South Africa has long been known for the racist policies that were implemented by the government during apartheid. In reality, many of these policies were introduced before apartheid, and thus South Africa today is affected by centuries rather than just a few decades of racism. The racial practice and policies of the nineteenth century that developed out of South Africa’s mineral revolution were then carried into the apartheid era, and are of particular importance for black South African families. The desires of the white population to have sufficient labour and to monitor it while reserving urban areas for whites occasioned the government to create restrictive laws starting in the late nineteenth century which were carried into apartheid. These laws and practices broke apart the South African black family and has resulted in enduring consequences for black families and South Africa.
With the mineral revolution, African men began to leave their families to go and work. From the beginning of European and African interaction in South Africa, the whites have been dependent on African labour, the mineral revolution merely intensified this. It also led to an agricultural revolution in order to feed the workers. African labour was cheaper than white labour and so they were desired by employers. This demand for cheap labour led to an availability of jobs which tempted some African men to migrate to these areas of work. There was continually a shortage, however, and the government had to take “coercive measures” to force African men away from their families and into the workforce.
The coercive measures taken by the government provided the whites with the workforce they needed. One measure was to strip the Africans of their access to the land. The 1913 Land Act created reserves for the black population, giving them only a very small percentage while the remainder of the country was given to the significantly smaller white population. The mining areas and the urban centers where all inside white territories. Meanwhile, the reserves were not sustainable; misuse and over-crowding quickly turned the reserves into desserts. This was one way of forcing the Africans to migrate to the mines and urban areas to seek employment. The white population, did not want a large number of blacks moving into their urban areas to look for work, and they did not want them to bring their family members with them into their white cities.
In an attempt to control the influx of Africans to the urban areas, the pass laws were created. Passes existed for several decades before the Urban Areas Act of 1923 created the articulate policy for the pass system which would later be intensified under apartheid. The goal of these policies, as described in Mamphele Remphele’s in her book about the hostel system, was to bring the Africans into the urban areas to care for the needs of the white population, and then have them leave as soon as they were no longer needed or desired. Michael...