"I've travelled this old world of ours from Barnsley to Peru
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!"Apartheid, noun - literally, 'apart-ness'. Refers to South Africa from 1948 to 1994, which at the time of its dissolution was the most visible nation in the modern world to have 'Scientific Racialist' policies, with a government predicated on protecting and providing for a single 'race' of citizens - her ethnically European citizens, who composed between 15 and 20% of the population. This was in spite of the fact that 'race' as an anthropological theory had long since been dis-proven by 1948, not to mention universally condemned as a popular theory thanks to the millions of people who died in genocides, assorted massacres, and famines implemented and/or allowed to happen by the racialist regimes of Germany and Japan during World War II. It's also worth noting that Apartheid was made possible by South Africa's status as a limited-plurality democracy in which only her (paranoid and increasingly afraid of the rest of the country's population) European citizens had the vote, though 'coloured' citizens' token-representation got slightly stronger over time and even the 'black' population had a couple of token representatives amongst several dozen other members of the Parliament.note
—Spitting Image, "I've Never Met a Nice South African"
"How We Got Here": Some Background notes on South Africa and the leadup to Apartheid
In many ways, this apparent irony in how Apartheid came about (occurring after the second world war that so discredited racism on that scale, in a well-established and genuinely free but highly insular democracy) also helps explain why it happened. South African democracy draws its' roots to the sort of small, insular "settler" communities of British and Dutch/Boer/Afrikaaner colonists that settled along the Cape. Since they lived in fear and hostility with many outsiders (Black as well as White; conflict in the Cape was furious and frequent) they tended to structure governments tailored to keep power for them. So after the Boers and later the British finished conquering their ways up and assimilating all others, the British adopted and institutionalized these basic models into a compromise to try and calm the mutually hostile white populations in its' colony. What they settled on was primarily based on the British model, but with substantial privileges and concessions to the Afrikaaners, on the basis of fairly broad broad universal rights, and in particular suffrage to free Whites. Unfortunately, this meant the many Black populations that made up the majority of the colony *didn't* get suffrage. So in effect, participation in South Africa's democratic tradition was limited exclusively to a small minority of whites, and Blacks who wished their voices to be heard had to hope for a sympathetic government. note The British had very good reason to fear dissent from the white communities in South Africa; they had originally taken the colony by force in the Napoleonic Wars and fought several wars to consolidate their power, with some of the most stalwart resistance coming from the Boers note . The Boers were fiercely independent (and borderline xenophobic) descendants of the Dutch colonists in the Cape who objected to both British rule and having almost anything to do with "Blacks." The British government had spent two bloody and embarrassing wars putting them down and even afterwards keeping the peace (in their eyes) largely depended on working with Afrikaaner/Boer moderates. So to the British colonial government, massaging Afrikaaner sympathies by keeping the Black majority disenfranchised was a minor price to pay, especially since the British were usually racist themselves and the wars they had with the various Black peoples had not been anywhere near as troublesome for them as the Boer Wars. And for the most part, this arrangement worked well for what it was intended to do, but it failed to pacify some Afrikaaner radicals who kept up the fight, and who largely were attracted to Germany for all kinds of reasons note . The hardliners took advantage of the outbreak of World War One to try and invade the colony from neighboring German Namibia, but were defeated while Namibia was annexed to South Africa. However, the South African colonial authorities dealt with the German presence much like the British had dealt with the Boers before them (annexing them into the white elite and sidelining the Blacks), and the underlying grievances remained. So in World War II a new generation of Afrikaaner radicals also sympathized with Germany and joined a conspiracy to try and cause a pro-Nazi revolt. This is notable not for the conspiracy itself- which more or less didn't go anywhere- but because after the war the people who were involved in it formed the National Party and stood for election against the moderate government, and once they won they were the ones to implement apartheid. So in effect, most of the leaders of Apartheid were disgruntled Nazi sympathizers who were elected into power and decided to put into effect some of the disgraced ideology of their idol. Unsurprisingly, it went downhill from there.During this time legalized ethnic segregation occurred and South African 'blacks' and 'coloureds' note were not considered 'true' citizens as were the country's 'whites' (who were/are mainly ethnic-English and -Dutch/'Afrikaners' - the