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Seventy years ago this month the very first — tentative, vaguely quixotic — application of apartheid policy was a limited measure of segregation on Cape Town’s suburban trains. The departure was reported in August 1948 in a tone almost of surprise — as if the central plan of DF Malan’s winning election manifesto of just two-and-a-half months earlier really was just a little too farfetched to credit. And perhaps there was a sense that it couldn’t last. After all, the National Party had gained only a slender majority of parliamentary seats on the strength of a minority of votes — the uneven delimitation of constituencies having given it victory. There is even a sense of administrative tentativeness in that early report on transport minister Paul Sauer’s policy move, as it consisted "merely of reserving certain first-class accommodation for Europeans only", the newspaper presuming that "this will be as far as the railways can at present go".There was even some doubt about railway offic...

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