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Apartheid in South Africa

Apartheid in South Africa

Meaning “apartness” in Afrikaans, apartheid is the ideology promoted by the National Party in South Africa in 1948 (South African History Online, 2016). Remarkably, apartheid was introduced in the period when the Second World War revealed the problems of racism, making many countries combat racist policies. However, South Africa appeared to be moving backwards, adopting a rigid racial policy of apartheid. Therefore, the paper is structured in a way that makes it possible to analyze the background that led to the apartheid regime, as well as the lifestyle and political views in the country during that period. It is also essential to emphasize pre- and post-apartheid peculiarities of life in South Africa, inferring how much democratically the country has been developing. Taking its roots from the policies of the beginning of the century, apartheid significantly affected the quality of life of Africans for more than 40 years and made racial inequality a topical issue for many decades.

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The Background of Apartheid

There is no single reason that facilitated introduction of the apartheid and further support of this phenomenon. Among the most evident reasons, racial superiority and fear can be identified. Due to the fact that the white population in South Africa constituted the minority, many white people expressed concerns related to the possibility of losing jobs, culture, language, and identity (South African History Online, 2016). From another perspective, apartheid emerged in response to growing contradictions in political and social systems combined with the intensification of opposition from Africans, Indians, and Coloreds (Clark & Worger, 2013).

In 1948, the National Party declared that their aim was to protect interests and employment prospects of the white population, which helped them to win in the elections and form a new government with D.F. Malan as Prime Minister (South African History Online, 2016). Taking power with a minority of white supporters, the government intended to give apartheid a legislative basis as soon as possible. The fundamental peculiarity of all legislation was the fact that people would enjoy different rights depending on their race. Thus, the Population Registration Act of 1950 created the framework of apartheid that established the mechanism for determining race (Deegan, 2011). All South Africans were classified by race, including Bantu (black Africans), Colored (mixed race), and whites. The fourth group known as Asians that comprised Indians and the Pakistani was added a few years later (Clark & Worger, 2013). This division conditioned the lifestyle each group had to follow and determined the level of access to legal rights in the country.

Lifestyle during Apartheid

Enactment of the apartheid laws institutionalized racial discrimination that touched almost every sphere of life. The Group Areas Act of 1950 was the core document of apartheid in South Africa because it initiated physical separation between races. Different racial groups were allowed to live in specifically marked areas and were prohibited from moving to other places. As a result, thousands of Africans were forcibly removed from rural areas, which were proclaimed “white,” to racially segregated areas or reserves known as homelands (Clark & Worger, 2013). To control the black population, the government adopted the pass system. Africans could enter and remain in some “white areas” only if they had the document confirming this right. Starting from 1949, marriages between whites and members of other racial groups became illegal. The next year, the ban on sexual relations between whites and non-whites was issued (Deegan, 2011). Furthermore, blacks and whites were separated in terms of different educational facilities. For instance, blacks were prohibited from attending “white” institutions of higher education. There was also an unequal allocation of resources for whites and non-whites because all races had separate amenities such as toilets, parks, and beaches (South African History Online, 2016).

The End of Apartheid

Internal factors combined with the international pressure were considerably important in the fall of apartheid. Decades of resistance undermined political and economic viability of the Nationalist Party. In addition, quick growth and increasing power of black labor unions and the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the 1980s made the state unable to maintain the existing policy of white supremacy (Worden, 2012). As a result, Prime Minister P.W. Botha resigned in favor of F.W. de Klerk. Starting from 1990, De Klerk’s government cancelled the Population Registration Act, lifted the ban on the African National Congress (ANC), and annulled most of other legislations that constituted the legal basis for apartheid. De Klerk also released political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela and guaranteed the freedom of speech (South African History Online, 2016). A new constitution of 1994 enfranchised Africans and other racial groups. The same year, in the first elections which allowed participation of all voters of all races, Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa. As a result, a coalition government with a nonwhite majority marked the official end of the apartheid system (Durrheim, Mtose, & Brown, 2011).

