Apartheid

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What was apartheid?
Translated from the Afrikaans meaning 'apartness', apartheid was the ideologysupported by the National Party (NP)
government and was introduced in South Africa in 1948. Apartheid called for the separate development of the different
racial groups in South Africa. On paper it appeared to call for equal development and freedom of cultural expression,
but the way it was implemented made this impossible. Apartheid made laws forced the different racial groups to live
separately and develop separately, and grossly unequally too. It tried to stop all inter-marriage and social integration
between racial groups. During apartheid, to have a friendship with someone of a different race generally brought
suspicion upon you, or worse. More than this, apartheid was a social system which severely disadvantaged the majority
of the population, simply because they did not share the skin colour of the rulers. Many were kept just above destitution
because they were 'non-white'.
In basic principles, apartheid did not differ that much from the policy of segregation of the South African governments
existing before the Afrikaner Nationalist Party came to power in 1948. The main difference is that apartheid made
segregation part of the law. Apartheid cruelly and forcibly separated people, and had a fearsome state apparatus to
punish those who disagreed. Another reason why apartheid was seen as much worse than segregation, was that
apartheid was introduced in a period when other countries were moving away from racist policies. Before World War
Two the Western world was not as critical of racial discrimination, and Africa was colonized in this period. The Second
World War highlighted the problems of racism, making the world turn away from such policies and encouraging
demands for decolonization. It was during this period that South Africa introduced the more rigid racial policy of
apartheid.
People often wonder why such a policy was introduced and why it had so much support. Various reasons can be given
for apartheid, although they are all closely linked. The main reasons lie in ideas of racial superiority and fear. Across
the world, racism is influenced by the idea that one race must be superior to another. Such ideas are found in all
population groups. The other main reason for apartheid was fear, as in South Africa the white people are in the minority,
and many were worried they would lose their jobs, culture and language. This is obviously not a justification for
apartheid, but explains how people were thinking.
Original architects of Apartheid Image source
Apartheid Laws
Numerous laws were passed in the creation of the apartheid state. Here are a few of the pillars on which it 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.
Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act, 1959 This Act said that different racial groups had 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'. This Act also got rid of 'black spots' inside white areas, by moving all black people out of the city. Well
known removals were those in District 6, Sophiatown and Lady Selborne. These black people were then placed in
townships outside of the town. They could not own property here, only rent it, as the land could only be white owned.
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.
Some other important laws were the:
Prohibition
Immorality
of
Mixed
Marriages
Amendment
Act,
Act,
1949
1950
Separate Representation of Voters Act, 1951
Resistance before 1960
Resistance to apartheid came from all circles, and not only, as is often presumed, from those who suffered the negative
effects of discrimination. Criticism also came from other countries, and some of these gave support to the South African
freedom movements.
Some of the most important organizations involved in the struggle for liberation were the African National
Congress (ANC), the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the Black Consciousness
Movement (BCM) and the United Democratic Front (UDF). There were also Indian and Coloured organized resistance
movements (e.g. the Natal Indian Congress (NIC), the Coloured People's Organisation), white organized groups (e.g.
the radical Armed Resistance Movement (ARM), and Black Sash) and church based groups (the Christian Institute).
We shall consider the ANC.
The ANC
The ANC was formed in Bloemfontein in 1912, soon after the Union of South Africa. Originally it was called the South
African Native National Congress (SANNC). It was started as a movement for the Black elite, that is those Blacks who
were educated. In 1919, the ANC sent a deputation to London to plead for a new deal for South African blacks, but
there was no change to their position.
South African History Online (SAHO) https://www.sahistory.org.za/ May 2016
Why did white minority rule last so long in South
Africa?
2015-
Level: GCSE
Subject: History
Topic: Modern World History
Word count: 2080
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Kris Breadner
Why did white minority rule last so long in South Africa?
The question of how the subjugation of the rights of the black peoples of South Africa
lasted so long, is something that puzzles both historians and humanitarians alike. The
extent of the racist and hateful policies implemented is within the living memory of even
today’s young adults, and the brutality and dehumanization that these policies led to is
known only too well. Yet with such apparent inequalities and violations of human rights,
how did the system come to last until so late in the 20th century? Why was the system not
overthrown and dismantled in the 1960’s when American black people were given their
liberty with the advent of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement? These are all
questions which have not yet been fully answered or understood, there are many possible
reasons, disunity within the black peoples and the iron fist policies of the South African
police are perhaps the two most prominent reasons that come to mind.
For the purposes of this essay, it is necessary to use the term ‘black’, as to say colored
would distort the meaning of the essay, there being a distinction between ‘colored’ and
‘black’ in Apartheid policies. This is important, as the division between the black and
colored peoples of South Africa was another factor in the continuation of the racist policies,
and white rule, of the country. This will be discussed further later in the essay, yet it is
worth noting that the failure to unite was a large upset in the struggle for racial equality in
South Africa. It was much easier for the whites to rule over a divided mixture of peoples
than it would have been if the oppressed peoples had been united. This is elementary of
course when looking at the relative populations of white and colored peoples in South
Africa, in 1978 the difference in population stood at 4.5
million whites to 19 million
blacks. Any unified struggle on the part of the Black people would have surely been enough
to overthrow the white regime.
