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“Bathing area only for members of the white race” - sign in three languages ​​( English , Afrikaans , isiZulu ) on the beach in the city of Durban , 1989

As Apartheid (literally "separateness") is a historical period of administrated and organized so-called racial segregation in South Africa and West Africa , respectively. Above all, it was characterized by the authoritarian , self-declared predominance of the “white” population group of European descent over all others. It began at the beginning of the 20th century, had its heyday from the 1940s to the 1980s and ended in 1994 after a phase of mutual understanding with a democratic change of government in which Nelson Mandela became the country's first black president. Today the term is sometimes used as a synonymused for racial segregation in general. In addition, political action with such endeavors has been included as a criminal offense in international law (→ apartheid (law) ).


Apartheid means 'separation', formed from the Afrikaans - or Dutch adjective apart for 'separate, individual, special, different', which originally comes from Latin : pars 'the part', ad partem '(only) to a part'. In other languages:

  • In French , à part de means 'apart from, except from'.
  • In English , apart means ' apart , apart', but also 'strange'.
  • In German there is a relationship in the word party , while the word apart is mainly used in the sense of 'lovely, attractive'.


Many historical, socio-sociological, religious and psychological factors were at work in the development of the theory and practice of apartheid. Research is controversial about the relevance and importance of the individual components. In the narrower sense, only the legally anchored policy of racial segregation practiced since 1948 is referred to as apartheid. In South Africa, the term apartheid is already used by official bodies for the political-legislative measures for racial segregation before 1948, since the foundations of apartheid emerged gradually from 1908 onwards. With the victory of the National Party in the parliamentary elections in 1948 and the subsequent formation of a government under the leadership of Daniel François Malan , the ideology of apartheid achieved a dynamic that was even stricter and more authoritarian than the racial segregation policies of previous governments. The history of apartheid in South Africa was mainly shaped by the conflicts between immigrant population groups of the Bantu , Boers of Dutch origin , the British and later also the "half-breeds" referred to as colored as well as people of Indian origin . Accordingly, the demographic structure of South Africa was a basis for the development of the apartheid system.

From the East India Company to the British intervention

Originally the region south of the Zambezi was settled by the San . In the 16th and 17th centuries, Bantu-speaking groups from the north advanced into their settlement area and partially displaced the indigenous population. In the middle of the 16th century, Portuguese sailors were the first Europeans to set up small settlements on the coast. In 1652 Jan van Riebeeck founded a station on the Cape of Good Hope on behalf of the Dutch East India Company to supply ships with food, which subsequently became Cape Town . The Dutch, known as Boers from the 18th century on, farmed and began to trade with the locals. The British took control of the Cape Province . As they advanced eastward, they encountered the Xhosa ; from 1779 to 1879 there were nine wars ( Xhosa or Cape Border Wars ) in which the Xhosa were defeated by the white troops.

Calvinism and Apartheid

The Boers of Dutch origin were shaped by Calvinism , which further developed Johannes Calvin's doctrine of predestination . In the neo-Calvinist Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK) in what is now South Africa, to which the majority of all white Afrikaans still belong, it was a matter of course until 1857 that whites and non-whites prayed and communicated together. It was not until 1857 that it decided that non-whites should “enjoy their Christian privileges in a separate building or institute”. For the religious legitimation of apartheid, passages from the Old Testament such as Dtn 23.3  EU or Jos 23.9-13  EU were used.

With central statements by Calvin, for whom a distinction between poor and rich, free and slaves, women and men as well as races or nationalities in the church was unthinkable (see Gal 3 : 26-29  EU ), a theological justification of apartheid such as not compatible with the NGK. In research (e.g. FA van Jaarsfeld, Edward A. Tiryakian and T. Dunbar Moodie) from the 1950s onwards, the opinion was repeatedly expressed that some aspects of Calvinism played an important role in the formation of the apartheid system. From the 1980s onwards (for example by André du Toit or Norman Etherington) these points of view were increasingly contradicted.

British colonial policy at the Cape

Under British rule at the beginning of the 20th century, the first comprehensively planned apartheid structures emerged in South Africa.

From 1903 to 1905 the South African Native Affairs Commission (SANAC) was to establish a common ethnic policy for all four South African provinces ( Natal , Cape Colony, Orange Free State and Transvaal ). The commission proposed the establishment in line with the Natal practice of the native administration . This separate responsibility of a powerful administrative authority became the organizational center in the apartheid regime from 1958 in the form of the Bantu Administration .

In 1910 the South African Union was founded by the merger of the four provinces. The Union was under the control of whites from the start. Blacks, as well as coloreds and Asians, were not given the right to vote, although there had been efforts of this kind by missionary James Stewart . They were only allowed to participate in the provincial governments. Furthermore, any sexual contact between the different population groups known as “races” was forbidden. The segregation policy was underpinned by the white rulers with a growing number of laws.

The Mines and Works Act of 1911 established the unequal treatment of whites and blacks in the economy. Probably the most essential law of spatial separation, the Natives Land Act , came into force in 1913. As a result, the black population was only allowed to purchase land in the reservations assigned to them. These areas covered around 7.3 percent of the South African territory. Ten years later, the Natives Urban Areas Act implemented spatial separation in urban areas as well. Against the growing inequality of the population groups, an interchurch missions conference was declared in 1923, which, under the leadership of Johannes Du Plessis, addressed the then government of South Africa with a request on this matter.

In 1924, the Industrial Conciliation Act restricted the cooperation of potential collective bargaining partners. With this law one created so-called industrial councils (English: Industrial Councils ) in order to prevent the previous disputes between workers' commandos and the military. These industrial councils worked in a similar way to collective bargaining commissions and had decision-making powers, which, however, had to be confirmed in detail by the labor minister. On the part of the workers, only people with the status defined by law as employees (workers) could participate. However, black workers were excluded from this and were therefore not considered eligible for collective bargaining. The government of the alliance elected in 1924 between the National Party and the South African Labor Party under the joint Prime Minister James Barry Munnick Hertzog developed a Civilized Labor Policy , according to which all public employers only had to hire white workers. According to this, thousands of black workers lost their jobs in the state railway sector, for example. The then Social Democratic Labor Minister Frederic Creswell defined " uncivilized work" as an activity of people who limit themselves to a lifestyle with only the bare minimum of obligations, as is common among "barbaric and undeveloped people".

Further legal measures that led to restrictions for the non-white population came in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1948 the National Party won the general election. She stayed in power until 1994.

Establishment of the apartheid regime

Based on this tradition, racial segregation was justified with recommendations from an occupied with scientists Commission supports and finally with laws and a special authority institutionalized. In the legal texts, apartheid was referred to with the euphemism "Separate Development" ( afrikaans : Afsonderlike Ontwikkeling ).

The victory of the Boer nationalists was closely linked to World War II . Under the previously incumbent Prime Minister Jan Christiaan Smuts , South Africa took part in military conflicts alongside the British. The nationalists, on the other hand, were against interfering in the armed conflict and openly sympathized with the German National Socialist regime . The majority of the electorate agreed with the nationalists.

The change of government represented the exit from poverty for many Boers, who had previously barely made contact with the leading elite of the country under British rule. Many moved to urban areas and found work there in the emerging economy. The nationalists, who by the way tried to differentiate themselves from the British, now also steered racial politics in new directions. In doing so, they pursued three goals: firstly, they wanted to consolidate political power, secondly, to implement their vision of racial relations, and thirdly, the educational level and economic status of the Boers should be raised.

Before 1948, blacks were gradually excluded from self-determined political participation and high positions in the economy. Racial segregation was given partly by law and partly by unofficial custom. However, the order was not very strict. There were definitely colored people who lived next to whites, Indian businessmen who went about their business in the city center, or blacks who ran their farms outside of their reservations .

The nationalists closed these "holes" in racial segregation with various measures. First they divided the entire South African population into four ethnically differentiated classes: white , colored , Asian and black or in English White , Colored , Asiatic or Indian and Native or later Bantu and African. ( See also: Population of South Africa ). The assignment to one of these groups was done according to certain criteria. The interpretation of the test results was often left to the investigator's discretion. This was particularly true of the division into blacks and coloreds. Various tests were used, such as whether a pencil stuck in the hair falls down when the subject shakes his head. If the pen fell out, the test person was considered a colored person; if the pen got stuck, he was considered a black person. As a result, short hairstyles became popular. Another of these tests consisted of the test director using force to squeeze a fingertip of the person being tested. From the color of the discolored - because bloodless - fingernail bed after letting go, the race was inferred.

