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Useful Notes / The Apartheid Era

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"We don't want apartheid liberalised. We want it dismantled. You can't improve something that is intrinsically evil."
Bishop Desmond Tutu

"Apartheid" is an Afrikaans word note . It was coined as a neologism that literally means "apart-ness"; more accurately, it means "segregation"note . And in practice, it refers to the overriding policy in South Africa from 1948 to 1994 of strictly enforced racial segregation.

During the Apartheid era, South Africa was the most visible nation in the modern world to have an official policy of "scientific racism" — the idea that certain races were scientifically, objectively, better than others (or were at least distinct enough to deserve protection).note  As an anthropological theory, it was mostly discredited in the West after World War II, when millions died as a result of such theories. South Africa, however, did this to "protect" its white citizens, who made up only 15 to 20% of the population, one of only a rare few cases where an ethnic minority subjugated the majority group rather than the other way around.

South Africa's Apartheid divided people into various categories based on race, but in practice it was between "white" and "non-white". Whites got to rule the country despite being a minority, segregation was the order of the day, and the whole thing was propped up by a government that claimed to be free and democratic but was really a Police State for everyone who wasn't White (and, in most periods, for White people who called the system out on its bullshit).

    Background and Useful Notes on Apartheid 

How We Got Here — South Africa and the leadup to Apartheid.

South Africa draws its roots from the small, insular "settler" European communities along the Cape of Good Hope, largely divided between the British and the Dutch (who became known as the Boers or Afrikaaners). Conflict in the Cape was common, both between Europeans and against the native Africans; as such, these communities tended to structure their governments in a way that allowed their inhabitants to maintain power. The colonists tried to unify everyone under their own system; the British, in particular, tried to assimilate it like the rest of The British Empire, which saw staunch resistance from the fiercely independent Boers. This led to such bloody conflicts as the Boer wars. In the end, the whites stopped fighting with each other and adopted a common model of broad universal rights — but only for white citizens. It was under this model that the basic segregation policies were established.

The Boers, however, were particularly xenophobic and wanted assurances that the black population could be kept in line. Some were drawn to the Germans, who had set up a colony in neighboring Namibia and had their own brutal genocidal campaigns with a similar militaristic attitude to the Boers. The hardliners took advantage of World War I and the Germans tried to invade South Africa, but South Africa won and annexed Namibia (then known as South-West Africa). A tenuous alliance of white colonists ensued, until an attempted pro-Nazi revolt during World War II supported by a new generation of hardliner Afrikaners.

The conspiracy didn't go anywhere, but it did open up the door for the formation of the National Party, who in 1948 defeated the more moderate government of Jan Smuts (who argued for the eventual dismantling of segregation). D.F. Malan became the new leader, and the Apartheid policy was formally instated and greatly expanded.

How it worked

Apartheid codified several dozen "races", but for the most part they could easily be divided into:

  • "White" — ethnic Europeans
  • "Black" — ethnic Africans
  • "Indians" — ethnic Indians
  • "Coloured" — mixed-race between Africans and Europeans, or other ethnicities.

Only whites could be considered "true" citizens of South Africa or participate in South Africa's government. The government tried to confine everyone else to the countryside, where they set up ten Bantustans, "native homelands". Six of these were provinces of South Africa itself, while four were nominally independent microstates. In practice, all were effectively governed by and subservient to South Africa. Blacks and coloureds could get citizenship in one of the Bantustans, but this was effectively meaningless. The idea was that under the guise of "de-colonisation", blacks could form their own nations and societies separate from the European-colonized areas. In practice, that was impossible, as these places were poverty-ridden, completely devoid of healthcare, education, or infrastructure, and basically just sources of cheap labor for South Africa's mines - and often used as a place to "deport" blacks living elsewhere in South Africa.

Segregation was strictly enforced, even more so than in the U.S. at the time. Non-whites were formally prohibited from white areas, which could range from public facilities, to beaches, to neighborhoods, to effectively whole cities. Most jobs were completely closed to non-whites. Inter-racial relationships were strictly forbidden; although "coloured" was an officially-recognized "race", it consisted heavily of people whose mere existence was illegal (though the bulk of "coloureds" were descended from race-mixing at an earlier point in history, some were not; the title of Trevor Noah'snote  black-comicnote  memoir Born A Crime says a lot).

