The Apartheid policy
Updated: Jun 28
Apartheid is the name given to the racial institution created in 1948 by the National Party, which ruled South Africa from 1948 to 1994. The word, which literally means "separation," represented a brutally authoritarian policy aimed at ensuring that whites, who made up 20% of the population, would continue to rule the country.
Although the policy was established in 1948, racial discrimination has long been a part of South African culture. Dutch colonizers started enacting laws and regulations separating white settlers from native Africans as early as 1788. Following the British conquest in 1795, these laws and rules were continued, and Africans were soon channeled into unique areas that would later become their so-called homelands. By 1910, when all of the formerly independent Boer Republics merged with the British colony to create the Union of South Africa, there were nearly 300 native reserves spread throughout the region.
Dr. D.F. Malan, the prime architect of apartheid, led the National Party in the first overtly racial call to white unity movement in 1948. If elected, the Party agreed to make these reserves permanent, based on the shared constitutional values of separation and trusteeship. The National Party was elected with a landslide victory, securing 80 seats (mainly from Afrikaner voters),united parties had 64 seats.
Soon after, the new government implemented a series of policies in the name of apartheid, aiming to "ensure the survival of the white race" and hold the races separated at all levels of society and in all aspects of life. In 1949, the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act was passed, making marriages between Europeans and non-Europeans illegal.
The following year, new laws made it illegal for Europeans and non-Europeans to have sexual relations. In addition, in 1950, the Malan government passed the Population Registration Act, which classified every South African by race and mandated citizens to carry a card indicating their racial identity with them at all times. In 1952, the Act was changed to issue "reference books" instead of identification passes. If found without their "reference book," they were fined or imprisoned.
Apartheid era sign, South Africa, 1980s Public domain image
However, apartheid in South Africa was founded on the Group Areas Act of 1950. The act designated land areas for various ethnic groups and made it illegal for people to live anywhere other than their designated areas. Thousands of Africans were uprooted and relocated to racially separated communities in cities or reserves that would become known as homelands by the 1970s.
Also, black employees who worked during the day in now residentially white-only cities were still forced to use separate public transportation, post offices, restaurants, and schools, as well as separate doors, benches, and counters, thanks to the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act of 1953. More limits were imposed by the Natives Urban Areas Act of 1952 and the Native Labor Act of 1953.
Segregation was opposed by three major movements. The African National Congress (ANC), which was established in 1912, was the first. In 1958, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) split from the African National Congress (ANC) and launched its own anti-apartheid movement. The South African government ultimately outlawed both parties, forcing them underground, where they started violent resistance movements. The South African Students' Organization (SASO) was established in the late 1960s. In South Africa, it is now recognized as the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM).
Apartheid came to an end in 1994 with the first election in which all adult voters were eligible to vote. With that election, Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black president