The overriding principal behind the longevity of apartheid was perhaps the nature in
which white Europeans and the African natives came to live together. From the outset it
was an invasion of rich, modern cultures into a land where the peoples were comparatively
uneducated in technological terms which are considered important in the developed world.
White power stemmed directly from the advancement of those countries from which the
white settlers had traveled. The riches and military skills of both the English and the Dutch
had led them to take over in the first instance, and as such they had already gained the
upper hand. It was apparent that the whites were more technologically advanced,
combined with their ambition this would prove a major factor in the continuation of
Apartheid into the late 20th century.
Apartheid not only had to be controlled by the white minority however, it had to have
widespread support amongst the white peoples, it had to be a united effort by the whites
against a divided black opposition. For this to happen, the policies of the government had
to directly benefit the Afrikaners, and as such they would eventually inherit the countries
power and wealth. The creation of the Afrikaner capitalist would inherently make
apartheid appealing to the whites, whilst subjugating the blacks to the extent that they had
no means counteraction. After the victory of the nationalists and the subsequent
enactment, in 1949, of apartheid laws, the state quickly moved to intensify the material
benefits f the Afrikaners. Preferential loans were given, as well as housing bonds and other
financial benefits which would bring the nationalists into even greater favor with those
whom they were appeasing. The social status of whites in South Africa would be elevated to
a point where there removal would seem both dangerous and difficult, this apparent
immovable nature of white domination would serve the continuation of Apartheid to a
great extent. The necessity of specific ethnicity as a precondition for social mobility would
become a dominating factor within South African society, the concentration of white power
created by this disparity effectively ensured future white domination in the country.
Another factor in the creation of a apparently immovable white dominated capitalism
was the fact that apartheid ensured, to an extent, guaranteed labor. By reducing black
wages to (by 1970) 1/14th of average white earnings, black people were almost ensured to
have a place to work. If wages were not so low, then unemployment would have risen
proportionately, outside investment would have also decreased as production and sales
prices rose. This dependency upon cheap labor was carried by the black peoples, yet was
also another obstacle to dramatic change within South African politics. The Nationalists
controlled almost every sector of the economy, they were totalitarian in their management
of the country, as such it was very difficult for any changes to be made which were not
sanctioned by the government. By controlling who worked where, it became easy for the
Government to keep control for solely white purposes, even to the extent of creating ‘white
only’ jobs after the Population Registration Act of 1950. This ensured that people were
officially assigned to one of three groupings, whites, coloreds and blacks. The separation of
the African native peoples from other colored ethnic groups was an important strategy, and
effectively made the black peoples alien in their own country.
Another of the iron fist strategies employed was the Bantu Authorities Act, the idea of
this was to effectively exclude Black people from the country’s politics. These policies were
laid down in 1951 and were the basis for creating what were known as ‘Homelands’. These
were areas where black workers would have to live, yet they were considered as being
outside the country, which meant that those who lived in the Homelands were required to
carry passports when in South Africa. Between 1976 and 1981, four of these Homelands
were created, denationalizing nearly half of the black South African population. This was an
attempt to place black peoples even lower on the social scale and further strengthen the
white dominated state. Rights such as voting were restricted to the Homeland in question,
therefore there could be no chance of Black interaction in South African politics. This was
combined with the Bantu Administration Board who kept account of Black movement
within the country through the influx control system, effectively, the government
stranglehold on society was so strong that white rule would last for an exceptionally long
time within the country.
However, it is difficult to explain the longevity of white rule in South Africa solely in
terms of the determination of the Afrikaner leadership. It is important also to look at the
failure of Black protest and rebellion over the period of Apartheid. The first group to look at
is the ANC, formed from western educated black African peoples in 1912, this would
eventually become the group that would take the reins in post-apartheid South Africa.
However, the group were often divided and indecisive in the period that led to the
formation of Apartheid. They failed to take the lead during the economic boom of the years
of World War I when increased class consciousness amongst Black workers could have
been utilized to propagate rebellion and change. This trend continued throughout the 20’s
and 30’s, when the abolishment of the Cape Franchise took place in 1936, the ANC did
nothing and simply let the only Black Votes in the country disappear.
The reason that the Nationalist government experienced so little difficulty in
establishing itself in the face of the ANC is perhaps the nature of ANC itself during the
period leading up until the 1940’s. The Congress was definitely more bourgeois in outlook
than was befitting of the majority of black peoples living in South Africa at the time. They
had hoped to appeal to a middle class of peasantry that could be an acceptable and civilized
front which could use constitutional means to bring about change in South African politics
and racial policies. This is displayed in Dr. A. B. Xuma’s (the then president of the ANC)
writings to the N.P:
“…we are anxious not to embarrass the government… We humbly
and respectfully request the Prime Minister to receive a deputation
from the ANC and CNETU to assist you toward settlement of
recent strikes and prevention of future strikes.”
Unfortunately there was little ‘middle peasantry’ to talk of in the country at the time, and
the small amount that existed were rapidly dwindling. The ANC could not point to a single
victory by 1935 when J.B Marks, head of the CPSA, pronounced the Congress as ‘literally
dead’. They could boast no support in the working classes, and no victories as
representatives of the middle class. However, Mr. J. B. Marks was not in a great position to
slander the ANC as the left itself had produced very little of note, in fact the divisions within
the CPSA led to their decline by the late 1940’s. So it seems that in such a critical period,
neither the ANC nor the left were able to put up sufficient resistance to halt the formation
of the all-powerful Apartheid based state.
