Apartheid Policies | Facing History & Ourselves

Apartheid Policies

Read the National Party’s 1948 statement in support of apartheid, which justifies separation as a way to preserve the white European race.


  • Civics & Citizenship
  • History


English — US


By the mid-twentieth century, segregation of the races in South Africa had long been the norm, but the election of the National Party in 1948 built on these racist traditions by enacting a series of racial laws and regulations it called apartheid (“apartness” in Afrikaans). Led by Daniel Malan, a former pastor in the Dutch Reformed Church turned politician, the National Party described apartheid in a pamphlet produced for the election as “a concept historically derived from the experience of the established White population of the country, and in harmony with such Christian principles as justice and equity. It is a policy which sets itself the task of preserving and safeguarding the racial identity of the White population of the country; of likewise preserving and safeguarding the identity of the indigenous peoples as separate racial groups.” Below is an excerpt from the National Party’s “Colour Policy.”

Statement by the National Party of South Africa, March 29, 1948

There are two sections of thought in South Africa in regard to the policy affecting the non-European community. On the one hand there is the policy of equality, which advocates equal rights within the same political structure for all civilized and educated persons, irrespective of race or colour, and the gradual granting of the franchise to non-Europeans as they become qualified to make use of democratic rights.

On the other hand there is the policy of separation (apartheid) which has grown from the experience of established European population of the country, and which is based on the Christian principles of Justice and reasonableness.

Its aim is the maintenance and protection of the European population of the country as a pure White race, the maintenance and protection of the indigenous racial groups as separate communities, with prospects of developing into self-supporting communities within their own areas, and the stimulation of national pride, self-respect, and mutual respect among the various races of the country.

We can act in only one of two directions. Either we must follow the course of equality — which must eventually mean national suicide for the White race, or we must take the course of separation (apartheid) through which the character and the future of every race will be protected and safeguarded with full opportunities for development and self-maintenance in their own ideas, without the interests of one clashing with the interests of the other, and without one regarding the development of the other as undermining or a threat to himself.

The party therefore undertakes to protect the White race properly and effectively against any policy, doctrine or attack which might undermine or threaten its continued existence. At the same time the party rejects any policy of oppression and exploitation of the non-Europeans by the Europeans as being in conflict with the Christian basis of our national life and irreconcilable with our policy.

The party believes that a definite policy of separation (apartheid) between the White races and the non-White racial groups, and the application of the policy of separation also in the case of the non-White racial groups, is the only basis on which the character and future of each race can be protected and safeguarded and on which each race can be guided so as to develop his own national character, aptitude and calling.

All marriages between Europeans and non-Europeans will be prohibited.

In their areas the non-European racial groups will have full opportunities for development in every sphere and will be able to develop their own institutions and social services whereby the forces of the progressive non-Europeans can be harnessed for their own national development (volkeepbou). The policy of the country must be so planned that it will eventually promote the ideal of complete separation (algehele apartheid) in a national way.

A permanent advisory body of experts on non-European affairs will be established.

The State will exercise complete supervision over the moulding of the youth. The party will not tolerate interference from without or destructive propaganda from the outside world in regard to the racial problems of South Africa.

The party wishes all non-Europeans to be strongly encouraged to make the Christian religion the basis of their lives and will assist churches in this task in every possible way. Churches and societies which undermine the policy of apartheid and propagate doctrines foreign to the nation will be checked.

The Coloured community takes a middle position between the European and the Natives. A policy of separation (apartheid) between the Europeans and Coloureds and between Natives and Coloureds will be applied in the social, residential, industrial and political spheres. No marriage between Europeans and Coloureds will be permitted. The Coloureds will be protected against unfair competition from the Natives in so far as where they are already established.

The Coloured community will be represented in the Senate by a European representative to be appointed by the Government by reason of his knowledge of Coloured affairs. . . . 1

Connection Questions

  1. In this excerpt, the National Party begins by saying, “There are two sections of thought in South Africa in regard to the policy affecting the non-European community.” Who makes up these two sections?
  2. What are the stated goals of the National Party? What policies do they pledge to implement? How do they justify their policies? What do you notice about the tone of the document?
  3. Words matter: they can both hide and reveal views of the world. In the opening sentence, the party uses the words the “non-European community.” What connotations do these words have? The nationalists call their policy apartheid, or “separateness.” What word would you use?
  4. How might you counter some of the claims made in the document? What kind of evidence would you cite? What kind of appeal would you make to the all-white voters? (Nelson Mandela’s speech from his treason trial offers one alternative vision for both whites and blacks.)
  • 1United Nations General Assembly, Official Records: Eighth Session, Supplement No. 16 (A/2505 and A/2505/Add.1), "Report of the United Nations Commission on the Racial Situation in the Union of South Africa," Annex V (New York: 1952), 139–40. Reproduced by permission of the UN Archives.

How to Cite This Reading

Facing History & Ourselves, “Apartheid Policies”, last updated July 31, 2018.

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