Apartheid’s Diplomatic Debate History

by Nelli Sacca

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” (Nelson Mandela). Apartheid was a system of institutionalized racial segregation that existed in South Africa from 1948 until the early 1990s. Apartheid was characterized by an authoritarian political culture based on baasskap, which ensured that South Africa was dominated politically, socially, and economically by the nation’s minority white population. Because of the contribution of activists like Nelson Mandela, people in South Africa rose against Apartheid in protests until the government abolished it; although the results for non-whites were promising and legally obtained justice, black people still have setbacks to this day.

Apartheid first rose when the National Party was elected to office in 1948. According to the text, “It began, in 1949 and 1950, with the passage of the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act and the Immorality Act, which banned marriage or sexual relations between whites and non-whites” (Darity, 1). This demonstrates that the first racial policies in South Africa started in the 50′ with the ban of marriage between people of different races. With the election of the National Party, already present segregation policies were intensified and enforced on the population. Furthermore, the policies became even more strict in 1950 with the Population Registration Act, which divided South African citizens as either Bantu (Black Africans), colored (mixed race, not Black), or white. Moreover, the author explains, “The Group Areas Act of 1950 created separate sections within urban areas for each race and prohibited non-whites from operating businesses or establishing residences in cities or towns.” (Darity 3). The author wants the reader to understand that the government separated urban areas into race sections and prohibited business opportunities for non-whites because of segregation. With the rise of the National Party, segregation laws also came into existence, but this injustice would not be left unfought for long.

The news of Apartheid spread worldwide, and with the help of the ANC (African National Congress) and protests in both South Africa and the United States, the government found itself forced to cease. The ANC, formed in 1912, worked from the outset to ensure Africans were included in the new South African Union’s social and political life. A new generation of leaders, led by Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, and Oliver Tambo, created the ANC Youth League in 1944. As shown in the article, “In 1955 the ANC and other anti-apartheid groups approved a set of demands that they called the Freedom Charter. At its essence, the Freedom Charter was intended to give all South Africans equal rights. It included provisions addressing living conditions, working conditions, and education.” (Stock, 4). The author intends to show the effort of Nelson Mandela and other political leaders to fight Apartheid. They demanded better living and working conditions and better education opportunities for everyone. After the ANC leadership launched the Defiance Campaign in 1952, the government arrested over nine thousand Africans, Asians, and other non-whites. This unlawful arrest resulted in some seven thousand protesters gathering outside a Sharpeville police station to protest laws. Sixty-nine people, including women and children, were killed when police opened fire on them. Subsequent U.N. resolutions condemn apartheid policies and urge members to boycott trade and arms sales with South Africa. As a result, the South African government repressed the opposition movement even more by resigning from the Commonwealth and arresting activists like Nelson Mandela. Several laws were enacted suppressing citizens’ rights to protest and participate in political activities and banning the ANC. As a result, police could carry out torture, executions, arrests, and detain people without due process of law. The United States and other countries also saw a rise in anti-apartheid movements. The U.S. Congress passed the Anti-Apartheid Act in 1986, which banned U.S. companies from making loans and investing in South Africa, as stated in the report, “South Africa’s Government and business executives have responded angrily to the measure, which was approved by Congress last Saturday and was part of the deficit-reduction bill that President Reagan signed into law on Tuesday” (Burns 3). President Reagan contributed to stopping Apartheid by supporting a law that made South Africa’s economy nearly collapse. Companies affiliated in South Africa retrieved their support, causing a lack of funds for the government. In the 1960s, student and civil rights groups began organizing protests against South Africa’s apartheid policies. During the student protests in 1985 and 1986, Columbia University, Harvard University, and UCLA divested their stocks in South African companies. Because of the pressure from the African National Congress-led by Nelson Mandela, protests in South Africa, and new acts in other countries, the South African government found itself unsupported.

