Apartheid, an Afrikaans word meaning "apartness," describes an ideology of racial segregation that served as the basis for white domination of the South African state from 1948 to 1994. Apartheid represented the codification of the racial segregation that had been practiced in South Africa from the time of the Cape Colony's founding by the Dutch East India Company in 1652. Its emergence in 1948 was antithetical to the decolonization process begun in sub-Saharan Africa after World War II. Widely perceived internationally as one of the most abhorrent human rights issues from the 1970s to the 1990s, apartheid conjured up images of white privilege and black marginalization implemented by a police state that strictly enforced black subordination.
The Dutch East India Company occupied the Cape Colony uninterruptedly from 1652 until the British takeover in 1795. The company's conflict with the indigenous Khoisan was exacerbated by its granting of farmland to company members who had completed their term of service. The Khoisan, who became indentured servants, were landless by the time of the British occupation. Slaves were imported from Asia and elsewhere in Africa throughout the eighteenth century. Briefly restored to Dutch rule in 1803, the colony was again brought under British control in 1806. Two events to which Dutch settlers reacted negatively were the British abolition of the slave trade in 1806 and of slavery in 1833. The latter precipitated the Great Trek, in which many Dutch (Afrikaner) farmers migrated outside the Cape Colony.
A "mineral revolution," financed by British capital, began in South Africa with the discovery of diamonds in Kimberley in 1868 and gold in Johannesburg in 1886. Later the British victory in the Boer War (1899–1902) brought the Transvaal and the Orange Free State under British rule. Natal was already a British colony. Collectively the four colonies formed the Union of South Africa in 1910.
Afrikaners, who suffered military defeat in the war, displayed intense anti-British sentiment as many of their farms were destroyed and their wives and children placed in concentration camps, resulting in a high mortality rate. Their efforts to increase their population contributed to proletarianization, precipitating their migration to cities for employment. They often became squatters alongside poor blacks. In 1928–1932 the Carnegie Corporation conducted a study of the "poor white problem" and made recommendations for improving the status of working-class Afrikaners. During that period, Afrikaans, a Dutch variant, became a written language. Members of the emerging Afrikaner bourgeoisie opened the first Afrikaner bank and insurance company.
Rise of Afrikaner Nationalism
After the Boer War, two Afrikaner generals, Jan Smuts and Louis Botha, sought conciliation with the British in forming the South African Party. Supporters also included enfranchised blacks. The South African Party defeated the Unionist Party in the 1910 elections. Cognizant of eroding political rights, members of the black educated elite formed the South African Native National Congress (later the African National Congress) in 1912. Racist legislation enacted during this period of "fusion" included the
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1913 Land Act, which prohibited a type of sharecropping called farming-on-the-half, in which black sharecroppers negotiated with white farmers to farm part of the latter's land. Furthermore, blacks could not own land outside of designated areas.
Another Afrikaner general, J. B. M. Hertzog, led dissidents against a South African alliance with the British in World War I. A schism developed between Smuts and Hertzog over South African involvement in World War II, signaling the end of fusion. It was then that Hertzog advocated a South African republic outside the British Commonwealth. Further racist legislation included:
The Urban Areas Act of 1923, which legislated urban racial segregation, discouraging blacks from becoming town-rooted.
The Industrial Reconciliation Act of 1926, which introduced job protections for poor whites.
The 1936 Land Act, which reinforced the 1913 Land Act and designated homelands as areas for African land ownership.
A 1936 decree that struck Africans in the Cape Province from the common voters' roll.
The historian T. Dunbar Moodie has suggested that Afrikaner nationalism was a civil religion representing the integration of key symbolic elements. These include major events in Afrikaner history, the Afrikaans language, and Dutch Calvinism. From Moodie's perspective, Afrikaners viewed their history in terms of a repeating suffering-and-death cycle at the hands of the British through major events such as the Great Trek and the Boer War. The Broederbond, a secret society composed of Afrikaner professionals, formed the Federation of Afrikaner Cultural Organizations (FAK), affiliating cultural and language associations as well as church councils, youth groups, and scientific study circles in 1929.
Black activism increased after World War II in South Africa as elsewhere in Africa. When A. B. Xuma became president-general of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1940, he attempted to unify the organization ideologically, regulate its finances, and conduct a propaganda campaign. A major schism developed when Xuma and a few middle-class members advocated negotiation through African representative bodies, while more militant members leaned toward the Communist Party and more assertive political activism.
