An overview of the apartheid in South Africa
Apartheid refers to the period between 1948 and 1994 when the National Party in South Africa introduced repressive policies against black people. Under the oppressive legislations, blacks who compromised over 80% of the population lived in separate areas from whites who dominated the government. They also used different public facilities with limited contact. Despite widespread condemnation of the segregation within and outside South Africa, the policies remained in force for more than 50 years. By 1991, President F.W. de Klerk initiated efforts to repeal legislations, which formed the basis of the apartheid in South Africa.
Background of the apartheid in South Africa
Racial segregation had its roots deep-rooted in South Africa, long before the start of apartheid in mid 20th century. The passing of the controversial Land Act in 1913, just three years after South Africa’s independence was the initial step towards nationwide oppression and white supremacy. The law meant that Africans were to live in rural areas and criminalized blacks working as sharecroppers. Critics of the rule, mainly blacks, established the South African National Native Congress, which morphed into the African National Congress (ANC).
The Great Depression and the Second World War had their toll on the economy of South Africa. This convinced the government to tighten the social policy. In 1948, the Afrikaner National Party won the general elections, under the apartheid slogan, which meant separateness. Their main agenda was to cause separation of every nature in the South Africa’s nation. First, the party aimed at separating whites from blacks, non-whites from each other and black Africans along ethnic orientation to reduce the political influence of the blacks who were the majority. The following four decades marked the climax of the apartheid in South Africa, even as blacks relentlessly remained opposed to oppressive white-minority rule.
The Law of Apartheid
Under the Population Registration Act of 1950, the government of the day moved to classify South Africans into four categories, which included Black Africans, Asians, mixed race and whites. In addition, the government outlawed interracial marriages and went ahead to ban sexual relationships between blacks and whites. The legislation further divided families, with parents being separated from their children as white or colored.
A wide range of Land Acts came into effect, granting whites ownership of more than 80% of the country’s land. Non-whites were also to carry passbooks to identify themselves whenever they were in restricted areas. Moreover, the government banned nonwhite labor unions with no blacks serving in the government.
In 1958, Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd, while serving as the Prime Minister, refined the apartheid in South Africa into separate development. This further separated back from each other, with the creation of 10 Bantu homelands called Bantustans under the Bantu Self-Government Act of 1959. The government displaced blacks in rural areas, giving out the land to whites. Between 1961 and 1994, over 3.5 million blacks lost their land to whites and dumped in the Bantustans to languish in poverty.
Resistance and end of the Apartheid in South Africa
Resistance to the social policy took different forms, including peaceful demonstrations, strikes, protests, political action and eventually armed rebellion. During the 1952 mass meeting, organized by ANC, blacks burned their passbooks. Police broke the rally, arrested about 150 and charged them with treason. The 1960 Sharpsville Massacre saw police shoot and kill at least 67 unarmed protestors who presented themselves at the station without passbooks as an act of resistance.
By 1961, the government had arrested most revolt leaders and brutally murdered some. The arrest and life imprisonment of Nelson Mandela in 1963 sparked global condemnation in support of abolishment of the apartheid in South Africa. In June 1976, police killed over 600 students in Soweto agitating for a better education system.
The National Party government bowed to International pressure, instituting reforms like a ban on passbooks and permission for interracial marriages. In 1989, President F.W. de Klerk annulled the Population Registration Act and quashed several laws that formed the basis of the apartheid in South Africa. The country adopted a new constitution in 1994 and a subsequent general election that year saw Nelson Mandela elected first black president of South Africa.
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