On November 6, 1962, the United Nations General Assembly adopts a resolution condemning South Africa’s racist apartheid policies and calling on all its members to end economic and military relations with the country.
In effect from 1948 to 1993, apartheid, which comes from the Afrikaans word for “apartness,” was government-sanctioned racial segregation and political and economic discrimination against South Africa’s non-white majority. Among many injustices, Black South Africans were forced to live in segregated areas and couldn’t enter whites-only neighborhoods unless they had a special pass. Although white South Africans represented only a small fraction of the population, they held the vast majority of the country’s land and wealth.
Following the 1960 massacre of unarmed demonstrators at Sharpeville near Johannesburg, South Africa, in which 69 Black people were killed and over 180 were injured, the international movement to end apartheid gained wide support. However, few Western powers or South Africa’s other main trading partners favored a full economic or military embargo against the country. Nonetheless, opposition to apartheid within the U.N. grew, and in 1973 a U.N. resolution labeled apartheid a “crime against humanity.” In 1974, South Africa was suspended from the General Assembly.
READ MORE: The Harsh Reality of Life Under Apartheid in South Africa
After decades of strikes, sanctions and increasingly violent demonstrations, many apartheid laws were repealed by 1990. Finally, in 1991, under President F.W. de Klerk, the South African government repealed all remaining apartheid laws and committed to writing a new constitution. In 1993, a multi-racial, multi-party transitional government was approved and, the next year, South Africa held its first fully free elections. Political activist Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison along with other anti-apartheid leaders after being convicted of treason, became South Africa’s new president.
In 1996, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), established by the new government, began an investigation into the violence and human rights violations that took place under the apartheid system between 1960 and May 10, 1994 (the day Mandela was sworn in as president). The commission’s objective was not to punish people but to heal South Africa by dealing with its past in an open manner. People who committed crimes were allowed to confess and apply for amnesty. Headed by 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the TRC listened to testimony from over 20,000 witnesses from all sides of the issue—victims and their families as well as perpetrators of violence. It released its report in 1998 and condemned all major political organizations—the apartheid government in addition to anti-apartheid forces such as the African National Congress—for contributing to the violence. Based on the TRC’s recommendations, the government began making reparation payments of approximately $4,000 (U.S.) to individual victims of violence in 2003.
The resolution deemed apartheid and the policies enforcing it to be a violation of South Africa's obligations under the UN Charter and a threat to international peace and security.
Additionally, the resolution requested Member States to break off diplomatic relations with South Africa, to cease trading with South Africa (arms exports in particular), and to deny passage to South African ships and aircraft.
The resolution also established the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid.  The committee was originally boycotted by the Western nations, because of their disagreement with the aspects of the resolution calling for the boycott of South Africa. Even so, the committee found allies in the West, such as the British-based Anti-Apartheid Movement, through which it could work and lay the ground roots for the eventual acceptance by the Western powers of the need to impose economic sanctions on South Africa to pressure for political changes. 
- ^The Anti-Apartheid Movement, Britain and South Africa: Anti-Apartheid Protest vs Real PolitikArchived June 7, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Arianna Lisson, PhD Dissertation, September 15, 2000
- ^ "AAM and UN: partners in the international campaign against apartheid" in The Anti-Apartheid Movement: A 40-year PerspectiveArchived May 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, E S Reddy, 25–26 June 1999
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This Day In History: The UN Condemns Apartheid With General Assembly Resolution 1761 On Nov. 6, 1962
On Nov. 6, 1962, the United Nations formally condemned Apartheid in South Africa. Adopted 51 years ago today, UN General Assembly Resolution 1761 implored member nations to halt all diplomatic, military, and economic relations with South Africa, stating that the country's racial policy "seriously endangers international peace and security."
The resolution also called on South Africa to "abandon its policies of Apartheid and racial discrimination," officially deploring the nation for its repeated defiance of global norms. It established a Special Committee Against Apartheid to keep South Africa's policies under review, and called on the Security Council to "take appropriate measures, including sanctions," to ensure the country complied with the resolution.
Despite the pressure from the international community, South Africa's discriminatory policies persisted for nearly three decades. Less than two years after the resolution was adopted, Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison, where he would spend his next 27 years.
