Life in Segregated South Africa

A bench designated for so called non-whites only.

The policy of separate development of separate peoples under apartheid was institutionalized from 1948 onward by the Afrikaner-dominated National Party government. The policy required keeping whites and so called non-whites apart, and segregation covered places such as schools, buses, restaurants and residential areas. Interracial marriages, moreover, were outlawed, and anyone who didn’t separate the way the government wanted risked being arrested.

Racial segregation in practice

Still though, non-whites often worked in businesses or on land owned by whites, which meant that people of different racial backgrounds were around each other all the time. Furthermore, for practical reasons, blacks who worked on white-owned land had to be allowed to live close to their workplaces. This meant that large townships designated for black workers and their dependents were built in areas otherwise not assigned for black people.

To complicate racial division even more, not only black workers and their families could be found in so-called non-black areas. Whites, coloureds and Indians all had their permanent homes here, and any black person who lived in a bantustan was generally allowed to visit these areas temporarily.

The pass laws

The interracial contacts notwithstanding, outside the black homelands, people who were classified as black were required to have passports or permits on hand at all times, and show them on demand, or risk arrest. This was a way for the government to identify and remove blacks who frequented so-called non-black areas without an accepted reason. The other non-whites — the coloureds and the Indians — for legally living in the non-black areas, were not subject to the stringent passport laws, although they were not allowed to unjustifiably mix with whites either.