|Separate Amenities Act|
The Reservation of Separate Amenities Act (Act No 49 of 1953) enforced the segregation of all public facilities. This included all forms of transport, buildings and facilities that were open to the public. The main aim was to eliminate any and all contact between white people and other races. Under the provisions of this act, typical Apartheid signs indicating areas that were for “Europeans Only” or “Non-Europeans Only” were common.
The act also stated that facilities provided for the different races need not be equal, with the result that the white areas were always of a better standard and more convenient than for the other races. Toilets, parks, beaches and even benches fell into the “white” or “non-white” categories. Non-whites found partaking in white amenities were usually forcibly removed before they were asked to leave.
The quality of the medical facilities for whites and non-whites was vastly different. White people enjoyed superior equipment and efficient service. Blacks, coloureds and Indians had to wait in long queues or on broken benches without the guarantee of a doctor even seeing to them. Waiting rooms were stuffy, bare of any conveniences and overcrowded.
In South End, the diverse culture of coloureds, blacks, Indians, Chinese and some whites who had always lived, worked and played in harmony were now torn apart by these laws. Children who had played together were now forced to follow separate courses. The Separate Amenities Act was instrumental in further widening the gap between whites and non-whites. In old South End, a small number of white people still coexisted with the non-white majority. However, laws such as this made it impossible to enjoy this kind of friendship; the chasm was becoming too wide to cross.
In 1957, a follow-up of the act was passed. This was called the Native Laws Amendment Act (No. 54 of 1952). This revised law gave the government the power to bar non-whites from clubs, churches, hospitals and any other organisations and buildings situated in white areas. Non-whites were also banned from entering liquor stores. Any disobedience or lack of cooperation with these injustices was met with arrest. However, an arrest often also implied torture, sponsored violence and even murder. Many times, victims simply disappeared and were never recovered.
The Separate Amenities Act was successful in its trampling of people’s dignity by not allowing the most basic of human rights (e.g. one’s right to efficient medical services). In the old suburb of South End, there was a true sense of acceptance that transcended colour, religion or culture. This perception was the essence of the community and formed the sort of bonds that prompted individuals to stand up and take a stand against Apartheid and the injustices it carried.