pass, noun

EnglishShow more Special senses of general English pass (written) permission or authorization to pass.
See also pass law.
1. (Similar to general Eng. usage.) Especially during the 19th century: a temporary permit in the form of a letter, certificate, or token issued by one in authority, allowing movement from one district to another, and required by law to be carried a. by visitors travelling through the Colony; b. by the settlers of 1820 when not on their own land; c. by Khoikhoi persons, in terms of vagrancy laws; or d. by black persons entering the Cape Colony, or moving livestock within the colony. In all senses also called certificate (sense 1).
1786 G. Forster tr. of A. Sparrman’s Voy. to Cape of G.H. I. 118As the colonists here are enjoined by the laws to seize..all such as travel about the country without being able to show a permission in writing for that purpose, I therefore solicited and obtained the governor’s pass, requiring that I should pass every where free and unmolested.
1806 Cape Town Gaz. & Afr. Advertiser I. 1 Mar. 3The Land-Drosts of the Country-Districts..required, to call upon all strangers whatsoever travelling beyond the Kloofs, to show their Passes.
1816 G. Barker Journal. 5 Oct.Tys Jager who was out without a pass was confined at Grahamstown.
1827 G. Thompson Trav. 105He provided me..with a pass, and an official order addressed to all the provide me with horses, guides, and every other assistance.
1827 Reports of Commissioners upon Finances at Cape of G.H. I. 50The free blacks..are required to take out a pass from the director of the fire-engines, to enable them to proceed to a short distance in the country.
1828 W. Shaw Diary. 3 Nov.Busy writing passes for Caffres to go to the Colony.
1828 J. Philip Researches I. 167Among the many hardships to which the Hottentot is subject by this proclamation one must advert to the Law of Passes, contained in the 16th article.
1833 Graham’s Town Jrnl 2 May 2Every one is to ask a pass from any Hottentot that happens to come to his place.
1833 Graham’s Town Jrnl 23 May 3The British Settlers had to apply at the office for a pass to work all day at the stone quarries.
1841 J.M. Bowker Speeches & Sel. (1864) 102The lax and incessant granting of passes to Kaffirs to come into the colony enables them to carry off our property with so much alacrity.
1851 J.J. Freeman Tour 20Efforts to revive a ‘vagrancy law;’ the design of which is to commit men as vagrants..who might be found travelling about without some ‘pass,’ or ticket of permission to remove.
1857 R.J. Mullins Diary. 7 JulyI suppose he will be transported for he was in the colony without a pass!
1867 Blue Bk for Col. 1866 JJ25Passes have been examined, granted and endorsed to 1,138 kafirs who have entered the Colony.
1867 Act 22 in Stat. of Cape of G.H.It shall not be legal for any native foreigner to enter this Colony without a pass signed by some officer or functionary..empowered to grant such passes.
1870 H.H. Dugmore Reminisc. of Albany Settler 24To be obliged to procure a ‘pass’, in order to go merely from the location to Graham’s Town, without incurring the risk of getting a night’s lodging in the ‘tronk’..chafed the minds of Englishmen.
1877 R.M. Ballantyne Settler & Savage 242Our being obliged to procure a ‘pass’ to entitle us to go about the country, as if we were Kafirs or Hottentots.
a1878 J. Montgomery Reminisc. (1981) 53It is the law of the country, you must have a pass, and he ought to have asked you for it.
1912 Ayliff & Whiteside Hist. of Abambo 37No Native was to leave his country without a pass from the Resident.
1926 P.W. Laidler Tavern of Ocean 84A decree in 1812 that all slaves cutting..wood for fuel must carry signed passes.
1933 W.H.S. Bell Bygone Days 123The British Settlers of 1820 were,..not permitted to leave their allotted holdings at Bathurst and thereabouts without having a pass in their possession.
1936 Cambridge Hist. of Brit. Empire VIII. 239All were prisoners on the locations. They could not leave without permission from the head of the party and then they had to show a pass to the Landdrost in Grahamstown.
1957 A.A. Murray Blanket 102To obtain a ‘pass’ or ‘bewys’ from the District Commissioner for stock sold to a farmer across the border in the Free State.
1989 Reader’s Digest Illust. Hist. of S. Afr. 52Slaves sent by their owners beyond a certain distance were obliged to carry a pass, signed by the owner, stating the particulars of the mission.
2. From the late 19th century: an official certificate or letter (often from an employer), required by law to be carried by black men (especially in urban areas) as a means of controlling movement and enforcing liquor- and curfew-laws; certificate sense 2; special. Also attributive.
1900 W.S. Churchill London to Ladysmith 133‘Is it right that a dirty Kaffir should walk on the pavement — without a pass too?’