The government dealt with political opponents by "banning" them. This meant that they could not communicate with more than one person at a time when not at home, they couldn't enter certain areas, and they could not be quoted in the media. (This legal measure is still on the books today, just not used as much.) Those suspected of "terrorism" could be detained indefinitely, without charge or trial — "terrorism" was broadly defined as anything from "communism" to "pissing the government off". South Africa, until 1993, had the dubious honor of having the highest percentage of its population in prison. (The U.S. has since overtaken it thanks to the "War on Drugs" and, before it, the "War on Crime".)

And that's if you stayed alive. South Africa hanged 2,949 people from 1959 to 1991, with 1,123 of those in the 1980s alone - topping the global execution chart in some years for various offences; frequently with political motivations in the issuing of the death penalty and definitely applied in a very racist manner - black people were far more likely to be hanged than white people. Mandela himself just escaped the death penalty at his own trial.

Less 'legally', hundreds of people were tortured in jail or killed with such explanations as "fell down some stairs". Public inquests would routinely back such findings, even over obvious evidence to the contrary. Security and intelligence services committed several outright assassinations, both in South Africa and abroad; their preferred method was the letter bomb, colloquially known as the "care package" (because they take care of you), usually sent by the Civil Cooperation Bureau. Prominent exiled dissident Ruth First was murdered in this manner, and activist South African Anglican priest Father Michael Lapsley lost both hands and one eye to a bomb.

Since the 1960s, the government would justify such violence as a way of putting down protests, which became increasingly frequent. The Sharpeville Massacre in 1960 is seen as a turning point, as frightened police officers fired on an unruly protest, killing dozens, most of whom were shot in the back while fleeing. Anything could have sparked a protest; some of the biggest (such as the Soweto massacre) arose out of a government decree that at least 50% of the country's schools teach in Afrikaans rather than English, as many blacks considered Afrikaans in particular the language of the oppressors.

Foreign relations during Apartheid

The Apartheid era coincided with the Cold War. As was common in authoritarian colonial states, the largest and best-organized opposition group — in this case the African National Congress, or ANC — was very leftist and openly allied with the communists - especially the Soviet Union and Cuba. The white South Africans responded by being so vehemently anti-communist that they attracted some support from the West, including the U.S., the U.K., and Israel, especially among conservative politicians like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Israel and South Africa are even alleged to have collaborated on nuclear technology. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union was doing what it could to support the insurgents, usually through Cuba and the MPLA in Angola, while the South Africans backed anti-communist insurgents throughout Africa such as UNITA in Angola.

When Apartheid began, South Africa was surrounded largely by other colonial governments that were similarly racist (in Angola, Rhodesia, and Mozambique). That started to change in the 1960s and 1970s, as the black majority in those countries — again, led by largely communist groups — overthrew the European colonial powers and established independence. South-West Africa also won an independence war from South Africa and split to form Namibia. South Africa saw itself surrounded by increasingly hostile nations.

In some sense, though, the experience of the newly independent neighbors caused South Africa to double down on its Apartheid policy. Rhodesia, for instance, became independent as Zimbabwe under its leader Robert Mugabe; but while the country had been one of the most successful in Africa under colonial rule in the 1960s, Mugabe's rule was notoriously riddled with cronyism and incompetence, suggesting to whites in South Africa that Apartheid was Necessarily Evil to prevent the country from facing a similar fate.

Although South Africa was nominally on the Allied side during World War II, there was a strong Nazi sympathy strain among Afrikaners. That carried over into the Apartheid era, which led to the formation in the early 1970s of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging, or AWB (literally "Afrikaner Resistance Movement"). They frequently clashed with the Apartheid government itself, thinking it was too soft.


"There were sanctions, heavy sanctions against South Africa on political, economic, and cultural fronts. South Africa was not welcome anywhere credible in the world."
Debora Patta, discussing the boycotts during the Mayday episode on the Helderberg crash, a disaster that the boycotts contributed to.

