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Apartheid (South African English pronunciation: ; Afrikaans: [a?part??it], lit. “separateness”) was a system of institutionalised racial segregation and discrimination that existed in South Africa between 1948 and 1994. The system was based on white supremacy and the repression of the black (African, Coloured and Indian) majority of the population for the benefit of the politically and economically dominant group, Afrikaners, and other Whites. Despite the end of official legislation in 1991, apartheid laws remained in effect and black South Africans still had no representation in government.
Broadly speaking, apartheid was delineated into petty apartheid, which entailed the segregation of public facilities and social events, and grand apartheid, which dictated housing and employment opportunities by race. Prior to the 1940s, some aspects of apartheid had already emerged in the form of minority rule by white South Africans and the socially enforced separation of black South Africans from other races, which later extended to pass laws and land apportionment. Apartheid was adopted as a formal policy by the South African government after the ascension of the National Party (NP) during the country’s 1948 general elections.
A codified system of racial stratification began to take form in South Africa under the Dutch Empire in the late eighteenth century, although informal segregation was present much earlier due to social cleavages between Dutch colonists and a creolised, ethnically diverse slave population. With the rapid growth and industrialisation of the British Cape Colony in the nineteenth century, racial policies and laws became increasingly rigid. Cape legislation that discriminated specifically against black Africans began appearing shortly before 1900. The policies of the Boer republics were also racially exclusive; for instance, the Transvaal constitution barred nonwhite participation in church and state.
The first apartheid law was the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, 1949, followed closely by the Immorality Act of 1950, which made it illegal for most South African citizens to marry or pursue sexual relationships across racial lines. The Population Registration Act, 1950 classified all South Africans into one of four racial groups based on appearance, known ancestry, socioeconomic status, and cultural lifestyle: “black”, “white”, “coloured”, and “Indian”, the last two of which included several sub-classifications. Places of residence were determined by racial classification. From 1960 to 1983, 3.5 million nonwhite South Africans were removed from their homes and forced into segregated neighbourhoods, in one of the largest mass removals in modern history. Most of these targeted removals were intended to restrict the black population to ten designated “tribal homelands”, also known as bantustans, four of which became nominally independent states. The government announced that relocated persons would lose their South African citizenship as they were absorbed into the bantustans.
Apartheid sparked significant international and domestic opposition, resulting in some of the most influential global social movements of the twentieth century. It was the target of frequent condemnation in the United Nations and brought about an extensive arms and trade embargo on South Africa. During the 1970s and 1980s, internal resistance to apartheid became increasingly militant, prompting brutal crackdowns by the National Party administration and protracted sectarian violence that left thousands dead or in detention. Some reforms of the apartheid system were undertaken, including allowing for Indian and coloured political representation in parliament, but these measures failed to appease most activist groups.
Between 1987 and 1993 the National Party entered into bilateral negotiations with the African National Congress, the leading anti-apartheid political movement, for ending segregation and introducing majority rule. In 1990, prominent ANC leaders such as Nelson Mandela were released from detention. Apartheid legislation was abolished in mid-1991, pending multiracial elections set for April 1994.

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