What is Apartheid

Apartheid is the term used to refer to the racial segregation that was imposed in South Africa between the years 1948 and 1994. The National Party that came to power in the year 1948, legalized the political system of apartheid, thereby, dividing the African population into three major groups, namely, Bantus (Black), whites and colored (mixed origin). Though the system of racial segregation was in practice since the times of colonialism, the racist approach in South Africa got strengthened after the Second World War. People other than whites were deprived of their basic rights and were kept out of the political process.

The Group Areas Act 1950 and the Land Act 1954 ensured that people belonging to different groups were made to reside in separate areas and had separate business sections too. The participation of the Blacks in the political process was completely restricted by the Bantu self Government Act 1959 that provided for separate homelands among the blacks depending on their tribes. It would be worth noting here that each person belonging to the tribe was given the citizenship of the homeland to which he belonged. At a later stage, a fourth group, Asians was added in addition to the three racial categories that already existed. This group comprised of the Indians and the Pakistanis who resided in South Africa.

The situation worsened when the non whites were denied political representation of any kind. The Blacks in South Africa were the ones who suffered the most owing to this racial policy, as they were ill treated and subjected to exploitation. Their rights to own land too was curtailed, thereby, worsening the scenario. Poor hygiene and substandard living conditions in the residential areas for the non whites triggered unrest in the country that led to protests and uprisings of various kinds.

However, as years passed by, the oppression of the lower racial groups led to violent protests in South Africa. International pressure mounted on South Africa as most countires strongly opposed this discrimination based on race. The first significant step by the International community against apartheid was when South Africa was forced to step down from the British Commonwealth in 1961. The sanctions imposed by countries against South Africa as result of its racial segregation policies further weakened the economic scenario of the country. Under the leadership of South African President, F.W de Klerk, the reforms in Constitution were brought about, resulting in the end of apartheid in the year 1994. The release of arrested Black leaders and the General elections that were held providing for participation of all ethnic groups marked the end of era of apartheid.

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