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South Africa Table of Contents

South Africa

The Legislative Implementation of Apartheid

Malan and the National Party, fearing that they might lose office in the next election, immediately set about introducing laws to give apartheid a legislative reality that could not easily be overturned. Such laws aimed at separating whites and blacks, at instituting as a legal principle the theory that whites should be treated more favorably than blacks and that separate facilities need not be equal, and at providing the state with the powers deemed necessary to deal with any opposition.

Separating Black from White

The Population Registration Act (No. 30) of 1950 provided the basis for separating the population of South Africa into different races. Under the terms of this act, all residents of South Africa were to be classified as white, coloured, or native (later called Bantu) people. Indians, whom the HNP in 1948 had refused to recognize as permanent inhabitants of South Africa, were included under the category "Asian" in 1959. The act required that people be classified primarily on the basis of their "community acceptability"; later amendments placed greater stress on "appearance" in order to deal with the practice of light-colored blacks "passing" as whites. The act also provided for the compilation of a population register for the whole country and for the issuing of identity cards.

Other laws provided for geographic, social, and political separation. The Group Areas Act (No. 41) of 1950 extended the provisions of the Natives Land Act (No. 27) of 1913, and later laws divided South Africa into separate areas for whites and blacks (including coloureds), and gave the government the power to forcibly remove people from areas not designated for their particular racial group. The Tomlinson Commission in 1954 officially concluded that the areas set aside for Africans would support no more than two-thirds of the African population even under the best of conditions, but the government ignored its recommendation that more land be allocated to the reserves and began removing Africans from white areas.

The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act (No. 55) of 1949 made marriages between whites and members of other racial groups illegal. The Immorality Act (No. 21) of 1950 extended an earlier ban on sexual relations between whites and blacks (the Immorality Act [No. 5] of 1927) to a ban on sexual relations between whites and any non-whites. The Bantu Authorities Act (No. 68) of 1951 established Bantu tribal, regional, and territorial authorities in the regions set out for Africans under the Group Areas Act, and it abolished the Natives Representative Council. The Bantu authorities were to be dominated by chiefs and headmen appointed by the government. The government also sought in 1951 to remove coloured voters in the Cape from the common roll onto a separate roll and to require that they elect white representatives only (Separate Representation of Voters Act [No. 46] of 1951). The Supreme Court immediately declared the act invalid on constitutional grounds, but after a long struggle it was successfully reenacted (the Separate Representation of Voters Amendment Act [No. 30] of 1956).

Data as of May 1996