How and why did the apartheid system come into existence in South Africa and how was its existence maintained and enforced for so long?

Topics: South Africa, Afrikaner, Apartheid Pages: 5 (1600 words) Published: April 1, 2008
The term "apartheid" was one of the most politically charged words in the second half of the 20th century, and still remains notorious today. Apartheid translated from Afrikaans means "separateness" or "apartness". However when the National Party came to power in South Africa in 1948, it took on a much more sinister meaning and today is associated with racial and ethnic discrimination. The roots of apartheid stem deep into South African history. It started way back during European settlement, and was enforced and maintained right up until the end of the 20th Century. It will forever leave a mark on South Africa and indeed the world; a dark period in human history from which we have and will continue to learn.

Tensions between Europeans and native Africans have existed since the first days of settlement and the earliest signs of what would snowball to become apartheid can be traced to these times. In 1488, the Portuguese first sailed past the Cape of Good Hope, eventually landing there and trading for food with people who called themselves Khoikhoi. It wasn't until the 1600s though, when the Dutch East India Company set up a base in Southern Africa, that the roots for what is today known as South Africa were put down. Initially contacts between the Khoikhoi and the new Europeans were peaceful, but over time the situation grew hostile. Aided by their guns, as well as the diseases they brought with them, the Europeans took more and more land and disrupted the natives' lifestyle.

By 1795 15000 Europeans and their slaves were scattered throughout the Cape colony. Violence between the natives and the Europeans was inevitable. There had been fights between the groups in small battles, but it wasn't until the late 18th Century that there was a large scale frontier war between them. The natives were driven back, but in 1806 Britain took over the Dutch Cape Colony, bringing British settlers to the area. This wasn't a real problem to the Boers, the earliest European settlers, at first, but conflict soon ensued. In 1833 Britain ended slavery throughout its empire, including the Cape. The Boers strongly disagreed with this and they wanted to keep their independence as they believed they had a God-given right to own African land and slaves.

In the late 1830's they migrated north and eastwards far from British Rule to establish their own independent republics, in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. However when diamonds and gold were found later in the 19th Century the British interest in these interior areas was re-activated. The Anglo-Boer War was fought as a result during the years 1899-1902. This war was one of the epic conflicts in the building of an Afrikaner ideology and sense of identity. The hate of the British afterwards greatly contributed to the firm Afrikaner belief that they were chosen by God to rule the land, a belief that would be shown and implemented in the apartheid system.

Leading up to the First World War, South Africa remained a deeply divided country. Only 21.5 percent of the population were white, Boers were still resentful over the Anglo-Boer war and the majority black population was divided amongst itself. It was also during this time and after the war that the roots of apartheid began to emerge. Policies, such as the Mine and Works Act of 1911, which forced blacks into the category of cheap labour, and the Natives Land Act of 1913, paved the start of the pathway that would lead to apartheid. Even repression from the police was evident in this time, when in 1920 African mineworkers went on strike and were killed in Port Elizabeth for their efforts. Even before the National Party, that would implement apartheid to its extreme, was elected, apartheid was occurring and existed throughout the country.

In summary the policy of apartheid was a product of the late colonial era and came into existence due to events during early settlement, and events later such as the Anglo-Boer, that sparked and...
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