To mark today's anniversary, HuffPost World looks back at the key events in Apartheid's history. Take a look in the timeline below:
This Day in Black History: Nov. 6, 1962
On Nov. 6, 1962, the U.N. condemned South Africa’s racial apartheid by ending economic and military relations with the country. From 1948 to 1994, apartheid was a system of racial segregation, political and economic discrimination against South Africa’s non-white population.
During this period, Blacks weren’t allowed to enter whites-only neighborhoods unless they had a special pass and they lived in segregated communities. Even though Blacks were the majority in the nation, whites controlled most of the country’s wealth and land.
The 1960 massacre in Sharpeville, located near Johannesburg, South Africa, killed 69 Blacks and injured more than 180. The massacre sparked the U.N.’s attention. In 1973, the U.N. labeled apartheid as a “crime against humanity.” One year later, South Africa was suspended from the General Assembly.
In 1993, Nelson Mandela, a leader during the anti-apartheid movement, became the first Black president of South Africa.
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U.N. COUNCIL CONDEMNS ARRESTS AND APARTHEID IN SOUTH AFRICA
The Security Council adopted a resolution tonight condemning South Africa's policy of apartheid and the recent wave of arrests and detentions.
The vote was 14 to 0, with the United States abstaining.
The Council acted in response to an appeal by African nations and after a strong plea by Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, for an end to the ''politics of exclusion'' in his country.
Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, the United States representative, said that while her Government '➫hored'' apartheid, the policy of strict racial separation, she was abstaining because of 'ɾxcesses of language'' in the resolution. It demanded the immediate eradication of apartheid, dismantling of the system of bantustans, or separate ''homelands'' for blacks, an end to restrictions on political organizations and the return to South Africa of all exiles. 'Violence Is Not the Answer'
''Violence is not the answer to the crisis of our land,'' Bishop Tutu said in making his appeal. The black bishop called on '⟾llow white South Africans to share in the building of a new society,'' assuring them that ''we are not going to drive whites into the sea.''
''We only want a place in the sun,'' he said.
A few minutes earlier, from the same horseshoe-shaped conference table, Kurt von Schirnding, the South African representative, declared that his Government remained resolute in the face of criticism by the United Nations.
''The South African Government rejects whatever decisions the Security Council may arrive at, now and for the future, when it purports to address the domestic afairs of South Africa,'' he said.
The envoy said that ''if the United Nations continues on its present course, South Africa will withdraw its contribution to peace in southern Africa.'' This appeared to be a reference to discussions over the independence of South-West Africa, also known as Namibia, or separate talks with neighboring African states. New Constitution in Effect
Tonight's action here followed more than 80 deaths in a wave of unrest in South Africa, where the Government put a new Constitution into effect last month. It provides limited political rights for people of Indian and mixed racial descent but ignores the nation's black majority.
Bishop Tutu, the 53-year-old general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, said a Constitution that excluded 73 percent of the population and in which the first qualification for representation in Parliament was racial was ''intended to perpetuate the rule of the minority.''
November 6 1962 UN condemns apartheid
On November 6th 1962, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning South Africa’s racist apartheid policies and calling on all its members to end economic and military relations with the country.
In effect from 1948 to 1993, apartheid, which comes from the Afrikaans word for “apartness,” was government-sanctioned racial segregation and political and economic discrimination against South Africa’s non-white majority.
Among many injustices, blacks were forced to live in segregated areas and couldn’t enter whites-only neighbourhoods unless they had a special pass.
Although whites represented only a small fraction of the population, they held the vast majority of the country’s land and wealth.
Following the 1960 massacre of unarmed demonstrators at Sharpeville near Johannesburg, South Africa, in which 69 blacks were killed and over 180 were injured, the international movement to end apartheid gained wide support.
However, few Western powers or South Africa’s other main trading partners favoured a full economic or military embargo against the country.
Nonetheless, opposition to apartheid within the U.N. grew, and in 1973 a U.N. resolution labelled apartheid a “crime against humanity.”
In 1974, South Africa was suspended from the General Assembly.
After decades of strikes, sanctions and increasingly violent demonstrations, many apartheid laws were repealed by 1990.
Finally, in 1991, under President F.W. de Klerk, the South African government repealed all remaining apartheid laws and committed to writing a new constitution.
In 1993, a multi-racial, multi-party transitional government was approved and, the next year, South Africa held its first fully free elections.
Political activist Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison along with other anti-apartheid leaders after being convicted of treason, became South Africa’s new president.
