During most of the 20th century, South Africa was ruled by a system called Apartheid, an Afrikaans word meaning "apartness", which was based on a system of racial segregation.
The term Apartheid was introduced during the 1948 election campaign by DF Malan"s Herenigde Nasionale Party (HNP - "Reunited National Party"). But racial segregation had been in force for many decades in South Africa.
In hindsight, there is something of an inevitability in the way the country developed its extreme policies. When the Union of South Africa was formed on 31 May 1910, Afrikaner Nationalists were given a relatively free hand to reorganize the country"s franchise according to existing standards of the now-incorporated Boer republics, the Zuid Afrikaansche Repulick (ZAR - South African Republic or Transvaal) and Orange Free State. Non-Whites in the Cape Colony had some representation, but this would prove to be short-lived.
The Apartheid policy was supported by various Afrikaans newspapers and Afrikaner "cultural movements" such as the Afrikaner Broederbond and Ossewabrandwag.
The United Party actually gained the majority of votes in the 1948 general election. But due to the manipulation of the geographical boundaries of the country"s constituencies before the election, the Herenigde Nasionale Party managed to win the majority of constituencies, thereby winning the election.
In 1951, the HNP and Afrikaner Party officially merged to form the National Party, which became synonymous with Apartheid.
Over the decades, various forms of legislation were introduced which extended the existing segregation against Blacks to Coloureds and Indians.
The most significant acts were the Group Areas Act No 41 of 1950 which led to over three million people being relocated through forced removals, the Suppression of Communism Act No 44 of 1950 which was so broadly worded that almost any dissident group could be "banned", the Bantu Authorities Act No 68 of 1951 which led to the creation of Bantustans (and ultimately "independent" homelands),