Little Bits of History

June 19

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 19, 2017

1913: The Natives Land Act is given Royal Assent. Also called Act No. 27 of 1913, it was aimed at regulating the acquisition of land enacted by the Parliament of South Africa. When the British landed at Cape of Good Hope they began their colonization expansion by setting up their own government in the land. The Queen granted the Cape its first Parliament in 1853 and they created a government in which all males were given the same considerations, regardless of race. Women were still second class citizens, also regardless of race. In 1872, a new Parliament with new laws entered the picture and all males were still given the franchise if they could pay the £25 fee. This was available to most males owning land. Time moved on and whites began to become the majority holders of all lands while Natives were stripped of both lands and franchise.

In 1910, South Africa united and became the southernmost country in Africa. It was governed still by the British Empire and the population was mostly black, although 90% of the land was now owned by whites. The Natives Land Act instituted the policy that land could neither be bought or sold to members of another race. Included in the law was a prohibition against serfdom or sharecropping but it protected existing agreements or arrangements whereby land could be hired or leased at will. The law was able to protect African chiefs and their communal landholdings. Included in the Act, no longer would black tenant farming on white-owned land be permitted. The devastating effects of this last part were not immediate, but they were long-lasting.

The law was implemented on June 19, 1913 and blacks were essentially stripped of the right to own land. Chiefs were able to retain lands, but since whites already owned most of the land, blacks were forced into wage labor market. This Act was a cornerstone of the racial segregation and discrimination that ruled South Africa. Apartheid was institutionalized with more laws stripping natives of their lands, their rights, and any say in their government. It took decades before the systematic degradations afforded to people daring to live in their own lands were repealed. Apartheid is an Afrikaans word literally meaning “apart-hood” or the state of being apart or separate.

Opposition to this Act was minimal, but vocal. John Dube, a newspaperman, used his platform to bring the issue to the public. The black leader supported whites who had created an environment where white leaders returned at least some of the land to the native populations so they might live and thrive. The minister at the time was a Cape Liberal who opposed the disenfranchisement of blacks but was perfectly fine with separate residential areas for Whites and Natives. Apartheid would eventually fall, but much was lost during the years of separation and the years of struggle to return South Africa to a desegregated state.

Together we have travelled a long road to be where we are today. This has been a road of struggle against colonial and apartheid oppression. – Thabo Mbeki

I played an integral part in helpings formulating that new vision… that we must abandon apartheid and accept one united South Africa with equal rights for all, with all forms of discrimination to be scrapped from the statute book. – F. W. de Klerk

Apartheid – both petty and grand – is obviously evil. Nothing can justify the arrogant assumption that a clique of foreigners has the right to decide on the lives of a majority. – Steven Biko

To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity. – Nelson Mandela


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