South Africa - theme 1

The response to apartheid, 1948-59

When the National Party came to power in 1948, South Africans were actually categorised into 4 racial groups:

  • Whites (Europeans)
  • Africans (Natives)
  • Coloureds
  • Indians (Asiatics)
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The response to apartheid, 1948-59

The original inhabitants of South Africa were San or Bushmen people, hunters and gatherers with profound knowledge of the natural world who left a rich legacy of Volk paintings.

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The response to apartheid, 1948-59

Around 2000 years ago, black African farming people migrated to the region. Some San adopted their livestock farming practices and became known as Khoikhoi.

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The response to apartheid, 1948-59

By the time of the 1951 census, at the beginning of the apartheid era, Africans numbered 8.5 million. The two most dominant groups of these were classed as whites were the Afrikaners and British.

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The response to apartheid, 1948-59

South Africa's population, roughly 60% of whites or 1.6 million in the 1951 census, of Afrikaners were descended largely from the Dutch, French and German settlers who came to South Africa in the 17th and 18th century.

The whites who spoke English as a first language in South Africa were descendants of British colonists who arrived after the Cape became apart of the British Empire in 1806 - 1 million in the 1951 census.

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The response to apartheid, 1948-59

Most of those who were not classed as White or African were called Coloured. They numbered roughly 1.1 million in 1951, which equated to 9% of the population.

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The response to apartheid, 1948-59

For 60 years, settlers in Natal imported indentured Indians to work on the sugar plantations.

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The response to apartheid, 1948-59

MPs and most of the electorate were white, with the exception of some Coloured and African people in the Cape Colony who could meet certain property and educational qualifications.

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The response to apartheid, 1948-59

After 1930, white women were able to vote but Africans were completely disenfranchised in 1936. The 1948 election was almost entirely decided by the whites, who made up about 21% of the total population.

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The response to apartheid, 1948-59

Gold was discovered in the Witwatersrand area of Transvaal in 1886. The city of Johannesburg grew up quickly to provide services for the mines. 

The city grew from nothing in 1886 to around 100,000 by 1990. By 1948 the population of Johannesburg was approaching 1 million.

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The response to apartheid, 1948-59

With around 180,000 white men serving in WW2, job opportunities increased for blacks. When the war ended, blacks and whites competed for jobs and space in cities.

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The response to apartheid, 1948-59

The 'poor white problem' became a particular concern to government and churches, which both determined that whites should be kept as a separate and distinct group.

Poor whites had the vote and the Nationalists appealed to their sense of insecurity with the promise of protecting employment in government service and factories.

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The response to apartheid, 1948-59

The influx of migrants was too large, so there was the establishment of informal or shack settlements. The biggest township was 20km to the south west of Johannesburg, which later became Soweto.

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The response to apartheid, 1948-59

By 1948, land ownership was deeply divided by race and by class. Whites owned over 80% of the land in the country, but not inhabited by only whites. Blacks were in the majority of most farms, where they worked as wage labourers and tenants.

Most African rural communities either lived on white-owned farms or reserves. On average, these African reserves produced about 50% of their food in 1948, though this varied greatly between homesteads.

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The response to apartheid, 1948-59

Between 1809 and 1902, Britain fought the South African War against the two Afrikaner republics. After union in 1910, politicians, such as Jan Smuts, attempted to unify the white population within the British Empire.

Smuts was opposed by J. B. M. Hertzog, who founded an exclusively Afrikaner National Party in 1913. Hertzog secured major gains for Afrikaners when he won the 1924 election.

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The response to apartheid, 1948-59

The Great Depression undermined Hertzog that in 1934, he and Smuts joined together in a United Party. D. F. Malan split from Hertzog to re-found the National Party.

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The response to apartheid, 1948-59

In 1938, the century of the Great Trek was commemorated by a dramatic and popular re-enactment. Afrikaans bibles, Christian tracts, newspapers, books and magazines poured off the presses.

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The response to apartheid, 1948-59

In 1948, the Afrikaner vote had become significant. It was the culmination of a rising Afrikaner sense of themselves as a people (Volk), with their own language, religion and culture.

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The response to apartheid, 1948-59

People of British decent made up about 40% of the white population. British investors dominated mines and industries. English was the joint official language, and British sports, such as rugby, football and cricket, were popular across South Africa.

