Apartheid in South Africa
Many people believe with the election of Barack Obama as president racism no longer exist. However, there are still acts of discrimination that exist today. Some acts can be blatant and harsh, most acts nowadays are less obvious. In modern day society acts of racism have slowly decreased and turned into a systematic for of racism which is less obvious. In South Africa race based ideologies paved the way for apartheid and its practices.
Race can be traced back to the sixteenth century when different cultures started interacting with other cultures. Skin tone became the most simple way to categorize people with different skin color and label them. Racism was established to justify slavery, and proclaim that the people who are less scientifically advanced were lesser human beings, and their soul purpose is to serve. Thus further explaining the creation of laws and policies throughout history making these practices and ideologies acceptable .
Throughout history there has been plenty scientific discoveries proving that race is not a biologic factor, but that race is socially constructed. Racism was created to categorize the noticeable differences between people from different geographical locations. “Race is not grounded in biology or ancestry, race informs(now and historically) matters of economics, politics, society, citizenship, national belonging, identify”.
Racism is still a negative factor that hinders African Americans in modern day society. However racist acts and discrimination still exist and have evolved into a more subtle form. These less blatant acts of discrimination can be systematic, interpersonal or institutional. Perhaps the most harmful and problematic, systematic racism is inequality through education, politics, job employment, law enforcement including the judicial system. This form of inequality is demonstrated by the National Party of South Africa’s statement claiming apartheid as being extremely beneficial and good for all races by keeping white culture separated and allowing lesser minorities and cultures to learn to grow and develop on their own account. Racism occurs in a lot of aspects in society. Discrimination through the educational system has always been a factor. In South Africa racism limits certain groups and blocks their chances of educational success. A white South African kid has a much greater chance of attending college than a black South African child.
In South Africa racism has been fueled by the apartheid, which is the Afrikan word that means separation. It was a systematic form of racial segregation in South Africa that was enforced by the National Party, the governing party which ruled from 1948 to 1994. The all white government began enforcing policies of racial segregation; this forced non white South Africans to live in separate areas than whites. Non whites had to use different public facilities and there was limited contact between the whites and blacks. These laws existed for about 50 years.
White supremacy and racial segregation was a key aspect to the South African policy before the creation of apartheid. In 1913, three years after South Africa gained its independence the Land Act was established. This marks the beginning of separating blacks from whites in South Africa and the start of territorial segregation; blacks were forced to live in reserves and could not work as sharecroppers as it was illegal. World War two and the Great Depression’s had a negative impact on South Africa’s economy and influenced the South African government to strengthen its racial segregation policies.
The Afrikaner National Party won the South African election in 1948 by promoting the slogan “apartheid” which means separateness. The National Party’s plan was to separate the white minority from the blacks, and whites from each other. Their goal was to divide the black South Africans amongst the tribal lines to limit their political power.
By 1950 apartheid had become normal and there were laws that South Africans had to abide by. For example the government made it illegal for whites to marry people of other races; also they banned sexual contact between white and black South Africans. The Population Registration Act in 1950 presented the basic outline for apartheid, it classified all South Africans by race. South Africans were categorized either as white, Bantu which were black Africans, and Coloured which was the mixed race of black and white decent. Later a fourth category was introduced, Asian which were Pakistani and Indian. These policies were so strictly enforced that families could be split where parents were labeled as white and their offspring classified as colored. Apartheid paved the way for a continuation of land acts that provided exclusive access to whites only. Whites had privilege to more than 80 percent of the land; people of color needed legal documentation in order to be in restricted areas and were denied the right to participate in the national government affairs.
The ideologies of apartheid continued in South Africa with the election of Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd as prime minister in 1958. Verwoerd pushed for separate development and promoted the Bantu Self-Government Act in 1959 which started 10 Bantu homelands called Bantustans. By separating the black South Africans amongst each other, the government could deny that there was black majority. This reduced the chance for blacks to unify into an organization and effectively removed blacks from South Africa’s political body. Through 1961 to 1994 3.5 million blacks were forced to evacuate from their homes which the government deemed as “white” areas, and were unwillingly placed in Bantustans. Through the past decades the white South African minority achieved political, economic and social benefits through a variety of laws and government interference.