A combination of both the strength of the white leadership and the inefficiency
of black protestation is perhaps enough to explain the longevity of the rule by the NP over
a predominantly Black South Africa. The rise of African Nationalism in the 1940’s and
subsequent successful demonstrations do little to explain why white rule lasted so long
into the 20th century. It is perhaps the fashion in which they were absorbed by the state
that helps to prove that the white rule was indeed a formidably strengthened one. For
example the concessions given to black workers in during the Alexandra bus boycott, by
slightly appeasing the demands of the protesters, the government was ensuring that they
could safe guard both the economy and their continuing power. However, the rise of the
Youth League in the ANC and the rise in popular support that this caused would eventually
lead to the downfall of the NP.
Another factor which needs mentioning, as it is an important part of the downfall of the
NP, this is the eventual intervention from outside countries. During the period of relative
inactivity amongst African protesters, there was little to grab the attention of governments
outside of South Africa, particularly in the West from where pressure can usually be
applied. The killings at Sharpville and the subsequent disinvestments were perhaps the
precursors to the downfall of the racist policies of the Government. That is not to say that
there was change directly after the event, in fact it caused the government to become even
more repressive. This was combined with a growth in the economy in the late 60’s which
gave the police the resources they needed to keep tight control. White power continued
and to an extent strengthened during the 60’ and 70’s, yet after Sharpville, the eyes of the
world were upon South Africa. The repressions also strengthened African Nationalism, and
subsequently the need for more repressions, such as the repressions of the Sueto Uprising.
Such brutality was enough for foreign trade to be significantly effected, and for the U.N to
place trade embargos on the country. Weapons and intelligence equipment were
withdrawn, and as such, so were the implements for repression.
White rule lasted due to its strength and brutality, and also its efficiency at dealing with
black protests. However, it was this strength of brutality that would lead to its eventual
downfall, it was only for so long that the NP could possibly keep a repressed people in such
conditions. The strong tide of international anti-racism in a world where public access to
proof is constantly available through the media was more than the country could
withstand. Thankfully the white rule of South Africa was unable to withstand the world’s
reaction to the nature of brutality enmeshed within the state which seemed to be trapped
in the times of Emperial Europe.
Bibliography
Hein Marais
South Africa limits to change
Zed Books ltd.
S.A.
N. Mandela
Long Walk to Freedom
T. Lodge
Black Politics in South Africa since 1945
www-cs-students.Stanford.edu
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Why did the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa take
so long?
The struggle to end apartheid in South Africa appears, at the dawn of the twenty first
century, to be an aberration of social and world history. Viewed within the context of the
pervasive civil rights movement in North America and the abolition of slavery (first in
Britain at the beginning of the nineteenth century and followed by America after the
Civil War in 1865), apartheid seems like a medieval notion that was imprinted upon
modern history; an anachronistic nightmare imposed on civilised society. In a world that
had banished National Socialism and seen the back of Stalin, the Immorality
Amendment Act (1961) remained a legal statute in South Africa until 1985, making
sexual relations between whites and non-whites an unlawful act under apartheid. Yet the
very singularity of apartheid remained a key reason for its longevity: for as long as South
Africa could be isolated and swept under the international diplomatic rug the rest of the
free world could comfort itself in its liberal attitude to race relations while leaving the
citizens of South Africa to play the role of international pariahs. However, as Barber
ascertains, “although western governments continued to criticise apartheid, their
criticism was often drowned out by accusations of their hypocrisy.”
For the purposes of this study, analysis will take a chronological form, tracking the
genesis of apartheid as a political creed to understand how it became a part of the
South African way of life. In this way it will be shown how apartheid took so long to be
rooted out of the national culture.
The greatest mistake for historians today is to view South Africa from a solely British
colonial perspective. It is important to understand that the country had a long and rich
social history before the arrival of the British. It was a legacy tainted with taut race
relations between the indigenous African tribes and the first settlers, the Boers. Indeed,
before the arguments pertaining to apartheid were ever voiced, the British and Boers
fought a long war of attrition (1899-1902) to determine which nation should govern the
land that was rich in minerals and therefore important in an economic and strategic
sense. Conflict is thus at the heart of the history of South Africa. Like Northern Ireland
one should not dismiss the effects of repetitive differences of opinion whereby war and
aggravation can become deep rooted within the culture.
The eventual British victory in the Boer War sewed the seeds of the resentment that
would ultimately harvest apartheid (apartness). Boers, or Afrikaners as they were known
within their own ranks, felt like aliens in their home land, made to speak a foreign
language and pay allegiance to a detested foreign power. During the first three decades
of the twentieth century Afrikaners felt more alienated than ever with a large wage and
lifestyle discrepancy between the English-speaking South Africans and the Afrikaners. By
the end of the Second World War, the Afrikaners were an ethnic group on the verge of
revolting. Therefore, when the alliance between the National Party and the Afrikaner
Party bore fruit in the way of a unified South African national election victory in May
1948 the result was a reversal back to political ideals that were envisaged in the
pre-British days of the nineteenth century – apartheid being one of several popular
ultra-conservative slogans used during the preceding electoral campaign. The day after
the victory, party leader, Malan declared: “Today South Africa belongs to us once more.
