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Apartheid as the Genesis of Welfarism: Contrasting Perspectives on Education Policies for Advancing European Interests in South Africa and Zimbabwe


This paper examines the role of apartheid in advancing Anglo-American interests in South Africa and Zimbabwe. It outlines how the Europeans who colonized South Africa created a government that promoted their own interests as opposed to the interests of Africans. Segregation was legal, and Europeans made available to themselves the best facilities and resources without compensating indigenous peoples. In addition, they built schools and universities for ‘whites only’ but these institutions were funded by public taxes. By 1992 there were eight universities for 7% of the population (Europeans), but only two universities for close to 80% of the population (Africans) in South Africa. But South African apartheid also extended to access to health and accommodation as well as the use of public amenities. In South Africa, legal apartheid was abolished in 1994 (Bock and Hunt, 2015; Mandela, 1995). In this article, I focus on the impacts of apartheid primarily through schools and institutions of learning because these were the primary tools for shaping and creating society.

To a great extent, this paper invites the reader to engage with colonialism and post-colonialism, especially with regard to Southern Africa. Although the motives for colonialism are generally vague and sometimes presented as the spreading of enlightenment to the “Dark Continent,” there are also many who point to the ways in which colonialism underdeveloped Africa (Rodney, 1972; Conrad, 1993). At the same time, readers are invited to re-examine what they know about racism and the welfare state in general. I contend that racism and apartheid are the genesis of the welfare state in Southern Africa and will show how colonial governments worked to advance the political, economic, and cultural interests of Europeans over and against those of the colonized.

I also make use of ‘discourse analysis’ fully aware that discourse often legitimates relationships, and it is itself formed under conditions in which power-relations are not always reciprocal. As such, I critique the use of ‘discourse’ related to welfare. While discourse is not always ideological, the welfare state, or descriptions of the welfare state, reflect certain ideological perspectives. However, ideology often acts to hide the truth and make human liberation difficult to attain (Mannheim, 1983).

To a great extent, the racism that under-girded South Africa’s economic and political system was similar to the one in Zimbabwe. Historians of education in Zimbabwe observe that at the time of independence in 1980 the literacy rate was 30% for Africans, 100% for whites; that the GNP spent on education was 20% for whites, 2% for Africans. At that time, the population was 150,000 whites, and 7.6 million Africans (Mungazi, 1992). By 1983, 30% of the population was literate; and in 1993, the percentage had reached 78% (Mungazi and Walker, 1997). Statistics show that the colonial government was not interested in the education of Africans compared to Europeans or whites. Barnes (2007) observes that elementary or primary school enrollments increased from 800,000 in 1979 to 2.3 million in 1986, while secondary enrollments went from 66,000 in 1979 to 537,000 in 1986. Whereas the colonial government had used racism to promote its own interests, the Zimbabwean government strove to advance the interests of all citizens, including the colonizers.

What becomes quickly apparent is that the Zimbabwean colonial government knew that its education policies were deliberately designed to have Europeans remain as rulers, while Africans were to form a source of cheap labor. Its utopia was based on a dehumanization of the Africans. According to Mungazi:

[A] philosophy steadily developed which embraced the belief that practical training and manual labor should form a major component of the curricular content of African schools. Therefore, from the beginning of the colonial government in Zimbabwe, educational policy for Africans became part of the agenda (1992, p. xvii).

In the same book, Mungazi notes that those who designed the colonial policies of education were fully aware of their intentions of creating an educational system that was designed to make Africans subservient to Europeans, describing the ideal relationship as that between a rider and a horse (Mungazi, 1992). A few years after independence in 1980, the Zimbabwean government adopted a policy of “Education for All” which made education accessible to most students, including those who had been victims of racist policies.

Racial preference for Europeans in South Africa and Zimbabwe also made it possible for Anglo-Americans to benefit from state/government intervention until the advent of black majority rule. Even a few decades after majority rule/independence, most of the legislation in South Africa was geared toward promoting the interests of Europeans. Apartheid or colonialism, in many respects, were at the roots of the welfare state. Towards the end of the twentieth century and into the first two decades of the twenty-first century, the discourse and rhetoric around welfare have changed to include recipients of government aid, almost always thought of as African or of African heritage in both the United States and South Africa. However, when recipients of government aid are people of European heritage, the word ‘welfare’ is rarely used.


On Discourse

In this paper, my understanding and use of ‘discourse’ is similar to that of van Dijk (1997); Philips and Hardy (2002); and Gee (1996). However, I also view ‘discourse’ through the lens of race, where for the most part in European controlled media, negative stereotypes are associated with blacks and/or Africans, and positive ones with Europeans. This was especially so in South Africa (prior to the legal abolition of apartheid in 1994) and the independence of Zimbabwe. The welfare state, as such, was created to preserve and advance the wellbeing of Europeans at the expense of peoples of African heritage. In brief, the modern welfare state in these two countries is a byproduct of capitalism and racism. Consequently, in discussing the welfare state, one also has to take into consideration the discourse on race, as well as its implications in legal and economic spheres. One should also note that in most of Southern Africa prior to European colonialism, there is very little evidence of the welfare state in its current manifestations. This was largely because the political, legal and economic framework was designed to meet the needs of all citizens (Clarke, 1999). In other words, there was very minimal private ownership of the means of production, including land and water.

