It went largely unnoticed last week that 70 years ago, on May 26 1948, Jan Smuts’s United Party was voted out of power to make way for the Herenigde Nasionale (reconstituted national) Party of DF Malan, which instituted the system of apartheid. Perhaps South Africans have become too weary of their history to want to reflect on it, but the persistence of structures forged in the past 300 years demand that apartheid be an object of contemplation, because it is still very much with us and the world. Historians have noted that similar systems existed in SA before and elsewhere: apartheid was preceded by segregation and colonisation, and in the US Jim Crow segregation followed slavery before the civil rights movement began to chip away at racism, which has yet to be eradicated there and seems to be on the offensive. Apartheid was the systemisation and modernisation of segregation: racial domination that was adapted to rapid urbanisation and industrialisation after 1920. The poor whites w...

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