Apartheid: What was it?

Israel and Apartheid: The Big Lie
Apartheid: What was it?
Posted: August 29, 2005

In 1994, one of the modern era’s most heinous forms of social organization came to a peaceful end. In the new South Africa, apartheid was no more. Black and white South Africans, along with the outside world, celebrated the demise of a system which, in the Afrikaans language, means “separateness” and “apartness.” The racial separation and discrimination inherent in the principle of apartheid was enshrined in 1948, when South Africa’s National Party came to power. Convinced of their racial and moral superiority, the white architects of apartheid imposed what former President F.W. de Klerk, looking back on apartheid, called a “manifest injustice” on the Black population.

That injustice was not confined to just denying the vote to Black South Africans. It was rooted in law. Dozens of laws were enacted by the apartheid regime to enforce segregation, among them:

The Group Areas Act – Passed in 1950, this enforced physical segregation by creating different residential areas for whites, blacks and other racial groups, such as Asians and those of mixed race (known as “coloreds”).

Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act – Passed in 1949, this forbade individuals from different racial backgrounds from marrying each other. Through this law, and through the Immorality Amendment Act of 1950, which prohibited sexual relations between whites and blacks, the apartheid regime echoed the infamous Nuremburg Laws of Nazi Germany, which discriminated between Jews and those of “pure” German origin.

Bantu Education Act – Passed in 1953, this law stunted the intellectual and creative development of Black children by gearing their education to reinforce their subservient social position (Hendrik Verwoerd, later to become South Africa’s Prime Minister, used the phrase “in accordance with their opportunities in life”). An extension to University Education Act in 1959 banned Black students from attending white universities and created separate higher education institutes for Blacks, whites, Asians and “coloreds.”

Reservation of Separate Amenities Act – Passed in 1953, this law provided the icons of the apartheid regime: signs on public buildings, transport and other amenities which declared ‘Europeans Only’ or ‘non-Europeans Only’. The law specified that public facilities had to separated on racial grounds and did not require these facilities to be of equal standards.

Suppression of Communism Act – Passed in 1950, this law used such a wide-ranging definition of “communism” that any meaningful act of opposition to apartheid was banned.

Through these and a host of other laws, apartheid South Africa was able to tightly regulate, and therefore discriminate against, its Black population: where they lived, with whom they could engage in social contact, what they were permitted to study, what they were allowed to say.