Home > Free Essays > History > Contemporary History > Apartheid in South Africa

Apartheid in South Africa Essay

Exclusively available on IvyPanda Available only on IvyPanda
Updated: Jul 10th, 2019


South Africa is one of the countries with rich and fascinating history in the world. It is regarded as the most developed state in Africa and among the last to have an elected black president towards the end of the 20th century. Besides its rich history, the South African state has abundant natural resources, fertile farms and a wide range of minerals including gold.

The country is the world’s leading miner of diamonds and gold with several metal ores distributed around the country like platinum (Rosmarin & Rissik, 2004). South Africa experiences a mild climate that resembles that of San Francisco bay.

With its geographical location and development, South Africa is one of the most accessible African countries. All these factors contribute to South Africa’s global prominence, especially before and after the reign of its first black President, Nelson Mandela in 1994.

However, these alone do not add up to what the country’s history. In fact, South Africa’s history sounds incomplete without the mention of Apartheid, a system that significantly shaped and transformed the country in what it is today.

Without apartheid, many argue that South Africa would have probably been a different country with unique ideologies, politics and overall identity. In other words, apartheid greatly affected South Africa in all spheres of a country’s operation. From segregation to all forms of unfairness, apartheid system negatively affected South Africans and the entire country (Pfister, 2005).

On the other hand, some people argue that apartheid positively affected South Africa in countless ways. This essay gives a detailed coverage of the issue of apartheid in South Africa and its impact to the economy, politics and social life of South Africans.

To achieve this task, the analysis is divided into useful sections, which give concise and authentic information concerning the topic. Up to date sources were consulted in researching the topic to ensure that data and information used in describing the concept is up to date, from reputable and recommended authors.

Among important segments of the essay include but not limited to the literature review, history, background information and recommendations.

Research questions

In addressing the issue of Apartheid in South Africa, this essay intends to provide answers to the following questions:

  1. What was apartheid system?
  2. What are the factors that led to the apartheid system?
  3. What were the negative effects of the apartheid system?
  4. What were the positive effects of the apartheid system?
  5. Why was it necessary to end apartheid in South Africa?

Literature Review

Apartheid in South Africa is one of the topics which have received massive literature coverage even after the end of the regime. Most of the documented information describes life before 1994 and what transpired after Nelson Mandela took leadership as the first black African President of the state.

This segment, therefore, explores the concept concerning what authors, scholars and researchers have recorded in books, journals and on websites as expounded in the following analytical sections.

Apartheid in South Africa

Apartheid refers to a South African system that propagated racial discrimination imposed between 1948 and 1994 by National Party regimes. During this period of decades, the rights of the majority “blacks” were undermined as white minority settlers maintained their supremacy and rule through suppressive tactics.

Apartheid was primarily developed after the Second World War by the Broederbond and Afrikaner organizations and was extended to other parts of South West Africa, currently known as Namibia until it became an independent state four years before the end of apartheid.

According to Allen 2005, discrimination of black people in South Africa began long before apartheid was born during the colonial era. In his survey, Allen noted that apartheid was ratified after the general election which was held in 1948.

The new legislation that the governments adopted classified all South African inhabitants into four groups based on their racial identity (Allen, 2005). These groups were Asians, whites, natives and colored. This led to all manners of segregation that ensured complete distinction among these groups, achieved through forced displacement of the oppressed groups without necessarily thinking about their rights.

The practice continued throughout the period, reaching heightened moments when non-whites were deprived of political representation in 1970, the year when blacks were denied citizenship right causing them to become members of Bantustans who belonged to self-governing homes (Allen, 2005).

Besides residential removal and displacement, other forms of discrimination dominated in public institutions like education centers, hospitals and beaches among other places which were legally meant for everybody regardless of their skin color, gender or country of origin.

In rare cases where black accessed these services, they were provided with inferior options as compared to what whites received (Allen, 2005). As a result, there was significant violence witnessed across the country, accompanied by internal resistance from people who believed that they were being exploited and languishing in poverty at the expense of white minorities.

Consequently, the country suffered trade embargoes as other countries around the world distanced themselves from South African rule as a way of condemning it and raising their voices in support for those who were considered less human in their own country.

