History – On This Day In 1989

This Day In History In 1989 Saw Former President F.W. De Klerk Opened All South African Beaches To All Races! In 1989 on the 16th of November, President F.W de Klerk announced that South African beaches would be opened to all people across the racial lines. The decision to open the beaches was made after […]

This Day In History In 1989 Saw Former President F.W. De Klerk Opened All South African Beaches To All Races!

In 1989 on the 16th of November, President F.W de Klerk announced that South African beaches would be opened to all people across the racial lines. The decision to open the beaches was made after a number of protest multiracial swim-ins by anti-apartheid activists. ”It has been decided that all beaches will henceforth be accessible to all members of the public,” he said.

Signage At Racially Segregated Beaches
Signage At Racially Segregated Beaches

He further promised the scrapping of the Separate Amenities Act of 1953, which prevented the sharing of public facilities such as toilets, parks and buses. This meant that in future all South Africans, irrespective of race, would use the same amenities.

The law had been used to bar nonwhites from parks, swimming pools, civic centers, libraries and public transportation. But enforcement had been increasingly lax in major cities like Johannesburg, which had recently integrated its bus system. The police were instructed by government  to stop arresting violators and to issue citations instead.

Criticism For De Klerk

Criticism for De Klerk from the extreme-right Conservative Party said the proposed repeal was ”the beginning of the end of separate white community life.” In a statement, it accused Mr. de Klerk of putting the country ”on the road to a totally racially mixed South Africa.” In ordering all beaches desegregated, Mr. de Klerk asked local authorities to amend their laws ”without any delay.”

Apartheid Sign In English And Afrikaans
Apartheid Sign In English And Afrikaans

Many beaches, including those in the city of Cape Town, had already been quietly integrated. But five beaches in Durban and some at smaller resorts were still set aside for whites.

In August of the same year, an attempt by blacks led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other anti-apartheid leaders to use two whites-only beaches outside Cape Town ended in a violent confrontation with riot police.
The officers cordoned off areas with barbed wire, buzzed over picnickers in a helicopter and at one point fired tear gas. The incident embarrassed Mr. de Klerk, who had promised a gradual movement away from apartheid. A subsequent attempt by blacks to use the beaches proceeded without incident, as did a ”beach-in” in Durban.

All Beaches Became Multiracial on November 16 1989
All Beaches Became Multiracial on November 16 1989

The President described the new measures as consistent with ”our stated goal to eliminate discrimination.” The apartheid regime came to an end in 1994, when South Africa was declared a democracy.

*information sourced www.nytimes.com