From then on, the race order determined all of life. A strict separation of whites and non-whites was required in public places. Mixed marriages were forbidden. With the Group Areas Act of June 13, 1950, the separation of residential areas was established. In urban areas, separate living areas were created for the different races; the training was also based on the corresponding breed. Blacks had to carry a passport with them outside of their reservations. This meant that only those blacks who could show a work permit should be tolerated in urban areas. All remaining blacks were considered foreigners. The blacks working in the cities were accepted as guest workers. Most of them lived in so-called townships on the outskirts. Non-urban blacks were only allowed 72 hours in cities without a permit under the Native Laws Amendment Act of 1952. With that, apartheid was legally complete. Nevertheless, the standard of living, the educational opportunities in schools and the few universities approved for them as well as the medical care and thus the life expectancy of blacks were higher than in all other African countries, which is why South Africa was confronted with illegal immigration from the northern neighboring states even during apartheid.

In 1953 the Bantu Education Act was passed, which on April 1, 1955 transferred control of black education from the Department of Education to the Native Affairs Department . The background was to train the Africans to do physical labor; agriculture should be taught instead of math and English. At the same time, all African elementary and high schools operated by churches and missions should be taken over by the government, otherwise these schools would no longer receive any state funds as support. In protest, the ANC called a week-long school boycott, which was to begin on April 1, 1955. As a result, the law was changed to the effect that education should be the same for everyone.

Racial Policy Legislation in South Africa

Politics in South Africa created a number of different laws, regulations and administrative structures that gave governments extensive powers to discriminate against large groups of the population and to underpin the power of whites over other groups.

First half of the 20th century

After the end of the Second Boer War , the governor of the Cape Colony , Lord Milner , commissioned a commission (South African Native Affairs Commission) in 1903 to investigate all living conditions in the native population of the four "South African colonies", i.e. in the Cape Colony including Natal , in the Transvaal as well as in the Orange River Colony .

This commission, which was active from 1903 to 1905, was shaped by European interests due to its personal composition and was headed by Sir Godfrey Lagden . In public the commission and its report bore his name. The so-called Lagden Report and the legislation resulting from its recommendations are interpreted today as a reaction to the minority situation of the white population with its advancing economic problems.
According to the recommendations of the report, the increasing land ownership (fiduciary or common law) among the local population, a central issue at the time, should be designed in such a way that it was spatially and strictly legally separated from the areas of the white population. The white population began to stockpile land. The resulting scarcity of land reduced the social advancement of the black population through their own agricultural activities and in this way not only inhibited their overall development, but also caused a population migration in South Africa with concentration in new places. This institutional disadvantage of the native population to the detriment of their livelihoods in their home areas created a growing number of migrant workers who increasingly concentrated in the mining centers or forced them to work on “white” farms in a dependency system.

The Natives Land Act (Act No. 27) of 1913 sought to stop the acquisition of land by the black population outside of the areas designated by the government for their settlement. Thus, a concentration of the native African population in the new settlement areas called African Reserves was pursued by attempting to bind them there through the purchase of land and lease agreements. In this way, the residents of those areas were kept available in a controlled manner as a low- wage labor pool for the benefit of the farms and industries of the whites in the cities. The economic character of the apartheid concept can be seen in this structural development policy at the time. The Natives Land Act is therefore seen as the first legislative milestone for the entire apartheid policy. On its basis, the Beaumont Commission (Beaumont Commission) was created in 1916 , whose task it was to establish a more detailed spatial definition for the new "black" settlement areas. It was named after William Henry Beaumont , a former administrator of Natal.

The process of expelling the black population from the cities to the African Reserves began in the Transvaal, where the Transvaal Local Government Commission (Stallard Commission) proceeded with determination in accordance with the new settlement policy. She argued with her fundamental view that the cities were laid out by the white population and therefore the black population would only be allowed to stay there temporarily.

The Native (Urban Area) Act (Act No 21) of 1923 represents the second milestone in the early apartheid phase. This law was followed in 1945 in the matter of the Native (Urban Areas) Consolidation Act (Act No 25) , which in turn was replaced by the Abolition of Influx Control Act '(Act No 68) has been repealed.

In 1927 the South African Parliament passed the Native Administration Act (Act No 38) . This law reshaped all questions of the local population in such a way that the competence was shifted from the parliamentary level of the South African Union to the responsibility of the government and its regional administrations. This established a two-class citizenship through the legislation , which formed the basis for the Bantu Authorities Act , which came into force in 1951 and which later created self-government under white supervision .

During the global economic depression of the 1930s, overgrazing of agricultural land increased in the territory of the South African Union and an overpopulation developed in the affected regions of the country, which caused progressive soil erosion and declining food production. The changes in the natural area were used for further regulatory interventions in property traffic . To this end, Parliament passed the Development Trust and Land Act (Act No. 18) in 1936 on the recommendation of the Beaumont Commission . The law was a response to the growing conflicts between “illegal” land ownership by black farmers and the legally privileged white farmers. Through this legislation, the South African Union created a system for registering farms, controlling livestock and leasing land to blacks. In addition, the black population was prohibited from owning and acquiring land outside of the designated settlement areas. In 1936, the Representation of Natives Act severely restricted black people's right to vote for parliamentary representation.

The Natives Laws Amendment Act (Act No. 46/1937) of 1937 reduced the rights of black workers. Job seekers from rural areas now only had a right of residence in the cities for 14 days, including their return to their hometown. The industrial boom in the course of the Second World War encouraged attitudes in parliament and government to loosen these restrictions again. However, in 1948 the government of the Boer Nasional Party took up the status of 1937 and made it the basis for further restrictions in its apartheid policy.

A state administrative structure, the South African Native Trust (SANT), was set up for the administrative implementation of the conceived control systems. With this instrument, a restrictive redistribution policy of land assets was started in the rural areas using the available state planning and settlement policy. As a result, unregistered farmers began to be evicted unless they were officially registered as workers on the white farms. The expropriation of a considerable part of the local population living there was the intended economic effect of these parliamentary reform efforts. This was known as "betterment planning" and was strictly implemented in the late 1930s and 1940s. This led to an expansion of the powers of the government officials involved, the Native Commissioners and Agricultural Officers .

Legislation from 1948

1988 Certificate of Belonging to the
White Population

In the same year of its victory in the parliamentary elections in 1948 , the National Party (Nasionale Party) began to pass laws that define the segregation of different population groups more sharply and should further enforce. With the passing of these laws, racial discrimination in South Africa, apartheid, was systematically institutionalized and enshrined in law.

The ideological prerequisite for this legislation was the division of the population according to membership of a “race”, with skin color initially being used as a benchmark until the 1950s. The aim was the establishment of independent, so-called homelands and the establishment of legal nationality units (national unit) . Initially 8 such "national units" were set up, which were later supplemented by two more.

The laws (English: Acts) for the systematic implementation of the apartheid concept were put into force after the election in 1948 and the subsequent declaration of "Grand Apartheid". Important examples of apartheid enforcement legislation included:





Effects of apartheid in South African society

Drawing of a toilet sign in South Africa showing the use of public toilets according to race
Entry for dogs and "non-whites" prohibited: only for whites! - The beach as well as the facilities are reserved for whites - The provincial administration . Sign in English and Afrikaans on the beach at Muizenberg near Cape Town 1985


Some researchers divide the effects of apartheid policy into two aspects: small apartheid , also known as petty apartheid , and large apartheid or grand apartheid . With grand apartheid spatial separation is meant a large scale, the actual segregation or Homeland policy. Other scientific representations do not take up this dichotomy, since the system of systematic disadvantages was linked to one another in a very complex manner.

Public life

In the everyday life of the non-whites, the forms of small apartheid were immediately noticeable. It included the racially motivated separation in the service sector and in public space , as well as the prohibition of entering public parks or beaches and swimming pools for blacks, separate compartments in public transport or their own schools. Unmistakable regulations and prohibitions on separation in public spaces were achieved through signs. Companies had to set up separate toilets and canteens. Some facilities, such as high class hotels, were only accessible to white people. The retail trade either handled its customer traffic via two door systems or took orders from non-whites at the back door and delivered them there as well.

Hospitals, post offices, town halls, banks and toilets usually had two entrances marked by signs. Other areas of life were less clearly defined. Word of mouth was used to name restaurants and bars among non-whites in which one was not served or was not wanted. Some non-whites tested the limits of acceptance by whites. Others were reluctant to leave their safe area. As a result, they lived quieter and less exposed to discrimination.

Some of these segregation measures had an immediate effect, but produced less long-term effects on the populations affected by the segregation policy.

Many segregation measures in the public sector were lifted at the instigation of President Frederik Willem de Klerk in 1989 and 1990, for example:

  • March 1989, Port Elizabeth granted free access to all swimming pools.
  • November 1989, instructions to all relevant local administrations to cancel group-specific beach reservations. This was implemented by the end of 1989.
  • September 1989, Johannesburg (City Council) granted free access to all swimming pools and recreational facilities.
  • December 1989, Bloemfontein (City Council) opened all community facilities (including libraries, buses, parks, swimming pools).
  • February 1990, Johannesburg lifted the group-specific access restrictions in the public transport bus service.
  • March 1990, Pretoria (City Council) opened the municipal bus service, libraries and swimming pools to everyone.

