3. Apartheid South Africa (1948 - 1964) (ATL)

Case Study 2:  Apartheid South Africa (1948 - 1964)

These pages will give you some ideas for teaching and learning activities for the case study on the Apartheid in South Africa. We have included a range of activities which include comprehension exercises, role plays, source exercises, summary and mind map activities.

Videos and teaching ideas for videos are covered on a separate page; see left hand side. There are video suggestions for most of the content that needs to be covered for this unit.

Guiding questions:

Why was segregation enshrined in law in 1948?

What was the Apartheid state?

What did Apartheid mean in practice?

What were the non-violent campaigns against Apartheid that took place in the 1950s?

Why did the anti-apartheid struggle become violent?

What sas the reaction of the government to anti-Apartheid protest?

What was the role of key individuals in the struggle against Apartheid?

What was the role of anti-Apartheid organisations?

1. Why was segregation enshrined in law in South Africa in 1948?

Starter activity

In pairs brainstorm everything that you know about South Africa; this can be recent information on politics, economy, social issues, sport, key events and personalities as well as any history that you are aware of. Each pair should then share its ideas and thoughts with the rest of the class.

The first activity is to get students to research events before 1948 so that they can have an understanding of  the situation that existed at the start of their course.

Task One

ATL: Research and communication skills

Divide the class into five groups. 

Each group should research one of the following  and present their findings to the rest of the class who should take notes. The presentation should include a PPT with clear images and maps where appropriate. Each group should also produce one to two side of notes on their topic to distribute to the class after their presentation.

  • The origins of the Afrikaner racial group in South Africa, causes and impact of The Great Trek
  • Causes of the Boer War of 1899 – 1902 and its impact
  • The establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910 and it impact on segregation; laws that were passed setting up segregation
  • Black resistance before 1948
  • The growth of the United Party, the impact of World War Two on South African politics and the economy

Task Two

ATL: Thinking skills

The last of these presentations is particularly key. The presentations need to be followed up with discussion and note taking on the situation in South Africa in 1948 and why the Nationalists won the election. Students could summarise their findings on the spider diagram below.

    2. What was the Apartheid state?

    What is the message of this cartoon?

    From: Nelson Mandela: a Life in Cartoons. edited by Harry Dugmore, Stephen Francis, Rico Schacherl. Claremont, South Africa: David Philip Publishers, 1999.

    Once in power, the National government passed a range of laws to put in effect the first phase of apartheid which lasted until the late 1950s. These laws defined almost every aspect of daily life of a person based on racial classification.

    The laws can be classed as 'petty' or 'grand' legislation. Petty Apartheid was the most visible side of Apartheid such as the segregation of facilities based on race;  Grand Apartheid went further and was centred on separating races on a large scale -  e.g. stopping them have access to land and preventing them from living in the same areas as white people. They also denied black Africans political representation.

    Task One

    ATL: Research and self-management skills

    Make notes on:

    • The aims of apartheid and how it was justified.
    • The Tomlinson report: recommendations and problems.
    • The key apartheid Laws which are listed below.
    • As you go through the laws consider which can be considered 'petty legislation' and which can be considered 'grand legislation'.
    • How did each law support the overall philosophy of Apartheid? How did it strengthen the government and the position of the Whites?

    The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act 1949), The Immorality Act (1950), The Population Registration Act (1950). The Group Areas Act (1950), The Suppression of Communism Act (1950), the Bantu Authorities Act (1951), The Native Laws Amendment Act (1952), The Abolition of Passes Act (1952), The Separate Amenities Act (1953), The Bantu Education Act (1953), The Criminal Law Amendment Act (1953), The Reservation of Separate Amenities Act (1953), The Separate Representation of Voters Act (1956), State-aided Institutions Act (1957), Job Reservation Acts (1957/8), The Extension of Universities Act (1959)

    Alternatively, students could complete the grid below.

    Another teaching idea would be to divide the laws up amongst the students so they research one or two each and then report back to the rest of the class.

    Grid on key apartheid legislation


    3. What did Apartheid mean in practice?

    Starter activity:

    What conclusions can you drawn from this map regarding the Bantu homelands (Bantustans) that were set up by the Bantu Self-Government Act?

    The following tasks are designed to take students through the key aspects of life under Apartheid; it is important that students look at primary sources in Task Two in order to understand the full impact of Apartheid laws.

    Task One: The impact of 'classification'

    ATL: Thinking skills

    Find the following video clips on the website South Africa: overcoming Apartheid, building democracy. (you may have to search for this site as the links to it don't seem to work) Find the section on the website 'interviews' which has interviews with leading Apartheid activists and then find the clips below.

    According to these interviews, what impact did the strict classification of the population have on individuals?

