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Earlier discriminatory laws were often used as platforms for building new ones during the apartheid era,[ii] so to understand those which famously occurred under the Group Areas Act (and heavily influence urban landscapes today), it is important to consider the legislation preceding that which occurred under apartheid rule. It is also worth noting that economic conditions in South Africa today have seen forced removals continue across the country.[iii]While apartheid saw the rigorous implementation of removals on a massive scale, segregation and forced removals occurred before the National Party came into power and introduced apartheid legislation[iv].
Some of apartheid’s most oppressive legislation (such as the Group Areas Act) was built upon these earlier regulations that sought to control the movements and rights of all who were not White (for example, the 1925 Areas Reservation Bill sought to restrict Indians).[vii]However, it was the Group Areas Act of 1950 that formalised and rigorously implemented forced removals on an enormous scale; from its promulgation on the 7th of July 1950 to its repeal in 1991 under the Abolition of Racially Based Land Measures Act.
Other attempts to legally segregate the populace by ethnic distinction included a long list of discriminatory laws that can be traced back as far as the nineteenth century.
Legislation such as the 1920 Native Affairs Act, the 1924 Class Areas Bill, the 1934 Slums Act and many more, led up to the eventual enforcement of separate ' Group Areas' from 1950 onward, resulting in mass evictions and forced removals.
People found ways to live and work among one another as urban areas expanded and circumstances created by World War II brought increased urbanisation and industrialisation.
The resultant increased need for labour necessitated some leniency of segregationist laws.