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Why was the National Party victorious in 1948?

In 1939, parliament voted to support the British war effort and Hertzog resigned from the United Party, leaving Smuts in control.

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Why was the National Party victorious in 1948?

After 1939, a carefully chosen society of Afrikaner white men called the Broederbond, provided ideological direction in favour of a Christian, Nationalist, Republican outlook.

Many Afrikaners professed a deeply held Christianity, mostly in the Calvinist Dutch Reformed Churches, which supported the idea of an autonomous volk. In their reckoning, black and white people played different parts in God's plan.

A mass anti-war movement, the Ossewabrandwag, was launched by Afrikaners and had 300,000 members at its peak. Uniformed militias staged mass rallies and formed shooting associations.

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Why was the National Party victorious in 1948?

Smuts was a pragmatist, and if the industry needed more black workers, he was prepared to facilitate this.

His Minister of Health, Henry Gluckman, advocated an urgent expansion of health services in the country, which would serve both blacks and whites, though in segregated hospitals.

For many insecure whites, these developments were threatening and in the 1948 election campaign Afrikaner nationalists harnessed everyday racism in promoting fear:

  • Swart Gevaar - black danger
  • Oostrooming - flooding
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Why was the National Party victorious in 1948?

Afrikaners accused Smuts and his party of being sympathetic to black people and failing to control these political dangers. In Afrikaner nationalist hands, the language of race, never absent in South African politics, was becoming more intense.

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Why was the National Party victorious in 1948?

Malan still only won about 38% of the vote in 1948, and Smuts United Party won 49%. Although Smuts won a larger percentage of the votes it was Malan, with more National Party MPs, who formed a government and became Prime Minister.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

An early priority was to stay in political power. In 1949, 6 members of parliament were added for whites in Namibia, where the Nationalists had support.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

The Nationalists passed the 1951 Separate Representation of Voters Act, removing the remaining Coloured vote. The Nationalists proved they were prepared to act ruthlessly to secure their political power.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

In 1953, the National Party increased its vote from around 400,000 to nearly 600,000 and narrowly out-polled the United Party, though it still did not win the majority of the white vote.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

Hendrick Verwoerd, Minister of Native Affairs and Prime Minister, coordinated the apartheid project.

The first step was the Bantu Authorities Act (1951), which aimed to harness the institution of African chieftaincy and ensure that traditional roles were appointed in the reserves.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

In 1959, Verwoerd passes the Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act, which envisaged self-governing African units, based around traditional authorities.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

Other acts included;

  • Mixed Marriage Act (1949)
  • Immorality Act (1950) 

Both of these acts aimed to prohibit marriage and sex between whites and blacks.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

  • Population Registration Act (1950)

This assigned people to one of four race categories. A national register recorded this and identity documents were issued so that race could be public knowledge.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

  • Group Areas Act (1950)

In every city remained areas close to the centre where Coloured, Indians and Blacks owned houses, shops or businesses. The Group Areas Act eradicated this.

Three such zones were Sophiatown in Johannesburg, District Six in Cape Town and Cato Manor in Durban. These three places became symbols of cruelties of Group Areas and urban disoppression.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

Sophiatown housed nearly 60,000 people, with wealthier professionals, such as former ANC president Dr Xuma.

There were shebeens (illegal bars), tsotsis (youthful street criminals) and gangsters. Within six years from 1950, it was bulldozed to rubble.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

Durban housed about 450,000 people in 1951;

  • 1/3 Indian
  • 1/3 African
  • 1/3 White

By 1965, the shacks had largely been removed from Cato Manor and tens of thousands of African people sent to far-flung townships.

About 41,000 Indian people had been moved to exclusively Indian zones.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

Group Areas Act was enforced in District Six from 1965. About 60,000 people were forcibly removed and resettled on the distant Cape flats; the District Six buildings were bulldozed.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

  • The Reservation of Separate Amenities Act (1953)

This act made it legal to provide separate facilities for black people, not at an equal quality as whites.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

  • The Natives Abolition of Passes Act (1952)

This instead required a reference book for each African adult, which they had to present on demand. This established their identity and whether they had the right to be in urban areas.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

  • Urban Areas Act (1952)

This gave right to a minority of African people who had;

  • been born in town
  • worked in town for 10 years
  • lived there for 15 years

These were extended to their children.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

Convictions under pass laws increased from 164,324 in 1952 to 384,497 in 1962. In these years, about 3 million people were made criminals for trying to exercise their right to move.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

The African urban population of South Africa rose from 1.8 million people in 1946 to 3.5 million in 1960. This was more than the whole of the white population.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

Only 24% of black South Africans were recorded as literate in the 1951 census.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

  • The Bantu Education Act (1953)

This was passed in order to extend education to African children, but also to segregate the context of education. It brought schools for Africans directly under state control.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

Fear of Tsotsis was one of the major drivers behind the expansion of education.