Over time, South Africa became a pariah state, and from the 1960s onward, it was subject to a large-scale international economic and military boycott. About the only thing South Africa could get was secret collaboration with Israel over nuclear technology; the 1979 "Vela incident" is thought to have been a South African nuclear test captured by an American satellite.

South Africa already suffered from a serious shortage of skilled labor. Most of its black population was not allowed to hold desk jobs, and many of them were illiterate anyway. The country's insularity made it hostile to immigrants, and many people — black and white alike — were too disgusted with the country to want to move there. This meant the labor shortage was entirely self-inflicted, either directly through discrimination or indirectly through alienating anyone who wasn't a white supremacist.

Foreign investment in South Africa was decidedly lackluster. This wasn't so much because the Mega Corps had any particular moral qualms with the regime, but more that the country looked increasingly dangerous and unstable as its neighbors turned to chaos and South Africa seemed ready to follow suit. Governments were also putting pressure on companies not to invest in South Africa; in the U.S., this was a big reason for the enactment of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and later the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, where Congress overrode President Reagan's veto. South Africa was so desperate for investment that they gave "honorary white" status to East Asians, trying to entice Japanese and Taiwanese companies to invest.

The boycott was also cultural. South Africa was already notoriously strict on this front — television was considered morally corrupting and didn't arrive there until 1975. They also weren't very kind to people who went to the country to film there. If you did get to perform there as a musician, it was likely at the infamous Sun City resort (which was in a Bantustan, as South Africa itself banned gambling for being morally corrupting as well); many other musicians detested the regime and wrote numerous protest songs. They even criticized Paul Simon for recording Graceland in the country — with only black musicians. The British actor's union Equity actually went so far as to ban the sale of any programs filming there featuring their members - in effect, pretty much the entirety of UK television, with only The Sweeney making it down there.

South Africa also faced international sports boycotts; it was barred from the Olympics between 1964 and 1992. South African teams that did go abroad often sparked protests against the regime. Going to South Africa at all as an athlete would get you bad press. When the New Zealand Rugby Union team toured South Africa in 1976, the IOC was under huge pressure to ban New Zealand; when they didn't, because of a lucrative sponsorship deal at stake, twenty-five African countries boycotted that summer's Olympics in Montreal. Just 5 years later in 1981, the all-white Springbok rugby team toured New Zealand, sparking a major culture war battleground between equally passionate supporters and opponents of the tour. Nelson Mandela would later state in an interview that the anti-tour protests in New Zealand were "like the sun coming out". But it really hit them hard with cricket, a favorite sport in South Africa; very few teams were willing to play there. South Africa made it worse on itself by refusing to allow non-whites to play cricket there, and they really got in hot water when they insisted that Basil D'Oliveira, a mixed-race English cricketer (himself a 'coloured' South African who'd moved to the UK) not be included in the England team that was set to tour South Africa in 1968-69, resulting in the cancellation of that tour.

The end of Apartheid

There's some debate as to who exactly should get the most credit for ending Apartheid. Nelson Mandela gets much of the credit, but the foundation was laid even before he became the president. The process to end Apartheid ultimately began in the mid-1980s under the leadership of P. W. Botha. While Botha was a staunch supporter of Apartheid and his leadership in the 1980s oversaw some of the most brutal years of the Apartheid era, Botha also began relaxing or repealing laws governing racial discrimination starting in 1985. At the same time, Botha began engaging with Mandela and offered to release him from prison multiple times, but Mandela consistently refused because he found the conditions Botha attached to his potential release to be unacceptable.note  Nonetheless, Botha and his government maintained engagement with Mandela throughout the rest of the decade in what became the first time he was recognized as a legitimate political leader by the government.

While Botha made these concessions reluctantly, he helped lay the groundwork for his successor, F. W. de Klerk to announce the intention to end Apartheid when he was elected in late 1989, and many of the discriminatory laws were repealed over the next four years. This was the subject of fierce debate among South African Whites, with most non-Afrikaners (including both British descendants and others) supporting reform, conservative Afrikaners defending the existing system, and many more moderate Afrikaners conflicted. In February 1990, de Klerk lifted the ban on the African National Congress and released Nelson Mandela from prison, at which they began negotiating the transition to majority rule.

