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Apartheid (International Phonetic Alphabet in English and [aˈpartheit] in Afrikaans) is the policy and the system of laws implemented and enforced by "White" minority governments in South Africa from 1948 till 1990; and by extension any legally sanctioned system of racial segregation. The first recorded use of the word, which means "separation" or literally "aparthood" (or "apartness") in Afrikaans and Dutch, is in 1917 during a speech by Jan Smuts, who became Prime Minister of South Africa in 1919.

In some ways apartheid was an extension of the segregationist laws implemented by previous white minority governments. Examples include the 1913 Land Act and the various workplace "colour bars". However, by the end of the Second World War, the enforcement of these laws had been lessened by the United Party government of Jan Smuts. This culminated in the 1948 report of the Fagan Commission, which was set up by the government to investigate changes to the system. The report recommended that segregation in the cities be ended, thus also ending the migrant labour system whereby the permanent home of Black South Africans was in distant rural "reserves". Prime Minister Smuts was in favour of the findings of the Commission, stating that: "The idea that natives must all be removed and confined in their kraals is in my opinion, the greatest nonsense I have ever heard."

In response to the Fagan Commission, the National Party convened its own commission known as the Sauer Commission. The findings of this commission were almost the exact opposite of those of the Fagan Commission, as it recommended that not only should segregation continue, but it should be made even stricter, and implemented in all spheres of social and economic life. It recommended the concept of "apartheid", in which the races were to be completely separated as much as possible.

The National Party won the national election of 1948, narrowly defeating Smuts' United Party (though losing the popular vote). It immediately began implementing stricter racial segregation policies, creating the system of "apartheid" which was to last for 42 years until it was dismantled in 1990 by F.W. de Klerk, after decades of domestic protest led by the African National Congress and extensive international outcry.


Apartheid in South Africa from day to day

Apartheid was implemented by the law. The following restrictions were not (only) social but were strictly enforced by law:

  • Non-whites were excluded from national government and were unable to vote except in elections for segregated bodies which had no power
  • Blacks were prohibited from holding many jobs and were not allowed to employ whites
  • Non-whites were not allowed to run businesses or professional practices in any areas designated as being for whites only. Every significant metropolis, and practically every shopping and business district was in a white area
  • Blacks (except for a few who had "Section 10" rights), being in excess of 70% of the population, were excluded from all but a small proportion of the country, unless they had a pass which was impossible for most to get.
  • Blacks were forbidden to own any form of property
  • Blacks must use separate equipment and transportation facilities from whites (which was made sure to be of poorer quality)
  • Blacks not allowed to talk to whites (ironically, whites were allowed to talk to them), or walk on the sidewalks/under shaded areas
    • Implementation of this policy resulted in the confiscation of property and the forced removal of millions of blacks
    • A pass was only issued to someone who had approved work; spouses and children had to be left behind
    • A pass was issued for one magisterial district confining the (black) holder to that area only
    • Being without a valid pass made a black person subject to immediate arrest, summary trial and "deportation" to the "homeland". Police vans containing sjambok-wielding officers roamed the "white area" to round up the "illegal" blacks.

The land assigned to blacks was typically very poor, unable to support the population forced onto it. Black areas rarely had plumbing or electricity. Hospitals were segregated, the white hospitals being the match of any in the western world, the black ones being comparatively seriously understaffed and underfunded and far too few in number. Ambulances were segregated, forcing the race of the person to be correctly identified when the ambulance was called. A "white" ambulance would not take a black to a hospital. Black ambulances typically contained little or no medical equipment.

In the 1970s each black child's education cost the state only a tenth of each white child's. Higher education was practically impossible for most blacks: South Africa's few world class universities were reserved for whites. Besides, the schooling provided for blacks was deliberately not designed to prepare them for university but for the menial jobs available to them.

Trains and buses were segregated. White trains also had no third class carriages, while black trains were overcrowded and had only third class carriages. Black buses stopped at black bus stops and white buses at white ones.

Beaches were racially segregated, with the majority (including all of the best ones) reserved for whites. Public swimming pools and libraries were racially segregated but there were practically no black pools or black libraries. There were almost no parks, cinemas, sports fields or any amenities except police stations in black areas. Park benches were all labeled "Europeans Only". Sex between the races was prohibited. Black policemen were not allowed to arrest whites. Blacks were not allowed to buy most alcoholic beverages. A black could be subject to the death penalty for raping a white, but a white raping a black faced only a fine, and often not even that. Cinemas in white areas were not allowed to admit blacks. Restaurants and hotels were not allowed to admit blacks, except as staff.

Membership in trade unions was not allowed for blacks until the 1980s, and any "political" trade union was banned. Strikes were banned and severely repressed. The minimum yearly taxable income for blacks was 360 rand (30 rand a month), while the white threshold was much higher, at 750 rand (62.5 rand per month). Apartheid pervaded South African culture, as well as the law. A white entering a shop would be served first, ahead of blacks already in the queue, regardless of age, dress, or any other factors. Until the 1980s, blacks were always expected to step off the pavement to make way for any white pedestrian. A white boy would be referred to as "Klein Baas" (little boss) by a black; a grown black man would be addressed as "Boy" by whites.

