Internal Opposition to Apartheid in South Africa Up to 1980


Non-whites, also called revolutionaries, encouraged non-violent opposition against apartheid in the early South African revolution. South Africa’s Apartheid regime racially separated and pitted white Afrikaners against blacks and other ethnic minorities. Members of the ANC initiated peaceful protests against the government, which were then met with harsh repression by the authorities. This is a useful piece of evidence because it states how apartheid affected the livelihood of the blacks in South Africa.

In South Africa, people of color, mainly blacks, struggled with unprecedented levels of racism. Afterward, economic sanctions were imposed on South Africa, resulting in the country’s economic collapse under apartheid. The non-whites were displaced from white neighborhoods and placed in rural regions. The government’s belief that white people were superior to non-whites created financial disparities between the two groups. Non-whites were not given good education since they could not get into high-paying positions, so the government stated that their education was not essential. During the resistance, the non-whites used various opposition themes, including political, social-economical, and cultural. Therefore, this essay will focus on opposition themes that internal resistance to the Apartheid regime.

Political Opposition

Nelson Mandela created a Defiance Campaign under the ANC political party in 1952, a non-violent protest against the acts of apartheid aimed to defuse tensions in South Africa. The defense campaign, conducted through boycotts of non-whites from duty served, inspired the civil rights activists from other counties, including the United States hence attracting their involvement. This is a useful piece of evidence because it showed how the campaign started and its outcome. Furthermore, this move led United Nations to launch an international campaign against apartheid to encourage governments, non-governmental organizations, and individuals to implement a wide range of actions against racism and racial discrimination.

For Nelson Mandela, Gandhi’s “non-violent strategies of passive resistance” were the only way to stand up to Apartheid regimes. Non-whites resorted to violence because of Nelson Mandela’s inability to alter these behaviors via non-violent protest. Initially, Mandela used non-violent methods before turning to violence. Despite the defiance campaign causing the South African government to impose stiff penalties for those who rose to protest against the apartheid law, it was significant towards opposing apartheid up to 1980 as it acted as a turning point of the history of South Africa because the campaign educated the world on the accurate picture of apartheid which then attracted their involvement.

The introduction of the Freedom Charter of June 1955 became one of the most important considerations. This is a useful piece of evidence because it describes the contested South African land issue and its outcome. Since its goals could not be met inside the current political system, Nelson Mandela deems the manifesto “revolutionary.” This charter demanded that the whole economic market be redistributed and equality between men and women. The charter mobilized the people up to advocate for their equitable treatment.

The charter advocated for granting land to the blacks, provision of good wages, reduction in working hours, and providing compulsory education to all South Africans regardless of color or race. Due to the government’s response, which included Nelson and his fellow participants being arrested for high treason, this effort to end apartheid failed. Eventually, the settlement would be brought before a court of law, where it would be known as the “Treason Trial”. This is a useful piece of evidence because it reviews the treason trial and its outcome in opposition to apartheid. During this time, the defendant would be cleared of all charges. Even though Mandela and other ANC members evaded the death penalty, they failed to affect the transformation they sought. Therefore, the freedom charter shows that the position against apartheid up to 1980 was significant because it mobilized people who oppressed the government and later led to their freedom.

The ANC’s activities influenced the Soweto Protests as this was the beginning of a student uprising against the reinstatement of segregation in schools, which sparked these demonstrations. Student protests against the government’s efforts to deny them an equitable education were not stifled. This is a useful piece of evidence because it provides for understanding the Soweto uprising and its contribution towards opposition against apartheid. In several instances, government forces quickly crushed these types of protests before the ANC’s emergence to a strong resistance position. A formidable enemy to South Africa’s government, the African National Congress and Nelson Mandela became a symbol of optimism that could not have been achieved via peaceful protest. Many of those who took part in the Soweto Uprising was shot and killed, but this belief in a better future fueled the students’ will to continue their struggle.

Most of those students who survived the riots fought for the African National Congress (ANC) in various capacities. The Soweto Uprisings galvanized a new generation of activists and, four years later, sparked massive school boycotts throughout the country. Even though the administration worked tirelessly to stop these rebellions and cover up their actual causes, information on these killings reached the public. This heightened political consciousness across South Africa and paved the ground for the UDF’s win,” even if the local authorities claimed other explanations. The ANC’s swayed over students participating in the Soweto Uprising and subsequent boycotts referred to as the peoples’ war. Therefore, the Soweto protest was significant to the fight against apartheid up to 1980 as it marked the end of submissiveness on the part of the non-white population as it led to the end of apartheid.

Social-economic Oppositions

Apartheid inflicted high economic and social costs on the majority of South Africans. This nation had the widest wealth disparity globally, with the few rich mainly consisting of the whites and the impoverished majority who were majorly black, colored, or Indian. People of color, particularly African Americans, were disproportionately affected by poverty, sickness, and starvation, while whites were much more manageable. Despite the country’s economic prosperity, most South Africans found themselves in a constant battle for existence.

