The Apartheid Era
"I've travelled this old world of ours from Barnsley to Peru--Spitting Image, "I've Never Met a Nice South African"
I've had sunstroke in the arctic and a swim in Tinbuktu
I've seen unicorns in Burma and a Yeti in Nepal
And I've danced with ten foot pygmies in a Montezuma hall
I've met the King of China
and a working Yorkshire miner
But I've never met a nice South African."
South Africa from 1948 to 1990.
During this time, legalized ethnic segregation occurred, with South African black people stripped of citizenship by South African white people (who were/are mainly English and Afrikaners, the latter being Dutch/Afrikaans for "Africans") in South Africa proper and given citizenship of one of ten "homelands", four of which were nominally independent but still totally reliant on the rest of the country to survive. Officially, the motive was "de-colonization"; unofficially, the "homelands" (a.k.a. "Bantustans") quickly became a source of cheap labor for the mines.
Making things a tad more complex in this Cold War era, the largest anti-apartheid group ANC (African National Congress, the party that Nelson Mandela belonged to) were openly allied with Marxists. This was the paradox however, as because the white South Africans were so vehemently anti-Communist the anti-apartheid movement could get little support in for some time otherwise, and no arms definitely, at least not from the West (USSR was more than willing to provide military training and weapons, however). Meanwhile, the US, UK and Israel supported the white apartheid government.
South Africa engaged in a number of border wars at this time, basically involving frequent cross-border raids into (Communist) Angola and Mozambique. It also fought and lost a war to keep hold of Namibia. Since this was the Cold War, anti-West independence movements were assisted throughout Africa by countries such as Russia and Cuba; during the course of the war, South Africa faced (and defeated) the largest Soviet mechanized force outside Russia since WW 2. It was assisted in this endeavor by various anti-Communist, pro-West independence movements, notably UNITA.
Within South Africa, political opponents could be "banned"—barred from communicating with more than one person at any one time when not at home, from visiting certain areas and from having anything they said quoted in the media (a legal measure which is still on the books today). Indefinite detention without charge or trial was allowed for those suspected of "terrorism"—defined so broadly, like "communism", that it meant "whatever the government says". Up to 1993, South Africa had the greatest percentage of its own population in prison globally, when it was surpassed by... the US (on account of mandatory minimum sentencing laws). Hundreds of people were tortured in jail and killed with explanations such as "fell down the stairs" -- The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much indeed, to the point of public inquests backing such findings. Additionally, the security and intelligence services assassinated numerous people outright, both in South Africa and abroad, usually making use of 'care packages', better known as a bomb in the mail (care packages ... they take care of you). The shift from non-violence to violence is thought of as beginning in 1960 with the Sharpeville Massacre, when frightened police (including Black officers) fired on an unruly protesting crowd throwing stones, killing dozens, most shot in the back while fleeing. It went downhill in the aftermath, with armed resistance and terrorism beginning.
There is a lot of debate over who exactly is responsible for ending apartheid, especially in the post-apartheid era where anti-apartheid activities during the apartheid era is equivalent to ones street credit (and carries a lot of political favor and support). But basically in late 1989 when conservative F.W. de Klerk became president of Apartheid South Africa he announced that he planned to end the discriminatory Apartheid laws. In 1992 a referendum was held on whether Apartheid should be continued or not, the majority of white South Africans voted to end Apartheid. Of course this referendum is rarely recorded in history.
The announcement of F.W. de Klerk in 1990 started a 3 year long discussion/negotiation between the apartheid government and anti-apartheid groups which culminated in the election of Nelson Mandela and the ANC (African National Congress) party in 1994. For their effort to peacefully transition South Africa out of Apartheid Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk were jointly awarded the Noble Peace Prize in 1993. After the election of the first black president (Mandela), de Klerk stayed on as vice-president until 1996 when he retired from politics.
After apartheid ended the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created to help address the crimes of past.
