Introduction to the Idea of Apartheid
‘Apartheid’ or Apartness is the term used in Afrikaans and Dutch languages. It is the name given to separating people by Race, with reference to where you live, where you work, where you go to school, what mode of transport you use and where you die. This policy was introduced by the National Party (NP) in 1948 and it continued until 1994 when the 1st all-race elections were held. In the 1980s, the system of Apartheid was considered so entrenched that international observers predicted South Africa can’t have a democratic polity without a civil war. But negotiations between ANC led by Nelson Mandela and NP led by De Klerk gave us a compromised solution with a truly democratic constitution. But Apartheid was not just for these 46 years as segregation of blacks from the whites existed ever since the Dutch 1st landed in South Africa in 1652.
The demography of South Africa is quite interesting as South Africa had 3/4th of Blacks, Africans, Colored and even Indians who were taken there for work and they settled there. The whites were a small minority who controlled all political power in pre-Democratic South Africa and enjoyed considerable economic success. These whites were Dutch descended Afrikaners and the British descended English speakers. The history also plays a part in making South Africa a region of Apartheid as this mere refueling and trading post at Cape of Good Hope of the Dutch and British will soon become the richest region of Africa. Diamonds were discovered at Kimberly and world’s largest Gold reserves were discovered near Johannesburg. A combination of factors like diversity, longevity, power and wealth created the factors which led to the inception of Apartheid.
The causes of Apartheid are of two types-Real & Immediate causes. The Real cause was white business owners wanted to make sure they make unparalleled profits by using a massive lowly paid African workforce. White settlers wanted protection from competition in jobs and businesses from African workers and producers. This elaborate system helped them to preserve their lead. The Immediate cause of the war needs to be understood in the context of the 2nd World War. South Africa manufacturing sectors and factories boomed in this period. White males were predominantly working for the military and so factories needed to be staffed with women and African male workers in even semi-skilled and skilled jobs. These skilled jobs were denied to them until the 2nd world war and hence the white electorate was getting skeptical about increased black competition for jobs. Secondly, in War times Police and internal law enforcement agencies could not regulate passes of Africans and regulate their movement in the cities. So Racial lines between the white and black started getting blurred. Thirdly, Whites were outnumbered in the cities for the 1st time in the history of South Africa. The rural populace started migrating to the cities due to increased job opportunities, aspirations of a better future and as famines hit the countryside. Fourthly, African workers working in the industries increased by 70% at this time and the number of women workers increased by 50%. After the 2nd world war, Africans constituted 50% of the industrial workforce for the 1st time in the country’s history. This was looked like a threat by the white populace. Fifthly, ANC started becoming very militant in this period as they decided that their days of pleas, prayers and petitions were over as their dialogue and faith in the British crown did not bring any credible results. They decided to shift to radical methods to give wings to their aspirations.
The immediate causes were viewed as threats by the white populace so both the UP (United Party) and NP campaigned for solving the problems of blacks. The Nationalist Party won the elections in 1948 in spite of the fact they won fewer votes due to a constitutional provision of greater rural representation. They found a legislative route to drive through reforms by announcing Influx control in South Africa. Apartheid was described to the world as a social experiment to build a new model. It was designed to fulfil the tripartite objectives of NP which are Economic Growth, maintenance of white supremacy and reduction of African protests.
How Apartheid was implemented
The NP felt their mandate as a call for ‘white supremacy now and always’ and started building an intricate system by a complex mixture of laws where everything in the lives of South Africans were determined by Race. The country became a police state for most of the populace and the mechanisms of laws were truly breathtaking. We will look at some of them to get a fair idea about this arrangement.
The Population Registration Act, 1950 which provided the crux of all subsequent legislation as it divided the people into White, Colored, Natives (Bantu) and Indians. The massive population registrar was created for everyone and identity cards were issued with the assigned race of the individual. This was the bedrock legislation laying down a rigid racial classification and identification mechanism which will govern your access to rights and legal remedies. The Abolition of Passes and Coordination of Documents Act of 1952 was created to standardize the requirement of passes for Africans. Regional Pass documents which were known as Reference books were made mandatory to be carried by everyone in person at all times. The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, 1949 prohibited marriages between whites and other communities. The Immortality Act of 1950 banned Sexual relations between Whites and other communities. The Group Areas Act, 1950 gave the government the power to regulate land ownership and occupations on the basis of race. It gave the government all the necessary ammunition needed to divide all of South Africa. The Reservation of Separate Amenities Act, 1953 stated all races should have separate public facilities like toilets, parks and beaches and the infamous Apartheid Signboards were erected under this act. The Native labour Act, 1953 banned trade Unions for labourers and their Right to Strike.