Overwhelmed by the desire for equality, South Africa witnessed countless uprisings and revolts, which were welcomed with imprisoning of political and human rights activists who were strongly opposed to the apartheid rule.

Banning of opposition politics was also adopted in order to suppress leaders who believed in justice for humanity (Edwards & Hecht, 2010). As violence escalated around the country, several state organizations responded by sponsoring violence and increasing the intensity of oppression.

The peak of apartheid opposition was in 1980s when attempts to amend apartheid legislation failed to calm black people forcing President Frederik Willem de Klerk to enter into negotiations with black leaders to end apartheid in 1990.

The culmination of the negotiations was in 1994 when a multi-racial and democratic election was held with Nelson Mandela of African National Congress emerging the winner and the first black president in South Africa (Edwards & Hecht, 2010). Although apartheid ended more than a decade ago, it is important to note its impact and ruins are still evident in South Africa.

Background Information

Segregation took shape in the Union of South Africa in order to suppress the black people’s participation in politics and economic life. White rulers believed that the only way of maintaining their rule was to ensure that black people do not have opportunities to organize themselves into groups that would augment their ability to systematize themselves and fight back for their rights.

However, despite these efforts, black people in South Africa became integrated into the economic and industrial society than any other group of people in Africa during the 20th century (Edwards & Hecht, 2010).

Clerics, educations and other professionals grew up to be key players as the influence of blacks sprouted with Mission Christianity significantly influencing the political landscape of the union. Studying in abroad also played a major role as blacks gained the momentum to fight for their rights as the move received support from other parts of the world (Burger, 2011).

There were continuous attempts from the government to control and manipulate black people through skewed policies, which were aimed at benefiting whites at the expense of the majority. The year 1902 saw the formation of the first political organization by Dr Abdurrahman which was mainly based in Cape Province.

However, the formation of the African National Congress in 1912 was a milestone as it brought together traditional authorities, educationists and Christian leaders (Burger, 2011). Its initial concern was defined by constitutional protests as its leaders demanded recognition and representation of the blacks.

Efforts by union workers to form organizations for the purpose of voicing their concerns were short-lived as their efforts were short down by white authorities. This led to strikes and militancy, which was experienced throughout 1920s. The formation of the Communist Party proved to be a force to last as it united workers’ organizations and non-racialism individuals (Beinart & Dubow, 1995).

Segregation of blacks was also witnessed in job regulations as skilled job opportunities remained reserved for white people. The introduction of pass-laws further aimed at restricting African mobility thus limiting their chances of getting organized.

These laws were also designed to have all blacks participate in forced labor as they did not have a clear channel to air their views. According to historic findings, all these efforts were inclined towards laying the foundation for apartheid in later years.

Noteworthy, there were divisions among whites as they differed with regard to certain ideologies and stances. For instance, they could not agree on their involvement in First World War I as the National Party dislodged from the South African Party (Beinart & Dubow, 1995). Conversely, allocation of skilled jobs to whites targeted high productivity from people who had experience while pass-laws prevented aimless movement.

Labor issues continued to emerge through organized strikes though these efforts were constantly thwarted by the government using brutal and inhumane ways like seclusion of migrant residential houses using compounds.

Miners also protested against low payment and poor living standards, conditions which promoted hostility between black and white labor forces, culminating into a bloody rebellion in 1922 (Beinart & Dubow, 1995).

Intensified discrimination against blacks mounted to serve the interests of white rulers through reinforcement of the unfair government policies and employment bar in certain areas like the railway and postal service to address the infamous “poor-white problem”.

The world depression of early 1930s led to the union of major white parties which was closely followed by the breakaway by a new Afrikaner led by Dr. DF Malan. The entrenchment of the white domination led to the elimination of Africans from the voters’ role in 1936 (Burger, 2011).

These continued up to the end of the Second World War when the government intensified segregation rules in 1948 that led to the conception and birth of Apartheid in South Africa.

Desmond Tutu against Apartheid

As mentioned above, Mission Christianity played a major role in the fight against apartheid and restoration of justice in South Africa. This saw several leaders rise to the limelight as they emerged to be the voice of the voiceless in the South African State.