In some cities, in which the Konserwatiewe Party formed the strongest local political force, attempts were made to restore segregation relations in public institutions. This led to protests among the black and colored population in Boksburg and Carletonville , which took the form of a consumer boycott against local companies. The effects were very effective, as this led to business closings and temporary sales losses of up to 80 percent for other companies. The boycotts ended in November 1989 after the De Klerk government announced the repeal of the 1953 Reservation of Separate Amenities Act from 1953 for 1990. The economic effects are also preoccupying the courts. Judge CF Eloff of the Transvaal Provincial Division of the Supreme Court in Pretoria ruled Carletonville City Council in September 1989 for abusive behavior. The restorative conditions in Boksburg also came before the Supreme Court, where Judge SW McCreath described the decision of the city council of this community as "grossly unreasonable" and in his justification referred to the fact that a local administration was exercising its power in the Would have to exercise the interest of the municipality in its entirety and would not have to make any inappropriate decisions with "unfaithful intent".

In July 1990, the then South African three-chamber parliament passed the Discriminatory Legislation Regarding Public Amenities Act with an overwhelming majority, which completely repealed the Separation Act of 1953. Votes against came only from the faction of the Konserwatiewe Party, which saw in it a "destruction of the 'white' right to self-determination" (destroy whites' right to self-determination). The Minister of Planning and Provicial Service Hernus Kriel countered in parliament that the old law was discriminatory in principle and that it was now possible for South Africa to return to the international community. For Labor Party MP Desmond Lockey , a step has now been taken to move towards restoring human dignity and civil rights for all South Africans. Zach de Beer of the Democratic Party commented that the new law "makes a significant contribution to creating a suitable climate for negotiations".

Political participation and civil rights

The exclusion of all non-whites, but primarily blacks, from active and passive voting rights in the parts of the country outside the reservations or later homelands had an impact even in the communal area. In this way, the political decision-makers in South Africa's parliamentary representation system deliberately created an absolute deficit of democratic rights for a majority of the population. With the constitutional reform of 1984 under Pieter Willem Botha, this gap was to be put into perspective again with a three-chamber system, without allowing the black majority of the population to shape political will and shape in South Africa. This meant that no democratically legitimized corrections or developments in South African society could be initiated from their circle.

The historical course of the elimination of voting rights for the non-European population has taken place over several decades since the founding of the South African Union and according to group-specific (colored, Indian, black) patterns of action. An effective shaping of social questions about the constitutional structures of the parliamentary and municipal electoral bodies was only granted to citizens of European descent. The apartheid state organized political participation for non-whites exclusively from its own rulership perspective. The governments of the homelands or largely ineffective bodies offered space for this, as they were not equipped with sufficient powers. The latter included predetermined advisory institutions such as the Colored Persons' Representative Council and the South African Indian Council .

The freedom of movement was restricted by several legal regulations. With the Natives Laws Amendment Act (Act No 54/1952) of 1952, an amendment to the Native Labor Regulation Act of 1911 and the Natives Consolidation Act (Act No 25/1945 ) , the apartheid government restricted the already limited housing and residence rights of blacks Population continues. Of particular importance are the regulations in section 10 (German: Paragraph 10) of this law, which define existentially significant exceptions to the 72-hour right of residence outside the assigned residential areas in the reservations or homelands. No black person was allowed to spend more than 72 hours in the whites' prescribed areas . Under the section 10 rights were residence permits for black workers in the "white" areas. They were defined for an assigned job with a regional description and were omitted if the job was lost. This approval and a monthly confirmation from the employer were entered in the passport books, which must always be carried. During controls, the legal residence could be determined immediately. Women and the children of male migrant workers in particular were severely affected by these restrictions, as there were no family immigration rights for them. The Minister for Bantu Administration , Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd , explained in 1955, based on the results of the Stallard Commission , that black workers only “at the behest and favor of whites” and not through legally guaranteed rights in the “white areas "Useful work fulfilled, which is why they are" at most visitors ". The economic policy goal of these regulations was to bring all black employees into the role of contract migrant workers and to prevent them from settling down at work.


By classifying the population in "racially" defined groups, a classification was created that made it possible to distinguish each person from others in the entire social life. The “race category” was entered in the identification documents by means of letter codes, for example -C- for coloreds . The black population received a special identification document, the reference book . The Population Registration Act (Act No 30/1950) divided the population of South Africa into three main groups:

  • Colored
  • black
  • White.

To implement these measures, a “Race Classification Board” was created. All South Africans were registered by this authority and were required to submit a passport photo. A central “race register” was created on this basis. The term Bantu had been used by the government as a term for the indigenous black population since 1951 and has been an official term since 1962. In 1978 the word Black was introduced as the official name for people . As of 1973, an ethnic subgroup ( National unit ) was recorded in the identity documents of blacks . A supplementary law from 1982, the Population Registration Amendment Act (Act No. 101/1982) , brought about a standardization of identity cards for all population groups, which now provided for the possibility of including biometric characteristics . All personal data was stored in a central computer system of the state. Since the system had already reached its limits when it came to classifying the population of Asian origin, the 1983 constitution created a fourth category of Asians or Indians , whose rights roughly corresponded to those of the Coloreds . They were now entitled to 5 members in the Presidential Council and 45 seats in the House of Delegates, previously they were excluded from political participation. Cape Malay , however, continued to be regarded as colored and Japanese, Koreans and Taiwan-Chinese as white .

Spatial planning and settlement policy

The residential areas of the white population, also called Europeans , were consistently in the geographically and structurally most advantageous areas of the settlement areas. If the designated areas became too narrow for the whites, other population groups had to vacate parts of their residential areas and relocate to newly assigned areas. A well-known example was the evacuation of District Six in central Cape Town and the forced relocation of around 60,000 people to sandy Khayelitsha, about 30 kilometers away . In their remote residential area, the black population was so far outside the community, often behind natural or artificial hills and rubbish dumps, that they could not be considered part of the community.

With the conception of the homelands, the apartheid ideologues tried to implement a primarily economically based spatial planning policy.

Between 1960 and 1980 around 3.4 million people had to forcibly give up their previous homes in urban and rural regions as part of the homeland policy. These included around 2.8 million blacks, 600,000 Coloreds and Indians, and 16,000 whites. In this way the traditional labor tenant system was destroyed , which guaranteed the agricultural worker families an undisputed right to live on the “white” farms if the head of the family committed to paid work there for an annual minimum (90 days in Transval, 180 days in Natal). The rest of the year they could pursue other activities. This was not without protests, which led to countless arrests. The civil rights organization Black Sash , the South African Council of Churches and the Surplus Peoples Project drew attention to the forced relocations, especially to their extent and the suffering of the population .

The governments destroyed entire settlements in the townships in order to force the blacks to resettle, which was based, for example, on the Native Resettlement Act of 1952. Only temporary stays by the approved workers in the townships' accommodations were wanted and tolerated. According to the prevailing policy, these people were only guests in the “white” areas with patriarchal work permits. To this end, the Bantu Administration directed the local authorities in 1967 in a directive that no “bigger, better, more attractive and luxurious conditions” could be created. It must be “remembered that an urban Bantu residential area is not a homeland, but part of a white area. If these conditions result in not only accustoming the Bantu to a foreign taste, but also imposing a luxury on it that its homeland cannot offer, thus alienating it from what is its own ”.

Especially the urban areas were of forced relocation (urban relocation) affected. According to research published in 1977, there were five phases of government-driven evacuation of the black population from the cities. The Natives (Urban Areas) Act of 1923 promoted the dissolution of slums and provided for the complete evacuation of the black population from the "white" areas. In this context, the “principle of impermanence” was proclaimed. The compound system in the mining sector and for the sugar cane plantations in the province of Natal formed a further phase . The third phase developed after the enactment of the Group Areas Act of 1950, which resulted in forced resettlement and slum dissolution in the vicinity of the urban agglomerations. The next phase occurred in the 1960s. During this period the government built small settlement houses in the homelands. In the “white” areas, the presence of a black workforce was to be specifically regulated by building a limited and separate house for blacks. In the parlance of the Bantu administration , people regarded as “unproductive”, such as the elderly, widows and others, were to be deported to the designated black areas from 1967 onwards . During the fifth and final phase in the 1970s, urbanization of the homelands began under the control of the South African Bantu Trust , in step with the development of industrial sites in the same regions. In the course of the resettlement, compensation payments were made in a few cases. Special laws, such as the Slums Act , legitimized such practices.


The school systems, which also differ in content, with different levels of equipment and qualifications of the teaching staff, were jointly responsible for unequal future opportunities in occupation, culture and social contexts. The Bantu Education Act of 1953 set the framework for uniform, state-controlled, low-quality schooling. Only a very small number of non-white people achieved the prerequisites for university education. The aim of the so-called "Bantu education" was the systematically planned and statically anchored development of a large, poorly educated section of the population who, as low-wage workers of the privileged white minority population of South Africa, could not compete in the labor market. The free schools run by mostly church organizations, once the alternative opportunity to better education for blacks and people of color, were liquidated in this capacity with the Bantu Education Act and placed under state supervision.