The most dangerous piece of legislation was The Bantu Education Act of 1953 which had long-term devastating consequences on the future of South Africans. The idea was to teach Africans their Cultural Heritage and give them the necessary skill sets as per their opportunities in life. The school curriculum was tailor-made to fit the demands of economic life for only Africans in South Africa. The objectives of Bantu education was to provide some skills for Africans to make them effective instruments in the labour markets. Secondly, it aimed to solve problems of poverty and unemployment as unemployed black youths were becoming militant and espousing violence on the streets. Thirdly, this system they hoped will make the Africans hate their own cultures and regard the Europeans as prophets to save them barbaric cultures. They will be true symbols of “Black Skin with White Masks. “The consequences of Bantu Education were as follows. At first, Bantu education institutionalized Apartheid culture and ideology and formalized myopic curriculum, unqualified teachers and resources hungry schools for Africans. Secondly, Instructions in Mother Tongues had two impacts as when they reached higher classes
a)They could not understand mathematical and other technical aspects due to poor grip on English Languages.
b)South Africa is a diverse country with multiple mother tongues so instructions in mother tongues helped in exposing ethnic fault lines between these communities.
The most painful aspect of Bantu Education is it turned out to be an instrument of oppression instead of its emancipatory abilities.
The 21st Century South Africa
“Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world. Let Freedom Reign. The Sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement.”-Nelson Mandela’s Inauguration speech in 1994
These were the words of Nelson Mandela, the 1st Black President of South Africa. When South Africa truly elected in a truly democratic election. The country was brimming with optimism at this time and everyone looked forward with hope towards a glorious future. It has been more than 25 years since that time but the country remains deeply segregated.
The Apartheid Era segregation of cities continues as all the major cities have most prime locations occupied by the Whites as the government could not re-distribute land as per the negotiated settlement which ANC & Nationalist Party had decided in the 1990s. All the prime locations of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, and Durban are still occupied by the minority whites. They make up the top 5% or most rich people in the populace and the areas they live have all best houses, best amenities, best hospitals and facilities which can happily be compared with any western European countries. If you move outside, you see millions of people living in makeshift camps even without the bare minimum facilities. Khayelitsha in Cape Town is the home of the biggest informal settlements and is a fast-growing city with a population of over 1 million. But as most people live outside the city in shabby conditions the unemployment rates are 50% and the crime rates are very high.
The World Bank Report (May 2018) also testifies the fact South Africa remains the most economically unequal country in the world. The Nelson Mandela introduced RDP (Reconstruction & Development Program) is the biggest state-led Housing Development project in the world. It has seen more than 3.6 million new homes built free of charge for people having annual income less than 3500 Rand (£200). But RDP Program has certain demerits like reinforcing spatial apartheid as these houses were constructed outside the cities where the Africans already lived. These zones were de-linked from the core areas of the cities through Apartheid era natural and artificial barriers. Secondly, RDP houses are allotted after a painful waiting period of 10-15 years if you are not well connected to the government. Thirdly, RDP houses are single-storied arranged in boring repetitive rows and the inhabitants are forbidden from engaging in Trade from those flats. Fourthly, as these houses are built fast and cheaply sometimes they even fall down and they look a lot like open-air prisons.
The education sector was badly affected by Bantu education System and even in a post-Apartheid South Africa, the impacts continue to haunt them. Many Non-white South Africans have to pay the black tax which means supporting their unemployed parents, grandparents and paying fees for their siblings. This decreases their abilities to dream larger goals in life.An OECD’s Report showed that after six years of schooling, 27% of black South African students still could not read.
Corruption: – Corruption has been a huge factor for South Africa as Jacob Zuma presidency was tainted with the ugly marks of corruption. World Bank reports declared South Africa as the most corrupt country in the world in 2018.
