MSN Encarta, n. pag). Some of these changes included the removal of the ban on interracial marriages and racially mixed political parties and granting blacks the rights to own property and businesses in the city (MSN Encarta, n. pag.). But the people were not satisfied – their confrontations with security forces in the aforementioned period led to 2,000 dead and 24,000 arrested and jailed blacks (MSN Encarta, n. pag.). Furthermore, more than 200 American firms pulled their businesses out of the country due to increasing international sactions (MSN Encarta, n. pag.).
Hence, the government had no choice but to put an end to apartheid. South African President F.W. de Klerk (1989-1994) abolished apartheid in 1991 (MSN Encarta, n. pag.). South Africa held its first genuine multiracial and democratic elections on April 27, 1994, with Mandela (released in 1990) emerging as the winner (MSN Encarta, n. pag.).
Unfortunately, South Africa is still in the same situation that it was in at the height of apartheid. Corruption is very rampant in the government. Millions of South Africans, mostly blacks, remain poor and uneducated. The country’s crime rate is continuously soaring. Finally, an AIDS epidemic is sweeping across South Africa.
Indeed, while South Africans learned how to fight and die for freedom, they did not learn how to live for and take care of it.
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Hazlett, Thomas W. “Apartheid.” 2002. The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. 16 April
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