A Segregated Nation, Apartheid Instituted
urban base, Group Areas Act, social privilege, General Smuts, bantustans
In 1948 the all-white NP came to power with Daniel F. Malan as prime minister. Segregation and inequality between races had existed as a matter of custom and practice in South Africa, but after 1948 they were enshrined in law. The NP won the general election that year in a coalition with the smaller Afrikaner Party. The United Party, led by General Smuts, became the official opposition. The United Party mainly had an urban base with substantial support from English-speaking South Africans, while the NP’s support was drawn almost entirely from Afrikaans-speaking South Africans.
At the heart of the NP’s legislative agenda was apartheid (Afrikaans for “separateness”), a doctrine of white supremacy promoted as a program of separate development. Once in power, the NP extended and legalized white economic exploitation, political domination, and social privilege. These tenets were reinforced with a harsh and intrusive security system, separate and unequal education, job discrimination, and residential segregation. Such fundamental rights as protection against search without a warrant and the right to a trial were violated. A severe anti-Communist law was passed in 1950. It equated Communism with any struggle for political, economic, or social change, and served as an excuse to arrest many of the government’s opponents.
The Group Areas Act was also passed in 1950. It specified that separate areas be reserved for each of the four main racial groups: whites, blacks, Coloureds, and Asians. Stringent pass laws that restricted and controlled black access to white areas were implemented across the nation in 1952. Blacks without passes who remained in urban areas for more than 72 hours were subject to imprisonment. Millions were arrested for such violations. Marriage between whites and blacks was outlawed.
Beginning in the 1950s the government divided the black population into ethnic groups and assigned each group to a so-called homeland, also referred to as a bantustan. Ten of these territories were eventually established; Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Gazankulu, KaNgwane, KwaNdebele, KwaZulu, Lebowa, Qwaqwa, Transkei, and Venda. The Development Land and Trust Act of 1936 had augmented the amount of land blacks could own from 7 percent to 13 percent, and these areas became the basis for the bantustans.
Prime Minister Malan retired in 1954 and was succeeded by another NP leader, Johannes G. Strijdom, who removed legal obstacles to the further implementation of apartheid. To assure support for the program, the Supreme Court was filled with six judges sympathetic to apartheid who would hear constitutional questions, a step that received parliamentary approval in 1955. NP control of the Senate was effected by their increased membership from 77 to 89 in elections that same year. Shortly after the 1958 elections for the House of Assembly, in which the NP members increased their seats from 94 to 103, Strijdom died.
Strijdom’s replacement was Hendrik F. Verwoerd, an uncompromising supporter of apartheid who implemented the concept of separate development of the races through the bantustan, or homeland, policy. In 1959 the government passed the Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act, an unsuccessful attempt to diffuse international criticism of apartheid by offering blacks the right to participate in a political process within the bantustans. The act, which ended black representation in the national parliament, defined blacks as citizens of bantustans, although they retained their South African citizenship. The economic advantage of the policy from the government’s point of view was that it would relieve the government of welfare obligations to millions of blacks without losing the benefits of an abundant supply of cheap black labor. The policy was vehemently opposed by blacks who saw it as a further erosion of their rights because it forced them to accept citizenship in remote, underdeveloped bantustans.
By the end of the 1970s all of the bantustans had become nominally self-governing. Although called self-governing, they were in fact entirely dependent on the national government and incapable of sustaining 75 percent of the country’s population. Thus, most blacks continued to live in white areas. The vast majority of those who lived in the bantustans commuted to white areas as part of an enormous migrant labor force.
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