Other Commissions on Land before the Land Act
The issue of land and segregation continued to gather pace in the period leading up to formation of the Union. In 1907 the Cape Colony appointed a Departmental Commission to investigate land settlement on unreserved land in order to deal with squatting and enforcing existing laws. Recommendations made by the commission resulted in the formation of another commission in December 1909 to deal with the problem. But, the 1909 commission’s work was overtaken by events with the signing of the Union of South Africa in 1910. Its report recommended that pastoral farming should be discouraged in favour of agricultural farming.
Between 1906 and 1907 the Natal Native Affairs Commission which was appointed to investigate the Bambatha Rebellion also looked into the issue of land. In its report the commission found that “native lands were native lands were overcrowded and inefficiently occupied.” The commission recommended appointing Location Inspectors who would promote closersettlements in African areas and encourage them to adopt improved methods of agriculture. This apparently was to prepare the ‘natives’ for Native Reserves and Locations to accommodate larger communities.
In the Orange River Colony, a Commission on Natives and Native Affairs was also established and presented its report in 1909. Coloured people and Africans could not own property outside the reserves. The commission rejected the idea of creating more reserves as that would result in people crowding the new reserves sparking a shortage of labour. It further stated there was no land available for that purpose in the Orange River Colony, and condemned share cropping while recommending the strict enforcing of the Masters and Servants Ordinance.
The reports of various commissions and legislations in various provinces before the formation of the Union all contributed to the shaping of the government’s policy on “natives” and land. In all provinces African locations or reserves had been demarcated. Despite black people being able to acquire land in the Cape, Natal and Transvaal the classification of their areas as reserves followed a pattern of racial segregation.
Towards the Union, the issue of “native” land ownership was hotly debated, especially in relation to the franchise in the Cape. Black people in the Cape Province had held franchise rights which were linked to property qualifications. Consequently, any proposed legislation that sought to limit ownership to property conversely imposed limitations on the exercise of that franchise right. The major question was whether black people should lose the right to the franchise or should it be extended to other provinces. In the end it was resolved that the situation would remain unchanged and the Union would deal with the issue after its formation.
After the establishment of the Union in 1910, the white minority government did not lose sight of the land and “native” question. In November 1910 a Select Committee headed by Henry Burton, the newly appointed Minister of Native Affairs, was appointed and tasked with investigating the native land settlement in relation to the squatting problem. At the end of its work the committee produced a preliminary bill which included its conclusions, but these lay dormant until the Natives Land Bill was introduced in parliament. The committee agreed with the South African Native Affairs Commission Report which stated that “The time has come when the lands dedicated and set apart”¦as locations, reserves, or otherwise should be defined and delimited and reserved for the Natives by legislative enactment.” (S.C. 3-1910, Report of the Select Committee on Native Affairs, p.5.)
Evidently, the building blocks of the 1913 Natives Land Act were laid down over a period of time before the Act itself was passed. As Marleen Fleemer notes, “The 1913 Natives Land Act was merely the climax to these earlier moves.”