That's right, kiddies. It's time for another node your homework session from AllergicToEverything. These are some notes I used for a solo presentation on the roots of apartheid in a seminar a couple terms back. The notes may be disjointed, but they're informative. The primary (and almost exclusive) source is Martin Meredith's biography on Nelson Mandela. (In fact, the presentation was to actually summarize a chapter of the book.) Enjoy and learn.
History of apartheid can be traced to Boer War.

The Boers attacked the British using guerrilla warfare, a strategy the Redcoats were unprepared for. So basically the British’s only option to win the war was to rape and pillage the Boer towns, deporting Boer men and putting women and children into actual concentration camps.

After the war, Britain tried to rescue her new colony’s white people from the mess she put him in, but it could only go so far.

The English-speakers virtually ruled South Africa. They were kings of the cities and of the civil service.

So anti-British sentiment ran deep. When the Prime Minister, General Botha, led South Africa into World War I (alongside the Brits), there was a small Boer opposition.

Two of Botha’s cabinent members were Hertzog and Smuts. Hertzog was pro-Afrikaner. He eventually formed his own party and became PM. Pro-Afrikaner change in SA immediately took effect, e.g. the old British Ensign flag was dropped in favor of a new flag, and Afrikans (sometimes spelled Afrikaans) became an official language.

There was a depression for the South African whites between ’28 and ’32. Hertzog found he couldn’t do things alone, so in ’32 his party merged with Smuts’s party to create the Fusion Government. Out of this depression rised a new Afrikaner nationalist movement, much more virulent than the views Hertzog espoused. They were vehemently anti-English, and a group of intellectuals who were proponents of this nationalist movement got together and called themselves “Broederbond”, which one can assume means “brotherhood”. Their one goal was Afrikaner rule in South Africa.

Dr Daniel Malan became a leader for these nationalists. At first they were ignored, but it was the Second World War that turned things around. Hertzog, being concerned more with South Africa than Europe, didn’t want to join, but Smuts did. Much acrimony ensued, and the parliament voted 80-67 to join the war. Hertzog resigned, Smuts became PM, SA joined the war. Afrikaner outrage percolated. They wanted no part in “England’s Wars”. Many Afrikaners became pro-Hitler and pro-Nazi, and many of these pro-Nazis were interned. It all ended for the Germans, of course, but Afrikaner Nationalism was throttled into the center-stage.

During the war boom, blacks emigrated from their reserves to the cities. They out-numbered whites in urban areas. Afrikaners became afraid of these numbers, and so now a great concern of the Afrikaner Nationalist were these blacks.

Smuts was kind of wishy-washy on the situation. He really didn’t do anything at all other than say that it was unavoidable for the blacks to enter into the cities, so there. He didn’t do anything either for or against the rights of Africans.

Malan and his nationalists, however, thought that the only solution was the newly-devised apartheid, which would apply to SA’s Indians and Coloreds (that’s a person of mixed descent). They cited Bible passages that they interpreted as God wanting segregation as proof that a nation of apartheid would be Providence. Apartheid basically meant that Blacks would need to stay on their reserves, and any contact with white people was pretty much forbidden.

In 1948, no one expected Malan and his National Party to defeat Smuts and his United Party in the national election, as Smuts was the recipient of salient sentiment for his role in the allied victory, both domestically and internationally. But Malan did win narrowly on his Nazi-like campaign for preservation of the white race. Not unlike Hitler, he was a good rabble-rouser, and was able to incite burning pride and fear into the hearts of the Afrikaner people. And as soon as Malan had won, the era of apartheid began.


Now Mandela was in the Congress Youth League at the time. He and his colleagues were trying to force the ANC to take a “program of action” in order to fight this new terror: apartheid. The Nationalists already made short work of the English, making sure that an Afrikaner would always be chosen over an English-speaker when an appointment into senior civil service or judgeship came around. English-speaking members of parliament were openly questioned about their allegiance to the country by their Nationalists colleagues. Then Malan criminalized both marriage and sexual intercourse between Europeans and (all) non-Europeans (Africans, Indians, and coloreds). Then came the Population Registration Act, which required all citizens to register themselves as either White, Colored, or African.

Mandela’s youth league wanted the ANC to take on a new radical approach, embracing a policy of Gandhi-esque civil disobedience. The president of the ANC refused to do something so radical, so the youth league backed a new candidate for president of the ANC, Dr. James Moroka, a highly qualified colored man who worked as a physician and had many Afrikaner patients, and who supported his community by backing the building of hospitals and schools. He spoke out against the 1936 law which robbed Africans of their right to vote. (The Cape Town Africans had had the right to vote, but a law passed in 1936 ended that. A group called the All African Convention unsuccessfully tried to fight this, and Dr. Moroka just happened to be a member of this All African Convention). The youth backed Moroka, and he won. Mandela soon became a member of the national executive committee of the ANC.

There was much internal conflict within the ANC, particularly among communists and Africanist anti-communists like Mandela (who, at that time, was interested solely in the advancement of the African race). There was scheduled to be a communist strike day on May Day 1950, but Mandela and some other members of the ANC were opposed to it, fearing it will upstage the ANC. Mandela tried his best to stop it, even resorting to pushing down an Indian speaker from a platform during a speech supporting the May Day strike. Mandela even went so far as to try to disrupt the protestors on the day of the strike, but he was ostensibly mistaken for a violent protestor and was shot at by police. Mandela said two things happened to him that day that changed his life: “understanding through first-hand experience the ruthlessness and…being deeply impressed by the Support the African workes had given the May Day call.”