Souto-Manning (2012) views discourse as dealing with the relationship between language and society with real-life implications. She goes on to highlight how discourse includes beliefs, values and social, political and economic identities. As such, discourse is also related to, and creates power relations (Foucault, 1978). Souto-Manning observes that “since social actions become realities through discourses, we cannot ignore the role of discourse in trying to understand complex relationships involving social interactions, structures, systems and everyday lives” (2012, p. 160). Discourse, as it were, deals with the relationship between text and context, the literal/literary and the social/political.

While the welfare state usually functions as a way of highlighting the philanthropy of Europeans, many Africans and African Americans critique the ideology and dominant narratives of this kind of history. For Malcolm X, problematic ideologies included pretensions of universal democracy in Western political institutions and legal frameworks. The official or stated reasons for the European occupation of Africa were incongruent with the practices of the colonizers. While many Europeans claimed that their presence would preserve order/peace by preventing intertribal or civil wars, Malcolm X (1990) observed that it was the Europeans themselves who fostered division and strife:

On the African continent…I noticed…the twenty-four-hour-a-day effort being made in East Africa to turn the African against the Asian; and in West Africa to turn the African against the Arab; and in parts of Africa where there were no Arabs or Asians, to turn the Muslim African against the Christian African. When you go over there and study this thing, you can see that it is not something that’s indigenous, it’s not a divisive situation that’s indigenous to the African himself (1990, p. 130).

Europeans promoted intertribal fighting so as to create an illusion of the need for European presence in Africa, and that presence was also associated with peace and stability. For Malcolm X, such a practice was unethical since “their practice is criminal action. And then use the press to make it look like the victim is the criminal and the criminal is the victim. This is how they do it” (1989, p. 159). He found out that Europeans in general were skilled in the art of distortion. In a similar way, Malcolm X observed how the ‘creation of African poverty’ disguised the fact that most of Europe’s resources came from Africa and the ‘developing world’ in general.


Alternatives to European Welfare States

Unlike apartheid or the racial caste-system introduced by Europeans, pre-colonial Africa had its own version of a welfare system based on communal or public ownership of all natural resources (including land and water). While private property was the basis of wealth even in Europe, many scholars point out that in sub-Saharan Africa there was no concept of feudalism or private ownership of land (Mugabe, 2003; Caisare, Mandela, 1994). Many structures of the economy belonged to the community. Insights into the nature of this economy also make it possible to study how apartheid changed the nature of the state. But understanding the role of land and economics also grounds Mandela’s understanding of human and political processes in a materialist dialectic, which in turn reveals the real conditions in South Africa. In pre-colonial South Africa, families could and did own livestock and grow crops, but land belonged to the tribe or the community. There was private property, but the ownership of land, without which private property could not thrive, was communal and collective. Reminiscing on life in pre-colonial Africa, Mandela observed:

The structure and organization of early African societies in this country fascinated me very much and greatly influenced the evolution of my political outlook. The land, the main means of production, belonged to the whole tribe and there was no individual ownership whatsoever. There were no classes, no rich or poor and no exploitation of man by man. All men were free and equal and this was the foundation of government (1994, p. 330).

It can thus be argued that pre-colonial African societies were classless, in other words, the distinctions that are obtained by virtue of socio-economic class and status were not the norm. But the communal ownership of land also facilitated the interaction and cooperation between and among different kingdoms. To a certain extent mobility was limited because the means of earning a living were dependent on access to land. Even though sometimes kingdoms fought or raided each other, they also cooperated and intertribal marriages were not unheard of. Feudalism, profit making, and exploitation of man-by-man, which were taken to be a norm and necessary historical rites of passage in the West were alien to most African cultures. Even as a young adult with a relatively unsophisticated political analysis, Mandela was able to see problems Africa and other tribal or ‘pre-modern’ civilizations would encounter when Westerners came; “their [African] cultural heritage of community-level resource management, high levels of local self-sufficiency, and relative social equality is the antithesis of how the commercial world was developed and is currently organized” (Bodley, 2008, p. 7). It was not that tribal structures were inefficient, but rather that they had a different paradigm. In many respects, African societies revealed that successful crop and animal husbandry, or different forms of agriculture and production, do not always require private ownership of land or the means of production.

Again, the boundaries between the personal and the communal, the sacred and the secular, appear blurred and when and where they are constructed, appear arbitrary. Cattle, for example, could be easily seen as a gift from God as well as good animal husbandry. While people owned private property, there were not subject to oppressive taxation by any of the indigenous government or administrative branches. At the same time, tribal structures had enough mechanisms that made efficient distribution and redistribution of resources possible. However, under colonial governments, Africans had to pay taxes that primarily supported the building of infrastructure for Europeans.