Motivations behind the implementation of apartheid

It's interesting to examine what moved the apartheid policy makers and what view of the world was held by those people to justify such discrimination.

It is conventional to consider apartheid to centre on the beliefs that (i) other races are inferior, (ii) inferior treatment of "inferior" races is appropriate, and (iii) such treatment should be enforced by law. However; there have been and continue to be academic apologists for apartheid who hold that although the South African implementation of apartheid was flawed, it was intended by its architects to be a system which would separate the races, thus preventing the "Whites" (and other minorities) from being "swamped" and losing their identity, but would nevertheless treat the races fairly and equally. Herman Giliomee in his book The Afrikaners describes how many in the intellectual leadership of the Afrikaners were genuinely well-meaning. He leaves unanswered, however, the question of how the intellectual elite were able to play the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" game so well and for so long, although faced with the daily cruelties of apartheid. Although viewed from a global perspective, the same can be asked about Western indifference to "Third World" injustice today. However, one should keep in mind that injustice faced by people in developing nations is often concealed and performed covertly; governments go to great lengths to hide the many injustices their people face. This is not the same as seeing someone across the street being assaulted and berated just because of their skin colour.

Recent political realignments in South African politics is another interesting pointer to the nature of South African politics. 'White', ' Indian' and 'Coloured' voters have aligned themselves in opposition - in ways unthinkable during the days of Apartheid - to the Black majority, thus strengthening the argument that South African race politics is driven by self preservation and not just racism.

A case in point is the Afrikaner Broederbond document referenced below. Therein is affirmed the Afrikaner belief in democracy and in Christian principles. Their view of democracy, however, systematically excluded non-whites, and their understanding of Christian principles did not extend to treating their Black neighbours equally. It would appear that they regarded blacks as either inferior or "too different" to be treated on an equal basis.

One explanation used by apologists to excuse the rank and file white South Africans is that once apartheid had been implemented to the point where its victims were no longer citizens of South Africa, but instead citizens of the nominally independent "homelands" who worked in South Africa as holders of temporary work permits, they no longer regarded themselves as responsible for their welfare.

The South African government attempted to divide the internationally recognised state of South Africa into a number of statelets. Some eighty-seven percent of the land was reserved for whites, coloureds, and Indians. About thirteen percent of the land was divided into ten fragmented "homelands" for Blacks (80% of the population) which were given "independence," although autonomy was more theoretical than actual: the South African Army would intervene to remove "homeland" governments that implemented policies not to South Africa's liking. The South African government attempted to draw an equivalence between their view of black "citizens" of the "homelands" and the European Union and the United States view of illegal immigrants from Eastern Europe and Latin America, respectively.

Where South Africa differed from other countries is that while other countries were dismantling discriminatory legislation and were becoming more open on issues of race, South Africa was constructing a labyrinth of discriminatory racial legislation. That white South Africans considered the implementation of apartheid necessary may have been motivated by demographics; as a minority that was shrinking as a percentage of the total population, there was widespread unease at the thought of being swamped by the black majority, and of losing their identity through intermarriage if that were permitted.

History of apartheid in South Africa

South Africa was settled by the Dutch, Germans and French from the 17th century onwards. The English followed in the 19th century. As was typically the case in the African colonies, the European settlers dominated the indigenous population through military and political control and the control of land and wealth. In the years following the victory of the National Party in the general election of 1948, a large number of laws were enacted, further instituting the dominance of white people over other races. The 1948 election was won despite the National Party having lost the popular vote because of gerrymandered voting districts overrepresenting the rural, farming areas that depended on cheap unskilled black labour.

The principal apartheid laws were as follows:

On 21 March 1960, 20,000 black people congregated in Sharpeville to demonstrate against the requirement for blacks to carry identity cards (under the stipulations of the Pass Law). Police opened fire on the demonstrators, killing 69 and injuring 180. All the victims were black. Most of them had been shot in the back. Colonel J. Pienaar , the senior police officer in charge on the day, was quoted as saying

"Hordes of natives surrounded the police station. My car was struck with a stone. If they do these things they must learn their lesson the hard way."

The event became known as the Sharpeville Massacre. In its aftermath the government banned the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).

The event led to a great change in the ANC tactics, switching from nonviolent means to violent means. Although their units detonated bombs in government buildings over the next years, the ANC and PAC were no threat to the state, who had a monopoly of modern weapons.

The United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 1761 on 6 November 1962 which condemned South Africa's racist apartheid policies and called for all UN member states to cease military and economic relations with South Africa.

In 1964 Nelson Mandela, leader of the ANC, was sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 1974 the government issued the Afrikaans Medium Decree which forced all schools to use the Afrikaans language when teaching blacks mathematics, social sciences, geography and history at the secondary school level. Punt Janson , the Deputy Minister of Bantu Education was quoted as saying: "I have not consulted the African people on the language issue and I'm not going to. An African might find that 'the big boss' only spoke Afrikaans or only spoke English. It would be to his advantage to know both languages."