In the mid-1940s a group of young professionals, including Nelson Mandela and Robert Sobukwe, banded together to form the ANC Youth League. They made overtures to Coloured and Indian political organizations in their call for majority rule. Coloureds were descendants of "miscegenation" that occurred in the Cape after the Dutch East India Company's occupation. Indians were recruited as indentured servants to work on Natal's sugar plantations in the 1860s.
After the National Party victory in 1948, a battery of laws was enacted to strictly segregate South African society by race, ethnicity, and class. The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act of 1949 outlawed marriages between whites and blacks. The Population Registration Act of 1950 required that each adult South African be classified by ethnic group as follows: white (Afrikaners and English), Coloured (mixed race, Asian [mostly Indian]), and African (Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele, Swazi, Basotho, Batswana, Bapedi, Venda, and Tsonga). In 1951 South Africa's "African" population was approximately 8.5 million, nearly four-fifths of the entire population.
The Group Areas Act of 1950 enforced the residential segregation of Coloureds and Indians. These groups could not use public facilities outside residential boundaries.
The Suppression of Communism Act of 1950 forced the disbandment of the South African Communist Party and a diplomatic break with the Soviet Union. The Bantu Authorities Act of 1951 abolished the Natives Representative Council, replacing it with indirect rule. The Natives (Abolition of Passes and Coordination of Documents) Act of 1952 required the assignment of detailed reference books to all pass holders detailing their background, employment, and residential rights outside the reserves.
Parliament also passed the Bantu Education Act of 1953, providing for state control of African schools, which had mostly been founded by missionary societies, at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. The Ministry of Native Affairs planned a curriculum to prepare the "Bantu" (South African blacks) to occupy a servile position in South African society. Undocumented Africans were removed from urban areas to rural homelands under the provisions of the Native Resettlement Act of 1954. Cape Coloureds were removed from the common voters' roll in the Cape Province in 1956.
When Hendrik F. Verwoerd, minister of native affairs from 1950, became prime minister in 1958, he continued to initiate apartheid legislation compatible with his views regarding "separate development." The Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act of 1959 provided for the creation of eight national units for African self-government supposedly reflective of African ethnic groupings. Since urban blacks had no political representation, it devolved upon chiefs to act as roving ambassadors between African subjects in the urban areas and those resident in homelands. Homelands or reserve areas represented 13.7 percent of the land.
The Bantu Homelands Act of 1970 required that all Africans be given exclusive citizenship in a homeland, disregarding place of birth and current residence. In 1972 Zululand and Bophuthatswana were granted self-governing status, while Transkei, self-governing since 1963, was given more autonomy as the model homeland. Transkei's "independence" in 1976 was followed by Bophuthatswana in 1977, Venda in 1979, and Ciskei in 1981.
The Western Cape was declared a Coloured labor preference area in the 1950s. Indians, granted citizenship in 1963, experienced racial discrimination in residential and trading rights.
Helen Suzman (1993), a long-term antiapartheid member of parliament (MP), observed that in 1953, her first year, there were actually four women in parliament. Two were fellow United Party members, and one was a member of the Liberal Party. Suzman, a liberal, dealt primarily with racial issues, although she also advocated equal rights for women regarding marriage, divorce, abortion, and employment. White women had been enfranchised in 1930 to counter the nonwhite male vote. In general racial and gender issues were not intertwined. However, in 1955 liberal white women founded the Black Sash to protest the proposed disenfranchisement of Coloured men. Members argued for respect for the South African constitution. In the 1970s the Black Sash set up "advice offices" in major cities to assist blacks with problems regarding "influx
control, unemployment, contracts, housing, and pensions" (Saunders).
Black women were particularly discriminated against with influx control and pass laws, extended to women in 1956. Influx control was a policy designed to direct the flow of black labor to "white" urban areas for employment and to rural farms. With the Nationalist victory in 1948, influx control regulations were enhanced. Pass laws regulated document requirements for black people. Jacklyn Cock examined their status as domestic servants in suburban white households. In Maids and Madams, Cock reports on a study of 800,000 black domestic servants. She examines their status as workers and mothers and their dependency relationships with their white
madams. Black domestic workers neglected their own families to be at the beck and call of the white madams and often lived in servants' quarters near the madams' houses. This enabled the madam to engage in leisure activities or to pursue employment to enhance her family's income. Cock illuminates gradations of female exploitation in the South African context in focusing on the relationship between maid and madam.