South Africa is our own for the first time since Union, and may God grant that it will
always remain our own.”
With such a resentful and dislocated background, apartheid was introduced as a means
to perpetuate white rule. As a social and political philosophy, it was a backlash against
modernity – specifically against the civil rights movement. Traditionally, prejudice thrives
on routine and wilts in the face of modernity and the speed with which the North
American people vented their disgust at segregation in the Deep South shocked the
white leaders of South Africa, not only for the ferocity of the rage against the state but
also for the composition of the dissenters, many white, middle-class and well-educated.
Yet there were distinct and fundamental differences between the South African national
experience and that of the USA. Although both America and South Africa were initially
colonial countries, the influx of immigrants to the USA was markedly different to the
migration of people to South Africa. As New York took over from London as the
financial capital of the West after 1918, South Africa remained a predominantly
agricultural country. The relevance of this in terms of the perpetuation of apartheid is
that while one nation became a melting pot of differing ideologies, religions, races and
creeds, the other became entrenched in a formulaic white-black divide with a history of
Afrikaner and British land-holders dictating policy to a black populace.
Apartheid should be viewed as part of a broader policy of deconstruction taking place in
post-war South Africa, all facets tied to the dual desire to keep power from black people
as well as moving away from the disapproving gaze of the West. The removal of both
the British National Anthem and the Union Jack as cultural symbol (1957), the
replacement of UK currency (1961) as well as the referendum (1960) and subsequent
formulation of the republic (1961) highlighted the uniquely South African experience,
which was designed as a means to create white unity and loyalty to South Africa alone.
In this sense, apartheid was strongly tied to Afrikaner nationalism, making it a
movement beyond the comprehension and control of the former British colonial
masters.
“While there was very little difference between Afrikaners and English-speakers in their
support for white supremacy, residential segregation and migrant labour, English
opinion-formers constantly tried to distance themselves as much as possible from the
racial politics of Afrikaner parties. They found the crude expression of racism distasteful
and resented being shut out from power.”
Political apartheid in South Africa was so durable because it was built upon a
well-founded ideological structure that curbed black influence in all corners of society.
Apartheid can be viewed as a pyramid. The first building block was the political
obstacles put in the way of black participation in administrative affairs leaving politics to
be a whites’ only domain. The National Party next used enforced separation of existing
physical communities to perpetuate their rule, followed by the segregation of education
and the labour market (black workers were not officially permitted to form trade
unions). Not only did the National Party separate black and white communities but they
also restricted movement within the country in the same way that Jews were not
permitted to travel within Nazi Germany. The formation of the Bantustans (black
‘homelands’) meant that blacks were put out of sight of the white minority rulers giving
rise to two completely separate socio-economic groups within one sovereign nation.
The sum of these measures was to make a law of a loose body of segregation and
prejudice methods of divide and rule that were already in place before 1945, making
apartheid the most extreme version of institutionalised racism anywhere the
industrialised world.
“Segregation doctrine was supplanted by the more dangerous notion ‘separate
development.’ This involved the idea that Africans and others should reside, and enjoy
citizenship rights, in distinct ethnic homelands. Whereas White supremacy and
segregation had involved an explicit racial hierarchy in legislative and political practice,
the NP from 1961 was committed to formal equality between groups understood in
ethnic terms.”
It is a key point to make in terms of comprehending the durability of apartheid. While
segregation alone would have ensured white supremacy for a generation, the complete
stagnation of educational or vocational opportunity for blacks meant that they were,
over successive generations, unable to wrest power from Afrikaner hands. Moreover, the
notion of two ideals of citizenship in one country gave the blacks the illusion of self rule
even though, in reality, their human rights were worth next to nothing under apartheid.
Of all the installations of prejudice utilised by the National Party to ensure the
penetration of apartheid, the restriction of physical movement proved to be the greatest
obstacle to long term change. Throughout history, all of the momentous instigators of
social change heralded from industrial cities where like-minded individuals could
disseminate information to one another and could meet in secret underground. Paris,
Boston and St. Petersburg are all examples of the role of the modern city as conduit
through which progressive ideas might puncture throughout society so as to induce
cultural change. In 1948 there were two million blacks located in South African cities
compared to six million in the countryside and the great majority of these lived in slums.
With the arrival of the Bantustans, the blacks were further constrained in terms of being
able to form a coherent opposition to apartheid along the lines of the Black Panther
Party in the USA or the NICRA in Northern Ireland. Clearly, the lack of intellectual,
philosophical and political discourse within South African urban centres meant that
apartheid was more difficult to dislodge from within than was the case in, for example,
French Algeria, South Africa’s closest continental equivalent.
If the period 1945-1961 is seen as the foundation of apartheid in South Africa, then the
years 1961-1980 should be viewed as the era of ‘high apartheid’, where the NP regime
fought against modernity and international opinion to maintain a political system that
was at odds with the rest of western civilisation. Acts of state-sponsored atrocity such as
the Soweto Massacre (1976) shocked the world and divided international opinion. In
1966, at the heyday of apartheid during the final year of Verwoerd’s term in office, 1.5
million blacks were kept in reserve who would otherwise have become urbanised and,
potentially, radicalised.