Post-/Pre-Apartheid Lifestyles and International Relations

Pre-apartheid rule and lifestyle were actually foundation for further development of segregation policy. In 1911, the Mines and Works Act allowed blacks to receive solely low-pay jobs. Thus, only whites could be appointed to well-paid jobs where skill and eligibility were valued (Clark & Worger, 2013). Moreover, according to the Native Land Act of 1913, African land ownership became limited to approximately 13 percent of the country’s total territory (South African History Online, 2016). The same act prohibited blacks from living and owning land outside their reserves. By the end of the apartheid period, the country’s legal system utilized so much power of police surveillance and enforcement that it became a truly police state. In addition, Africans had been deprived of voting rights since 1910. Overall, only whites could enjoy political rights under apartheid (Deegan, 2011). To compare, due to the legislation adopted in 1994, people who were dispossessed as a result of the Land Act of 1913 received the right to reclaim their land. During the post-apartheid era, all companies had to make their workforce demographically representative and set equity requirements and targets for all employees. However, the progress has been slow because the land could be returned with the agreement of its current owners and the shortage of jobs contributed to the failing economy (Durrheim et al., 2011).

Post-apartheid all-race elections of 1994 made it possible for South Africa to join the community of democratic nations of the world, building completely new international relations with the rest of the world compared to the country’s past. During the pre-apartheid period, South Africa, which was a principal member of the British Empire and Commonwealth, had close international relations with the United Kingdom due to the participation of both countries in World War I and World War II. Moreover, during the Cold War, South Africa with its anti-communist views assisted in the battle against the Soviet Union (Worden, 2012). In the apartheid period, international connections were tense, and the country was isolated from other nations due to sanctions. The end of the apartheid period allowed South Africa to normalize its relations with the world. For instance, the country began to cooperate with other states after returning to international organizations such as the United Nations. Moreover, the media and the public could also be more involved in international affairs, having the opportunity to participate in the foreign policy formation debates (Durrheaim et al., 2011).

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The Level of Democracy in Post- and Pre-Apartheid Periods

A major characteristic of the country’s democratization was an innovative police organization. Transformation into a democratic organization has been occurring on three levels: structural, behavior, and attitudinal. The police have been becoming community-oriented, demonstrating that their work has been changed from the reactive force to a proactive service. Moreover, the elections held in 1994 served as an example of the new democratic direction of the country and creation of a unique national identity (Clark & Worger, 2013).

Overall, post-apartheid South Africa was called “Rainbow Nation” (Deegan, 2011, p. 110). This term symbolized the unity of people of different nations and promotion of multi-culturalism. Such change in attitudes of people and new general policy of the country demonstrated a sheer democratic development contrary to the strict division of white and black during the pre-apartheid and apartheid periods. During pre- and apartheid periods, repressive powers of the police and the state had the right to deter people from exercising free speech in opposition to political restrictions. As a result, thousands were harassed, persecuted, and incarcerated. Such apartheid approach demonstrated its complete undemocratic direction (Clark & Worger, 2013).

Political View of the Country during Apartheid and Post-Apartheid Periods

During apartheid, the Nationalists passed many laws in order to shape a new policy. Their political views differed from the rest of the world due to their attempt to enforce a strict racial separation and unequal social order. In brief, the country tried to pursue a policy of dominance, disempowering non-white people while granting the whites a variety of privileges unavailable any more to the blacks (Clark & Worger, 2012).

By contrast, the 1994 democratic elections in South Africa significantly changed the general political view of South African. Since the beginning of the rule of the new government, the main aim became the organization of new domestic political and socioeconomic structures. Moreover, the government initiated changes in the foreign policy. The main principle of the new policy after the abolishment of apartheid was the replacement of confrontation by cooperation (Worden, 2012).

Conclusion

 

Apartheid is associated with the maintenance of white privilege and domination, extension of racial separation, and reduction in African protests. Although apartheid had been supported by a scarce number of white people from the total population of South Africa, it would shape the next 40 years of the country’s history. Apartheid race laws dictated every aspect of citizens’ life, including basic rights and personal choices. In fact, these laws were enforced to separate whites and blacks, granting the whites more favorable treatment and conditions. Only with the ongoing protests and international pressure, it became possible to end the era of racial and social segregation.

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