One of these Christian leaders was Archbishop Desmond Tutu who has remained in the history of South Africa, featuring prominently in the reign of apartheid (BBC, 2010). He is well known worldwide for his anti-apartheid role and for boldly speaking for the blacks.

He served a very important role, especially during the entire time when Nelson Mandela was serving his prison term making him nominated for the highly coveted and prestigious Nobel Peace Prize award in 1984 for his relentless anti-apartheid efforts.

This was a real implication that the world had not only observed Tutu’s efforts but also raised its voice against the discriminatory rule in South Africa.

After Nelson Mandela was elected democratically in 1984, he appointed Archbishop Desmond Tutu to steer the South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was mandated to investigate all forms of crimes committed by blacks and whites during the whole period of apartheid.

Although Tutu was a teacher by training, he dropped the career after the adoption of the Bantu Education Act in 1953 (BBC, 2010). The act was meant to extend apartheid to black schools around the country, causing several schools to close down due to lack of finances after the government discontinued subsidized programs for those that did not comply.

To confirm and affirm that apartheid was not the best regime option in South Africa, Desmond Tutu was highly influenced by white clergymen like Bishop Trevor Huddleston, who strongly opposed the idea of racial discrimination that was being propagated by the white government (BBC, 2010).

Although he was closely involved in active politics, he remained focused on religious motivation, arguing that racialism was not the will of God, and that it was not to live forever. His appointment as the head of the Anglican church in 1986 did not deter him from fighting apartheid as he risked being jailed after he called the public to boycott municipal elections that were held in 1988.

He welcomed President FW De Klerk’s reforms in 1989, which included the release of the one who was later to become the first black president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela and the reinstatement of the African National Congress (BBC, 2010).

Nelson Mandela against Apartheid

Nelson Mandela is regarded as a key player in the fight against apartheid in South Africa as he led black people together with other activists to publicly denounce and condemn the discriminatory regimes of the time. As a way of demonstrating his dissatisfaction and criticism of apartheid, Mandela publicly burnt his “pass”.

All blacks were required to carry their passes as the government prohibited the movement of people to other districts (Atlas College, 2011). While working with ANC, Mandela’s involvement in anti-apartheid efforts was increased as he realized the need to have active resistance in dealing with apartheid.

He was severally charged with treason and acquitted although in 1964, Mandela was life imprisoned a move that was considered to be ill-motivated to maintain the white rule supremacy. He continued his fight while in prison as his message penetrated every village and district in the country.

Although he acted together with like-minded people, Nelson Mandela’s name stands high as the leader of the anti-apartheid campaign which culminated in his election as the first black president of South Africa in 1994 (Atlas College, 2011).

Opposing opinion

Although apartheid was highly condemned and still receives high-charged criticism, some people view it from a different perspective. Did apartheid have any benefit to the people of South Africa and to the nation at large?

Apart from propagating injustices across the country, apartheid is one of the economic drivers of South Africa with some of the policies and strategies used during that time still under active implementation by the government.

For instance, the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) was orchestrated by ANC and served as the core platform during the elections that were held in 1994 (Lundahl & Petersson, 2009). The programme focused on improvement of infrastructure, improvement of housing facilities, free schooling, sharing of land to the landless, clean water and affordable health facilities among others.

This led to the improvement of social amenities in the country. RDP also continued financing the budget revenue. It therefore suffices to mention that those who support apartheid base their argument on the status of the country after 1994 when subsequent governments chose to adopt some strategies from apartheid to drive the reconstruction agenda (Lundahl & Petersson, 2009).

As one of the leading economies in Africa, some of the institutions, factories and companies which were established during apartheid significantly contribute to development in the country. Even though new plans have been adopted, majority have their foundations rocked on apartheid.

As a result of these development initiatives, a lot has changed in South Africa. There has been substantive economic growth augmented by several factors which relate to apartheid (Lundahl & Petersson, 2009). Improved living standards among South Africans cannot also be ignored in any discussion of apartheid.

