The Natives Land Act of 1913
June this year holds bitter meaning for millions of South Africans. On June 19 1913 the Union of South Africa implemented the infamous Natives Land Act, depriving millions of Black South Africans of the right to own land in the country of their birth.
In the April 2013 edition of A Better Life the department of rural development and land reform described the Act as the “legacy of a painful past … millions of people are still suffering from the aftermath of this humiliating act. Thousands and thousands were dispossessed, and their descendants were effectively disinherited of their birth rights”.*
In June 1913 one of Africa’s most celebrated intellectuals, writer, journalist and politician Sol Plaatje, wrote a moving account of the experiences of black people under the Natives Land Act. “Awaking on Friday morning, June 20, 1913, the South African Native found himself, not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth,” he wrote.
The stories of dispossession will always be remembered, but the challenge of reversing the legacy of the Act continues to baffle policy-makers and politicians alike.
President Jacob Zuma said in his state of the nation address: “The year 2013 will mark the centenary of the Natives Land Act of 1913, which took away 87% of the land from the African people. The Constitution requires that the state must realise the restitution of land rights for those who were dispossessed by the 1913 law. We have only distributed 8% of the 30% target of land redistribution for 2014 that we set ourselves.
The process is slow and tedious and there is general agreement that the willing buyer, willing seller option has not been the best way to address this question.”
In this year’s state of the nation address President Zuma went on to say: “From 1994, we have been addressing the land reform problem through restitution, redistribution and tenure reform. As stated before, we will not be able to meet our redistribution targets. Government’s mid-term review last year revealed a number of shortcomings in our land reform implementation programme. We will use those lessons to improve implementation.
Firstly, we must shorten the time it takes to finalise a claim. In this regard, government will now pursue the ‘just and equitable’ principle for compensation, as set out in the Constitution instead of the ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ principle, which forces the state to pay more for land than the actual value. Secondly there are proposed amendments to the Restitution of Land Rights Act, 1994, in order to provide for the re-opening of the lodgement of restitution claims, by people who missed the deadline of 31 December 1998. Also to be explored, are exceptions to the June 1913 cut-off date to accommodate claims by the descendants of the Khoi and San as well as heritage sites and historical landmarks.”
As Parliament gears up to mark the centenary of the Native Land Act, June will also be remembered for the role that young people played in the struggle to liberate South Africa from the apartheid and colonial regime. This year Numsa plans to send a delegation of its young leaders to participate in Parliament’s youth month. As we await more details of the event, Parliament has confirmed that it will be hosting a number of activities to mark the centenary of the Natives Land Act and that the land affairs department has adopted the theme “Reversing the legacy of 1913 Natives Land Act” as its
key project for 2013. Parliamentary activities for the month of June include:
• a workshop on the legacy of the Act and the vision for land reform and agriculture;
• public debates on issues of land in all the provinces;
• visits to farms and rural development and land reform projects;
• the lodging of land claims by people who missed the opportunity to do so.
This includes Khoi-San communities whose land dispossession predates the 1913 cut-off date of the Restitution of Land Rights Act. All these activities will culminate in a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces in June, the month in which the Act was passed.
On the April 17 2013 the deputy minister of public works, Jeremy Cronin, briefed the portfolio committee on public works on the draft Expropriation Bill, He said that “it provided for the expropriation of properties either for public purpose or public interest. The Bill also provided for the payment of a just and equitable compensation on expropriation. The deadline for submission of comments on the Bill was April 30 this year. However, the Bill is also up for discussion at Nedlac and a joint task team made up of social partners from the trade and industry chamber and the development Chamber has been established to comment on the Bill line by line basis. Numsa intends submitting its comments through Nedlac and the issue of the Bill is on the agenda of the May national executive committee.
The Treasury has also called for comment on the proposed carbon tax and the union has until August 2 to make its submission. The matter is on the agenda of the May NEC and the education department is keen to host an NEC workshop on the proposed carbon tax sometime in July.
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
Repealing legislation: Abolition of Racially Based Land Measures Act, 1991
Native Trust and Land Act, 1936
[Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Natives_Land_Act,_1913 ] Extracts from the Act:
The Natives’ Land Act [No. 27, 1913.] 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.
Be it enacted by the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, the Senate and the House of Assembly of the Union of South Africa, as follows: —
Except with the approval of the Governor-General –
a native shall not enter into any agreement or transaction for the purchase, hire, or other acquisition from a person other than a native, of any such land or of any right thereto, interest therein, or servitude there over;
2. (1) As soon as may be after the commencement of this Act the Governor-General shall appoint a commission whose functions shall be to inquire and report –
what areas should be set apart as areas within which natives shall not be permitted to acquire or hire land or interests in land;
The Freedom Charter
As adopted at the Congress of the People, Kliptown, on June 26 1955
The Land Shall be Shared Among Those Who Work It!
Restrictions of land ownership on a racial basis shall be ended, and all the land re-divided amongst those who work it to banish famine and land hunger;
The state shall help the peasants with implements, seed, tractors and dams to save the soil and assist the tillers;
Freedom of movement shall be guaranteed to all who work on the land;
All shall have the right to occupy land wherever they choose;
People shall not be robbed of their cattle, and forced labour and farm prisons shall be abolished.
Extract from Sol Plaatje: Native Life in South Africa
Awaking on Friday morning, June 20, 1913, the South African Native found himself, not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth.
The 4 500 000 black South Africans are domiciled as follows: One and three-quarter millions in Locations and Reserves, over half a million within municipalities or in urban areas, and nearly a million as squatters on farms owned by Europeans.
The remainder are employed either on the public roads or railway lines or as servants by European farmers, qualifying, that is, by hard work and saving to start farming on their own account.
A squatter in South Africa is a native who owns some livestock and, having no land of his own, hires a farm or grazing and ploughing rights from a landowner, to raise grain for his own use and feed his stock. Hence, these squatters are hit very hard by an Act which passed both Houses of Parliament during the session of 1913, received the signature of the Governor-General on June 16, was gazetted on June 19, and forthwith came into operation.