Yet it should be understood that the international community was compliant in the
continuation of apartheid during this time. It has been shown that the blacks within
South Africa were powerless to form opposition to apartheid from within. Hope
therefore rested with the outside world.
“Enforcing apartheid required not only a range of oppressive methods domestically:
intimidation, abandonment of the rule of law, torture, outright terror including
assassination – all these were commonplace in South Africa. But the tentacles of the
police state also spread abroad, often assisted by Western intelligence services in ways
which infected and compromised the democratic politics of these countries. From the
late 1960’s onwards, South African agents were responsible for a series of attacks on
anti-apartheid organisations across the world.”
Thus, as the horrors of the Holocaust faded into history and the world became united by
satellite communication, the National Party treatment of blacks could only have been
perpetuated via external assistance. Although sanctions were imposed and diplomats
constantly sent to Pretoria, the police state apparatus was aided by international
impotence in the face of extreme racial oppression. Indeed, the nerve centre of
apartheid during the era of high apartheid was the South African equivalent of the
Gestapo – the Afrikaner Broederband, established by three Afrikaner nationals in 1918.
“The Afrikaner Broederband made the nature of the apartheid administration unique.
Most of the country’s leading government members, generals, judges and senior police
officers, along with many Church and education officials, operated on the deeply secret
level of the AB.”
Economic and cultural ties also ensured that key European countries such as Britain and
West Germany continued to trade with South Africa, and the illegal arms trade made
certain that the AB and hit-squads of apartheid were always supplied with the tools to
guarantee black suppression. In addition, the spectre of the Cold War loomed large over
the issue of apartheid. Not only did the USSR divert attention away from the atrocities
taking place in South Africa, but the nation was seen, in much the same way as Vietnam,
as a key battleground in the spreading of communist theory across the post-war globe,
exacerbated by the rich economic opportunities prevalent in the country. Perversely, the
Soviet states supported the liberal racial ideologies of the suppressed black South
Africans, fuelled by the extreme anti-communist stance of all of the NP leaders, who
each played a major role in apartheid.
“Apartheid’s phases have been stamped by Afrikanerdom’s great men: Malan preached
Afrikaner unity, Strydom the republican ideal; Vorster’s rule was marked by pragmatism
and tough security laws; and PW Botha’s era was distinguished by the total onslaught
and militarism tinged with reformism.”
That the compliance of the international community was a major factor in the
continuation of apartheid can be seen through the means via which it was eventually
dismantled. The beginning of the end of apartheid was the revised 1984 national
constitution, which aimed to highlight existing divides within the nation to split the
burgeoning black political parties. The new constitution differentiated between Indians,
‘coloureds’ and whites leaving blacks as the sole focus of racism in South Africa;
however, in attempting to woo other ethnic groups the National Party gave explicit
encouragement to, among others, the UDF (United Democratic Front). “The view from
below was of a galling piece of political expediency. The new constitution amounted to
an admission that apartheid was a failure.”
De Tocqueville in the nineteenth century noted that people may endure grievance and
abuse only for as long as they feel as if they are powerless to do anything about it. This
had certainly been the case in the history of South Africa until the second half of the
1980’s. Yet with the dilution of the ethnic pool over a period of four decades, and the
subtle shift in symbolic power from the NP to the ANC, apartheid was ultimately
doomed to failure.
Conclusion
The widespread feeling of isolation was at the root of the perpetuation of apartheid in
South Africa. Isolation was first experienced by the Boers and Afrikaners who then
transmitted this sense of alienation to the blacks under the guise of apartheid. Isolation
was likewise the tactic employed by the international community after the National
Party victory in 1948, which further assisted the policy of apartheid. History reports that
expulsion from international groups and treaties benefits no-one but the dictators in
charge of the nation that has so offended the free world. The recent examples of Iraq
and Zimbabwe highlight the futility of isolation as an international relations panacea to
the social ills of the modern world.
It is therefore prudent to see apartheid in South Africa as the vision of Afrikaner racists
fuelled by international compliance via ineptitude. Apartheid’s longevity was also aided
by the presence of communism and the enticing economic climate of South Africa,
which ensured that a tougher stance was not taken against the NP. In this way the
struggle to end apartheid took the best part of half a century; the greatest surprise was
that by 1990 it ended so quickly without recourse to civil war or mass bloodshed.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
BARBER, James. Mandela’s World: the International Dimension of South Africa’s Political
Revolution, 1990-1999. Oxford, James Currey, 2004.
BELL, Terry. Unfinished Business: South Africa, Apartheid and Truth. London, Verso, 2003.
BUTLER, Anthony. Contemporary South Africa. London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
GILIOMEE, Herman. The Afrikaners: Biography of a People. London, Hurst & Co, 2003.
HAIN, Peter. Sing the Beloved Country: the Struggle for the New South Africa. London,
Pluto, 1996.
MAMDANI, Mahmood. Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late
Colonialism. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1996.
MOORCRAFT, Paul. African Nemesis: War and Revolution in Southern Africa,
1945-2010. London, Brassey’s UK, 1994.
