75 pieces of apartheid legislation

To consolidate its position after coming to power in 1948, the National Party government promulgated laws which deprived all non-whites of basic rights. Some of the laws enacted from the late 1940s and early 1950s are described here by Elinor Sisulu.

"In the very first session of Parliament after coming to power, the Nationalist government attacked the already limited franchise of Asians and coloureds. The Asiatic Laws Amendment Act withdrew representation of Indians from Parliament (1949), and the Electoral Laws Amendment Act (1949) made the conditions for registering coloured voters so strict that it was virtually impossible for any coloured to register. This was followed by the Separate Registration of Voters Bill (1951), which removed coloureds from the common voters' roll and placed them on a separate roll... The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act (1949) outlawed marriage across 'races'.

"The 1950 session of Parliament ... passed both the Immorality Act Amendment, which outlawed sexual contact between people of different races, and the Population Registration Act, the cornerstone of apartheid legislation, which provided for the classification of all South Africans into one of four racial groups (that is, white, coloured, Indian and black).

"In the same session, the Group Areas Act provided for enforced compulsory residential segregation of the different racial groups; to achieve the racial separation envisaged by the Act, hundreds of thousands of people would have to give up their homes and move to the appropriate are for their racial group.

"Other new discriminatory laws included the Unemployment Insurance Act (1949), which excluded from insurance benefits those earning below a certain amount and all migrant workers, irrespective of their earnings; the Railways and Harbours Amendment Act (1949), which enforced racial segregation on the trains; the Race Classification Act and the Native Building Workers Act (1951), which prohibited Africans from performing skilled work in urban areas except in townships. The Separate Amenities Act of 1951 extended segregation to post offices, municipal swimming pools, beaches and other public government facilities. Segregation was later extended to all public places, including restaurants, cinemas and even factory assembly lines.

"In 1951 Parliament enacted the Bantu Authorities Act replacing the Natives' Representative Council. The Bantu Authorities Act provided for the establishment of tribal, regional and territorial Bantu Authorities in the reserves, and aimed to establish tribally based or ethnic states, this dividing the African population into smaller entities called Bantustans."

- Sisulu, E., Walter & Albertina Sisulu: In Our Lifetime, David Philip Publishers, 2003, pp. 136-138


back to the Raymond Mhlaba memorial page

"I opened the way for others to defy an unjust system."
Raymond Mhlaba
Raymond Mhlaba
Picture: Courtesy of Thembeka Mufamadi


In this lesson plan, learners will have an opportunity to study Raymond Mhlaba's memoirs as he related them to a historian in 2001. They will be able to think about the value of oral history and how it provides new insights into events.

Lesson plan
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Archive and Artwork Photo Gallery
Images from Raymond Mhlaba’s life and of the Heritage Project’s memorial to his role in the 1952 defiance campaign.
Audio about Raymond Mhlaba
Family, friends and colleagues talk about Raymond Mhlaba and why he is regarded as one of the unsung heroes of the Eastern Cape
Raymond Mhlaba speaks about life imprisonment
In June 1964, Raymond Mhlaba and seven other icons of the struggle against apartheid were sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island. For them the sentence came as a relief — it was much better than the death sentence they were expecting. In this e
Mhlaba and Mandela on the 1952 Defiance Campaign
In 1952, Raymond Mhlaba launched the famous Defiance Campaign by walking into a whites-only area at the New Brighton train station, knowing that he would be arrested. In this video extract from a documentary by Dali Tambo, Mhlaba and Nelson Mandela remi