    Video clip 2: Aysha Hoorzook on racial classification

    Task Two

    ATL: Research and communication skills

    Divide into groups. Each group should research one of the following and its impact on South Africans:

    • The impact of the Group Areas act: creation of townships and forced removals
    • The impact of the Bantustans
    • The impact of the Pass Laws
    • The impact of the Bantu Education Act, 1953

    As part of your research you need to find at least two primary accounts which show how individuals or groups of South Africans were affected by this aspect of Apartheid. Also find quotes from the South African government which show how they justified this aspect of Apartheid. You will then present your findings to the rest of the class.

    You will find the website 'overcoming apartheid, building democracy' useful for information and primary accounts of the impact of your area of research.

    4. What were the non-violent campaigns against Apartheid that took place in the 1950s?

    Starter activity

    From what you have read so far about the Pass Laws, why would women be against the government extending passes to them as well as men? What do you think that the placard 'With passes we are slaves' refer to?

    The Defiance Campaign, 1952

    In 1912 the South African Native National Congress was formed which became the African National Congress (ANC) in 1923. After 1948, the leaders of the ANC, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela moved towards a policy of non-violent protest, such as would be used in the United States by Martin Luther King.

    The Defiance Campaign in 1952 was the first large-scale, multi-racial campaign against apartheid laws. It was organised by the ANC along with the South African Indian Congress and the Coloured People's Congress. It involved volunteers refusing to follow the apartheid laws - sitting in 'Whites-only' facilities, refusing to carry passes, refusing to follow the curfew laws on Africans.

    Task One

    ATL: Thinking skills

    Read this article: 'Campaign of Defiance against Unjust Laws - recalled' by E.S. Reddy from the South African History Online site.

    Create a spider diagram or mind map to show the impact of the Defiance Campaign

    The Bus Boycotts

    Between 1957 and 1959, there were several bus boycotts to protest against increased bus fares, which involved black South Africans walking as far as 48 kilometers a day to avoid using the buses.

    Task Two

    ATL: Thinking skills

    Read this newspaper article from 2007 which recalls the bus boycotts, then answer these questions:

    1. Why did Arthur Magerman join the bus boycott?
    2. What was the nature of the protest?
    3. Why and how did the protest develop into something larger than just about price increases?
    4. What was the result of the bus boycott?

    Protests against passes

    In 1956, the government said that women would also have to carry passes. the Federation of South African Women (FSAW) organised a large demonstration. On 27 October 1955, 2000 women protested in Pretoria. By 9 August, 20,000 women had joined the protests and they presented a petition to the prime minister.

    Task Three

    ATL: Thinking skills

    Read the petition that was presented to the government below.

    (It can also be found on the ANC website) 

    1. According to the petition, what impact have the pass laws had on black South Africans? What would be the impact of the extension of this law to women?
    2. With reference to origin, purpose and content, assess the value and limitations of this petition for a historian studying the impact of the pass laws in South Africa?

    The Demand of the Women of South Africa for the Withdrawal of Passes for Women and the Repeal of the Pass Laws"

    Petition presented to the Prime Minister, Pretoria, 9 August 1956

    We, the women of South Africa, have come here today. We represent and we speak on behalf of hundreds of thousands of women who could not be with us. But all over the country, at this moment, women are watching and thinking of us. Their hearts are with us.

    We are women from every part of South Africa. We are women of every race, we come from the cities and the towns, from the reserves and the villages. We come as women united in our purpose to save the African women from the degradation of passes.

    For hundreds of years the African people have suffered under the most bitter law of all - the pass law which has brought untold suffering to every African family.

    Raids, arrests, loss of pay, long hours at the pass office, weeks in the cells awaiting trial, forced farm labour - this is what the pass laws have brought to African men. Punishment and misery - not for a crime, but for the lack of a pass.

    We African women know too well the effect of this law upon our homes, our children. We, who are not African women, know how our sisters suffer.

    Your Government proclaims aloud at home and abroad that the pass laws have been abolished, but we women know this is not true, for our husbands, our brothers? our sons are still being arrested, thousands every day, under these very pass laws. It is only the name that has changed. The "reference book" and the pass are one.

    In March 1952, your Minister of Native Affairs denied in Parliament that a law would be introduced which would force African women to carry passes. But in 1956 your Government is attempting to force passes upon the African women, and we are here today to protest against this insult to all women. For to us an insult to African women is an insult to all women.

    We want to tell you what the pass would mean to an African woman, and we want you to know that whether you call it a reference book, an identity book, or by any other disguising name, to us it is a PASS . And it means just this:

    • That homes will be broken up when women are arrested under pass laws;
    • That children will be left uncared for, helpless, and mothers will be torn from their babies for failure to produce a pass;
    • That women and young girls will be exposed to humiliation and degradation at the hands of pass-searching policemen;
    • That women will lose their right to move freely from one place to another.

    In the name of women of South Africa, we say to you, each one of us, African, European, Indian, Coloured, that we are opposed to the pass system.

    We voters and voteless, call upon your Government not to issue passes to African women.

    We shall not rest until ALL pass laws and all forms of permits restricting our freedom have been abolished.

    We shall not rest until we have won for our children their fundamental rights of freedom, justice, and security.

    4. The Freedom Charter

    The Freedom Charter monument in Kliptown, Johannesburg. The flame was lit in June 2005 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Charter which Mandela said 'captured the hopes and dreams of the people and acted as a blueprint for the struggle and future of the nation'.

    In 1955, the ANC sent out 50,000 volunteers into townships and the countryside to collect "freedom demands" from the people of South Africa. These demands were then put together into a final document by ANC Leaders. This Freedom Charter was then officially adopted by a Congress of the People held at Kliptown near Johannesburg which included all groups that calling for change.

    Task One

    ATL: Thinking skills

    Read the Freedom Charter which can be found on the ANC website.

    1. Which Apartheid laws in particular did the Freedom Charter attack? Refer specifically to clauses in the Charter

    2. What was likely to be the reaction to such a document?

    Task Two

    ATL: Thinking skills

    According to this source, what was the importance of the Freedom Charter?

    The initiative for the Freedom Charter came from a multi-racial coalition of organizations, including the African National Congress (ANC), Congress of Democrats, Indian National Congress, and South African Coloured People’s Congress. The Charter came to represent ANC policies over the next four decades. The document formulated not only basic demands for human and political rights that had been included in previous petitions and deputations, it also spelled out the kind of society that was envisioned to replace apartheid, including ideals such as sharing the wealth of the country and adequate housing, education, and healthcare for all.

    The apartheid government regarded the Freedom Charter as communist, and, five months later, it charged 156 organizers of the Congress of the People with high treason. Thirty of these leaders endured a four-and-a-half-year Treason Trial, which ended in their acquittal. The Freedom Charter was aimed at building a united movement with a common vision. In the 1980s, many organizations including the United Democratic Front endorsed the document and its nonracial, democratic ideals.

    Source: http://overcomingapartheid.msu.edu/multimedia.php?id=65-259-A

    As a result of the Freedom Charter, the government arrested and charged with high treason 156 people, including most of the leaders of the ANC and of the Indian community. Government lawyers tried to prove that the Freedom Charter was communist and that the accused were plotting violent revolution. However the government lawyers failed to win their case. The trial lasted for nearly five years which helped to weaken the opposition.

    Task Three

    ATL: Thinking skills

    Listen to the interview with Ahed Kathreda on the Treason Trial.

    What factors helped to lead to the collapse of the government case?

    5. Why did the anti-apartheid struggle become violent?

    Starter activity

    What can you learn from the photo about the Sharpeville protests?

    The Sharpeville massacre was a turning point in South African history. A new black group, the Pan-African Congress (PAC) began more anti-pass demonstrations in 1960. On March 21, 1960, without warning, South African police at Sharpeville, an African township of Vereeninging, south of Johannesburg, shot into a crowd of about 5,000 unarmed anti-pass protesters, killing at least 69 people – many of them shot in the back – and wounding more than 200.

    Meanwhile, in the Cape, at Langa township, the police ordered the demonstrators to to leave and then baton-charged them. When the demonstrators threw stones, the police responded with bullets, killing two and wounding forty-nine.

    Task One

    ATL: Thinking skills

    Read the eyewitness account of the Sharpeville massacre that can be found on the website South African history online.

    Question 1a

    According to this source, what factors indicated that the protesters were not expecting violence from the police?

    According to this source, why were police claims of being threatened unfounded?

    Task Two

    ATL: Thinking and communication skills

    Read the article on the aftermath of the Sharpeville massacre that can be found on the website South African history online.

    Create a mind map to show the results of the Sharpeville massacre and why it can be seen as a 'turning point'. Make sure that you consider: international consequences, reaction of the South African government, impact on anti-Apartheid leaders, consequences for the ANC and PAC, impact on the strategies of the ANC and PAC, reaction and actions of black South Africans as a whole.

    6. What was the reaction of the government to anti-Apartheid protest?

    Starter Activity

    The caption for this cartoon by the British cartoonist, Illingworth is 'There! I think that'll hold him'

    What is the message of this cartoon?

    Following Sharpeville, the ANC turned to violence. Mandela went underground to create 'Umkhonto we Sizwe' (the Spear of the People), known as MK. The PAC also set up a terrorist arm called Poqo (we go it alone).  Mandela travelled around South Africa organising sabotage attacks which were aimed at targets such as power stations thus reducing any threat to human life. Oliver Tambo went abroad to establish the ANC in exile and to persuade foreign governments to put pressure on the South African government to end apartheid laws.

    Mandela managed to carry out his underground activities for seventeen months but was finally captured in 1962. His link with MK was at this point not known and so he was charged with 'leaving the country without permission' and given a five year prison sentence. However, the secret headquarters of MK were raided in 1963; as a result the police arrested nine members of MK and discovered the link of Mandela with the organisation. The arrested men were all put on trial in what became known as the Rivonia Trial which lasted from December 1963 - June 196. The charge of 'recruiting people for training in sabotage and guerrilla warfare for the purpose of violent revolution', was very serious and the prosecution demanded the death penalty.

    Task One

    ATL: Thinking skills

    Listen to this account of the trial by Ahmed Kathedra on the Rivonia Trial.

    Note: You can also find this account by going separately to the Overcoming Apartheid website and finding the interview section.

    How was the trial conducted?

    For the following activity, students could work in pairs to annotate this speech first before discussing. This could work well as a 'silent conversation' (see source work activities page for a discussion of this type of activity)

    Task Two

    ATL: Thinking skills

    Read the attached PDF below which has sections of Mandela's statement made at the trial (if you want to read the whole speech you can find it on the South African history online website)

    In pairs discuss the content and tone of this speech. The following questions will help guide your discussion:

    What was his attitude towards white South Africans? What was his attitude towards Communist ideas? What kind of South Africa does Mandela hope to see in the future? Why do you think that this speech became so well-known? Are there any comparisons to Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream speech?

    Extracts from Mandela's Rivonia Trial speech

    Task Three

    ATL: Thinking skills

    Read this extract from an article by Lionel Bernstein entitled, 'Rivonia: telling it how it was'

    Question 1a

    According to Lionel Bernstein, what was the significance of Mandela's testimony in the trial?

    The main burden of telling it, fell, inevitably, on accused No.1 - Nelson Mandela. An unexpected move totally unsettled the prosecutor, who had been preparing his cross-examination of Mandela with some glee. Mandela elected not to go into the witness stand, but to make his statement from the dock. He thus passed up any opportunity to present a legal defence against the charges, or provide any evidence in rebuttal. But he gained what the accused wanted above all else -an opportunity to tell the whole story of Umkhonto and the turn to forms of violent struggle, as it was, without interruptions and without the obscurities which develop in the question-and-answer form of evidence from the witness stand.

    His statement has often been repeated as the "I am prepared to die" testimony of South Africa's freedom fighters. That statement was reported and rebroadcast through the country. If it sealed the certainty of a verdict of guilt against Mandela, it broke at last the stifling blanket of censorship and silence which had surrounded the ANC and its allies since the state of emergency of 1960.

    An extract from Rivonia: telling it as it was by Lionel Bernstein,2 July 1988


    Note that all the proceedings of the Rivonia Trial are now available to the public. See this article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-43301513

    7. What was the role of key individuals in the struggle against Apartheid?

    Starter Activity: What is the point that Chief Lutuli is making in the extract below?

    Who will deny that thirty years of my life have been spent knocking in vain, patiently, moderately and modestly at a closed and barred door? What have been the fruits of moderation? The past thirty years have seen the greatest number of laws restricting our rights and progress, until today we have reached a stage when we have no rights at all.

    Chief Lutuli, President of the ANC, 1952 - 67

    Task One:

    ATL: Research skills

    Research the roles of Nelson Mandela and Albert Luthuli in the Apartheid struggle.

    Create an A3 profile sheet for each one which includes: photo(s), significant dates and events they were involved in which affected the Apartheid struggle up to 1964, key quotes.

    Write a paragraph for each one to summarise their contribution to the Apartheid struggle.

    Although women are not specifically mentioned on the syllabus, they played a key role in the struggle. The following activity will give students a good idea about this. Students could also create a wall display of key individuals involved in the struggle.

    Task Two

    ATL: Research skills

    Research the role of women in the resistance against Apartheid. consider the Black Sash Organisation, the FASW, and the actions of Winnie Mandela, Helen Suzman and Ruth First.

    Look at actions they took against apartheid and the impact that their actions had.

    8. What was the role of anti-Apartheid organisations?


    Task One

    ATL: Research and self-management skills

    Research the following anti-apartheid organisations: the African National Congress (ANC), the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the MK (Umkhonto we Sizwe - Spear of the Nation).

    Use the grid attached to summarise your findings. You need to identify: membership, origin, aims, tactics, key campaigns.

    Grid on anti-apartheid organisations

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