Why did the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa take
so long?
The struggle to end apartheid in South Africa appears, at the dawn of the twenty first
century, to be an aberration of social and world history. Viewed within the context of the
pervasive civil rights movement in North America and the abolition of slavery (first in
Britain at the beginning of the nineteenth century and followed by America after the
Civil War in 1865), apartheid seems like a medieval notion that was imprinted upon
modern history; an anachronistic nightmare imposed on civilised society. In a world that
had banished National Socialism and seen the back of Stalin, the Immorality
Amendment Act (1961) remained a legal statute in South Africa until 1985, making
sexual relations between whites and non-whites an unlawful act under apartheid. Yet the
very singularity of apartheid remained a key reason for its longevity: for as long as South
Africa could be isolated and swept under the international diplomatic rug the rest of the
free world could comfort itself in its liberal attitude to race relations while leaving the
citizens of South Africa to play the role of international pariahs. However, as Barber
ascertains, “although western governments continued to criticise apartheid, their
criticism was often drowned out by accusations of their hypocrisy.”
For the purposes of this study, analysis will take a chronological form, tracking the
genesis of apartheid as a political creed to understand how it became a part of the
South African way of life. In this way it will be shown how apartheid took so long to be
rooted out of the national culture.
The greatest mistake for historians today is to view South Africa from a solely British
colonial perspective. It is important to understand that the country had a long and rich
social history before the arrival of the British. It was a legacy tainted with taut race
relations between the indigenous African tribes and the first settlers, the Boers. Indeed,
before the arguments pertaining to apartheid were ever voiced, the British and Boers
fought a long war of attrition (1899-1902) to determine which nation should govern the
land that was rich in minerals and therefore important in an economic and strategic
sense. Conflict is thus at the heart of the history of South Africa. Like Northern Ireland
one should not dismiss the effects of repetitive differences of opinion whereby war and
aggravation can become deep rooted within the culture.
The eventual British victory in the Boer War sewed the seeds of the resentment that
would ultimately harvest apartheid (apartness). Boers, or Afrikaners as they were known
within their own ranks, felt like aliens in their home land, made to speak a foreign
language and pay allegiance to a detested foreign power. During the first three decades
of the twentieth century Afrikaners felt more alienated than ever with a large wage and
lifestyle discrepancy between the English-speaking South Africans and the Afrikaners. By
the end of the Second World War, the Afrikaners were an ethnic group on the verge of
revolting. Therefore, when the alliance between the National Party and the Afrikaner
Party bore fruit in the way of a unified South African national election victory in May
1948 the result was a reversal back to political ideals that were envisaged in the
pre-British days of the nineteenth century – apartheid being one of several popular
ultra-conservative slogans used during the preceding electoral campaign. The day after
the victory, party leader, Malan declared: “Today South Africa belongs to us once more.
South Africa is our own for the first time since Union, and may God grant that it will
always remain our own.”
With such a resentful and dislocated background, apartheid was introduced as a means
to perpetuate white rule. As a social and political philosophy, it was a backlash against
modernity – specifically against the civil rights movement. Traditionally, prejudice thrives
on routine and wilts in the face of modernity and the speed with which the North
American people vented their disgust at segregation in the Deep South shocked the
white leaders of South Africa, not only for the ferocity of the rage against the state but
also for the composition of the dissenters, many white, middle-class and well-educated.
Yet there were distinct and fundamental differences between the South African national
experience and that of the USA. Although both America and South Africa were initially
colonial countries, the influx of immigrants to the USA was markedly different to the
migration of people to South Africa. As New York took over from London as the
financial capital of the West after 1918, South Africa remained a predominantly
agricultural country. The relevance of this in terms of the perpetuation of apartheid is
that while one nation became a melting pot of differing ideologies, religions, races and
creeds, the other became entrenched in a formulaic white-black divide with a history of
Afrikaner and British land-holders dictating policy to a black populace.
Apartheid should be viewed as part of a broader policy of deconstruction taking place in
post-war South Africa, all facets tied to the dual desire to keep power from black people
as well as moving away from the disapproving gaze of the West. The removal of both
the British National Anthem and the Union Jack as cultural symbol (1957), the
replacement of UK currency (1961) as well as the referendum (1960) and subsequent
formulation of the republic (1961) highlighted the uniquely South African experience,
which was designed as a means to create white unity and loyalty to South Africa alone.
In this sense, apartheid was strongly tied to Afrikaner nationalism, making it a
movement beyond the comprehension and control of the former British colonial
masters.
“While there was very little difference between Afrikaners and English-speakers in their
support for white supremacy, residential segregation and migrant labour, English
opinion-formers constantly tried to distance themselves as much as possible from the
racial politics of Afrikaner parties. They found the crude expression of racism distasteful
and resented being shut out from power.”
Political apartheid in South Africa was so durable because it was built upon a
well-founded ideological structure that curbed black influence in all corners of society.
Apartheid can be viewed as a pyramid. The first building block was the political
obstacles put in the way of black participation in administrative affairs leaving politics to
be a whites’ only domain. The National Party next used enforced separation of existing
physical communities to perpetuate their rule, followed by the segregation of education
and the labour market (black workers were not officially permitted to form trade
unions). Not only did the National Party separate black and white communities but they
also restricted movement within the country in the same way that Jews were not
permitted to travel within Nazi Germany. The formation of the Bantustans (black
‘homelands’) meant that blacks were put out of sight of the white minority rulers giving
rise to two completely separate socio-economic groups within one sovereign nation.
