South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid


Unit 3. The Rise of Apartheid

There is no place for him [the African] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labor. Within his own community, however, all doors are open. For that reason it is to no avail for him to receive a training which has as its aim absorption in the European community, where he cannot be absorbed.
Hendrik F. Verwoerd (1954)
In 1948, the Reunited National Party, representing ethnic nationalist Afrikaners, won the national election on a platform of racism and segregation under the slogan of "apartheid"- or "apartness" in the Afrikaans language. Apartheid built upon earlier laws, but made segregation more rigid and enforced it more aggressively. It significantly extended the reach of the racist state and led to a systematic and fundamental deterioration of the position of black people in South Africa for the next four decades.

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The rise of Afrikaner nationalism in the 1920s and 1930s was a critical factor in the electoral victory of the National Party (as it was renamed in 1951). Afrikaners constituted a numerical majority of the white electorate in South Africa, but they were divided along class, regional, and other fault lines. This began to change with the founding of the National Party in 1914 and the Broederbond (Afrikaner Brotherhood, a secret society) in 1918. Afrikaner ethnic nationalism grew out of a foundation of Calvinist religious thought that Afrikaners were God’s "chosen people," united by a common language: Afrikaans. In 1934, extremist Afrikaner politicians and intellectuals broke away from the original party, which had merged with the South African Party to form the United Party, and established the Purified National Party (HNP) under the leadership of Daniel F. Malan. The Purified National Party and the Broederbond mobilized ordinary Afrikaners around the centenary of the Great Trek - a celebration reenacting the migration of Afrikaners in the 1830s to the northern and northeastern parts of South Africa. The Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa provided a theological justification for apartheid. Alongside cultural and political mobilization, Afrikaner economic power also developed significantly in the 1930s. Afrikaner capital expanded through the insurance giant Sanlam and the Volkskas bank (now ABSA), while Afrikaner workers formed their own ethnic unions, such as Spoorbond in the railways.

National Party leaders D. F. Malan and Hendrik F. Verwoerd were the architects of apartheid. Malan used the term "apartheid" from the 1930s as he distanced his party from British traditions of liberalism and the earlier policy of segregation, which he saw as too lenient towards blacks. Verwoerd, educated in the Netherlands, the United States, and Germany, was the main ideologue of apartheid. He became Native Affairs Minister in the early 1950s and Prime Minister in 1958.
 
AODL African Studies Center MSU Matrix NEH