For most Africans, and those familiar with indigenous African structures of government, it would appear as if local institutions had inbuilt mechanisms to ensure the survival of even the weakest in the kingdom as well as for preventing and negating the effects of poverty. Although they might have appeared unsophisticated to the Western or foreign eye, Mandela contends that indigenous forms of administration were very democratic, with a major shortcoming being the relative absence of women’s voices. His observations on pre-colonial forms of government left him with the impression that “it was democracy in its purest form… The foundation of self-government was that all men were free to voice their opinions and equal in value as citizens. (Women, I am afraid, were deemed second-class citizens)” (1994, p. 21). It was in such structures that issues related to the community were raised and guaranteed the wellbeing of all.

However, the relatively harmonious relationship among the different tribes cannot be attributed solely to the communal ownership of land, good governance, a classless society and relative absence of poverty. The philosophy or worldview that made such an existence possible is “the spirit of Ubuntu – that profound African sense that we are human only through the humanity of other human beings – is not a parochial phenomenon, but has added globally to our common search for a better world” (Mandela, 2003, p. 324). While the world outside Africa might have gotten to know about Ubuntu after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, for most of sub-Saharan Africa, Ubuntu has always been part of life. Ubuntu predates the European invasion of Africa, and survived, at least as a philosophy, in most of Africa. As a mode of living, residues can be found here and there in communal or rural areas and shanty towns, and very rarely in urban areas. This is not meant to glamorize poverty, but rather to indicate the struggle to hold on to humanity in a world that flourishes on the eradication of all that makes us human. In many respects, the welfare of the people under Ubuntu is different from that under apartheid or racism/capitalism.


On Education and Social Transformation

To better comprehend the place of education in South Africa and Zimbabwe it is important for the reader to understand the history and effects of apartheid in South Africa and colonialism in Zimbabwe. Just as the depiction of what is best in human nature is juxtaposed against the way apartheid fractured human relations, education is presented as playing an important role in undoing the effects of apartheid on both non-whites and whites. It is also important to be knowledgeable about the history of education in South Africa as well as the ideological functions of education, that is, the role of education as perceived by the state apparatus and those who administered schools. Without an understanding of apartheid and its impact it is difficult to comprehend the current problems in South African education, or the need for different philosophies of education. For Mandela (2003) “the education crisis in black schools is a political crisis… Apartheid education is inferior and a crime against humanity” (p. 237).

Molteno (1984) observes that the first school in South Africa was built in 1658. Although apartheid had not yet been enacted, the first school accommodated only white students. More than a century later, in 1799, there was the first school for blacks. The aim of education then was “to lift the Aborigines gradually, as circumstances permit, to the platform of civilized and industrial life” (Dale, as cited in Molteno, 1984, p. 51). In other words, the purpose of education was to ‘elevate’ the Africans to the level of Europeans when and where possible. Even before significant contact and interaction with indigenous blacks had been made, European settlers had come to the conclusion that there was a need to civilize Africans. However, until the early part of the twentieth century, most schools were for whites. In general, most whites operated under the assumption that there was no form of education or civilization prior to the arrival of the Europeans.

Research indicates that towards the end of the nineteenth century there was a growing demand by South African blacks for education and more schools. By 1873 there were reports of requests for more places and more buildings at Lovedale, which was one of the few schools for blacks (Molteno, 1984). By the time Mahatma Gandhi arrived in South Africa, Lovedale had gained a formidable reputation as an educational institution. For the most part, schools for blacks were run by and funded by missionaries. After the Zulu War of 1902, blacks were forcibly removed from most of the productive land, and their economic situation was largely transformed, in turn transforming indigenous cultures. The defeat of the Zulus marked the beginning and consolidation of white supremacy in South Africa. Loss of land and other sources of income might have contributed to increased interest in schooling. Around the 1930s, the South African government spent approximately 40% more per pupil for white students compared to black or African students (Molteno, 1984). The system did not disguise its belief that the lives of white children were more important than those of other children. However, the growing influence of the Nationalist Party pulled South Africa towards open and violent racist policies, more so in the field of education.

Even though missionaries and Europeans claimed they were bringing civilization to the Africans, they had qualms about whether to educate blacks, and the role of education in general. For some of the missionaries, racism and the inferiority of blacks were seen as part of God’s plan for humankind. Loram (1927) highlights some of the early problems that racist theologies presented to missionaries and South African whites regarding the education of blacks:

God meant the black man to be a hewer of wood and a drawer of water for the white man. If you attempt to raise him up from that position you interfere with God’s plan, and bring trouble on yourself and him… As regards education for the Natives, the only education he needs is to be taught to work. The dignity of labor is the lesson he needs to learn-labor, by the way, which the white man cannot or will not do for himself. Native schools are a mistake (1927, p. 17-18).

Mandela (1995) describes his own experiences at missionary schools in South Africa. Although they were rigid with regard to discipline, they were willing to provide education to blacks at a time when the government did not deem it necessary to provide schools for black children. Consequently the first schools for blacks in South Africa were designed to keep blacks in a position of perpetual servitude. Various reasons were given for the inferiority that blacks deserved. Scripture was also used to justify racism, and even though missionaries justified their presence in South Africa on the grounds that they sought to redeem the lost, they could not bring themselves to accept that blacks could be equal or were deserving of equal treatment as human beings.

