Can South Africa overcome the legacy of apartheid?

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There are 57 million inhabitants in South Africa, 80% of which are black. Yet, for more than 300 years, the country was ruled by a white minority, first through colonisation and then through apartheid. Apartheid ended in the 1990s but has deeply affected the country. Can South Africa recover from the wounds of its past?

I What was apartheid?


Afrikaners arewhite South Africans,descendants of Dutch settlers. They speak Afrikaans.

Apartheid was a segregationist policy voted in 1948 by the Afrikaner nationalist party government. It is an Afrikaans word meaning “being apart”.

Apartheid was a system of legal racial segregation which forced the different racial groups to live and develop separately. Whites and non-whites were treated differently in all aspects of life: education, employment, health care and housing. Apartheid guaranteed the dominance of the white minority and regarded black people as inferior.

The territory bore the mark of that division: whites lived in the cities and non-whites out of them. Black people had to live either in townships (underdeveloped areas outside the cities) or in Bantustans (rural territories set aside for Black inhabitants).

II A black leader’s fight for justice


to be convicted of: être reconnu coupable de

to leave office: quitter ses fonctions

to advocate for stg: défendre qqch., militer pour qqch.

Nelson Mandela witnessed the prejudice and injustice that black South Africans had to face while he was at school. He became involved in politics at university in the 1940s.

In 1944, he joined the ANC (African National Congress), a black liberation movement. From 1948, he began to take part in boycotts, strikes and defiance campaigns against apartheid. In 1952, Mandela was arrested and faced the first of many accusations. In 1962, he was convicted of sabotage and treason.

He was released in February 1990 after 27 years in jail; he and President FW de Klerk then worked together to enable the transition from apartheid to a multiracial democracy. In 1993, they were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1994, Nelson Mandela became the first democratically elected president of South Africa. He believed peace and forgiveness (and not anger) should motivate new laws and actions and could unite his country.After leaving office in 1999, he went on advocating for reconciliation and social justice in South Africa and all over the world.

III A new South Africa?

Mandela wanted South Africa to be “a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world” where people of different skin colours could live next to one another in a rich multicultural country.


to mingle: se mélanger

a scar: une cicatrice

Soweto (South Western Township) is an interesting illustration of today’s rainbow nation. Johannesburg’s black townships quickly changed after the end of apartheid and have become a symbol of the country’s energy and hope. There, you can now see fancy shopping malls and restaurants where the younger generations mingle more easily.

However, Soweto is also a place of contrasts where many black people still live in poverty. The gap between whites and non-whites hasn’t been bridged yet. The whole country still has to deal with the issues of poverty and racism as well as crime and AIDS. Although there are many signs of progress, apartheid has left scars on today’s South Africa...