Apartheid

Apartheid, social and political policy of racial segregation and discrimination enforced by white minority governments in South Africa from 1948 to 1994.

South African Girl

 

The term apartheid (from the Afrikaans word for “apartness”) was coined in the 1930s and used as a political slogan of the National Party in the early 1940s, but the policy itself extends back to the beginning of white settlement in South Africa in 1652. After the primarily Afrikaner Nationalists came to power in 1948, the social custom of apartheid was systematized under law.

The implementation of the policy, later referred to as “separate development,” was made possible by the Population Registration Act of 1950, which put all South Africans into three racial categories: Bantu (black African), white, or Coloured (of mixed race). A fourth category, Asian (Indians and Pakistanis), was added later. The system of apartheid was enforced by a series of laws passed in the 1950s: the Group Areas Act of 1950 assigned races to different residential and business sections in urban areas, and the Land Acts of 1954 and 1955 restricted nonwhite residence to specific areas. These laws further restricted the already limited right of black Africans to own land, entrenching the white minority’s control of over 80 percent of South African land. In addition, other laws prohibited most social contacts between the races; enforced the segregation of public facilities and the separation of educational standards; created race-specific job categories; restricted the powers of nonwhite unions; and curbed nonwhite participation in government.

 

The Bantu Authorities Act of 1951 and the Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act of 1959 furthered these divisions between the races by creating ten African “homelands” administered by what were supposed to be reestablished “tribal” organizations. The Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act of 1970 made every black South African a citizen of one of the homelands, effectively excluding blacks from South African politics. Most of the homelands, lacking natural resources, were not economically viable and, being both small and fragmented, lacked the autonomy of independent states.

Nelson Mandela

Though the implementation and enforcement of apartheid was accompanied by tremendous suppression of opposition, continual resistance to apartheid existed within South Africa. A number of black political groups, often supported by sympathetic whites, opposed apartheid using a variety of tactics, including violence, strikes, demonstrations, and sabotage – strategies that often met with severe reprisals by the government. Apartheid was also denounced by the international community: in 1961 South Africa was forced to withdraw from the British Commonwealth by member states who were critical of the apartheid system, and in 1985 the governments of the United States and Great Britain imposed selective economic sanctions on South Africa in protest of its racial policy.

As antiapartheid pressure mounted within and outside South Africa, the South African government, led by President F. W. de Klerk, began to dismantle the apartheid system in the early 1990s. The year 1990 brought a National Party government dedicated to reform and also saw the legalization of formerly banned black congresses and the release of imprisoned black leaders. In 1994 the country’s constitution was rewritten and free general elections were held for the first time in its history, and with Nelson Mandela’s election as South Africa’s first black president, the last vestiges of the apartheid system were finally outlawed.

Alonford James Robinson, Jr.
source:africanaencyclopedia.com

see also:Crime of apartheid , South Africa under apartheid , The History of Apartheid in South Africa

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