The roots of apartheid go back long before the
National Party came to power in 1948 with the idea of apartheid, a system for
systematically separating the races.
In 1685, a law in the Cape Colony forbade marriage between Europeans and
Africans, although it did permit Europeans and mixed race people to marry.
Back in the 1850's, the missionary and traveler
noticed the Afrikaner obsession with race. He wrote:
great objection many of the Boers had and still have to English law is that
it makes no distinction between black men and white. They felt aggrieved by
their supposed losses in the emancipation for their Hottentot slaves, and determined
to erect themselves into a republic, in which they might pursue without molestation,
the 'proper treatment of the blacks.'
It is almost needless to add that the 'proper treatment' has always contained
in it the essential element of slavery, namely, compulsory unpaid labour…"
from David Livingstone's Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa.
By the mid-19th century, equality for all before the law was, in theory, a principle established by the British, regardless of the race or religion of the litigant.
In 1853, a franchise was established in the Cape, determined by a person's wealth, but not restricted in any way by race; as long as you were rich enough, you could vote whether black, white or mixed race.
In the 1870's, Rhodes changed the franchise to
exclude 'unwesternised' peasant farmers. Natal also briefly had a nonracial
franchise, although this ended in 1896.
In the run up to the creation of the Union of South Africa, the Cape Colony
was alone in sending delegates who weren't European to the constitutional
conference. But the Afrikaners were determined to
deprive Africans and people of African ancestry of political power.
A turning point in African European relations was reached in 1913 when hundreds of thousands of Africans were forced off land which they either owned or were squatting on. It became compulsory to live in African 'reserves' (Natives Land Act).
Around the same time, segregation began to be introduced into the mines so that Africans were barred from taking jobs involving any skilled labour.
The ANC (African
was formed largely in response to these early segregation laws. But the momentum
proved impossible to stop. In 1936 the African and mixed race people of the
Cape lost the right to vote. From here on the majority of people in South Africa
lost any control over the running of their country.