Pondoland

The introduction of new administration and laws

The Pondo people were dispossessed of their land and they were forced to submit themselves to White control. In 1910, at the union of South Africa, the British colonies of the Cape and Natal, as well as the former Boer Republic of the Transvaal and Orange Free State were brought under one settler-dominated government. This led to the creation of laws such as the Native Land Act of 1913 , which regulated the acquisition and ownership of land by indigenous Black people in South Africa.

The Natives’ Land Act, 1913, which was later renamed the Bantu Land Act, 1913 and the Black Land Act, 1913 (Act No. 27 of 1913) was an Act of Parliament by the then Union Government. The Act was aimed at regulating the acquisition of land by Africans.  The Act created a system of land tenure that denied the majority of South Africans “Natives” the right to own land. Under the Land Act of 1913, 8.9 million of hectares were defined as Native reserves. It was accompanied by major socio-economic repercussions and of disposed the African majority of their land. It remained a cornerstone of Apartheid until the 1990s. It was the single most important Apartheid legislative instrument that resulted in the removal of Africans from their own land. The Mpondo people were forcefully removed off their own land after annexation in 1894 by the Cape Colony.

The Act meant that only 7.3 per cent of the land was available for Africans, who accounted for five million of the total population as compared to one and half million White people. The implementation of the Act was accompanied by human rights abuses, including wide scale evictions of Africans from farmlands outside their designated reserves. Additionally, the government’s land policy revealed unequal racial co-existence in all spheres of life.

The African National Congress (ANC) declared its opposition to the 1913 Land Act and the human rights violations this Act perpetrated. The ANC said that the Act was passed without consulting Africans. As a result, Africans were deprived of their rights and as British citizens separated them in the land of their birth and forced them off the land of their ancestors. This point reinforced what Sol T. Plaatje said ‘like Borer, the Land Areas Act of 1913 made South Africans aliens in the land of their birth”. Black people became strangers in the land of their birth. It meant strengthening of the pass laws to remove Black people who were now considered to be unlawful in the urban areas. Anyone not working in a city was not allowed to live there.

The Bantu Authorities Act of 1951was implemented in the Transkei from 1956. The objective was the creation of regional and territorial authorities for each ethnic group in the reserve areas.

The Bantu Authorities Act No 68 of 1951 created and supported the government policy of separated development for Black and White people. The Act came as a result of Tomlinson Commission when Professor FR Tomlinson was requested to investigate ways in which Homelands could be developed. The Act commenced on 17 July 1951, and allowed for the creation of traditional tribal, regional and territorial authorities initially governed by the Native Affairs Department, but with the promise of self-government in the future. Black people in designated areas were denied political rights in South Africa, but they were granted political rights within the homelands. The main aim was that Blacks would not have citizenship as South Africans, and they were aliens in their own country.  Hendrik F Verwoerd the Minister of Native Affairs explained that the important idea of the Act was that “Bantu control over Bantu areas and when it becomes possible for them to exercise control efficiently and properly for the benefit of their own”. 

Chiefs and their councillors were selected by the colonial government to Tribal Authorities, and the heads of these to Regional Authorities (normally headed by senior or paramount chiefs), which was in turn governed by a Territorial Authority, which normally comprised all chiefs and some of their councillors. By giving Chiefs certain supervisory responsibilities and authority than they had formerly enjoyed under 'traditional' forms of government, and with headmen (previously under the White Administrative system) now brought under the Tribal Authorities, the chieftaincy gradually became included into the system of the Apartheid state.

However, at the same time, those developments led to a substantial removal of the authority of chieftaincy in the legal area. For instance, there was no chief or headman who was allowed to decide any criminal case, and even in civil cases their role was only one of mediation. They had no authority to impose their decisions and any complainants who were not satisfied with those decisions could bring their case to the magisterial court where it was heard. Their new authority allowed chiefs to make much greater financial impositions upon the reserve populations through their increased control over the allocation of key resources. Pondo people had little control over the land, and the farming was only allowed in reserved areas.


References:
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•  Wood, G. (1993). “The Horsemen are coming”: Rethinking the Pondoland Rebellion, Rhodes University: Contree 33.
•  Beinart, W. (1987). Hidden Struggles in Rural South Africa: Politics and Popular Movements in the Transkei and Eastern Cape, 1890- 1930. Amazon, USA: University of California press.
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•  Feinberg, H. M. (1993). The 1913 Natives Land Act in South Africa: Politics, Race, and Segregation in the Early 20th Century. The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 26, No. 1, pp. 65-109. 

Last updated : 17-Sep-2015

This article was produced for South African History Online on 31-Jan-2014