Apartheid: A (very) brief history

Apartheid: A (very) brief history

- Apartheid was the official policy name of state-sponsored racial segregation between 1948 and 1994

- The term literally means separated

- Apartheid is one of the darkest chapters in the history of South Africa

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South Africa will celebrate 24 years of political freedom and the ending of racial segregation known as Apartheid this year. The word apartheid means separated or separate in Afrikaans.

The term was the official name of the policy of racial segregation implemented by the minority white government between 1948 and 1994. This dark period in South Africa’s history was marked by the oppression of the rights of black, Coloured and Indian people.

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While Apartheid as a policy was officially implemented by the National Party in 1948, South Africa has been a country divided since the first Dutch settlers arrived in what would become Cape Town in 1652.

Briefly.co.za gathered that the National Party officially adopted the Apartheid policy after the general election of 1948. The policy classified citizens into four racial classes – white, black, coloured and Indian.

During Apartheid the minority government implemented measures to segregate people according to race, this lead to mass eviction of non-white South Africans between 1960 and 1983. People of colour were forced into segregated neighbourhoods which were often far from schools, medical centres and other amenities.

Here are a few of the pillars on which apartheid rested:

Population Registration Act, 1950 - This Act demanded that people be registered according to their racial group. This meant that the Department of Home Affairs would have a record of people according to whether they were White, Coloured, Black, Indian or Asian. People would then be treated differently according to their population group, and so this law formed the basis of apartheid. It was however not always that easy to decide what racial group a person was part of, and this caused some problems.

Group Areas Act, 1950 - This was the Act that started physical separation between races, especially in urban areas. The Act also called for the removal of some groups of people into areas set aside for their racial group. Well known removals were those in District Six, Sophiatown and Lady Selborne (also see Cato Manor, Fietas and Curries Fountain (Grey Street area)). People from these areas were then placed in townships outside of the town. They could not own property here, only rent it, as land could only be white owned.

Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act, 1959 - This Act forced different racial groups to live in different areas. Only a small percentage of South Africa was left for black people (who comprised the vast majority) to form their 'homelands’. Like the Group Areas Act, this act also got rid of 'black spots’ inside white areas, by moving all black people out of the city. This Act caused much hardship and resentment. People lost their homes, were moved off land they had owned for many years and were moved to undeveloped areas far away from their place of work.

Bantu Education Act, 1953 - established an inferior education system for Africans based upon a curriculum intended to produce manual laborers and obedient subjects. Similar discriminatory education laws were also imposed on Coloureds, who had lost the right to vote in 1956, and Indians. The government denied funding to mission schools that rejected Bantu Education, leading to the closure of many of the best schools for Africans. In the higher education sector, the Extension of University Education Act of 1959 prevented black students from attending "white" universities (except with government permission) and created separate and unequal institutions for Africans, Coloureds, and Indians respectively. The apartheid government also undermined intellectual and cultural life through intense censorship of books, movies, and radio and television programs.

The Suppression of Communism Act, 1950 (originally introduced as the Unlawful Organisations Bill) - The Act was introduced in an attempt to curb the influence of the CPSA and other formations that opposed the government's apartheid policy. It sanctioned the banning/punishment of the CPSA or any group or individual intending to bring about political, economic, industrial and social change through the promotion of disorder or disturbance, using unlawful acts or encouraging feelings of hostility between the European and non-European races of the Union of South Africa. The Act was progressively tightened up in 1951, 1954, and yearly from 1962-1968.

During the 1970’s many black people lost their citizenship which severely hampered their movements and rights to own businesses or property. The implementation of Apartheid was met with resistance, protests and uprisings.

This led the government to ban opposition parties and their leaders. During this time many of today’s liberation heroes were imprisoned on Robben Island, others went into exile.

The growing resistance led the government to take a more militarised approach to repressing the anti-apartheid movement.

The relentless and persistent efforts by the South African Anti-Apartheid Activists –like Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Oliver Tambo, Water Sisulu, Steve Biko, Albert Luthuli and many others must never be forgotten.

Growing internal opposition coupled with international pressure, sanctions and embargoes led to the Apartheid government finally admitting defeat and agree to a series of negations which took place between 1991 and 1993.

President Cyril Ramaphosa was chosen as the ANC’s lead negotiator. These were tense years in the history of the country during which civil war nearly broke out on several occasions. The negotiations eventually led to the landmark 1994 election.

The rest, as they say, is history.

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Source: Briefly.co.za

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