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Apartheid (meaning separateness in Afrikaans, cognate to English apart and hood) was a system of racial segregation in South Africa from 1948, and was dismantled in a series of negotiations from 1990 to 1993, culminating in democratic elections in 1994. Apartheid was designed to form a legal framework for continued economic and political dominance by people of European descent. 

The rules of Apartheid meant that people were legally classified into a racial group — the main ones being Black, White, Coloured and Asian (consisting of Indians and Pakistanis) — and were separated from each other on the basis of the legal classification. The Black majority, in particular, legally became citizens of particular bantustans (homelands) that were nominally sovereign nations but operated more akin to United States Indian Reservations, Canadian First Nations reserves, or Australian aboriginal reserves. In reality, however, a majority of Black South Africans never resided in these "homelands." 

In practice, this prevented non-white people — even if actually resident in white South Africa — from having a vote or influence, restricting their rights to faraway homelands that they may never have visited. Education, medical care, and other public services were segregated, and those available to black people were generally inferior.

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