The contemporary South African state emerged out of a tumultuous history. Its first modern manifestation, inaugurated in 1910, was the product of a forced unification by the British imperial power. Unification required the suppression of Afrikaner and African societies, and the harnessing of their energies to a dynamic minerals-based economy. Across almost all of its short history, this state failed to command popular legitimacy. The 1910 Act of Union embodied a racial politics of convenience, cementing an alliance of interests between Boer and English-speaker, and excluding almost all Blacks from formal political participation. After 1948, this state was transformed into an instrument of Afrikaner nationalist advance. It was used to impose increasingly brutal social engineering, which culminated in massive ‘forced removals’ and the launch of Bantustans into quasi-independence. Coloured and Indian South Africans were meanwhile serviced and regulated by a labyrinthine bureaucracy of ‘own affairs’ departments.
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