Apartheid is the political policy of racial segregation. In Afrikaans, it means apartness, and it was pioneered in 1948 by the South African National Party when it came to power. Not only did apartheid separate whites from non-whites, it also segregated the Blacks (Africans) from the Coloureds (Indians, Asians). All things such as jobs, schools, railway stations, beaches, park benches, public toilets and even parliament.  Apartheid also prevented blacks from living in white areas. This brought about the hated “pass laws”. These laws required any non-white to carry a pass on him or her. Unless it was stamped on their pass, they were not allowed to stay in a white area for more than 72 hours. Despite the fact that the whites only make up just over 14% of the population, they own 86.3% of the land. However, it must be said that the Afrikaners are entitled to the Orange Free State and Transvaal as they were first to use it after the Great Trek of 1836. The average South African White earns eight times as much as the average black man.

During Apartheid, media censorship was at an all time high. People were even banned from showing Soweto on television. It was common to see a newspaper shut down, and then start again after being halted by the government. Up until 1985, mixed marriages were banned. This meant that a person of one race cold not marry a person of another race. Apartheid was not only used in theory, but also by law. Every person was classified, just like an animal, as white, black or colored. The system of Apartheid began to deteriorate in the mid to late 1980’s. In 1985, mixed marriages were allowed, the Pass laws repealed, and a general weakening of petty segregation laws regarding parks and beaches. In 1994, the entire system collapsed after Pres. F.W. de Klerk gave non-whites to vote. Nelson Mandella was elected to office following his prison release in February 1990.


Group Areas Act, from 1948, set aside most of the country for use by the whites. Smaller, and less desirable areas called ‘Bantustans’ were set aside for blacks. These areas are overcrowded, un sanitary, and most of all, unhygienic. Soweto, a large Bantustan, is the size of Brighton, yet has over two million people in it.  Blacks were told to regard these desolate and unfertile areas as their ‘homelands’. Over half of the black South African population lived, not in these Bantustans, but in the white areas of the country for cheap labor. Nonwhites had to live in shanty towns, while the whites lived comfortably.


The AWB ( Afrikaans for Afrikaners Resistance Movement) are an extreme right wing group who seek the formation of a Volkstaat. A Volkstaat would be entirely made up of Afrikaners. Led by Eugene Terre’ blanche, they resort to terrorist activities such as bombings, shootings, weapon theft and raids on black townships to achieve their aim. They are totally for segregation.


Born in 1946, he attended Natal University in 1966 to study medicine. After leaving the white dominated National Union of students to form the all-black South African Students Organization. A leading figure in the Black Conciseness Movement, he formed the Black Peoples Convention, and several community based organizations. In 1975, he was held without arrest for 137 days. Not surprisingly, he died in 1977 after being beaten in police custody after being taken from Port Elisabeth to Pretoria.


Born into the Royal Family of the Tembu in Transkei. For involvement in student politics, he was expelled from Fort Haire University, but obtained a law degree by correspondence. He established the first African law practice in Johannesburg along with his partner Oliver Tambo. He co-founded the ANC with Youth League with Tambo and Walter Sisulu and eventually became National President. In 1952, he was arrested for the Defiance campaign, which blatantly broke Apartheid laws. In 1956, Mandella was charged with High Treason. He was acquitted four and a half years later. After the Sharpeville massacre, Mandella helped form the military wing of the ANC. He went into hiding and travelled abroad before being again arrested, this time for illegally exiting the country in 1962, for which he received a sentence of five years. Whilst serving this sentence, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for ‘sabotage’ and ‘conspiracy to overthrow the government by revolution’. This was extremely unjust, as he was charged with these offences under the Suppression of Communism Act, and Mandella favored a Westminster type democracy. Finally, after years of international pressure, Mandella was released in February, 1990. In 1993, he shared the Nobel Peace Prize and in 1994, became South African President.


Ordained as priest in 1961, Tutu studied theology in London where he gained his masters degree in 1966. He became bishop of Lesotho in 1978 and was appointed secretary-general of the South African Council of Churches in the same year. He was honored world-wide for his determination in resisting apartheid peacefully. He supported the Free Mandela campaign and promoted peaceful disobedience. Awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1985, he was a powerful voice amongst those calling for economic sanctions to be placed on South Africa. He was Archbishop of Johannesburg, then Cape Town, before retiring in 1995.


Born in Holland, Verwoerd was known as one of the ‘architects of apartheid’ because he created the idea of Bantustan and Bantu education. In 1946, he became vice-chairman of the National Party in Transval and then Minister of Native and Bantu Administration in 1950. He became Prime Minister in 1958 and was assassinated eight years later.


From 1948 to 1990, South Africa had an appalling record with regards to human rights. Not only was Apartheid in use, but blacks were being killed on streets, playground and even in their homes and police stations. The government organized and condoned this behavior. They breached Article of the deceleration of human rights by banning groups such as the ANC. Article was breached by the police when they would arrest people for no reason. Finally Article was breached simply because the South African Government, army and police force did not treat blacks equally and fairly like human beings. With the Presidency of Nelson Mandella, and the leadership of the ANC, the country looks set to put behind them the troubles of the past one hundred years, however, with extremist groups and people such as the AWB and Eugene Terre’Blanche, one can never be sure.

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William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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