Indicators:-The Official unemployment rate is around 28% and most of the wealth is concentrated in the hands of the whites. 10% of the white population owns 90% of the national wealth and 80% of the black South Africans owns nothing at all. But the number of Black Asian and mixed-race millionaires increased by leaps and bounds to 17300 as per New World Wealth consultancy firm. But all of them had one thing in common which is lucrative ties with the government. The number of the Black middle class has also proliferated to 4.2 million as according to estimates from the ‘University of Cape Town.’14% of the Populace of South Africa still lives in informal settlements and the backlog of RDP houses have reached 2.1 million in 2018.
Entrepreneurship:-More Business firms are closing down than opening as per estimates of London Business School and only 2.5% of firms have been established in 3.5 years. The odds of being a black entrepreneur are not in your favour.
HIV:-South Africa’s 19% of the population is infected by HIV. Thabo Mbeki’s government (1999-2008) was the complete denials government who refused to believe South Africa’s HIV rates and even went to an extent to ban antiretroviral drugs which pushed thousands of South Africans towards death. The situation has improved after Mbeki with efforts of the Ministry of Health and NGOs like Treatment for Action. But more needs to be done to address the social cause of the disease.
Poverty & Underdevelopment:-The National debt has ballooned seven times since 1994.ANC development plans reinforced the rural-urban divide by focusing on development in urban spaces.
Land Control:-So Nelson Mandela tried to redistribute land by using the ‘Willing-Seller and willing buyer model’. This model failed miserably as only 10% of the white-owned land could be returned back to the black farmers’. This even creates problems for black entrepreneurs as they have very less property to procure loans by using the property as collateral. White Farmers control an estimated 73% of the farmlands today. South Africa could not implement any radical policies to mitigate rural poverty by redistributing lands without compensation due to fear spooking markets, down-gradation from international credit agencies and pressure from the USA.
The Way Forward-Towards a Bright Future for the Rainbow Nation
“Mandela may have postponed Revolution but for how much longer is the question.”-Henrich Wolff, a local architect of South Africa
South Africa’s problems have been created by more than 300 years of systematic Racism and historical injustice on behalf of the blacks. But some policy decisions, the current style of governance and normalization of corruption which are post-1994 phenomenon have sought to take the country backwards by a few decades. South Africa is a unique case in point where we cannot implement a one size fits all policy as Whites and Non-whites have stark inequalities. So we need to develop a model which helps in achieving equity.
Some Improvements which can be implemented to make South Africa an egalitarian society are:-
At first, Affordable Housing solutions can be game-changer and Johannesburg has already started implementing it. In this scheme, private developers are legally bound to reserve 30% of their houses and provide them at affordable rates. This will help in making the city inclusive and breaking the Spatial apartheid of the cities. Secondly, RDP needs to plan and then implemented.RDP needs to convert into a smart city project where houses will be better organized properly with more commercial spaces. The government has to increase incentives for living at the RDP houses. Thirdly, informal settlements need to be made more livable by using various projects like VPUU (Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading program). This project which is being implemented in Cape Town can really help in improving basic minimum infrastructure, lowering crime rates. This project uses community-based participation to improve streets and places. Fourthly, the government has to bold policy measures by implementing land ceiling acts. This needs to be done in a much-planned manner to avoid Zimbabwe’s case of giving farmlands to farmers without necessary knowhow of commercial farming. Fifthly, the government needs to scrap the PIA (Protection of Information) Act and bring more robust legislation to increase transparency and accountability of the government. Sixthly, the government needs to improve health and education indicators of the populace by aggressively spending on these two sectors. These sectors demand a bit of patience and perseverance as significant development takes time but they are very important in propelling South African economy and improving human development parameters. A consultancy firm can be engaged to give properly focused ideas of governance intervention at the specific levels and here South Africa can learn from the Government of Haryana’s ‘Saksham Haryana’ Program. Seventhly, the government of South Africa needs to develop a dual-track strategy to deal with HIV which will have to look at both the social and medical causes of the epidemic. Eighthly, the government needs to abolish private militias (Police) which the rich use for their protection and enforce uniform policing’s standards across the country.
Whenever a small developing country starts treading on the path of development it faces numerous challenges on its way to fulfilling the mammoth aspirations of its population. South Africa is a unique case as it has suffered from systematic repression and oppression and hence the government needs to put greater efforts to make country livable, human and more inclusive for all.