Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Apartheid Definition:

Afrikaan for apartness. A set of South African laws and regulations that implemented and enforced racial discrimination and segregation.

Related Terms: Discrimination, Racial Pollution

A system of racial segregation or discrimination previously in force in South Africa.

A term in law first introduced by the "National Party" of South Africa as a campaign slogan in the 1948 general election; the promise to stringently enforce the racist ideals that whites were superior to individuals with dark skin, either Africans or Indians, in South Africa.

The National Party was in the opposition during the Second World War but did not make secret its support for Nazi Germany and opposition to almost all-things British - including support for the Allied side.

One of the horrific slogans of the National Party which buttressed the otherwise tame word Apartheid, was die kaffer op sy plek, which Nelson Mandela, in his exceptional book Long Walk to Freedom, translated as "the nigger in his place". The language was Afrikaan - a form of Dutch.

Lawyer and statesman Mandela wrote further of apartheid as follows:

"Apartheid literally means apartness and it represented the codification in one oppressive system of all the laws and regulations that had kept Africans in an inferior position to whites for centuries. What had more or less been de facto was to become de jure...

"The premise of apartheid was that whites were superior to Africans, Coloureds and Indians, and the function of it was to entrench white supremacy forever. As the Nationalist Party put it, die wit man moet altyd baas wees - the white man must always remain boss."

For South Africa, apartheid was expressed in a set of laws that required black Africans and dark-colured Indians to abide by an entire set of laws and regulations that kept them segregated and clearly stationed as lesser-human beings. Their right to vote, to mobility, to practice a trade, to inter-marry, even to walk on certain beaches - essentially the entire gamut of vile law that is customary to racism was imposed on all but the whites of Southt Africa.

Justice Sprizzo of the United States District Court (New York) wrote, in Re South African Apartheid Litigation:

"According to the allegations set forth in the various complaints, the 1948 South African elections witnessed the rise to power of the National Party. Building on laws that restricted the African majority in the country, the National Party erected a system whereby a group of inhabitants who accounted for just fourteen percent of the population completely ruled over the country and controlled all aspects of life.

"That system — apartheid — shockingly and regrettably reigned supreme over an entire country and its people until just over one decade ago. The history of apartheid is one marked by hatred, racism, and inhuman treatment. Fueled by the desire to exact the greatest possible benefit from an African majority that had no official purpose except to work for whites, the apartheid regime engaged in practices that were deemed by some as repugnant to the moral and political values of democratic and free societies, and by others as nothing short of a crime against humanity."

In Burrell v Peel Police, Master Dean of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, at ¶19, gave judicial sanction to these words:

"Apartheid is ... the system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race in force in South Africa 1948-91.

"Apartheid in South Africa called for a set of laws for blacks and another set for whites, with whites having greater rights than blacks."


Categories & Topics:

Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!