Increasing Black Nationalism
In 1952 the African National Congress, whose membership was estimated at 100,000, organized a campaign of defiance to protest racially discriminatory laws, burning passes and defying regulations concerning segregated facilities. Eighty-five hundred people were arrested during the four-month campaign, which resulted in a treason trial and the eventual acquittal of the accused. In 1955 the African National Congress and similar political organizations met and drafted the Freedom Charter, which embraced the tenets of a nonracial, democratic society in which major capitalist enterprises would be nationalized.
Ideological differences within the ANC resulted in Robert Sobukwe breaking away to form the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) in 1959. In 1960 the PAC organized a campaign to protest pass laws and low wages. At Sharpeville, near Johannesburg, in March 1960, police opened fire on a crowd of demonstrators, killing 69 and injuring some 180. The government declared a state of emergency and arrested 1,600 people. The massacre precipitated international condemnation of the South African government, diminished investor confidence, and threw the economy into recession.
After Sharpeville, the ANC and PAC were banned, initiating underground political activity. Nelson Mandela, who had already been imprisoned on other charges, and his compatriots, taken into custody at a farm in the Johannesburg suburb of Rivonia, site of the ANC's underground headquarters, were Page 112 | Top of Article charged with sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government. In 1964 all but one of the codefendants were sentenced to life imprisonment. The Rivonia trial signaled the cessation of black nationalist resistance in South Africa. Many members of banned organizations sought refuge in other countries. Neighboring colonies provided South Africa a protective buffer against guerrilla insurgency, investor confidence was restored, and the country embarked on a period of economic prosperity. Meanwhile, after an all-white referendum, South Africa was declared a republic outside the commonwealth in 1961.
Dismantling of Apartheid
The outbreak of the Soweto riots in 1976 marked the denouement in the South African struggle. Students in the Johannesburg township rioted when the government made Afrikaans the language of school instruction in science subjects. Combating police bullets with sticks and stones, hundreds of students were killed. Others fled the country. The ANC set up recruitment stations in Mozambique from which refugees were transferred for military training. Coloured students in Cape Town intensified their activism. Unrest continued around the country and lasted well into 1977, having a deleterious effect on the economy. Refugees, both male and female, began to infiltrate the country to conduct acts of sabotage.
South Africa's protective buffers began to erode in 1975 with the independence of Angola and Mozambique, followed by that of Zimbabwe in 1980, allowing for increasing guerrilla infiltration into the country. After the Muldergate information scandal, P. W. Botha, minister of defense, became prime minister in 1978. Muldergate was an information scandal in which substantial sums of money allocated to buy international media support for apartheid was funneled to the Citizen, a pro-government newspaper in Johannesburg (Saunders, p. 116). The disclosure and attempted cover-up precipitated dissension within the ranks of the National Party. Botha's total strategy combined militarism and reform.
Recognizing the potential for a racial bloodbath, the Nationalists sought a "consociational democracy" in which no racial group would dominate. In an effort to bring legitimate leaders to the negotiating table, a campaign began to free the long-imprisoned ANC leader Nelson Mandela in the early 1980s. The president (formerly prime minister) proposed a tricameral parliament with chambers for Asians, Coloureds, and whites. The exclusion of those classified African led to the formation of the United Democratic Front to coordinate activism within the country.
In the mid-1980s major Western powers initiated econ-omic sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Governmental negotiations began in 1990, when Mandela was released from prison. The ANC and other liberation organizations were "unbanned," or legitimized. An interim constitution was written, and elections were held in 1994. The ANC was victorious nationally.
When South Africa celebrated its first decade of postapartheid government, it had rejoined the commonwealth and a number Page 113 | Top of Article of international bodies. The ANC was returned to power for a third term in April 2004 with 70 percent of the vote. Some progress had been made toward racial equality despite inequities in the distribution of wealth. However, South Africa continued to grapple with the legacy of apartheid—high unemployment, low literacy rates, inadequate housing, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the dynamics of globalization. In the early twenty-first century the unemployment rate was estimated at 38 to 40 percent. According to the South African Survey 1999, one-third of South Africans needed adequate housing. The HIV rate in prenatal clinics was 22.8 percent in 1998.
South Africa is not viewed as competitive in global production due to high labor costs. A number of mining and manufacturing enterprises have established branches in other African countries. The government seeks to attract new investment and to enhance the skills of its black labor force. With regard to the Internet, in the early twenty-first century South Africa was the best-wired country in Africa.
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Betty J. Harris