The ANC was demonstrating to the oppressed citizens of South Africa that they did not have to continue to live under the shadow of apartheid any longer. The “removal of the socio-economic problems made South Africa ideal ground for revolutionaries” allowed them to change repressive institutions. Nelson Mandela and the ANC aspired to freedom and a democratic administration that would usher in a new age of equality for their nation. As seen by his subsequent violent protests, Mandela realized that violence was needed to realize his democratic ideal.

Bus Boycotts

In South Africa, during and after apartheid, people protested by boycotting buses. These boycotts occurred in the Unions of South Africa and the current Republic of South Africa. In the 1950s, the anti-Apartheid campaign was at its peak domestically, with regular bus boycotts. This is a useful piece of evidence because it describes how the commuter workers evaded bus travel and its outcome. The bus boycott led to the Supreme Court ruling against black discrimination in public busses to be unconstitutional. This movement by the blacks was a significant play towards civil rights and transit equity. In this case, the bill was passed in parliament that doubled the levy on employees to subsidize black transport. When a boycott started in Johannesburg, it swiftly expanded across the rest of Africa. A twenty-percent rise in bus fares sparked the boycott, but it was also sparked by widespread dissatisfaction with the administration.

The African National Congress (ANC) set up a Department of Social Welfare to look into the needs of the growing urban population in Africa. An estimated 20,000 people, including Nelson Mandela, staged a bus boycott after the price of a ticket in Alexandra Township was raised from 4 cents to 5 cents in early August 1943. At one point, the local bus operator finally relented and reduced the cost to its previous amount after nine days of protests. In addition to the decreased fares, the boycott resulted in an investigation of the affordability of bus fares. It was decided that bus firms might charge five cents for a one-way trip next year despite information presented by a commission showing that most metro Africans still cannot afford this fee. In Alexandra, this sparked a second boycott, lasting for seven weeks. Therefore, the Montgomery bus boycott was significant the opposition against apartheid up to 1980 as it eliminated the buries to transport access by the blacks by causing equality in the transport sector

Natal Strikes

In the 1950s, the anti-apartheid campaign was at its peak domestically, with periodic bus boycotts. For example, on January 7, 1957, a boycott started in Johannesburg and swiftly expanded across the rest of the world. A twenty-percent rise in bus fares sparked the boycott, but it was also sparked by widespread dissatisfaction with the administration. In the lengthy battle of Black, Colored, and Indian workers to create non-racial trade unions and open the potential of a mass movement against the Apartheid system, these strikes marked the start of a turning point.

This is a useful piece of evidence because it discusses the natal strike and its contribution in opposing apartheid as it describes the constant trikes that occurred before 1980. The Durban strikes were the beginning of a wave of widespread protests that helped fuel a mood of unrest throughout the nation. This is a useful piece of evidence because it discusses natal strike and how it contributed to opposing apartheid because it describes how black workers embarked on waves of the strike beginning in 1973. The strike ushered in a new age of militant non-racial trade unionism, one that brought together workers, a broad coalition of progressive organizations, and long-suppressed liberation movements. Apartheid and racialized capitalism were defeated in the late 1980s and early 1990s because of the working-class organizations’ ideological, strategic, and tactical contributions.

This period saw the emergence of three different political traditions within the labor movement, each with its unique take on current events and more significant social concerns. The source of this custom was labor unions on the factory floor. This is a useful piece of evidence because it discusses natal strike and its contribution to opposing apartheid as it describes the political culture of South Africa up to 1980. They adopted a cautious approach to becoming involved in politics. Workers’ fights in industries and townships were seen as inseparable by this school of thought, which held that labor committed to solving socio-economic concerns.

The majority of unions in this school were also linked with political organizations. Africanist movements and Black Consciousness were the origins of the third tradition. The unions were required to have black leaders in this group. Therefore, the natal strike was a sign to the opposition on apartheid up to 1980 as the series of strikes and negotiations led to the inclusion of blacks in the South African election hence the first non-racial election in south Africa.


When students at Soweto High School staged a demonstration against apartheid on that day, it marked a turning point in South Africa’s black population’s resistance. Overcrowding and a high student-to-teacher ratio were symptoms of a broader problem in American education. Inadequately trained teachers were combined with inadequate facilities and equipment. In the black schools, Afrikaans was adopted as the medium of teaching. To protest the use of Afrikaans as a language of teaching in black schools, students in Soweto marched peacefully. Since there were more secondary schools in the 1970s, more people dropped out because employment opportunities were limited due to shifting economic circumstances. This resulted in a higher failure rate for those who graduated. In 1970, the economy was in a slump. There was a significant reduction in the number of black employees. In the months leading up to June 1976, many individuals struggled financially. In addition, the townships like Soweto were congested and had limited transportation and housing options. Many black individuals complained about pass restrictions, inflow control, and mandatory homeland citizenship issues.

Students who left the nation during the 1976 revolt joined the liberation struggle in exile. Several class members of 1976 joined the labor movement and rose to prominence in the 1980s as key figures in the labor movement. In 1977, the state reacted by outlawing many Black Consciousness organizations, including the Soweto Students Representative Council (SSRC). The removal of Afrikaans as a means of teaching was a significant benefit of the rebellion. After 1976, education spending went increased a little bit. Of course, funding for black education lagged behind white education, and the two systems remained incompatible.

