South Africanisms

This is an explanation of some South African terms and concepts encountered in political and philosophical ideals, as well as some other, general terms.

[This list is added to as terms appear on the rest of the site]

For an explanation of South African slang, visit this page.

Apartheid – an Afrikaans word meaning “the state of being apart” – was a system of racial segregation in South Africa enforced through legislation by the National Party (NP) governments, the ruling party from 1948 to 1994, under which the rights of the majority black inhabitants were curtailed and Afrikaner minority rule was maintained.

By extension, the term is nowadays currently used for every kind of segregation, established by the state authority in a country, against the social and civil rights of a minority of citizens, due to ethnic prejudices.

Bantu Education – During the Apartheid era, black people were subjected to an inferior form of education, designed to teach them only basic skills and prepare them for the unskilled labour market.

Bantustan – Also known as a homeland, was a territory set aside for black inhabitants of South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia), as part of the policy of Apartheid. Ten Bantustans were established in South Africa, and ten in neighbouring South West Africa (then under South African administration), for the purpose of concentrating the members of designated ethnic groups, thus making each of those territories ethnically homogeneous as the basis for creating “autonomous” nation states for South Africa’s different black ethnic groups.

Dompas – Pass laws were a form of internal passport system designed to segregate the population, manage urbanization, and allocate migrant labour. Pass laws severely limited the movements of black African citizens by requiring them to carry pass books when outside their homelands or designated areas.

Colloquially, passes were often called the dompas, literally meaning the “dumb pass.”

Madiba – Nelson Mandela’s clan name; used as a term of endearment.

Msholozi – The clan name of Jacob Zuma, current president of South Africa.

Swart gevaar (Afrikaans for black threat) was a term used during the days of the Apartheid South African regime to refer to the perceived security threat of the majority black, African population to the white South African government.

In the early days of post-Apartheid South Africa, the term was expanded to refer to a cultural ‘black threat’, in which many white Afrikaners feared their culture would be lost if they assimilated with the rest of black South Africans.

Ubuntu is a Nguni Bantu term (literally, “human-ness”) roughly translating to “human kindness.” It is an idea from the Southern African region which means literally “human-ness,” and is often translated as “humanity towards others,” but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity” Summarised, ubuntu means “I am what I am because of who we all are.”



4 responses to “South Africanisms

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