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Apartheid – the legacy

The apartheid system of government in South Africa, which legally entrenched the discrimination and oppression of the majority population by a minority on the basis of race, was widely condemned internationally but remained until the first democratic elections in 1994. The system denied rights to  the many and touched every area of their lives. Rights to housing, health care, education and the right to freedom of association (the individual right to come together with other individuals and collectively promote, express  and defend common interests) were limited and left the majority of the population living in poverty and deprivation.

The Legacy

Informal Settlement in Gauteng.

The first democratic election in 1994 swept the system of apartheid aside but left a legacy of deprivation. With all areas of life requiring significant investment this legacy would be difficult to overcome.


In 1994 millions of South Africans were living in informal settlements with no access to any utilities or water. The new government under Nelson Mandela pledged to build housing for the masses but knew this would be a major task that would take decades. By March 2009, 2.8 million houses had been built for 13.5 million South Africans, with a further 225,000 planned for 2009/10. Though this is a major development the problem of informal housing is still an issue, eg the housing waiting list in the Cape Town area alone is 400,000.


school classroom
A classroom in 1994.

In 1994 the education for the majority of the population in the historically deprived communities was poor. Buildings were less than suitable with no utilites, including access to waterand electricity, and educational resources were non-existent. There are now many new schools which have proper classrooms and text books but there are still issues to overcome to give young people the opportunity to reach their full potential.  Again the sheer size of the hurdles

New School in KwaZulu Natal.

to overcome to change their opportunities means it cannot be done overnight. Most pupils mother tongue is one of the indigenous languages however they are mostly taught in English. With little or no access to books this makes learning all the more difficult. Some schools now have school libraries but by no means all schools. Many teachers were taught under the apartheid system which means their education was limited too.

Mobile Science Laboratory.

Teaching Science and Mathematics was a major problem because under the apartheid system Africans were discouraged from learning these subjects and taught by rote. (It is also important to note black South Africans were banned from being engineers under the apartheid system.) There are projects that have been set up to try and overcome some of these problems, ensuring access to laboratories and courses for teachers in using equipment.


Mobile Outreach Clinic

Under the Apartheid government, health care services for the disadvantaged communities had few resources. The health system was set up to give state of the art treatment to the privileged few (around 10% of the population). After the first democratic elections, everyone had an equal right to treatment but the system was overwhelmed because most facilities were set up to deal with 10% of the population. Again the apartheid system had left a legacy unable to cope with the needs of the whole population.

Added to this the HIV/AIDS pandemic took a major hold in the country exacerbating the problem of providing health care and creating yet another hurdle to overcome.

The legacy of apartheid touches every aspect of the lives of the people from the disadvantaged communities. Community H.E.A.R.T. supports local communities and projects struggling to overcome the legacy and transform the lives of people in local disadvantaged communities.