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This article is written by Anshal Dhiman. The article talks about the apartheid regime of South Africa, the laws involved, and the end of it.


All of us have heard about the word ‘apartheid’ at some time in our life, most probably in school, when they teach us social sciences. The person who first comes to mind when we talk about apartheid is Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest political leaders the world has seen. Countries from around the globe opposed the apartheid policies of South Africa, so why did the racist policies in the country keep functioning till the 1990s? And what was the basis of such segregation, when more than 80% of the population was black? The article will talk about the racist apartheid policies in South Africa, laws related to it, and the fight against the institutional racism that existed in South Africa in the 19th and 20th century.


Apartheid’s basic meaning is apartness, it tends to separate, segregate, and discriminate people on the basis of their race. In South Africa, the concept of apartheid found an institutionalized way of discriminating amongst and against people, and eventually, became an important part of South African law. The word itself is an Afrikaans language word and not English, or some other indigenous language of the country, which was yet another way of promoting racist policies. Racism was prevalent in practical life in South African society, even before it took its form as a law.

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History of apartheid

  • Apartheid was prevalent in the country before it took its form as a law. There had been some acts of the government which promoted racial segregation and discriminated against the blacks in various ways, but they did not yet introduce apartheid completely into the system. 
  • Dutch colonization was the start of racism in the country, when the Dutch East India Company started an authoritative regime in the country, exploiting farmers and other such families of the country, making them work according to the needs of the company, something similar to what was happening in India in the early 19th century. 
  • The establishment of Boer communities and the British colonization of South African cities paved the way for white supremacy in the country. By 1948 it became obvious that there were holes in the social construction, regardless of whether enacted or something else, concerning the rights and chances of non-whites. 
  • The fast financial advancement of World War II caused black migrant workers to do the work of whites. Be that as it may, this raised the pace of dark urbanization which went unrecognized by the South African government. It neglected to oblige by the inundation with equal extension in lodging or social administrations. 
  • Congestion, expanding crime percentages, and thwarted expectations came about; metropolitan blacks came to help another age of pioneers affected by the standards of self-assurance and well-known opportunities cherished in such proclamations as the Atlantic Charter. At the point when the National Party came to control in 1948, there were factional contrasts in the gathering about the usage of foundational racial isolation. 
  • The “baasskap” group, which was the predominant group in the National Party, and state foundations, supported precise isolation, yet additionally preferred the cooperation of dark Africans in the economy with dark work controlled to propel the monetary increases of Afrikaners. Another group were the “idealists”, who had belief in “vertical segregation”, in which blacks and whites would be completely isolated, with blacks living in local stores, with discrete political and financial designs, which, they accepted, would involve serious momentary agony, however, would likewise prompt freedom of white South Africa from dark work in the long haul. A third group, which included Hendrik Verwoerd, identified with the idealists, however, took into consideration the utilization of dark work, while executing the perfectionist objective of vertical partition. Verwoerd, often called the architect of Apartheid, became a massive figure in the country’s politics and helped strengthen the roots of apartheid.

Laws that fuelled Apartheid

Laws that segregated people in the country

A concept such as apartheid was only going to get stronger with the backing of the law. Before the election of 1948, there were some laws that tried to promote racial segregation, but they were very clear in racial segregation terms. The election obviously changed a lot of things. In the 19th century, the South African laws may not have been racist clearly on the paper, but in practice apartheid was prevalent. 

The Population Registration Act, 1950 was one of the first Acts to have promoted racial differentiation on a legislative basis. It provided that all South Africans be racially arranged in one of three classes: White, Dark or coloured. As indicated by this, Indians fell under the coloured class. The rules used to decide the capability into every one of these classes depending on appearance, social acknowledgement and plunge. The Act portrayed a White individual as one whose guardians were both White. Different things that classified an individual as White were his propensities, discourse, training, deportment and attitude. Blacks were characterized as being individuals from an African race or clan, and Coloreds as individuals who were neither White nor Dark. The Department of Home Affairs was liable for dealing with the grouping cycle of the populace. 

To keep black people out of urban areas, the government introduced the Bantu Authorities Act in 1951, which provided for the setting up of ‘homelands’ for the black people in the country, and these homelands were made independent by the government, and the chiefs of these homelands were supposed to report to their masters. Separate Representation of Voters Act, 1951 was another Act that strengthened the roots of the policy of apartheid. Under this Act, different voter rolls were provided where only coloured people would be allowed to vote for white representatives. The Act received a lot of backlash from the blacks in the country but was eventually passed in the South African parliament.