Indeed, the Franchise Ballot Act of 1892 curtailed the few advances that had been made in the education of blacks. But the discrimination was also based on economic considerations and necessities, or rather, on what was good for white South Africans. Although blacks were generally denied opportunities for education, whites took advantage of black labor while giving themselves opportunities to learn. While most whites viewed interactions with blacks negatively in public, in some contexts they were cognizant of the ways black labor made life easier for them. Loram (1927) observes:

What of the reverse process, the influence of Natives upon the European? Visitors to South Africa are struck by our complete dependence upon cheap Native labor. No one is too poor to afford a Zulu ‘boy’ to do housework which is done by mothers and daughters in the European countries; the ‘boy’ carries the schoolgirl’s satchel of books to school and the workman’s bag of tools (1927, p. 11).

The so-called uncivilized barbarians were indeed the backbone behind the progress that white civilization attained in South Africa. The seeming progress and achievements of white women in South Africa could be attributed to the work done by black males. The Natives in Urban Areas Bill of 1918 virtually warehoused blacks into locations were they could provide a labor pool for whites. In 1926 the white administration introduced and passed the Color Bar Act which was designed to prevent and make it illegal for South African blacks to further their education or learn any skilled trades. South African Indians, or those of Asian heritage in South Africa were also affected by these pieces of legislation designed to limit their freedom and access to various resources.



When racism (and/or capitalism) perfects itself, it manifests itself as fascism or apartheid, or Nazism. All are based on the ideology of white supremacy, or the belief that aspects of Western civilization are incontestably better than Others. But racism/apartheid is also supported by intellectual, economic, political, legal, and military power; hence where it thrives there is always a booming prison industrial complex, poverty, and crime. Modern forms of racism/apartheid appear to be unique to the West or Europe’s encounter with the other. To a great extent, the longevity of apartheid in South Africa was due to the overwhelming support that the West gave to the apartheid government. Even until the 1980s, the United States under the leadership of Ronald Reagan designed a policy of Constructive Engagement which provided support for apartheid (Davies, 2007). While it created an illusion of prosperity for whites, for many blacks and a few whites, apartheid/racism brought untold suffering.

For Mandela, apartheid was not just an aberration in South Africa, but rather a phenomenon related to all forms of racial superiority. He described it as “the embodiment of the racialism, repression, and inhumanity of all previous white supremacist regimes. To see the real face of apartheid we must look beneath the veil of constitutional formulas, deceptive phrases and playing with words” (2003, p. 43). Within the context of South Africa and Zimbabwe, apartheid changed the structures that had given simple and subsistence lifestyles as well as the economic, cultural, and political lifestyles of Africans. The net result was the rapid urbanization and pauperization of communities that had been previously self-sufficient and self-sustaining. The loss of close to 80 % of the best land (in both Zimbabwe and South Africa) led to the creation of a peasant class and society where previously there was none. Commerce and race became the yardsticks for determining human worth. The goal of work changed from that of meeting local needs to meeting a new and inflated cost of living as well as taxes that maintained a police state whose existence was based mainly on the denial of the humanity of Africans.

Mandela (1994) believed that the basis of apartheid or racism is unjustified fear, for “only a white electorate indoctrinated with the idea of the black threat, ignorant of African ideas and policies, could support the monstrous racist philosophy of the National Party” (1994, p. 249). It is not just fear per se, but the ideology behind it that drives one race to oppress another, or to view others as less than human. The notion of white superiority and purity also necessitated an ideology that portrayed blacks and other non-whites as inherently and irredeemably inferior. In many ways “the lack of human dignity experienced by Africans is the direct result of the policy of white supremacy. White supremacy implies black inferiority. Legislation designed to preserve white supremacy entrenches this notion” (1994, p. 367). The creation of whiteness is also a product of colonialism and capitalism with regards to South Africa and Zimbabwe. The Boers and the British, who had previously fought each other, put aside their differences and became white. That whiteness became the basis for the creation of a hierarchy of races and human worth. But the stratification of the races went beyond blacks and whites, since Indians and Coloreds were also considered as inferior. The Immorality Act made it interracial marriages illegal, to a great extent as a way of preserving the purity of the white race.

To make matters worse, under apartheid “a black man lived a shadowy life between legality and illegality, between openness and concealment. To be a black man in South Africa meant not to trust anything, which was not unlike living underground for one’s entire life” (Mandela, 1994, p. 267). Human existence became inauthentic for all people in South Africa because it was based on a false sense of inferiority and superiority. Psychologically, many adjusted by living under what Du Bois (2003) described as a double consciousness. Mandela concluded that the impact of apartheid was “that the whole life of any thinking African in this country drives him continuously to a conflict between his conscience on the one hand and the law on the other” (1994, p. 330). Conditioned to seeing only Europeans or whites as human beings, it was easy for blacks to see themselves and other blacks as less than human. The psychological toll that apartheid had on all South Africans has and had lasting effects on the measure of human worth, or what it means to be human. What is clear though is that apartheid and/or racism were a distortion of human life and human nature. In many respects, apartheid created a condition that made the humanity of non-whites invisible and not worth preserving. Its harmful and destructive psychological effects are the subject of some of Franz Fanon’s works.

