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Segregation Petty Apartheid Enforcement
Resistance and Repression The Silent Years Influx Controls
The 1976 Uprising Post-'76 Reform Resistance in the 1980s
Turning Tide Mass Action Bibliography & Contacts

The apartheid policy of the National Party, which came to power in 1948, brought a barrage of legislation to bear upon South Africans that, firstly, categorised them by race and then controlled their freedom according to their race group.


Prime Minister DF Malan
Race laws effected every aspect of life for South Africans. It provided whites with access to the most privileged suburbs, education, jobs and positions, even to the extent of exclusive access to beaches, theatres, parks, bridges and public toilets.

The system ensured that 'white' privileges were beyond the reach of blacks.


A 'European Only' Bench

The government enforced apartheid ruthlessly. Large areas of Cape Town were designated 'white suburbs' and coloured and black communities were forced to leave and settle on the Cape Flats.

Black people had to carry a pass giving them permission to stay in Cape Town and were forced to leave if they were not in work.

The government closed down mission schools and excluded blacks from advanced education.


Anti-pass demonstration

There were widespread attempts to protest against the apartheid system in the 1950s.

Coloured people campaigned against their removal from the voters roll. But their opposition became divided and broke down.

The ANC-led Congress movement developed more unified opposition, but they faced various laws that gave the Government draconian powers to suppress opposition.

As large-scale anti-pass demonstrations and marches broke out in Cape Town and elsewhere in 1960, a State of Emergency was declared, and the ANC banned.


Police attack protestors against apartheid

In the 1960s the breadth of apartheid laws and the power of the police made it impossible to legally protest against the system.

Opposition groups were banned and many leaders exiled or jailed. Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison and sent to Robben Island.

The ANC and PAC turned to armed resistance, but the police successfully suppressed their activities.


Mandela's Cell on Robben Island

Apartheid policy was to create 'homelands' for blacks, and exclude them from cities in 'South Africa'.

Especially in Cape Town where, the government maintained, blacks had no historical right to live, blacks were only permitted to stay only on a temporary basis.

Nevertheless, shanty towns continued to grow as poor people migrated fearlessly into the city, driven by poverty. In spite of brutal slum clearances and the eviction of thousands of people, areas like Crossroads continued to grow.


Crossroads, after an eviction

Following the example of the children of Soweto, near Johannesburg, youth in Cape Town demonstrated against apartheid in 1976.

Street battles ensued as police tried to crack down on demonstrations. 128 people were killed and over 400 injured in related violence in the city that year.

The scale of the violence shocked Capetonians and the world, and marked the beginning of a new phase of struggle against the authorities.


The body of Hector Petersen, killed by police in Soweto

Under pressure at home and abroad the Government promised change, and ceased to enforce petty apartheid.

Cape Town City Council and private companies were quick to remove segregation. Public places were opened and people began to mix more freely.

However, laws that required segregation of residential locations and schooling remained firmly in place throughout the 1980s.

Political changes to allow coloured participation in government were seen as tokenism, and blacks remained excluded.


PW Botha, the president who promised reform

The reform of apartheid did not impress the growing number of activists and a formidable range of organisations began to work together to fight apartheid.

Church leaders, such as Desmond Tutu, students, unions, welfare organisations and civic bodies began to work under the United Democratic Front to coordinate protests.

Although most protests were peaceful, many ended in violence as the police tried to break them up.


Protestor Carrying the picture of slain leader Steve Biko

By the mid 1980s the tide had turned and the movement against apartheid gathered an unstoppable momentum.

The government resorted to declaring a 'State of Emergency' several times, but these only confirmed the failure of apartheid and the government's illegitimacy.

Against a backdrop of increasing economic hardship and international pressure the government secretly began negotiations with Nelson Mandela.


Nelson Mandela

By 1989 a mass movement for democracy had developed that included people from all backgrounds, including City and church leaders.

Multi-racial beach parties were held on 'white only' beaches and staged marches to celebrate District 6.

Police used violence against peaceful protests and 30,000 people marched through Cape Town led by the Mayor, Desmond Tutu and others to remember those who had been hurt and call for an end to segregation.

In the September 1989 elections white Capetonians voted resoundingly against the government.


Mass Demonstration Against Apartheid

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