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Apartheid in South Africa

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Apartheid (which is an Afrikaans word meaning "apartness")[1] was a political and social system in South Africa while it was under white minority rule (meaning white people ruled the country, even though there were not as many of them as there were black people). This was in use in the 20th century, from 1948 to 1994.[1] Racial segregation had been used for centuries but the new policy started in 1948 was stricter and more systematic.

In the system, the people of South Africa were divided by their race and the races were forced to live apart from each other. There were laws that kept up the racial separation. The system of apartheid in South Africa was banned in 1994. The last president under apartheid was Frederik Willem de Klerk.[2] After this, Nelson Mandela became the first black president.[3][4] Both were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.[5] Today, the term apartheid is sometimes used to speak about similar systems in other countries.

How apartheid worked

Sign from South Africa during apartheid. This sign meant that only white people were allowed in this area.

During apartheid, people were divided into four racial groups and kept apart by law.[6] The system was used to deny many rights of non-white people, mainly black people who lived in South Africa in the beginning. The laws allowed the white people to keep the black people out of certain areas. Black people had to carry special papers (passes) or have permission to live and work in particular areas. The government separated mixed communities and forcibly moved many people. Many laws were made, for example: people of different races were not allowed to marry each other; black people could not own land in white areas or vote.

The United Nations did not agree with the South African government's apartheid policies.[7] There were protests in South Africa, like in Sharpeville in 1960[8] and in Soweto in 1976.[9] After the Sharpeville Massacre, the UN tried to get South Africa out of the UN in 1974. France, the United States, and Britain stopped that from happening. The Soweto uprising started because Africans were forced to study some subjects at school in Afrikaans. Many black people did not like Afrikaans because it was the language of the apartheid government and they did not understand it.[10]

Finally, after much struggle, the South African government ended apartheid in 1994. After that, equal rights were shared among both black and whites in law. Nelson Mandela became president when apartheid was ended.

Although black Suth Africans were granted equal rights as far as the law was concerned since 1994, 90 percent of the country's poor people are non-white, and so inequality remains a big problem.[source?]

Sign at a beach: This beach has been reserved for white people only.

Aim of apartheid

The aim of apartheid was to separate the people of South Africa into small independent nations. The black ones were called Bantustans. South Africa said they were independent countries and exchanged ambassadors but other countries did not. The National Party government did not want to spend a lot of money on this project. Also, they wanted to keep the majority of South Africa's land for white people, especially the richest places, like the gold mines of Johannesburg. They wanted black men to work in these mines for little money but their families had to live far away.

Other pages about apartheid and related topics


  1. 1.0 1.1
  2. Abegunrin, Olayiwola Africa in Global Politics in the Twenty-First Century: A Pan-African Perspective Palgrave MacMillan New York, New York 2009 page 20
  4. Lockard, Craig A. Societies, Networks, and Transitions, Volume C since 1750 Second Edition Wadsworth Cengage Learning page 889
  5. Cohen, David Elliot; John D. Battersby Nelson Mandela: A Life in Photographs Sterling Publishing Co Inc. 2009 page 143
  6. Schaefer, Richard T. editor Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity, and Society Volume 1 Sage Publications Inc. 2008 page 83
  8. Haas, Michael International Human Rights: A Comprehensive Introduction Routledge New York 2008 page 84
  9. Pieterse, HJC Desmond Tutu's Message: A Qualitative Analysis Uitgeverij Kok, Kampden, the Netherlands 2001 page 17
  10. Martin, Phyllis, Patrick O'Meara editors Africa: Third Edition Indiana University Press 601 North Morton Street Bloomington, Indiana 1995 402