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Most white South Africans, regardless of their own differences, accepted the prevailing pattern.
Nevertheless, by 1948 it remained apparent that there were occasional gaps in the social structure, whether legislated or otherwise, concerning the rights and opportunities of nonwhites.
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.
Prior to the 1940s, some aspects of apartheid had already emerged in the form of minority rule by white South Africans and the socially enforced separation of black South Africans from other races, which later extended to pass laws and land apportionment.
A codified system of racial stratification began to take form in South Africa under the Dutch Empire in the late eighteenth century, although informal segregation was present much earlier due to social cleavages between Dutch colonists and a creolised, ethnically diverse slave population.
The Franchise and Ballot Act of 1892 instituted limits based on financial means and education to the black franchise, The Glen Grey Act of 1894, instigated by the government of Prime Minister Cecil John Rhodes limited the amount of land Africans could hold.
In 1905 the General Pass Regulations Act denied blacks the vote, limited them to fixed areas and inaugurated the infamous Pass System.
The rapid economic development of World War II attracted black migrant workers in large numbers to chief industrial centres, where they compensated for the wartime shortage of white labour.