South Africa- The response to aparhtied

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What was life like in South Africa in 1948 (Race a


When the national party came to power in 1948, South Africa were already categorised into 4 racial groups. White,Black,Indian and Coloureds. It is difficult to describe South African people without using the racial categories that become so entrenched. 

Black- The original inhabitants of South Africa were the San or Bushmen people.The zulu became the largest African kingdom despite Britain conquering the Zulu kingdom.By the time of 1951,the Africans numbered 8.5million The two most dominant groups of white people were the Afrikaners and those of British decent. Afrikaners numbered 1.6 million in the 1951 consensus. The British ( 1milion) arrived in 1806 after the discovery of minerals Coloured and Indians were descendants of the San and were slaves brought from South East Asia from the Dutch. The numbered roughly 1.1 million people in the 1951 consensus. 

Segregation and discrimination. Racial discrimination existed in South Africa before 1948. Britain did not require whites to share power with black people despite the fact that whites were a minority of the population. MPs were mostly, with the exception of a few Indians. The 1948 was therefore almost entirely decided by the minority white population. (21%)

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Urbanization, industrialisation, townships and Rur

Urbanisation and industrialisation. 

  • Gold was discovered in Transvaal in 1886. Johannesburg quickly grew up to provide services to the mines. The mines needed workers and the city grew from nothing in 1886 to around 100,000 in 1900. By 1948, he population was approaching a million people.
  • The gold mines were the motor of the South African industrial economy but gradually industry diversified from gold to producing textiles.During WW2, it was difficult to import goods from Britain so SA industry expanded to supply home market.Poor whites had the vote and the nationalists appealed to their sense of insecurity 
  • Townships. Governments prior to 1948 had been keen to maintain cities predominately white. This led to the established of shack settlements. The biggest of these was Soweto where most residents were poor. 

Rural society

  • South Africa had long been primarily a rural country with majority of people living in small towns. Whites owned over 80% if the land and most of it as farms held as private property. 
  • Black people were in the majority on most farms where they worked as wage labourers. White owners and black staff lived together but in a strict hierarchy. White were able to maintain racial authority. 
  • Outside of white-owned farms, black people also lived on reserves. Christian was the main religion in these reserves and they had schools and churches. They wore traditional dress and women worked too. Reserves produced about 50% of their food. 
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Afrkaner culture and politics and the Influence of

Afrikaner culture and politics.

  • Between 1899 and 1902, Britain fought the Anglo-Boer war to take control of the region. After union in 1910, politicians such as Smuts attempted to unify the white population within the British Empire even though some Afrikaners were resentful to this
  • Smuts was opposed by Hertzog who founded the Afrikaner National party and won the 1924 election and secured gains for Afrikaners (e.g Dutch as a national language and teaching bilingualism in the national civil service)
  • The Great depression so undermined that in 1934, Hertzog joined wth Smuts to form a United party. 
  • Malan split from Hertzog to re-fund the National party. 
  • In 1948 the Afrikaner vote had become significant. It was the culmination of rising Afrikaner sense of themselves as a people (or volk) with their own language religion and culture

The influence of Britain 

  • In 1948, South Africa was a self-governing part of the British empire and a parliament set in imitation of the system found in Westminister. Pople of British descent made up about 40% of the white population.
  • English was a joint official language and British sports, such as rugby and cricket were popular across South Africa
  • These strong cultural and political link had encouraged South Africa to join WW2 on the side of Britain. 
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The growth of Afrikaner nationalism

The growth of Afrikaner nationalism 

  • The idea of Afrikaners as a 'volk' with a distinct identity gained increasingly political currency after 1939. A society of carefully chosen Afrikaner white men, called the Brodedebond provided ideological direction in favour of a Christian, nationalist, Republican outlook. They initiated an economic movement to promote Afrikaner business
  • Religious institutions were also at the heart of nationalism. Many Afrikaners professed a deeply held Christianity which supported the idea of an autonomous volk.They believed that white people & black people had different roles in Gods plan
  • Many Afrikaner nationalists adamantly opposed the decision to go to war in 1939. In part, this reflected their unease about fighting for the British Empire.An anti-war movement (Ox wagon Guard)was launched by Afrikaners and critics compared them to nazis. By 1948, the Afrikaner influence within society was sufficient to provide a base to contest the election 

international Context

  • The context of this was a time where there was a war against fascism and a slowly growing consensus that all people had a right to self-determination and to basic human rights.  
  • Following the Second World war, the major powers increasingly articulated a concern for universal human rights. The colnial empires were gradually dismantled in the two decades from 1947 when India became Independent  


