South African Apartheid
South Africa
Mahatma Gandhi

Apartheid Laws (1948-54)

Apartheid as a term literally means ‘Separateness’. Discrimination of Blacks occurred even before 1948 but thereafter it was institutionalized through laws.

Why Prime Minister Malan introduced Apartheid (1948-54) ?

  • The independence of India and Pakistan in 1947 under non-white majority rule made the whites in South Africa very uncomfortable as they feared the spread of racial equality to other member nations of the British Commonwealth. Post-freedom, the European settlers in India were no more superior to the natives. Their was Rule of Law which treated all as equal. The whites were threatened by the prospects of demand for equality-political and social- by the Blacks, Asians and Colored in South The whites were determined to preserve their superiority.
  • Although most whites, especially the Dutch, were against racial equality, the most radical proponents of Racial supremacy was Afrikaner Nationalist Party that won election on promise of ending the “Black Menace”.
  • Technically, Apartheid was introduced 1948 onward through a set of laws passed by the Parliament under the new government of Prime Minister Malan.

Features of Apartheid

  1. Separation: After 1948, Policy of Complete Separation was attempted as far as possible. In the rural areas more Separate reserves were established and in the Urban Areas there were Separate Townships for the Black For transport, there were separate Buses and trains. In the domain of leisure activities there were to separate Cafes , Beaches and cinema halls. There were to be separate Toilets as Blacks were considered unhygienic. The social services were also segregated, example the children of the Blacks were to study in separate schools with inferior education and there were to be separate hospitals which were marred by lack of proper infrastructure. Separateness was followed even in the Religious domain as Blacks could pray only in churches reserved for them. But complete separation was only a partial success as it was impossible to implement. The Blacks formed the majority of labor force and the Whites needed them. A complete separation would have resulted in economic collapse.
  2. Racial Identity Cards and Pass Laws: Every person belonging to the race of Asians, the blacks, and the Mixed Race i.e. Colored were issued Identity card which they were to carry at all times. The Pass laws were the tool to restrict the movement of the non-whites. Strict Pass Laws were passed which implied that the Blacks had to stay in their Reserves unless traveling for work to a White Area in which case they got passes. Otherwise all travel to through or to White Areas was forbidden unless there was a special permission granted by the Police.
  3. Racial purity: To preserve Racial purity, the law banned Inter-Racial Marriages and conjugal relations between the whites and the non-whites.

Bantustan Policy: In 1959, the Parliament passed a Bantu Self Government Act of 1959. Bantu was a synonym for the Black people. The stated goal of this Act was to give Self Government to the Blacks in their Reserves and this was to be achieved through creation of Bantustans which would be ultimately given Independence. But the Bantustan policy brought worldwide condemnation to South Africa. This was because it was a farce attempt filled with malafide intentions. South Africa followed a Neo-Colonialism type policy which implies maintaining control on the policies-economic and other- a country with purpose of usurpation of the resources and in general, subjugation of the national interest to the interests of the Neo-Colonizer. South African government controlled the economic and foreign policies of the Bantustans. Through Bantustans, the Blacks were ghettoized as the total seven regions identified for status of Bantustan amounted to meager 13 per cent area of the total South Africa in which more than 70 per cent of South Africans were to live.

Further, Bantustans were not economically viable units as the land resources were not enough to support such larger population. No rational criteria keeping in mind the economic and logistical perspectives was used. For example, Bantustans didn't have any access to the sea. Also, each Bantustan was encircled by the South African territory and there was no connectivity between any two Bantustans.

For all these reasons, United Nation refused to recognize Bantustans as legitimate states. Still, South Africa went ahead and declared three Bantustans as independent by 1980.

  1. No political representation: After 1948, Blacks lost even the limited Political rights they had enjoyed through their representation in Parliament by White Members, as this provision of indirect representation was abolished.

Black workers were further suppressed as they were the ones who formed the majority of Black residents of the Urban areas. They could witness directly the stark contrast between the White prosperity and had more exposure to the White excesses. They were also the ones who were young and could jeopardize the production in the factories. Thus, the White government played a clever trick by using the prevalent atmosphere anti-communism of Cold War, to its advantage. It brought out the Suppression of Communism Act in 1950 and used it to veil the suppression of any anti-Apartheid voice from among the Blacks. The Act was misused and anyone who opposed Apartheid was branded as Communist and imprisoned. The Suppression of Communism Act also forbade the workers from Striking at work.

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