In 1948, a policy determined the future of South Africa. The two different groups that inhabited South Africa at the time were feuding to determine where the power lies. The Afrikaners came from the South, while the Bantu came from the North. Although both groups arrived at the same time, neither of the groups were willing to negotiate who gains control. The idea of discrimination based on race was introduced when the Afrikaners were convinced that discrimination was necessary for building a prosperous community. The Bantu population disagreed with this allegation, noting that discriminatory measures were not necessary.

The policy was called Apartheid to represent the separateness and societal development between the races. But the question still stands, what contributing factors lead to the apartheid? To reveal the answer, nearly half a millennium of history explains the rise and decline of the apartheid. Through analyzing the construction of the apartheid, the roots of racial discrimination begin to unravel. The idea of systematic segregation occurred due to ancestral racial differences and sociological conditions. There are two different elements to the apartheid. The first, known as the petty apartheid, refers to the racially motivated laws that adhere to everyday life. The second, called the grand apartheid, is described as the regions where different races were allowed to reside. [1] Both types of apartheid hinder and degrade human rights for the inferior group.

It was in 1488 when the first Portuguese expedition explored the Cape in South Africa. When explorers approached the land, the local natives began to defend themselves from the invaders. This would be known as the first recognition of another race in South Africa. [2] Two centuries had passed and Dutch colonists controlled the land. Not only did the colonists overpopulate the Cape, they also introduced slavery to South Africa. Their attempts to maintain the peace and refrain from enslaving the natives of the Cape caused the Dutch to retrieve slaves from West Africa and Angola in 1658. [3] After the Dutch colonists hired the natives for labor alongside their slaves, they began to treat them the same. The cause of this maltreatment stems from the physical and biological similarities between the natives and the slaves. They both possess darker skin pigmentation and lived under harsh conditions. Prior to Dutch colonization, the natives were living as hunters and gatherers in bands and tribes with their own livestock. Their minimalist society converted to a labor demanding domination controlled by white power. The colonists deemed the natives as easily controllable and uneducated in contrast to the Europeans. They believed the Cape and its people needed their help in order to survive and thrive. During the Dutch colonization, the White population had increased, outnumbering the natives six to one in 1688. However, for the 650 slave owners, there were 25,000 slaves in South Africa by 1798. [4]

Approximately seventy years before the Apartheid was announced, the white rule government was persevering the gap between the races. The white rule bounded the South Africa Act in 1910, stating that non-whites have little to no say in the elections, depending on region. While 8 million native South Africans were allowed to vote for three European officials, 2 million Europeans were able to elect 150 officials. [5] Because of the increasing number of the white population coupled with the laws of supply and demand, there began to be poor white people. With this disadvantage to the white community, the government made it their priority to give opportunities to poor white people only, despite the fact that the black population was struggling as well. Without regard to many more poor Africans, the white rules rehabilitated and reintegrated the poor white people back into the prestigious white community. “Poor whites and poor blacks – are generally treated separately from each other.” [6] In 1913, the Native Land Act was formed, which divided the country along racial lines; whites took 93% for themselves and left 7% for all the other races residing in South Africa. The colonial towns had created racial integration, which was seen as racial pollution. As white people continued to seclude themselves, a racial phobia emerged. [7] The colonists were terrified of the natives and they were afraid of losing power to them. Ten years later in 1923, the Urban Areas Act was formed noting that whites and non-whites could not live in the same areas of the country. By doing so, the government maintained political and economic power. They knew “their wealth was built on the poverty of the other races.” [8] Throughout the history of the apartheid, there are three different stages recognized. The first stage was acknowledged to be from 1948 to 1959 and was described as embedding European power, while instilling discrimination within the South African community. The second stage was between 1959 and 1966 that would be known as separating the developing world between the races, which would contribute to the apartheid. The final phase was over the course of 1966 to 1994 when the idea of apartheid became normalized and increasing in power. [9] As time went on, the white rule government began to decompose.


Figure 1. The Division Council of The Cape designating a White Area only.


The Group Areas Act of 1950 deemed all unnecessary contact unproductive between different races. This act was to ensure that race-to-race conflict would be minimal. This idea was demonstrated in the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act that was passed in 1953, which visually separated whites from non-whites in public spaces. This example of a petty apartheid dominates the main argument that racial differences are one of the causes of the apartheid. In 1962, Nelson Mandela, a prominent leader in the South African community, was to stand trial for coercing individuals to protest illegally as well as leaving the country with an invalid passport. Mandela’s claim confronted white authority about the inequality within their society. “All the rights and privileges to which I have referred are monopolized by whites, and we enjoy none of them.” [10] In his defense statement, Mandela continued to argue that the apartheid was built on false morals, disregarding human rights. After Nelson Mandela had attempted to reapply the values of human rights, South Africa residents began to protest for their natural rights as humans. This was the beginning of the South African uprising and the decline of the white empire. Beginning in 1960, Resolution declarations were issued to preserve the South Africa community from the apartheid. Resolution 1514 on the Declaration of Independence of the colonized countries and people states, “…domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights.” [11] To halt the progress of the apartheid, South Africa’s people had to first be acknowledged as having more potential than solely being colonized. Resolution 32/105 of 1977 emphasizes the people’s right in South Africa as a whole, “irrespective of race, colour or creed, to determine, on the basis of majority rule, the future of South Africa.” [12]


Figure 2. A protest poster portraying the potential to overcome an Apartheid Parliament.


