The Separate Amenities Act might sound like an innocuous measure covering the remit of an obscure local council. It was, in fact, one of the most pernicious laws ever devised by the old South Africa, allowing the country’s white overlords to segregate every public facility – parks, buses, beaches, even lavatories – according to race.
And 25 years ago today, the very parliament which had passed this law voted to repeal the Act and consign its handiwork to oblivion. This debate in the National Assembly in Cape Town was the moment when South Africa under FW de Klerk began to sweep away the legal edifice of apartheid.
As those blows were struck, ordinary South Africans believed that the struggle against apartheid was destined to succeed – and that success would mean freedom, certainly, but also jobs and homes and perhaps even prosperity for millions who had been deliberately impoverished by the white regime.