How long did apartheid last in South Africa?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The policy of apartheid, or separateness, was first put into practice by the white minority South African government in 1948. Racial discrimination and segregation had long been a part of South African life. But it wasn't until the National Party came to power in 1948 that such discrimination and segregation...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The policy of apartheid, or separateness, was first put into practice by the white minority South African government in 1948. Racial discrimination and segregation had long been a part of South African life. But it wasn't until the National Party came to power in 1948 that such discrimination and segregation were formally placed upon a legal and administrative footing. The new parliament quickly got to work, passing a whole panoply of legislation designed to keep the races apart and ensure the continued dominance of the white minority. Public amenities were segregated on racial grounds, mixed marriages were outlawed as were sexual relations between different races, the education system was split along racial lines, and one's race determined where you were allowed to live and which occupation you could follow.

From the outset, apartheid was a deeply controversial policy, which earned South Africa international pariah status. Internal opposition was widespread too, from both the oppressed black majority and a handful of white liberals and Communists. Yet despite such hostility, successive South African governments persisted with apartheid. But eventually, sustained pressure from the international community triumphed, and steps were finally made to end apartheid and begin the transition to free, democratic elections.

The South African President, F.W. de Klerk, made the symbolic gesture of releasing Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990. Thus began the formal transitional phase from apartheid to black majority rule. Negotiations between the government and the ANC continued for a number of years, with both sides committed to a peaceful handover of power. Apartheid legislation was formally dismantled in 1991, ending 43 years of official segregation and racial oppression. Despite mounting tensions, the 1994 elections went ahead as planned, and as expected led to an overwhelming victory for the ANC, and for Nelson Mandela, who became the first president of the new post-apartheid South Africa.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team