In 1996, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), established by the new government, began an investigation into the violence and human rights violations that took place under the apartheid system between 1960 and May 10, 1994 (the day Mandela was sworn in as president).
The commission’s objective was not to punish people but to heal South Africa by dealing with its past in an open manner.
People who committed crimes were allowed to confess and apply for amnesty.
Headed by 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the TRC listened to testimony from over 20,000 witnesses from all sides of the issue—victims and their families as well as perpetrators of violence.
It released its report in 1998 and condemned all major political organisations—the apartheid government in addition to anti-apartheid forces such as the African National Congress—for contributing to the violence.
APARTHEID ASSAILED BY U.N.'S ASSEMBLY
UNITED NATIONS, N.Y., Dec. 14—The General Assembly today adopted 14 resolutions—a record—condemning apartheid in South Africa, including one censuring Israel for its economic relations with South Africa.
Most of the resolutions passed either unanimously or with a few negative votes and abstentions. The vote concerning Israel was 88 to 19, with 30 abstentions. Some countries that voted negatively or abstained later expressed reservations over the fact that Israel had been singled out even though many other nations traded with South Africa.
Chaim Herzog of Israel characterized the proceedings as a “cynical exercise in international hypocrisy.” J. Adriaan Eksteen of South Africa said: “Every positive vote was an expression in hypocrisy. The adoption of this set of resolutions clearly shows that a vast majority of members has a preference and affinity to solve problems by violent means.”
The debate on the anti‐apartheid resolutions was concluded three weeks ago, but the voting was deferred so that delegates could further study the resolutions. Nearly 100 speakers participated in the eight‐day debate.
Introduced by Third‐World Members
The resolutions were introduced and pushed largely by third‐world countries, with African diplomats gathering support for them.
Some of the resolutions involved such matters as criticizing economic collaboration with South Africa condemning military assistance expressing concern over the plight of political prisoners urging a boycott by the international sports community, and calling for a cessation of foreign investments. The investment resolution was later withdrawn for consideration at a later date.
The key resolution condemning Israel was sponsored by African and Soviet‐bloc countries, among them Angola, Cuba, Egypt, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania and Zambia and was described by them as flowing from the report of a special committee on apartheid that cited Israel's military and commercial trade with South Africa.
In a speech before the voting, Mr. Herzog said that Israel's trade with South Africa last year amounted to two‐fifths of one percent of South Africa's total trade of $7 billion.
Israel's position was challenged by Leslie 0. Harriman of Nigeria. Recalling that the Assembly last year also criticized Israel's trade with South Africa, he said Israel had deliberately collaborated with South Africa. He added that Israel had consistently refused to cooperate with the committee on apartheid.
Virtually all the Western countries, including the United States, voted against the resolution condemning Israel. Guatemala also voted negatively. Abstaining were many Latin American nations as well as such African countries as Swaziland, Malawi, Liberia, the Ivory Coast and the Central African Empire. Japan, Thailand, Singapore and Iran also abstained.
South Africa’s Academic and Cultural Boycott - Timeline
22 June 1946 — The Government of India requested that the question of the treatment of Indians in the Union of South Africa be included in the agenda of second part of the first session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
1952 — The UN creates a task team to monitor the apartheid State and the racial affairs.
1958 — The African National Congress in Exile held a meeting in Ghana and declared the need for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of South Africa.
6 November 1962 — United Nations General Assembly creates resolution 1761 which condemns the policies of apartheid.
In 1963 — 45 British writers put their signatures to an affirmation approving of the boycott,
1964 — Marlon Brando, the well known American actor called for a boycott of films and movie production.
1965 — The Writers' Guild of Great Britain called for an embargo on the sending of films to South Africa.
26 November 1965 — Declaration by British Academics for an Academic Boycott of South Africa The ban of Jack Simons and Eddie Roux, two well known South African academics, writings and from teaching or in their home country sparked an outrage in the UK. As a stand of solidarity, 496 university lecturers from 34 UK institutions came out in support of the boycott of South Africa.
2 December 1968 — The United Nations General Assembly made the request to all States and organisations "to suspend cultural, educational, sporting and other exchanges” with the racist regime and with organisations or institutions in South Africa which practice apartheid. The resolution is 2396.
10 December 1980 — The United Nations General Assembly adopted a special resolution on the cultural boycott of South Africa. The Committee of Artists of the World against Apartheid was established in Paris with the support of the Special Committee against Apartheid.
