8 May 2022


Impact of Apartheid on South Africa and South Africans

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For close to 50 years, the republic of South Africa and South Africans were subjected to a system of racial segregation that was better referred to as apartheid. In 1948 when the national party took over the governance of the South African nation, it’s all white government immediately took on a course to implement apartheid policies. This system led to discrimination and violation of human rights where the black population who were the majority, were the receiving end of any violations. Being their country, many South Africans were not happy with how such rules were being imposed on them and decided to take on efforts to ensure their freedom. By 1991 when the government of President F.W. de Klerk began to repeal most of the legislation that gave ground to apartheid, the impact and effects of this system had hit hard and continued to oppress South Africans and their country at large.

Apartheid was a perfect example of what a police state looks like considering the system of tailing that made sure black people were not crossing the law. It was a system where the natives and their families were holed up in reservations, put to enslavement segregated and all three were being done at the same time. That’s just a perception of how harsh the system was. In the US for example, if a person has any kind of association with black and white blood, then they are automatically black, but in South Africa, it was a different case with racial segregation on a new level. “In south Africa, mixed people came to be classified as their own separate group, neither black nor white but we call “colored”” (A: Noah). Noah goes ahead to say that during apartheid, white people, black, colored and Indians were supposed to register their race with the government. Basing on this, the government would know where to relocate who. That all four groups were segregated miles away from one another but most importantly, away from the whites. This was achieved through the vast amounts of unused land that acted as buffer zones.

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Segregation was even evident in the labor sector where the government further separated black families. Men were left in the shacks that served as barracks where 18 would share a compartment while their wives and children were relocated to Bantustans which were 300 miles away and in dire situation as a result of overcrowding and lack of jobs. This idea was justified by then deputy minister of justice mister Proneman who claimed that “Black workers must not be burdened with superfluous appendages like women and children” (H: Proneman) These men worked in factories and mines and even docks like in cape town and were only allowed to visit their families only for one month in a year (B: Last Grave at Dimbaza). Mr. J. Schoeman, minister of labor in 1954 supported the subjection of black workers in these conditions by saying that it was more important maintaining the status quo since “If we reach the stage where the native can climb to the highest rung in our economic ladder and be appointed in the supervisory capacity over Europeans, then……..it would mean the end of the European race” (C: Schoeman). According to the movie Last Grave at Dimbaza, the prime minister Mr. foster Malan went further to claim that “ We need them to work for us, but the fact that they work for us can never entitle them to political rights, not now and in the future under no circumstance” ( G: Malan)

If one thought that the only effect that apartheid had on South Africans was the segregation of races, then they would be shocked to find out how else this system was offensive. The government had laws in place that banned sex between the white people and those it deemed as non-white, says Noah. To see that the rule stood ground, the government went further to instill harsh penalties for offenders. If caught, one would spend five years behind bars and there was also a special police force that was trained in this particular field where their job was to go around peeking into people’s houses and spot victims. Noah says that the application of this rule was somewhat different, if a black woman was caught in this scenario, the white man with her would be forgiven and left to walk away while the woman is dragged out, mercilessly beaten and then arrested. He says that white men in this situation would even be accused of rape (A: Noah).

The issue of mixed race during the apartheid was a serious issue and such is evidence in the sense that parents with mixed children would flee to foreign countries in Europe via Botswana and Lesotho if could afford the means. After Mandela’s election, mixed races could finally breathe a sigh of relief as this meant freedom for them. Noah says this is when he started meeting several other mixed children and even at one point, one told him a story of how they left and he could not just believe it, “Wait, what? You mean we could have left?” (A: Noah). He gives a story of how he would stay indoors because if left, then he risked the deportation of his family or the arrest of those associated with him. That at one point his white father ran away from him when he dared to call him “Daddy” in a public park in Johannesburg and that his mother would use a colored friend of hers to act as his mother if they wanted to get out for a walk.

In as much as segregation made sense to the whites, they could not do without laborers and black people came in handy at this stage albeit through discrimination. Black women and men were subjected to particular jobs like the mines for men and house chores for women (A: Noah). Those who worked in towns were holed up in townships like Soweto in jo burg. The townships were no better than the reserves upcountry since the same rule still applied to dwellers and was even harsher with police patrols everywhere. Soweto for example with more than I million people living there, had only one entry and one exit which helped in manning the movement of those who stayed there. There were black only means of transport, whites only beaches where blacks were only supposed to return the sand that was washed away by sea water (B: Last Grave at Dimbaza). All these started facing resistance and key amongst the rebellion were pantsula dancers who were rebellious youths that ignored the regime and would dress in flashy clothing something that was against the norm (I: Chris Saunders).

The fear of both Schoeman and Malan would be realized as black resistance continued to grow in the 80s but the effect it had was dire. Blacks were creating political fronts to combat the Whiteman and instead of benefiting the efforts towards the abolition of apartheid, they started to divide the black community even further. 1983, an antiapartheid movement called The United Democratic Front was born but then their way of doing things was more liberal compared to some other sprouting political fronts. In Clermont for example, there was the Inkatha Freedom Party which formed the Kwazulu government and wanted Clermont to be part of its government. The Inkatha were more militant and nationalistic and their policies had no room for a white man. Headed by one Jamile, the Inkatha failed to lure Clermont which had the support of UDF supporters into its government and so he set on a course of killing those who did not support his course together with their supporters. Several leaders of the Clermont Advisory Board were assassinated by Jamile and even jeering him was a risk as it would mean being shot. Msizi Jethro Hlope is one of the men who used to do the dirty work for Jamile as per the evidence before the court during his application for amnesty.” In his evidence before us, applicant says that Jamile enquired from him if he was prepared to go and kill Mkhize. He told Jamile that he was willing to do so” (D: TRC).

Nelson Mandela’s release from prison marked the end of apartheid but the effects of this regime would not go away as many people would have wanted. Everyone knew that a black man was going to rule after De Klerk but the issue was who. The ANC under Mandela planned to include the white man in their agenda of togetherness and development while the Inkatha wanted to get rid of the Whiteman. Inkathas were predominantly Zulus while the ANC were Xhosa affiliated though many other tribes supported them and so a war broke out between the two pacts that led to the deaths of thousands of people. Apartheid had led to a political mayhem among South Africans and left them to put their own act together. People had forgotten the unity they had when fighting and campaigning for freedom and started fighting each other.

From the essay, it is easy to see how horrific apartheid was to South Africa and the effect it had on the people. Discrimination, segregation and racism was the order of the day and they had to live through it for as long as they did. “The worst of all horrors in the world is to live forever as a slave, as a hated, despised sub-human.” (E: Have You Heard from Johannesburg). South Africans fought hard and the lives of thousands lost in the struggle for freedom, a sentiment that the late freedom fighter Nelson Mandela pointed out by saying that “it is not the kings and the generals that make history, but the masses of the people” (F: Mandela). 


Marais, Hein. "South Africa pushed to the limit."  The Political Economy of Change  (2011): 62-75.

"Have You Heard From Johannesburg". 2009. Youtube . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IU48nQUEYtI&list=PLE55A68DAC942EA75&index=1.

"Last Grave At Dimbaza". 2016. Youtube . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHH5sA-GB20.

LYF, Artist and Fowler UCLA. 2017. "Artist Chris Saunders On Pantsula 4 LYF". L.A. Weekly . http://www.laweekly.com/event/artist-chris-saunders-on-pantsula-4-lyf-7909823.

Noah, Trevor. Born A Crime . 1st ed. New York: Penguin Random House, 2016.

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 16). Impact of Apartheid on South Africa and South Africans.


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