The first of the pieces of legislation that would collectively form Apartheid to be created by the National Party after they took power in 1948. It was a self-evidently a pointless piece of law in its own right – only 0.23% of all marriages in South Africa from 1946-1948 were mixed – but it was the thin end of the Apartheid wedge, the beginning of that oh so slippery slope.
The law was repealed in 1995, after the fall of the Apartheid regime.
One of the greatest political figures of the Twentieth Century, Nelson Mandela was born in the village of Mvezo, in the Umtata district of South Africa. He was descended from a cadet branch of the ruling clan of Umtata, the Thembu dynasty, and his father served for a time as village cheif in Mvezo.
From these not exactly humble beginnings, Mandela would go on to become a prominent anti-aparthied activist who engaged in acts of violent sabotage against the ruling white regime in South Africa; to serve 27 years in prison as a result of this; and finally, to become the first Prime Minister of a racially equal South Africa when apartheid was finally dismantled. For his long life of work, and his influence in promoting peaceful change (at least, after his imprisonment he did), he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, which he shared with Frederik Willem de Klerk, the white leader with whom Mandela had successfully ended apartheid.
The Bantu Authorities Act was one of the major foundations of apartheid in South Africa. It permitted the forced removal of black Africans to government-designated “homelands” (or bantustans). There were a total of twenty such areas, located across South Africa and South West Africa (Namibia) – usually in the less desirable parts of the nation.
The South African government liked to pretend that these were independent states – this made it easy to justify spending very little on them, with the result that the black populations living in them lived in squalor and poverty. Those who had work had to travel to and from South Africa proper each day, for work that was poorly paid, and often unsafe and degrading.
The bantustans were abolished in 1994, when the era of apartheid finally ended.
Nelson Mandela became one of the leaders of the African National Congress in 1961, and spent the next few months constantly on the move, hiding out from the South African police as he led a bombing campaign as part of the anti-apartheid movement.
In 1962, he and nine other leaders of the ANC were captured and brought to trial for their actions against the state. Convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment on charges of treason, he was later tried again on separate charges two years later in what is now called the Rivonia Trial. Here, on June 12, 1964, he was sentenced to life imprisonment at Robben Island, where he would spend the next 18 years (of a total of 27 years he served).
Here, he became something of a martyr to his cause, and a cause celebre in other nations. His dignity and oratorical talent – along with his longevity and unimpeachable political credentials – made him the default leader of the ANC and his freedom became inextricable from the larger issues of political and racial freedom in South Africa. He was eventually pardoned and released in 1990, and later became President of South Africa in the post-apartheid era.