16-20 June 1986 — World Conference on Sanctions against Racist South Africa, organised by the United Nations in cooperation with the OAU and the Movement of Non-aligned Countries
20 November — 1987 77th plenary meeting with UN General Assembly - document ‘Policies of apartheid of the Government of South Africa- International solidarity with the liberation struggle in South Africa’
25 May 1989 — The Executive Committee of the ANC published a paper on its position on the Academic and Cultural Boycott.
1982 — The United Nations designates 1982 as the year for International Mobilization on Sanctions against South Africa
12 May 1991 — The Second International Symposium on Cultural and Academic Links with South Africa, organised by the Special Committee against Apartheid took place in Los Angeles.
Apartheid’s Lasting Impact of South Africa by Cam Ciesielski
After a little over a week in South Africa, one of the major trends I have observed is remaining aspects of the apartheid days still prominent in the nation’s culture. First and foremost, there are many physical structures that harken back to the days of apartheid. Additionally, as a white male, many of these trends are displayed through a sort of “racial deference” where I experience certain preferential treatment due to the color of my skin. One of the primary examples of this is in the way I am treated in just about any interaction with a black or colored individual. On the whole, there is a tone of deference, where I am always addressed as “sir” and treated incredibly well. As a white male, this is how I experience South Africa. In fact, I have noticed a distinct difference between my interactions with black South Africans and white South Africans. I am curious about how this experience compares to the experience of a black male or woman within the country.
A final way in which the nation’s history regarding apartheid is on display is in the problems that still exist within the nation. Though apartheid has fallen, in talking with South Africans and through qualitative data it is apparent that themes existent during the apartheid era still exist within the country. The government is still incredibly corrupt and often makes decisions that are not in its people’s best interest. The economy is very weak and the currency undervalued, especially on the world market. The areas of the cities (Cape Town) also remain extremely segregated. Even as apartheid has been abolished, the demographics and the areas where they reside still remain. There is no doubt there are still “black areas” and “white areas”, just as there were (by law) during apartheid.
For my group’s particular focus on sports and communications within the nation, it is no surprise that sports remain unofficially segregated, with rugby and cricket generally considered “white sports” and soccer still considered a “black sport”, echoing the trends of the apartheid days. Reflecting on all of this, the physical evidence, racial deference in social situations, and through cultural issues within the nation, it is clear that South Africa’s history with apartheid still has a profound impact on the current situation of the nation. It is no surprise that the country is in its current state, given a history that is long and eventful (as exhibited by the timeline below).
South Africa Timeline (From Class Readings)
4th century – Bantu speaking groups settle, joining the indigenous San and Khoikhoi people.
1480s – Portuguese navigator Bartholomeu Dias is the first European to travel round the southern tip of Africa.
1497 – Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama lands on Natal coast.
1652 – Jan van Riebeeck, representing the Dutch East India Company, founds the Cape Colony at Table Bay.
1795 – British forces seize Cape Colony from the Netherlands. Territory is returned to the Dutch in 1803 ceded to the British in 1806.
1816-1826 – Shaka Zulu founds and expands the Zulu empire, creates a formidable fighting force.
1835-1840 – Boers leave Cape Colony in the ‘Great Trek’ and found the Orange Free State and the Transvaal.
1852 – British grant limited self-government to the Transvaal.
1856 – Natal separates from the Cape Colony.
Late 1850s – Boers proclaim the Transvaal a republic.
1867 – Diamonds discovered at Kimberley.
1877 – Britain annexes the Transvaal.
1879 – British defeat the Zulus in Natal.
1880-81 – Boers rebel against the British, sparking the first Anglo-Boer War. Conflict ends with a negotiated peace. Transvaal is restored as a republic.
Mid 1880s – Gold is discovered in the Transvaal, triggering the gold rush.
1899 – British troops gather on the Transvaal border and ignore an ultimatum to disperse. The second Anglo-Boer War begins.
1902 – Treaty of Vereeniging ends the second Anglo-Boer War. The Transvaal and Orange Free State are made self-governing colonies of the British Empire.
1910 – Formation of Union of South Africa by former British colonies of the Cape and Natal, and the Boer republics of Transvaal, and Orange Free State.
1912 – Native National Congress founded, later renamed the African National Congress (ANC).
1913 – Land Act introduced to prevent blacks, except those living in Cape Province, from buying land outside reserves.
