South Africa: Does Race Segregation Still Exist?

History of Apartheid

The idea of apartheid, or racial segregation, was introduced by the National Party after WWII. The whites were segregated from other racial groups and were provided with better services and goods. As time wore on apartheid was abolished but racial tension still exists today.

Twenty years after apartheid has been repealed, race relations seem to be present in South Africa today. The apartheid movement was started by the National Party who was in power from 1948 to 1994. Native African’s rights were stripped away even though the majority of the population was black. Afrikaners, or the European inhabitants, had the majority rule, even though they were a small fraction of the population. Apartheid had always existed with the British and Dutch settlers in the colonial period but became an official “policy” in 1948. Under apartheid, the population was divided into four racial groups: native, white, colored and Asian.

An End to Apartheid

The groups were kept apart in living spaces, educational and medical facilities and even beaches. Non-white residents received lower quality goods and services. Anyone who was not white could not run for offices or politics starting in 1970. There was an obvious resistance to the apartheid sparking riots and the arrests of anti-apartheid leaders. Frederik Willem de Klerk, who was president in 1990, sought to end apartheid. His platform culminated in 1994’s presidential election where many races were able to run for office. Nelson Mandela won the election in 1994 and was president until 1999.

Apartheid in the Economy

Apartheid still seems to exist in South Africa, more so in the economy. On June 27, 2012 President Jacob Zuma stated that the South African economy seemed to be mainly in the hands of white males. Zuma said that he wanted economic changes so that inequality and poverty could be eliminated. The African National Congress is blamed for doing very little to help poverty and discrimination. One of their mistakes has been the slow return of land to the people who were forcibly removed during the apartheid. It is reported that 10% of South Africa’s population is white yet they own over two-thirds of the land.

The Racial Divide

Critics of the ANC want more native Africans to own land in the hopes that it will give the economy an upswing. Unemployment rates in South Africa are among the highest in the world. The lack of jobs seems to cause more crime and growing unease in the once racially divided country. A March 2012 article that ran in The New York Times looked in depth at the attitude toward blacks in Cape Town. The city seems to be deeply divided between races, especially in the Western Cape. The Western Cape is not run by the African National Congress but by the Democratic Alliance which still borrows ideas from the apartheid movement.

Cape Town Still Stuck in Apartheid

President Zuma has said that Western Cape has an “extremely apartheid system”. The Democratic Alliance is trying to squelch the ANC from trying to gain control of Western Cape. The Democratic Alliances surmises that the only reason the ANC claims Western Cape is racist is because they do not control it. A study done by the University of Cape Town in 2010 found that many black residents saw few opportunities for jobs or business ventures in Cape Town. An increased feeling that Africans do not get far in their careers is still present. Beaches that once were segregated are now open to everyone but the majority of visitors are white and blacks do not feel welcome there.

The Future for Cape Town

The feeling of segregation is more subtle instead of enforced like in the era of apartheid. Even so, some Africans say they have been refused a table even though the restaurant is empty or have been told there are no available rental cars despite the full lot. Geoffrey Mamputa is from Cape Town and says that blacks are not helping the racial divide if they continue to perceive themselves as outcasts and are adding fuel to the notion that they do not belong. Since the end of apartheid, there has been a “voluntary segregation” where whites stay in white groups and blacks stay in black groups. Young black people do not want to stay in Cape Town because they say it is racist and there are not many opportunities for them.

Racial tension is still prevalent in South Africa today. Despite the fact that apartheid policies have been abolished for nearly 20 years, whites and blacks have voluntarily segregated themselves. There seems to be no progress in erasing the invisible racial divide in South Africa.