Even before the end of apartheid, positions and activities for an educational policy and educational alternative to the ruling and repressively controlled state education system were formed in the country. The changes emerging in this field went hand in hand with the growth of the Black Consciousness movement . When the educator Es'kia Mphahlele returned to South Africa from exile in 1977 , he dealt with the concept of alternative education . His teaching activity, which he started at the Witwatersrand University , gave him the necessary leeway. He was referring to works by Paulo Freire , for example . In 1981, in the course of an interview, Mphahlele formulated a critical inventory of the state education system:

“[A new theory of education] must find ways in which colonialism can be dismantled in the minds [...]. This will lead to the liberation of the ego, which in turn will lead to a rediscovery of the ego. All colonized peoples in the world have two egos: the original (indigenous) ego on which western culture was imposed. This culture is aggressive, so it comes with technology, economics, Christian education. When it is done with us, we find that it has split us into an educated elite and the masses, into the original self and the new receptivity of the individual who has broken away from collective sentiment and glorifies individualism. That is the personality alienated from its heritage. "

- Es'kia Mphahlele : Interview 1981

Thus the new approach of a liberation pedagogy was introduced into the political discourse about the "separate development" within South Africa's educational system, which pursued the dismantling of the "colonialism in the minds" as a central goal.

At a congress of the National Education Crisis Committee (NECC) in Durban on March 29, 1986, Mphahlele's point of view spread further. Zwelakhe Sisulu declared: “We no longer demand the same upbringing as whites have; for that is education to rule. 'People's education ' serves the people as a whole, is education that liberates, is education that enables the people to take their lives into their own hands. [...] We are unwilling to accept any alternative to ' Bantu Education ' imposed on the people from above. [...] alternatives [...] which are supposed to ensure that the exploitation by foreign monopolies continues. "

The education system for the black population (there were separate regulations for Coloreds and Indians) did not provide for a uniform education for teachers. In 1985 the state (Bantu) school system employed 45,059 teachers, 42,000 of whom were underqualified. Only 3.6 percent had a subject-related university degree and 70 percent did not even have their own school-leaving certificate at Standard 10 or higher (Gymnasium includes Grade 8 to Grade 12 ). The quota for underqualified teachers in schools for white students was predominantly in the single-digit percentage range.

The Spro-cas report from 1971 summarized the politically accepted weaknesses of the state education system for the black population using the example of the homeland Bophuthatswana by means of striking points:

  • insufficiently trained educators (25% of the teaching staff)
  • missing classrooms (3000 missing classrooms)
  • Overcrowded classes (sometimes up to 90 students in one room)
  • Lessons in double sessions (two successive lesson stages, each 2.75 actual hours, one teacher on one day for two different classes)
  • high class failure rate (55.4% of the pupils left school permanently during the 6th grade ( primary school ) ).

Higher education

With the Extension of University Education Act (Act No 45 of 1959) the separation of higher education for "whites" and "non-whites" was brought about. The law provided for the establishment of university colleges for “non-white persons”. The financing of the facilities intended for the Bantu population came from the Bantu Education Account and for the Colored and Indian population from the General Revenue Account . Furthermore, it was stipulated that every university college had to elect a (White) Council and a (Black) Advisory Council , the same applied to the Senate of the higher education institution.

The severe restrictions on free university access for blacks finally led to an educational institution of the ANC in Tanzania that had been working with international aids and teachers since 1978 and offered courses with internationally recognized degrees.
In 1983 the Vista University began its academic training activities for blacks in various South African cities, but as an institution of the racially conceived educational policy in the apartheid state. For the ethnic group of
Indian origin , there was the University College for Indians in Durban since 1962, and later the University of Durban-Westville, which was developed from it . University College of the Western Cape had been able to study at the University College of the Western Cape since 1959 .

labour market

Apartheid policy was mainly a means of safeguarding the economic interests of the white minority population. Legal restrictions and employment agencies spread across the country achieved an effective steering effect that served the interests of industry. The black population, largely without a basic vocational training certificate, was involved in a complex system of migrant work that enabled them to live on only the lowest standards, for example in the compound settlements of the mining companies. Strike and collective bargaining rights, which were excluded by law, made them a mass of low-wage workers that was freely available and that could be used efficiently in the interests of employers . The formation of trade unions was not prohibited, but in practice such activities were subject to severe repression. In 1972 the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) turned to the international trade union movement with a comprehensive catalog of topics to support him in his endeavors to establish basic labor rights. Active members of the SACTU suffered persecution by all means of repression of the apartheid state. On the basis of the Industrial Conciliation Amendment Act (Act No. 94/1979) , the apartheid government approved apprenticeships for blacks for the first time in 1979. In addition, black workers were now given the status of salaried employees, which also gave them employee rights. Excluded from this were migrant workers and foreign labor migrants , who came primarily from Mozambique .

Public administration

In order to be able to implement the goals of apartheid, a huge administrative apparatus was necessary. This emerged from the native administration of the former state administration based on the British model and, as the Bantu administration, gained great influence at times. This native administration formed a largely self-sufficient parallel structure to all other public administrations.

Judicial system

During the apartheid period, the judicial system of South Africa was provided with options for action that are questionable under the rule of law. For example, a so-called Sobukwe clause from 1963 made it possible to continue imprisonment on the sole order of the minister, without having to seek a new judicial decision. In 1976, we reactivated this instrument with stringent options, which on the basis of the Internal Security Amendment Act (Act No 79/1976) the indefinite detention (preventive detention) possible without a court ruling now not only prisoners but also with any other person if, according to the Justice Minister's subjective point of view, it represented a “danger” to security and public order. Informing those affected about the reasons for their preventive detention was not mandatory. A review committee created by law was able to make recommendations for release from this internment, which it only formulated in a few cases. Preventive detention was applied in July 1976 in the Transvaal and in August throughout the state, so that in October of the same year 123 apartheid critics were detained in prisons as a preventive measure. Some were later put under the Bannungsverfügung and others were sentenced on the basis of Terrorism Act (General Laws Amendment Act, Act No 83/1967) and other security laws to imprisonment.

Internal security

The special police called Security Branch was part of the South African Police ; Their individual departments were broken down into the civil parish structures as required. To expand the repressive security measures apartheid doctrine in South African domestic and foreign policy developed under the 1972 created State Security Council an ever-branching system of substructures in: (State Security German about) National Security Management System were summarized (NSMS). In addition to the secret service-organized observation of anti-apartheid activities in civil and paramilitary contexts as well as the collection of information via their networks, the associated services and task forces took many operational measures , some with the aim of a strategy of tension . For example, murder attacks abroad on prominent activists of the anti-apartheid movement , as in the cases of Albie Sachs or Ruth First, as well as the systematic threats to family members and people close to the target persons can be regarded as spectacular cases . The organizational structure often used for this was the special unit C1, which became known as Vlakplaas after its headquarters and was under the leadership of officer Eugene de Kock . The Civil Cooperation Bureau was involved in covert actions of destabilization on the part of the military . Secret "security forces" induced conflicts between organized population groups. Personnel and operational competence could also be gained from the integration of former Rhodesians from the Selous Scouts into South African structures.
A permanently tense situation among the black population in the metropolitan areas was caused by undifferentiated large-scale actions by the police, who cordoned off entire city districts and carried out grid-like house searches with tactical "civil war exercises", preferably at night and with the use of hundreds to over a thousand police officers.

As a result of the increasing militarization of the entire society of South Africa and the increasing war activities in neighboring countries, an official association for the abolition of conscription was founded in 1984 after years of informal activities by smaller groups. This End Conscription Campaign saw the apartheid regime as a hostile organization in contradiction to its total strategy of the 1980s and banned it in August 1988.

Freedom of expression and freedom of the press

Several restrictive interventions in the freedom of the press were made to expand the legal vacuum within apartheid policy . The 1959 Prison Act (Act No 8/1959) and the Police Amendment Act (Act No 64/1979) of 1979 prohibited independent reporting unless approved by the authorities themselves. The Steyn Commission drew up proposals for the “reorganization” of the media sector and thus made a fundamental contribution to restricting freedom of the press. In this way, an uncensored public perception of the police action was gradually made more difficult and ultimately impossible. With the Second Police Amendment Act in 1980, any reporting of the acts classified as "terrorist" was even banned. This also included the names of the inmates. Incidents of mistreatment, torture or murder could now hardly be picked up by the press and the unsettled whereabouts of many people increased. At the same time, no one was able to estimate the extent of illegal detention by the authorities. As a professor at the Witwatersrand University, John Dugard criticized this legal practice as early as 1980 , referring to the conditions created by it, which, for example , could make it impossible to clarify the circumstances of Steve Biko's death . The then attorney at the Supreme Court of South Africa , Albie Sachs , was himself the victim of one of these repressive laws for over five months, according to which an inmate could be detained for up to 90 days (defined in section 17 of the General Laws Amendment Act, Act No 37 / 1963 ) without a judicial decision in the custody of the security police and exposed to their uncontrolled torture . A UN report from 1973 provided information about the mistreatment and torture of prisoners in South Africa.