Communism, even in a most minutely related form, soon became banned by rather nebulous legislation: The Suppression of Communism Act, which basically let the government jail anyone they want who they consider to be an instigator, whether they are actually a Marxist-Leninist or not. The communists in SA decided to break up before the legislation was even passed. Though he was anti-communist at that time, Mandela became friends with some of these communists, most of them White and of Jewish descent. However, there was one communist who became a very special friend to Mandela: Bram Fischer, an Afrikaner aristocrat who rejected the opportunities he had laid out before him as a brilliant, young, rich, well-bred Afrikaner Rhodes Scholar in favor of political activism and fighting for racial equality. In the words of Meredith (the author of the book): “In an age when Afrikaners were coming to be regarded by Africans as the enemy, Mandela had found an Afrikaner friend.”

Meanwhile, Malan had just taken away the colored vote. Now this was met with some anger by whites (presumably because they thought that part of their own race was in those coloreds), and some ex-servicemen started a group called the Torch Commandos. They held torch-lit protest marches in favor of the coloreds, but they fell apart when the Commandos were split on whether or not to let in actually coloreds into the group. This was the only time whites actively resisted apartheid.

Now Walter Sisulu, the secretary-general of the ANC, was watching all these protests going on by Africans, Indians, and coloreds, and decided that the answer would be a campaign of mass civil disobedience. Mandela was still extremely Africanist at the time, and he didn’t want Indians or coloreds participating in this mass civil disobedience campaign. However, his views were ignored, and Mandela eventually supported ecumenical resistance.

Before the campaign, a petition, signed by (among others) Sisulu and Moroka, entreated PM Malan to repeal six “unjust laws”, including the Suppression of Communism Act, the law which disenfranchised the coloreds, and a law which fragmented every municipality in SA into racial zones. Malan shrugged it off, but added that any civil disobedience would be fought with “the full machinery”.

Civil Disobedience (the “Defiance Campaign”) was set for June 26th, 1952, the two-year anniversary of the one-day protest the ANC held in 1950. The disobedience called for was very apposite. Protestors would use European train cars and waiting rooms, break curfew, and enter places without permits. The leaders of the protest (including Mandela, who was appointed national volunteer-in-chief, which basically meant that he was in charge of the recruitment and training of protestors) would make sure the police knew beforehand exactly what each group of protestors would do. Mandela urged his protestors to react non-violently to any violence they’d encounter. Not on Gandhi-like moral grounds, but pragmatically, as violence is easier for the government to crush than non-violence (that is, if violence were used, the government could use all the bloody force it pleased).

Four days before the mass defiance, Mandela spoke in front of 10,000 people (the first time he ever spoke in front of a mass audience. He loved it). He told the crowed that envisioned the Defiance Campaign to either convince the government to placidly end apartheid or to incite the peoples of the country to overthrow the corrupt government.

The campaign began with great success. Mandela stood on the sidelines as he watched protestors march into European train cars and restricted areas without permits. But on the first night, Mandela found himself arrested well before he was scheduled to do any active defiance himself, along with his Indian friend Yusuf Cachalia, the same person he pushed off the platform two years prior. (Cachalia found the irony hilarious). Mandela was soon released on bail.

The campaign caught national attention. Over the course of five moths peaking in September, 8000 people were arrested and jailed between one and three weeks (mostly under the Suppression of Communism Act). The protest even attracted white supporters. Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, and Cachalia spoke to a crowd of 200 whites urging them to join the fight against inter-racial struggle. In December, a white named Patrick Duncan was arrested in an act of defiance, and this is significant because Duncan is the son of a former governor-general. This gave more national attention to the campaign.

The government wasn’t as placid as Mandela thought they’d be. They rounded up the leaders of the campaign, including Mandela, and put them on trial in November. Supporters packed the inside and outside of the courtroom as they were all found guilty of “statutory communism”, even though the judge admitted that this wasn’t actual Communism and that the protestors were all peaceful. All were given a two-year suspended sentence of nine months hard labor. Moroka single-handedly shamed the struggle by repenting during the trial, declaring that he was completely anti-communist, stressing his affinity for and service to the Afrikaner people, and that he didn’t even believe in racial equality.

New governmental orders and legislation came into effect in response to the campaign. Some leaders were banned from ANC or Indian Congress activities for life, others, like Mandela, for lesser periods (Mandela was banned from meetings and restricted to Johannesburg for six months.) New laws virtually outlawed any form of any protest against the government in the future. The defiance campaign was thus the acme of the ANC’s resistance to apartheid in the fifties.

Mandela said that he emerged from the campaign liberated. He felt that all doubts about whether or not he should participate in a struggle against the seemingly-invincible white man had been obliterated. However, this headlong attitude would cost Mandela dearly in the future.

Interestingly enough one of the earliest documents explicitly stating that the "white people" should be protected from the "savages" (i.e. "black people") that were roaming around in the interior of South Africa, especially in the then Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek, was a letter from the British Monarch. This letter was presented as a justification for the infamous Jameson Raid (a complete disaster for Britian) that would eventually lead to the Anglo Boer war. This document is quite often quoted as the first piece of writing trying to justify the ideals of Apartheid.

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