It is generally agreed that both Botha's reforms and de Klerk's decision to end the system entirely were driven by an escalation of ethnic violence in the country throughout the 1980s that lead to fears the country was headed towards a civil race war not unlike the Rhodesian Bush Wars of the 1970s. With the Rhodesian government under Ian Smith providing a great historical example of how to not handle the situation,note  the National Party understood it would be wise to negotiate with Mandela and the ANC while they were still willing to use peaceful means to achieve their goals. In 1992, a referendum was held on whether Apartheid should be continued; over two-thirds of white South Africans voted to end Apartheid.

In 1994, ANC leader Nelson Mandela was elected South Africa's first black president. This election is considered the turning point for the country and the formal end of Apartheid; its anniversary, April 27, is now a national holiday in South Africa. Violence occurred before and after this (partly provoked by the security forces to hinder things) between rival political parties. Mandela was determined to ensure a peaceful transition though, and he allowed De Klerk to stay on as vice president until his retirement in 1996. Mandela and De Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for their efforts.

South Africa then set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a way to address the crimes of the Apartheid era. Perpetrators of crimes on both sides were given amnesty if they confessed and asked for forgiveness.

They also strove to reform its then-current standing military, which was for years the enforcer of the Apartheid regime. Most of the white soldiers resented being commanded by the Soviet-trained officers they had previously been fighting. Many of them became mercenaries (well, private military contractors), either fighting in NATO-aligned mercenary groups in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, or becoming "private security" forces. As this generation ages, though, the "racist white South African mercenary" trope is likely to die out except in period works.