Censorship and self-censorship

In South Africa there was a public service since 1931, which was created to control freely accessible entertainment and amusement facilities. This received its legal basis with the Entertainments ( Censorship ) Act (Act No. 28/1931). Customs authorities also controlled the import of unwanted printed matter. In the 1960s, the state's handling of media products began to change significantly. In 1971 an amending law was passed, which now granted the censorship institution, which had meanwhile grown to a comprehensive authority, the right to search houses . Substantial changes result in 1974 with the Publications Act (Act No. 42/1974), which not only took up the previous regulations, but opened the way to complete censorship of public and private life. In the preamble to this law it is stated that “In the application of the law [...] the constant endeavors of the people of the Republic of South Africa to maintain a Christian view of life should be recognized.” (English: “In the application of this Act the constant endeavor of the population of the Republic of South Africa to uphold a Christian view of life shall be recognized. " This was preceded by an extensive preparation, which was led by a parliamentary working group led by the Vice Minister of the Interior, J. T. Kruger, and which consisted of 8 other NP members and 4 UP members. The result was published as a government paper with the number RP 17/1974 and contained, inter alia. a bill that was passed in August 1974 with minor changes. The new agency was under the direction of the Directorate of Publications with its director, his deputy and three other assistant directors. To fulfill the censorship tasks there was the "Committee", whose members were appointed by the Minister of the Interior and whose names were initially not disclosed. These structures extended to all regional levels in the country. In May 1976, in response to a parliamentary question, the Minister of the Interior announced the names of the members of the Directorate of Publications . At the head of the committee were J. L. Pretorius (director) and his deputy Professor RE Lighton as well as the assessors appointed as assistant director : JT Kruger, SF du Toit and MJ van der Westhuizen.

In 1976 the agency established a special committee to examine university libraries for suspected subversive literature. Unwanted literature was allowed to remain in the inventory for scientific purposes and to be used by teachers under defined conditions. There was also literature whose possession was forbidden , in particular printed works classified as communist could only be viewed with special permission and could not be borrowed. The Directorate of Publications was essentially the initiator of censorship investigations; However, it was also possible for citizens to ask the authorities to conduct an investigation, which was likely to encourage arbitrary denunciation . The censorship was not only limited to restricting the distribution of unwanted media works, but also to prohibiting their own possession. The extensive work of the censorship authority was reflected directly in the press, because the current listings were published here on a weekly basis. On average over the year there were 2000 investigation cases, about half of which were affected by a ban.

The conduct of the censorship authority set in motion a process of self-censorship among the publishers parallel to its work . Many white journalists, publishers and authors quickly adapted to the more severe situation. The union of newspaper publishers, the National Press Union (NPU), played a central role . Their press code was a submission to the reporting goals approved by the government. The barriers to thinking and writing created in this way resulted in the voluntary maintenance of the myth of a free and uncontrolled press in South Africa and SWA / Namibia . The first attempts at controlled self-censorship go back to a draft law in 1960, which the government withdrew from the media landscape after vehement criticism and which in 1963 had it passed in a weakened form. The government previously put pressure on the publishers to enforce an acceptable code of conduct for the press through the Newspaper Press Union . She succeeded and the following passage was now included in the code, along with other provisions: "In newspaper comments, the complex racial problems of South Africa should be appropriately recognized and the general welfare and security of the country and its people should also be taken into account." journalistic work also generated growing opposition among the “white” press in South Africa. The Sunday Times publisher has taken the position that if such guidelines are followed, the press will no longer be able to inform the press about key issues relating to the common future of the country.

Sociological analyzes and theoretical foundations

The South African Institute of Race Relations , founded in 1929, examines and documents the development of South African racism and institutional apartheid with many individual publications and periodicals. Numerous apartheid critics took part in the work of the institute.

Several commissions worked on behalf of the South African governments in the years of the apartheid period to develop recommendations and concepts that were used to shape cabinet policy in concrete terms. These included the Tomlinson Commission , the Native Laws Commission and other bodies.

Inner resistance

Basics and development

The counter-movements at the grassroots level to politically motivated racism and apartheid relations in South Africa did not just emerge when the National Party came to power in 1948. At this point in time, they already existed in many forms because the state exclusion of black, Indian and colored population group exerted noticeable adverse effects on them.

Essentially, the socially critical positions in the political emancipation process of the late 19th century had their origins in various mission schools, especially in the sphere of activity of the Anglican Church. This development is derived from the enlightenment impulses of theologians and missionaries working here, such as James Stewart and Jane Elizabeth Waterston , as well as in the resulting political self-image of leading black and Indian personalities. International influences and role models acted as reinforcing factors on the development of emancipation within the black population, to which the American Tuskegee Institute was one . This institution was a role model for the missionaries in what was then the Cape Colony in the further development of educational concepts for the “non-white” population groups.

In the late 1920s and 1930s, the perception of growing processes of social differentiation within South African society gave rise to a readiness for critical systems analysis among some theologians and social scientists. The founding of the South African Institute of Race Relations in 1929 was a result of this changing situation. In the second third of the 20th century, self-organized protest structures established themselves in the black population and those of Indian descent. This can be seen in the establishment of new political organizations, increased demands for the harmonization of civil rights with the standards of the European upper class and in the growing importance of our own newspapers. The former ANC President Zaccheus Richard Mahabane turned against the increasing legislation of racial segregation in the 1930s and advocated the common political path of various opposition groups. The South African government tightened its policies of racist repression in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1938 the Non-European United Front was founded in Johannesburg, of which Yusuf Dadoo was one of the leading members . He organized mass protests against the increasing exclusion of “non-white” parts of the population.

As a result of this growing domestic political tension, there was a momentous change at the top of the ANC in 1949. Young members forced the resignation of chairman Alfred Bitini Xuma in favor of James Moroka and thus influenced the political impact of their organization. Nevertheless, the primacy of nonviolent resistance still prevailed, which manifested itself once again with the next chairman, Albert Luthuli .

In the meantime, the influence of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC), which was based on Gandhi's principles, had grown in Natal and had grown into a powerful force in South Africa. The government of Jan Christiaan Smuts wanted to regulate the electoral and property rights for the Indians restrictively and thereupon aroused violent opposition. A delegation from the SAIC therefore traveled to the Indian government and obtained sanctions against South Africa there. Between 1946 and 1948 the Indian Passive Resistance Campaign drew attention to the unjust living conditions of the Indian population.

The Defiance Campaign between 1952 and 1953 was a joint effort by ANC, SAIC and Coloreds to claim civil rights and legal equality. This was followed in 1956 by the internationally acclaimed protest march by 20,000 women on the government headquarters in Pretoria because of the unpopular passport laws and the protest that developed from further intensification (anti-pass campaigns) in 1960 based on the model of Mahatma Gandhi in Sharpeville , which was caused by armed interference by police forces, however, went down in South African history as the Sharpeville massacre .

The policy of nonviolent resistance was not given up by those affected during the entire apartheid period, but could only be practiced to a very limited extent domestically and shifted to actions in the context of the international public.

African National Congress

Already in 1912, two years after the establishment of the South African Union, the lawyer Pixley Seme , the clergy John L. Dube , Walter B. Rubusana and the author Sol Plaatje founded the African National Congress (ANC). Although founded by men from the elite society, the ANC did not see itself as an elitist organization. It was basically open to everyone, regardless of skin color, and accepted both Christianity and the English language. The ANC saw itself as a black resistance party that demanded full civil rights . For a long time he opposed peacefully through boycotts and strikes. In the 1920s, for example, he organized miners' strikes to improve the poor working conditions of blacks.

The ANC became more and more a mass organization. Hundreds of thousands followed the calls for demonstrations or strikes. For example, in 1946, two years before the start of apartheid, around 70,000 black miners went on strike. In particular against passport laws , according to which urban blacks had to carry a personal document with them at all times in order to be able to identify themselves as employees, the ANC protested by demonstrations and by burning the controversial ID documents. Still, by no means all non-whites, not even all blacks, were behind the ANC. Many blacks saw the government's homeland policy as an opportunity to finally end racism and to live their traditions again.

In later years these differences of opinion would lead to armed clashes, particularly between urban and rural blacks. Riots near Pietermaritzburg between 1987 and 1990 killed around 4,000 people. This conflict was about disputes within the Zulu . Urban Zulu held different views than the rural Zulu united in the Inkatha Freedom Party . In the early 1990s, after the official end of apartheid, Inkatha supporters turned against the Xhosa in particular . People on both sides lost their lives in the process.

