Apartheid was a system of racial segregation enforced through legislation by the National Party (NP) governments of South Africa. In this system, which lasted from 1948 to 1994, the rights of the majority black inhabitants of South Africa were curtailed and white supremacy and Afrikaner minority rule was maintained. South West Africans were also victims of apartheid as this country was administered by South Africa under a League of Nations mandate until it gained independence as Namibia in 1990.
Apartheid as an official policy was introduced following the general election of 1948. New legislation classified inhabitants into four racial groups ("native", "white", "coloured", and "Asian"), and residential areas were segregated, sometimes by means of forced removals. Non-white political representation was completely abolished in 1970, and starting in that year black people were deprived of their citizenship. The government segregated education, medical care, beaches, and other public services, and provided black people with services inferior to those of white people.
Apartheid sparked significant internal resistance and violence as well as a long arms and trade embargo against South Africa. In addition to the unrest resulting from the internal protests, the sanctions placed on South Africa by the West made it increasingly difficult for the government to maintain the regime. In 1990 President Frederik Willem de Klerk began negotiations to end apartheid, culminating in multi-racial democratic elections in 1994, which were won by the African National Congress under Nelson Mandela.