1901 Natives of S. Afr. (S. Afr. Native Races Committee) 165Every native on entering a district, being in possession of the pass required by the existing Pass Law, was directed to repair to the district office and get a pass and badge.
1903 D. Blackburn Burgher Quixote 9I have, as public prosecutor, seen so many cases wherein educated Kafirs use their learning to forge passes for liquor or staying out late.
1911 Blackburn & Caddell Secret Service 71To the town Kaffir the pass is a thing of ever present concern.
c1928 R.R.R. Dhlomo Afr. Tragedy 21There was no necessity for him to go to the Pass Office and spend half a day there waiting for his pass to be endorsed.
1937 C.R. Prance Tante Rebella’s Saga 203A job in the Police where he felt quite safe, because no one would ever again ask him for his ‘pass’ or take his fingerprints.
1944 Annual Report 1943–4 (S.A.I.R.R.) 5A memorandum..showed that there are at least eight different forms of passes, and that these are parts of an intricate system to render Native labour immobile..and to control the African population.
1954 P. Abrahams Tell Freedom 177Once, Jim had wanted to go out at night without the boss knowing. He had old pass to use as model. I had..copied the white man’s words: Please pass native boy Jim who is in my employ.
1961 T. Matshikiza Choc. for my Wife 121This, to whom it concerns, is to certify that my houseboy so-an’-so, was working late tonight till this morning...This pass is valid till four a.m.
1990 A.A. George in Weekend Post 3 Mar. 6I think back on how Africans pleaded with people to write a pass for them and when the curfew rang and the bombella sounded its whistle, how they ran down Jetty Street.
3. In full pass book. From 1952 to 1986: an identity book which had to be carried at all times by black men (and women, after 1956) over the age of 16, and which was central to the administration of apartheid, being used particularly to limit the movement of black people to the urban areas; domboek; dombook; dompas sense 1; dompass; reference book; stinker. See also endorse, influx control.
This document contained personal and official information (see quotation 1968), and failure to carry a ‘pass’ was a criminal offence. The pass was one of the most hated aspects of apartheid.
1952 B. Davidson Report on Sn Afr. 118The business of the police in these settlements is simple and straightforward. They are charged with seeing that all Africans have the necessary passes.
1953 P. Lanham Blanket Boy’s Moon 14There are so many crimes against the Law of the white man of which he might be guilty (from failure to carry a Pass to indulgence in Liquor).
1959 G. & W. Gordon tr. of F.A. Venter’s Dark Pilgrim 157‘Why must we carry passes?’ someone asks in a subdued voice. ‘The white man does not carry a pass. The Coolie does not carry a pass.’
1960 Natal Mercury 22 Mar. 2Anti-Pass campaign was a ‘flop’ in Durban.
1961 T. Matshikiza Choc. for my Wife 88The sergeant..thumbed querulously through each ninety-six paged pass book.
1964 G. Gordon Four People 83The pass is today probably the feature of rule by the white man that is most resented by the African.
1968 Cole & Flaherty House of Bondage 40The African..calls this reference book his ‘passport to existence’. Without it a black man is nothing. He cannot get a job, find housing, get married, or even pick up a parcel at the post office. He must have an employer’s signature on his pass to prove he is working...A man’s pass contains his life history in brief detail. It tells his name, where he comes from, which tribe he belongs to, the name of his tribal chief, the place and date of his birth, and his father’s birthplace. The pass also gives a history of a man’s past employment (too many jobs, briefly held, can be a mark against him), tells whether he has paid taxes and indicates his grade of employment — domestic servant, laborer, student, clerk, etc.
1968 Cole & Flaherty House of Bondage 41The African must carry his passbook with him religiously, twenty-four hours a day. If he is caught without it, or if his papers are out of order.., the result is always a fast trip to jail.
1973 P.A. Whitney Blue Fire 107Without a pass none of the native population could move anywhere in South Africa, and passes must be presented on demand at any time.
1977 Daily Dispatch 3 Aug. 9The Government would scrap discrimination by: Replacing the pass book system by common identity documents for all South Africans.
1978 A.P. Brink Rumours of Rain 427If that pass-book had been washed away, he would have been nothing...Everything he is, is in there...Without it he can’t go anywhere.
1978 Speak Vol.1 No.5, 9Most irritating of the tools of this constant surveillance of his every move is the ‘pass’, a document which determines where he is allowed to live and to work, where he may travel.
1980 J. Cock Maids & Madams 245Africans living in a prescribed area are compelled by law to take out a reference document (pass book) at the age of 16.