Apartheid is pronounced "apart-hate" (but only if you over-enunciate it), which may seem appropriate if your primary language is English. The word's current political meaning was coined in Afrikaans. It exists in Dutch as well, but it had no political connotations in either language before it was used to name the now-infamous government policy. It translates simply as "apart-ness." What is rather ironic about it is that the term was used because the word "segregation" was considered to have too many negative connotations, and "apartheid" was considered a more neutral term for the policy. Although similar policies existed before then, even before the formation of the Union of South Africa (being known as the "Shepstonian System" in the British Empire's Natal Colony, which joined the Union in 1910), it was only officially and nationally entrenched in law in 1948. If you're in America, this is kind of like the difference between it being a States' Rights or Federal issue: before apartheid, some provinces were less segregationist than others.
Did we mention that, although South Africa was Allied in WW 2, some members of the South African government when Apartheid was first conceived were Nazi sympathizers? Well, we did now. In the early 1970s, an extreme white supremacist and neo-fascist group, the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging or AWB, meaning Afrikaner Resistance Movement, was formed and in fact clashed with the apartheid government itself, which they felt was too soft.
South Africa was subjected for much of this period to a large-scale international economic and military boycott—the South Africans With Surface to Air Missiles developed weapons indigenously with Israeli help (that's right, Israel helped the National Party segregate blacks. Why? Probably so they could get uranium to build their own nukes), including working on a shared nuclear weapons program. The so-called "Vela Incident", an explosion out in the ocean near Antarctica which was picked up by US surveillance satellites, was probably a South African nuclear test.
However, more significantly, it also faced a cultural boycott. South Africa was barred from the Olympics from 1964 to 1992. Going to South Africa to compete would get a sportsperson very bad press. International cricket, a big South African sport, had occurred spottily. There were some "rebel" tours, including two of England players, which resulted in players getting bans as a result.
In terms of media, Equity banned works involving its members from being shown on South African television, which arrived in 1975 (before that, TV was banned as a morally corrupting influence). If you actually went to South Africa to film, you were not going to be popular. On a more informal level in the 1980s, the same thing applied for popular musicians who performed at the infamous Sun City resort in South Africa, as Artists Against Apartheid pointed out in their protest song, "Sun City." Interestingly enough, Sun City was in a homeland/reservation, since gambling was illegal in the Republic itself. This cultural boycott occasionally got rather out of hand, as when Paul Simon was criticized for recording his Magnum Opus Graceland in South Africa... entirely with musicians who were black in the first place.
With apartheid coming to an end and a new government in place, one of their first actions was to reform (read: get rid of) the then-current standing military, presumably since for decades the military was the iron first of the apartheid government and performed numerous operations (above-board and otherwise; counterinsurgency isn't always pretty) in order to undermine anti-apartheid activities. To be fair, most soldiers were given the option to stay on, but many (understandably?) didn't want to be commanded by Soviet-trained officers they'd been fighting against for all of the Cold War. Most of the soldiers, well-trained with years of active military experience, became Mercenaries (or Military Contractors), most notably the PMC (Private Military Contractor) Executive Outcomes was founded by former members of the apartheid government and when on to take part in a number of military actions in Africa. Today it is still common for South Africans to be part of NATO-aligned mercenary groups in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, although the increasing age of the apartheid-era generation and the smaller number of new mercenary recruits makes it a dwindling phenomenon. Also, since mercenary companies (and associated activities) are illegal in South Africa, the privatized military-style South African forces you do see these days are called "security companies" now. So, if you ever make any official inquiry, there are no South African mercenaries, but it makes little practical difference.
- Eagle in the Sky by Wilbur Smith
- The Tom Sharpe novels Riotous Assembly and Indecent Exposure, satires of the regime. Sharpe spent 10 years in the country until thrown out in 1961.
- Wonderella, as a teenager, thought it had something to do with elephant poaching.
