Ideological Foundations of Apartheid

For Hendrik F. Verwoerd, Native Minister and one of the intellectual fathers of the National Party, apartheid is a solution to what he perceived to be a flawed social policy responsible for ensuring a future of strife and internal combustion between the races.  In a 1950 speech elucidating the new apartheid policy (Williams 252) the minister first begins by examining the current social climate, asserting that the violence and contention becoming inflamed in “intermingled communities” is the result of a immutable divide between black and white, and that further intermingling, will only intensify the conflict. Verwoerd finally concludes that “Neither for the European ,nor for the Bantu… can this…tension and conflict, be an ideal future” (252) and so outlines a policy of physical division of the Union, so that the Africans return to their traditional native sectors while the whites remain in their own settlements, while it is instructed that neither grouping will attempt to dominate or exploit the other.

Verwoerd argues that tension and conflict would continue to mount as intermingling continues because the “Bantu” would eventually aspire to an egalitarian status in political, economic and social life. While the author does not say so explicitly, it is implied that this is an absurd demand (253) which will only result in eventual African insurrection against the white population. Following this classical Afrikaner sentiment, a perception of non-whites as being a detriment, drain and danger to the whites, removal is the only solution, in order to “provide the two population groups with opportunities for the full development of their respective powers and ambitions without coming into conflict.” (253)

The outcome of this ideology was the creation of ten autonomous “Bantustans” through the 1951 Bantu Self-Government Act, affording to the natives autonomous sovereignty over traditional tribal lands and transferring their citizenship from the greater country to only that of their particular tribal affiliation, effectively disenfranchising the nonwhite population from South African political life.

In response to apartheid was a great measure of internal resistance. The African National Congress, a Marxist movement calling for mass mobilization against the white government, although predating the era of legislated separation, by 1949 had rallied the greater support of the African population and began to systematically institute campaigns of civil disobedience, protest and uprising.  In 1952 the African National Congress combined efforts with other emerging resistance movements, namely the South African Indian Congress and Coloured People’s Congress, through the “Programme of Action” staged countrywide mass demonstrations against apartheid legislation, sparking widespread civil unrest. The government responded with police brutality, mass arrest, and new legislation including the Unlawful Organisations Act, the Suppression of Communism Act, the Public Safety Act and the Criminal Procedures Act – laws aimed at making further civil disobedience impossible.

In 1955 the Freedom Charter was proposed by the African National Congress at Kliptown, calling for an egalitarian and free democracy, without considerations of race and ethnicity. While the congress was brutally dissolved by South African police and many of its delegates imprisoned on charges of treason, the authorities were too late in that the historic document had already been publically recited and confirmed by those present, inspiring a fire of stubborn resistance which would continue up until the final disintegration of apartheid during the 1990s.

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