How did South Africa's National Party maintain its system of apartheid?
Racial separation, or apartheid, was enforced in South Africa through a series of laws instituted by the minority White government, which was dominated by Afrikaners of Dutch descent. The earliest such legislation was the 1894 Glen Grey Act, which was specific to the region around the Cape, and included Queenstown. Intended to institutionalize a form of slavery, by requiring indigenous Blacks to work for White-owned businesses, it was the precursor to a series of further laws passed over the ensuing years intended to cement White domination and to subjugate native peoples, including the Population Registration Act of 1950, the Mines and Works Act of 1911, the Native Building Workers Act of 1951, and the Native Labour Act of 1953.
Institutionalization of racial separation and domination was the goal of the National Party when it came to power in 1948. Laws covering every aspect of life in South Africa were passed by the country’s Afrikaner-dominated parliament intended to enforce apartheid, including the banning of interracial marriage and sexual relations. Blacks were forced to live in carefully delineated districts or communities that usually represented land rejected for commercial or housing purposes by the Whites. While Black labor was compulsory and necessary to support the South African economy, the National Party attempted to further disenfranchise the Black majority through passage of legislation like the Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act of 1959, which sought to institutionalize the notion of the Bantu as a separate nation, and the Republic of South Africa Constitution Act of 1983, which established a formal structure for the country’s parliament while noticeably excluding Black representation.
These laws provided the legal framework by which the National Party maintained the system of apartheid. Enforcement of those laws was the responsibility of a vast, intrusive internal security system, led by the South African Police, or SAP, which operated on a national level to enforce apartheid. As Blacks began to organize and militate against apartheid, especially with the growth of the African National Congress (ANC), the National Party responded by establishing special counterinsurgency units, utilizing informants and surveillance techniques to monitor Black militarism. South Africa’s intelligence service, the Bureau for State Security (BOSS), later redesignated as the National Intelligence Service, contributed to the enforcement of apartheid by operating against South Africa’s neighbors, some of whom provided safe havens for ANC guerrillas.
The National Party was extreme in its defense of apartheid and, as the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s hearings illuminated, was prone to acts of great brutality in its efforts at restraining its overwhelming majority population of Blacks.