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The End of Apartheid in South Africa and Its Implications

by Kent Prion 5 years ago in history
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The end of South African apartheid was a resounding human rights victory heard around the world. It was from the years 1948 to 1994 South Africa was under rule of systematic racial oppression that came to be known as apartheid. Twenty-three years after apartheid's abrogation, four major consequences can be noticed in the following areas: education, the economy, racism, and government. These effects were and still are wide ranging.

In order to understand the implications of ending apartheid in South Africa, let us define what apartheid was and its cause. Apartheid, Afrikaans for "apartness," was a policy that governed the relations between South Africa’s white minority population and its black majority population. It was a far-reaching policy that sanctioned not only racial segregation, but economic and political discrimination as well, as per the Population Segregation Act of 1950, which classified all citizens as either Bantu (black Africans), Colored (mixed race) and White (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica). The policies (including the Population Segregation Act) enacted by the National Party limited the ability for non-whites to own land and participate in South African politics, as they were now classified as citizens of various tribal organizations (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica). Now that apartheid has been defined and its implications assessed, we can begin to dissect the consequences of its abrogation.

Blacks were nearly exclusively barred from attending schools, and when they were able to attend, they were among the worst in the country. It was after apartheid’s termination in 1994, that blacks were legally permitted to attend school, though the educational quality has remained nearly identical to that of the Apartheid Era. According to The Economist, the International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), a quadrennial test taken by 580,000 students in 57 countries, determined that South Africa sat at or near the bottom of its rankings. Additionally, South African students are behind even the poorest of countries in Africa, where only 37% of students go on to pass the matriculation exam and just 4% earn a degree. The end of apartheid marked the end of educational restriction on the basis of race, but it did nothing about the inequality in education between blacks and whites as a whole. According to Nic Spaull of the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa has the most unequal school system in the world. Indeed, the gap between the top 20% of schools and the rest is wider than in almost every other country. Out of 200 blacks students, only one can expect to do well. Whereas out of 200 white students, ten can expect to do well. The end of apartheid meant that blacks were no longer denied entry to schools, but South Africa still has much work to do in the way of creating an equal educational environment for people of all races (The Economist Newspaper).

The second area affected by both apartheid and the end of apartheid: government. The South African government barred blacks from participating in politics by forcing every black citizen to become a citizen of one of the various Bantustans (tribal organizations inside of South Africa). While protests by blacks and some whites did continue to happen, the government had the power to suppress nearly all criticisms of its policies. That is, until South Africa was forced to withdraw from the Commonwealth in 1961 when it became apparent that other member countries would not tolerate South Africa’s racial policies (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica). In an effort to curb these horrible policies even further, the United States and the United Kingdom imposed specific economic sanctions on the country. These acts by other nations helped push South Africa towards racial equality, pivotal change did not come until its country’s President, F.W. de Klerk, repealed most of the legislation that gave a legal basis for apartheid, which included the Population Registration Act (U.S. Department of State). Afterwards, Nelson Mandela, a political prisoner in South Africa for decades, would rally South African citizens to completely remove racially motivated legislation in the country.

There was no longer racially motivated legislation, but the government would remain just as corrupt and devastated as it was when the National Party was in power. According to Transparency International’s corruptions perceptions index in 1995, South Africa ranked 21st out of 42 countries. In 2004 it ranked 44th out of 145 countries. By 2013, it had gotten even worse, ranking in at 72nd out of 177 countries. Lastly, The World Bank, which produces annual worldwide governance indicators, found that South Africa’s control of corruption was ranked 113th out of 210 countries (Conway-Smith). Various studies have found that South Africa’s corruption problem is worsening, it isn’t the only area of government. In 1994, millions of South Africans came out to vote over a three day period for the country’s first multiracial election. However, in 2013, the voter turnout was a measly 33.6% of South Africans born after 1994 have registered to vote. Young South Africans seem to have forgotten what their older family members would have fought for, and sometimes did, to have the right to cast a ballot. A larger number are registered to vote, 60% of South Africans in their 20s are registered to vote, and more than 90% of citizens over the age of 30 are registered to vote. They do not seem to think that their vote can change the government (Conway-Smith).

We can now dissect the effect apartheid had on the South African economy. According to a recent report by Goldman Sachs, South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has almost tripled to $400 billion, their foreign exchange reserves have increased from $3 billion to $50 billion, as well as an ever expanding middle class (Conway-Smith). All of this growth has happened within the last two decades. However, while South Africa has definitely improved its economy in some key areas, there are still major defects in their economy. The unemployment rate is still a major flaw in the South African economy. In 1994, South Africa saw an unemployment rate of 31.5%, which has since increased to 35.6% in 2013(Conway-Smith). This is in part due to the fact that economic racial equality has yet to fully reach South Africa. Additionally, according to CNN, many of the youths in South Africa are unable to work due to illiteracy from the poor education system mentioned earlier (Kangarlou). While unemployment is a major issue in South African economics, it’s not the only one. To reaffirm the lack of economic racial equality, white South Africans still earn more than six times more than a black South African, even though black South Africans household income increased by 169% over the decade following the end of apartheid (Kangarlou).

Finally, we will discuss the effects of the end of apartheid on racial inequality, which has been a central theme in the other three discussion points. The racial policies put into place by the National Party no longer dominate South African politics and law, there are still many problems facing non-white South Africans. Black South Africans were not permitted to attend school during apartheid, and even now, the disparity between white and black South Africans in terms of education have hampered their ability to rise to the level of wealth that their white counterparts have enjoyed for decades. Additionally, according to The World Bank, South Africa’s Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, increased from 0.59 in 1993 to 0.63 in 2009. This has made South Africa one of the most unequal countries in the entire world. Lastly, many blacks still live in extremely poor housing, or a more aptly characterized as shacks. Take for example Khayelitsha, the largest township in the Cape Flats, was established by the apartheid government in 1983 to house some 200,000 black workers (Conway-Smith). According to The New York Times, by 2011 that number had more than doubled, and more than half live in what would be called shacks (Malik).

The end of apartheid changed South Africa in many ways educationally, economically, racially, and the way that they govern. These changes are still showing up today 20 years in the future. South African apartheid ending allowed for many changes, good and bad. These changes are intertwined as shown in the writing. The end of apartheid was an astounding victory for human rights, but the effects are still being felt and there is still work to be done.


About the author

Kent Prion

I'm a fourth-year pure mathematics major. While my primary focus is mathematics, I have a soft spot for the humanities, and so I really enjoy writing.

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