In fiction

  • Several Wilbur Smith novels - particularly Power of the Sword, Rage and Golden Fox - are set in South Africa at the time of Apartheid.
  • The Tom Sharpe novels Riotous Assembly and Indecent Exposure, are satires of the regime. Sharpe spent 10 years in the country until being thrown out in 1961.
  • Wonderella, as a teenager, thought it had something to do with elephant poaching.
  • Harry Turtledove's Alternate History novel The Guns of the South has bitter Afrikaners, members of the real-life Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (Afrikaner Resistance Movement), steal a time machine and provide the Confederate States of America with AK-47s in the hopes of building a powerful nation that supported "white power". They face opposition from Robert E. Lee and other moderates who, regardless of their personal feelings on slavery, dislike the AWB line, especially when they discover future books the AWB men had brought back with them showing that slavery will be condemned and the Confederacy looked down on for association with it. In the end, the AWB is put down after trying to assassinate Lee at his inauguration after running on a platform of abolishing slavery, which is done (the slave owners are compensated).
  • Irvine Welsh's Marabou Stork Nightmares is set in apartheid South Africa during the protagonist's childhood. The Afrikaners are a very unpleasant bunch.
  • In an episode of The Goodies, the Goodies move to South Africa just after all black natives have left. The regime starts a new form of segregation called Apart-Height. Which does not bode well for anyone under a certain height. Eventually the native Jockeys overthrow the government.
  • In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures comic book produced by Archie Comics, a supporting character was a black werewolf whose family moved to Jamaica from South Africa to escape apartheid.
  • The novel and film The Wilby Conspiracy (the movie starred Sidney Poitier and Michael Caine); the story concerns a black South African activist and a white English businessman hurtling across South Africa to try to elude a South African secret policeman which turned out to be a Batman Gambit for them to lead him to the titular Wilby, a black South African dissident living across the border and leading resistance against the regime.
  • The Sixth Battle has South Africa invaded by its neighboring communist states, backed by the Soviet Union Union of Eurasian Republics. The U.S. joins on South Africa's side and some of the Zulu population back South Africa, both on the "better the devil you know" principle.
    • At the beginning, Mandela and De Klerk are killed when someone crashes a remote-controlled Cessna into the South African parliament building.
    • The general scenario is more or less what happened in real life, since the Bantustan "homelands" were political allies of apartheid South Africa, and both SA and its homelands (Zulu and otherwise) were involved on the American side of the Cold War.
  • In The Third World War, South Africa is a key area in the conflict.
  • District 9, an Alien Among Us story set in Johannesburg, never explicitly mentions apartheid—but you can't help thinking about it anyway.
    • The South African writer stated that it wasn't supposed to be an allegory for anything, but was just his idea of what would realistically happen to aliens if they landed in South Africa during apartheid (it's stated they landed in 1983).
  • In World War Z, a Sociopathic Hero modifies an old Apartheid-era South African civil war plan to deal with the zombie threat. It works well and is adopted by many of the nations detailed in the book.
  • The German book Meine Schwester Sara follows the life of Johannes Leroux. His family (especially his father) are supporters of the Apartheid, but Johannes later starts to doubt if this system is right after his father started to hate his adopted sister Sarah, who was the child of a jewish woman.
  • Red Dust is a film that explores the Apartheid Era through flashbacks during a truth and reconciliation hearing (hearings where those guilty of Apartheid-era crimes, on both sides, can admit their guilt, apologize and receive pardons).
  • 1988 horror film The Stick features a South African commando squad on a sanctioned mission in Angola. It goes downhill from there.
  • Madiba is a bio TV drama that centers on Nelson Mandela's struggle against the system.
  • Spitting Image released a song attacking Apartheid called "I've never met a nice South African" which does admit that nice (i.e. anti-Apartheid) South Africans exist, and that they either left the country or got put in prison.
  • Larry Bond, co-author of Red Storm Rising and creator of the Harpoon tabletop wargame, wrote a novel entitled Vortex, which chronicled a Mandela-less final war with Cuba, Angola, and Namibia on one side, South Africa on another side, the U.S. and UK on a third, and the various revolutionary groups fighting everyone. Better than it sounds.
  • Invictus begins at the very end of the Apartheid era, and deals with the Mandela government's use of the South African national rugby team, long associated with whites in general and Afrikaners in particular, as a means of unifying the nation.
  • An episode of Silent Witness involves Nikki Alexander (born in the country) being hired to identify the bodies of ANC activists executed in 1985. It also features a woman getting "necklaced" for fleeing the house where she's held as a sex slave and telling the police, an ANC punishment for informers that involves placing a tire around their neck, dousing it in petrol and setting it alight.
  • The Power of One, a novel by Bryce Courtenay, and the movie of the book focus on an English colonist who boxes in illegal interracial tournaments and inspires the native Black population, giving them lessons in English. The Afrikaner police are depicted as Nazi-like, and the main antagonist of the story is explicitly a Nazi sympathizer, who has a swastika tattoo, listens to the Horst Wessel Lied, and, as a teenager, swore allegiance to Adolf Hitler. Truth in Television somewhat, since many white South Africans were supportive of the Nazis during World War II.
    • In addition, as a possible Take That! against the Apartheid regime, the aforementioned main antagonist is named Botha, after the then-recent leader of Apartheid South Africa. The first Apartheid-era President appears as a character as well, whose daughter the protagonist gets involved with (leading to her death when a meeting of anti-Apartheid activists is broken up by heavy-handed police).
  • The Disney Channel movie The Color of Friendship is a fictionalized account of the 1977 visit of an Afrikaner exchange student to the home of African-American congressman Ron Dellums, himself an outspoken opponent of Apartheid. Steve Biko's imprisonment and later death in police custody become major plot points.
  • Lethal Weapon 2 featured a South African drug dealer hiding behind Diplomatic Impunity.
    • As did the Indio movies. The "South African drug dealer with diplomatic immunity" is turning out to be its own trope.
  • The Big Bad in the original Soldier of Fortune video game is an exiled South African Colonel named Dekker who blames the fall of Apartheid on the meddling of western nations. His ultimate plan for revenge is to drop a Neutron Bomb (Built in part on expertise he has from working on top-secret South African nuclear projects) on the U.S.
  • In the movie Blood Diamond Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a white man from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and former South African Apartheid soldier turned mercenary, along with the antagonist Colonel Coetzee (Arnold Vosloo, an actual white South African actor) and the officers of his mercenary platoon all also being ex-Apartheid era South African soldiers turned mercenary.
