Apartheid of South Africa

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Apartheid of South Africa

Until the discovery of diamonds in 1867, Southern Africa had an agricultural economy (main income is by farming). Then the discovery of gold came in 1886. The newfound wealth drew broad interest from foreign investors and laid the foundations of future apartheid (a formal policy of racial separation and discrimination (treating some differently than others or favoring one social group over another based on prejudices). The struggle for land at the turn of the twentieth century resulted in the creation of the Union of South Africa as part of the British Empire. The South African colonial government (government ruled by a foreign nation) passed laws after 1909 restricting land ownership and residence for all people of non-European ancestry. Later in the twentieth century, following two world wars, the racial tension in the country reached a dangerous level. The government of the nation of South Africa responded by officially adopting the policy known as apartheid. Through apartheid, South Africa became a key example of racial prejudice in the twentieth century.

Apartheid, which means "separateness" in Afrikaans, one of eleven official languages spoken in South Africa, began in 1948 and remained in effect for over forty-two years. However, not everyone supported the government and its policy. Within South Africa, the struggle for liberation began with peaceful protests but soon escalated into a campaign of defiance against unjust laws driven by racial prejudices (a negative attitude towards others of a particular physical trait, such as skin color, based on a prejudgment about those individuals with no prior knowledge or experience) and growing oppression. The African National Congress, an organization established in 1912 to promote the rights of black Africans, and other groups opposed to apartheid formed the Congress of the People in 1955 and adopted The Freedom Charter that declared the goals of a future democratic government they sought in South Africa. Decades of violence followed before apartheid was dismantled in the face of international demands. The Republic of South Africa ended the twentieth century without the burden of official apartheid. However, it was faced with an overwhelming task of reconciling and uniting all people equally in South Africa.

Colonial conquest

White Europeans first permanently settled in southern Africa in the mid-seventeenth century when the Dutch established a colony on the southwestern tip of the continent called the Cape. They became known as Afrikaners, a distinct ethnic group in South Africa composed of Dutch colonists and other early settlers from Europe. Afrikaners spoke Afrikaans, which was closely related to the Dutch language.


A policy of racial separation and discrimination.
To refuse to have dealings with a person, store, or organization in order to express disapproval.
To treat differently or favor one group over another on a basis other than individual merit.
A belief that race primarily determines human behavioral traits and capabilities and that racial differences produce an assumed superiority of a particular race.
A tract of public land set aside for a special purpose.
Using laws or social customs to separate certain social groups, such as peoples distinguished by skin color—whites and blacks.

Beginning in the 1830s some of their descendants, primarily farmers, moved into remote areas to escape from expanding British rule and establish new settlements. Those who moved called themselves Boers (the Dutch word for "farmers"). They established two republics, Transvaal in the far north and the Orange Free State in the middle of the territory. Early in the nineteenth century, the Cape Province in the south became an English colony, along with the province of Natal on the western coastline. Europe's colonial powers expressed a renewed interest in southern Africa in the nineteenth century when diamonds were discovered at Kimberley and gold was found at Witwatersrand. By the turn of the twentieth century, most African tribes had lost their land through conquest or settlement. The white colonizers had reduced the status of native people to that of servants and tenants on land that had once been their own.

In 1899, the English sought to establish dominance in the South African region. They went to war against the Boers. The Anglo-Boer War (1899–1902) resulted in an English victory over the Boers. However, the English failed in their attempts to attract large numbers of English immigrants to populate the land. The Boers, determined to preserve their own culture and language, retained a deep hostility toward their English rulers. Less than five years after the war ended, the Boer republics were largely self-governing once again. As a result, England granted the colony independence within the British Empire and established the Union of South Africa in 1910. Dutch was recognized along with English as an official language of the Union. Elections placed former Boer generals in high government positions. Two main political parties emerged, and both were opposed to racial equality for native Africans. Most Boers supported the Nationalist (or National) Party. Most English-speakers and industrial employers supported the Unionist (or United) Party in the new government.

