South Africa’s Ethnic Relations

Ethnic and ethnic ties have existed in South Africa since pre-colonial times. Since pre-colonial times, the concept of separation has been present in political, economic, and social systems. The nation is made up of a diverse range of cultural languages, identities, and ethnic relations (Coertze 12). Racism was conceptualized in South Africa by apartheid, in which citizens exclude members of a deprived group from equal resource distribution and unrestricted access to institutions. Denial of jobs, education, and primary health care to members of the native community made the act very successful. During colonial times, the Dutch instituted racial segregation, and when the British arrived in 1795, they embraced the practice and continued in the status quo. The relevance of the concept of race became an essential issue in the central body of governance during colonialism. Various legislations embedded on racial classification were passed in the era of apartheid rule. The disenfranchisement of the people came about by the introduction of Population Registration Act of 1950. The legislation classified the South African population into three major groups; the natives, whites and Asians/colored.

In line with institutional racism which embraces these ideas, the act provided the whites with the rights and privileges of voting, state security, and representation in the parliament, against the other groups. According to the theory of interactionism, which states that ethnicity and race are reliable sources of symbols of identity, the apartheid policies flourished under the umbrella of this opinion. The whites were offered the opportunity and access to skilled employment and to own productive land resources.

The other legislation was the Group Areas Act. The act proposed that people were to live according to their races, and each category was allocated its area of residence. It is this law that was used to justify forced evictions of non-whites in productive sectors. As the theory of functionalism claims that, racism can positively enhance the functioning of the society through creation and strengthening of bonds amongst members of the same group, the other communities were barred or instead ostracized from entrance into some areas by the law. For instance, the prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act of 1949, made it illegal for persons of different races intermarry (Edward and Thomas 23). The enactment of Immorality Act of 1950 also made it a criminal offense for interracial sexual relations.

The aspect of racism was similarly embraced by the legalization of racial segregation of public social amenities and services. In 1953, the reservation of Separate Amenities Act became law. It put into practice the separation in the utilization of public and common goods amongst South Africans. For example, federal grounds were special reserves for the whites. There were categories of schools, hospitals and bus services for each particular race as they were divided in the act. The blacks were provided with very inferior services, unlike the whites. The education system, as it was passed in the Bantu Education Act, was crafted in a manner that it was to prepare the natives with the skills of a laboring class. By 1959, other separate universities and colleges were created to serve the Africans and the colored, while the existing institutions of learning were left for the whites in particular (Tom 676).

South Africa has not just suffered from racism alone. Similarly, issues of ethnicity have been in existence too for an extended period. Before the colonial times, ethnic ideas and values were construed on the cultural practices and norms. The aspects which described ethnicity included; language, religion, ancestral origin, historical background and territorial dominions which were characterized into units of political, social and economic formations. It was visible among the local communities in the manner as they conducted their separate shared values and beliefs (Mekoa 40). South Africa is composed of various ethnic groups living in different rural places. Ethnicity may be termed as a shared practices, distinctions, and values which end to separate one team from the other. It has been associated with the ideas that ethnic groups are extensions of kinships, which serve as the basis of separation lines within the societies.

Before colonial era, the communities were separated into major ethnic lines, and they lived in separate rural homes. They also practiced different economic, religious and social norms, which could not allow free interaction and connectivity between various tribes. During the reign of colonialists, these African communities were divided into lines of ethnicity. They included the Nguni people, Sotho, Tswana and the Venda. Separate homesteads in rural areas were built for each of them. The Africans that lived in the urban areas were placed in various residences along the ethnic factions. Basic human needs were as well provided based on the prevailing rules, where each community was allocated their service pools.

The end of apartheid was marked with the introduction of the constitutional democracy and governance. One of the most important symbols of multiracialism was the rainbow nation ideology which was popularized by the South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 1994. The other symbol of multiracial democracy was the constitutional recognition of eleven official languages in South Africa. The constitution provides for equality in political, economic, social and human rights regardless of ethnicity, gender, race or language. The law also states the commitment of the government to redress of past racial injustices committed against the citizens of the country.

Despite the fact that statutory laws do not recognize any form of injustice, or discrimination, the country is still infiltrated with a lot of segregation ideologies along the acts of politics, culture, and economy. It is also evident that the legacy of apartheid rule has not been cast out of the peoples’ memory after several decades of multiracial democracy (Goolam 68). Aspects of racism are still rampant in the major cities of the country, where places of residence are classified as either black or white neighborhood. Even though, interaction and social activities amongst various races, most of such interracial practices are still tinted with racial discrimination factors.

The geopolitical situation of South Africa has however improved since the abolition of apartheid rule. It has become a very influential player and contributor in the global reforms towards politics and economy. The numbers of diplomatic missions and organizations’ offices in the country have expanded to three hundred, making it the second after the USA. South Africa has also served as a non-permanent member of UN Security Council, and it is the only African country which is a member of the G20 (Pillay 160). In the interest of developing nations, it has championed international economic and political transformations and order under the umbrella of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. It has assisted in the conflict resolutions in Zimbabwe, Madagascar, and South Sudan. Regarding economic change growth, South Africa’s exports to their traditional partners like the United Kingdom, USA and Japan have gone down. China has now become the most significant trading partner in the recent past. The country has also hosted several major international conferences like UN Aids Conference, World Summit on Sustainable Development, UN Climate Change and Commonwealth Heads Government Meeting among others.

Works Cited

Coertze, R. D. “‘Racism And Ethnicity’: Reflections On The Debatable Permanence Of Terminology.” Anthropology Southern Africa 30.1-2 (2007): 11-19.

LiPuma, Edward, and Thomas A. Koelble. “Rituals Of Solidarity In The New South Africa.” Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism 11.1 (2011): 1-24. Web.

Lodge, Tom. “The Communist Party In South Africa, Racism, Eurocentricity, And Moscow, 1921–1950.” South African Historical Journal 68.4 (2016): 675-677. Web.

Mekoa, I. “Discourses And Politics Of Racism In Higher Education In South Africa.” Africa Insight40.4 (2011): n.

Mohamedbhai, Goolam. “South Africa: Challenges Of Racism And Access.” International Higher Education 68 (2015): 20. Web.

Pillay, Jace. “Has Democracy Led To The Demise Of Racism In South Africa? A Search For The Answer In Gauteng Schools.” Africa Education Review 11.2 (2014): 146-163. Web.

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