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Connor J. Sorrentino

A Research Paper

Submitted to J. Coste

Through the Faculty of Catholic Studies

in Fulfillment of the Requirements for

the Independent Study Unit at

Saint Thomas Of Villanova Catholic Secondary School

LaSalle, Ontario, Canada


Published under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

C. Sorrentino 2

on 4 July 2010




A) A Brief History of Colonial South Africa..........................................................3

B) Segregation Before Apartheid............................................................................4

C) Establishing Apartheid.......................................................................................5

D) Suppression Free Speech and Association.........................................................6

E) Grand Apartheid.................................................................................................7

F) Uprising..............................................................................................................

G) End of Apartheid................................................................................................9



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The era of South Africa under the system of apartheid stands out as being one of the most

oppressive and unjust periods of segregation in modern history. The word apartheid translates

literally from its original Afrikaans to English as “separateness” (apartheid. n.d). Under this

system of segregation, the population of South Africa was classified into four categories

determined by race: white, black, coloured, and Indian. This racial classification made it easy for

the white National Party to continue their policies of white domination in South Africa by

continuously creating new laws designed to suppress the rights of any member of a non-white

race, specifically those of the black majority. While apartheid is known to be a period of injustice

caused by the white minority protecting their own livelihood, further knowledge of the events

occurring before, during, and after this era are too important to be ignored by today’s population.

A. A Brief History of Colonial South Africa

In order to understand how apartheid came to be, one must look at the history of South

Africa’s colonial history. South Africa’s demographics have a profile that is unique compared to

other African countries. Of South Africa’s 2009 population of 49 320 500, 79.3% were black,

9.1% were white, 9.0% were coloured (mixed descent), and 2.6% were Indian/Asian (see

Appendix A). South Africa has the distinction of having a racially eclectic society compared to

other African countries as demonstrated by its high white and Asian populations.

South Africa’s unique demographics are a direct result of its early and strong

colonization by the colonial powers of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The Dutch

were the first to establish a permanent colony, doing so near the Cape of Good Hope in 1652.
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(Lester, 1998, p. 15) This Dutch settlement grew throughout the Cape region as Dutch and other

Europeans immigrated to the area. The colony existed for more than 150 years until it was

annexed by the British in 1806 who expanded the original colony with more immigration and

annexation of native areas (Lester, 1998, p. 19) The Afrikaner group of white South Africans

originated from the original Dutch colony and the city of Cape Town near the original settlement

still has a large Afrikaner population to this day.

South Africa’s relatively large Indian population first began to immigrate in 1860. Most

were brought to the colony by the British as indentured servants who in exchange for their

passage were required to work on the sugarcane plantations until they were deemed to have

worked their worth off. (South African History Online, n.d.)

B. Segregation Before Apartheid

Before the legal policy of apartheid began in 1948, there were instances of segregation

and discriminatory laws that appeased the white population at the expense of the Black

population’s freedom. When the British abolished slavery in all of its territories in 1807, the

white population of South Africa, referred to as Boers at the time, quickly began to press for

laws to control the Black population. This resulted in the British colonial leaders passing the

Hottenot Law of 1809. Under this law, any black found without his or her pass could be taken by

any white for labour. (Jones, 2002, para. 2) This pass law continued throughout the century, and

was legally declared when South Africa became independent of Britain in the 1900’s as the

Union of South Africa.

C. Establishing Apartheid
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Apartheid was first introduced during the South African general election of 1948 by the

Reunited National Party under the leadership of a man by the name of Daniel François Malan.

This political party is seen as a precursor to the notorious National Party that ruled South Africa

uninterrupted for almost 50 years. (Apartheid FAQ, 2010, para. 2) The election vied the pro-

apartheid Reunited National Party against the anti-apartheid United Party. Due to new

segregation laws passed that disenfranchised coloured people, who were the United Party’s

strongest supporters, and the reconfiguring of the country’s constituencies before the election,

the Reunited National Party defeated the United Party despite the United Party gaining the

majority of votes. (Apartheid FAQ, 2010, para. 4) This begun Afrikaner nationalist rule in

South Africa that would last until the end of Apartheid in 1994.