The Colour Bar

A "colour bar" was used in South Africa to determine a person's rights within the law. Racial prejudice divided people into color groups based on the distinction between whites and non-whites. Non-whites were further divided into black, Indian, and colored designations. Legally, the color groups were supposed to be categorized into specific groupings.

The white population was of European descent. Most came from the Netherlands (Dutch), but large numbers of immigrants also came from France and Germany. They were called Afrikaners and their population was concentrated in the Western and Eastern Cape province and in Natal on the Eastern coast.

Native Africans, or blacks (also called Bantu), made up the largest population of people. Blacks were further divided into groups based on language and cultural backgrounds. Examples included the Swazi, Venda, Tswana, and the Zulu.

The Indian designation in the color bar mostly included those of Indian ancestry, but also included all people of Asian descent. Most Indians were originally brought from India to South Africa to work on sugarcane plantations. The largest Indian population lived in the province of Natal.

Colored South Africans were people of mixed race. They were descendants of the first Dutch settlers and the native population of South Africa, called the Khoisan. The Khoisan had been militarily defeated and absorbed early in South African history by black migration from the north and white migration from the south. The races further mixed when Malayans and East Indians were brought to South Africa in the eighteenth century. Colored people had their own cultural heritage and generally lived in the Cape region.

Although the state government was now centralized, the provinces remained deeply segregated because of racial prejudice. People were divided into groups based on the distinction between whites and non-whites in the so-called "colour bar" (see box). Non-whites were not allowed to vote outside of the Cape Province. Therefore, the rights of the black majority, representing over 70 percent of the population in South Africa, were not considered nationally. The white minority introduced a group of laws in order to enforce the policy of racial separation. The Mine and Works Act of 1911 secured the best jobs for white workers by limiting blacks to menial work, such as field laborers. This policy guaranteed a steady supply of cheap labor for mining and the construction of railways and roads used for industrial transportation. An endless need for laborers existed for the construction of buildings, commerce, and in domestic services, such as housemaids, for the rapidly expanding economy. Asian workers provided another source of cheap labor for industry in South Africa. Earlier in 1860, East Indian slaves had been introduced to southern Africa to work on the sugarcane plantations. In much the same way, Chinese laborers had been imported in 1904 to work in the gold mines in South Africa.

In 1913, the South African government established the Native Land Act. The act set aside reservations (a tract of public land set aside for a special purpose, such as placement of an undesired social group away from mainstream society) for native Africans. Their land ownership was restricted to these reserves that covered approximately 13 percent of the country. The government's land policy forcibly uprooted communities and set in place a migrant (worker who moves from job to job as they become available) labor system. Because the land could not support everyone, some men sought work in the mines located outside their reservations. Wives and children were not allowed to accompany the men. So families would often be separated for most of the year. In 1913, the government also passed the Immigrants Regulation Act, which prohibited Indians from moving out of the province in which they were born. Severely limited social, political, and legal rights finally prompted non-whites to organize and work toward racial equality.

The African National Congress

At the turn of the century, several movements formed to promote equal rights for all citizens in South Africa. Most were fairly conservative groups that urged people to work within the political system to effect change. In 1902, the African Political Organization (APO) was founded. Though it was open to all races, it had a predominantly non-white membership that failed to gain wide support because of a general lack of concern for non-whites among the whites.

After years of petitions and protest meetings against segregation, several hundred prominent Africans including John Dube (1871–1946) joined together to form the South African Native National Congress, later renamed the African National Congress (ANC). Dube was the organization's president for its first years until 1917. The ANC brought together all the native provinces at its inaugural (first) conference in 1912. At first, the ANC was politically conservative and attempted to work within the existing government system. Change seemed hopeful because the policy of segregation was never fully accepted throughout the country.

However, progress against segregation at the political level was severely disrupted with the outbreak of World War I (1914–18). South Africa joined the war effort on the side of the British. By the time the war ended, so had the passive acceptance of racism (prejudice against people of a particular physical trait, such as skin color, based on a belief that the physical trait primarily determines human behavior and individual capabilities) by black Africans. Fighting as allies with democracies in the world such as the United States highlighted the inequalities of segregationist policies. They formed associations to promote religious, political, industrial, and social advancement for native Africans.

