What are some unanswered apartheid related questions?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If we consider what apartheid was and what Mandella's triumph over apartheid hoped to achieve, we might identify current issues that reflect unresolved apartheid related questions.


Inaugurated as law by the Afrikaner National Party in 1948 (ending in 1994), apartheid divided black and "Coloured" (mixed or other non-white ethnicities) South Africans from white (Afrikaner and English descent) South Africans and regulated where they lived and worked, where they could shop and what they could buy, if and how they could be educated, what times of day they might move freely and what times of day and night they must be in their appointed townships, whether they might travel from their township or must refrain from movement. In short, apartheid regulated and dominated their rights, opportunities, personhood, choices and movements with strict, unbending control implemented and symbolized by their "Book of Life," or identity document and pass permits.


Mandella's presidency ushered in what he called the Rainbow Nation in which he hoped to deliver equality, liberty, unity and freedom to every person, black, white or "Coloured," living in South Africa.

Unanswered Apartheid Questions

Townships: Black and "Coloured" South Africans continue to be relegated to living in townships, or designated black and Coloured areas (e.g., Soweto, Umlazi, Khayelitsha), while whites live in regular towns (e.g., Bloemfontein), villages (e.g., Stellenbosch) and cities (e.g., Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town). As recently as May 2015, a young occupational therapy student, Alyssa Bond, touring South Africa, comments on this unanswered apartheid question in her blog: "QU South Africa - Spring 2015 - Day 7: Unanswered Questions."

Education and Employment: Blacks and Coloureds continue today to occupy a disproportionately large percentage of menial jobs or continue to be only sporadically employed as a result of the unbridged disparities in education and the consequent disparities in employment opportunities. These unanswered apartheid questions were, again, recently witnessed and commented on by Alyssa Bond in her blog report.

Human Rights Violations: Recent international court proceedings (April 2013) have ruled against allowing a Nigerian Kiobel plaintiffs versus South African Royal Dutch Petroleum Company human rights case to be ruled on in the United States Supreme Court under special 1789 rule Alien Tort Statute. The plaintiffs accuse Royal Dutch of violating their human rights during the apartheid era when, as Kiobel plaintiffs claim, Royal Dutch "had aided and abetted the perpetration of gross human rights violations during apartheid." The South Africa Apartheid Litigation has been pending since 2010 awaiting the, now negative, results of the Kiobel case, whose negative ruling will have an as yet unknown effect on future apartheid human rights cases.

Human Rights Violations: Another human rights violation case involves an international medical supply company capitalizing on an employee's name by giving her, without her knowledge, a fictitious executive position and stock shares in the company for the purpose of securing contracts because of their "black economic empowerment credentials." Elizabeth Tsebe, the exploited employee, awarded 3 million Rands, was asking 10 million Rands as of 2013.

Health care and affordable housing, also called "sustainable" housing, are other unanswered apartheid questions that are current issues, as of May 2015.