Apartheid (lit. “aparthood”) (pronounced [uh-pahrt-heyt, [uh-pahr-hahyt]) is an Afrikaans word for a system of racial segregation enforced through legislation by the National Party governments, who were the ruling party from 1948 to 1994, of South Africa, under which the rights of the majority black inhabitants of South Africa were curtailed and white supremacy and Afrikaner minority rule was maintained. Apartheid was developed after World War II by the Afrikaner-dominated National Party and Broederbond organizations and was practiced also in South West Africa, which was administered by South Africa under a League of Nations mandate (revoked in 1966 via United Nations Resolution 2145), until it gained independence as Namibia in 1990.
Racial segregation in South Africa began in colonial times under Dutch and British rule. However, apartheid as an official policy was introduced following the general election of 1948. New legislation classified inhabitants into four racial groups (“native”, “white”, “coloured”, and “Asian”), and residential areas were segregated, sometimes by means of forced removals. Non-white political representation was completely abolished in 1970, and starting in that year black people were deprived of their citizenship, legally becoming citizens of one of ten tribally based self-governing homelands called bantustans, four of which became nominally independent states. The government segregated education, medical care, beaches, and other public services, and provided black people with services inferior to those of white people.
Apartheid sparked significant internal resistance and violence as well as a long arms and trade embargo against South Africa. Since the 1950s, a series of popular uprisings and protests were met with the banning of opposition and imprisoning of anti-apartheid leaders. As unrest spread and became more effective and militarized, state organisations responded with repression and violence.
Reforms to apartheid in the 1980s failed to quell the mounting opposition, and in 1990 President Frederik Willem de Klerk began negotiations to end apartheid, culminating in multi-racial democratic elections in 1994, which were won by the African National Congress under Nelson Mandela. The vestiges of apartheid still shape South African politics and society. Although the official abolishment of Apartheid occurred in 1990 with repeal of the last of the remaining Apartheid laws, the end of Apartheid is widely regarded as arising from the 1994 democratic general elections being held.
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