  • South African author Alan Paton is most well-known for his anti-apartheid literature, such as Ah, but Your Land Is Beautiful, which displays several episodes during apartheid's beginnings in the 1950s. Paton's most famous novel is Cry, the Beloved Country, which explores the complex social interactions of Whites and Blacks during the turbulent upheavals of apartheid's emergence through the eyes of a black pastor and a white farmer. The book was adapted to film in 1951 and 1995, the latter one starring James Earl Jones and Richard Harris; there was also a stage musical adaptation, Lost in the Stars, that was itself filmed in 1973.
  • The 1987 film Cry Freedom, based on books by investigative journalist Donald Woods, chronicled the friendship between the white Woods and black anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, who died from injuries sustained during police detention in 1977. Woods' books accused the apartheid regime of whitewashing Biko's death, which led to Woods being placed under house arrest and having to escape to Britain.
  • The apartheid-era South African Defence Force is one of the playable sides in Graviteam Tactics: Operation Hooper.
  • In the Wild Cards universe its mentioned that South Africa developed a policy of treating superpowered black aces as coloured, mirroring the real life policy the South African government had for the few black celebrities who would visit the country during Apartheid, and Japanese businesspeople, as they were essential for the country's economy during the boycotts.
  • Catch A Fire is a biopic of Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke), a black South African worker wrongly arrested and tortured by white police officer Nic Vos (Tim Robbins) on suspicion of committing a bombing. After being released when Vos realizes he really didn't do it, Chamusso is so enraged he becomes what they accused him of, going across the border into Mozambique and joining the African National Congress (ANC), the main anti-apartheid group. He returns with guerrilla training to blow up the same target he was accused of bombing before. Ruth First's daughter Shawn Slovo wrote the script, while another daughter Robyn Slovo produced and starred as her in the film. Their father Joe Slovo is a character as well, since he ran the ANC's guerrilla military wing called Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), aka MK (Ruth First was murdered with a package bomb for their activities, sent by apartheid-era South African Intelligence).
  • A World Apart is a fictionalized account of Ruth First's struggle against apartheid in early 1960s South Africa, for which the state persecuted her by banning and repeatedly detaining her without trial, as seen through the eyes of her daughter. This film was written by another of First's daughters, Gillian First, and features the analogue character of Joe Slovo, who flees into exile (as the real Ruth First also would).
  • The Captain Planet episode If It's Doomsday, It Must Be Belfast, Verminous Skumm gives nuclear devices to people living in areas of ethnic conflict, expecting the other side to detonate them. One of the places is South Africa (This episode aired around the time apartheid was coming to an end), where a black protester and an Afrikaner extremist are both give devices.
  • Fear, Loathing and Gumbo on the Campaign Trail '72 depicts an Alternate History where, amongst other wackiness, Magnus Malan becomes dictator of an even more extreme South Africa and implements (even worse) racist policies against blacks and even non-Afrikaner whites. South Africa in this timeline is a Neo-Nazi state in all but name, and is engaged in a losing war against the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, committing massacres against natives and using dirty bombs and chemical weapons against her enemies. When it becomes apparent to Malan that South Africa's gonna lose, he arranges to wipe out most of the continent with the country's nuclear arsenal. It's quite telling the setting is a Crapsack World when the POTUS Donald Rumsfeld openly supports this kind of place.
  • One chapter of Golgo 13 is set immediately after the election of President Mandela, when apartheid is still heavy on everyone's minds. Mandela, who met Golgo 13 during his imprisonment, hires the assassin to kill a white-supremist general who wants to take South Africa by force and reestablish apartheid.
  • A Dry White Season is a 1989 film starring Donald Sutherland as a white businessman who attempts to reveal the truth of a black suspect's death by torture in police custody, with predictable results.
  • Recent films Moffie (adapted from the book by André Carl van der Merwe) and Kanarie depict toxic masculinity and the plight of gay men forced to enlist in the South African Defence Force (SADF).
  • Bopha!, directed by Morgan Freeman (released in 1993) follows Black South African policeman Micah Mangena and his family. Set in 1980, the film opens with another Black police officer being burned alive by fellow Black people, and gets worse from there. Micah, though initially believing that serving as a police officer is best for his people, grows increasingly doubtful when the regime represses peaceful protests with mass brutality, and gets into conflict with his son Zweli about this. It's based on a play released in 1986.
  • In My Country: Two reporters cover the Truth and Reconciliation Hearings.
  • Yankee Zulu: A comedy film from 1993 produced in South Africa (where it was known as There's A Zulu On My Stoep) about two friends, one black and one white, who grew up together in the apartheid era before an incident shattered their friendship and drove them apart, until decades later when they reconcile and rekindle what they had over the pursuit of a lottery ticket worth half a million rand. While the film does suffer in hindsight from an extended scene involving Blackface that goes on for an uncomfortably long time (something that is unfortunately present throughout most of star Leon Schuster's works), it is still notable for being a deliberately anti-racist, and by extension anti-apartheid, movie that was also at one point the highest grossing movie produced in South Africa, which speaks to how much the South African public at the time felt about the dying segregationist policy.
  • The island nation of Genosha in X-Men began life in 1983 as a deliberate fictional equivalent of apartheid South Africa, just as public awareness of the regime was increasing. Genosha is located off the east coast of Africa, near Madagascar, and is an incredibly prosperous and advanced nation whose wealth is built off horrifying mutant slavery. Mutants are brainwashed and tortured into becoming cheap labor for the mines, and even children with the mutant gene are taken away from their parents. Citizenship in Genosha is permanent and the regime refuses to recognize any overseas immigration, with anyone attempting to flee brought back by the Press Gang. The regime's security forces, which are extremely militarized police, appear to be made up entirely of white non-mutants who have zero problems massacring, torturing,a and experimenting on mutants. There's a telling scene where the main antagonist's son (who later turns against his father's regime) summons a mutant slave to fix his garden with his powers, addressing him as 'boy', and another where the same son is mistaken for a pro-mutant agitator by a policeman and nearly beaten up. Genoshan antagonists are given Afrikaner-sounding names such as 'Jan' in the case of the aforementioned policeman.

