Racial segregation and white supremacy had become central aspects of South African policy long before Apartheid started. The notorious 1913 Land Act, passed three years after South Africa gained its independence, marked the beginning of territorial segregation by forcing the majority of Black South Africans to live in reserves and making it illegal for them to work as sharecroppers. The Land Act prohibited Africans, except those in the Cape Colony, from buying or renting any land except in the restricted areas that were reserved for Africans in the form of reserves. The government wanted African farm labourers as to work for cash wages as quickly as possible, rather than squatting or share cropping. There were small groups of Blacks who temporarily escaped this fate, living in small spots of land (black spots) in the White areas which they had bought before the Land Act was passed. In 1939, the other law aimed at removing these black spots was passed and all Black occupants were relocated to the reserves.

Further separation was ensured by different forms of urban control. In the early 1920s, the government of Jan Smuts set out a basic framework for administering the lives of urban Africans. The government was encouraged by the recommendation of the Stallard Commission of 1922, which had called for a system of influx control for Africans. It was based on the principle that Africans were allowed in the urban industrial areas only if they were to work – and they had to leave when the job was done. The Native Urban Areas Act of 1923 was passed to separate the so-called location from White towns through the establishment of a separate, self balancing, native revenue account. Furthermore, the government excluded Africans from White-funded amenities in White areas to which Africans did not contribute taxes.

There was political segregation. From 1924 to 1939, James Barry Munnik Hertzog became the prime minister and he achieved the objective of political segregation throughout the country. The Representative of Natives Act of 1936 removed Black voters in the Cape Province from the common electoral roll, and put them on a separate roll to elect three representatives to the House of Assembly. Four senators were elected by electoral colleges to represent Africans throughout the country.

The Afrikaner National Party won the 1948 general election under the slogan apartheid, meaning separateness. The National party started to pass a wide range of apartheid laws which aimed to ensure racial separation on all aspects of political, social and economic life. The laws also controlled the movements and economic activities of Black people.  The goal of the Afrikaner National Party was not only to separate South Africa’s white minority from its non-white majority, but also to separate non-whites from each other, and to divide Black South Africans along tribal lines in order to reduce their political power. The African (Bantu) groups were separated into homelands, or Bantustans, consigned there to become separate ‘nations’.  About 13% of the South Africa’s land was set aside for these homelands. The remaining land, including the major mineral areas and the cities, were set aside for the Whites. The basic principle of separate development policies was to grant Blacks rights and freedoms only within the confines of the Africans’ designated homeland, while outside the reserves blacks were to be classed as foreigners.

In 1958, Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd became the prime minister, and he transformed apartheid policy into a system he referred to as separate development. The Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act of 1959 created 10 Bantu homelands/Bantustans. Separating black South Africans from each other enabled the government to claim that there was no black majority in the country, and reduced the possibility that blacks would unify into a single nationalist organisation. Every black South African was designated as a citizen of one of the Bantustans, a system that supposedly gave them full political rights, but effectively removed them from the nation’s political body.

In one of the most disturbing aspects of apartheid, the government forcibly removed black South Africans from rural areas – reclassified as “rural white areas” – to the homelands, and sold this land at low prices to white farmers. From 1960 to 1994, more than 3.5-million people were deliberately and forcibly removed from their homes and livelihoods, and moved into the Bantustans, where they were plunged into poverty.

Movement of Blacks to and between other parts of South Africa was strictly regulated; the locations of residence or employment were also restricted and entry was only allowed if people were permitted to work there. Black people were not allowed to vote and own land.  Blacks who were dwelling in urban areas as urban workers, including those who were third- or fourth-generation city dwellers, were seen as transients. Their real homes were in rural reservations from which they or their ancestors migrated. Only those holding the necessary labour permits, granted according to the labour market, were allowed to reside within urban areas. Such permits often did not include permission for the spouse or family of the permit holder. 

Most African urban dwellers had living outside the Bantustans were subject to strict blackout regulations and passbook requirements, especially in the cities. Blacks who were found without passbooks were subject to arrest. The apartheid police officials were granted extensive powers of preventive detention in 1962, initially for 30 days, later for indefinite periods.

Education was separated in such a manner that non-whites were not allowed to attend White schools. Primary, secondary and higher education was separated. During Apartheid, 11 universities in South Africa served mainly white students. They included, as divided according to the language of instruction: five Afrikaans universities (Stellenbosch, Pretoria, Potchefstroom, Orange Free State, and Rand Afrikaans Universities); four English language universities (Cape Town, Witwatersrand, Natal, and Rhodes); and two bilingual universities (Port Elizabeth and the University of South Africa).

The University of Durban-Westville, which was based in Natal Province, now known as Kwazulu Natal Province, was basically an apartheid institution reserved for the use of Indian and some Coloureds students. The institution started as a University College on Salisbury Island in Durban Bay in the early 1960s. Student numbers grew rapidly and in 1971 full university status was granted, and the following year the new university moved into its modern Westville campus. As the 1970s and ‘80s unfolded, the campus became a major site for anti-apartheid protests, and in 1984 the university defiantly opened its doors to students of all races.

The University College of the Western Cape was established in 1959 for Coloured students and the first group of 166 students was officially enrolled in 1960. The Institution was based in the Cape Province, now known as the Western Cape Province. Students were offered limited training so they could take up low- to mid-level positions in schools, the civil service and other institutions that served a separated Coloured community. In 1970, the institution gained university status and could award degrees and diplomas.

Several segregated colleges for advanced technical training were also created, mainly in the major urban areas, preparing students directly for work and offering different programmes in the agricultural sciences, commerce and industry, public service, military, and health sectors. The Job Reservation laws passed in the mid-1950s protected most of the skilled jobs for Whites and ensured that Whites graduates got jobs. In the mid-1970s and 1980s, new ethnic universities were built for homelands such as Transkei, Ciskei, Venda, and Bophuthatswana.  Those included the University of Transkei, originally a satellite campus of Fort Hare later taken over by Ciskei; the University of Venda; the University of the North; and the University of Bopthutswana. Vista University was established with campuses in South Africa for the segregated African townships around Johannesburg, Pretoria, Benoni, Port Elizabeth, and Bloemfontein.

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