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The 1948

  • In the glow of allied victory over fascism, and with Smuts playing a major role in the formation in the UN, his united party flirted with liberal policies. Smuts wasn't a liberal but was a pragmatist. He was prepared to facilitate more black workers.
  • Afrikaner nationalist in the 1948 election campaign promoted the fear of 'black danger' and 'oorstrooming' the flooding of African people into the cities.
  • Malan's national party had major support in the countryside and here they were able to play to a related concern, that African workers were streaming to the cities and creating a labor shortage. Nationalists also feared sexual relations across the color line.They accused Smuts of being sympathetic to black people
  • Malan only won about 38% of the vote. In 148, Smut's United party won 49%. However, the Westminster constituency system used n South Africa gave Malan his opportunity. Smut's united party won big majorities in man English-speaking urban seats. 
  • Malan and his supporters were fiercely ant-imperial and in favour of a republic. 
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Strengthening the national party and Apartheid law

  • An early priority for the national party was to stay in political party. In 1949, 6 members of parliament were added for whites in Namibia where nationalists had support. 
  • The nationalists were determined that Coloured people should become a separate racial category with their own institutions and spaces. This was urgent because they still had a vote in the central parliamentary elections &they voted overwhelmingly for the UP
  • The nationalists attempted to remove the coloured vote by passing the separate representation of voters act in 1951. However, the judge accepted that the act wa invalid without a two-thirds majority. The nationalists had shown that they were prepared to act ruthlessly for power
  • In 1953, the national party increased its vote from little more than 400,000 to nearly  600,000 and narrowly outpolled the United Party.  
  • Apartheid laws
  • Afrikaner nationalists did not have complete for apartheid when they took power. Hardliners looked for tight separation of the races, while pragmatists recognised that the economy required African workers in large numbers. 
  • In nationalist terminology, the emphasis was increasingly laid on 'separate development' rather than apartheid. Over the long term, this implied increasing self-governing for African people around the old reserves.
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Verwoerd, Race laws and Group Areas act

  • Verwoerd was Minister of affairs between 1950-58 and prime minister between 1958-66. His department was increasingly staffed by sympathetic Afrikaners, pouring out of the Afrikaans universities. He was convinced that African people saw themslves as tribal people and loyal to their old chiefdom and rural zone. 
  • Verwoerd passed the Bantu Authorities act (1951), which aimed to harness the instituion of African chieftaincy and ensure that such traditional authorities were appointed throughout the African reserves.In 1959
  • He also passed the Bantu-Self government act which envisaged self governing African units. This was the ambitious and gave Afrikaners hope that African people would welcome separate development but in separate ethnically units. 

Race laws

  • Afrikaner nationalists were concerned about sex between white and black people. The national party enacted Mixed Marriage Act (1949) and Immorality Act (1950) as a result. 
  • The population registration act (1950) was the cornerstone for this attempt to assign everyone in South Africa one of four race categories and a national register recorded this
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Group Areas Acts

  • Within the cities, a series of Group Areas Acts had a damaging effect on black communities Typically the African 'locations' or townships were built by municipalities on the edge of town
  • There were areas were areas where Coloureds and African people owned houses and shops and the Group areas provided the powers to eradicate these so that the central parts of the cities and the suburbs would largely be in white hands
  • Three such zones were Sophiatown, District 6, and Cator Manor
  • Sophiatown in Johannesburg was the first to fall victim to apartheid planners. Sophiatown housed nearly 60,000 people with wealthier professionals, such as the former ANC president Xuma. It attracted writers and journalists working for Drum magazine. They recorded the drinking, tsotsis & music. Sophia town reputation made it an easy target for the nationalists
  • Durban is South Africas third largest city and houses about 450,000 people. A third were Indian, a third white and a third black. Indians owed substantial amounts of private property near the city center. Indians let land out to African tenats who built shacks and houses. In 1949 African people attacked Indians who felt they were exploiting them as landlords. 1k were injured in riots. In the 1950s the government mposed the Group Areas Act and about 41,000 Indian people had also been removed from the central areas.
  • District 6 was a multi-racial business area. About 600,000 people were removed.
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Pass laws

