Some decades ago, the African continent was not all a rosy one. Our forefathers could do more justice to telling us how they survived the heydays of colonialism and the apartheid regime. Nevertheless, history has done us justice such that we could have a view of what apartheid was like in South Africa. Due to her abundance of natural resources such as gold, diamond, crude oil etc, the African continent was scrambled upon by the Europeans and this they did to deprive the locals of their rights and privileges. Let’s look at what apartheid was like in South Africa. 

As history would have it, Hendrik Verwoerd was regarded as the Architect of apartheid. He was a Prime Minister as leader of the National Party from 1958 to 1966 and “was key in shaping the implementation of Apartheid policy.” He was later assassinated.

After the national party had gained power in 1948, with the enactment of apartheid laws, racial discrimination was institutionalized. Its all-white government immediately began enforcing existing policies of racial segregation. Racial segregation was at its peak in the 5th and 6th centuries.

Talking about racial segregation and white dominance, it became the central aspect of South African policy long before apartheid began. Three years after South Africa gained its independence, the 1913 Land Act that was passed marked the beginning of territorial segregation which forced black Africans to live in reserves, making it illegal for them to work as sharecroppers. The National Party rose to power on July 1, 1914, General James Hertzog being the founder.

General Hertzog was a nationalist and campaigned for an independent South Africa. After facing several oppositions during World War II, the National Party returned to power and defeated the United Party in the general election promising to restrict Black-South African rights. One of the first legislation that was passed after the National party’s rise to power was the act that prohibited marriages between whites and non-whites. The inhabitants were classified and registered in accordance with their racial characteristics; black, white, coloured.

The European’s presence in South Africa dates back to the seventeenth century when the English and the Dutch colonized South Africa. At the time, the white minority took control of the country and disenfranchised black people. Though South Africa is predominantly blacks dominated, the white minority took over and denied the blacks their birthright. They passed a series of land enactments that resulted in them occupying 80-90 per cent of the country’s land. Non-whites were forced to live in separate areas and use separate public facilities.

Despite its strong and persistent opposition within and outside of South Africa, its laws remained in effect for the better part of 50 years. In 1991, the government of President F.W. de Klerk began to repeal most of the legislation that provided the basis for apartheid. President de Klerk and activist Nelson Mandela won the Nobel peace prize for their work of creating a new constitution.

In 1948, the Afrikaner National Party won the general election. Their goal, aside from separating South Africa’s white minority from its non-white majority, was also to divide black South Africans along tribal lines in order to decrease their political power. By 1950, the government had banned marriages between whites and people of other races and prohibited sexual relations between black and white South Africans.

The Population Registration Act of 1950 provided the basic framework for apartheid by classifying all South Africans by race, including Bantu (black Africans), Coloured (mixed race) and white. A fourth category, Asian (meaning Indian and Pakistani) was later added. In some cases, the legislation split families; parents could be classified as white, while their children were classified as coloured. 

A series of Land Acts set aside more than 80 per cent of the country’s land for the white minority, and “pass laws” required non-whites to carry documents authorizing their presence in restricted areas. In order to limit contact between the races, the government established separate public facilities for whites and non-whites, limited the activity of nonwhite labour unions and denied non-white participation in national government.

The penalties imposed on political protest, even non-violent protest, were severe. Anyone could be detained without a hearing by a low-level police official for up to six months. Thousands of individuals died in custody, frequently after gruesome acts of torture. Those who were tried were sentenced to death, banished, or imprisoned for life, like Nelson Mandela.

The Soweto massacre in 1976 stirred up international recognition, when thousands of black children in Soweto, a black township outside Johannesburg, demonstrated against the Afrikaans language requirement for black African students, the police opened fire with tear gas and bullets on them. The protests and government crackdowns that followed, combined with a national economic recession, drew more international attention to South Africa and shattered all illusions that apartheid had brought peace or prosperity to the nation.

The United Nations General Assembly had denounced apartheid in 1973, and in 1976 the UN Security Council voted to impose a mandatory embargo on the sale of arms to South Africa. In 1985, the United Kingdom and the United States imposed economic sanctions on the country.

De Klerk’s government subsequently repealed the Population Registration Act, as well as most of the other legislation that formed the legal basis for apartheid. De Klerk freed Nelson Mandela on February 11, 1990. A new constitution, which enfranchised blacks and other racial groups, took effect in 1994, and elections that year led to a coalition government with a nonwhite majority, marking the official end of the apartheid system.

 Oluwatimileyin Emmanuel



If you like this article, please share with others
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments