South African Apartheid
South Africa
Mahatma Gandhi

Condition of the Blacks before 1948

During Colonization of South Africa the European settlers, mainly the Dutch, came to form a large minority. They soon started dominating the social, economic, political and cultural life and ruled as the minority elites. The policy followed by the ruling Dutch didn't just result in economic and political subjugation but also social, cultural and psychological deprivation.

  • The Dutch settlers treated the black natives as slaves and used them as laborers for their farms. They deprived the Blacks of their lands and ensured that very little money was spent on education of the blacks. Especially the higher education became the monopoly of the whites. The condition of indentured laborers who came from Asian colonies like India to work on plantations were no
  • Politically, Blacks were not allowed the right to vote and they were denied any participation in the government. In Transvaal and Orange Free State only white men could vote. In Natal and Cape Colony, non-whites could vote but it in reality translated to nothing because voter had to meet property and literacy qualifications.

There was no direct representation of the Blacks in the Legislature and they were only indirectly represented through some White Members of Parliament. Their interests were neglected by the government’s policies and there was lack of welfare measures.

  • Culturally, the theories of Master and Slave race were propounded. The Black tribal culture was belittled as inferior and they were designated as the lower race who were destined to be servants of the Whites, the members of the Master race. The Dutch Reformed Church (the official State Church of South Africa) in contrast with other churches in the world which believed in racial equality, supported the view that whites were the master race and incorrectly interpreted the Bible to prove this.
  • Blacks lived in areas reserved for them away from the white residential areas. This policy was followed to prevent the Black pollution from contaminating the Whites. Also Blacks were forbidden from buying land outside the Reserves. It led to the problem of ghetto living among the blacks because 70 % of the population lived in 7 % of area of South Without any amenities like clean drinking water, proper sewerage system for sanitation and along with problem of crowding, the Blacks suffered from poor performance on social indicators of Health, sanitation and education.
  • The White’s government controlled the movement of the Blacks through the system of Pass For example, an African Black couldn't leave a farm where he worked without a pass from the employer and neither he could reside in a town where he didn't work.
  • The Black workers enjoyed very limited or no rights. Their status was slave like. A 1911 law forbade Black workers from striking at work and barred them from holding skilled jobs. Ban on holding skilled jobs resulted in no incentive for Blacks to get educated which made them suitable only for low paid jobs. This inturn prevented them from earning any surplus income and hurt their social mobility. Thus there was a push from above to keep Blacks below the poverty line.


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