Apartheid was built on the myth of a superior European civilization and the belief that European ways were the best with regards to creating a truly better world for all of humankind (even as blacks were being dislocated and robbed of their land and natural resources). Descendants of Europe were entitled to the privileges that came with their heritage, and non-Europeans were bound to minister to whites. The purity of whites would be best preserved by minimizing or eradicating contact with nonwhites while also educating them on the role of European civilization. At times it was expressed in terms of the white man’s burden so that the victims would express gratitude for their unfortunate condition.

In 1948 the Nationalist Party won the elections in South Africa, and began institutionalizing the policy of apartheid. Only white South Africans were eligible to vote. However, the groundwork for apartheid was in place far before 1948. The General Pass Regulations Bill of 1905 began the process of denying blacks any vote and representation in the government, while the Native Administration Act of 1927 severely limited the powers that traditional chiefs had. As an ideology of white supremacy, apartheid constructed a hierarchy of what it meant to be human based on race. People who originated from European countries or Western Europe were deemed to be the best and most civilized. Next to the Europeans were Indians or people from Asian countries. After the Indians came Coloreds or all bi-racial people. At the bottom were blacks or Africans. Under apartheid, each group had to live separate from each other.

In addition to segregation, there were other laws that were meant to enforce apartheid. While The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act of 1949 made it illegal to marry someone in a different racial category, The Immorality Act of 1950 criminalized sexual relations across different races, even for prostitutes. That same year, the government passed a bill requiring all citizens over eighteen to have identification that reflected their race. Even in public places, the laws made it difficult for different races to interact. The Reservation of Separate Amenities Act mandated that for the most part, public facilities were also segregated including restaurants, public transportation, swimming baths and hospitals. Political dissent was squashed through the Suppression of Communism Act through which the government could declare any organization opposed to apartheid ‘communist.’ By declaring opposition movements ‘communist’ the apartheid government endeared itself to Western European countries and the United States. Under apartheid, according to Mandela:

To be an African in South Africa means that one is politicized from the moment of one’s birth, whether one acknowledges it or not. An African child is born in an Africans Only hospital, taken home in an Africans Only bus, lives in an Africans Only area, and attends Africans Only schools, if he attends school at all. When he grows up he can hold Africans Only jobs, rent a house in Africans Only townships, ride Africans Only trains… His life is circumscribed by racist laws and regulations that cripple his growth and stunt his life. This was the reality and one could deal with it in a myriad of ways (1995, p. 95).

The one who designed apartheid, according Kros, (2002) was [first name] Eiselen, a Western European trained linguist and anthropologist. Interestingly, the Eiselen Commission was initially tasked with educational reforms, and as such it gave an intellectual justification for apartheid. Kallaway (1994) argues that the younger Eiselen was a racist and believed in the genetic, mental and psychological inferiority of blacks in general. Many inferences have been made about the significance of the years Eiselen spent in Germany and their possible effect on his doctrines and beliefs regarding race. For a while, Eiselen interacted with what could be described as white liberals, and in the 1930s was a member of the Rheinallt Jones Circle, which was devoted to the study of language and culture (Kallaway, 1994). The point here is that Eiselen was an educated person with knowledge of the world outside South Africa. But his travels reinforced his racist views. However, one of the reasons for the Eiselen Commission was to find ways education could be used as an effective tool for controlling the spirit of independence that was catching on in South Africa. Bantu Education was the reform initiative that Eiselen proposed, and it became the cornerstone of apartheid. There was no desire to hide the ideological nature of education and its role in social engineering.

Low (1958) contends that a significant part of apartheid was motivated by both fear and self-preservation of South African whites. But apartheid was also informed and motivated by the twisted logic of white supremacy, or the belief that European civilization was infinitely better than any other. For some European scholars and anthropologists, apartheid was a preferable alternative to unchecked physical genocide (European nations had few qualms about genocide in the advance of their interests). Just as they had done in India, settlers presented themselves as inherently better and superior to the indigenous peoples, (Morrow, 1990). Consequently, apartheid has to be understood as a deliberately calculated and reasoned way for engineering society according to racist logic. The South African economy was also dependent upon cheap black labor, and the way South Africans were to be educated was designed to reflect the social and economic vision of those with power. Christie & Collins, for example, argue that “Bantu Education is geared towards the reproduction of labor as required by the needs of capitalist accumulation in general” (1982, 73, as quoted in Molteno, 1987, p. 5). As such, it is difficult to separate the aims and ends of education from the social and economic vision of the dominant race and class.