Many jobs have been created for the skilled people who never found an opportunity to work when the regime was at its operational peak. South Africa also prides on some of the most prestigious learning institutions in the region which are highly ranked on the world list. It therefore suffices to mention that apartheid had several advantages which cannot be overshadowed by its disadvantages.

Against Apartheid

Despite the advantages of apartheid discussed above, there is no doubt that the system negatively impacted South Africans in a myriad of ways. From undermining of human rights to promotion of hostility and violence among residents, there is enough evidence to condemn the regime. It affected several social structures people were not allowed to freely intermarry and interact.

This was coupled with limited expression rights as they were believed not to have rights. Movement was highly restricted as black people were to walk with passes and restricted to move within one district. Additionally, forceful evacuation was a norm as black people never owned land and houses permanently (Burger, 2011). What about employment?

Many skilled jobs were strictly reserved for whites as black people survived on manual duties with little or no pay. This contributed to low living standards and inability to meet their needs, manifested through labor strikes which were continuously witnessed in several organizations.

Consequently, violence escalated with police brutality hitting high levels and several people losing their lives as others spent the rest of their lives in jail. It was a system that needed more condemnation than just protesting in order to allow justice to prevail (Pfister, 2005).


Apartheid in South Africa is one of the most outstanding in the history of the country with millions of people with painful and remarkable memories.

With its culmination in 1994 democratic elections which saw Nelson Mandela rise to power, the regime had severe negative effects, which necessitated the need to end it and pave the way for a fair nation that respects humanity regardless of skin color, ethnicity, country of origin and gender (Pfister, 2005).

Based on the above analysis, it is important for a number of lessons to be learnt from it. World leaders need to establish and implement leadership mechanisms that would prevent recurrence of apartheid in South Africa or in other parts of the world.

To the millions who suffered under rule, reconciliation efforts are essential in allowing them to accept themselves and move on with life as they mingle with thousands of white settlers who continue owning parcels of land in the country. It should however to be forgotten that apartheid was important in transforming South Africa into what it is today. From factories and infrastructure to a stable economy, it had lifetime merits that ought to be acknowledged throughout in history.


Allen, J. (2005). Apartheid South Africa: An Insider’s Overview of the Origin and Effects of Separate Development. Bloomington, Indiana: iUniverse.

Atlas College. (2011). Nelson Mandela and Apartheid. Atlas College. Web.

BBC. (2010). . BBC News. Web.

Beinart, W., & Dubow, S. (1995). Segregation and apartheid in twentieth-century South Africa. London: Routledge.

Burger, D. (2011). History. South African Government Information. Web.

Edwards, P., & Hecht, G. (2010). History and the Techno politics of Identity: The Case of Apartheid South Africa. Journal of Southern African Studies, 36(3), p. 619-639.

Lundahl, M., & Petersson, L. (2009). Post-Apartheid South Africa; an Economic Success Story? . Web.

Pfister, R. (2005). Apartheid South Africa and African states: from pariah to middle power, 1961-1994. London: I.B.Tauris.

Rosmarin, I., & Rissik, D. (2004). South Africa. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish.

This essay on Apartheid in South Africa was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.
Removal Request
If you are the copyright owner of this paper and no longer wish to have your work published on IvyPanda.
Request the removal

Need a custom Essay sample written from scratch by
professional specifically for you?

Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar

certified writers online

Cite This paper
Select a referencing style:


IvyPanda. (2019, July 10). Apartheid in South Africa. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/apartheid-in-south-africa/

Work Cited

"Apartheid in South Africa." IvyPanda, 10 July 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/apartheid-in-south-africa/.

1. IvyPanda. "Apartheid in South Africa." July 10, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/apartheid-in-south-africa/.


IvyPanda. "Apartheid in South Africa." July 10, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/apartheid-in-south-africa/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Apartheid in South Africa." July 10, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/apartheid-in-south-africa/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Apartheid in South Africa'. 10 July.

More related papers
Psst... Stuck with your
assignment? 😱
Psst... Stuck with your assignment? 😱
Do you need an essay to be done?
What type of assignment 📝 do you need?
How many pages (words) do you need? Let's see if we can help you!