The government tried to stop the human rights activists of the ANC and other groups again and again to their work while keeping them banished . Banned people were restricted in their freedom of movement, they were not allowed to leave a precisely defined territory. The government also frequently disbanded ANC meetings. It did so on the basis of several laws, at the center of that jurisdiction the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950.

Militant resistance organizations

For some members, the mostly peaceful actions of the ANC did not go far enough. In 1959 they founded another resistance organization, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). In contrast to the ANC, the PAC rejected the open attitude towards all races. He positioned himself as an all-black organization and refused any cooperation with whites. At a demonstration organized by the PAC in Sharpeville Township in 1960, a police officer ordered his officers to fire submachine guns into the unarmed crowd. 69 Africans died and hundreds were injured.

This event sparked national unrest, which the South African government fought with an iron fist. Around 20,000 demonstrators were arrested. As a result, both the PAC and the ANC were banned. As a result, the ANC also founded an armed wing in 1961. Nelson Mandela himself directed this wing called Umkhonto we Sizwe , which translated means something like spear of the nation . Umkhonto we Sizwe distinguished itself in the following years through acts of sabotage.

Both organizations henceforth operated from underground. Leading opposing figures such as Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu were sentenced to life imprisonment in the so-called Rivonia Trial in 1964 . The court accused them above all of involvement in acts of sabotage.

New self-confidence

In the late 1960s, influenced by the black power movement in the USA, the so-called black consciousness movement emerged in churches and schools . Steve Biko is considered to be the founder of this movement. Caused by the new self-confidence of the blacks, they no longer saw the culture of the whites as overpowering. Rather, they now rejected white culture; however, they emphasized their own values. Artists like Miriam Makeba campaigned for a worldwide boycott of the apartheid regime.

The consequences of the new consciousness were in part violent student unrest. On June 16, 1976, students in Soweto boycotted classes. This was in connection with the attempted, forced introduction of the language Afrikaans, which was hated by blacks . The boycott started the Soweto uprising . Through brutal police operations, 500 to 1000 black people lost their lives in a few days and many children and young people were imprisoned. The photo of the dying 12-year-old Hector Pieterson in the arms of a classmate is world-famous . After that the armed resistance increased by leaps and bounds. The unrest that followed over the next two years unsettled the country. Hundreds of blacks were killed by the police. The pupils and students found support from hundreds of thousands of black workers. This was devastating for the South African economy. Some of the more insignificant apartheid laws have been relaxed to address black displeasure.

International Relations

Support and propaganda abroad for apartheid

Some countries supported the apartheid regime in certain areas.

United States

The US used its veto 21 times in the Security Council to prevent resolutions against South Africa, most of which aimed at a total economic blockade against the country, which was 13 percent of the total number of its vetoes. However, the USA was also the driving force behind the UN's adoption of the first arms embargo against South Africa in 1963. Companies such as IBM have also supported the regime with logistical and technological means. The importance of South Africa for the USA lay among other things in the country's uranium deposits.

Federal Republic of Germany

The Federal Republic also maintained economic contacts with South Africa during apartheid. The then Foreign Minister Willy Brandt , in whose party relations with South Africa were highly controversial, justified this by saying "that one should not couple trade and politics without necessity". One of the leading German politicians who stood out for his proximity to the South African government during the apartheid period was Franz Josef Strauss . He advocated apartheid and is said to have said on a visit to South Africa: “Apartheid politics is based on a positive religious sense of responsibility for the development of the non-white population. It is therefore wrong to speak of the suppression of non-whites by a white master race. ”German corporations are accused of having participated in apartheid in South Africa. In a process that has been pending in federal courts in the USA since 2002, initiated by apartheid victims and inter alia. With the support of Desmond Tutu , 50 international corporations, including Daimler AG and several German banks, were accused of supporting the crimes of the apartheid regime through their businesses. The plaintiffs relied on a 1789 law that allows foreign citizens to file lawsuits in the United States if international law has been violated. General Motors reached an agreement with plaintiffs in 2012 on a no-admission-of-guilt settlement. An appeals court unanimously dismissed the lawsuit in August 2013, citing a ruling by the United States Supreme Court that the law was inapplicable to the case. The defense can now request that the proceedings be terminated.

A study from 1999 came to the result that Germany, with 27.3 percent of all foreign debts of the public sector, was the most important direct financier of the apartheid regime and “[...] serves the apartheid state directly, just like the strategically important state corporations of apartheid with finance capital Has".

The actual apartheid conditions in South Africa were known in Germany and were a topic of discussion in parts of the population, as can be inferred from support notes from the group of Protestant women's work and the related fruit boycott . On the other hand, South Africa also found supporters of its politics in Central Europe. A text published in German by the Information Ministry in Pretoria in 1974 was aimed at German-speaking readers and justified the international and domestic criticism of apartheid. In it the "anti-apartheid movement" and the "representatives of the terrorist organizations and the World Council of Churches " were declared enemies of the state. The propaganda pamphlet certifies the World Council of Churches to provide “the terrorist movements in Africa both spiritual support and money”. Furthermore, the unnamed authors believed they found “narrow-minded spirits” among the apartheid critics and that “many self-appointed experts” prophesied “that the South African government policy would end in a catastrophe”. At the same time they gave an insight into their conception of freedom of the press by speaking of “the old thick-headed people who keep doing the same thing over and over again in the press, radio and television” with regard to critical reporting.

Positive attitudes towards apartheid relations, in particular towards the socio-economic segregation processes that it was intended to bring about, penetrated scientific papers in Germany and were characterized as the "spatial effects of a political idea". This happened in such a way that, for example, the establishment of the homelands was referred to as a “introduction to domestic political autonomy” or the establishment of localities planned there as “[...] set up as starting points for urban development (see Smit and Boysen 1977)” to “in the course of The time to develop such an attractiveness that a return migration from the white areas to these new cities begins, as well as to serve as starting points for an industrial development within the homelands ”.

Great Britain

The apartheid regime also found support for its policies in Great Britain. Margaret Thatcher referred to the ANC in a press conference at the Commonwealth Conference in Vancouver in 1987 as a "terrorist organization" and in the same statement used anti-communist stereotypes of the Cold War . In the same year members of the Young Conservatives , the youth organization of the Conservative Party , appeared at a party conference with Hang Nelson Mandela! Badge (German: "Hang Nelson Mandela !").


Swiss banks and industrial companies repeatedly and massively ignored the UN sanctions and thereby prolonged the existence of the apartheid regime. The Swiss government expressed only half-hearted criticism, if at all. In contrast, there were even close contacts at the diplomatic level. The South African military attaché had been based in Bern since 1980 , previously in Rome, Cologne and Vienna; at that time, other states were already refusing its accreditation .


The international isolation of Israel after the Six Day War strengthened relations with South Africa. Close cooperation developed, especially in the military field. In addition to conventional arms deliveries, this also included cooperation projects on nuclear weapons that were kept secret for a long time .

Support from abroad against apartheid

Bus of an English anti-apartheid campaign in 1989.

In many countries there was support for the majority of the population in South Africa in the fight against apartheid. Both the ANC, the Black Consciousness Movement and church organizations had many contacts, for example to the World Council of Churches , the United Nations and smaller organizations such as the anti-apartheid movement in Germany and Protestant women's work in Germany . There were also many local groups that often worked with third world stores . These groups were also supported by the SPD . For example, in 1973 the members of the Bundestag Lenelotte von Bothmer and Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski demanded a restriction of Germany's economic relations with South Africa.

In order to draw attention to the situation in South Africa, calls were made in particular to boycott South African products. The anti-apartheid movement , which is very active in Great Britain , in which Ambrose Reeves and Trevor Huddleston were also significantly involved, achieved considerable success. Its effects were so clear that British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan pointed out in his so-called Wind-of-Change speech before both houses of the South African Parliament on February 3, 1960 in Cape Town . To support the politically persecuted and their families, financial aid structures were established between South Africa and the United Kingdom as early as 1956 , which later expanded worldwide with the International Defense and Aid Fund for Southern Africa .

In the course of this international protest development, many smaller campaigns took place, including at the German Evangelical Church Congress . The fruit boycott was suggested by South Africans and then promoted by local groups in their respective countries. In addition to the boycott of the fruits from South Africa, protests were made against the business of major German banks supporting apartheid.

The efforts of the ANC abroad to clarify the apartheid conditions in what was then South Africa caused reactions in many parts of the world, ranging from the granting of its activities in foreign territories to the active support of specific projects. For example, the ANC maintained its most important diplomatic mission in London and in this way collected political, scientific, logistical and financial support for numerous projects. One of these projects consisted of an extensively structured educational institution on the territory of Tanzania. Between 1978 and 1992 a school and university education was provided there in the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College by an international faculty for selected South Africans.

