Group Areas Act No. 41 of 1950

Police Dragging Protestor at Anti-Apartheid Demonstrations in Soweto

 William Campbell/Getty Images

As a system, apartheid focused on separating South African Indian, Coloured, and Africans citizens according to their race. This was done to promote the superiority of Whites and to establish the minority White regime. Legislative laws were passed to accomplish this, including the Land Act of 1913, the Mixed Marriages Act of 1949 and the Immorality Amendment Act of 1950—all of which were created to separate the races. On April 27, 1950, the Group Areas Act No. 41 was passed by the Apartheid government.

Restrictions of the Group Areas Act No. 41

The Group Areas Act No 41 forced physical separation and segregation between races by creating different residential areas for each race. Implementation started in 1954 and people were forcibly removed from living in "wrong" areas and which led to the destruction of communities. For example, Coloureds lived in District Six in Cape Town. The non-White majority were allocated significantly smaller areas to live in than the White minority who owned most of the country. Pass Laws made it a requirement for non-Whites to carry passbooks, and later "reference books" (where were similar to passports) to be eligible to enter the "White" parts of the country.

The Act also restricted ownership and the occupation of land to groups as permitted, meaning that Blacks could not own or occupy land in White areas. The law was also supposed to apply in reverse, but the result was that land under Black ownership was taken by the government for use by Whites only.

The Group Areas Act allowed for the infamous destruction of Sophiatown, a suburb of Johannesburg. In February 1955, 2,000 policemen began removing residents to Meadowlands, Soweto and established an area for Whites only, called Triomf (Victory).

There were serious consequences for people who didn't comply with the Group Areas Act. People found in violation could receive a fine of up to two hundred pounds, prison for up to two years or both. If they didn't comply with a forced eviction, they could be fined sixty pounds or face six months in prison.

Effects of the Group Areas Act

Citizens tried to use the courts to overturn the Group Areas Act, though they were unsuccessful each time. Others decided to stage protests and engage civil disobedience, like sit-ins at restaurants, which took place across South Africa during the early 1960s.

The Act had hugely affected communities and citizens across South Africa. By 1983, more than 600,000 people had been removed from their homes and relocated.

Coloured people suffered significantly because housing for them was often postponed because of plans for racial zoning. The Group Areas Act also hit Indian South Africans especially hard because many of them resided in other ethnic communities as landlords and traders. In 1963, approximately a quarter of Indian men and women were employed as traders. The National Government turned a deaf ear to the protests of the Indian citizens. In 1977, the Minister of Community Development said that he wasn't aware of any cases instances in which Indian traders who were resettled that didn't like their new homes.