In 1919, Unionist Party leader Jan Smuts (1870–1950) became prime minister (a position similar to that of president) of South Africa. An Afrikaner who was hailed as an international statesman, Smuts represented South Africa at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. At that time, he also played a leading role in establishing the League of Nations. The League was an international organization whose purpose was to prevent future world wars and improve global welfare. However, the League was given far less power than Smuts had argued for and was largely replaced by the stronger United Nations following World War II (1939–45).

After decades of political fighting, Smuts's goal was to present South Africa as a united nation, ready to take its rightful place as a respectable member of the international community. Smuts's Unionist Party began to move away from the enforcement of segregationist laws, despite a deep conviction on his part about the virtues of European superiority. Smuts would later write to a friend in a letter that was printed in Martin Meredith's 1988 book In the Name of Apartheid: South Africa in the Postwar Period, "I am a South African European proud of our heritage and proud of the clean European society we have built up in South Africa, and which I am determined not to see lost in the black pool of Africa."

In 1920 Smuts passed the Native Affairs Act, which focused on the question of separate political representation for blacks and whites in South Africa. The act brought the issue of racism back to the center of attention in the country. It was a controversial act that deeply divided people on both sides of the issue. Those in favor saw it as a great step forward in race relations. Those opposed saw it as a barrier to their goal of apartheid. In order for apartheid to work, political separation of the races, not just physical segregation of people, was necessary.

The next decade saw a sharp rise in black political awareness and an increase in the number of protests aimed at political and economic reforms in South Africa. Africans created the South African Council of Non-European Trade Unions. Among other things, they demanded equal pay for equal work. Labor strikes occurred until 1926, when the Masters and Servants Amendment Act removed Africans' right to strike in most situations.

Between 1921 and 1936, thousands of black African men moved from reservations to towns and cities seeking employment. Urban areas were officially reserved for white populations. Native Africans were permitted only as long as they served a specific need, such as work for white Africans. They were allowed to temporarily live in camps on the outskirts of town, but their real homes were still officially listed on the reservations. Due to the growing number of blacks in the cities as well as the increase in political protests, the white minority sought more stringent controls. Officials set up a legal system that regulated entry into urban areas by requiring all black African men to carry a pass book, or passport, at all times. Police raids were regularly organized to ensure the pass laws were maintained. The raids often turned violent. Those caught without valid passes were arrested and sent to jail. Eventually, they would be sent back into the rural areas away from white-only areas.

Not directly represented in government, Africans' interests were handled by the Native Affairs Department (NAD). The NAD depended entirely on African taxes that paid for the expenses of education, social services, and economic development for native people. In 1936, African voters in the Cape Province lost their right to vote, a right they had held for more than eighty years. The reason given was that their right to vote could eventually lead to demands for the African vote in the northern territories. In exchange for losing their vote in general elections, Cape Province Africans were allowed to vote for selected white delegates who were suppose to represent them before the South African government. Liberty for native Africans was not progressing well and was about to get worse as the world faced another world war.

The world at war

The South African population was divided over entering World War II in late 1939 when war first broke out. Racial and political issues brewing at home caused many to favor neutrality (not choosing a side). Afrikaners in the Nationalist Party considered it another of England's wars that did not concern them. They also questioned opposing Germany, which seemed sympathetic to Afrikaner nationalism. On the other hand, Smuts's allegiance to England, along with his international leadership ambitions, supported South African participation in the war. The country had the most advanced economy in Africa with its vast mineral wealth. In addition, its control of the Cape shipping routes made it strategically important in the war effort. Smuts and his Unionist Party won out and South Africa went to war.