Comic Books

  • While it's set before the era, the Spider-Man Noir version of Doctor Octopus is a Sub-Par Supremacist, a wheelchair-bound dwarf whose hatred of blacks is rooted in his transparent resentment of them for being normal-sized, able-bodied and healthy. At the end of the comic, he escapes to Nazi Germany, expecting a hero's welcome... and is dismissed out of hand by Goebbels for his congenital disabilities being incompatible with the Reich's ideals.

Fan Works

  • In the Discworld Expanded Universe, the country of Rimwards Howondaland is the Expy of apartheid South Africa. The author, A.A. Pessimal, considered that this added an extra touch of dramatic bite and drive for the plot, as well as the very idea of apartheid being so unsustainably crazy and unbelievable from the outside that it belonged somewhere on Terry Pratchett's world. And where better than a forgotten colony on the edge of Howondaland... ''Slipping Between Worlds explores the concept, with several Earth people crossing to the Discworld from 1985. Apartheid Rhodesia had fallen, but the old South Africa lived on. One of the men who crosses over is a Rhodesian career soldier still smarting over the loss of his homeland.
    • Discworld apartheid is strained by Igors, who see nothing wrong in replacing a damaged limb on a white Vondalaander (Afrikaner) with a healthy functioning one. From a black-skinned donor. Vampires also strain the system, as they are generally white-skinned Central Continent immigrants. But they mix the blood of black and white people in a novel way the Staadt is not happy with. And what if a white-skinned vampire wants to "make" a black-skinned protegee vampire?
    • And in a fantasy universe, how does an apartheid state racially classify Dwarfs, Trolls, Goblins and apparently ''blue-skinned'' Nac Mac Feegle?
    • It is thought Lord Vetinari actively encourages such emigration to Rimwards Howondaland for devious reasons of his own. He also nurtures liberally-inclined Assassin Johanna Smith-Rhodes, a Howondalandian native and Vondalaander whose opinions have changed after ten years in Ankh-Morpork. Vetinari insisted the Assassins' Guild School, many of whose graduates go into politics in their home nations, should take equal numbers of black and white Howondalandians as pupils and educate them side-by-side for seven years. He has also been seen to ask his Embassy in Rimwards Howondaland for details on certain "pacifistically-inclined black prisoners of conscience", who are currently incarcerated in the country's jails. This was after studying the Roundworld Project's observations of the history of South Africa on our world....
    • It was revealed, in a postscript to Terry Pratchett's posthumously published novel The Shepherd's Crown that Terry had at least an outline for a novel that would have explored "Howondaland" to the same level of detail that he gave to Australia. Its working title was The Dark Incontinent. Some possible fragments of this book, descriptions of people and places, were released in the recent Complete Discworld Atlas. The character of Howondaland Smith, Balgrog Hunter, for instance, is clearly depicted as a White Howondalandian.
  • Similar to the District 9 example, the South Africa subplot in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic The Conversion Bureau: Not Alone is evolving (or rather, hinted at evolving) into The Apartheid Era for ponies. The Recursive Fanfiction sequel, The Conversion Bureau: Conquer the Stars, confirms this but also states that both species got over it in the timeframe between the two stories.