1914 – National Party founded.
1918 – Secret Broederbond (brotherhood) established to advance the Afrikaner cause.
1919 – South West Africa (Namibia) comes under South African administration.
Apartheid set in law
1948 – Policy of apartheid (separateness) adopted when National Party (NP) takes power.
1950 – Population classified by race. Group Areas Act passed to segregate blacks and whites. Communist Party banned. ANC responds with campaign of civil disobedience, led by Nelson Mandela.
1960 – Seventy black demonstrators killed at Sharpeville. ANC banned.
1961 – South Africa declared a republic, leaves the Commonwealth. Mandela heads ANC’s new military wing, which launches sabotage campaign.
1960s – International pressure against government begins, South Africa excluded from Olympic Games.
1964 – ANC leader Nelson Mandela sentenced to life imprisonment.
1966 September – Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd assassinated.
1970s – More than 3 million people forcibly resettled in black ‘homelands’.
1976 – More than 600 killed in clashes between black protesters and security forces during uprising which starts in Soweto.
1984-89 – Township revolt, state of emergency.
1989 – FW de Klerk replaces PW Botha as president, meets Mandela. Public facilities desegregated. Many ANC activists freed.
1990 – ANC unbanned, Mandela released after 27 years in prison. Namibia becomes independent.
1991 – Start of multi-party talks. De Klerk repeals remaining apartheid laws, international sanctions lifted. Major fighting between ANC and Zulu Inkatha movement.
1993 – Agreement on interim constitution.
1994 April – ANC wins first non-racial elections. Mandela become president, Government of National Unity formed, Commonwealth membership restored, remaining sanctions lifted. South Africa takes seat in UN General Assembly after 20-year absence.
1996 – Truth and Reconciliation Commission chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu begins hearings on human rights crimes committed by former government and liberation movements during apartheid era.
1996 – Parliament adopts new constitution. National Party withdraws from coalition, saying it is being ignored.
1998 – Truth and Reconciliation Commission report brands apartheid a crime against humanity and finds the ANC accountable for human rights abuses.
1999 – ANC wins general elections, Thabo Mbeki takes over as president.
2000 December – ANC prevails in local elections. Recently-formed Democratic Alliance captures nearly a quarter of the votes. The Inkatha Freedom Party wins 9%.
2001 April – 39 multi-national pharmaceutical companies halt a legal battle to stop South Africa importing generic Aids drugs. The decision is hailed as a victory for the world’s poorest countries in their efforts to import cheaper drugs to combat the virus.
2001 May – An official panel considers allegations of corruption surrounding a 1999 arms deal involving British, French, German, Italian, Swedish and South African firms. In November the panel clears the government of unlawful conduct.
2001 September – Durban hosts UN race conference.
2001 December – High Court rules that pregnant women must be given Aids drugs to help prevent transmission of the virus to their babies.
2002 April – Court acquits Dr Wouter Basson – dubbed “Dr Death” – who ran apartheid-era germ warfare programme. Basson had faced charges of murder and conspiracy. ANC condemns verdict.
2002 July – Constitutional court orders government to provide key anti-Aids drug at all public hospitals. Government had argued drug was too costly.
2002 October – Bomb explosions in Soweto and a blast near Pretoria are thought to be the work of right-wing extremists. Separately, police charge 17 right-wingers with plotting against the state. 2003 May – Walter Sisulu, a key figure in the anti-apartheid struggle, dies aged 91. Thousands gather to pay their last respects.
2003 November – Government approves major programme to treat and tackle HIV/Aids. It envisages network of drug-distributon centres and preventative programmes. Cabinet had previously refused to provide anti-Aids medicine via public health system.
2004 April – Ruling ANC wins landslide election victory, gaining nearly 70% of votes. Thabo Mbeki begins a second term as president. Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi is dropped from the cabinet.
2005 March – Investigators exhume the first bodies in a Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigation into the fates of hundreds of people who disappeared in the apartheid era.
2005 May – Geographical names committee recommends that the culture minister should approve a name change for the capital from Pretoria to Tshwane.
2005 June – President Mbeki sacks his deputy, Jacob Zuma, in the aftermath of a corruption case.
2005 August – Around 100,000 gold miners strike over pay, bringing the industry to a standstill.
2006 May – Former deputy president Jacob Zuma is acquitted of rape charges by the High Court in Johannesburg. He is reinstated as deputy leader of the governing African National Congress.