  • Apartheid enforced a hierarchy of right and attempted to separate public space. The reservation of separate Amenities act (1953) made it legal to provide separate facilities to black people which were not of equal quality 
  • A central element in Afrikaner nationalist policy was to focus on reducing African migration to the cities and this was known as influx control. The national abolition of passes act (1952) required a reference book for each African adult to present on demand 
  • Urban areas act gave urban rights to a minority of African people who had been born in town and worked for 10 years or lived there for 15 years 
  • The government recognised the need for a relatively stabe urban workforce in industries African families, however, were not able to buy houses or land in the cities, even in the townships. This hugely undermined their security & their capacity to accumalate family wealth.
  • The pass law were policed and africans were frequently stopped and searched in streets and in their houses and in 1956 reference books were extended to women Even those wh had rights to stay in the city were victis of constant harrasment
  • Convictions under the pass laws increased from 164k in 1952 to 384k in 1962. In these years, about 3 million people were turned into criminals 
  • One of the most remarkable features of the early years of nationalist rule was tht pass law failed to keep Africans out of citis. The African urbn population of South Africa rose from 1.8 illion people in 1946 to 3.5 million in 1960
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  • Prior to 1948, education for Africans was for the most part racially segregated. A relatively small number of black South Africans attended elite school. Only 24% of black South Africans were recorded as literate in the 1951 census 
  • The Bantu Education Act of 1953 was therefore passed in order to extend education to African children but also to segregate the content of education. 
  • The government was also concerned about the number of children joining urban gangs rather than attending school. Fear of these tsotsis was on of the major drivers behind the expansion of education
  • The Bantu education had been criticised even though it increased educational opportunities at all levels. The need for African workers iin factories was rapid and some degree of literacy and numercy was seen as valuable in building an efficient workforce. 
  • Verwoerd, believed that the state should provide basic education for a greater number of people, but  that Bantu education should prepare African people for only limited roles
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The Tomilson report and the Bantustans

In the post-wr era, state planning were seen in western countries as the route to solving social and economic problems. The Afrikaner nationalist benefited hugely from global growth in the first two decades o power. A commission was appointed under Tomlinson, an agricultural economist who believed that the economic development of the former reserves had to be at the heart of apartheid 

Tomilson commission believed that the Bantustans could be transformed by a massive £100 investment. His 3 main recommendations were that 

  • Tomilson advocated major funding for rural industries 
  • He believed that private enterprise should be encouraged to invest in these areas 
  • He recommended creating a class of full-time farmers by increasing the size of plot and pushing farmers  off the land in order to create bigger 'economic units' for farming 

Verwoerd rejected these recommendations. He did not believe that white Africans wuld support expenditure on this sale. Nor did he want to creat subsidised inustries that might compete with urban white businesses. He felt that the'Bantu should develop at their own pace

Verwoerd also realised that enlarging landholdings would mean millions of Africans would lose land and have little option but to migrate to the cities to find work. 

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Betterment, Rehabilitation and Inadequacies in Ban

  • Betterment meant a strategy that would stop environmental degradation and enable Africans to intensify their farming without destroying the soil and vegetation. 
  • Officials believed that livestock were the main cause of degradation and thought that  the most effective way of combating the problem was to divide the pastures with barbed wire into small paddocks. 
  • To create and control the space for this policy, government officials moved rural families from scattered settlements into combat villages. The national party pursued betterment with commitment and over a million people were forced to move into villages during the 50s & 60s

The inadequacies of the Bantustans .

  • There were problems and contradictions in the Bantustans policy. Although substantial new areas of white-owned land were brought t extend the homeland, they still made up a small percentage of South Africa's land area.
  • The national party was not prepared to divide South Africa equally, as whites would never accept th e sacrifice . Africans  were also to be subdivided into their historical chieftaincies
  • By this time, most Africans conceived of themselves as partly as Africans and not simply members of a chieftaincy. They could see themselves as members of an extended family
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Political suppression and the Treason trial

  • Although the National Party permitted a degree of opposition, it used force to suppress various protests. By the mid 50s the government had become increasingly conerned with the growing influence of the Congres movement 
  • In 1956 156 members of the Congress Alliance including most of the ANC leadership were arrested in dawn raids. 
  • At this stage the state worked within a legal framewor; those arrested were aused of high treason and subjected to a trial that was only fully resolved after 5 years 
  • The prosecutors tried to prove that the Congres movement planned to overthrow the government by force and that they espoused communist ideals 
  • The trial brought the leaders of the Congress movement in a court room in Pretoria. This demonstrated to all the multi-racial nature of the anti-apartheid struggle.. The prosecutors were unable to prove their case and all the accused were acquitted in 1961
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Political opposition in 1947

