How did apartheid start consequences historical context Abolition


System of segregation of the population based on racial criteria that was in force in South Africa between 1948 and 1990. In this article we will let you know How did apartheid start?

Apartheid was a system of segregation of the population based on racial criteria that was in force in South Africa between 1948 and 1990.

Through laws, the population was divided into 4 groups:

  • Whites : descendants of British European settlers and Boers.
  • The Bantus or Africans : those who belonged to any African ethnic group, generically grouped as “blacks.”
  • Asians : generally Pakistanis or Indians who had migrated to South Africa since its Commonwealth incorporation.
  • The so-called “people of color” : a group made up of people of other ancestry and mestizos . Although this was also a common denomination to encompass the three non-white groups.

The apartheid laws discriminated against people’s access to the enjoyment of their rights according to their belonging to any of the racial groups. While the whites maintained their legal, political, economic and social situation, the other groups suffered more and more restrictions.

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Racial groups were prohibited from sharing the spaces. Thus, areas were established for the exclusive use of whites and areas for people of color. This segregation reached the means of transport, schools, health services, public spaces such as beaches, cinemas and theaters, parks, sports spaces, etc.

Some of the segregation laws were the following:

  • Mixed Marriages Act of 1949 : prohibited marriages between whites and members of other groups. This law punished both those who married and the officials who celebrated them.
  • Population Registration Law of 1950 : it established the parameters to establish the races and required all persons over 16 years of age to carry a racial identity card.
  • Immorality Act of 1950 : prohibited sexual relations between people of different racial groups.
  • Group Areas Law : enacted in 1950, it established the obligation to live in separate residential areas. In order to apply this law, thousands of people were relocated who were forced to leave their homes and relocate to places destined for their racial group.

The black population was assigned to specific areas called Bantustans. These areas were on the least productive lands. Despite the fact that the black population reached 75%, it was relegated to the worst spaces.

Historic context

The current territory of South Africa suffered successive colonizations since the 16th century , when Portugal installed factories in the process of searching for trade routes with Asia.

In the mid- 17th century , the Dutch occupied Cape Town and began the colonization of the territory by peasants who called themselves Boers or Afrikaners. The Boers settled in rural settlements and prospered without mixing with the natives. At the end of the 18th century , the British occupied the region and a long conflict began that would be resolved after the Boer War , in 1902. In that year, due to their defeat in the war, the Boers began to be part of the British Empire by incorporating the territories they occupied as British provinces.

Although Afrikaners and British shared the status of white Europeans, the former were extremely conservative and resisted any attempt at social integration. In 1948, the Purified Afrikaner National Party came to power and immediately promoted segregation laws with the aim of ensuring economic and political control over the white population, especially the Afrikaner.

One of the measures taken was the elimination of the right to vote for groups not considered white. In this way, this minority group in South African society managed to perpetuate itself in power.

One of the reasons why these policies were able to endure despite the rejection of international public opinion is that, in the context of the Cold War , South Africa was an anti-communist stronghold in a region of the world in which communism was advancing. Therefore, the United States of America avoided taking confrontational policies with the South African government.

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Consequences of apartheid How did apartheid start

The main consequences of apartheid were the following:

  • highly unequal society was created in which whites had all the privileges and people of color, especially blacks, were relegated. The schools, hospitals and services in general for the black population were precarious and of inferior quality. They were also fewer in number and were less well equipped, leading to overcrowding and overcrowding.
  • The difficulties in accessing education caused the number of black professionals were declining. As a consequence, the black population lacked health care, teachers, lawyers, etc.
  • The creation of bantustans caused the displacement of millions of people to relocate in places approved by the government. This broke family ties, impoverished the quality of life for groups of color, and limited access to basic services such as water and electricity.
  • The rejection of the international community led to the gradual isolation of South Africa which, in 1961, was expelled from the Commonwealth. Some countries, such as Canada, prohibited their companies from doing business in South Africa. This was the cause of prolonged economic crises . In 1970, the international Olympic committee prohibited South Africa from participating in the Olympics.
  • Thousands of people suffered jail, torture and were even killed for demanding respect for their rights.

Abolition of apartheid How did apartheid start

From its inception, apartheid was frowned upon by the international community, which lobbied through the United Nations for this situation to cease. This body urged its members to apply economic sanctions. However, some of them, such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America, were reluctant to take these measures with the excuse that the lack of products would further aggravate the situation of the less privileged groups.

Within South Africa, the African National Congress , founded in 1912 to defend the rights of blacks, gained increasing membership starting in the 1950s. In 1955, more than 2,000 people signed the Freedom Charter , in which the it proclaimed a non-racist South Africa and claimed equality with the white group.

With these premises, various activists organized and participated in movements for national liberation with non-violent methods, such as public disobedience, but they were harshly repressed: Nelson Mandela spent more than 30 years in prison and Steve Biko was assassinated in prison.

In 1979, PW Botha came to power who understood that, in the face of the South African people’s struggle and international pressure, apartheid would be difficult to sustain.

The changes deepened from 1990 with the arrival to the presidency of Willem de Klerk , who repealed the segregation laws and freed Nelson Mandela.

In 1994, multiracial elections were held for the first time that brought Mandela to the presidency and made him the first black president of South Africa .

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