EFF statement on 109 years since the passing of the Natives Land Act
19 June 2022
Today, the 19th of June 2022 marks 109 years since the enactment of the Natives Land Act No 27 of 1913. This piece of legislation was the legal consolidation of the dispossession of African people's land which had taken place centuries before, and it did this by limiting the amount of land available for African people in this country to just 7% of the entire surface of the country.
The Natives Land Act made it illegal for African people to buy land outside of their designated native reserves, and it criminalized the sale of land to Africans outside of the areas designated for Africans, it banished the practice of sharecropping on farms owned by European settlers which had been in practice for years since Europeans annexed the land. The Act further banished the rental of land by Africans from the European settlers and severely limited the practice of labour tenancy.
Up to that time, African people had been major agricultural producers and were able to hold their own against European farmers with limited resources and under strenuous land tenure arrangements. Thus, one of the key objectives of the 1913 Land Act was the obliteration of independent black farmers and land-owning class, which could from that day only occupy "white owned land" if they were prepared to be wage labourers.
The aftermath of the passing of this Act was perhaps the most brutal and inhumane period of the 20th century. In his book "Native Life in South Africa", the first Secretary-General of the South African Natives National Congress, Sol Thekiso Plaatje details the brutal uprooting of African people from the land and the farms they had occupied for generations, the appropriation by their European settlers of not just land, but the livestock that Africans had owned up to that period, and the huge psycho-social implications of the removals, which our society has not recovered from up to this day. He remarked that the Act made Africans "not just slaves, but pariahs in the land of their own birth." It was only in 1936 through the enactment of the Natives Land and Trust Act that the land available for African occupation was increased from 7% to 13%.