The Bantu Education Act of 1953 segregated South African education from elementary through the university level. After the act was adopted, the South African government drastically reduced subsidies to all schools that were meant for blacks. It upgraded schools for white students while providing free and compulsory education for whites while black students had to pay for their education. Since the government provided free education in superior schools for white students, black students were disadvantaged from the beginning. Free education meant whites could invest their resources in other needs while the lack of money frequently meant the end of possible education for most black students. White students generally did not have to work, since ‘Zulu boys’ did all the manual work. Black students, on the other hand had to do manual work at home as well as occasionally at school so as to pay for their education

But the philosophy behind apartheid education was not solely based on economics, at least in the liberal mindset. Anthropologists and sociologists supplied research that gave credence to the claims of the Eiselen Commission with regard to education. Among such claims was the belief that black South African students were not achieving academically. Various reasons and hypotheses were given for the low achievement rate in of nonwhite students. One of the recommendations of the Commission was that African students receive instruction in their mother languages. This benevolent gesture was supposed to make apartheid education more acceptable to blacks. Ogbu (1982) observes that sometimes anthropologists did not do enough research on the ways nonwhite children were reared so as to make Western theories of child development universally applicable. The cultural discontinuity theory can also be interpreted to imply cultural deficiency as the reason why nonwhite students did not do well academically. While there could be legitimacy to the claim of cultural incongruence between the school and home environment for most black students, other factors were at play, and the use of mother languages for instruction was used as a ploy to give an inferior education to black South Africans.

It is easy to discount the fact that the architects of apartheid were also cognizant of the reality that educated blacks (those who attended formal schools) were also becoming restive as they became aware of the reality that education did not translate into any meaningful opportunities. In addition, there were claims that literate blacks sought to integrate with whites or perform jobs that had been exclusively for whites. Mandela (1995) notes that, “in those days a black man with a B.A. was expected to scrape before a white man with a grade school education. No matter how high a black man advanced, he was still considered inferior to the lowest white man” (1995, p. 34). The superiority complex led to awkward relations at work when blacks were more knowledgeable or in higher positions. Mandela gives an example of a time when he was dictating notes to a white secretary. However, when another white person entered she sent Mandela on an errand so as to appear superior. To be literate and black did not necessarily mean that there would be better opportunities. Rose (1965) argues that aspects of apartheid education were designed to quell the desire for political independence. The creation of Bantustans gave a semblance of autonomy to different tribes while also keeping them apart. In other words, white South Africans could claim that blacks had freedom and independence in the areas that had been created for blacks. In explaining the mission and purpose of apartheid education, one of its designers, Dr. Verwoerd stated:

When I am controller of Native Education I will reform it so that the natives will be taught from childhood to realize that equality with Europeans is not for them… The Bantu must be guided to serve his own community. There is no place for him in the European community above certain forms of labor … Education must train and teach people in accordance with their opportunities in life-according to the sphere in which they live (Birley 1968, p. 153, as quoted in Johnson, 1982, p. 219).

Again, there were many interwoven and sometimes conflicting philosophies of Bantu education as it was designed by the Nationalist Party.

Clark and Worger (2004) contend that the immediate intention of the Bantu Education Act was to deskill blacks so that they would only be qualified for, and directed towards, the most menial jobs. By under-educating blacks, the government would be leaving them ill-prepared for high paying and other quality jobs. According to Shepherd (1955), one of the first steps the government took was to inform missionaries that it would cut off subsidies and stop paying salaries for teachers who worked in African schools. The government continued paying salaries for teachers in white schools. Shortly after the passing of the Bantu Education Act most mission schools for Africans closed down and most qualified teachers either left the profession or moved to areas with more competitive salaries. The adoption of the Bantu Education Act confirmed that South African education was in fact “structurally bound to reflect, and thereby help to reproduce, the relations and structures dominant in society at large. From this perspective schooling was seen as necessarily serving to reproduce the exploitative, sexist and racist structures of capitalist societies” (Molteno, 1987, p. 4). In addition to the Bantu Education Act, the South African government adopted and passed the Colored Persons Education Act in 1963, and the Indian Education Act in 1964 (Morrow, 1990). Each of the Acts consolidated and reinforced apartheid and the myths carried by apartheid. Johnson (1982) concluded that “through its content, South African education acts as an agent of social control. It implants norms, values, myths, beliefs, and ideology that legitimate and reinforce the existing stratification” (1990, p. 222). Occasionally the need to spread the gospel and convert Africans to Christianity necessitated the education of blacks. However, like everything, even churches were segregated in South Africa.

In some regards, the Bantu Education Act did not achieve its intended goals. Its architects wanted it to reinforce tribal divisions of South African blacks. Instead, Mandela (1995) argued that schools were one of the few places that people from different tribes met on equal footing and formed friendships that might not have been otherwise. Some of his earliest contacts as well as his knowledge of the ANC were within the context of high school and college education. The interactions with students from other tribes made it easier for students to learn other African languages. Mandela also traced the genesis of his pan-African identity to his experiences at both high school and college. On some occasions missionaries sent students to evangelize in the villages, and during these expeditions students not only discussed politics: they also formed friendships across denominational lines.

