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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

1950. Group Areas Act No 41

According to this act, urban areas were to be divided into racially segregated zones "where members of one specific race alone could live and work" (Thompson 1990: 194). Group areas were created "for the exclusive ownership and occupation of a designated group" (Christopher 1994: 105). It further became "a criminal offence for a member of one racial group to reside on or own land in an area set aside by proclamation for another race" (Dyzenhaus 1991: 71).

For the first time, it "at least potentially extended compulsory general segregation to 'Coloureds'; centralised control over racial segregation, effectively undermining municipal autonomy; laid the basis for long-range, wide-scale land allocation planning; opened the way to greatly expanded (though of course strictly segregated) public housing provision especially for the poorer sections of the urban population; provided for retroactive segregation; and massively interfered with concepts of property rights generally" (Mabin 1992: 407).

Mabin (1992: 406) argues that the creation of group areas "did not follow from some master plan conceived and applied in any unilateral fashion by the Nationalist government", but instead "emerged from a number of threads of previous segregatory measures and pressures. The practice of implementing the Act depended on the existence and growth of planning bureaucracies whose origins were wider than those of the Act itself' (Mabin 1992: 429). See also the HOUSING ACT of 1920, the NATIVES URBAN AREAS ACT of 1923, the NATIVES URBAN AREAS AMENDMENT ACT of 1930, and the NATIVES URBAN AREAS CONSOLIDATION ACT of 1945.

Price (1991: 20, and elsewhere) associates the famous Section 10 with this act (see the NATIVES URBAN AREAS CONSOLIDATION ACT of 1945).

This act was later replaced by the GROUP AREAS ACT of 1957 (Dyzenhaus 1991: 79; see the NATIVES URBAN AREAS AMENDMENT ACT of 1957), and eventually repealed in 1991.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.