Timeline of Land Dispossession and Segregation in South Africa 1900-1947

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William Beaumont headed the Native Land Commission that oversaw the drawing of boundaries in terms of the 1913 Natives Land Act

By the 1900s African people had been dispossessed of their land and colonial rule was still in the process of being entrenched. The formation of the Union of South Africa accelerated the process of further squeezing Black people off the land. A series of draconian legislation designed to uproot people from their land or where they were tenants and sharecroppers, and prevent them from buying land in prescribed areas were passed. The Natives Land Act, Urban Areas Act,The Native Trust and Land Actand the Trading and Occupation of Land Restriction Act, amongst other legislation were passed during this period.Segregation became so entrenched that by the time the Apartheid government came to power in 1948 spatial and racial boundaries were already established.
1900
A fifth of the total land area in the South African Republic (ZAR) is owned by land companies or absentee landlords. Two companies Wernher Beit &Co and H Eckstein &Co control about a quarter of the land owned.     
1902
August, In Natal, the Zululand Land Delimitation Commission is appointed to investigate and make recommendations on demarcations of land between whites and Africans in Zululand.
1903
22 September, Lord Milner appoints Godfrey Lagden to chair a commission that would report on ‘native affairs’ in the four South African provinces that were to be incorporated into the Union of South Africa. Amongst other tasks, the commission was to investigate the 'status and condition of the natives; the lines on which their natural advancement should proceed; their education, native land tenure, native law and administration and native marriages, industrial training and labour.’
The Occupation Act of 1886 of the South African Republic is replaced by the Crown Land Disposal Ordinance No: 57 which defined Crown Land as “all unalienated land and all  landed  property  of the Government however acquired” and makes available about 160 new farms covering an area of about 112 000 hectares.
The Zoutpansberg Land Tenure Commission (also known as the Occupation Commission is appointed by the government.  
1904
October, The Lagden commission submits its report and recommends that 40% of the best and fertile land should be reserved for white occupation as from January 1906.
The British colonial government imposes an annual rent of 1 pond on every male adult who was considered to be squatting.
The Masters and Servants Ordinance is passed and it deprives black tenants of legal protection by defining them as ‘servants’ instead of wage labourers. Through these definitions, the ordinance in essence established the legal basis for the process of forced removal and eviction of labour tenants and farm workers.
1905
4 April, The right of Africans to own land is tested in court when Tsewu, an African who bought land in the Kliprivierskloof Township near Johannesburg successfully applies for a court order forcing the Registrar of Deeds to pass the transfer. The judgment established the principle that in the Transvaal a ‘native’ could obtain direct title to the land.
19 August, The Native Location Commission is established to make recommendations about borders of existing reserves and identity where new areas could be established.
1906
The Natal Native Affairs Commission is appointed to investigate the Bambatha Rebellion. Amongst others things, it examined the issue of land. Its report found that ‘native lands were overcrowded and inefficiently occupied’, and that little was done by the government to improve the land. The Commission’s work carries on until 1907.
14 August, Rules and Regulations for the disposal of crown lands are published in the Gazette. Under these rules Africans are prevented from buying or renting such land.
1907
May, The Native Location Commission submits its report.
The Cape Colony appoints a Departmental Commission to investigate land settlement on unreserved land in order to deal with squatting and enforcing existing laws.
The government establishes the Crown Land Commission to find out how many black people were living on state land.
The Vrededorp Stands Ordinance Act 27 is passed in the Transvaal. In terms of the Act freehold title of certain stands is transferred to the Johannesburg Municipal Council on condition that such title cannot be transferred to an ‘Asiatic’, ‘native’ or ‘coloured’ person.
1908
The Crown Land Disposal Act is passed and introduces a new principle into the disposal of Crown land in the Cape Province. The Act makes available more than 2000ha of land to 35 whites. 
1909
December, Based on the recommendations of the Departmental Commission, another commission is formed. Its report recommends discouraging pastoral farming in favour of crop farming.
A Commission on Natives and Native Affairs presents its report in the Orange River Colony. The Commission rejects the idea of expanding reserves, reinforces the prohibition of Coloured and African people from owning property outside the reserves, condemns share cropping and recommends the enforcement of the Masters and Servants Ordinance.
The Mission Station and Reserves Act establishes reserves as communal areas in which the Nama people would pay tax, and be entitled to graze their livestock and cultivate fields.
1910
November, A Select Committee headed by Henry Burton the newly appointed Minister of Native Affairs, is appointed and tasked with investigating ‘native’ land settlement in relation to the squatting problem. At the end of its work the committee produced a preliminary bill which included its conclusionslimitations to the communal ownership of land by Africans. However, its recommendations lay dormant until the Natives Land Bill was introduced in parliament.
1911
The Mines and Works Act, which prevents Africans from obtaining jobs “”¦beyond the level of manual labourer and thereby helping to ensure that labour costs would remain low” is passed.
1912
The Land Settlement Act is passed and it outlines the provisions for the sale of state land to whites. Subsequent to the passing of the Act, 210 farms covering a total area of 168 636 hectares was given to white famers over four years.
1913
19 June, The Native Land Act (No: 27) is passed
August, The Native Land Commission (also known as the Beaumont Commission) is proclaimed and Sir William Beaumont is appointed as its head. The commission is tasked with finding land and defining boundaries for territorial segregation between black and white people.
July, The South African Native National Congress (SANNC) meets and discusses the passing of the Land Act and its implication for African people. A delegation made up of John L. Dube,Dr. Walter Benson Rubusana, Solomon T Plaatje, Saul Msane and Thomas Mtobi Mapikela is dispatched to meet F.S. Malan the Acting Minister of Native Affairs to persuade the colonial government to reverse the Land Act.
September, The Beaumont Commission begins its work.  
1916
March, The Beaumont Commission submits its report outlining boundaries and recommending which areas were to be allocated to white people and which ones were to be allocated to black people.     
October, The SANNC meets in Pietermaritzburg and discusses the Beaumont Commission report which the party describes as disappointing. The party adopted a resolutioncastigating the report by stating that its goal was
“to reduce by gradual process and by artificial means, the Bantu as a people to a status of permanent labourers or subordinates, for all purposes and for all times, with little or no freedom to sell their labour by bargaining on even terms with employers in the open marketsof labour, either in agricultural or industrial centres”¦” (Peter Walshe, The Rise of African Nationalism in South Africa: The African National Congress 1912-1952, p.56)
1917
January, The Native Affairs Administration Bill is tabled. It reinforces territorial segregation and proposes that there should be specified areas for Africans while the remainder of the Union would be for ‘non-natives’. However, the bill is not passed into law.
February, The SANNC convenes an extraordinary meeting to discuss the Natives
Administration Bill, and objects to the unjust allocation of land.
17 May, General Smuts delivers a speech at Savoy Hotel in London where he claims that it was pointless to govern the Whites and Blacks the same way, and emphasises that South Africa’s policy was keep the Natives apart “in our institutions, in land ownership and in many ways.”
The Supreme Court rules that Section 1 of the 1913 Natives Land Act could not be enforced in the Cape Province because the right to vote was based on economic development.
1919
The Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union (ICU) is established in Cape Town. Amongst some of the issues that galvanizes people around its banner were the land dispossession, demand for higher wages and rent increases. In Natal, Orange Free State and the Transvaal access to land for tenant farming becomes a major rallying point for the ICU.
1921
24 May, A clash between a force of about 800 white policemen and soldiers, and the Israelites breaks out in Bullhoek on the outskirts of Queenstown. This was after Enoch Mgijima and his followers refused to move from land they had ‘illegally’ occupied. Subsequent to the clash, 200 Israelites are killed in what became known as the Bullhoek Massacre.  
1922
The Stallard Commission is established owing to African labour protests in the Witwatersrand, permanent African migration into towns and the emergence of squatter settlements close to towns. The Commission encouraged racial segregation as long as it did not undermine the foundation of White economic privileges. Its recommendations form the basis for the Urban Areas Act.
1923
A delegation of the ANC visits General Jan Smuts and discusses the land issue highlighting the impact of the 1913 Natives Land Act on Black people.  
The Natives (Urban Areas) Act is passed. This Act gave power to urban local authorities to set aside land for African occupation in separate areas which were called locations. Land was not owned by Africans, but simply occupied, and people living in these areas largely worked in urban areas.
1924
December, Hertzog addresses a Native Conference where he advocates the separation of Black and Whites on an ‘equitable’ basis. This, he claimed, would be in the best interests of the country.
The Tonga people in Natal are forcibly removed from their land to make way for the creation of the Ndumo Game Reserve.  
1925
January, GeneralJames Barry MunnickHertzog appoints a Native Affairs Commission  which is chaired by AW Roberts to assess the opinion of white people about the issue of making more land available to Blacks.
13 November, In his speech at Smithfield, Hertzog endorses total segregation and pushes for an slight increase in the land allocated to black people, the establishment of local black councils and the abolishing of the Black people’s right to vote in the Cape.
1926
The Native Land Amendment Bill is drafted and referred to the Select Committee for debate and analysis. However, little progress is made until 1930.
