Edicts from Apartheid

We’ve blogged once or twice before about the books in our Library of International Relations (LIR) collection, built over several decades by Eloise ReQua, a Chicagoan who believed that books could foster better understanding among cultures.

One volume that recently caught our eye is a United Nations pamphlet titled Apartheid in Practice, published in 1971. It’s a collection of 300 statements culled from South African race laws of that era, presented, according to the introduction, as “an attempt to overcome the difficulties created by the complexity of the apartheid laws. Each statement sets out in simple terms the effect of one of these laws.”

For instance:

7: Even if an African … was born in a town, has lived there continuously for 14 years and has worked continuously for the same employer for nine years, his wife commits a criminal offence by living with him for more than 72 hours, if she has not received a permit to do so.

15: An African boy, aged 16, who has left school and lives at home with his parents (who maintain him) but does not work may, at any time, be arrested without warrant by a policeman who “has reason to believe he is an idle person.”

74: An African factory worker who is absent for work for 24 hours without permission, in addition to being dismissed, (a) may be fined by a Government inspector an amount not more than $2.80, which is withheld from his wages, and (b) is guilty of a criminal offence punishable by a fine of not more than $70 or imprisonment for not longer than three months.

The collection of statements was prepared by Leslie Rubin, a former South African Senator who represented black South Africans as a so-called “natives’ representative” before going into exile and eventually becoming Professor of Comparative Law at Howard University, the post he held at the time he undertook this study. The work was commissioned by the United Nations Secretariat Unit on Apartheid as a revision and expansion of Rubin’s 1959 study, This is Apartheid.

86: An African whose employment is terminated by a municipal labour officer may be required to leave the area where he works, together with his dependents, within 24 hours.

106: A white man who spends a few hours each week in his own home teaching his African servants to read is guilty of a criminal offense.

118: It is unlawful for a white person and a non-white person to drink a cup of tea together in a café anywhere in South Africa unless they have obtained a special permit to do so.

As we celebrate twenty years of democracy in South Africa, this book is a stunning reminder of the degradations of the apartheid era and the terrible depths from which today’s South African society is emerging.

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