Publish Date: 2013
Shantytown (The normal housing conditions for blacks in South Africa).


“No one knew it would happen, yet every one knew it had to happen.” Mark Mathabane wrote after the events of, Wednesday, June 16th, 1976,  Where Afrikaan police opened fire on over 10 thousand black students, in Soweto. Killing hundreds of kids, some involved as young as seven, “One youth saw a thirteen-year-old boy go down, a bullet having shattered his forehead, He picked up the boy and carried him to a yard nearby.” This would serve as the spark for young Mark Mathabane’s  school in Tembisa to also take action, in form of a peaceful protest. This protest also turning bloody, started riots across Alexandrea where Mathabane  lived. Large mobs set houses, markets and schools on fire, blacks were turned against blacks, the city broke out in looting, it was pure chaos. Young women and children were killed by Afrikaan police, people wondered what caused such hatred and cruelty from the Afrikaans. “I just saw a girl I know being dragged away by the police, and I think she’s dead but I don’t know, There was blood all over her dress”, “What is the world coming too? what are they doing to us”. This was the question among blacks during the time period of the Apartheid laws, what caused this great inequality and why us?

What historical events sparked the enactment of the Apartheid laws in 1948, and what ultimately gave the whites power over the blacks?

Some people may argue the enactment of the Apartheid Laws in South Africa can be boiled down to one event or one small group of ideas. When in actuality how the Apartheid Laws were enacted and what caused the extreme segregation in South Africa is a very complex question. You must look at several perceptions and events such as the dutch settling in South Africa in 1652, the idea that white living standards would suffer if blacks and whites coexisted, the start of diamond and gold mining in South Africa, in addition to several other events and ideas discussed in this project.

The news article “South Africa Condemned Anew In U. N. Apartheid Investigation” from the New York Times, was written in order to explain to the American public what the United Nations was doing to combat the Apartheid Nation South Africa. Written October 13th, 1955 a time when the U.N was attempting to condemn racial separation in South Africa. The writer Lindesay Parrot can barley compare to the people she is writing about, she is not the same gender, race, or socioeconomic class that she is writing about. She is a white female in a democratic country most likely from the upper to middle class. The people she is writing about are either very low class black people or high political powers of the U.N and South Africa, neither comparing to her what soever. The fact that she can’t relate to these things is probably why the source has some unspoken assumptions that are not true, like that things aren’t all that bad in South Africa. When in fact events going in South Africa were very bad the black community was at a far disadvantage to that of the whites and even colourdes, schooling was terrible at best, they lived in very small shacks which were owned by the government and could easily be removed from. In addition to the source leading people to believe that the issue of Apartheid would be resolved shortly both being far from the truth since Apartheid lasted almost 50 years. This news article also brings two historical questions to mind, how did the timeline of Apartheid end up lasting so long when the U.N. brought up the issue 40 years before it ended? Another question I had is the United Nations had several ideas on how to cut down on segregation why where they not immediately acted upon?

According too the historical news article “Cape Town Archbishop On Apartheid” written by the London Times, many Europeans in South Afrikaners believed that if they were to coexist with blacks in society that their standards of living would suffer, and values of the European culture would be lost. When in fact the only thing the enactment of the Apartheid laws would undermine European and christian values. Afrikaners did not realize that while they were trying to keep their culture in tact by acting the Apartheid laws they were in essence destroying the very culture and beliefs they were trying to protect.

Four Black individuals work in a Diamond mine while under watch from their white overseer.
Four Black individuals work in a Gold mine while under watch from their white overseer, in the 1920’s.


Leonard Thompson covers a great deal of time in his book “A History of South Africa” in order to explain what caused the Apartheid Laws to be enacted. I fact he covers all the way from 1487 when people first arrived in Africa to 1995 when the book was published. There is such a large time period covered in the book because Thompson believes that many historians “are so committed to emphasizing the role of capitalism as the molder of modern Southern Africa that they ignore the processes that shaped society before Europeans began to intrude on the region”(Thompson: A History of South Africa Revised Edition), so he decided to start the book off before the Europeans arrived in South Africa. Out of this large time era covered in this book I plan to cover, chapters two, five and six. These chapters cover slightly when the whites first colony started in 1652, then when Europeans mainly the British first started to gain power, the begging of Apartheid all the way until the major transition of Apartheid era to democracy.

Chapter two is all about the settlement of the South African area mainly when the Dutch (white people) came in, which was in 1652. This is just one of the historical time periods I plan to cover, this was a major part in the beginning of Apartheid, even if it may seem insignificant, it was the start of what would become segregation and Apartheid. Another Historical event I plan to include in my analysis is the beginning of Diamonds, Gold mining, and British Imperialism. which was roughly in the time period of 1870-1920. This is a very important historical event or time period because it started to give the whites a significant advantage over the black. Through mining they were able to acquire a large amount of money they had overall increasing the amount of power they had socially and politically. A very important historical event necessary to cover is the Apartheid time period as a whole, but mainly the beginning of this horrible era. This was when the whites slowly began to take over the entire political system in South Africa. Completely pushing the blacks out with the large amount of recourses and power they had acquired from diamond and gold mining back in the early 1900’s.

