Why Did Apartheid Happen in South Africa?


Apartheid was created as a means of cementing economic and social control over South Africa and its resources. The country was colonized by the English and the Dutch in the 17th century. Yet, when gold was discovered in the 1900s, the British seized control, and war broke out. Eventually, peace negotiations were reached and the two shared power over South Africa until the Reunited National Party won the 1948 election.

Officially, South Africa was formed in 1910, but it was formed under British rule. The British accepted that English speakers would never hold a majority rule in South Africa and granted limited self-government to the Afrikaners. From South Africa’s formation in 1910 to the Reunited National Party’s win in 1948, there was always some form of racial segregation in place. According to About.com, Afrikaner nationalists were given free rein to reorganize the country, and from the beginning, segregation practices were instituted. Although nonwhites did have some form of representation, it was short lived. In 1948, the Reunited National Party extended its power by reorganizing the voting districts, which led to its 1948 win and seize of power. Slowly, it began to strip away the few rights nonwhites were allowed.

Over the decades, laws were passed to separate blacks, coloreds and Indians from whites and from each other. The Group Areas Act No 41 of 1950 created zones for each racial group, which led to the physical removal of nonwhites living in inappropriate zones. More than three million people were removed by force. In 1951, the reunited National Party and the Afrikaner Party merged to form the National Party, which became synonymous with apartheid. As a stronger party, the segregation laws continued to be passed. The Bantu Authorities Act No 68 of 1951 led to the creation of Bantustans, separate homelands created for each Bantu group. Movement outside of the area was restricted. Other laws such as “pass laws,” which required blacks, coloreds and Indians to carry badges indicating their race, were instituted as well. Laws also were passed to designate certain jobs as white only. Through apartheid, the National Party controlled South Africa’s economy, diamond mines, jobs and social and monetary systems.