Within the 46 years of white control, South Africans began to gain control. In 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from prison and would later be elected as President. He was released with support from the South Africa community in regards to the progress he made. In 1991, the Abolition of Racially Based Measures Act demands for the removal of any racial motivation in other laws. During this year, all remaining apartheid laws would be repealed, especially the Group Areas Act and Population Registration Act. These were the last group of laws to erase white power’s apartheid progress. [13] The future of South Africa was finally in the people’s hands.

After the final remnants of the apartheid diminished, Nelson Mandela dedicated his life to protecting and enforcing human rights in South Africa and around the world. Because South Africa transitioned from the apartheid and assumed peacetime so seamlessly, they were seen as an empowering nation around the world. South Africa established itself as a powerful role in global relations. In May of 1994, South Africa joined the Organization of African Unity and the Non-Aligned Movement as well as rejoined the Commonwealth of Nations after being denied membership for thirty-three years. Later, South Africa was even able rejoin the U.N. General Assembly and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after forty years. [14]


Figure 3. A news article about Nelson Mandela’s death and his contributions to South Africa. Los Angeles Times, 2013.


Although the apartheid only lasted forty-six years, its roots can be traced back half a millennium. The South African Apartheid stemmed from racial differences and sociological conditions between the European colonists and the native people. The natives were hunters and gatherers living in bands and tribes before colonists recreated their land and used them for labor. Because the natives seemed easily controlled and low maintenance for survival, the colonists took advantage of their land and culture in order to facilitate their own gains. Not only did the colonists believe they were helping the natives; they thought the natives and land needed them to succeed and flourish. The colonists introduced slavery to South Africa since it was important to preserve the peace without enslaving the natives. The white population continued to increase as well as the slave population. As the colonial towns increased in population, tensions between the Europeans and South Africans began and laws were enacted to segregate the two. The laws prohibited the two races from utilizing the same public spaces and residing in the same locations. Once the laws were enacted, law protected the racial discrimination and mistreatment. Thus, the apartheid began. With lawful apartheid came protests and resistance to the discriminatory laws based on race. The rich history of South Africa represents the struggle between racial discrimination and equality for humankind.




[1] Roger Beck, The History of South Africa The History of South Africa (West Port, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2000). P. 129.


[2] Beck, p. 25.


[3] Beck, p. 28.


[4] Beck, p. 28.


[5] New York Times, Racism in South Africa (ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times, 1950), p.29. Retrieved from


[6] Robert Ross, Anne Kelk Mager, & Bill Nasson, The Cambridge History of South Africa (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011). P. 254.


[7] Ross, Mager, & Nasson, p. 260.


[8] David Downing, Witness to Apartheid in South Africa (Illinois: Heinemann Library, 2004), pp. 4-15.


[9] David Welsh, The Rise and Fall of Apartheid (Jeppestown, South Africa: Jonathan Ball and Charlottesville, Virginia: University of Virginia Press, 2009). P. 101.


[10] Nelson Mandela, Defense Statement: Nelson Mandela Papers, (1962-1964) retrieved from


[11] David Welsh & E. Spence, Ending Apartheid (Edinberg: Pearson Education, 2011).


[12] Enunga Reddy, “Apartheid, South Africa and International Law” (United Nations Centre against Apartheid: Notes and Documents, 1985), retreieved from,%20South%20Africa%20and%20International%20Law.pdf.


[13] David Welsh & E. Spence, Ending Apartheid (Edinberg: Pearson Education, 2011).


[14] Beck, 45.

[15]Paul Maylam, “The Rise and Decline of Urban Apartheid in South Africa,” African Affairs 89, 354 (1990): 57-84.



[16] Lyndsey Chutel, “African Migrants in South Africa are in Fear of Their Lives- Again,” Quarts Africa (2017), retrieved on February 22, 2017 from


[17] Stephanie Ott, “Heroes of the Anti-Apartheid Movement,” CNN (2013), retrieved February 20, 2017 from


[18] Greg Myre, “20 Years After Apartheid, South Africa Asks, How are We Doing?,” Northwest Public Radio (2014), retrieved February 20, 2017 from




Figure 1. The Division Council of The Cape designating a White Area only,


Figure 2. A protest poster portraying the potential to overcome an Apartheid Parliament.


Figure 3. A news article about Nelson Mandela’s death and his contributions to South Africa. Los Angeles Times, 2013.