Native Africans' efforts for greater participation in political life were somewhat interrupted by the war. Thousands who were hoping to escape the poverty of the reserves flooded into urban areas. They were drawn to the cities by the booming wartime industries, but their presence only increased the existing tensions. Authorities extended pass laws controlling African movement in an attempt to gain control of Africans entering into urban areas. Despite their efforts, large camps grew outside such cities as Johannesburg and Durban. Activist movements grew inside these settlements. The movements' members became increasingly critical of the government because of their poor living conditions. By the mid-1940s, nearly half of all Africans employed in commerce and private industry had joined labor trade unions.

In 1943, the ANC drew up a Charter of Rights to increase political pressure on the government. They proposed a fair distribution of land, voting rights for non-whites, and full political participation. Young members of the ANC, including future South African president Nelson Mandela (1918–), formed an African Youth League. They advocated non-cooperation with the war effort in order to bring about social change in South Africa. At the same time, the South African Indians (SAI) elected a new group of leaders who promised to organize the Indian community to resist the government's policy of segregation.

Postwar labor unrest

African trade unions became more aggressive as a series of strikes broke out. Emergency war regulations passed in 1943 had ended the legal right of Africans to strike in any and all circumstances. Despite the law, tens of thousands of mineworkers went on strike over wages and poor working conditions on April 12, 1946. It was the largest labor protest in South Africa's history to date. The government's response to the strike was severe. Armed police were called in to break down the miners' resistance. Black and Indian tobacco workers marched in support of the striking miners. White citizens were alarmed as the media dwelt on the dangers of allowing such demonstrations. The leaders of the mineworkers' strike were arrested and five days after it had all begun, the strike was over. The strike had failed in its goals but the very attempt showed to whites and non-whites alike how non-white workers were improving their ability to organize and act collectively. In 1947, the ANC and the SAI made a joint declaration of unity in demanding political and social rights.

Debates over race relations

Prime Minister Smuts was facing extreme pressure within South Africa from white citizens who were protesting against the rights of the Indian population to buy land. Indians, on the other hand, were demanding more political and social rights. Smuts's solution was to offer Indians limited representation in government while restricting their rights on how much and where they could purchase land. This solution did not satisfy either side and the conflict soon became an international issue when it was placed on the agenda of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in October 1946. Smuts argued that it was an internal matter to be dealt with by South Africa alone, but the Assembly passed a resolution condemning South Africa's Indian policy. Europe's colonial powers were leaning toward the idea of racial equality. The UN resolution served to focus the world's attention on South Africa's racial practices.

Smuts returned home politically weakened. The Unionist Party government took steps to move away from strictly enforcing segregationist laws. They set up the Fagan Commission in 1948, which recommended segregation in the cities be gradually ended. The commission proposed a system that moved toward the races being equal, but still separate (see Jim Crow chapter 17) under South African government rule. In response, Unionists argued that territorial separation of the races was impractical in the mid-twentieth century and Africans should be accepted as a permanent part of the urban population.

The Nationalist Party responded with a commission of its own. The resulting Sauer Commission created in 1948 proposed a system of separate development between the races. It gave the name apartheid to the system. The Nationalist Party solution called for total racial segregation, giving native Africans their own separate states with political independence from white South Africa. The Nationalists argued that the reservations already in place were the proper homelands of native Africans and that social and cultural differences should keep the races separate whenever possible.

Divide and rule

The general election of 1948 was set for May. It was to determine the direction South Africa would take as a nation following World War II. Europe's colonial powers had begun to dismantle discriminatory laws. But the war had only increased the existing tensions between the white minority and the black majority in South Africa. The Nationalist Party, campaigning on its policy of apartheid, won an election victory over Smuts's Unionist Party. They set about to establish their own version of racial discrimination, which would maintain its hold on the country for decades to come.

The Nationalists quickly put laws in place to impose apartheid. The Population Registration Act of 1950 required all citizens to register with the government as white, Indian, Colored, or Bantu (the government term for Africans). The Bantu group was further broken down into groups based on language. Each was assigned a homeland, or bantustan. For example, those who spoke Zulu would be assigned a different homeland than those who spoke Sotho, creating two smaller divisions. The fact that whites often spoke different languages was not considered and assured them majority status. The government established complex criteria to determine racial groupings and created a board to rule in questionable cases. This separation by race sometimes resulted in members of the same family being classified in different racial groups and assigned different homelands. The Nationalist Party quickly passed legislation in 1948 enforcing racial purity by outlawing interracial marriages.

