Essay on South Africa Under Apartheid: A Totalitarian State

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During the Apartheid Era, there emerged from South Africa cases of gross human rights abuse, racism, police brutality and general mistreatment of the non-white population. Excluding the fact that South Africa was never ruled by a dictator, it can be argued that some of these features were totalitarian and that South Africa was, to a certain extent, a totalitarian state under Apartheid. This discussion will analyse the totalitarian features that were apparent during Apartheid, and will be structured in the format of the characteristics of a totalitarian state1. Political, economic and social spheres will be dealt with, with the main focus being on racial purity, a “reign of terror” and education. A totalitarian state involves many…show more content…
Blacks were completely excluded, leaving Afrikaans whites as the “elite.” Censorship (another totalitarian feature) occurred extensively during Apartheid. Most forms of media, (books, radio, television, etc) were controlled and censored by the state, and any publication opposing Apartheid was banned (including Burger’s Daughter (1979) and July’s People (1981) by Nadine Gordimer and Cry, Freedom a film on the life of Steve Biko,)5 under the “Publications Act (No. 42) of 1974”3. In 1985, the press was censored and television coverage was minimised under the State of Emergency. A secret police and “reign of terror” are defining features of a totalitarian state, often used to terrify, intimidate and repress all opposition. This was seen during Apartheid, the purpose being to attempt to establish order and prevent uprising from the black population. During Apartheid, “terror” was practised by secret police units like the C10 (later the C1) under Dirk Coetzee and Eugene de Kock, mostly at the notorious farm, Vlakplaas. The units were involved in “Death Squad” activities, capturing Apartheid activists, interrogating them and often executing or even assassinating them. Eugene de Kock, dubbed “Prime Evil” by the media, was sentenced to 212 years plus two life sentences through a TRC hearing in the 1990s, for his role in the terror inflicted.6 A notorious case where activists
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