During apartheid there were very few post-secondary institutions for Africans. The most famous, according to Mandela (1995), was Fort Hare. Even though blacks were segregated, they saw Fort Hare as the best university where they could obtain the best education in Southern Africa. According to Mandela:

The University College of Fort Hare… was the only residential center of higher education for blacks in South Africa. Fort Hare was more than that: it was a beacon for African scholars from over Southern Central and Eastern Africa. For young black South Africans like myself, it was Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard and Yale, all rolled into one (1995, p. 43).

Prior to the Extension of University Education Act of 1959, very few English-speaking universities in South Africa accepted black students. One such university was Wits, and it is there that Mandela began to interact with students from other racial groups.

That apartheid and apartheid education lasted until 1994 was not due to the strength and resistance of white South Africans alone. The international community, and especially so-called Western democracies, including the United States, supported and gave legitimacy to apartheid for a variety of reasons. Among the reasons given include South Africa’s opposition to communism. Through its policy of Constructive Engagement, the United States propped up apartheid until the end of the Reagan years. Margaret Thatcher did likewise in the United Kingdom. Jackson (1992) details the role the United States and Western corporations played in supporting apartheid in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Some of the other countries that supported the apartheid system of education in principle and financially include West Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland (Kallaway, 1994). Ironically, it was the Communists, even within South Africa, who were concerned with the education of black students.

In outlining the history of apartheid action my intention is to help the reader understand that a plan for South Africa’s educational future that does not take into consideration the effect and impact of apartheid is not likely to be helpful in changing conditions. It is only with this knowledge that young generation of westerners will understand the poor conditions and lack of facilities in predominantly black areas in contrast to the opulence in areas populated by whites. As mentioned in this section, the apartheid government provided free education and built many good schools for white children while forcing black students to pay for poor education without developing adequate infrastructure. It would be false to say that white South Africans worked hard for better schools, or that white students had more desire to learn compared to black South African students. It would be equally false to say that black parents had no concern for the education of their children. Indeed, many black parents sold all they could to send their children to poor schools while white South African parents knew that the apartheid government was providing the best – and free – education for white children.

To a great extent the philosophies that gave rise to the end of apartheid no longer hold much sway in the dominant global discourses. Privatization has replaced the ethos of collective responsibility and government or state obligation for public services. The call for privatization in the field of education worsens the poverty of those who were hit worst by apartheid. Privatization is in many ways a continuation of apartheid christened in terms that are palatable in the age of globalization. While the apartheid government had no qualms about building the best schools and facilities for white students, with privatization, the obligations of the state to intervene are limited. If anything, black South Africans have already experienced privatization: they had to pay for their education at a time when the government provided for the superior race. Based on the evidence of what the apartheid government was able to do for white citizens and students, state intervention trumps privatization.


Education in Zimbabwe

It would not be farfetched to argue that colonial education in Zimbabwe closely resembled apartheid. Descriptions of apartheid vary and reflect a broad response to the nature of racism and imperialism, or the spread of white civilization in Southern Africa. Legal segregation ended in 1980 in Zimbabwe. In brief, colonialism in Zimbabwe legalized racism and institutional white supremacy. It reflected the most perfect form of capitalism by refusing to conceal its dependence on the exploitation of black labor and resources.

Colonialism, like apartheid, was built on the myth of a superior European civilization and the belief that European ways were the best with regards to creating a truly better world for all of humankind (even as blacks were being dislocated and robbed of their land and natural resources). Descendants of Europe were entitled to the privileges that came with their heritage, and non-Europeans were bound to minister to whites (Mungazi, 1990). Minimizing or eradicating contact with non-whites while educating them on the role of European civilization would best preserve the purity of whites. At times it was expressed in terms of the white man’s burden so that the victims would express gratitude for their unfortunate condition. There was no questioning the superiority of European culture, just as there was no questioning the inferiority of native or African/indigenous values. In many respects, African and European values were made to appear incompatible; hence to seem civilized the African had to assimilate.

Mungazi observes that between 1890 and 1979, Zimbabwe was ruled by white men so obsessed with power that nothing else mattered (Mungazi, 1992). The goal of education for Africans in Zimbabwe was that they could provide manual labor for Europeans (similar to apartheid). The Education Ordinance of 1899 had made it clear that the best education for Africans was one designed to train them to be of service to the colonial powers. The Tate Commission of 1929 began the process of denying blacks any vote and representation on issues related to education. One could argue that there are minimal differences between colonial segregated education and the policies of the United States government towards African Americans prior to 1964. Maylam (2002) observes that apartheid had ideological underpinnings in white superiority and black inferiority, and that this ideology was not unique to Southern Africa. As an ideology of white supremacy, colonialism and colonial education constructed a hierarchy of what it meant to be human based on race. People who originated from European countries or Western Europe were deemed to be the best and most civilized. Just as in South Africa, in colonial Zimbabwe, next to the Europeans were Indians or people from Asian countries. After the Indians came Coloreds or all bi-racial people. At the bottom were blacks or Africans. During colonialism, each group had to live separate from others, with the best areas reserved for whites.