Apartheid's purpose was to guarantee political and economic privilege for the English-speaking minority. Not everyone in politics agreed with the policies of the new government, but resistance was quickly crushed. For example, the Communist Party in South Africa attempted political resistance to apartheid and was banned in 1950.

The Group Areas Act was passed on April 27, 1950, and became the backbone of apartheid. The act formally separated racial groups into separate states throughout South Africa. Around 87 percent of the country was reserved for whites, Indians, and Coloureds. The remaining land was assigned to the Bantu, who comprised 60 percent of the population. Scattered acres of land, mostly in the north and east, made up the ten designated Bantu homelands. Most of these homelands contained barren land that did not hold any of the wealth or key resources of the country, such as the gold and diamond mines. In 1951, the Bantu Authorities Act created separate government structures for native Africans in each of the homelands. The act laid the foundation for Africans to be declared citizens of Bantustans, not of South Africa, even if they physically lived in other parts of South Africa.

The Reservation of Separate Amenities Act of 1953 created separate beaches, buses, hospitals, schools, and libraries for the races. It prohibited people of different races from using the same public amenities, such as restrooms and drinking fountains. Non-whites were prohibited from entering white areas without specific permission and a pass. A pass was only issued to a person with approved work. Spouses and children were not included in the passes, which meant families remained separated if living outside the homeland. Those without a pass were arrested, tried, and deported to their homeland, where poverty was widespread. Over the decades, millions of Bantus were arrested under laws controlling their movement.

Resistance builds

Non-whites tried unsuccessfully for decades to end segregationist policies in South Africa. When the Nationalist Party implemented its policy of apartheid through government laws, it became apparent to non-whites that increased resistance was necessary. In the 1950s, several opposition groups, including the Coloured People's Congress, the SAI, and the white Congress of Democrats came together under the leadership of the ANC. They joined in a campaign of defiance over unjust laws. For the first time they advocated open resistance to unfair practices in the form of strikes, work stoppages, and protest marches.

When the government passed the Bantu Education Act (see box) in 1953, a boycott (an organized effort to not buy certain products or use certain services in order to express disapproval with an organization) of schools resulted. Not all whites were in favor of the apartheid system. In 1955, the Black Sash, an organization of white women wearing black sashes in protest of social injustice against black Africans, formed a movement to promote nonviolent resistance to apartheid. In the mid-1950s, the government extended the pass laws. Now every Bantu over sixteen years of age was required to carry a passport in order to visit, live, or work in a white area. On August 9, 1956, over twenty thousand women marched on government offices and demanded to see the prime minister. He refused to meet with them and, despite nationwide protests, the pass laws were extended. The protest sparked an annual event known as South Africa Women's Day. Referred to a National Women's Day, in 1994 the date of August 9 was proclaimed one of seven South African holidays that is celebrated every year.

The Congress of the People

Those opposed to the policies and practices of apartheid gathered outside Johannesburg on June 25, 1955, for a Congress of the People. Over three thousand delegates assembled from various parties and organizations. Their purpose was to create an alliance and draft a freedom charter for the democratic South Africa of the future. The following day, the Congress of the People met and adopted The Freedom Charter (see box).

Bantu Education Act

Until apartheid, African schools were divided into four categories. These included private schools run independently by religious communities, mission schools founded by church organizations but funded and controlled by the state, tribal schools operated by African communities, and government schools.

The Bantu Education Act of 1953 brought all native African schooling under the administrative control of the government. It effectively ended all other types. This allowed the Education Ministry to determine budgets, examination requirements, and curriculum, or the course of study for Bantu children. The ministry also controlled building location and maintenance, fees, teacher assignments, and pupil-teacher ratios.

