Apartheid is a good thing

Background current

For South Africa February 1, 1991 marks an important stage on the way to overcoming apartheid. President Frederik Willem de Klerk made a landmark announcement in parliament.

In the South African city of Carletonville, about 50 kilometers southwest of Johannesburg, a sign on March 1, 1989 marks an area reserved for whites only. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)

25 years ago, South Africa's then President Frederik Willem de Klerk heralded the final end of apartheid. For decades, the black population in South Africa had been discriminated against and persecuted. Especially since the National Party In 1948 a policy of so-called racial segregation prevailed, which deprived the black population of their basic and human rights and brutally suppressed them. In his first speech in 1991 before the white-dominated parliament in Cape Town, de Klerk promised to abolish the last remaining laws of so-called racial segregation.

Nelson Mandela is released

A year earlier, on February 2, 1990, de Klerk had surprised South Africa and the world: In his speech in front of parliament, he announced the ban on the African National Congress ‘ (ANC), des Pan Africanist Congress ‘, to repeal the Communist Party of South Africa and a host of other anti-apartheid organizations, to release all political prisoners and to end apartheid. Nine days later, Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years in prison.

De Klerk was actually part of the conservative wing of the ruling wing for more than 40 years National Party, he has long been an advocate of apartheid. But the domestic and foreign political pressure that had prevailed since the 1980s, which was evident in both mass demonstrations and in the condemnation of the apartheid regime and the economic sanctions on the part of the international community, prompted him to initiate fundamental reforms.

Exploitation and oppression by law

De Klerk became one of the pioneers of democratic change in South Africa. On February 1, 1991, he repeated his goal of building a new South Africa with equal rights for all. To this end, the last remaining laws of so-called racial segregation should be abolished: the Land Acts of 1913 and 1936, the Group Areas Act and the Population of Registration Act.

The one passed by the South African parliament in 1913 Natives' Land Act had established territorial segregation. The black South African population was now prohibited from buying or leasing land in an area designated for whites and vice versa. A large part of the South African land was reserved for the white population, only around 7 percent of the total area was allowed to inhabit and cultivate the black population. In 1936 the share with the Native Trust and Land Act set to just under 13 percent. As a result, few blacks had access to land and agriculture, and many were forced to work as migrant workers in exploitative conditions in a mine or factory. The white population, who owned the factories, benefited twice from it Natives' Land Act - through land rights and cheap labor.

3.5 million forced relocations

Adopted in 1950 Group Areas Act divided cities into areas for whites and non-whites. The better areas, mostly in the center, were reserved for the white population, while the remote, less attractive parts of the city were assigned to members of other ethnic groups. Millions of black people lost their homes, jobs and freedom of movement as a result of the law. It is estimated that 3.5 million people have been forcibly relocated. Exceptions were made only for those who were in the service of whites, such as domestic servants. They often lived on their employer's property and were unable to see their families and friends for long periods of time.

With the Population of Registration Act, also from 1950, it was stipulated that every South African should be assigned to one of three "races" in the population register: "White", "Black" or "Coloreds". Later, a fourth category was added with" Asians. "The category to which you were assigned determined your whole life: where you were allowed to live, whom you were allowed to marry, which schools you were allowed to attend, which jobs you were allowed to do and much more .

The way to the first free elections

On June 17, 1991, de Klerk's February promises became a reality and Parliament declared the laws to be invalid.

Long negotiations between de Klerks followed National Party and the Nelson Mandela-led ANC on power transfers, power sharing, the political future and the political system of the new South Africa. De Klerk was under pressure from right-wing white nationalists who did not want to come to terms with the end of apartheid. But in a referendum in March 1992, reserved for white citizens only, two-thirds voted for de Klerk's path and a new constitution. The preliminary version was adopted in 1993 and came into force on April 27, 1994, at the same time as the first free elections in South Africa. In these the ANC won an absolute majority, Nelson Mandela became the first black president and head of a government of national unity with the National Party and the Inkatha Freedom Party. In 1997 the country gave itself its final constitution.

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