In addition to school segregation, there were other laws that were meant to privilege whites. Gordin and Tilley (2010) argue that colonial Zimbabwe was a utopia for Europeans, providing them sanctuary from prosecution as well as cheap labor and great schools combined with good education for their children. Convicts from Uganda, for example, found ready acceptance and help in colonial Zimbabwe, and many of them joined the Rhodesia Defense Forces and fought to preserve the superiority of whites in Zimbabwe and South Africa. As such, there was segregation of facilities, including restaurants, public transportation, swimming baths and hospitals. Political dissent was squashed through the Suppression of Communism Act through which the government could declare and organization opposed to colonialism ‘communist.’

Mungazi (1990) contends that a significant part of colonial education in Zimbabwe was motivated by both fear and self-preservation by Zimbabwean whites. But colonialism was also informed and motivated by the twisted logic of white supremacy, or the belief that European civilization was infinitely better than any other. For some European scholars and anthropologists, apartheid was a preferable alternative to unchecked physical genocide (European nations had little qualms about genocide in the advance of their interests, and in the 1896 wars in both Zimbabwe and South Africa, white settlers did not hesitate using guns on unarmed Africans). Just as they had done in India, settlers presented themselves as inherently better and superior to the indigenous peoples (Morrow, 1990). Consequently, colonial education has to be understood as a deliberately calculated and reasoned way to engineer society according to racist logic. The Zimbabwean economy was also dependent cheap black labor, (and some Zimbabweans also worked in South Africa). The way Africans were to be educated was designed to reflect the social and economic vision of those with power. Mungazi points out that for some of the Commissioners, it was important that the relationship between Africans and whites remain that of the horse and its rider. As such, it is difficult to separate the aims and ends of education from the social and economic vision of the dominant race and class.

A student of the history of Zimbabwean colonial education would be aware that there was segregation from the elementary through university level. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the colonial government drastically reduced subsidies to all schools that were meant for Africans, and cut salaries for African teachers by 5% (Mungazi, 1990). At the same time, it upgraded schools for white students while providing free and compulsory education for whites. On the other hand, black students had to pay for their education. Since the government provided free education in superior schools for white students, black students were disadvantaged from the beginning. Free education meant whites could invest their resources on other needs while the lack of money frequently meant the end of education for black students. To continue their education, African students often undertook manual work at home as well as occasionally at school to pay for their education

The above colonial educational system forms the background for understanding the nature of education in independent Zimbabwe, even after the 1990s. That is, the quest for utopia has to be understood in the context of flight from, and attempts to destroy racism and injustice. It has to also be understood in the context of Europe and North America’s military and educational support for European colonial governments. One also has to consider the deliberate dehumanization of Africans and the invention of words and names meant to reinforce the unfounded inferiority of the Africans and the superiority of Europeans. The word ‘native’ for example, always had negative connotations, and even a third generation white Zimbabwean would never consider themselves ‘native’ to the land they so desperately sought to rule. Colonial education, in other words, is predicated on a distorted narrative of history:

[T]he story of an ancient African society, for many centuries separated from the mainstream of human progress, but brought, at last, with almost dramatic abruptness, into intimate contact with the life of European settlement. From the resulting interplay of influences of many kinds came the impetus for an advancement in almost every aspect of African civilization at a pace probably never equaled before in history, (Atkinson, 1972, as quoted in Kuster, 1994, p. 6).

Post-colonial and post-socialist education sought to undo the damage done by colonial education on Africans and Europeans. In rejecting colonialism, Zimbabwe also rejected capitalism. Within the context of Southern Africa and Africa in general, many had realized the false logic of associating capitalism with development when it came to Africans. Centuries of European presence in Africa bore testimony to the ways Europe was plundering Africa. After independence, the government was one of the signatories to the United Nations Declaration for Human Rights, and took the education of all children as a matter of national priority (Shizha and Kariwo, 2011).



In this paper I have shown how apartheid and/or racism became one of the ways for creating welfare systems for Europeans in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Education played an important role in advancing the interests of Europeans, and for the most part they did so by excluding Africans from formal education, or by educating Africans to be subservient to Europeans. The rejection of apartheid formed the basis of the anti-apartheid movement. Student protests across the world helped western democracies rethink their support of apartheid.

Under apartheid, Europeans were able to amass wealth by exploiting Africans. However, that exploitation was often disguised as bringing ‘salvation’ to the Africans. In other words, Europeans benefited while they pretended to be helping Africans. Colonial or apartheid governments acted to preserve and promote the interests of a particular racial group over and against other groups. State intervention in the creation and legalization of apartheid made it possible for welfare policies of these colonial governments to only benefit Europeans. However, through control of discourse, ‘welfare’ was generally associated with government help and intervention on behalf of blacks. Yet, as this paper has demonstrated, racism/apartheid is the genesis of modern welfarism. Institutions of learning, as places where ideological battles take place over what constitutes a just society, remain central to shaping and recreating societies.



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