Population Registration Act, 1950
|Population Registration Act, 1950|
|Act to make provision for the compilation of a Register of the Population of the Union; for the issue of Identity Cards to persons whose names are included in the Register; and for matters incidental thereto.|
|Citation||Act No. 30 of 1950|
|Enacted by||Parliament of South Africa|
|Date of Royal Assent||22 June 1950|
|Date commenced||7 July 1950|
|Date repealed||28 June 1991|
|Administered by||Minister of the Interior|
|Population Registration Act Repeal Act, 1991|
The Population Registration Act of 1950 required that each inhabitant of South Africa be classified and registered in accordance with their racial characteristics as part of the system of apartheid.
Social rights, political rights, educational opportunities, and economic status were largely determined by the group to which an individual belonged. There were three basic racial classifications under the law: Black, White and Coloured (mixed). Indians (that is, South Asians from the former British India, and their descendants) were later added as a separate classification as they were seen as having "no historical right to the country".
An Office for Race Classification was set up to overview the classification process. Classification into groups was carried out using criteria such as outer appearance, general acceptance and social standing. For example, it defined a "white person" as one who "in appearance is obviously a white person who is generally not accepted as a coloured person; or is generally accepted as a white person and is not in appearance obviously a white person." Because some aspects of the profile were of a social nature, reclassification was not uncommon, and a board was established to conduct that process. For example, the following criteria were used for separating the coloureds from the whites:
- Characteristics of the person's head hair
- Characteristics of the person's other hair
- Skin colour
- Facial features
- Home language and especially the knowledge of Afrikaans
- Area where the person lives, the person's friends and acquaintances
- Socioeconomic status
- Eating and drinking habits
This law worked in tandem with other laws passed as part of the apartheid system. Under the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act of 1949, it was illegal for a white person to marry a person of another race. With the enactment of the Immorality Amendment Act of 1950, it also became a crime for a white person and a person of another race to have sexual intercourse.
The South African Parliament repealed the act on June 17, 1991. However, the racial categories defined in the act remain ingrained in South African culture and they still form the basis of some official policies and statistics aimed at redressing past economic imbalances (Black Economic Empowerment and Employment Equity).
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Others pointed out that the repeal of the Population Registration Act in 1991 removed any legal basis for specifying 'race'. The Identification Act of 1997 makes no mention of race. On the other hand, the Employment Equity Act speaks of 'designated groups' being 'black people, women and people with disabilities'. The Act defines 'black' as referring to 'Africans, coloureds and Indians'. Apartheid and the racial identification which underpinned it explicitly linked race with differential access to resources and power. If the post-apartheid order was committed to remedying this, race would have to be included in surveys and censuses, so that progress in eradicating the consequences of apartheid could be measured and monitored. This was the reasoning that led to a 'self-identifying' question about 'race' or 'population group' in both the 1996 and 2001 population censuses, and in Statistics SA's household survey programme.
- Davis, Rebecca (25 November 2013). "DA: We’re not over race, but united we stand". Daily Maverick. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
- The full text of Population Registration Act, 1950 at Wikisource