The group areas act designated areas of South Africa for people to live, based on their racial classification in the Population Registration Act.

It was passed in 1950 by the National Party and repealed when the ANC came to power in 1994.

The Group Areas Act of 1950 set out a tone of racial segregation. According to the act, certain areas were to be proclaimed: eventually only people of a designated racial group would be able to live and work there.

It applied to members of all racial groups and provided for the imposition of control over the ownership and occupation of land and buildings throughout S.A.

The act established Group Areas Board to advise the minister of planning on the demarcation of Group Areas for members of the various racial groups.

In practice this meant that all white, black, coloured and Asian people in South Africa would have to live in group areas allocated to members of their groups. Their ownership of property and business rights would be confined to those areas. This also meant that many people had to move out of their homes where they had lived for years and go and live in a strange place which they knew little or nothing about because they had occupied a Group Area designated for another race.

Through this Act many of the Blacks in South Africa were removed from the urban areas especially of the Transvaal and Johannesburg regions were they found work as miners. The reasons for this Act presented by the government of the day was that a growing black proletariat in these urban areas could pose a threat to the government because obviously at these urban areas blacks gained a higher standard of living and higher education than they have been subject to in the African reserves or Townships, thus they would have high expectations and would revolt if these expectations were not met.

The goverment showed no indication that they intended to abolish the act. In October 1985 the State President, P.W. Botha said that the act, unlike the Immorality and Mixed marriages act, was not discriminatory. "It is not discriminatory to protect black, coloured and indian communities in their own areas....... If other population groups have rights and a rightful claim to humanitarian treatment, then I say the whites... are also entitled to justice and to live as citizens of the country in the manner they choose."
- http://www.history.und.ac.za/soweto/aparthei1.htm

The Apartheid model of the city was a comercial city centre, transitional mixed-use area, white residential, coloured residential, black residential on outskirts.

People's lives were uprooted from District Six to the Cape Flats. They were thrown out from their homes, with little or no compensation, simply because they lived too close to someplace desirable. They watched the land values soar and the shiny new shopping malls go up where they used to live, while they continued to live with poverty and it's hangers on of gangster warlords and alcohol, drugs and drivebys.

They were shipped out to the sticks, and had to pay the state to travel in to town again every day. This travel was subsidised, so Apartheid cost the state as well. But it need not have happened at all.

Add to this the fact that the second half of the twentieth century saw massive urbanisation in South Africa. People leaving the homelands to find a living in the cities were regarded as illegal imigrants. This resulted in informal settlements, squatter camps and land invasions on the outskirts of urban areas, which were resisted, but were eventually recognised by the authorities as a de-facto part of the cities. The shantytowns and their dwellers were for a long time subject to police harassment. Buldozing their shacks in the middle of the wet cold winter was a favourite. These squatter camps suffered even more from gangs and crime.

The urban geography of South Africa was radically distorted by Apartheid – the poor do not willingly live furthest from the city centres.

Along with the homelands, the Group areas act was one of the pillars of Grand Apartheid. See also Petty apartheid

The group areas act was repealed when apartheid was dismantled circa 1994. People now live wherever they can afford to. However communities that have now been established for up to fourty years do not disperse overnight, and so the areas remain. Some attempts at compensation have been made.

In some cases, for instance in Hout Bay this new freedom of residence has resulted in new settlements, slums springing up right next to opulent mansions.


Thanks to Frankie for her suggestions.

Originally posted Wed Nov 15 2000 at 20:07:54, and somehow got duplicated and detached from its node. Reposted by Gritchka to try and fix it. Sorry, StrawberryFrog.

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