The National Party worked quickly to establish the early system of apartheid in the

country, passing the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act in 1949. This act was designed to

preserve the White race in South Africa by preventing mixed marriages between white people

and people of other races. (Apartheid Legislation in South Africa, 2010, para. 2) Two years after

the National Party’s election, the Population Registration Act was passed. The act created a

national register in which every person’s race was recorded. The act also established the Race

Classification Board which was charged with classifying people whose race was disputed.

(Apartheid Legislation in South Africa, 2010, para. 4)

D. Suppression of Free Speech and Association

A major act that was passed by the National Party was the Suppression of Communism

Act of 1950. This act declared the Communist Party to be illegal in South Africa. Furthermore,
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the act defined communism as any strategy aimed “at bringing about any political, industrial,

social, or economic change within the Union by the promotion of disturbance or disorder”.

(South Africa: Separate & Unequal, 1996, para. 4) This essentially meant that any group that

attempted to protest against the National Party or the system of apartheid was banned by law and

its leaders could be arrested. This forced leaders like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu to

protest against apartheid underground while fearing retribution from the South African


A second major act that was passed was the Native Labour (Settlement of Disputes) Act

of 1953. This act prevented any labour strikes taken by blacks in South Africa. This act is very

significant, as it prevented blacks from protesting against their employers for the unfair wage

discrepancies they were subject to. (see Appendix B) By the time this act was passed, white

workers working in the same gold mines as black workers were paid on average between 14 and

16 times more than their black co-workers. (The Economic Legacy of Apartheid, n.d., Table 1.1)

This made it even harder for blacks to make a living, as they were required to obtain work

permits in order to work in urban areas or outside of black-reserved areas.

These two acts were seen as the beginning of the grand apartheid, which began racial

segregation on a large scale.

E. Grand Apartheid
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In the present day, the laws of the apartheid era are now historically categorized into two

groups; petty apartheid and grand apartheid. While the petty apartheid laws were more like the

Jim Crow segregation laws in the Southern United States during the time of segregation (Brown,

n.d. para. 3), Grand Apartheid was designed to totally separate the races of South Africa and

subjugate persons not classified as part of the white race. Under these laws, blacks were deprived

of all citizenship rights which made them foreigners in their own country. Blacks during this

time were not allowed to carry a South African passport, instead being issued a passport from

their respective reservation created by the Population Registration Act. These passports were not

recognized by other countries which led to the black population of South Africa being trapped

inside their reserves unless they were given work permits to work in the white areas.

There were in total ten homelands reserved for the black population in South Africa (see

Appendix C). These homelands were colloquially referred to as Bantustans and served as a major

device for the exclusion of blacks from the rest of South Africa. By law, all blacks were required

to live in their assigned Bantustan unless they were given a permit to live and work outside of

these areas. The combined area of the ten established Bantustans was equal to 13 percent of the

total land area of South Africa, even though black South Africans amounted for at least 75

percent of the population. (Bantustan, 2010, para. 2) When the Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act

of 1970 was passed, black South Africans were declared to be citizens of their respective

Bantustan’s, which lead to their inability to obtain a South African passport. Until the mid-

1980’s, the National Party government continued to forcefully remove the last black South

Africans from their homes in white areas and relocated them to their declared Bantustans.

(Bantustan, 2010, para. 2) The living conditions in these areas are comparable to modern day
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slums, and were over-crowded. Blacks living in these areas had little job opportunity and

services, such as schooling and health care, that were vastly inferior to those available to whites.

These living conditions combined with the unjust laws of apartheid set the stage for

protests against apartheid not only by blacks in South Africa, but by those around the world.

F. Uprising

It should come as no surprised that these laws did not bode well with the black population

of South Africa. Black South African’s protested the National Party’s apartheid policies from the

party’s first day in power. A group by the name of the African National Congress formed to

organize protests against the white-dominated government and is still viewed to this day as an

icon in human rights history.

Indisputably the most recognizable figure of the apartheid era, Nelson Mandela is the

most iconic figure of the anti-apartheid movement. His activity against the National Party and its

apartheid laws started from the day that the National Party won the 1948 election. He became a

leader in the African National Congress’ military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe. He was an

admitted communist during the apartheid era, and had a vision for a post-apartheid communist

South Africa described in his communist writing How to Be a Good Communist:

The aim of the [South African Communist Party] is to defeat the Nationalist government
and to free the people of South Africa from the evils of racial discrimination and
exploitation and to build a classless or socialist society in which the land, the mines, the
mills, our...