- Harry Turtledove's Alternate History novel The Guns of the South has bitter Afrikaners, members of the real-life Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (Afrikaner Resistance Movement), steal a time machine and provide the Confederate States of America with AK-47s in the hopes of building a powerful nation that supported "white power". They face opposition from Robert E. Lee and other moderates who, regardless of their personal feelings on slavery, recognize that following the AWB will lead the Confederacy down a path of violence and ostracism from the global community.
- Of course, actual South Africans also know that the AWB aren't nice guys, which explains why the AWB has always been an irrelevant, extremist fringe organization. Even during apartheid. Everyone knows about them because they're Nazis, but they never had even the modicum of popular support the KKK had.
- Irvine Welsh's Marabou Stork Nightmares is set in apartheid South Africa during the protagonist's childhood. The Afrikaners are a very unpleasant bunch.
- In an episode of The Goodies, the Goodies move to South Africa just after all black natives have left. The regime starts a new form of segregation called Apart-Height. Which does not bode well for anyone under a certain height. Eventually the native Jockeys overthrow the government.
- In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures comic book produced by Archie Comics, a supporting character was a black werewolf whose family moved to Jamaica from South Africa to escape apartheid.
- The novel and film The Wilby Conspiracy (the movie starred Sidney Poitier and Michael Caine); the story concerns a black South African activist and a white English businessman hurtling across South Africa to try to elude a South African secret policeman.
- The Sixth Battle has South Africa invaded by its neighbouring communist states, backed by the
Soviet UnionUnion of Eurasian Republics. The US joins on South Africa's side and some of the Zulu population back South Africa, both on the "better the devil you know" principle.
- At the beginning, Mandela and de Klerk are killed when someone crashes a remote-controlled Cessna into the South African parliament building.
- The general scenario is more or less what happened in real life, since the Bantustan "homelands" were political allies of apartheid South Africa, and both SA and its homelands (Zulu and otherwise) were involved on the American side of the Cold War.
- In The Third World War, South Africa is a key area in the conflict.
- District 9, an Alien Among Us story set in Johannesburg, never explicitly mentions apartheid—but you can't help thinking about it anyway.
- The South African writer stated that it wasn't supposed to be an allegory for anything, but was just his idea of what would realistically happen to aliens if they landed in South Africa.
- In World War Z, a Heroic Sociopath modifies an old Apartheid-era South African civil war plan to deal with the zombie threat. It works well and is adopted by many of the nations detailed in the book.
- Red Dust is a film that explores the Apartheid Era through flashbacks during a truth and reconciliation hearing (hearings where those guilty of Apartheid-era crimes, on both sides, can admit their guilt, apologize and receive pardons).
- Spitting Image released a song attacking Apartheid called "I've never met a nice South African" (the first verse of which is at the top of the page) which does admit that nice (ie anti-Apartheid) South Africans exist, and that they got put in prison.
- Larry Bond, co-author of Red Storm Rising and creator of the Harpoon tabletop wargame, wrote a novel entitled Vortex, which chronicled a Mandela-less final war with Cuba, Angola, and Namibia on one side, South Africa on another side, the US and Great Britian on a third, and the various revolutionary groups fighting everyone. Better than it sounds.
- Invictus begins at the very end of the Apartheid era, and deals with the Mandela government's use of the South African national rugby team, long associated with whites in general and Afrikaans-speakers in particular, as a means of unifying the nation.
- An episode of Silent Witness involves Nikki Alexander (born in the country) being hired to identify the bodies of ANC activists executed in 1985. It also features a woman getting "necklaced" for fleeing the house where she's held as a sex slave and telling the police, an ANC punishment for informers that involves placing a tyre around their neck, dousing it in petrol and setting it alight.
- The Power of One, a novel by Bryce Courtenay, and the movie of the book discuss an English colonist, who boxes in illegal interracial tournaments, and inspires the native Black population, giving them lessons in English. The Afrikaner police are depicted as Nazistic, and the main antagonist of the story is explicitly a Nazi sympathizer, who has a swastika tatoo, listens to the Horst Wessel Lied, and, as a teenager, swore allegiance to Adolf Hitler.
