Separate but not equal

photo of a girl and baby in a car

A young Black nanny, scarcely more than a child herself, looks after a baby girl for a white family. 1969. © Ian Berry/Magnum Photos

In post-World War II South Africa the ruling National Party developed a system of government that discriminated against Black, Coloured* and Asian people to protect the rights and privileges of the white minority. This system of segregation and prejudice was called apartheid, a word translated from Afrikaans meaning 'apartness'.

The National Party, led by DF Malan, came to power in South Africa in 1948. Previous governments had already implemented segregationist policies, however the National Party now set out to enshrine this in law. Different racial groups were forced to live separately and unequally under a regime of political, legal, and economic discrimination.

The Population Registration Act (1950) grouped all South Africans into three racial categories: Bantu (Black African), white, or Coloured*. The Group Areas Act (1950) started the physical separation between groups, establishing racial areas known as 'Homelands'. Such laws were an early and clear statement of intent by the regime.

*Terminology used

Under the apartheid regime, 'Coloured' was a term used for someone who was not considered Black African or white under South African law. It is an outdated term in the UK today.