Prosteters run from the police through the streets of Johannesburg.
Protesters run from the police through the streets of Johannesburg, 1976.


The Authors primary argument in the article “The Rise and Decline of Urban Apartheid in South Africa”  is the practices of urban segregation has evolved and changed Africans based upon four phases, broken up by time period. First, was the phase before 1923, where the South African economy was having trouble defining where they stood, the manufacturing portion was still in development and the struggling economy was mainly based on mining and commerce. The second phase was between 1923-1950, where the growth of the African urban population greatly increased, growth of the manufacturing sector, and the deterioration of African economies. The Third phase was between 1950 and 1970, where there was a greater centralization of power, which allowed the central state to regulate the amount of Africans in urban areas, tougher restrictions where put on blacks and how they could live/work. The fourth phase was from 1970 to the present which is ultimately the breakdown of apartheid.

There are several historic events that had to do with each “phase” of Apartheid,  one of them was just the overall growing population of working Africans increasing by almost 200,000 people in just 20 years this, influx created many more workers for mines and what the whites of the area saw as a start for the need of segregation of the urban area. Another Historical event was the Housing amendment act of 1944 which gave the central state the power to intervene on local housing policy, weakening the influence the Africans had on their own living. Another important historical event tied to the ultimate collapse  of apartheid was the protests/uprising of 1973 and 1976.

In the Article “Apartheid Planning in South Africa The Case of Port Elizabeth author C.J.” Christopher’s main argument was that when drawing up the plans for the “Apartheid cities” the overall plan was to end up with an equal amount of white and coloured with a majority of blacks in each city. But in most cities even if the numbers were area of living separation or segregation of these groups was massive. Blacks housing was very cramped and many houses in a small area, opposed to white housing where whites had land and luxurious homes. This heavily dense black living quarter caused disease to spread quick and the stench to be very strong. These issues only increased the whites desire for greater separation or segregation of blacks and coloureds from the white community. The desire for greater separation only fueled the enactment of Apartheid laws.

The article “Meet the Conservatives Who Campaigned for Apartheid South Africa” by Sam Kleiner, was written for a couple reasons, one underlying reason was to promote president Barack Obama’s Campaign as president, a more obvious reason was to expose the conservatives who were against the anti-Apartheid movement. This article mainly discusses Politicians and their role in the divestment campaign (a campaign against trade with Apartheid South Africa) , and anti-divestment movement (a movement battling the divestment campaign to keep trade open with South Africa). The first politician discussed was Barack Obama, explaining how Obama’s first real political act was speaking at Occidental College in 1981 about anti-Apartheid, to promote the divestment campaign. Another Politician that was involved in the anti-divestment movement was Chester Crocker (Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs); he wanted to expand trade with Johannesburg because he believed they were a strong ally in the Cold war.

Chester Crocker discussing South African trade with Ronald Reagan
Chester Crocker discussing South African trade with Ronald Reagan


While divestment activists were warning the American public that this was a bad idea, the South African government, and large companies were recruiting young Republican politicians such as Jack Abramoff, Grover Norquist, and Jeff Flake. These politicians  promoted the idea that trade with Johannesburg and large South African cities was a wise economic decision and “socio-economic and political developments in South Africa are resulting in the betterment of the lives of all the peoples of South Africa.”Years later, these men didn’t want the public to know of their association with the south african government, in fear that it could ruin their political image.

Overall the answer to how and what started Apartheid is very complex but looking events such as settlement of the dutch, the beginning of gold mining and several political actions. In addition to the whites fear of black people endangering their way of life. It becomes much easier to understand what started Apartheid and how the laws where enacted.

Work Cited:

Sam Kleiner, “Meet the Conservatives Who Campaigned for Apartheid South Africa,” The Nation (July 9th, 2013) <

Leonard Thompson, A History of South Africa Revised Edition, (Yale University 1995)

Mark Mathabane, Kaffrir boy (New York 1986)

Paul Maylam, “The Rise and Decline of Urban Apartheid in South Africa,” African Affairs 57-84  (2013): 112, accessed October 3, 2014,

Lindesay Parrot, “South Africa Condemned Anew In U. N. Apartheid Investigation,” New York Times, October 13, 1955, 1&6

London Times, “Cape Town Archbishop On “Apartheid”  London Times, October 30, 1954.

A. J. Christopher, “Apartheid Planning in South Africa: The Case of Port Elizabeth” The Geographical Journal Vol. 153, (1989): accessed November 16, 2014.

Ronald Reagan and Chester Crocker/Oval Office 1984, Flickr, <

Protester running through the street from police/ Johanesberg 1976, <

Gold mine workers/ Langlaagte 1920’s, soul safari word press,<