AUHRM Project Focus Area: The Apartheid

The Apartheid (1948 to 1991) in South Africa was racial segregation under the all-white government of South Africa which dictated that non-white South Africans (a majority of the population) were required  to live in separate areas from whites and use separate public facilities, and contact between the two groups would be limited. The different racial group were physically separated according to their location, public facilities and social life.

In 1948 with the National Party after winning that year’s elections, Apartheid became a social project of the government based on a series of laws which made it legal.

Firstly by making it illegal for South African citizens to pursue interracial relations. Citizens were classified into one of four racial groups; black, Indian, coloured (non-whites) and white. Locations were classified according to race meaning there were places where non-whites people were not allowed such as a seat at the beach or public toilets. Millions of non-white citizens were forcefully removed from their homes, put and restricted into tribal homelands according to their ethnicity. While whites remained and occupied towns and cities.

The social architecture intensified with the use of Afrikaans as the official language for working, communication and education. Non-whites were not allowed to vote or engage in politics and were reduced to labour for the whites. However internal resistance grew amongst these groups.

Political formations were established with the aim of fighting white authoritarianism and ruthless rule however this was met with armed retaliation from the government. Series of mass mobilisation and campaigns were conducted and during this time the government arrested and tried many activists and banned all political organisations. In the 1980’s with mounting internal and external pressures for the government to denounce apartheid and pave the way for democratic non-racial South Africa, the government became even more brutal until it has no choice but to submit to pressure after years of being isolated from the international community.

In 1994, after political prisoners and organisation were released from prison and unbanned respectively, South Africa ushered in a constitutional democracy based on non-racialism.