Why Apartheid Still Exists in South Africa*
By Amando Flavio
The Republic of South Africa has a very disturbing history. Between 1948 and 1994, there existed a system of racial segregation known as apartheid in the country.
Apartheid was enforced through legislation by the National Party (NP), the governing party made up of the white minority racial group in the country. The NP suppressed dissenting views from the black majority, and with the backing of some Western powers such the United Kingdom (U.K.) and the United States (U.S.), the small white-regime survived for almost 46 years.
Observers say the U.S and the U.K had big corporations in South Africa, and due to these interests, these two Superpowers pursued a foreign policy favourable to the apartheid regime, blatantly ignoring the suffering of the black majority.
Even Margret Thatcher’s spokesman, Bernard Ingham, famously said that anyone who believed that the African National Congress, a predominantly black party would ever form the government of South Africa was “living in cloud cuckoo land”. Also, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative lobbying organization, actively campaigned against divesting from South Africa throughout the 1980s.
Under the apartheid system, the rights, associations, and movements of the majority black inhabitants and other ethnic groups were also curtailed. White supremacy was the order of the day. Whites were better educated, had the best jobs, and lived in the best parts of the country among others.
However, this social, political, and economic exclusion of the black majority by the apartheid regime will culminate in the rise of African Nationalism, and the spirit that the black man is capable of managing his own affairs.
It was true the rise of this new spirit of African Nationalism and self-determination by the black majority that activist like Nelson Mandela emerged. Mandela was branded as a terrorist by the apartheid regime, and even including the U.K. Imprisoned on an isolated island, Mandela will be released from jail, and will later become the first black president of the country.
But as Mandela and his Black Nationalist elements won the political independence in the country, on the other hand, the huge social and economic gap between whites and blacks still existed, even up till day. The hope that the black nationalists had in fighting for freedom and independence has soon become a lost one. The future is not certain for many South African blacks.
It is against this historical background that the Australian renowned journalist and filmmaker, John Richard Pilger put together a documentary about why apartheid still exists in South Africa despite the blacks having access to the political seat of the country.
Pilger was born and raised in Australia, but he has been living in the U.K. since 1962. He served as a war correspondent in the Vietnam War, reporting for the Daily Mirror. Pilger has been a strong critic of American, Australian and British foreign policy. According to him, these countries foreign policies are driven by an imperialist agenda. He is also a strong advocate for Indigenous Peoples’ rights.
With this history of being the defender of the oppressed, Pilger in 1998 looked at the situation in South Africa and put together a thoughtful documentary titled ‘Apartheid Did Not Die’.
Some people have described the film as the sad truth that blacks in South Africa only gained political independence and a colorful flag in 1994. The Rainbow colours of the flag of South Africa were made the official flag of the country after the end of Apartheid in 1994.
In the film, Pilger chronicled clearly how the heroic Nelson Mandela and his compatriots in secret negotiations with the apartheid regime bargained away black economic rights resulting in compromised independence.
Pilger gathered that whites in South Africa still remained the captains of the economy while the black still served them just like the apartheid era.
And according to some critics of the apartheid regime, this painful reality and injustice is protected by use of sentimentalities of reconciliation and national unity expressed in the largely wishful slogans about a rainbow nation. The colours in the flag are primarily used to represent the oneness of the different skin colours in the country, and critics say this has overshadow the realities in the country.
The realities are issues of education, employment, health among others facing the black majority of the country. All the industries and the big corporations in the country are owned by the whites. Inequality between whites and blacks in South Africa is real. And those are some of the pressing issues that the film addresses. Take your time to watch the film and learn some of the historical incidents that have happened in the world before today.