The apartheid government's educational policy was a key example of racial discrimination. The potential of a student was not based on individual merits, but rather on membership in a racial group which had been assigned certain characteristics. The Bantu Education Act was designed to insure African children received the type of education that the ministry had decided was best suited for unskilled labor. Bantu education therefore kept black children at a very low standard. Students were assigned a curriculum that included such subjects as dish washing and the weeding of flower beds.

By the 1970s, the pupil-teacher ratio for Bantu education was around sixty to one. In schools for whites it was around twenty to one. School attendance for whites was mandatory but it was optional for Africans at the primary level. African students who went on to secondary school were required to pay for their own education, textbooks, and supplies. Salaries for teachers in Bantu education were about half that of white teachers with the same qualifications. Many Bantu teachers were forced to work a double shift because of the lack of faculty and facilities. Because of the general poverty of native African homes and their distance from schools, the student dropout rate in Bantu education was very high. After 1959, higher education for Bantu was available only in separate colleges and universities.

The Nationalist Party reacted to The Freedom Charter by arresting 156 individuals and charging them with treason (attempting to overthrow the government). Ninety-one blacks were actually taken to court in 1958 in what became known as the Treason Trials. The ANC responded with boycotts and strikes. By the time the trial ended in 1961, international attention was once again centered on the racial situation in South Africa. All of the defendants were found not guilty. In 1962, the UN established the Special Committee against Apartheid to monitor racial policies in the country and to promote an international campaign to support the end of apartheid.

A new nation struggles

South Africa maintained ties with the British monarchy (the king or queen who holds supreme governmental power) until it acquired independence as the Republic of South Africa on May 31, 1961. The continuing turmoil within the country alarmed foreign economic investors, who were concerned that the new government was about to fall. If black resistance continued unrestricted, the Nationalist Party leaders feared these investors would take their money out of South Africa.

The Freedom Charter of 1955

In June 1955, the Congress of the People, consisting of over three thousand delegates opposed to apartheid, assembled to draft a freedom charter for a future democratic South Africa. They created The Freedom Charter. The preamble to The Freedom Charter states, "We, the people of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know: That South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people … And we pledge ourselves to strive together, sparing nothing of our strength and courage, until the democratic changes here set out have been won."

The Charter demanded:

The People shall govern.

All national groups shall have equal rights.

The People shall share in the country's wealth.

The land shall be shared among those who work it.

All shall be equal before the law.

All shall enjoy equal human rights.

There shall be work and security.

The doors of learning and culture shall be opened.

There shall be houses, security and comfort.

There shall be peace and friendship.

Demonstrations against the hated pass laws grew violent on March 21, 1960. A large group of blacks congregated outside a police station in Sharpeville. The protesters were not carrying their pass books. They intended to make a statement by offering themselves up for arrest. Police grew intimidated by the crowd and opened fire, killing 69 and injuring 186. The event became known as the Sharpeville Massacre and led to the banning of the ANC and other black organizations by the government. In response, the ANC switched its tactics from nonviolent to violent resistance, which would prove much more effective against apartheid policies through the next thirty years.

In 1961, Nelson Mandela and others from the ANC formed Umkhonto we Sizwe, which is translated as The Spear of the Nation. The underground movement began a campaign of sabotage (to secretly disrupt activities) against the government. In 1963, Mandela and seven other leaders of the underground resistance were arrested and sentenced to life in prison.

An isolated nation

During the 1970s, public opposition increased as new trade unions, women's groups, and youth and student organizations united in their efforts against apartheid. In 1976, students in Soweto went on strike when the government ruled Afrikaans would be the new official language in African schools. Police responded with gunfire to rock-throwing students who gathered in protest. Before the violence ended, twenty-three students were officially listed as dead, but accounts of witnesses say hundreds more were killed in what became known as the Soweto Riots. It was a defining moment in the future of apartheid by increasing world attention on South Africa's racial policies.