Land and political laws

The establishment of Bantustan, an area allotted to the black population of the country, so that they do not get involved with the urban affairs of the country, was another setback for the activists that were fighting for equality. This led to laws being separate for the administration and development of Bantustan alone, which further differentiated blacks of the country from the whites and even the coloured people, as they were given some rights under the subsequent countries. 

There were laws that allotted only a certain amount of land to the blacks. Under the Natives Trust and Land Act, 1936, only 13% of the total land of the country was allotted to the blacks. This becomes even worse when we realize the fact that 80% of the population of South Africa was black. There were further Acts that restricted the rights of Asians and coloured with regards to property and land ownership, while some Acts divided urban areas into group areas, with land ownership in those lands restricted to only some classes of the society.  

Political representation was another area that was affected deeply by racist policies. It is told above about how the government tried to divide people on the basis of their race and colour and tried to keep them away from public administration so that the urban areas and the government is dominated by whites. Separate Representation of Voters Act, 1951, took away the right of coloured people to vote in common and placed them in another role, where they could allow only 4 members in the house.

Bantustan based legislations made provisions to remove black representation completely from the South African parliament. This was done to promote self-government in the Bantustan areas, and as said above, to keep the blacks and coloured people out of the urban areas. Prohibition of the Political Interference Act, 1968, prevented different racial groups from forming any political party, thereby restricting their presence in the legislative process of the country. Although there were acts that gave some power and some rights to the coloured people, including giving them separate representation in the parliament, blacks were kept completely out of scope. Even until the late 1980s, blacks were still unrepresented in the legislative bodies and suffered the same fate they had been for more than half a decade.

End of Apartheid

Apartheid policies of South Africa had got them criticism worldwide from different countries and global bodies such as the UN. To improve their global image, the South African government did repeal some racist laws and granted some rights to the blacks which were not with them previously. Nelson Mandela, who was in jail for the last two decades of the ‘apartheid influenced South Africa’, was denounced as a Marxist by President Botha, but the president knew he needed Mandela’s help so he met himself personally a few times, asking him to oppose violent strategies of the black groups. 

After P.W Botha resigned because of health issues, FW De Klerk took the office of the president of the country and showed great promise. It was under his presidency that Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years, and many apartheid fueling laws were repealed. He also helped end the agitation between South West Africa and South Africa, which marked the independence of Namibia. 

Apartheid laws were repealed in series of discussions, with most racist laws being repealed by 1993, before the 1994 general elections. But the violence did not stop yet. Right-wing parties from opposite sides were involved in violent attacks which cost many lives. The new constitution was set up, which gave everyone equal rights, and the general elections of 1994 were conducted freely and fairly. The European Union’s report on the political decision aggregated toward the finish of May 1994, distributed two years after the political decision, condemned the Free Electing Commission’s absence of readiness for the surveys, the deficiencies of casting a ballot material at many democratic stations, and the shortfall of viable protection against extortion in the checking interaction. 

Specifically, it communicated anxiety that “no global spectators had been permitted to be available at the urgent phase of the tally when party agents haggled over questioned polling forms. The white population of the country, who were afraid that a black leader would not let them live peacefully in the country, were assured by Nelson Mandela himself that the country is about equality and that they won’t be discriminated against. After the elections, in which African National Congress won the majority seats, the National Party formed the official opposition in the parliament, a party dominated by whites and coloured people. The commencement of elections with equal voting rights and the enactment of the Constitution in 1996 marked the end of the apartheid regime in the country.


The Apartheid regime of South Africa has seen great human rights violations. The whole period of apartheid policies was and is condemned by world leader and major thinkers, while even the leaders who were involved in the formation of these laws have issued public apologies for the acts they have committed. The term has been used in various contexts over the years, but the word will always be related to South Africa, at least for the next few decades. The article discussed how the laws fared in the promotion of apartheid policies in South Africa. 

With legal backing, governments can do things that they are not supposed to without any consequences. Despite the global backlash against the racial policies of the country, it took South Africa more than half a century to establish a republic where people are given equal rights and are not discriminated against. Nelson Mandela, one of the pioneers of the anti-apartheid movement, had to resort to violence to fight against apartheid, which shows how bad the situation, a person who has been influenced by M.K Gandhi, resorting to violence. At the point when South Africa saw its first decade of post-apartheid government, it had rejoined the commonwealth and various worldwide bodies.

The ANC was brought back to control for a third term in April 2004 with 70 percent of the vote. Some advancement had been made toward racial uniformity notwithstanding imbalances in the dispersion of abundance. Notwithstanding, South Africa kept on wrestling with the tradition of politically sanctioned racial segregation—high joblessness, low proficiency rates, lacking lodging, and the elements of globalization.



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