The policy was deeply unpopular. On 30 April 1976, children at Orlando West Junior School in Soweto went on strike, refusing to go to school. Their rebellion spread to other schools in Soweto. The students organised a mass rally for 16 June 1976, which turned violent — police responding with bullets to stones thrown by children. Hector Pieterson, aged 12, was one of the first of 566 children who died at the hands of the police. The incident triggered widespread violence throughout South Africa, which claimed further lives.

Internationally, South Africa became isolated. Numerous conferences were held and the United Nations resolutions passed condemning South Africa, including the World Conference Against Racism in 1978 and 1983. An immense divestment movement started, pressuring investors to refuse to invest in South African companies or companies that do business with South Africa. South African sports teams were barred from participation in international events, and South African culture and tourism were boycotted.

These international movements, combined with internal troubles, persuaded the South African government that its hard-line policies were untenable, and in 1984 some reforms were introduced. Many of the apartheid laws were repealed, and a new constitution was introduced which gave limited representation to certain non-whites, although not to the black majority. The violence continued throughout the 1980s.

The most violent time of the 1980s were 1985-1988, when the P.W. Botha government embarked on a savage campaign to eliminate opposition. For three years police and soldiers patrolled the African towns in armed vehicles, destroying black squatter camps and detaining, abusing and killing thousands of blacks and coloureds. Rigid censorship laws tried to conceal the events by banning media and newspaper coverage.

In 1989, F. W. de Klerk succeeded P. W. Botha as president. On 2 February 1990, at the opening of Parliament, he declared that apartheid had failed and that the bans on political parties, including the ANC, were to be lifted. Nelson Mandela was released from prison. De Klerk went on to abolish all the remaining apartheid laws. A period of political instability ensued. More South Africans died from political violence from 1990 to 1994 than in the preceding 42 years.

On March 10, 1994, Nelson Mandela was sworn as president of South Africa before a euphoric crowd. Among his first actions were rewriting the constitution and setting up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate abuses from the apartheid era. In the preceding all-race elections, Mandela's ANC won a landslide victory, effectively terminating the apartheid era.

On April 15 2003, President Thabo Mbeki announced that the South African government would pay 660 million rand (85 million US dollars) to about 22,000 people who were tortured, detained, or lost family members under apartheid rule. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission had recommended the government pay 3 billion rand in compensation, over the next five years.

Apartheid in international law

South African apartheid was condemned internationally as unjust and racist. In 1973 the General Assembly of the United Nations agreed the text of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. The immediate intention of the Convention was to provide a formal legal framework within which member states could apply sanctions to press the South African government to change its policies. However, the Convention was phrased in general terms, with the express intention of prohibiting any other state from adopting analogous policies. The Convention came into force in 1976.

Article II of the Convention defines apartheid as follows:

For the purpose of the present Convention, the term "the crime of apartheid", which shall include similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practised in southern Africa, shall apply to the following inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them:

(a) Denial to a member or members of a racial group or groups of the right to life and liberty of person
(i) By murder of members of a racial group or groups;
(ii) By the infliction upon the members of a racial group or groups of serious bodily or mental harm, by the infringement of their freedom or dignity, or by subjecting them to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
(iii) By arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment of the members of a racial group or groups;
(b) Deliberate imposition on a racial group or groups of living conditions calculated to cause its or their physical destruction in whole or in part;
(c) Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work, the right to form recognised trade unions, the right to education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association;
(d) Any measures including legislative measures, designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups, the prohibition of mixed marriages among members of various racial groups, the expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group or groups or to members thereof;
(e) Exploitation of the labour of the members of a racial group or groups, in particular by submitting them to forced labour;
(f) Persecution of organisations and persons, by depriving them of fundamental rights and freedoms, because they oppose apartheid.

The crime was also defined in the formation of the International Criminal Court:

"The crime of apartheid" means inhumane acts of a character similar to those referred to in paragraph 1, committed in the context of an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime [1]

Allegations of apartheid and institutionalized racism in other nations

Controversially, arguments are often made that the actions of other nations are analogous to apartheid in South Africa, or constitute apartheid under the definition adopted in international law. In particular, racial segregation was the law in the American South until the mid-1960s.

Some Basques have argued that the Navarrese laws (in Spain) that don't acknowledge full officiality to the Basque language are a form of apartheid. Supporters of Batasuna also call its illegalisation "apartheid".

The State of Jordan's Constitution denies Jewish people citizenship.

The Israeli West Bank barrier constructed within the Palestinian territories is often referred to by critics as the Apartheid wall. However it is also notable that Jews nor Israelis are not a racially distinct group. Many of the Israeli Jews are Semitic like the Palestinians, having immigrated or descended from Arab countries, and there are also black Jews in Israel, from Ethiopia, as well as Caucasian Jews with European origins.

Saudi Arabia's discriminatory practices against women and non-Muslim minorities can also be described as forms of apartheid (see also [2] for Human Rights Watch report).

Global Apartheid

The view that rich democratic Western nations are acting in much the same way as white South Africa, by exploiting or ignoring the plight of people in developing countries. White South Africans justified their actions in that black South Africans were nominally removed from them in terms of geography and therefore citizens of another territory.

See also

External links

Last updated: 10-24-2005 03:02:37
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