2006 June – Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits and promises to limit clothing exports to help South Africa’s ailing textile industry.
2006 September – Corruption charges against former deputy president Zuma are dismissed, boosting his bid for the presidency.
2006 December – South Africa becomes the first African country, and the fifth in the world, to allow same-sex unions.
2007 April – President Mbeki, often accused of turning a blind eye to crime, urges South Africans to join forces to bring rapists, drug dealers and corrupt officials to justice.
2007 May – Cape Town mayor Helen Zille is elected as new leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA).
2007 June – Hundreds of thousands of public-sector workers take part in the biggest strike since the end of apartheid. The strike lasts for four weeks and causes widespread disruption to schools, hospitals and public transport.
2007 December – Zuma is elected chairman of the ANC. Prosecutors bring new corruption charges against him.
After the white minority in Southern Rhodesia made a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) from Britain in November 1965, the Anti-Apartheid Movement called for no independence before majority rule (NIBMAR). It campaigned against Labour and Conservative government proposals for compromise with the white regime.
The AAM called for full implementation of UN sanctions against the illegal regime, their extension to South Africa and aid for neighbouring African countries to help them reduce their economic links with Rhodesia.
As guerrilla fighting spread in Zimbabwe after 1973, the AAM appealed to the British public on humanitarian grounds. It publicised the reprisals of the white army and police against black civilians and campaigned against the hanging of guerrilla fighters and civilians accused of aiding them. It called on the British government to condemn death sentences carried out by the illegal regime as murder.
In March 1978 the minority regime negotiated an ‘internal settlement’ and Bishop Abel Muzorewa was elected as Prime Minister. The AAM argued that there could be no democratic constitution without the liberation movements ZAPU (Zimbabwe African People’s Union) and ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union), united from 1976 in the Patriotic Front. In 1979 the AAM joined with other organisations to form the Zimbabwe Emergency Coordinating Committee (ZECC), warning against the recognition of the internal settlement regime by the new Conservative government.
LANCASTER HOUSE AGREEMENT
When the government convened a new round of talks at Lancaster House, London in September 1979, the AAM identified the crucial issues as agreement on a democratic constitution transitional arrangements that guaranteed free elections and arrangements for a ceasefire. Under the ZECC umbrella it campaigned for support for the Patriotic Front in the negotiations. After elections won by ZANU-Patriotic Front led by Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe celebrated its independence on 18 April 1980.
Rally in Trafalgar Square calling for No Independence Before Majority Rule on 13 February 1972. Around 15,000 people marched from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square to protest against the British government’s agreement with the Smith regime. Speakers at the rally were Bishop Abel Muzorewa, leader of the Clyde shipbuilders work-in Jimmy Reid, black activist Althea Jones and Labour MP Michael Foot. Copyright © Christopher Davies/Report
Religious Faith and Anti-Apartheid Activism
The response of South Africa's religious institutions to apartheid spanned a wide spectrum – from overt support to tacit acceptance and outright rejection. The Dutch Reformed Church provided a theological justification of apartheid, claiming that it was God's will and that the Bible supported it. It was only in 1998 that the DRC officially recognized apartheid "as wrong and sinful . in its fundamental nature." Other Christian churches, as well as Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and other faith communities, failed to challenge apartheid racism in a meaningful way, choosing instead to remain silent. This position changed dramatically in the 1980s as opposition to apartheid became increasingly widespread, inside and outside the country.
Certain individuals within faith communities rose to prominence in the anti-apartheid movement as a result of their religious beliefs. These activists worked both publicly and secretly in various resistance organizations to express their disdain for racism and segregation and their support for democratic change in South Africa. Regardless of religious affiliation, all of them shared a belief that apartheid was morally and ethically indefensible – a grave injustice, or a "sin."
Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu remains one of South Africa's most important and beloved figures. Expressing his view about the inter-relationship between religion and politics, Tutu asserted, "Faith is a highly political thing. As followers of God we too must be politically engaged" (Villa-Vicencio 277). Tutu and other religious leaders exercised their considerable moral authority to condemn apartheid as a crime against humanity and helped mobilize support for freedom and democracy. Tutu's influence increased during his tenure as General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (1978-1985). His tireless work in support of the liberation movements received global recognition and, as a result, in 1984 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In a 1999 interview, Bishop Tutu described how he saw God intervene in the cause of South African liberation: