Apartheid wasn't height of SA evil

06 November 2017 - 07:10 By Mandela Namaste
Study shows that black men born between 1900 and 1930 reached an average height of 167cm, a centimetre shorter than those born at the end of the 19th century.
Study shows that black men born between 1900 and 1930 reached an average height of 167cm, a centimetre shorter than those born at the end of the 19th century.
Image: rdonar / 123RF Stock Photo

If you thought black suffering reached its apogee during apartheid, think again.

In fact, the first three decades of the 20th century took a heavy toll on blacks, according to a new study based on height.

Stellenbosch University's Laboratory for the Economics of Africa's Past say height is a widely accepted indication of a population's standard of living.

"[Evidence suggests] that the first three decades of the century were particularly bad, perhaps due to the increasingly repressive labour policies in urban areas, and famine and land expropriation, which weighed especially heavily on the Basotho," write Bokang Mpeta, Johan Fourie and Kris Inwood.

Their findings show that black men born between 1900 and 1930 reached an average height of 167cm, a centimetre shorter than those born at the end of the 19th century.

From 1930 until the National Party election victory and the start of apartheid in 1948, heights increased by 1cm. "After 1948, black male heights increased by another centimetre until the mid-1980s, when our sample period ends."

The economists add: "The roots of interracial inequality . are not limited to [the] apartheid era but lie deep in the history of segregation, exploitation and appropriation that characterised 19th and early 20th century South Africa."

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