  • In 1948 there was no single black opposition group, nor single ideology uniting the different movements as they were divided by geographic zone, class & race so it was hard to organise
  • The ANC had been established in 1912 by a group of black professions. Initally they were spurred to action by the creation of the Union of South Africa in 1910 
  • Black Africans were excluded from equal political rights in the settlement agreed with Britian and they felt they had been betrayed. They opposed th Natives land act of 1913 

Three examples of militant action of militant action serve to illustrate the diversity of activity in 1940s South Africa:

  • Before they were erased by the group areas act, shack settlements were a centre of dissidence. 
  • In 1946 African miners went on strike in one of the biggest and most concerted actions by black workers. They threatened SouthAfrica's core industry 
  • Bus boycotts were another form of protest. Many African worker lived on the edges of the cities and transport costs cut deep into their wages 
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The revival of the ANC and the Youth League

  • The great strength f the Anc, compared with any other African political movement , was organisational continuity and its capacity to attract some of the best-educated members of the African elite. 
  • 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 nationalism in West Africa 
  • The youth league was also alarmed by white rhetoric about race & racial separation. Their politics took courage from a new phase of mass political action,especially around Johannesburg. The youth league tried to provide a vision for the future e.g Tambo, Mandela
  • The national party victory in 1948 prompted the Youth League to launch a programme of action in 1949. They argued for a far more confrontational approach to white minority rule including boycotts. They called for an African consciousness and a united African people
  • The youth league's programme of action was adopted by the ANC in 1949. It moved away from the policy of concession-seeking from a white government, to a more militant liberation organisation.
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ANC links with other organisations

  • By the 1940s, the communist party accepted that i was unlikely to find mass support among black workers for a revolution in south Africa and therefore accept a two-phase revolution. This implied working with African nationalists t achieve first a national democratic revolution and then the socialist revolution
  • The national party was deeply anti-communist and banned the in 1950. The communists were an unusual organisation in South Africa because they included a socially diverse group of white &black intellects. Tambo & Mandela were initially uneasy about working with communists 
  • A liberal party was formed in 1953 and advocated a new language of politics based on respect and equal individual rights. The liberals attracted some black support but they were suspicious of both the ANC and communists
  • White, Indians and Coloured were not accepted into the ANC and they joined the already established South African Indian congress.  
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The Defiance Campaign and Women in the ANC

  • The ANC's new militancy found particular focus in the Defiance campaign. Their strategy was for groups of volunteers to break racially restrictions. Mandela was appointed volunteer in chief together with Yusuf Chalia of the Indian Congress
  • The defiance campaign was influenced by the ideas of non-violent civil disobedience promoted by the Indian nationalist Gandhi
  • Official reports recorded seven African death and 18 seriously injured.
  • The outcome of  the Defiance Campaign was important for the ANC. Its claimed membership shot up from 4,000 to 100,000 people and for the first time it seemed to be attracting a mass following.

Women and the ANC

  • Some of the male leadership of the ANC held conservative and patriachal views about the role of African women =. However, a womens league in 1948 incorporating existing women's organisations into the ANC. Women were prominent in the grass roots protests. 
  •  The government announced in 1955 that it would extend pass laws to women as so many were moving to rural districts to the cities. Led by Lilian Ngoyi they staged a major protest against passes.
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The Freedom Charter and the PAC

  • In 1955 the Congress Alliance wrote a charter listing their core political beliefs. This became known as the Congress of the People campaign and thousands across South Africa submitted thier suggestions on issues
  • The result, known as the Freedom charter, was revealed in Soweto The Charter gave a cear summary of the priniples of the Congress movement. In its tone, it echoes the language of frredom movements in other parts of the world. It called for a fully democratic outh Africa with a fairer dstribution of land and wealth.
  • The freedom charter commited the movement to a non-racial South Africa and laid an important foundation for future political mobilisation. 


  • Africanists, largely based in Johannesburg, tried to mantain a distinct political identiity.. It published a regular newsletter 'The Africanst, which promoted the idea of 'Africa for Africans' Their biggest concentration of support was probably among teachers, with Sobkwe as one of their most significant leaders
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Afrianist and Anc differ

The afrianist differed from the ANC leadership on a number of points: 

  • They thought that non-Africans were gaining too much influence in the Congress. 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. 
  • The Africanists believed that complete independence and freedom implied the return of the land to Africans. The Freedom Charter they felt, was to conerned with Civil rights for all 
  • The Africanists developed more explicitly Pan-Africanist ides. 
  • The Africanist wanted ore confrontational direct action 

An organisation split was riggered in 1958. The reason given was that ANC's leaders were too occupied with the Treason trial to stand for election at that time. The Africanists tried to form separate provincial organisations. 

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