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Apartheid: South Africa

Brass Tacks

By Robert H. Neuman

Since he came to power in 1954, Prime Minister Strijdom of the Union of South Africa has pushed the Nationalist Party's policy of "apartheid" (segregation) into every corner of South African life. In the name of preserving the purity of Western civilization from the "mongrelizing influence" of the blacks, Strijdom has spared no effort in keeping the non-Europeans in his country separate and backward. The Prime Minister now seeks to segregate the two remaining "open" universities in South Africa, thereby completing the process of "separate development" in education.

Of the nearly thirteen million South Africans, eleven million are non-European. The two million minority, composed mainly of Afrikaners (of Dutch descent) have historically feared the dissolution of their culture in South Africa's non-European solvent. In recent years the program of "apartheid" imposed by the Government has attempted to keep the blacks "separate but equal." Strijdom, disliking the connotations of the term "apartheid," uses the phrase "separate development." But his policies have underscored separateness rather than development.

Since 1948 the Nationalist Government, under Prime Minister Malan and later Strijdom, has passed heavy restrictive legislation designed to protect South African whites from non-European influence. No African (black) may own land outside the Reserves, nor is he allowed to move from one area to another without written permission from the Government. The Population Registration Act provides a Register of the population in order to distinguish clearly between racial groups. The Bantu Education Act of 1949 imposed strict restrictions on the education of blacks in the Union, carefully segregating schools and curricula.

Apartheid's ultimate goal is the complete separation of the African and European ways of life, from the ground up. In education this implies strict segregation. The only remaining nonsegregated universities are at Capetown and Witwatersrand (Johannesburg). At these "open" universities, blacks and whites mix freely and accrue mutual benefits in understanding each other's needs and problems. There have been no racial tensions in Capetown or Witwatersrand, nor have either whites or blacks expressed desires for segregation.

But the Strijdom Government, in determination to erase the last traces of racial mixing, is about to end the "open" status of these universities. Dr. T. B. Davie, Principal of the University of Capetown, described Strijdom's aim as trying "to establish and perpetuate an inferior status in the African in relation to the European." All evidence seems to corroborate this charge.

Strijdom has publicized his plan to build new schools, "tribal colleges," for blacks and whites. But the estimated Government subsidization for the white colleges more than triples that for the Africans. Moreover, the curricula imposed on the "African" schools prohibits blacks from being admitted to European (Continental) universities. The policy of rigid educational segregation does not merely separate cultures; it serves to keep the African blacks socially, academically, and economically inferior. To insure white supremacy, Strijdom is determined to make it impossible for blacks to improve their status.

Strijdom's ostensible policy of "separate but equal" holds no water. Educational facilities are not equal; the disparity is obvious. Even if they were, however, Chief Justice Warren's dictum of May 1954, that "separate facilities are inherently unequal," applies even more to South Africa than it does to the American South. While Strijdom's right hand extends the ostensible goal of improved and racial interdependency, his left hand increasingly forces African blacks into a cultural and economic grave.

Although there is little hope that moral pressure will force Strijdom to abandon the forthcoming segregation of the universities of Capetown and Witwatersrand, several international student groups, among them NSA, are attempting to apply such pressure on the South African Government. A petition will circulate in Harvard this week, similar to one that will be introduced into every university in the non-Communist world, condemning the segregation. Though such action may have little effect, it will further remind Strijdom that his policies are in little accord with the Western principles he is trying to preserve in South Africa. The fact that the Prime Minister felt compelled to change the term "apartheid" to "separate development" indicates that he does feel some embarrassment in the face of world disapproval. Perhaps further moral recrimination will cause him a more effective blush.

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