The anti-apartheid efforts initiated by the ethnic Indian and colored population group of South Africa made further support activities possible, such as study opportunities in India through the direct protection of President Indira Gandhi or new school projects in slum settlements in what was then the province of Natal . The South African professor of sociology Fatima Meer played a central role in the organization of this political process .

The Iran provided the passports of its citizens with a stamp, which prohibited the entry of Iranian citizens in South Africa. Countries like Tanzania prohibited entry if the passport showed that the holder had been in South Africa.

United Nations

Since its inception, the United Nations has condemned apartheid as a grave example of systematic racial segregation. The majorities in the organs of the United Nations have increased above all through the growth of the United Nations through the accession of many third world countries to the XV. Session of the UN General Assembly (1959) postponed to the detriment of apartheid policy. The change in the majority structure also influenced the attitude of Western states, including the Federal Republic of Germany, which from the 1970s onwards increasingly supported resolutions of the General Assembly against apartheid, unless they called for violence or mentioned anti-apartheid organizations that were viewed as Marxist.

Among the most important reactions that counts Resolution 1761 from the XVII. Session of the UN General Assembly on November 6, 1962, chaired by Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, on the apartheid policy of the South African government, which was condemned with this declaration and called for sanctions.

The development of apartheid policy has been continuously monitored by the United Nations. At the 6th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and the Treatment of Offenders between August 25 and September 5, 1980 in Caracas , progress was made on the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crimes of Apartheid, which came into force on July 18, 1976 reported. By May 1, 1980, 56 states had ratified or acceded to it. The UN Human Rights Commission asked the UN Special Committee on the Policies of Apartheid of the Government of the Republic of South Africa , together with experts from South Africa, to draw up a list of people, institutions, organizations and official representatives of the Republic of South Africa who were found responsible for crimes under Article 2 of the international convention.

Initiated by the United Nations, there was an extensive boycott of cultural exchanges with South Africa. Paul Simon drew attention to apartheid with his 1986 album Graceland , on which numerous South African musicians took part. At the same time, however, he was criticized for not following the boycott.

European Community

In 1985, within the framework of European political cooperation, the European Community (EC) committed itself to a coordinated position on South Africa and developed a special program for the benefit of victims of apartheid policy, which was practiced from 1986 onwards. On September 16, 1986, the foreign ministers of the EC decided on joint sanctions which, among other things, prohibited investments in South Africa and the import of South African steel, iron and gold coins ( Krugerrand ). The draft ban on the import of coal - at that time two thirds of South Africa's coal exports went to EC countries - was not included in the adopted text at the instigation of the German government and with the support of the Portuguese government.

Boycott by a PR company

Documents uncovered in 2019 reveal that from the 1970s onwards, the Hennenhofer PR agency was tasked with preventing German participation in boycotts. Various politicians and journalists were effectively engaged for this purpose, among other things with paid “information trips” to South Africa.

The end of apartheid

Process of transition

The black protests and other factors caused apartheid to crumble more and more from 1974 onwards. In December 1973, the General Assembly of the UN adopted the “Convention for the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid”, which came into force in 1976. The preamble to this convention emphasized that apartheid should be classified as a crime against humanity . Criminal offenses were named so that this convention established criminal liability under international law . The Boer government slowly approached the black ideas. The black opposition grew stronger, despite the fact that its best-known leaders were in prison. The high points of the resistance in the 1970s were the strikes in Natal (1973) and the uprising in Soweto in 1976. The government responded to the black resistance with emergency measures, which, however, exceeded the state's capacities. The cost of apartheid was no longer affordable.

The ANC was viewed by the West as revolutionary and pro-communist during the Cold War . Despite certain sanctions, the USA and Western Europe supported the white apartheid regime as a bulwark against communism , also because South Africa has significant uranium deposits . After the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola became independent and the scene of bloody wars, the support of South Africa seemed even more important. With the end of the Cold War, however, this element lost its importance and the old regime of South Africa was dropped from the West.

Economically, South Africa had been in trouble since 1983 when the gold price began to decline on the world market. The economic situation, weakened by the European and American sanctions, thus worsened.

The World Reformed Federation excluded the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, increasing the moral pressure for change.

The increasingly improved organization of the non-white opposition, which in fact took over the administration of the townships in the 1980s , led to a permanent state of emergency from 1985 to 1990. Initiated by the Dakar conference in July 1987, when representatives of the ANC met in exile with a group White oppositionists from South Africa had exchanged ideas about the possibility of a peaceful overcoming of apartheid, a partially secret dialogue began with the leaders of the ANC in exile about the future of South Africa after apartheid.

In 1989 Frederik Willem de Klerk succeeded Pieter Willem Botha as South African President. De Klerk immediately took over the secret negotiations with the still imprisoned ANC leader Mandela . He promised Mandela his immediate release if he accepted certain conditions, such as turning away from armed resistance, which Mandela did not respond to. De Klerk released Mandela along with the other political prisoners in 1990 due to increasing pressure. The two resistance parties, ANC and PAC, were legalized again.

Because of these factors, all of which are significant, i.e. black resistance, international pressure, the economic crisis, the change in government from Botha to de Klerk, and Mandela's steadfastness in negotiations with de Klerk, white authority collapsed in the early 1990s Years together step by step. In a referendum in March 1992 , 68.7 percent of whites voted for the abolition of racial segregation.

De Klerk repealed essential laws that were considered pillars of apartheid. These included the Population Registration Act , the Group Areas Act, and the Land Act . The homelands continued to exist, however; little changed in this regard.

The transition phase from apartheid to the desired legal and economic equality of all inhabitants of South Africa lasted from 1990 to 1994. During this time, the segregation legislation was changed. All people living in South Africa could now move freely and without restrictions. Many black people took this opportunity and moved to cities. Since November 1993 there was a plural government, the Transitional Executive Council . Furthermore, the transition phase was marked by bloody conflicts between the Inkatha party Mangosuthu Buthelezis and the ANC. Buthelezi, leader of the homeland KwaZulu , saw his power threatened by the new state system and opposed the work on a new constitution and the preparations for the elections. It was only through the influence of Washington Okumu, a friend from Kenya , that Buthelezi gave in and declared that his political movement Inkatha would participate a week before the election date. The ballot papers had to be supplemented with stickers in a very short time. The previous political unrest, not just that between the ANC and Inkatha, lasted from 1990 to 1994 and claimed several thousand lives. In addition to Buthelezi, Lucas Mangope and Oupa Gqozo , the leaders of the homelands Bophuthatswana and Ciskei , were opposed to the emerging changes. In this situation, fear of personal loss encouraged people to cling to the old system. Other homeland officials cooperated with the plans of the ANC and tried to adapt to a favorable position in the future balance of power.

In March 1995, in the South African Parliament, the question of the number of victims during these riots was answered by the Minister of Police. According to government records, excluding the Homelands, 5007 people died in the course of the increasing numbers of political conflicts between 1992 and 1994. The South African Institute of Race Relations published the following figures, including the homelands at the time: 3347 deaths in 1992, 3794 deaths in 1993 and 2476 deaths in 1994. In addition, 1044 people were killed in 1995 in the course of political unrest.

The negotiated interim constitution came into force in 1994. Thereafter, government elections would take place every five years. In addition, the country was divided into nine instead of four provinces. Thus in 1994 the first general, equal and secret elections in South Africa took place. The ANC won outstandingly with 62.6 percent, followed by the Nasionale Party (NP) with 20.4 percent and the Inkatha Freedom Party with 10.5 percent. Mandela was named the first president under the new constitutional order. He was assisted by two popular vice-presidents, de Klerk from the NP and Thabo Mbeki from the ANC. Buthelezi became premier of the province of Kwazulu-Natal, so he was able to extend his power beyond the previous homeland border. Mandela and de Klerk received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 .

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission ( Truth and Reconciliation Commission , TRC) was set up to negotiate politically motivated crimes committed during the apartheid era. It was created on an initiative of the ANC and the then Justice Minister Abdullah Omar in 1994 and was installed in January 1996 by President Nelson Mandela. The chairman was Desmond Tutu . The Truth and Reconciliation Commission consisted of three committees, each of which performed different tasks:

  • the Committee for the Investigation of Crimes During Apartheid,
  • the Committee for Compensation for Victims,
  • the Committee for Granting the Amnesty .

A key historical model for its establishment was the Rettig Commission (Comisión Nacional de Verdad y Reconciliación) in Chile with its 1991 report on human rights violations by the government under Augusto Pinochet .

The commission was convened for 18 months and its work could be extended by half a year. The relatively short period of their activity was already controversial at the time of the draft, as the plethora of cases to be treated hardly seemed to be dealt with during this time. However, it was also important to quickly make the consequences of the apartheid system public, both in order not to have to pay compensation after many years, and in order not to unnecessarily prolong the painful process of clarification. Their aim was to bring victims and perpetrators into a "dialogue" and thus create a basis for reconciliation between the divided population groups. The priority here was the hearing or the perception of the experience of the other. The accused were promised amnesty if they admitted what they had done, and the victims were promised financial aid. The aim was to achieve reconciliation with the perpetrators and to get as complete a picture as possible of the crimes that had been committed during apartheid. All hearings were therefore public. On October 29, 1998, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission presented its final report. Black people in particular criticized the fact that the idea of ​​reconciliation and amnesty took precedence over the search for justice.

