Apartheid: World Geography Assignment

931 words | 4 page(s)

The political term “apartheid” appeared in South African political domain right after World War 2. It evolved into an official ideology following the victory of the National Party at the general elections in 1948. Up to 1994, the philosophy of apartheid was dominant in the country (Britannica Academic Edition, n.d.). This paper explores South Africa’s 1948 apartheid policy. It examines how the policy was initiated and traces the political issues to 1970s when black people started gaining some freedoms to 1990s, the end of apartheid.

Racism had existed in South Africa since the second half of the 17th century, since the establishment of the Dutch colony. In the early 19th century, the colony went into the hands of the British. In the Union of South Africa, the racial segregation regime was legalized. It reached its peak after 1948, when the National Party came to power. It declared “apartheid” to be its official doctrine (literally “apartheid” meant “separate existence”, “separate development”) (Jappie, 2013). The word “apartheid” in the sense of “racial segregation” was first used in 1917 by Jan Smuts, who later became Prime Minister of South Africa. It meant that different racial groups had to exist separately, without mixing and hardly confronting at home life and in the workplace. Each racial group was given a place in the racial hierarchy, with white occupying the highest, and black – the lowest position. The special position of the white, which had existed before, officially legalized many privileges for them and served the basis for getting jobs in the industry. That eliminated the problem of unemployment for whites (Jappie, 2013).

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Apartheid divided all South Africans by race into white, colored, black, and Indians (Asians). Different groups had different rights, with most rights received by the white population. The state authorities implemented separate education and health care, transport, entertainment institutions, churches, and prohibited intermarriage. Even shops and beaches were “Whites Only” and “Others.” Interestingly, immigrants from Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, with whom South Africa maintained diplomatic relations and actively cooperated in the economy, though in fact and did not belong to the white race, were considered honorary whites and had the same rights as the white population (Beinart & Dubow, 2013).

One of the creations of the policy of apartheid was the introduction of Bantustans – areas where indigenous black South Africans lived. In fact, Bantustans were reservations. The South African government has created ten Bantustans in South Africa and ten – in South-West Africa (Namibia), which was under the control of South Africa. They announced the independence of these pseudo-states. However, in real life the Bantustans were totally dependent on South Africa, their independence was not recognized by any country in the world (Britannica Academic Edition, n.d.).

South Africa’s black population forcibly resettled in those Bantustans. South Africa’s policy openly stated that the ultimate goal is to prevent all black people in Bantustans from getting citizenship of South Africa and, accordingly, from having any rights in this country. It should be noted that people in Bantustans were living in poverty, although better than in other African countries. Practically, the only source of income in Bantustans, in addition to direct financial injections from the government of South Africa, was gambling, which was officially banned in South Africa. For example, across the world people were aware of the famous “African Las Vegas” – Sun City, which was built in the nineteen seventies in Bophuthatswana Bantustan. After the end of the apartheid regime, Bantustans became a part of South Africa again (Beinart & Dubow, 2013).

The policy of apartheid in South Africa was the subject of sharp criticism by the international community. That was a rare case when during the time of the Cold War, the opinions of the western states and of the Soviet authorities coincided. Apartheid was officially condemned by the UN, which recognized it to be one of the crimes against humanity (Beinart & Dubow, 2013).

Because of condemnation and rejection of apartheid by the countries members of the British Commonwealth, in 1961 South Africa left the Commonwealth and became an independent Republic of South Africa. In 1994, post-apartheid South Africa restored its membership in the Commonwealth (Beinart & Dubow, 2013).

Apartheid led to strong opposition within South Africa and across the globe. A number of organizations, primarily the African National Congress, organized numerous protests. In the 1960s, an armed struggle took place, with Muslim activists involved in all key campaigns. Specifically, Abdullah Haron, an imam at one Cape Town mosque, led opposition to apartheid on rigorously Islamic grounds. He was killed in 1969 while in detention by the South African police (Jappie, 2013).

On June 16, 1976, the secondary students and students in Soweto, the suburb of Johannesburg, took to the streets in protest against forced tuition in Afrikaans. The protest was peaceful but the police fired into demonstrators. The city uprising broke out. To suppress it, the South African government filled Soweto with military troops. According to official data, 23 people were killed, but news agencies reported that more than five hundred people were killed and thousands were injured (Jappie, 2013).

Other important events related to resistance by opposition were prosecutions of ANC leaders (African National Congress). The organization resisted the racial politics of white colonists. In 1964, Nelson Mandela and other leaders of ANC were sentenced to life in prison for sabotage calls (Current Events, 2012).

By the early 1990s, the ruling forces of South Africa, realized that to maintain and further operate the existing system of apartheid was no longer possible. Political prisoners were released, dissidents were pardoned. The government began a dialogue with the opposition. It resulted in the 1994 general elections, which were won by the African National Congress. Apartheid era ended (Beinart & Dubow, 2013).

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