Natives Land Act, 1913
|Natives Land Act, 1913|
|Act to make further provision as to the purchase and leasing of Land by Natives and other Persons in the several parts of the Union and for other purposes in connection with the ownership and occupation of Land by Natives and other Persons.|
|Citation||Act No. 27 of 1913|
|Enacted by||Parliament of South Africa|
|Date of Royal Assent||16 June 1913|
|Date commenced||19 June 1913|
|Date repealed||30 June 1991|
|Administered by||Minister of Native Affairs|
|Abolition of Racially Based Land Measures Act, 1991|
|Native Trust and Land Act, 1936|
The Natives Land Act, 1913 (subsequently renamed Bantu Land Act, 1913 and Black Land Act, 1913; Act No. 27 of 1913) was an act of the Parliament of South Africa aimed at regulating the acquisition of land by "natives", i.e. black people. The Act formed an important part of the system of Apartheid and is of importance for both legal and historical reasons.
Overview of the Act
The Natives Land Act of 1913 was the first major piece of segregation legislation passed by the Union Parliament. It was replaced by the current policy of land restitution. The act decreed that whites were not allowed to buy land from natives, and vice versa natives were not allowed to buy land from whites, thereby stopping the trend of white farmers buying up native land. Exceptions from this law had to be approved by the Governor-General. The native areas left initially totaled less than 10% of the entire land mass of the Union, later expanded to 13%.
The Act further prohibited the practice of serfdom or sharecropping. It also protected existing agreements or arrangement of land hired or leased by both parties.
This land was in "native reserve" areas, which meant it was under "communal" tenure vested in African chiefs, and could not be bought, sold or used as surety. Outside of these areas, and perhaps of even greater significance for black farming, the Act forbade black tenant farming on white-owned land - since large numbers of black farmers were share croppers or labor tenants, this had a devastating effect although its full implementation was not immediate. The Act therefore strengthened the chiefs, who were part of the state administration while forcing large numbers in the "white" areas into wage labour.
Impact of Act
The Act created a system of land tenure that deprived the majority of South Africa's inhabitants of the right to own land which had major socio-economic repercussions. Had the Supreme Court not rendered the Act's application void for a few years it also would have disenfranchised all "natives" in the Cape Colony, where blacks and people of mixed race (Cape Coloureds) had greater political rights than the other provinces as a legacy of British rule, in that this province had a property (and education)-based franchise. The Act continued in force for some forty years.
The opposition was modest if vocal. John Dube used his newspaper to create an issue. He was then President of what was to become the African National Congress. He supported whites like William Cullen Wilcox who had created the Zululand Industrial Improvement Company and this had led to them supplying land to thousands of black people in Natal. Dube was amongst five people who were sent to Britain to try and overturn the law once it came in to force in South Africa.
Sol Plaatje traveled to Britain with the SANNC (later the African National Congress) in order to protest the Natives Land Act, to no avail. He collected transcripts of court deliberations on the Natives Land Act, and testimonies of from those directly subject to the act, in the 1916 book Native Life in South Africa.
A fair amount of political irony surrounded the Act:
- The minister at the time of its introduction, J.W. Sauer, was a Cape Liberal who opposed disenfranchisement of blacks. He did however advocate for "separate residential areas for Whites and Natives" in the Parliamentary debate on the bill.
- John Tengo Jabavu, a prominent "educated African" welcomed the Act, whilst Merriman and Schreiner opposed the Act on principle.
- "19 June 1913 Native Land Act", This day in history, publish date unknown (accessed 20 December 2007).
- Collins, Robert O. and James M. Burns: A History of Sub-Saharan Africa, page 346. Cambridge University Press, 2007
- "Zuma: Address by the President of South Africa, at the 100 year celebration conference of the women’s organisation of the united congregational church of Southern African KZN region (31/03/2012)". polity.org.za. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
- Natives Land Act, SAHistory.org.za, accessed 1 August 2013
- Plaatje, Sol (1916). Native life in South Africa before and since the European War and the Boer rebellion. London: PS King. ISBN 0582785898.
- see C.F.J Muller (ed), 500 Years, History of South Africa as well as references therein
L.M. Thompson, A History of South Africa