Hertzog tables four bills in Parliament, the Representation of Natives Bill which was geared towards removing Africans from the Cape Franchise, the Native Council Bill that proposed to establish councils as a platform where they would raise their issues after the loss of the franchise, the Natives Land Bill which was aimed at increasing the reserves and the Coloured Persons Rights Bill.
The Ba-Phalaborwa ethnic group are forcibly removed and resettled elsewhere to make way for the joining of the Sabi and Shingwedzi game reserves which would later became part of the Kruger National Park.
1927
The Native Administration Bill tabled in 1917 is brought back and passed as the Native Administration Act. The Act was applied to Black people in areas of their settlement, farms and cities. 
1934
The Slum Clearance Act, passed in 1934, enabled municipalities to forcibly remove people who were settled in areas that were considered to be slums. Consequently, the Cape Town city council demolishes slum buildings in District Six and builds a thousand new homes for Coloured people only.
29 September, The AB Commission for Racial Affairs recommends at a Bondsraad that “Suitable locations at the borders of the Union should be purchased at any price and sufficient areas should be purchased for occupation by native families and tribes who are still dispersed today on farms and in small reserves throughout our country.” (Land Divided p. 172)
1936
6 April, The Representation of Natives Act is passed effectively abolishing the franchise for Africans in the Cape. Despite protests by some Members of Parliament, Smuts ensured the bill became law.
The Native Trust and Land Act is passed. It marginally extended the total percentage of land in the South African Union allocated to Africans as reserves by the Natives Land Act of 1913 from 7% to 13.6%.
1937
The Natives Laws Amendment Act is passed, and it prohibited the buying of land by Africans from Whites in urban areas except by permission from the government. Under the Act, authorities in urban areas were to keep a record of all Africans living in the designated area.
1940
The City of Cape Town proposes the destruction of District Six in the interests of slum clearance and sanitizing the city.  Consequently, several people are moved to the Cape Flats area.
1943
The Trading and Occupation of Land Restriction Act was passed in 1943 and covered both the Transvaal and Natal. Under the Act, Indians were not allowed to buy land in predominantly White owned areas in Durban. Whites were not allowed to buy land in Indian owned areas without first obtaining a permit.
1945
The Natives Urban Areas Consolidation Act was passed in 1945. Amongst other things, the Act permitted Africans to have permanent residence in an urban area only if that person could prove that he/she had stayed in the area since birth, or had been staying lawfully in the area for 15 years, or had worked for the same employer for 10 years.
1946
The Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act (also known as the Ghetto Act) severely restricted Indian people from buying or occupying land outside certain exempted areas. This was an attempt to marginalise Indians and force them to live in certain restricted areas, mostly in towns.
Indian people launch the Passive Resistance Campaign against the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Bill.
The Fagan Commission is established to investigate regulatory ways in which the growing urban African population could be accommodated. It recommended that the African labour force should be ‘stabilized’ through the establishment of ‘native village councils’ among other things. The Commission also concluded that total racial segregation was not feasible as Africans had become a permanent feature of cities.
1947
May, General Jan Smuts tells six members of the Natives Representative Council that Hertzog’s policy of  segregation envisioned by the 1936 Act had failed as it did not stop blacks from moving to white areas. Consequently, new arrivals had to be provided with land for residential purposes.
The Sauer Commission (named after P.O Sauer its chairman) is established by Daniel Francois Malan and tasked with formulating the National Party’s policy on the question of race relations between Whites, ‘Natives’, Coloureds and Indians. The Commission endorsed total segregation based on race as a ‘God ordained plan’ of the order of things.

References:
• Marleen Flemmer, ‘Sir William H Beaumont and the Native Land Commission 1913-1916, A Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in History,  University of Natal, Durban, January 1976.
•  Changuion, l. and B. Steenkamp, (2012), Disputed Land The Historical Development of the South African Land Issue, (Pretoria), pp. 124, 154, 155,
•  Worden, N., (2012), The Making of Modern South Africa: Conquest, Apartheid, Democracy, (John Wiley & Sons), p.63
•  Amend, T., (2008), Land Rights are Human Rights: Win-win Strategies for Sustainable Nature Conservation Contributions from South Africa, (Eschborn), p. 14
•  Okoth, A., (2006), A History of Africa: African nationalism and the de-colonisation process, Volume 2, (Nairobi), pp. 157-158
•  Stadler, A., (1987), Political Economy of Modern South Africa, (David Phillip), p.92
•  M., Weideman, A History of Dispossession, A Thesis submitted at the University of the Witwatersrand, 2004
•   Walshe, P., (1970), The Rise of African Nationalism in South Africa: The African National Congress 1912-1952, (Los Angeles), pp.56-61

Last updated : 18-Jan-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 26-Apr-2013