JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The government abolished racial segregation of public amenities today and warned right-wing town councils against legalistic "funny tricks" to maintain the most visible form of apartheid.
The 1953 Reservation of Separate Amenities Act, a pillar of institutionalized racism known as apartheid, lapsed at midnight Sunday in accordance with a parliamentary vote four months ago.
The abolished law was a cornerstone of apartheid, the cradle-to-grave system that regulates daily life according to skin color and denies the vote to the 27-million black majority.
Its demeaning regulations meant that a host of services and amenities such as toilets, movie theaters, parks, libraries, swimming pools, beaches--even graveyards--were segregated.
Nelson Mandela's African National Congress, the main anti-apartheid movement, appealed to whites to accept the use by blacks of the parks, libraries and swimming pools denied them for 37 years by the act.
"These facilities are open to us now, and it is our right to use them," ANC spokeswoman Jill Marcus said.
"We say to whites, for the good of the country, 'Open your facilities to enable all races to mix and get to know each other.' This has been South Africa's problem all along."
The abolition of the amenities act will be felt more in rural areas and mining and industrial towns than in the major cities, where integration has been the norm for several years.
Dozens of town councils controlled by the white-supremacist Conservative Party, the main parliamentary opposition, plan to continue segregation by a variety of methods including pricing facilities beyond the reach of most blacks.
Another method restricts use of facilities to local taxpayers, who must by definition be white under a remaining apartheid law segregating residential areas.
Planning and Provincial Affairs Minister Hernus Kriel said town councils might have to pay damages if attempts to continue segregation of amenities are challenged in the courts.