The sum of these measures was to make a law of a loose body of segregation and
prejudice methods of divide and rule that were already in place before 1945, making
apartheid the most extreme version of institutionalised racism anywhere the
industrialised world.
“Segregation doctrine was supplanted by the more dangerous notion ‘separate
development.’ This involved the idea that Africans and others should reside, and enjoy
citizenship rights, in distinct ethnic homelands. Whereas White supremacy and
segregation had involved an explicit racial hierarchy in legislative and political practice,
the NP from 1961 was committed to formal equality between groups understood in
ethnic terms.”
It is a key point to make in terms of comprehending the durability of apartheid. While
segregation alone would have ensured white supremacy for a generation, the complete
stagnation of educational or vocational opportunity for blacks meant that they were,
over successive generations, unable to wrest power from Afrikaner hands. Moreover, the
notion of two ideals of citizenship in one country gave the blacks the illusion of self rule
even though, in reality, their human rights were worth next to nothing under apartheid.
Of all the installations of prejudice utilised by the National Party to ensure the
penetration of apartheid, the restriction of physical movement proved to be the greatest
obstacle to long term change. Throughout history, all of the momentous instigators of
social change heralded from industrial cities where like-minded individuals could
disseminate information to one another and could meet in secret underground. Paris,
Boston and St. Petersburg are all examples of the role of the modern city as conduit
through which progressive ideas might puncture throughout society so as to induce
cultural change. In 1948 there were two million blacks located in South African cities
compared to six million in the countryside and the great majority of these lived in slums.
With the arrival of the Bantustans, the blacks were further constrained in terms of being
able to form a coherent opposition to apartheid along the lines of the Black Panther
Party in the USA or the NICRA in Northern Ireland. Clearly, the lack of intellectual,
philosophical and political discourse within South African urban centres meant that
apartheid was more difficult to dislodge from within than was the case in, for example,
French Algeria, South Africa’s closest continental equivalent.
If the period 1945-1961 is seen as the foundation of apartheid in South Africa, then the
years 1961-1980 should be viewed as the era of ‘high apartheid’, where the NP regime
fought against modernity and international opinion to maintain a political system that
was at odds with the rest of western civilisation. Acts of state-sponsored atrocity such as
the Soweto Massacre (1976) shocked the world and divided international opinion. In
1966, at the heyday of apartheid during the final year of Verwoerd’s term in office, 1.5
million blacks were kept in reserve who would otherwise have become urbanised and,
potentially, radicalised.
Yet it should be understood that the international community was compliant in the
continuation of apartheid during this time. It has been shown that the blacks within
South Africa were powerless to form opposition to apartheid from within. Hope
therefore rested with the outside world.
“Enforcing apartheid required not only a range of oppressive methods domestically:
intimidation, abandonment of the rule of law, torture, outright terror including
assassination – all these were commonplace in South Africa. But the tentacles of the
police state also spread abroad, often assisted by Western intelligence services in ways
which infected and compromised the democratic politics of these countries. From the
late 1960’s onwards, South African agents were responsible for a series of attacks on
anti-apartheid organisations across the world.”
Thus, as the horrors of the Holocaust faded into history and the world became united by
satellite communication, the National Party treatment of blacks could only have been
perpetuated via external assistance. Although sanctions were imposed and diplomats
constantly sent to Pretoria, the police state apparatus was aided by international
impotence in the face of extreme racial oppression. Indeed, the nerve centre of
apartheid during the era of high apartheid was the South African equivalent of the
Gestapo – the Afrikaner Broederband, established by three Afrikaner nationals in 1918.
“The Afrikaner Broederband made the nature of the apartheid administration unique.
Most of the country’s leading government members, generals, judges and senior police
officers, along with many Church and education officials, operated on the deeply secret
level of the AB.”
Economic and cultural ties also ensured that key European countries such as Britain and
West Germany continued to trade with South Africa, and the illegal arms trade made
certain that the AB and hit-squads of apartheid were always supplied with the tools to
guarantee black suppression. In addition, the spectre of the Cold War loomed large over
the issue of apartheid. Not only did the USSR divert attention away from the atrocities
taking place in South Africa, but the nation was seen, in much the same way as Vietnam,
as a key battleground in the spreading of communist theory across the post-war globe,
exacerbated by the rich economic opportunities prevalent in the country. Perversely, the
Soviet states supported the liberal racial ideologies of the suppressed black South
Africans, fuelled by the extreme anti-communist stance of all of the NP leaders, who
each played a major role in apartheid.
“Apartheid’s phases have been stamped by Afrikanerdom’s great men: Malan preached
Afrikaner unity, Strydom the republican ideal; Vorster’s rule was marked by pragmatism
and tough security laws; and PW Botha’s era was distinguished by the total onslaught
and militarism tinged with reformism.”
