South Africa Population: 58 million (2018)

Area: 1,220,813 square kilometers

The degree to which European settlers—mainly Dutch and British settlers displaced the indigenous people of South Africa was greater than in any other country in Africa..Even though the scramble for Africa was not until the 19th century, South Africa European domination began almost two centuries earlier.  European settlements began in the Cape of good hope around 1650.Meanwhile the Khoikhoi and the San communities were dispossessed of their land through the expropriation process. First by the Dutch and later by the British . Initially the Cape was a point for the Dutch to resupply their ships to and from their colonies.

The early Dutch settlers were farmers but with time they needed more land for grazing and farming. Therefore, they expropriated more land. The Cape colony was taken over by the British in 1806.Colonial conquests and dispossession were extended much further into the interior. In addition to war land was seized through war and questionable treaties signed by African leaders. Between 1835 and 1846, the Great Trek took place.This was a quest by disgruntled Dutch-speaking colonists for a promised land.

Track routes during the Great Trek  land expropriation process

They wanted to establish their own homes independent of the British rule. During the movement from the Cape to inland South Africa, the Dutch met African land occupiers and engaged in battles which Africans were defeated and their land was seized.

Native reserves were established through Native policy. This was the work of Theophilus Shepstone . Their aim was controlling the population of Africans in the locations. Consequently in the course British expansion in Sub-Saharan region the system would be influential. It created a form of native control that would continue to dominate British policy into the 20th century. As a result Africans continued to be marginalized in small disproportionate sizes of land.

Later Native reserves became African Homeland or Bantustans

Land Redistribution in South Africa–A Critical Review

Colonial governments had discovered minerals in parts of southern Africa.This led to the formation of capitalist states by 1894. The Cape colony passed Glen Grey Act,1894 which imposed taxation and individual land holdings for the black people of Glen Grey district. The Act granted that:

In the event a lot holder was in default,then the title deed would be revoked.The property would then be reallocated to a person without land and in capacity to pay the arrears.


This compelled compelled African to waged labor in the mines.

Eight years after the South African War 1899-1902 ,the union of South Africa was formed. The war was between the British and the Dutch descendants over the Orange River colony and Trans Vaal. It is important to note that black people fought the war alongside the British . After the war Cape, Natal, Orange River and Trans Vaal were all under British colony . As a result it formed a unitary state; the Union of South Africa, regardless of the black Petition seeking inclusion in the government.

Infamous Native land Act,1913

The Native land Act ,1913 ,was passed allocating 7% of the land to the black community. Some writers have termed this as the initial institutionalization of land dispossession. Further the Act restricted Africans from buying or owning land outside of the reserve. However, transaction was allowed within the reserves. By this time (late 1800s-early 1900s) resistance was coming from the black. South African Native National Congress (SANNC) pleaded for inclusion. Some earlier researchers have identified that this form of resistance was not anti-colonial as they had “accepted defeat”. Some have argued that the SANNC was just pleading for accommodation and participation.

Under the Native Trust and Land Act, 18 of 1936 another 6% of the land was allocated to the black summing it to 13%. However, the Act abolished individual landholding systems for black people and introduced Trust tenure systems. The Act limited the blacks to live within the demarcated zones “reserves”: the objective was to strengthen racial segregation.


The apartheid laws enacted in 1948 effected institutionalizing racial discrimination. Up to 1991 black, colored and Indian people were were continuously targeted by legislation . First ,Group Areas Act 41 of 1950 sought to eliminate the residential mixed areas .It forced people to settle in their assigned areas.The act was later amended in 1966.


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