Pass laws in South Africa were designed to segregate the population and severely limit the movements of the non-white populace. This legislation was one of the dominant features of the country's apartheid system. The Black population was required to carry these pass books with them when outside their homelands or designated areas. Failure to produce a pass often resulted in the person being arrested. Any white person, even a child, could ask a black African to produce his or her pass.
|This section requires expansion. (January 2011)|
|This section may require copy-editing. (March 2013)|
Introduced in South Africa in 1923, they were designed to regulate movement of black Africans in white urban areas. Outside designated "homelands", black South Africans had to carry passbooks ("dom pas", literally meaning dumb pass) at all times, to prove they were authorized to live or move in "White" South Africa.
This conflict climaxed at the Sharpeville Massacre, where the black opposition was violently put down, with 69 people killed and over 180 injured.
On July 23, 1986, under international pressure, the South African government lifted the requirement to carry passbooks, although the pass law system itself was not yet repealed. The system of pass laws was repealed in South Africa on November 13, 1986.
The first pass laws were introduced in 1760 to regulate the movement of slaves in the Cape. The Urban Areas Consolidation Act of 1945, together with the Natives (Abolition of Passes and Coordination of Documents) Act of 1952, were key laws. The Urban Areas Act outlined requirements for African peoples' "qualification" to reside legally in white metropolitan areas. To do so, they had to have Section 10 rights, based on whether
- the person had been born there and resided there always since birth;
- the person had laboured continuously for ten years in any agreed area for any employer, or lived continuously in any such area for less than ten years;
- the person was the spouse, spinster or son under eighteen years of age of an African person, falling into the above two categories, usually lived with him and had originally entered the area legitimately; or
- the person had been granted a permit to remain by a labour bureau.
Natives (Urban Areas) Act 
The Natives (Urban Areas) Act, 1923 deemed urban areas in South Africa as "white" and required all black African men in cities and towns to carry around permits called "passes" at all times. Anyone found without a pass would be arrested immediately and sent to a rural area. It was replaced in 1945 by the Natives (Urban Areas) Consolidation Act, 1945 which imposed essentially the same restrictions.
Pass Laws Act 
The Natives (Abolition of Passes and Co-ordination of Documents) Act, 1952, commonly known as the Pass Laws Act, made it compulsory for all black South Africans over the age of 16 to carry a "pass book" at all times within white areas. The law stipulated where, when, and for how long a person could remain. This pass was also known as a dompas.
The document was similar to an internal passport, containing details on the bearer such as their fingerprints, photograph, the name of his/her employer, his/her address, how long the bearer had been employed, as well as other identification information. Employers often entered a behavioural evaluation, on the conduct of the pass holder.
An employer was defined under the law and could be only a white person. The pass also documented permission requested and denied or granted to be in a certain region and the reason for seeking such permission. Under the terms of the law, any governmental employee could strike out such entries, basically canceling the permission to remain in the area.
A pass book without a valid entry then allowed officials to arrest and imprison the bearer of the pass. These passes often became the most despised symbols of apartheid. The resistance to the Pass Law led to many thousands of arrests and was the spark that ignited the Sharpeville Massacre on March 21, 1960, and led to the arrest of Robert Sobukwe that day.
See also 
- Racial segregation
- Hukou system
- Identity document
- Jim Crow laws
- Second-class citizen
- Yellow badge
- Passing (racial identity)
- Palestinian freedom of movement
- "Part II – Historical". Report of the Inter-departmental committee on the native pass laws. Union of South Africa. Union of South Africa. 1920. p. 2. Retrieved 12 December 2009.
- Johnstone (1976), p. 34.
- "1948–1976: Legislation & Segregation". Retrieved 7 April 2011.[dead link]
- "The obligatory carrying of passbooks by Black people in South Africa is lifted". History Matters Blog. South African History Online. July 20, 2011. Retrieved 6 March 2013.