- In addition, as a possible Take That against the Apartheid regime, the aforementioned main antagonist is named Botha, after the then-recent leader of Apartheid South Africa.
- And of course the English are made out as being superior and the Afrikaners as all being Nazis, despite the fact that all whites at similar levels of education supported Apartheid more or less equally (and the stereotype of the backwoods racist Afrikaner versus the scrappy liberal Englishman originated during a time when the latter were keeping the former in concentration camps). But hey, it's all in the cause of opposing racism, right?
- Hoppie was an Afrikaner, wasn't he? There are plenty of good and upstanding Afrikaners in the book, the protagonist just has very bad experiences with a schoolyard gang at the beginning.
- The Disney Channel movie The Color of Friendship is a fictionalized account of the 1977 visit of an Afrikaner exchange student to the home of African-American congressman Ron Dellums, himself an outspoken opponent of Apartheid.
- Almost anything by Wilbur Smith, but especially Power Of The Sword and Rage from the Courtney series.
- Lethal Weapon 2 featured a South African drug dealer hiding behind Diplomatic Impunity.
- As did the Indio movies. The "South African drug dealer with diplomatic immunity" is turning out to be its own trope.
- The Big Bad in the original Soldier of Fortune video game is an exiled South African Colonel named Dekker who blames the fall of Apartheid on the meddling of western nations. His ultimate plan for revenge is to drop a neutron bomb (Built in part on expertise he has from working on top-secret South African nuclear projects) on the US.
- Whereas there was (and to an extent, still is) latent hostility towards the US Federal government among many South Africans, that's... kind of unrealistic. We like Americans, even if we think they have a regrettable tendency to intervene without understanding why or how. But I mean, you don't get angry at a storm, and it doesn't make you hate rain.
- In the movie Blood Diamonds Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a white Rhodesian (now Zimbabwe) and former South African Apartheid soldier turned mercenary as well as the antagonist Colonel Coetzee (Arnold Vosloo) and the officers of his mercenary platoon are all ex-apartheid soldiers turned mercenary.
- In a subversion of the usual portrayal however, they do not make racist statements (unless they are very, very pissed off with a Black person) and Coetzee's troops include Black South African mercenaries as well.
- This is basically a realistic portrayal of what South Africa's military, and its mercenaries, are like. Even during apartheid, all races were represented in the Army - except that units were segregated, and only white South Africans were subject to conscription. While fighting against the Communist hordes on the border, South Africans were more concerned about staying alive than being racist.
- As an added bonus to stack against the stereotype, consider the fact that all white South Africans in movies refer to black people by "the k-word", with this being more common among soldiers and government ministers. Except... even under apartheid, it was illegal to use that word. Those film South Africans may have had diplomatic immunity, but all the heroes had to do was record the bad guys insulting them, and they would get fired and probably fined several thousand Rand for being racially insensitive.
- South African author Alan Paton is most well-known for his anti-apartheid literature, such as Ah, but Your Land Is Beautiful, which displays several episodes during apartheid's beginnings in the 1950s. Paton's most famous novel is Cry, the Beloved Country, which explores the complex social interactions of Whites and Blacks during the turbulent upheavals of apartheid's emergence through the eyes of a Black pastor and a White farmer. The book was adapted to film in 1951 and 1995, the latter one starring James Earl Jones and Richard Harris; there was also a stage musical adaptation, Lost in the Stars, that was itself filmed in 1973.
- The 1987 film Cry Freedom, based on books by investigative journalist Donald Woods, chronicled the friendship between the white Woods and black anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, who died from injuries sustained during police custody in 1977. Woods' books accused the apartheid regime of whitewashing Biko's death, which led to Woods being blacklisted and escaping to Britain.
- because since "-heid" means "-ness", you also have words like "vriendelikheid" ("friendliness") which have nothing to do with "hate" at all.