BackgroundAfter the South African general election, 1948, 1948 general election, D.F. Malan's administration commenced its policy of apartheid that sought to segregate the races in South Africa. The government hoped to achieve this through 'separate development' of the races and this entailed passing laws that would ensure a distinction on social, economic, political and, in the case of the Group Areas Act, geographical lines. The Group Areas Act may be regarded as an extension of the Asiatic Land Tenure Act, 1946. Nelson Mandela stated in his book, ''Long Walk to Freedom'' that "the Groups Areas Act was the foundation of residential apartheid. Under its regulations, each racial group could own land, occupy premises, and trade only in its own separate area. Indians could henceforth only live in Indian areas, Africans in African, Coloureds in Coloured. If whites wanted the land or houses of the other groups, they could simply declare that land a white area and take them".
ProvisionsThe Act empowered the Governor-General to declare certain geographical areas to be for the exclusive occupation of specific racial groups. In particular the statute identified three such racial groups: whites, coloured, coloureds and natives. This authority was exercised on the advice of the Minister of the Interior and the Group Areas Board. Once an area had been designated for sole occupation by certain racial groups, the proclamation would not become legally effective for at least one year. Once this time had expired, it became a criminal offence to remain in occupation of property in that area with the punishment potentially being a fine and two years' imprisonment. The Act also applied to businesses with racial designation being applied on the basis of the individuals who held a controlling interest in the company.
ImpactThe Act became an effective tool in the separate development of races in South Africa. It also granted the Minister of the Interior a mandate to forcibly remove non-whites from valuable pieces of land so that they could become white settlements. One of the most famous uses of the Group Areas Act was the destruction of Sophiatown, a suburb of Johannesburg. On 9 February 1955, 2,000 policemen began removing residents to Meadowlands, Soweto and erected a new white-only area called ''Triomf'' (Victory).http://www.southafrica.info/about/history/sophiatown140206.htm#.Vbzqm_lViko Sophiatown again, 50 years on
See also*Apartheid laws