19 June 1913

The Natives Land Act, 1913 in South Africa implemented.

The Natives Land Act of 1913 was the first major piece of segregation legislation passed by the Union Parliament. It was replaced by the current policy of land restitution. The act decreed that whites were not allowed to buy land from natives and vice versa. That stopped white farmers from buying more native land. Exceptions had to be approved by the Governor-General. The native areas left initially totaled less than 10% of the entire land mass of the Union, which was later expanded to 13%.

The Act further prohibited the practice of serfdom or sharecropping. It also protected existing agreements or arrangement of land hired or leased by both parties.

This land was in “native reserve” areas, which meant it was under “communal” tenure vested in African chiefs: it could not be bought, sold or used as surety. Outside such areas, perhaps of even greater significance for black farming was that the Act forbade black tenant farming on white-owned land. Since so many black farmers were sharecroppers or labor tenants, that had a devastating effect, but its full implementation was not immediate. The Act strengthened the chiefs, who were part of the state administration, but it forced many blacks into the “white” areas into wage labour.