Apartheid finally came to an end in 1994 after all the pressure posed on the government, but the effects of Apartheid persisted for decades and even today. South Africa became even more isolated during the 1970s and 1980s on the diplomatic and commercial fronts. However, a new president came to power and finally changed the rules, as illustrated in his biography, “Upon taking office, de Klerk immediately moved to dismantle the apartheid government and create a new democratic constitution that protected the rights of all people regardless of race. To alleviate the threat of civil war, de Klerk also lifted the government ban on the ANC and other similar political organizations.” (F.W. de Klerk, 6). After becoming president in 1990, F. W. de Klerk abolished most of South Africa’s apartheid legislation, including the Population Registration Act. He also released Mandela, who had been imprisoned for nearly twenty-eight years. After the 1993 elections, the first all-race elections were held in 1994, which produced the first coalition government led by Mandela and the ANC with most Black people. After Apartheid was abolished, Mandela formed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), to provide help for Apartheid victims. Nevertheless, years later, South Africa still struggles. This appears evident as the article communicates, “The process of creating the new South Africa was not over. In fact, it was just beginning. Apartheid had left the country in shambles. It was hardly surprising that molding South Africa into a modern and prosperous democracy did not happen instantly. It was a project that would require time, energy, and patience for many years to come” (Sonneborn, 30). The author reveals that the effort of the government in implementing a new economic plan, a new education system, and a new construction project still did not overcome the damages made during the Apartheid, and the obstacles persist today within the mentality of people and their living conditions.

It is true that South Africa has made considerable advancements since its conversion to a democratic government. The nation’s constitution has protected human rights since the end of Apartheid, and they have been broadly respected. Additionally, significant progress has been made to access education, public housing, healthcare, infrastructure, and reducing poverty. Still, inequality persists. Across South Africa, living conditions differ significantly by ethnicity and location. South Africa’s white population remains disproportionately wealthy, and many black South Africans have no access to land, electricity, or sewerage services. It is still a long way to a genuinely equal South Africa.

Works Cited

“Apartheid.” Gale In Context Online Collection, Gale, 2020. Gale In Context: High School, Accessed 28 Sept. 2021.

Ballim, Faeeza. “TECHNO-POLITICS, RESISTANCE, AND EVERYDAY LIFE after APARTHEID: Democracy’s Infrastructure: Techno-Politics & Protest after Apartheid.” Journal of African History, vol. 59, no. 2, 2018, pp. 329-30. History Study Center,

Burns, John F. “U.S. Tax Sanction Angers Pretoria.” The New York Times, 25 Dec. 1987. Gale in Context: High School, Accessed 15 Nov. 2021.

“Democracy in S Africa = Less Foreign Aid.” Weekend All Things Considered, 1992, p. NA. Gale in Context: High School, Accessed 29 Sept. 2021.

“F.W. De Klerk.” Gale in Context Online Collection, Gale, 2017. Gale in Context: High School, Accessed 15 Oct. 2021.

Haymes, Thomas. “South Africa: A Slow Economy Delays Some Post-Apartheid Goals.” History behind the Headlines: The Origins of Conflicts Worldwide, edited by Sonia G. Benson et al., vol. 6, Gale, 2003. Gale in Context: High School, Accessed 15 Oct. 2021.

Hirsch, Jonathan. “Mandela and South Africa.” DISCovering Authors, Gale, 2003. Gale in Context: High School, Accessed 15 Oct. 2021.

“Mandela and De Klerk.” UXL Biographies, UXL, 2011. Gale in Context: High School, Accessed 15 Oct. 2021.

Msimang, Sisonke. “All Is Not Forgiven: South Africa and the Scars of Apartheid.” Foreign Affairs, vol. 97, no. 1, 2018, pp. 28-34,I. History Study Center,

“Nelson Mandela.” Gale in Context Online Collection, Gale, 2020. Gale in Context: High School, Accessed 15 Oct. 2021.

“Remembering a Key Moment in the Anti-Apartheid Movement.” Here & Now, 2013. Gale in Context: High School, Accessed 15 Oct. 2021.

“Report on Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986.” Department of State Bulletin, vol. 87, no. 2129, Dec. 1987, p. 35+. Gale Academic OneFile, Accessed 24 Oct. 2021.

“The Sharpeville Massacre: March 21, 1960.” Global Events: Milestone Events throughout History, edited by Jennifer Stock, vol. 1, Gale, 2014. Gale in Context: High School, Accessed 15 Nov. 2021.

Sonneborn, Liz. “Apartheid in South Africa: Aftermath and Legacy.” The End of Apartheid in South Africa, Chelsea House, 2010. History Research Center, Accessed 29 Sept. 2021.


Nelli Sacca enjoys filming short movies and features outside of school. She also likes reading scientific studies.

What motivated you to write this piece?

The movie “Invictus” is what motivated me to write this piece about Apartheid, because I had seen it so many times at school so I knew this subject very well.

What was the most difficult part of your writing process for this work?

The most difficult part of writing this work was summarizing the amount of information and deciding what was really important and what wasn’t.

What is your ideal writing environment?

My ideal writing environment is at home, on my desk, and in the morning, while eventually also eating a snack.