Hendrick Verwoerd, the Minister of Native Affairs, believed the state should provide basic education for a greater number of people, but that Bantu education should prepare African people for only limited roles and opportunities after school.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

Before the 1950s, black students who finished their matric and came from wealthier backgrounds had been able to attend the University of Fort Hare. A few hundred were admitted to Universities of Cape Town and Witwatersrand, where they received the same training as whites.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

  • Extension of University Education Act (1959)

Ensured that Fort Hare came under government control.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

The post-war era was a period of economic growth and optimism in much of the world.

A commission was appointed under Professor F. R. Tomlinson, an agricultural economist at the University of Stellenbosch, which reported in 1955.

The Tomlinson Commission believed that the Bantustans could be transformed by massive state investment of over £100 million.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

Three of Tomlinson's recommendations include;

  • agricultural plots had become too small and migrant labour undermined agriculture. He recommended creating a full-time class of farmers by increasing the size of plot and turning communal into private tenure.
  • advocating major funding for rural industries.
  • private enterprise, both South African and foreign, should be encouraged to invest in these areas.
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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

For all his commitment to separate development, Verwoerd rejected these key recommendations. He believed that the Bantu should develop 'at their own pace'.

The Native Affairs Department warned 'individual tenure would undermine the whole tribal structure'.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

The goverment prioritised a policy of 'betterment' or rehabilitation. It was cheaper but also very disruptive.

'Betterment' was a strategy that would stop environmental degradation and enable Africans to intensify their farming without destroying the soil and vegetation.

  • They divided the pastures with barbed wire into smaller paddocks
  • Animals were moved from paddock to paddock throughout the year to avoid over-grazing
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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

Over 1 million people were forced to move into villages during the 1950s and 1960s. Some African people were forced to sell some of their livestock in order to ease pressure on the pastures.

Although substantial new areas of white-owned land were bought to extend the homelands, they still made up a very limited percentage of South Africa's land area. The National Party was not prepared to divide South Africa equally.

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How was apartheid codified and implemented?

In 1956, 156 members of the Congress Alliance, including most of the ANC leadership, were arrested in down-raids. Those arrested were accused of high treason and subjected to a trial that was only fully resolved after 5 years.

The trial brought the leaders of the Congress movement together in a special court in Pretoria. The prosecutors were unable to prove their case and all the accused were acquitted in 1961.

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How did African Nationalism develop?

In 1948, there was no single black opposition group, nor a single ideology uniting the different movements.

The ANC had been established in 1912 by a group of black professionals. Initially, they were spurred to action by the creation of the Union of South Africa in 1910.

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How did African Nationalism develop?

The ANC Youth League founded in 1944, helped to galvanise the movement into more radical action. They were inspired by the rise of global anti-colonial rhetoric and by the new confidence of African nationalists in West Africa.

The Youth League was also alarmed by white rhetoric about race and racial segregation. Their politics took courage from a new phase of mass political action, especially around Johannesburg and the Witwatersrand.

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How did African Nationalism develop?

The ANC Youth League tried to provide a vision for the future. Initially led by lawyer Anton Lembede, and including A. P. Mda, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela, they developed a specifically Africanist ideology, prioritising the self-determination of African people.

Youth Leaguers included some of the small minority who had been to university, mostly at Fort Hare, but they saw themselves as having the potential to cross boundaries of class through their philosophy of Africanism.

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How did African Nationalism develop?

The Youth League Programme of Action was adopted by the ANC in December 1949. It moved away from the policy of concession-seeking from a white government to a more militant liberation organisation.

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How did African Nationalism develop?

By the 1940s, the Communist Party accepted that it was unlikely to find mass support among the black workers for a proletarian revolution in South Africa.

