The years of apartheid are undoubtedly one of the darkest moments in South Africa’s history. The period which spanned from 1948 to 1994 was characterized by racial segregation, white minority rule and the oppression of the rights, movements, and freedom of the blacks. The word ‘apartheid’ literally means ‘the state of being apart’ or ‘separateness’.
According to Africanaencyclopedia.com, the term apartheid (from the Afrikaans word for “apartness”) was coined in the 1930s and was used as a political slogan of the National Party in the early 1940s, however, it may interest you to know that the policy itself extends back to the beginning of white settlement in South Africa which started as far back as 1652.
The apartheid system was implemented by the then governing party in South Africa, National Party (NP). However, the segregation in South Africa did not begin then; it began during the colonial era of the Dutch Empire and persisted when the British came to power in 1795. It, however, became an official government structure after 1948’s general election.
The policy classified the citizens and residents of the country into four racial classes – white, colored, black and Indian.
Things went from bad to worse after that. More than 3.5 million non-white South Africans were evicted from their homes (between the years 1960 to 1983) and were forcefully relocated to segregated neighborhoods. This has become one of the largest mass evictions in recent history. Government segregation was applied to education, natural attractions such as beaches, medical care and several other services.
From 1970, many black people saw their citizenship revoked – which limited their movements and rights to businesses and ownership in the country. The implementation of apartheid was met with internal resistance, protests, uprisings, violence and embargoes. This prompted arrests and imprisonments of the opposition party members and anti-apartheid leaders which in turn spurred unrest and more resistance.
The growth in resistance prompted to the ruling party to apply more militarized repression tactics. An awful chain of reaction of sorts. Thankfully, the internal resistance, as well as the sanctions and embargoes placed on South Africa by the international community, created difficulties for the National Party to uphold their regime of repression. 1994’s multiracial democratic election is largely considered as the end of Apartheid.
The Beginning of Apartheid
World War II brought with it a lot of changes to the way the world was then. But the post world war II economic boom was one of the most prominent changes. This led to urban migration by black workers. The growth of the black worker to industrial centers was largely ignored by the government which made no provision through lifestyle, social services or housing to accommodate them.
Overcrowding and an increase in crime rates were the results.
The whites reacted negatively to this, which led to the aforementioned 1948 policy that instituted Apartheid.
While this was not met with universal approval, it is how decades of political unrest and struggle for equality was born in South Africa.
When Did Apartheid End?
Prohibition of mixed race marriages, disenfranchisement of colored voters, criminalizing of mixed race sexual intercourse, the institution of ‘homeland systems’, forced resettlements of blacks, baseless imprisonments and deprivation of human rights are just some of the characteristics of those unfortunate years.
Thankfully after much upheaval and resistance, the rule of the white minority was effectively brought to an end in 1994.
Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk received the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize for the roles they played in the elimination of South Africa’s apartheid regime and setting the building stones for a more peaceful and democratic country.
Several factors working together successfully put an end to Apartheid: the collapse of institutional racism, the presidency of F.W. de Klerk, trade and arms embargoes and western influence – as the 1980s anti-apartheid movements in Europe and in the United States gained support.
However, it is 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 much more– that most of the world can never forget.
A multitude of negotiations from 1990 to 1993 led to the 1994 elections that marked the end of apartheid. The negotiations took place between the government and the African National Congress (ANC) – the opposition. While the negotiations were not without flounders, they are considered a success. Even though bombs went off severally the days leading up to the election, the 27th of April 1994 went on peacefully with 20 million South Africans casting their votes.
The rest, as they say, is timeless history. The ANC won 62.65% of the votes. Nelson Mandela was sworn in as President on the 10th of May 1994.
Till this day, the 27th of April, the anniversary of the election, is celebrated as a public holiday in South Africa known as Freedom Day.