That the compliance of the international community was a major factor in the
continuation of apartheid can be seen through the means via which it was eventually
dismantled. The beginning of the end of apartheid was the revised 1984 national
constitution, which aimed to highlight existing divides within the nation to split the
burgeoning black political parties. The new constitution differentiated between Indians,
‘coloureds’ and whites leaving blacks as the sole focus of racism in South Africa;
however, in attempting to woo other ethnic groups the National Party gave explicit
encouragement to, among others, the UDF (United Democratic Front). “The view from
below was of a galling piece of political expediency. The new constitution amounted to
an admission that apartheid was a failure.”
De Tocqueville in the nineteenth century noted that people may endure grievance and
abuse only for as long as they feel as if they are powerless to do anything about it. This
had certainly been the case in the history of South Africa until the second half of the
1980’s. Yet with the dilution of the ethnic pool over a period of four decades, and the
subtle shift in symbolic power from the NP to the ANC, apartheid was ultimately
doomed to failure.
Conclusion
The widespread feeling of isolation was at the root of the perpetuation of apartheid in
South Africa. Isolation was first experienced by the Boers and Afrikaners who then
transmitted this sense of alienation to the blacks under the guise of apartheid. Isolation
was likewise the tactic employed by the international community after the National
Party victory in 1948, which further assisted the policy of apartheid. History reports that
expulsion from international groups and treaties benefits no-one but the dictators in
charge of the nation that has so offended the free world. The recent examples of Iraq
and Zimbabwe highlight the futility of isolation as an international relations panacea to
the social ills of the modern world.
It is therefore prudent to see apartheid in South Africa as the vision of Afrikaner racists
fuelled by international compliance via ineptitude. Apartheid’s longevity was also aided
by the presence of communism and the enticing economic climate of South Africa,
which ensured that a tougher stance was not taken against the NP. In this way the
struggle to end apartheid took the best part of half a century; the greatest surprise was
that by 1990 it ended so quickly without recourse to civil war or mass bloodshed.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
BARBER, James. Mandela’s World: the International Dimension of South Africa’s Political
Revolution, 1990-1999. Oxford, James Currey, 2004.
BELL, Terry. Unfinished Business: South Africa, Apartheid and Truth. London, Verso, 2003.
BUTLER, Anthony. Contemporary South Africa. London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
GILIOMEE, Herman. The Afrikaners: Biography of a People. London, Hurst & Co, 2003.
HAIN, Peter. Sing the Beloved Country: the Struggle for the New South Africa. London,
Pluto, 1996.
MAMDANI, Mahmood. Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late
Colonialism. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1996.
MOORCRAFT, Paul. African Nemesis: War and Revolution in Southern Africa,
1945-2010. London, Brassey’s UK, 1994.
The South African Native National Congress delegation to England, June 1919 Image source
The history of resistance by the ANC goes through three phases. The first was dialogue and petition; the second direct
opposition and the last the period of exiled armed struggle. In 1949, just after apartheid was introduced, the ANC started
on a more militant path, with the Youth League playing a more important role. The ANC introduced their Programme of
Action in 1949, supporting strike action, protests and other forms of non-violent resistance. Nelson Mandela, Oliver
Tambo and Walter Sisulu started to play an important role in the ANC in this period. In 1952 the ANC started the
Defiance Campaign. This campaign called on people to purposefully break apartheid laws and offer themselves for
arrest. It was hoped that the increase in prisoners would cause the system to collapse and get international support for
the ANC. Black people got onto 'white buses', used 'white toilets', entered into 'white areas' and refused to use passes.
Despite 8 000 people ending up in jail, the ANC caused no threat to the apartheid regime.
The ANC continued along the same path during the rest of the 1950s, until in 1959 some members broke away and
formed the PAC. These members wanted to follow a more violent and militant route, and felt that success could not be
reached through the ANC's method.
Cleavon Cloete
University of Cape Town- 2016
One of the reasons was that Apartheid, as a system of oppression, became continuously
worse and was not as bad in the beginning as it was in the end. In its infancy, it was a
system built upon racial, cultural, and physical segregation which had been in place since
the British Imperial rule and which most had agreed on. However, many of the leaders
both pre- and post-Apartheid implementation had white nationalist views and believed
that whites should maintain their place at the top of South African society no matter what.
Many of them, such as Jan Smuts who was known to have a very negative view of black
South Africans, actually preached rather liberal views in the international arena, however,
what they said overseas and what they actually did at home were two very different things.
As such, when Apartheid laws which oppressed people of colour were being passed which
in turn led to them rising up and speaking out against it, the government simply tighten
their grip on the nation and the policies became worse and worse. In the end, it took
various factors aligning to end Apartheid. These included the white black population ratio
becoming increasingly difficult for the white government to manage, it started at 1:4 by
the end it was about 1:9, the continuous uprisings making the country hard to govern
while drawing international ire, the economic downfall of the country due to this
international ire, and very importantly the rise of a more liberal wing in the National Party
itself led by FW de Klerk. Without all these factors it could in fact have lasted longer,
however, it should be understood that the government was very intelligent in the ways in
which it introduced policies and their justifications for them which kept the oppressed
population quiet for a long time. Many sympathisers might argue that these policies were
good for those who were oppressed, but given the effects they had, it is a baseless
argument regardless of the justifications they were given. Having the population so
divided played a significant role in preventing any uprisings as well which further
lengthened the time before the system would start to fall.
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