The UN had been monitoring the situation in South Africa since 1946, but not until the 1976 Soweto Riots did it have enough international support to establish apartheid as a crime. The International Criminal Court was formed to prohibit any other state from adopting the practices of racial domination and oppression practiced in South Africa. International action against South Africa included oil and arms embargos (stoppages), sports and cultural boycotts, and a campaign to release political prisoners opposed to the system. South Africa was culturally and economically isolated from the rest of the world.

Violence prevails

In order to enforce apartheid, the South African government had dramatically increased its military spending. Authorities were allowed to detain opponents of apartheid indefinitely. Many died in custody or were deported. Agents of the government assassinated leaders of the liberation movement in a further effort to end the opposition. Armed resistance by The Spear of the Nation increased in response. It directed attacks on police stations, military bases, power stations, and government offices used to administer apartheid. The government responded by declaring a state of emergency in 1985, effectively turning South Africa into a police state (police are given greater powers to suppress activities that conflict with governmental policy).

Between 1985 and 1988, the country endured its most violent times. Many white South Africans fled the country for fear of being attacked on the streets or in their homes. The need for change was now evident to everyone. Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1932–), an Anglican cleric (a priest of the Church of England) from Cape Town, led the newly formed United Democratic Front (UDF), which called for the elimination of apartheid.

Apartheid ends

In 1989, F. W. de Klerk (1936–; served 1989–94) was elected president of South Africa. In his opening address to parliament, de Klerk announced he would overturn discriminatory laws and lift the ban on the ANC and others. After forty-two years, apartheid was officially ended. De Klerk released political prisoners of apartheid, including Nelson Mandela, who had served twenty-eight years of his life sentence. Over the next few years, the laws of apartheid were repealed, one at a time. The last whites-only vote was held in 1992. The vote gave the government the authority to negotiate a multi-racial government transition and a new constitution. Elections were called and took place peacefully in 1994 with the ANC winning all but two provinces. Nelson Mandela became the new president of South Africa. Those who still sympathized with apartheid policies were largely resigned by now to the changes in South African society.

Mandela and de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for their peaceful termination of the apartheid regime and their work to promote a new democratic (a political system built on social equality in which citizens hold the nation's supreme power) South Africa. In addition to its issues of racial equality, the apartheid years left the country with serious economic problems and a high crime rate; the new government had serious work to do. The Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act of 1995 set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to help South Africa transition to a full and free democracy by exposing all the atrocities that occurred during the apartheid era. Chaired by Archbishop Tutu, the commission began hearings to hear about particular injustices in April 1996. The committees of Human Rights Violations, Reparations (compensation), and Amnesty (pardon) heard thousands testify on life under apartheid. With the power to grant amnesty (official forgiveness), it was hoped this path would heal wounds more quickly, but its effectiveness in actually bringing about reconciliation between blacks and whites proved limited. South Africa entered the twenty-first century as an ethnically diverse nation steadily progressing toward democratization after years of discrimination.

For More Information


Anti-Apartheid Movement. Racism and Apartheid in Southern Africa: South Africa and Namibia. Paris: UNESCO Press, 1974.

Desai, Ashwin. We Are the Poors: Community Struggles in Post-Apartheid South Africa. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2002.

Dubow, Saul. Racial Segregation and the Origins of Apartheid in South Africa, 1919–36. London: Macmillan Press Ltd., 1989.

Finnegan, William. Crossing the Line: A Year in the Land of Apartheid. New York: Persea Books, 2006.

Louw, P. Eric. The Rise, Fall, and Legacy of Apartheid. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2004.

Meredith, Martin. In the Name of Apartheid: South Africa in the Postwar Period. London: Hamish Hamilton Ltd., 1988.

Suttner, Raymond, and Jeremy Cronin. 30 Years of the Freedom Charter. Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1986.


African National Congress: South Africa's National Liberation Movement. http://www.anc.org.za/ (accessed on November 29, 2006).

Apartheid Museum. http://www.apartheidmuseum.org (accessed on November 29, 2006).

Black Sash: Making Human Rights Real. http://www.blacksash.org.za/ (accessed on November 29, 2006).