What Does Apartheid Really Mean?

By Toby Tunwase

Virtually everyone has heard of the word “Apartheid” and how the illustrious Nelson Mandela and his colleagues resisted it. However, very few people realize the real implications of Apartheid and the level of segregation that was perpetrated through it.

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To put it simply, Apartheid referred to the racial segregation empowered by the law and practiced in South Africa in the 1990s. When the law authorizes racial segregation, the laws of territory are intentionally designed to discriminate and limit a particular group of persons.

In South Africa, this had been the case for a long while. However, in 1948, the National Party came into power and extended the scope of segregation while also giving it the name “Apartheid.” During this period, several laws were passed to widen and cement the gulf in class between the “Whites” and “Blacks” in South Africa. An example is the Group Areas Act of 1950 that established restricted living and business areas in urban areas for each race. Members of other races were prevented from living, working, or owning property in such areas. This act worked in synergy with the Land Acts of 1954 and 1955, which ensured that over 80% of the land in South Africa belonged to the white minority. 

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Other laws passed ensured no nonwhite participation in the national government, different educational standards and structures for both races, discrimination in access to public facilities, and many others.

The Apartheid period was a time of government-administered and government-controlled segregation against most “blacks” in South Africa.