Apartheid was a social philosophy which enforced racial, social, and economic segregation on the people of South Africa. The term Apartheid comes from the Afrikaans word meaning 'separation'. It was introduced by by DF Malan's Herenigde Nasionale Party (HNP - 'Reunited National Party') in 1948 and lasted until the end of FW De Klerk's government in 1994.
Segregation meant that Whites (or Europeans) were given separate (and usually better) facilities than non-Whites (Coloureds, Indians, and Blacks). Apartheid signs were typically written in both English and Afrikaans; but not in any of the nine recognized Black languages.
Get a feel for the insidious and oppressive nature of Apartheid from this gallery of Apartheid Era signs.