Apartheid as a crime in international law

The discrimination and human rights violations associated with apartheid are now also defined as crimes against humanity in international law - detached from apartheid in South Africa, which has now been overcome . The Rome Statute establishing an International Criminal Court made apartheid subject to the jurisdiction of that court. The statute was adopted at a conference of states in Rome in 1998 and has since been signed by 139 states and ratified by 114 states. It has been in force since 2002. This means that such processes can now be prosecuted internationally. This development was largely motivated by the fact that there was previously no such legal basis, so that apartheid in South Africa or those responsible could practically not be prosecuted.

Adriaan Vlok was the first minister of the former apartheid regime to stand trial against former members of the security authorities for crimes he had committed during his tenure and to be convicted.

Further consequences for South Africa

The unrest that had lasted for years had plunged South Africa into an economic crisis. This brought with it a high level of national debt. Furthermore, the inequalities between the population groups should be eliminated. Among other things, this would mean better schools and better health care for black people. However, both were associated with high costs. Different interests led to different land disputes. Blacks who had to give up their land during apartheid and were forced to move to the homelands reclaimed their land. The now resident whites or industrial companies asserted their younger rights.

In 1999 Mbeki rose from Vice President to President. As a result, he intensified the privatization of state-owned companies. This led to job cuts and rising electricity and water tariffs. More and more black workers, most of whom suffered from these measures, became increasingly dissatisfied with the ANC's policies. They accuse him that the ANC was elected by the left working class, but that it governs in the interests of the right bourgeoisie.

See also


General treatises

Churches and Apartheid

  • Lesley Cawood: The Churches and Race Relations in South Africa . SAIRR , Johannesburg 1964
  • Peter Randall: South Africa's Future. Christians show new ways . Final report of the Study Project on Christianity in Apartheid Society , Stuttgart, Bonn 1974, ISBN 3-921314-09-7
  • Elisabeth Adler : Apartheid as a Challenge for South Africa's Christians and Churches. For how much longer? Union Verlag, Berlin 1983
  • Heinz Nordholt: Apartheid and Reformed Church: Documents of a Conflict . Neukirchener Theologie, Neukirchen 1983, ISBN 3-7887-0739-9
  • Gisela Albrecht, Hartwig Liebich (Red.): Confession and resistance. Churches of South Africa in conflict with the state . Missionshilfe Verlag, Hamburg 1983, ISBN 3-921620-25-2
  • Markus Büttner, Werner Klän: Friedrich Wilhelm Hopf . A Lutheran theologian in the church struggle of the Third Reich, on his confessional struggle after 1945 and on the dispute over his stance on apartheid . Pp. 219–379, Edition Ruprecht, Göttingen 2012, ISBN 978-3-7675-7157-0
  • Werner Klän, Gilberto Da Silva: Mission and Apartheid. An inescapable legacy and its coming to terms with the Lutheran churches in southern Africa . Edition Ruprecht, Göttingen 2013, ISBN 978-3-8469-0132-8
  • Sebastian Tripp: Religious and political. Christian anti-apartheid groups and the transformation of West German Protestantism 1970–1990 . Göttingen 2015, ISBN 978-3-8353-1628-7 .
  • Sebastian Justke, Sebastian Tripp: Economy and Ecumenism. West German and South African Churches and the Apartheid System in the 1970s and 1980s . In: Zeithistorische Forschungen 13 (2016), pp. 280–301.



Web links

Wiktionary: Apartheid  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Apartheid  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. "Apartheid is any institutionalized form of a policy of racial segregation aimed at suppressing one race by another". Otto Triffterer : Inventory of international law . In: Gerd Hankel, Gerhard Stuby (Eds.): Criminal courts against humanity crimes , Hamburg 1995, ISBN 3-930908-10-7 .
  2. ^ Friedrich Kluge: Etymological dictionary of the German language . Berlin, New York (Walter de Gruyter) 2002, ISBN 3-11-017473-1 , p. 52. (Entries: apart, apartheid)
  3. The beginning of apartheid in the narrower sense was set in 1948 by P. Eric Louw in The rise, fall, and legacy of apartheid , Praeger Publishers, 2004, p. 56 ff.
  4. Website of the South African government www.info.gov.za: ... the foundations of apartheid were laid by successive governments representing the compromises hammered out by the National Convention of 1908 to 1909 to effect the union of English- and Afrikaans-speaking whites . ( Memento from October 4, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  5. Dorothea Countess Razumowsky: "Chosen by God to be the people of property" - An attempt to understand Africans. In: Joachim Moras, Hans Paeschke (eds.), Merkur - German magazine for European thinking, Volume 36, Issues 7-12, E. Klett Verlag, 1982, p. 756.
  6. ^ André Bieler: La pensée économique et sociale de Calvin , Geneva, 1961.
  7. Ulrich Berner: Belief in election and racism - The Old Testament and the emergence of the apartheid ideology. In: Joachim Kügler (Ed.): Precarious Contemporary - With the Old Testament in Conflicts of Time. International Bibelsymposium Graz 2004, Lit Verlag, Berlin 2006, p. 137 ff.
  8. Irving Hexmann: Calvinism and the stigma of apartheid. Third Way magazine , July 1979, pp. 8-9.
  9. Peter Ripken, Gottfried Wellmer (Hrsg.) Et al .: Migrant work in Southern Africa . issa - Wissenschaftliche Reihe 5, Bonn 1976 pp. 16-17, 19, 166, ISBN 3-921614-30-9 .
  10. ^ Heike Niederig: Language - Power - Culture / Multilingual Education in Post-Apartheid South Africa . Waxmann, 2000, p. 55.
  11. ^ A b T. W. Bennet: History of Dispossession . P. 81.
  12. "Our Land ... Our Life ... Our Futer". A Land Dispossession History . Retrieved June 1, 2010 from www.sahistory.org.za .
  13. ^ TW Bennet: African Land - A History of Dispossession . P. 82.
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  15. 1927. Native Administration Act No. 38, accessed June 1, 2010.
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  17. 1936. Native Trust & Land Act No 18, accessed June 1, 2010.
  18. Zimmermann, Visser: Southern cross , pp. 83-85.
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  20. Manfred Kurz: Indirect rule and violence in South Africa . Work from the Institute for Africa Customer, No. 30. Hamburg (Institute for Africa Customer) 1981, p. 44.
  21. ^ SAIRR: A Survey of Race Relations in South Africa 1958-1959 . Johannesburg 1960, p. 53.
  22. Muriel Horrell: Laws Affecting race relations in South Africa 1948-1979. Johannesburg 1978.
  23. ^ Christoph Marx : South Africa. Past and present . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2012, p. 226.
  24. Christoph Sodemann: The laws of apartheid . Bonn 1986, p. 60 ISBN 3-921614-15-5 .
  25. a b c SAIRR : Race Relations Survey 1989/90 . Johannesburg 1990, pp. Lxxi-lxxii.
  26. Peter Randall: South Africa's Future. Christians show new ways: final summary report of the Study Project on Christianity in Apartheid Society . Working Group of Protestant Churches in Germany eV, Southern Africa Information Center, Stuttgart, Bonn 1974, p. 27 ISBN 3-921314-09-7 .
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  34. Christoph Sodemann, 1986, p. 66.
  35. Christoph Sodemann, 1986, pp. 50–51.
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  37. quoted in: Christine Lienemann-Perrin, Wolfgang Lienemann (Ed.): Political Legitimität in South Africa . Texts and materials from the research center of the Evangelical Study Community , Series A, No. 27, Heidelberg 1988. p. 125.
  38. Christine Lienemann-Perrin, Wolfgang Lienemann (ed.): Political Legitimität in South Africa . Texts and materials from the research center of the Evangelical Study Community, Series A, No. 27, Heidelberg 1988. P. 127.
  39. Christine Lienemann-Perrin, Wolfgang Lienemann (ed.): Political Legitimität in South Africa . Texts and materials from the research center of the Evangelical Study Community, Series A, No. 27, Heidelberg 1988. pp. 129–130, quoted from Monica Bot, Lawrence Schlemmer: The Classroom Crisis. Black Demands and White Responses . Indicator Project SA, Durban 1986.
  40. Peter Randall : South Africa's Future. Christians show new ways . (Final report of the Study Project on Christianity in Apartheid Society ), Bonn, 1974, p. 17, ISBN 3-921314-09-7 .
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  53. Ahmad Barakat: Maltreatment and Torture of Prisoners in South Africa. Report of the Special Committee on Apartheid . United Nations Office of Public Information, New York, 1973, from p. 23.
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