Although nearly 1000 protesters were murdered in clashes with the police during the Soweto revolt, it was successful. Therefore, the Soweto was significant to the opposition against apartheid in 1980. It changed the socio-political landscape where the black students introduced the Bantu education act, which advocated for education without segregation and changed the South African view on equal education.

Cultural Opposition

Black Consciousness Movement

The black consciousness movement heavily supported the protest against policies imposed by the apartheid regime. The Anti-Apartheid activist group known as the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) developed in South Africa in the mid-1960s, filling the political gap left behind by the imprisonment and imprisonment of ANC and PAN leadership. Apartheid’s long-held message of black inferiority was a central theme of the Black Consciousness Movement, which emphasized the need for blacks to transform their mindsets.

This is a useful piece of evidence because it analyses the Black Conscious Movement and its contribution towards fighting apartheid because it discusses its origin and how it influenced the blacks. The movement that led to Soweto’s uprising in June 1976 raised people’s political awareness, and the BCM played a significant role. The movement aimed to enhance the consciousness of African-Americans and unify them as students, professionals, and academics. Black political action led to the seeming disintegration of the NP. Black consciousness development among young people was a crucial trigger for the Soweto uprising in 1976 and the subsequent resurrection of the national liberation struggle.

The BCM slammed liberal whites for their “condescending” views, which they saw as a kind of white racism. They rejected the white monopoly on the truth as a major premise of their movement and did not engage white liberal thinking on the advantages and disadvantages of black awareness. As a result of this mindset, many black anti-apartheid activists in South Africa first reacted with skepticism.

As a result, the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa became more focused on the issue of black consciousness, which resulted in a stronger sense of unity among black organizations. Therefore, the black consciousness movement was significant to the opposition to apartheid up to 1980 as it achieved its purpose of raising black awareness and uniting black students, professionals, and intellectuals, which led to the uprising of the Soweto movement.

Literature and Music

In their music and support of anti-apartheid political causes, several artists stood against the regime. Because of the Nationalist government’s reaction, censored music and artists were repressed to limit their effect. Although the state tried hard to retain its hegemony, artists found a variety of tactics to oppose it. Musicians who were censored devised techniques to reach as many people as possible regardless of the message. Artistic expression arose in new ways because of their efforts to communicate and influence the culture. After apartheid was established in South Africa in the 1950s, protest songs were written to express people’s displeasure with past restrictions and forced displacement.

Apartheid was also opposed by musicians from other nations, who released songs disparaging the South African government and took part in a cultural boycott of the country beginning in 1980. Music played a significant role in South Africa’s anti-apartheid campaign and the global fight against apartheid.

Songs against apartheid had various effects, including increasing awareness, gaining support for the anti-apartheid movement, fostering solidarity within that movement, and “offering an alternative image of cultural aspects in an upcoming democratic South Africa. Therefore, the use of literature and music was significant in the opposition against apartheid in 1980 as it assisted in the marginalization of black, educating them of their rights and motivating them not to give up; this led to the continued oppression of the blacks to the government through constant strikes and boycotts.


The political, social, economic, and cultural themes were all employed by Non-Whites throughout the resistance. Most South Africans were severely affected by apartheid’s economic and social consequences. Soweto revolt, natal strikes, bus boycotts, music and literature, black consciousness, defiance campaigns, and the freedom charter were among the ways South Africans opposed apartheid. Therefore, the internal resistance among the non-whites shows that opposition to apartheid up to 1980 was significant because the non-whites were finally granted their rights and freedoms. However, several deaths were encountered among the protestors while clashing with the police.

Works Cited

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Chisa, Ken. “Appropriating Indigenous Knowledge through Struggle Songs: Dube and the Impact of Indigenous Music in Apartheid South Africa | Indilinga African Journal of Indigenous Knowledge Systems.” Indilinga African Journal of Indigenous Knowledge Systems, 2018. Web.

Durbach, Andrea. “Book Review: The Courtroom as a Space of Resistance: Reflections on the Legacy of the Rivonia Trial.” Social & Legal Studies, vol. 27, no. 2. Web.

Mazibuko, Sibonginkosi. “The Freedom Charter: The Contested South African Land Issue“. Third World Quarterly, 2017. Web.

Mmadi, Mpho. “Commuter-Worker and the Continuation of Labour Stay-Aways in Post-Apartheid South Africa.” South African Review of Sociology, 2020. Web.

Morgan, Marcus. “Movement Intellectuals Engaging the Grassroots: A Strategy Perspective on the Black Consciousness Movement.” The Sociological Review, vol. 68, 2020, pp. 1124–1142. Web.

O’Halloran, Paddy. “The Soweto Uprising“. Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 2017. Web.

South African History Online. “1973 Durban Strikes.” Sahistory. 2014. Web.

Steinberger, William. “Boycotting Apartheid.” Hartford Stage, 2021. Web.

Steyn Kotze, J. “Political Culture in South Africa.” Hsrc. 2021. Web.

Thomas, Kylie. “History of Photography in Apartheid South Africa.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History. 2021. Web.

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