Precursors of apartheid
Under the 1806 Cape Articles of Capitulation the new British colonial rulers were required to respect previous legislation enacted under Roman Dutch law and this led to a separation of the law in South Africa from English Common Law and a high degree of legislative autonomy. The governors and assemblies that governed the legal process in the various colonies of South Africa were launched on a different and independent legislative path from the rest of the British Empire.
In the days of slavery, slaves required passes to travel away from their masters. In 1797 the Landdrost and Heemraden of Swellendam and Graaff-Reinet (the Dutch colonial governing authority) extended pass laws beyond slaves and ordained that all Khoikhoi (Hottentots) moving about the country for any purpose should carry passes. This was confirmed by the British Colonial government in 1809 by the Hottentot Proclamation, which decreed that if a Khoikhoi were to move they would need a pass from their master or a local official. Ordinance No. 49 of 1828 decreed that prospective black immigrants were to be granted passes for the sole purpose of seeking work. These passes were to be issued for Coloureds and Khoikhoi, but not for other Africans, but other Africans were still forced to carry passes.
The United Kingdom's Slavery Abolition Act 1833 (3 & 4 Will. IV c. 73) abolished slavery throughout the British Empire and overrode the Cape Articles of Capitulation. To comply with the act the South African legislation was expanded to include Ordinance 1 in 1835, which effectively changed the status of slaves to indentured labourers. This was followed by Ordinance 3 in 1848, which introduced an indenture system for Xhosa that was little different from slavery. The various South African colonies passed legislation throughout the rest of the nineteenth century to limit the freedom of unskilled workers, to increase the restrictions on indentured workers and to regulate the relations between the races.
The Franchise and Ballot Act of 1892 instituted limits based on financial means and education to the black franchise, and the Natal Legislative Assembly Bill of 1894 deprived Indians of the right to vote. In 1905 the General Pass Regulations Act denied blacks the vote, limited them to fixed areas and inaugurated the infamous Pass System. The Asiatic Registration Act (1906) required all Indians to register and carry passes. In 1910 the Union of South Africa was created as a self-governing dominion, which continued the legislative programme: the South Africa Act (1910) enfranchised whites, giving them complete political control over all other racial groups while removing the right of blacks to sit in parliament, the Native Land Act (1913) prevented blacks, except those in the Cape, from buying land outside "reserves", the Natives in Urban Areas Bill (1918) was designed to force blacks into "locations", the Urban Areas Act (1923) introduced residential segregation and provided cheap labour for industry led by white people, the Colour Bar Act (1926) prevented black mine workers from practising skilled trades, the Native Administration Act (1927) made the British Crown, rather than paramount chiefs, the supreme head over all African affairs, the Native Land and Trust Act (1936) complemented the 1913 Native Land Act and, in the same year, the Representation of Natives Act removed previous black voters from the Cape voters' roll and allowed them to elect three whites to Parliament. One of the first pieces of segregating legislation enacted by Jan Smuts' United Party government was the Asiatic Land Tenure Bill (1946), which banned land sales to Indians.
The United Party government began to move away from the rigid enforcement of segregationist laws during World War II. Amid fears integration would eventually lead to racial assimilation, the legislature established the Sauer Commission to investigate the effects of the United Party's policies. The commission concluded that integration would bring about a "loss of personality" for all racial groups.