The key reason for apartheid’s slow success was black resistance. The roots of resistance can be traced to the founding of the South African Native National Congress in 1912, now known as the African National Congress. Other groups were established based on the African National Congress such as the PAC. There were acts of opposition to apartheid and many blacks sacrificed their lives for the end of apartheid. There were strikes, protest and non violent demonstrations, armed resistance and political action. In 1960 A group of unarmed blacks that had ties with the PAC, Pan-African Congress protested outside a police station in Sharpesville, a black township. The blacks did not have passes and were subject to arrest. The police opened fire in resulting in 69 dead and 180 people injured. Also in 1976 the police used tear gas and opened fired on thousands of black children in the black township of Soweto, just outside of Johannesburg. These killings at demonstrations showed that apartheid did not bring peace or prosperity and needed to end. Finally in 1973 the United Nations called for an end to apartheid. F.W de Klerk’s government in 1989 got rid of the Population Registration Act and the other policies which supported apartheid. There was a new constitution created that included people of color and took effect in 1994. That year the government was compromised of a nonwhite majority which helped transition and finalize an end to the apartheid system .
Nelson Mandela remains as the symbolic leader of the fight against apartheid. Nelson Mandela was in prison from 1963-1990; He spent the first 18 years in a jail at the Robben Island Prison. Mandela was without a bed or plumbing and received less privileges then other inmates. Nelson Mandela was routinely subjected to inhumane punishments from the guards for small offenses. While in jail Mandela earned a bachelor of law degree from the University of London. In 1982 Mandela was transported to Pollsmoor Prison which was on the main land. In 1988 Nelson Mandela was placed under house arrest and was confined in a minimum security prison. President W. de Klerk ordered Mandela’s release in February 1990. Mandela was the founder of Umkhonto we Size and the military wing of the ANC; the African National Congress. Mandela was an apartheid revolutionary, a philanthropist and a politician. Nelson Mandela also served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, he was the first black president of South Africa. After his term was over Nelson Mandela still fought for peace and social justice in South Africa and all over the world. Mr. Mandela dedicated his life and sacrificed himself for the antiapartheid cause, he earned the Nobel peace prize award in December 1993. Mandela advised against using violence for change and told the blacks to not retaliate against the white minority. “[I]t would be wrong and unrealistic for African leaders to continue preaching peace and nonviolence at a time when the government met our peaceful demands with force. It was only when all else had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that the decision was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle.”Instead Mr. Mandela encouraged whites and blacks to unite and co exist peacefully . Nelson Mandela also traveled across the country organizing protest that were against discriminatory policies. Mandela’s arrest brought international attention and gain support to end apartheid.
In conclusion Americans believe that we live in a post-racial society. However that is incorrect, racism is deeply imbedded in modern culture all around the world. It has now evolved into a systematic form of racism that is reoccurring. Thought history race has divided and categorized people; racism has placed limits and obstacles for minorities. People of color are still discriminated against in much more subtle forms of racism.
1) Ali Rattansi, Racism: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford Univeristy Press, 2007) 1-12;
2) United Nations, General Assembly, Official Records: Eighth Session, Supplement No. 16 (A/2505 and A/2505/Add.1 “Report of the United Nations Commission on the Racial Situation in the Union of South Africa,” Annex V (New York: 1952), pp. 139-140.
3) “Apartheid.” History.com. Accessed April 25, 2015.
4) “Nelson Mandela.” History.com. 2009. Accessed April 25, 2015.
5) Buntman, Fran. 2003. Robben Island and Prisoner Resistance to Apartheid. West Nyack, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press. Accessed April 24, 2015. ProQuest ebrary.
6) “Excerpts From Vatican’s Declaration on Racism: ‘South Africa Is an Extreme Case of a Vision of Racial Inequality.’ Anti-Semitism Is ‘the Most Tragic Form’ of Racist Ideology in Our Era.” New York Times (1923-Current File).
- section 26 (12:10-1)
Table of Contents
2. South Africa after the foundation of the Union
2.1. South Africa in the 1910s
2.2. Election of 1924 and the economic crisis
2.3. South Africa during World War II
2.4. South Africa’s black population
3.1. The elections of 1948
3.2. Rigid segregation: the establishment of Petty and Grand Apartheid
3.3. Resistance against the Apartheid regime
3.4. Homeland Policy
3.5. The Black Consciousness Movement
3.6. Reforming the Apartheid State
3.7. The end of Apartheid in South Africa
3.8. South Africa’s first democratic elections
The further development of South Africa
“This is for all South Africans, an unforgettable occasion. It is the realisation of hopes and dreams that we have cherished over decades. The dreams of a South Africa which represents all South Africans.
It is the beginning of a new era. We have moved from an era of pessimism, division, limited opportunities, turmoil and conflict.
We are starting a new era of hope, reconciliation and nation building.
