Racial segregation and the supremacy of whites had been traditionally accepted in South Africa prior to 1948, but in the general election of that year, Daniel F. Malan officially included the policy of apartheid in the Afrikaner Nationalist party platform, bringing his party to power for the first time. Although most whites acquiesced in the policy, there was bitter and sometimes bloody strife over the degree and stringency of its implementation.
The purpose of apartheid was separation of the races: not only of whites from nonwhites, but also of nonwhites from each other, and, among the Africans (called Bantu in South Africa), of one group from another. In addition to the Africans, who constitute about 75% of the total population, those regarded as nonwhite include those people known in the country as Coloured (people of mixed black, Malayan, and white descent) and Asian (mainly of Indian ancestry) populations.
Initial emphasis was on restoring the separation of races within the urban areas. A large segment of the Asian and Coloured populations was forced to relocate out of so-called white areas. African townships that had been overtaken by (white) urban sprawl were demolished and their occupants removed to new townships well beyond city limits. Between the passage of the Group Areas Acts of 1950 and 1986, about 1.5 million Africans were forcibly removed from cities to rural reservations.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.