latter being Dutch/Afrikaans for "Africans"). Instead, the South African government tried to confine the 'blacks' in particular to the countryside and gave as many of them as possible citizenship of one of ten "native homelands". Six of these were provinces of South Africa itself, and while the other four were nominally independent microstates they were still totally reliant on South Africa (which surrounded them) to survive. The initial ethnic cleansing and consequent 'apartness'/'apartheid' was officially done as part of a process of "de-colonisation" so that the native peoples of South Africa would be 'free to pursue their own path, free from patronage and protection of their European former-overlords'. In practice, the "homelands" (a.k.a. "Bantustans") were poverty-ridden hell-holes - completely devoid of healthcare or education or infrastructure - that served as sources cheap labor for South Africa's 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 worked against them, as the white South Africans were so vehemently anti-Communist the anti-apartheid movement could get little support, at least not from the West (USSR was more than willing to provide military training and weapons, however). Meanwhile, the U.S., UK and Israel supported the white apartheid government, mainly because they weren't Dirty Commies. 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 the USSR and Cuba. 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 U.S. (on account of mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug offenses). 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). Prominent exiled dissident Ruth First was murdered in this manner. 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 cred (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, which were successively repealed over the next four years. In 1992 when 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 African National Congress (ANC) party in 1994. For their effort to peacefully transition South Africa out of Apartheid, Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel 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, with perpetrators of crimes (from both the apartheid regime and various dissidents fighting it) given amnesty if they confessed and asked for forgiveness. Apartheid is pronounced "apart-hate" (but only if you over-enunciate it), which may seem appropriate if your primary language is Englishnote . 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 state and federal law: before apartheid, some provinces were less segregationist than others, while afterward they no longer had any lawful choice in the matter. Did we mention that, although South Africa was part of the Allies in WW2, 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. Boycotts South Africa was subjected for much of this period to a large-scale international economic and military boycott from the '60s onwards — 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 U.S. surveillance satellites, was probably a South African nuclear test. More importantly, however, South Africa suffered from a serious shortage of skilled labournote and foreign investment was decidedly lacklustre - not so much because multinational Mega Corps had any particular moral qualms with the regime (though doing so became increasingly controversial) as the fact that the whole country looked like a powder-keg ready to explode and take all one's investments with it. The situation got so bad that 'Honorary White' Racial Status - with its lack of restrictions upon travel, jobs, and pay - was given to the employees of Taiwanese and Japanese corporations willing to do business with them. South Africa 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. Rugby Union ties with New Zealand remained - when New Zealand toured South Africa in 1976, twenty-five African nations boycotted the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal after the IOC refused to ban New Zealand over the tour. Then in 1981, South Africa toured New Zealand, where the anti-apartheid lobby clashed with rugby fans and caused widespread riots. Artists organized boycotts against performing in South Africa during this period also. It is fair to say the South African government contributed to this situation. The TCCB was perfectly happy to send the England cricket team on tour to SA, until the fateful season where England wished to send Basil D'Olivera, a mixed-race cricketer, as part of the team. South Africa insisted D'Olivera should be subject to apartheid law while in the country and should be segregated from the rest of the team, who were all white. This meant he would have had to be treated as a Coloured (mixed race person in South African parlance) for the duration of his stay and have no contact with the team, except when training or playing. England refused this condition as unacceptable. South Africa then banned D'Olivera from entering the country at all. England, refusing to set a precedent that any host country should dictate their team selection, then called off the tour. Ironically D'Olivera was himself a South African, and had left for England to escape his country's pre-existing ban on non-whites playing first class cricket. 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. Mercenary Legacy 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 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.