Live-Action Television

  • The Crown: The Season 4 episode "48:1" focuses on the 1985 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at which the members of the Commonwealth threatened South Africa with economic consequences if it didn't begin to take steps to dissolve apartheid. The interminable fights between Queen Elizabeth II (supported by 48 of the 49 Commonwealth nations, led by India) with Margaret Thatcher about what to call these economic consequences is the focus of this episode.
  • Call the Midwife: The Series 6 Christmas special (set in 1961) centered on the Poplar Nonnatus midwives (along with Dr. Turner, Fred, and Reverend Hereward) going to assist a tiny mission clinic the Order runs in rural South Africa operate a polio vaccination campaign. Apartheid affects the availability of supplies. The (White, English) midwives are also shocked that they are forbidden by law from socialising with their (Black) patients. (Please recall that they been attending to and socialising with patients of all races back in Poplar for nigh on a decade at that point, seeing as it was exactly the kind of neighbourhood where postwar immigrants from Asia, Africa, and the West Indies ended up in those days.) Also, one of the patients knew how to read, write, and type and had actually been a secretary in one of the cities before the regime prohibited Blacks from working office jobs.


  • Johnny Clegg vocally opposed the Apartheid, and the songs of his mixed race bands mixing English and Zulu languages reflected this.
  • "Biko", the closing track to Peter Gabriel's 1980 Self-Titled Album (better known by the Fan Nickname Melt), retells the arrest and killing of Steve Biko by white police officers as a result of his open protest against Apartheid, with Gabriel advocating for increased pressure against the South African government to repeal the legislation and promising that Biko's legacy will not be forgotten. Notably, the song ended up being one of the first major mainstream exposures of Apartheid to a western public, and in hindsight is often credited for both making the name "Steve Biko" known outside of South Africa and popularizing the anti-Apartheid movement in the Anglosphere, to the point where writer Michael Drewitt called it "arguably the most significant non-South African anti-apartheid protest song" in 2007. When a live performance of the song from Gabriel's This Way Up tour was released as a single in 1987, the accompanying music video combined footage from the tour with clips from the aforementioned Cry Freedom.
  • Special AKA's "Free Nelson Mandela" was released 6 years before the song's subject was freed from prison.
  • Art of Noise's "Instruments of Darkness" is a Protest Song against apartheid, being a Voice Clip Song that sets excerpts from pro-apartheid South African politicians' speeches against a foreboding instrumental backdrop.

Western Animation

  • Dutch children's series Alfred J. Kwak (1989-1991) has a fictional country based on South Africa during the Apartheid period (black ducks segregated from white geese) referred as "Atrique" (it's unnamed in the Dutch and German version) in the English Dub. Alfred's love interest is Winnie Wana (based on Mandela's sister) who seeks refuge in Great Waterland thanks to the help of her father Kwa Wana (based on Nelson Mandela). Eventually, Wannes calls the authorities to arrest Winnie's parents. After Winnie and her brother Tom Wana managed to get their citizenship, her parents decide to head back to Atrique to continue fighting for freedom. During the ship back to Atrique, Wannes immediately calls the Atrique policemen about black ducks being on board. Luckily, Kwa Wana and his wife Blanche Wana manage to escape the night prior to arriving back to a segregated area with other black ducks.