|Mixed Marriages Act|
The Apartheid regime was defined largely by the strict laws imposed on and against people of colour. This included blacks, coloureds, Indians, and sometimes those of the Chinese community. The first major law to come into apartheid legislation was the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act (No. 55).
This law was enforced in 1949, and banned the marriage of a white person to a person of any other colour. Not only was their marriage banned, but any sexual relations, whether within or outside the marriage bond. If discovered, the couple was arrested and imprisoned. Often, these couples were discovered after police were tipped off and suspicious of the relationship. They would be under surveillance, their homes invaded and ransacked and the couple eventually arrested. Underwear was used as evidence against the couple.
Initially, the act was only applicable to a couple comprising of a black and a white person (The Immorality Act [No. 5] of 1927). However, it soon encompassed relations and marriages between a white person and any other person of colour. Interestingly, there was no restriction on sexual encounters and / or marriage amongst non-whites. That is to say that a black person was able to marry a coloured person with no legal consequences. Although the act had extended to other non-white groups, black people were almost always handed harsher penalties than coloureds or Indians found with a white partner.
The first person convicted of the Immorality Act was a minister from the Dutch Reformed Church, who was caught having sex with his black domestic worker in his garage. Presumably due to his occupation, he was only given a suspended sentence. The members of his congregation took it upon themselves to destroy the garage in question with a bulldozer.
This law did not only apply within the context of the white neighbourhoods, though. Within black townships, married couples and even the members of the couples’ families had to apply for permission to live together. If the family members were considered to be “surplus blacks”, permission could be denied and those surplus members forced to leave the area. This meant that the number of black people living in townships, which were in white-zoned areas, was decreased.
The Mixed Marriages Act was just one of the Apartheid laws that did not function to strengthen and upbuild a nation, but to deny the basic rights of every individual to marry the person that they love, regardless of colour and race. South End was a suburb in which children of mixed races played together in the streets, men worked together and women socialised. This suburb became the metaphor of a new attitude, a new South Africa.