We sincerely hope that by the mere casting of a vote the results will give hope to all South Africans and make all South Africans realise this is our country. We are one nation.” [i]
Ten years after Nelson Mandela’s statement after the first democratic elections in South Africa, the nation is going to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the first elections on April 27, 2004.
I am trying to expound South Africa’s development from the foundation of the Union of South Africa to the elections of 1948 and the establishment and consolidation of the Apartheid regime to the peaceful revolution in the early 1990s in the following.
2. South Africa after the foundation of the Union
2.1. South Africa in the 1910s
After the foundation of the South African Union, politics were mainly determined by British-Afrikaner antagonism, as well as the questions of South African independence and the equality of the Dutch language respectively Afrikaans and English.
The first elections after the foundation of the South African Union, in which only white men were allowed to vote, were held in 1910. The elections were won by the South African Party (SAP) under the leadership of Louis Botha, who was, like Hertzog and Smuts, a famous general of the South African War. The SAP was a party which fought for Afrikaner interests, but there were also English-speaking members in the first government.[ii] The party members tried to create a feeling of unification after the foundation of the South African Union among white South Africans. The outbreak of World WarI was perceived, at least by a small proportion of the Afrikaner population, as an opportunity to achieve the Union’s independence from the British Empire. Following an order from London, South African forces invaded German South West Africa[iii]. They also fought in Northern France and German East Africa, which was later given to South Africa as a consequence of the Treaty of Versailles.
A small group of Afrikaner and their generals who openly rebelled were a challenge to the Administration led by Smuts and Botha, but did not threaten the government to the same extent as did the separation of J.B.M. Hertzog from the South African Party . Hertzog, who was a member of the Union’s first cabinet, decided to resign and formed his own neo-republican National Party since he and Louis Botha had divergent ideas concerning South Africa’s independence. White South African nationalism’s primary aim was to exclude and subordinate people of colour. The difference between the South African nationalism of Hertzog and Afrikaner nationalism was slight, if there was one at all. The establishment of the Natives Land Act of 1913 was the first step towards segregation, and one of the most important and far-reaching laws. The Natives (later Blacks) Land Act clearly divided the country into land of two different categories: African reserves on the one hand, white farming land on the other hand. The co-existence of black and white people was clearly determined. It was prohibited for black people to live outside the areas that were defined by the government as reserves and white people were not allowed to possess or acquire property within the boundaries of the reserves. The Act also included the impossibility of shifting one area into another, but was not accepted by the courts of the Cape Province because it was made impossible for coloured people to acquire land, which was necessary to be allowed to vote.
Even though 70% of the population was black, initially only 7% of the land was given to them. In 1936 this percentage was increased to 13%[iv].
The Natives Land Act also put an end to a well-established method known as share-cropping, which allowed Blacks to use land of white owners for a compensation except for labour.
In 1915, the Union’s second elections took place, in which Hertzog’s National Party took advantage of the unpopularity of Smuts’ decision to enter the war, while the South African Party’s support among the population was on the decline. Four years later, Jan Smuts seized control over the SAP after Louis Botha’s death. In order to preserve power, Smuts fused the SAP and the Unionists, a party mainly supported by South Africans who were loyal to England. However, the Labour Party managed to gain further votes by acting in favour of the white industrial workers of the Witwandersrand.
In 1918, the so-called Afrikaner Broederbond was founded; an organisation which remained more or less insignificant until the 1930’s. Its objective was to promote Christian National culture.
The end of World War I coincided with an economic period of recession and later depression. In order to reduce their costs, mining companies decided to replace white workers with those of colour. The steps carried out by the powerful Chamber of Mines engendered anger and protests among white middle class workers and their wives, who saw their jobs and standard of living threatened. This led to a strike in the gold mines in 1922, known as the Rand Revolt.
The revolt was crushed by the military forces, killing approximately 150 people and wounding more than 600. The discontent about the harsh actions was directed towards the Unionists who now belonged to Smut’s SAP.
2.2. Election of 1924 and the economic crisis
As a consequence of the Rand Revolt an opposition pact consisting of Hertzog’s National Party and the Labour Party won the election of 1924
However, unemployment remained one of the key issues to be tackled. One attempt was made by establishing the Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Lewensassuransie Maatskappy (SANLAM), in which small Afrikaner savings and incomes amalgamated, and of the Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Trust Maatskappy (SANTAM)[v]. Both the credit institution and the life insurance were regarded as counter-balances to British (or Jewish) capital and used their funds for investments in order to improve the economic situation of the Afrikaners.
The struggle against unemployment was one of the tasks of the new government, in which Hertzog became Prime Minister.
