Apartheid is known as the dark page in the history of South Africa. It was the ideology proclaimed by the National Party of South Africa, which caused inequality and sufferings for African people. Significantly, apartheid regime developed in post-war period when many countries tried to combat the institute of racism and proclaim equal rights for all people. The following paper aims to discuss the period of apartheid from its beginning to abolition and explain the aspects that characterized this movement.
Without any doubts, careful and multifaceted analysis of apartheid regime in South Africa should be conducted in order to prevent similar issues in future. The system of apartheid was a painful experience, since it deprived all black South Africans of almost all civil rights. There was no single reason for the beginning of this cruel regime. While some researchers indicate growing discontent of the current government as its possible cause, Clark and Worger, (2013) state that, “Apartheid regime emerged in response to growing contradictions in the social and political systems.” In fact, for many ages, public life in South Africa was based on racist principles. The Africans who were subjected to extermination and enslavement were deprived of political and social rights since the beginning of colonization. In 1912, they created an organization called African National Congress (ANC), which was supposed to support the rights of the Black population and fight against racial discrimination, as well as other kinds of inequality. The situation worsened in 1948 when the National Party took power over the country. This party promised to protect the Boer language, culture, and heritage; it also proclaimed the official ideology of racism. The National Party adopted the policy of apartheid, based on concentration of entire political and economic power in the hands of Europeans, especially Afrikaners. The motto of the party was "separate but equal" for most of public services (for example, healthcare and education). It proclaimed the necessity to provide education, housing, leisure, etc. separately for white and black population. The ultimate aim of apartheid regime was to proclaim territorial division of South African population by racial groups, according to which the white population could occupy 87% of the country, while only 13% of its territory could be inhabited by Africans. As a result, “thousands of native Africans were forcibly removed from rural, “white”, areas to racially segregated homelands” (Clark & Worger, 2013). Africans were relocated from the “white” areas to so-called “Bantustans”, pseudo-independent African states. The government immediately began the implementation of apartheid policy. It adopted laws that forbade interracial marriages, introduced racial classification of all citizens. and created a special commission which was supposed to deal with most difficult cases of misunderstanding between different racial groups. The regime was based on the adoption of the Group Areas Act in 1950. The primary purpose of the act was to perform geographical separation of racial groups.
Life of the black population was extremely unpleasant. By paying the taxes the white people received protection, high-quality education, health care, and social welfare from the state, whereas the black people were locked in ghettos and Bantustans. Although they also paid the same taxes, they received nothing in return from the state. Blacks were forbidden to open a business or work in areas considered areas for Whites without a special permission. In fact, all important cities and economic zones were given to the white people. The areas for the black people often had neither water nor electricity. Segregation occurred in transport, as well as many other public places. Significantly, medical services were also segregated. The hospitals for whites were usually well funded and provided high-quality services, whereas the hospitals for black Africans did not have enough material resources and staff to heal people. Besides, in many areas, there were no hospitals at all. The Black population did not have the right to attend theaters and cinemas of the “white areas”; at the same time, there were almost no theaters, cinemas, and restaurants in the black areas. According to apartheid policy, different racial groups had to exist separately; the black and white people could not coexist in one territory. Each of two groups was given a place in racial hierarchy: the white people were provided with best perspectives and opportunities, whereas the black people, on the contrary, did not have any rights. Special position of the white people and all their privileges were enacted by the laws, which helped them to get the best jobs in various industries. This eliminated the problem of unemployment for whites and was intended to implement apartheid regime with the incredible support. In addition to the lack of jobs, the Black people could not change anything by nominating their candidates, as they did not have the right to participate in elections. Paradoxically, even primary education system was different, thus providing the black children with lower level of knowledge than white. As a consequence, apartheid regime deeply penetrated not only in the laws of South Africa, but also in its culture: this ideology was actively enforced by the media. What is more, the lack of everyday communication also alienated two races from each other.
It should be noted that indigenous people engaged in active struggle against apartheid regime by means of organizing strikes, demonstrations, etc.; however, the authorities brutally suppressed the protest movement. There emerged political organizations which opposed these orders, but they were immediately banned. Significantly, not only the black people were against apartheid regime, there were also groups of white people who protested against this injustice. International community also participated in this process. Thus, the UN has adopted a number of measures for the boycott of apartheid regime. The struggle against it was one of the key priorities for the UN in the 1970s and 1980s. Moreover, a lot of other international human rights organizations joined the struggle. Besides, South African internal dissident movement also played a significant role in this struggle. When in 1960 in Sharpeville, 70 black demonstrators who fought against apartheid regime were killed; the world community forced South Africa to withdraw from the Commonwealth controlled by Britain.
As a result of decades of internal and external pressure on South African government, headed by Frederick de Klerk, the situation was finally resolved by democratic measures. In 1990, a ban on all forbidden political parties was removed, and almost all political prisoners became free. In 1994, the first in the history of South Africa's general election was won by the African National Congress and its leader, Nelson Mandela. The national hero, who spent 27 years in prison, became the president of South Africa. In fact, these elections served as a good example of the new democratic direction of South Africa, as well as creation of a unique national identity. After the abolition of apartheid regime, indigenous people gained access to education and public offices, as well as engagement in business. International sanctions against South Africa were canceled, which helped to provide faster inflow of foreign investments. After the collapse of apartheid regime, relations between South Africa and the world countries have significantly improved.
Some people believed that the transfer of power from the white to the black majority could be accompanied by mass slaughter. However, these expectations were wrong. Unlike all other African countries with a significant percentage white population, including Algeria, Angola, Mozambique, Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya, where the separation of powers was accompanied by bloody conflicts, civil wars, and armed rebellions, this process was particularly peaceful in South Africa. “The key principle of the new policy after the abolishment of the cruel regime was the replacement of confrontation by close cooperation of two nations” (Worden, 2012). The African National Congress, and especially Nelson Mandela, has made a great contribution into peaceful resolution of the conflict, which highly impressed the world community. The entire world saw South Africa as a middle-income country in the international community (Alden & Schoeman, 2013). The new government succeeded in banning racial discrimination. It introduced programs aimed at improving living conditions and education for those who had suffered from discrimination. Significantly, the new Government decided to take no actions that could possibly cause harm to the country's important economic structures. This policy did not completely satisfy all racial groups. Thus, a significant part of the black population, which believed that the transfer of power had to improve their position immediately, was disappointed. However, despite high unemployment rate in South Africa, the situation was more stable than in most countries in sub-Saharan and Southern Africa. In general, post-apartheid South Africa is known to the global community as “A Rainbow Nation” (Deegan, 2011, p. 110).
To conclude, the regime of apartheid has significantly affected the lives of the black people in South Africa, thus causing the problem of racial inequality, which became the country’s topical issue for almost four decades. Black people did not have a right to live a normal life. This ideology has led to the growing number of rebellions and conflicts. With help of the world community, black people have managed to regain their rights and abolish apartheid. This allowed South Africa to transform from the country full of prejudices, stereotypes, and sufferings into a developing country where all people are equal.