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10 Lessons Learned From Apartheid


10 Lessons Learned From Apartheid
Photo by Ejoy/Getty Images

While reflecting about Nelson Mandela day, we decided to examine Apartheid and what it really was and how it came about in order to learn from our past so that we do not allow our governments and leaders to commit similar atrocities in the present.


Table of Contents:

Apartheid, derived from the Afrikaans word meaning "apartness," was a system of racial segregation enforced by the National Party in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. It stands as a dark chapter in history, characterized by discriminatory policies and laws that violated fundamental human rights. Understanding the origins, laws, and consequences of apartheid is crucial for learning valuable lessons and applying them to prevent similar injustices in present-day politics. Let's delve into the history of apartheid, its impact, and the lessons from which we must learn and take heed.


What was Apartheid?


Apartheid was a system of racial segregation in South Africa that aimed to enforce and maintain the dominance of the white minority over the Black majority. The policy was built on a foundation of discrimination, with laws and regulations strictly controlling the movement, residence, education, and employment of non-white South Africans.


Why and When did Apartheid Start?


Apartheid was initiated by the National Party, which gained political power in 1948. The underlying motivations were rooted in racial superiority and a desire to protect and consolidate the privileges of the white minority. The government sought to perpetuate segregation, suppress opposition, and maintain economic control.


Apartheid Laws and Violations of Human Rights:


The apartheid system was enforced through a series of discriminatory laws and policies. These laws restricted the rights and freedoms of non-white South Africans, violating fundamental human rights principles. The rights violated during apartheid included the freedom of movement, expression, association, and access to education, healthcare, and employment opportunities.


10 Disturbing Facts About Apartheid:


  1. Apartheid legally classified people into racial groups, primarily dividing them into "Black," "Coloured," "Indian," and "White" categories.

  2. Mixed-race marriages were prohibited, reflecting the policy's commitment to racial purity.

  3. The infamous pass laws required non-white individuals to carry identification documents known as "passes," severely restricting their freedom of movement.

  4. Education was segregated, with different standards and resources allocated based on race.

  5. Apartheid policies even extended to sports, leading to international isolation and boycotts of South African teams.

  6. Political parties opposing apartheid, such as the African National Congress (ANC), were banned and faced persecution.

  7. Apartheid led to forced removals and the creation of racially segregated neighbourhoods and townships.

  8. The Bantu Education Act of 1953 aimed to provide a separate and inferior education system for Black students.

  9. Non-white South Africans were subjected to severe police brutality and were frequently arrested and detained without trial.

  10. Apartheid finally ended in 1994 with the election of Nelson Mandela as South Africa's first Black president.


Lessons from the End of Apartheid


The ending of apartheid taught us valuable lessons about leadership and the importance of upholding human rights. Nelson Mandela's leadership demonstrated the power of forgiveness, reconciliation, and inclusive governance. He embraced diversity, fostered national unity, and championed equal rights for all South Africans.



Nelson Mandela with students at a non-segregated high school in Gauteng, South Africa, in 1995
Photo by Ian Berry/Magnum

What to Watch for in Today's Politicians to Avoid Situations Like Apartheid?


  1. Commitment to Human Rights: Support politicians who prioritize and protect human rights, ensuring equality and dignity for all individuals.

  2. Inclusive Policies: Beware of politicians who promote divisive policies or target specific communities, as inclusivity and unity are vital for a thriving democracy.

  3. Economic Equity: Demand politicians who address economic inequalities and strive to create a fair and inclusive economy that benefits everyone.

  4. Transparency and Accountability: Hold politicians accountable for their actions, promoting transparency, and fighting against corruption.

  5. Embrace Diversity: Support leaders who celebrate and respect cultural differences, fostering an inclusive society where everyone's voice is heard and valued.

  6. Oppose Discriminatory Laws: Reject politicians who advocate for discriminatory laws or policies based on race, ethnicity, or any other social determinant.

  7. Rejection of Segregation: Learn from history and oppose any attempts to implement or perpetuate segregation, whether through education, housing, or other means.

  8. Commitment to Reconciliation: Look for leaders who prioritize reconciliation, dialogue, and healing, striving to unite communities and bridge divides.

  9. International Cooperation: Support politicians who embrace international cooperation, rejecting isolationism and promoting global understanding and collaboration.

  10. Education and Awareness: Encourage politicians who prioritize education and public awareness campaigns to prevent the recurrence of similar injustices in the future.


Can You Imagine a Future Without Division Based on Race?


Apartheid serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of systemic racism and discrimination. By understanding its origins, laws, and impact, we can learn valuable lessons to prevent similar injustices in present-day politics. Upholding human rights, embracing diversity, promoting economic equity, and demanding transparency and accountability are crucial steps in building a society where everyone can thrive. Let us strive for a future where the mistakes of the past are not repeated, and equality, justice, and compassion are the cornerstones of our political leaders' actions. Reach out today so we can help your company work towards being an example for us all.


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