Extension of Khoikhoi (then referred to as Hottentots) liberties

Thursday, 17 July 1828

Ordinance No. 50

No. 50. Ordinance - For improving the Condition of Hottentots and other free Persons of colour at the Cape of Good Hope, and for Consolidating and amending the Laws affecting those Persons.

WHEREAS certain Laws relating to and affecting the Hottentots and other free persons of colour, lawfully residing in this Colony, require to be consolidated, amended, or repealed, and certain obnoxious usages and customs, which are injurious to those persons, require to be declared illegal and discontinued: Be it therefore enacted, by His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, That from and after the passing of this Ordinance, the Proclamations of the 16th day of July 1787, - 9th day of May 1803, - 1st day of November 1809, - 23rd day of April 1812, - 9th day of July 1819, - and 23rd day of May 1823, shall be, and the same are hereby repealed : [Provided that nothing herein contained shall affect any contract or indenture entered into in virtue of the said proclamations.]

II. And whereas by usage and custom of this Colony, Hottentots and other free persons of colour have been subjected to certain restraints as to their residence, mode of life, and employment, and to certain compulsory services to which others of His Majesty's Subjects are not liable: Be it therefore enacted, that from and after the passing of this Ordinance, no Hottentot or other free Person of colour, lawfully residing in this Colony, shall be subject to any compulsory service to which other of His Majesty's Subjects therein are not liable, nor to any hindrance, molestation, fine imprisonment or punishment of any kind whatsoever, under the pretence that such Person has been guilty of vagrancy of any other offence, unless after trial in due course of Law ;- any custom or usage to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding.

III. And whereas doubts have arisen as to the competency of Hottentots and other free Persons of colour to purchase or posses land in this Colony: Be it therefore enacted, [all transfers of land made to or by such Hottentot or other free person of colour are legal; and it is lawful for such persons born in the Colony or granted deeds of burghership to possess land.]

IV. And whereas it is expedient to protect ignorant and unwary Hottentots and other free Persons of colour as aforesaid from the effects of improvident Contracts for Service: Be it therefore enacted, [that it shall not be legal for any person to hire by written agreement any Hottentot or free person of colour for a longer period than one calendar month at a time, except as hereinafter provided.]

V. [If any person and a Hottentot or free person of colour desire to enter into an agreement for a longer period, such contract shall be made in writing in the presence of a Clerk or a Justice of the Peace, the period of such contract not to exceed 12 calendar months. Liquor or tobacco given to a servant, not to be regarded as wages. At the expiration of the period, no goods or cattle of a servant shall be detained except by sentence of a competent court.]

VI. [All such contracts to be made in triplicate, one copy to be given to each of the contracting parties, and one copy to be filed by the officer of justice.]

VII. [Procedure in cases of dispute as to whether wages have or have not been paid.]

VIII. [Contract with the wife of Hottentot or free person of colour, to be executed by her ; contract with children under 18, to be executed by parents. Provided always, that nothing therein shall give the employer of such parents any claim on the services of the said children or of any other children, beyond the period contracted for, No person shall have a claim to the service of any children merely on the ground that those children have been fed and clothed by such person or have been born during the period of their parent's service with such person. Procedure if this rule is disobeyed.]

IX. [On the death of a Hottentot or free person of colour, the contract with his wife and children shall become void within one month after such death.]

X. [A contracting Hottentot or free person of colour may keep his family on the premises of his employer without being forced to yield the service of children not contracted for.]

XI. [Any Hottentot or free person of colour being above the age of 18 may form any contract, as above directed.]

XII. [Any Hottentot or free person of colour may apprentice his or her children for 7 years or until the children shall reach the age of 18 in the case of males and 16 in case of females. Such indentures to be executed before an officer of justice, as directed above.]

XIII. [If a Hottentot or free person shall desert or leave behind by death his or child, the employer shall forthwith notify an officer of justice, who shall arrange for the apprenticeship of such child.]

XIV. [Procedure in apprenticing children.]

XV. [Children of Hottentots, prize negroes and negresses, and other free persons of colour, to be indentured only with their parents' consent.]

XVI. [Apprentices indentured in virtue of previous proclamations may be removed by a competent court from the service of their employers, if they shall have been ill - treated, and may be returned to their parents.]

XVII. [Certain provisions applied also to foreigners entering the Colony from beyond the frontier. Deaths of such foreigners, and births of children in their families, to be notified by their employer.]

XVII. [Field-cornets to make to civil commissioners half-yearly returns of births and deaths of Hottentots and free persons of colour.]

XIX. [Disputes between masters or mistresses and their servants to be tried by Resident Magistrates and in minor matters by Justice of the Peace.]

XX. [In such disputes Justices are empowered to summon before them any masters or mistresses concerned and any other witnesses.]

XXI. [Penalties that may be inflicted on servants by Resident Magistrates and Justice of the Peace in cases of ill behaviour.]

XXII. [In cases of ill usage by a master or mistress the servant may be discharged by a Magistrate or Justice and an order made for payment of wages. Servants may further recover damages for injury in any competent court.]

XXIII. [If wages are not paid as ordered, distress may be levied on the master or mistress neglecting to pay.]

XXIV. [If the servant is poor, summons and process may be issued free of charge. If a complaint by servant against his master or mistress turns out "to be vexatious and untrue," then such servant may be punished by imprisonment with hard labour not exceeding 14 days.]

XXV. [Fines levied for breach of this ordinance shall be given, one-half to the informer and one-half to the Colonial Treasury.]

• Eybers, G.W. (1918). Select Constitutional Documents Illustrating South African History 1795 - 1910, London: George Routledge & Sons, pp. 26 - 2

Last updated : 10-Jul-2015

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011