The Ideology of Apartheid [separateness]. With the introduction of apartheid, the NP extended and systematized many of the features of entrenched racial discrimination into a state policy of white supremacy. Every person resident in South Africa was legally assigned, largely on the basis of appearance, to one racial group–white, African, coloured, or Asian. South Africa was proclaimed to be a white man’s country in which members of other racial groups would never receive full political rights. Africans were told that eventually they would achieve political independence in perhaps nine or ten homelands, carved out of the minuscule rural areas already allocated to them, areas that even a government commission in the 1950s had deemed totally inadequate to support the black population.
Coloureds and Asians, too, were to be excluded from South African politics. By law, all races were to have separate living areas and separate amenities; there was to be no mixing. Education was to be provided according to the roles that people were expected to play in society. In that regard, Hendrik F. Verwoerd, the leading ideologue of apartheid and prime minister of South Africa from 1958 until his assassination in 1966, stated that Africans would be “making a big mistake” if they thought that they would live “an adult life under a policy of equal rights.” According to Verwoerd, there was no place for Africans “in the European community” (by which he meant South Africa) above the level of certain forms of labor.
Expecting considerable opposition to policies that would forever exclude the black majority from any role in national politics and from any job other than that of unskilled–and low-paid–laborer, the NP government greatly enlarged police powers. People campaigning to repeal or to modify any law would be presumed guilty of one of several crimes until they could prove their innocence. The government could “list,” or ban, individuals, preventing them from attending public meetings, prohibiting them from belonging to certain organizations, and subjecting them to lengthy periods of house arrest.
The most draconian piece of security legislation, the Suppression of Communism Act (1950), adopted an extraordinarily broad and vague definition of communism–i.e., the aim to “bring about any political, industrial, social, or economic change within the Union by the promotion of disturbance or disorder.” Also included under the act was anyone who encouraged “feelings of hostility between the European and the non-European races of the Union.” This legislation enabled the police to label almost any opponent of apartheid as a supporter of the outlawed Communist Party of South Africa (reactivated in 1953 as the South African Communist Party–SACP).
|Oliver Tambo (27 October 1917 – 24 April 1993) was a South African anti-apartheid politician and a central figure in the African National Congress (ANC). Tambo, along with Mandela and Walter Sisulu, was a founding member of the ANC Youth League in 1943, becoming its first National Secretary and later a member of the National Executive in 1948.|
Blacks rose up in protest against apartheid in the 1950s. Led by Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo, the ANC sought to broaden its base of support and to impede the implementation of apartheid by calling for mass noncompliance with the new laws. Working together with white, coloured, and Indian opponents of apartheid, the ANC encouraged people to burn their passes (identity documents, then required of all African males and soon to be required of all African females in South Africa). The ANC also urged people to refuse to use the separate amenities (such as public toilets, park benches, and entrances to post offices) set aside for them, to use those intended for whites instead, and to boycott discriminatory employers and institutions. Such tactics, all of them purposely nonviolent, although not successful in changing NP policies, did attract large-scale support and won new members for the ANC.
Freedom Charter. In 1955 representatives of the ANC, as well as white, coloured, and Indian organizations opposed to apartheid, drafted a Freedom Charter as a basic statement of political principles. According to the charter, South Africa belonged to all who lived within its boundaries, regardless of race. The charter stated that no particular group of people should have special privileges, but that all should be treated equally before the law. It also stated that all who lived in South Africa should share in the country’s wealth, an ambiguous statement sometimes interpreted by supporters of the ANC, and more frequently by its opponents, to mean a call for nationalization of private-sector enterprises.
The NP government dealt harshly with all those who opposed its policies. Tens of thousands were arrested for participating in public demonstrations and boycotts, hundreds of thousands were arrested each year for pass-law offenses, and many of the delegates who drew up the Freedom Charter were arrested and tried for treason in a trial that lasted nearly five years. Repression became harsher as opposition grew. In 1960 police at Sharpeville, a black township south of Johannesburg , fired into a crowd of Africans peacefully protesting against the pass laws, and killed sixty-seven. In the aftermath of the shooting, which attracted worldwide condemnation, the government banned the ANC, the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), and other organizations opposed to apartheid; withdrew from the British Commonwealth of Nations; and, after a referendum among white voters only, declared South Africa a republic.