Under a Communist Party Government South Africa will become a land of milk and
honey. Political, economic and social rights will cease to be enjoyed by Whites only.
They will be shared equally by Whites and Non-Whites. There will be enough land and
houses for all. There will be no unemployment, starvation and disease. (Mandela, n.d.,
para. 3)
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Despite retracting his support for communism, he used this as his ideology for a South Africa

without apartheid.

In the 1960s, South Africa’s racist policies were subject of scrutiny by many international

bodies including the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations. This scrutiny was

exploited by anti-apartheid groups who called for all countries to cease investment in South

Africa. Desmond Tutu, another central figure in the fight against apartheid claimed that although

the poor black South Africans would suffer the most from the halt of foreign investment, “at

least they would be suffering with a ‘purpose’”. (Wood, n.d. para. 13) Disinvestment succeeded

in damaging white South African’s lifestyles, as the United States and the United Kingdom

ceased foreign investment in South Africa, causing South Africa’s currency to drop value, and

pressuring the government toward reform. (Wood, n.d. para 13)

G. End of Apartheid

In late 1989, the National Party selected a new president. This new president was a man

by the name of Frederik Willem de Klerk. Facing growing international pressure to end

apartheid, a stagnant economy, and growing violence within the country, de Klerk moved to end

the policy of apartheid after more than 40 years of the system. In February 1990, de Klerk

announced the release of Nelson Mandela. In 1992, a whites-only referendum approved the

reform process to dismantle apartheid. (Apartheid FAQ, 2010, para. 8)

On 27 April 1994, the first fully democratic elections took place in South Africa with

candidates of all races representing many formerly banned anti-apartheid groups. There were no

racial restrictions on voting in place, which meant that South Africans of all races were able to
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vote in the election that saw the African National Congress’ candidate Nelson Mandela elected to

be the first black president in South African history with 62.65 percent of the vote. (Lijphart,

1995, para. 6)


The suppression of rights during the apartheid era in South Africa is generally known to

be extremely grave. However, not many know of grave conditions that were forcefully imposed

on the black majority by the selfish white Afrikaner minority. This is truly a case of

discrimination and genocide that is unique in history. The story of apartheid is a very long and

tragic one that has yet to be completed, and possibly never will. The apartheid in South Africa

should serve as a message for all humanity that cases of oppression and racism caused by

governments should never be tolerated as the human toll itself is worth and economic, political,

and social sacrifices one would have to take.

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I do not think that I can begin to explain how this essay has completely changed my

perception of what I thought apartheid was. Doing this essay made me realize how so many of

the things that I take for granted could affect my life so profoundly if they were taken away from

me. In the essay I made a big point about how black South Africans were forced to live in the

areas that the government allocated for their living usage and were not allowed to leave unless

they had a permit. I do not think that anybody living in this area realizes how important our right

to movement is. It is hard to imagine how hard life would be if I was forced to show a piece of

identity in order to just go to school in the morning.

Another thing that amazed me about apartheid is how long is lasted. It is astonishing that

it was not until the 1960’s that any organization began to actively speak out against South

Africa’s apartheid some 10 to 20 years after the policies first began to be introduced. Especially

after the atrocities of the Holocaust in Europe during World War II, you would think that the

western world would have taken a much tougher stance against the racist policies of the National

Party government.

I am very glad that I selected this topic, as I feel like it has broadened by knowledge

racism and apartheid. I believe that I now have the ability to discuss apartheid whenever it comes

up in discussion, and correct somebody when they are mistaken about a fact of apartheid or do

not know about an important event of it.

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I believe that I have not only exercised my essay writing abilities in this assignment, but

have also broadened my horizons on racism and social justice as a whole.

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(Mid-Year Population Estimates, 2009, pg. 4)


(The Economic Legacy of Apartheid, n.d. Table 1.1)

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C) Coloured Area’s represent black Bantustans

(South Africa: Black Homelands, 1986)

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