The 1948 Election

South Africa Table of Contents

Smuts's governing United Party and Malan's HNP went into the 1948 general election campaign on opposing platforms. The United Party based its platform on the report of the Native Laws Commission chaired by Judge Henry Fagan. The Fagan commission argued that because of the influx of Africans into the cities and because of the impoverishment of the African reserves, total segregation was impossible. Although it did not recommend social or political integration, the commission suggested that African labor should be stabilized in the cities, where the needs of industrial and commercial operations were greatest. The HNP's platform, based on a report by Paul Sauer, argued to the contrary, that only total separation of the races would prevent a move toward equality and the eventual overwhelming of white society by black.

The HNP stated that Africans should be viewed as only temporary dwellers in the cities and should be forced periodically to return to the countryside to meet the labor needs of farmers (primarily Afrikaners). In addition, the HNP platform declared that Africans should develop political bodies in "their true fatherland," the African reserves, and should have no form of parliamentary representation in South Africa.

Malan also called for the prohibition of mixed marriages, for the banning of black trade unions, and for stricter enforcement of job reservation. Running on this platform of apartheid, as it was termed for the first time, Malan and the HNP, benefiting from the weight given to rural electorates, defeated Smuts and the United Party. The HNP won a majority of the seats contested but only a minority of the votes cast. The HNP became the government and, renamed the National Party (NP), ruled South Africa until 1994.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress