What is Apartheid System

What is Apartheid System?

Apartheid was a dark chapter in South Africa’s history, characterized by institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination. This system, which means “apartness” in Afrikaans, was in place from 1948 until the early 1990s. In this article, we will delve into the origins, laws, resistance, international reactions, and the ultimate dismantling of apartheid. We will also explore its enduring legacy and significance in the modern world.

Origins of Apartheid

Apartheid’s roots can be traced back to the colonization of South Africa by the Dutch and British. However, the formal establishment of apartheid as a state policy occurred in 1948 when the National Party came to power. The government began to implement a series of discriminatory laws and policies aimed at separating racial groups.

Apartheid Laws and Policies

Under apartheid, a complex web of discriminatory laws was put in place. These laws segregated South Africans by race and restricted the rights and freedoms of non-white citizens. Some of the most infamous laws included the Population Registration Act, Group Areas Act, and the Immorality Act. These policies led to widespread suffering and inequality.

Resistance and Movements

In the face of this oppressive system, various resistance movements emerged. Prominent leaders like Nelson Mandela and organizations like the African National Congress (ANC) played crucial roles in opposing apartheid. The struggle for equality and justice was marked by protests, strikes, and international support.

International Reactions

The international community responded to apartheid with widespread condemnation. Many countries imposed economic and cultural sanctions on South Africa to pressure the government to dismantle apartheid. The global anti-apartheid movement was a significant force in the fight for justice.

End of Apartheid

Apartheid began to unravel in the 1990s when negotiations between the South African government and anti-apartheid leaders led to the release of Nelson Mandela and the country’s first multiracial elections. Mandela was elected as South Africa’s president, marking the official end of apartheid.

Legacy of Apartheid

The legacy of apartheid still looms large in South Africa. While the formal system has been dismantled, the country continues to grapple with the deep scars it left behind. Efforts at reconciliation and nation-building are ongoing.

Lessons Learned

Apartheid serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of discrimination and segregation. It underscores the importance of human rights and equality for all.

Apartheid and Modern Society

South Africa continues to address the challenges arising from apartheid, including economic disparities and social divisions. The government and various organizations are working to bridge these gaps.

Apartheid in Global Context

Apartheid is not an isolated historical instance of discrimination. Comparing it with other cases of racism and segregation worldwide can shed light on common patterns and unique features.

Apartheid in Pop Culture

The impact of apartheid on South African society is reflected in its creative works. Movies like “Cry Freedom” and “Invictus” and books like “Cry, the Beloved Country” capture the essence of this period.

The Importance of Remembering

Education and commemoration play pivotal roles in ensuring that the lessons of apartheid are not forgotten. Remembering the past is essential to prevent the repetition of such injustices.

Apartheid’s Impact on Human Rights

Apartheid’s brutal practices have left an indelible mark on the discourse of human rights. Its horrors contributed to shaping international human rights laws and standards.

The Role of Truth and Reconciliation

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established in the post-apartheid era, played a crucial role in healing the wounds of the past. It provided a platform for victims and perpetrators to confront the truth and seek forgiveness.


In conclusion, apartheid was a dark chapter in South Africa’s history. It serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of racial discrimination and segregation. While apartheid has officially ended, its impact is still felt today, both in South Africa and globally. We must remember the lessons of apartheid to ensure a more just and equal world.


  1. What were the key apartheid laws?
  2. How did the international community respond to apartheid?
  3. Who were some prominent leaders in the fight against apartheid?
  4. How does apartheid still affect South African society today?
  5. What is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and what was its role in post-apartheid South Africa?


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