Another aim was the protection of “civilised labour”, by which any kind of work was meant that conformed to European standards, which means basically white labour[vi].
Important legal steps carried out during Hertzog’s incumbency paved the way for future segregation. In 1923, the Native Urban Areas Act, which reserved South African cities for Whites, while Blacks had only a temporally limited permission to reside, was passed.
The Immorality Act was approved in 1927 prohibiting sexual intercourse between Whites and Blacks. Three years later, the Riotous Assemblies Act banning non-white actions and permitting the government to dissolve assemblies forcibly, as opposed to the Riotous Assemblies and Criminal Law Amendment Act (1914), which targeted on white demonstrations, was passed.
The Administration under Hertzog also introduced “colour bars” taking advantage of the Mines and Works Act of 1911 and 1922 which excluded non-Whites from doing certain jobs (job reservation).
According to the Mines and Works Act of 1926, diplomas and certificates were no longer given to Blacks and Indians in order to preserve an advantageous position for white workers.
South Africa gained independence and equality inside the Commonwealth through the Balfour Declaration (and the Statute of Westminster of 1931) in 1926.
In late October 1929, the New York Stock Exchange crashed and led to a worldwide economic crisis. Millions of people around the world lost their jobs. In order to stimulate the national economy, the South African Administration decided on December 28, 1932 to take off the gold standard, which heavily influenced the further economic development and was the reason for a long-term boom in South Africa.
The South African Party and the National Party formed a coalition government in 1933 after political differences between the two parties had decreased. They even fused into the United South African National Party a year later. Their main political targets were the preservation of South Africa as an independency as well as a policy that ensured the advantages and privileges the white population enjoyed.
However, some members of Parliament from the Cape Province could not completely identify themselves with the United South African National Party because they considered the fusion as a subjection to British interests, namely capitalistic and imperialistic ones. The journalist and clergyman Daniel Francois Malan founded the Purified National Party[vii].
One of the more serious issues the Hertzog/Smuts Administration had to face was the massive increase of poverty among Afrikaners. According to a survey[viii], approximately one out of six white Afrikaners belonged to the so-called “Poor Whites”. Their main political interest was the preservation of their privileges since their fear was to have the same status and rights as a person of colour, consequently the government was urged massively to act in a way that was advantageous for the Poor Whites. The government tried to satisfy their demands by offering more jobs for civil servants than actually necessary and also passed a law that did no longer allow black people to go to the polls in the Cape Province. Instead of that, they were allowed to choose three white representatives from a separate list.
The United Party of Smuts and Hertzog was re-elected in 1938, despite of the fact that there were disputes between the two of them about South Africa’s position in the event of war.
Afrikaner nationalism found expression in a cultural organisation called Ossewabrandwag (Ox-Waggon Sentinels or OB) which was founded on the occasion of the centenary of the Great Trek. Under the leadership of J.H.J van Rensburg the organisation turned into a paramilitary organisation with about 300,000 members. One of the organisation’s aims was the establishment of a republic controlled by Afrikaners in South Africa. There existed also smaller groups with fascist programs, that were to a high degree similar to German National Socialism. One of them, called the New Order was under the leadership of the minister of defence, Oswald Pirow.
2.3. South Africa during World War II
In early September 1939, Hertzog brought forward a motion on South Africa’s neutrality, which was rejected by 80 to 67 votes. Smuts was elected Prime Minister and decided to enter war on the British side. Hertzog thereupon resigned since he was convinced that it would have been wiser to claim a position of neutrality for South Africa. This political defeat was the end of Hertzog’s political career. On September 6, 1939, South Africa declared war to Germany. However, Hertzog formed the Reunified National Party together with D. F. Malan and became its parliamentary leader, but was unpopular among the members of the Broederbond. Dr Malan became the leader of the Reunited National Party, which had many supporters among the Afrikaner population since Smuts’ decision to enter war was quite unpopular. Hertzog died on his farm in 1942.
Meanwhile, South African troops fought successfully in Italy-occupied Abyssinia, liberated Madagascar from the French and fought against Germany in northern Africa.
The war had a positive impact on the economy. In order to satisfy wartime demands it was necessary to employ thousands of new workers, namely Blacks, because the South African troops consisted to a great extent of Whites. The demand for new employees accelerated the process of urbanisation of Blacks, which was at the same time a new source for interracial disputes.
[ii] Hagemann, p. 59
[iii] Hagemann, p.60
[iv] Ross, p.88
[v] Ross, p.106
[vi] Ross, p.105
[vii] Ross, p. 109
[viii] Hagemann, p.65