The National Party, which was deeply anti-communist, banned the Communist Party in 1950.

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How did African Nationalism develop?

Although the Youth Leaguers, including Mandela and Tambo, were initially uneasy about working with communists, this alliance gradually became cemented.

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How did African Nationalism develop?

Whites, Indians and Coloured people were not accepted into the ANC itself. There was already a South African Indian Congress, and white and coloured activists formed parallel organisations.

A significant grouping of white liberals also emerged, who were highly critical of apartheid and believed in an extension of black political rights.

They formed a Liberal Party in 1953 and advocated a new language of politics based on respect and equal individual rights, rather than racial rhetoric.

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How did African Nationalism develop?

The ANC's new militancy found a particular focus in the Defiance Campaign of 1952. Their strategy was for groups of volunteers to break racially based restrictions, such as curfews and segregated facilities, and to risk arrest.

The Defiance Campaign was influenced by the ideas of non-violent civil disobedience promoted by the Indian nationalist Mahatma Gandhi.

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How did African Nationalism develop?

The ANC's new militancy found a particular focus in the Defiance Campaign of 1952. Their strategy was for groups of volunteers to break racially based restrictions, such as curfews and segregated facilities, and to risk arrest.

The Defiance Campaign was influenced by the ideas of non-violent civil disobedience promoted by the Indian nationalist Mahatma Gandhi.

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How did African Nationalism develop?

The major cities of Johannesburg and Durban were intended to be the heart of the Defiance Campaign. As it turned out, support was relatively thin in those cities with most arrests, 6,000 out of 8,000, made in the Eastern Cape cities of Port Elizabeth and East London.

The outcome of the Defiance Campaign was hugely important for the ANC. It's claimed membership shot up from 4,000 to 100,000 people.

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How did African Nationalism develop?

A Woman's League was founded in 1948, incorporating existing women's organisations into the ANC, and during the 1950s they expanded their support. Women were prominent in the grassroots protests of the Defiance Campaign.

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How did African Nationalism develop?

In 1955, when the pass laws were extended to women, Lilian Ngoyi staged a major protest against passes, collected signatures and 20,000 marched on the Union Buildings, the seat of government power in Pretoria. In 1957, they protested outside the pass office in Johannesburg.

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How did African Nationalism develop?

In 1955, the Congress Alliance wrote a charter listing their core political beliefs. This became known as the Congress of the People Campaign.

Thousands across South Africa submitted their suggestions on issues that ranged from the franchise and education to the ownership of mines and land.

The Freedom Charter committed the movement to a non-racial South Africa and laid an important foundation for future political mobilisation.

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How did African Nationalism develop?

During the 1950s, the ANC combined within one movement the Africanist ideas of the early Youth League and the non-racial approach of the combined Congress Alliance.

At the same time, a group of Africanists, largely based in Johannesburg, tried to maintain a district political identity and published a regular newsletter, 'The Africanist', which promoted the idea of 'Africa for Africans'.

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How did African Nationalism develop?

Their biggest concentration of support was probably among teachers, including Potlake Leballo and Robert Sobukwe, who emerged as their most significant leaders.

They thought that non-Africans were gaining too much influence in the Congress movement. The Freedom Charter (1955) was an important movement, with much of the final draft written by a multi-racial committee.

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How did African Nationalism develop?

Africanists believed that the ANC should be overwhelmingly led by Africans and represent the interests of Africans as the majority of the South African population.

Sobukwe argued, perhaps with a little contradiction, that there was only one human race, but that Africa belonged to the Africans.

The Africanists believed that complete independence and freedom implied the return of the land to Africans. The Freedom Charter, they felt, was too concerned with Civil Rights for all.

The Africanists wanted more confrontational, direct action.

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How did African Nationalism develop?

An organisation split was triggered in 1958 when the leadership of the provincial ANC in the Transvaal was re-elected as a slate to their positions without debate.

In April 1959, they held a founding convention for Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) in Orlando. They read telegrams of support from Nkruman and Sekov Toure in independent Ghana and Guinea

These events were widely reported in the black and white press.

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How did African Nationalism develop?

Within the ANC, some felt that the government had allowed the PAC to organise freely because it was keen to split the nationalist movement, and hoped the PAC's views might be closer to separate development. In fact, the PAC was hostile to the division of South Africa into Bantustans.

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