1980 C. Hermer Diary of Maria Tholo 5Failure to produce a pass when requested was a punishable offence.
1980 C. Hermer Diary of Maria Tholo 159Only blacks were required to carry passbooks. White, coloured and Asian people had identity cards.
1983 S. Afr. 1983: Off. Yrbk (Dept of Foreign Affairs & Info.) 219The Minister of Co-operation and Development has said that these ‘passes’ will eventually be replaced by documents similar to those used by other population groups.
1985 Platzky & Walker Surplus People 32In 1952 two central pieces of legislation were passed...The first made it compulsory for all African people over the age of 16, men and women, to carry passes at all times.
1986 City Press 2 Feb. 1Pass books have served not just as identity documents, but also as proof of legal employment and of the right to be in an urban area.
1986 P. Maylam Hist. of Afr. People 178Two important measures were passed in 1952. One consolidated passes into a single reference book.
1988 A. Amaphixiphixi in Frontline Apr.May 28When the government announced that they had scrapped the pass, that black people were no longer going to be subjected to carrying passes, some gullible people heaved a sigh of relief.
1988 A. Klaaste in Sunday Star 22 May 11Getting a passbook was the final humiliation of the black male. The de-personalisation that was created by most of the trappings of apartheid were perfected at the pass office.
1990 J. Naidoo Coolie Location 212I’d seen my uncles on the market sign passes and sometimes provide specials...I saw the way the ‘boys’ queued up to have their passes signed and I realized that if I didn’t sign their books (why was the Pass called a reference book?) they’d all be liable for arrest.
1991 R. Riordan in Crux Feb. 4A..Native Commissioner’s Court..was a special court that only heard cases relating to pass book offences.
4. Attributive and combinations
pass arrest, an arrest made for failure to carry a pass book, or for presence in an area without the necessary endorsement in one’s pass;
pass-burner, one who burns his or her pass in protest against the pass laws;
pass-burning verbal noun;
pass-law, see as a main entry;
pass offence, failure to produce a valid pass when required to do so, punishable by a fine or a gaol sentence;
pass offender, one found guilty of a pass offence;
pass office, the administrative centre in each town or district which oversaw the issuing and control of passes (and, during the apartheid era, which acted as an employment bureau); see also administration board;
pass raid, a surprise police action to check that people in an area were in possession of valid documents and were thus entitled to be there;
pass system, the legislation under which passes were issued, and the way in which this legislation was enforced; cf. dompas system (dompas sense 2). See also pass law.
1971 Post 21 Mar. 7The learned doctor said..that when the number of pass arrests were compared with the number of people carrying passes (that’s us), the proportion was not high at all.
1971 Daily Dispatch 18 Aug. 11Africans interviewed said pass arrests in Port Elizabeth alone sometimes ranged from 60 to 80 a day.
c1953 P. Abrahams Return to Goli 190Strikers and pass-burners were jailed and shot down in large numbers.
1983 J. Cronin Inside 11Passive Resistance, the Congress Alliance, Defiance Campaign, Pass Burnings.
1960 C. Hooper Brief Authority 133Who will care for the crops when we are arrested for pass offences?
1977 J. Sikakane Window on Soweto 26In the streets the workers arrested on pass offences are handcuffed in two’s and marched in silence in a column from street to street until the officers on duty finish their shift.
1986 Star 25 July 1The prisons are emptied of the victims of this unhappy system. No South African will ever suffer the indignity of arrest for a pass offence again.
1989 J. Crwys-Williams S. Afr. Despatches 311‘Mr Drum’ got himself arrested on a pass offence and was sentenced to five days in the Johannesburg Fort (it had been known as a fort during the Second Anglo-Boer War), known to blacks as ‘Number Four’.
1952 B. Davidson Report on Sn Afr. 90It seems that the police..are mostly busy at night, raiding the location for people who brew ‘Kaffir beer’ without a licence, and for ‘pass offenders’.
1968 Cole & Flaherty House of Bondage 48 (caption)Every morning, police trucks from all over the city and surrounding townships..dump their loads of pass offenders to await trial.
1977 P.C. Venter Soweto 61The Bantu Commissioner’s court, where pass offenders are processed and prosecuted.
1982 Survey of Race Rel. 1981 (S.A.I.R.R.) 238A report of gross abuses in the trial of pass offenders.
1903 Ilanga 11 Sept. 4After losing a whole hour, waiting in the Government Pass Office, I found that the official for issuing passes is also Clerk of the Court.
1936 Williams & May I Am Black 208Shabala used to pay his tax at the Pass Office, where also he had to go every month to renew his pass.
c1948 H. Tracey Lalela Zulu 53The scene is any pass office, where all male Africans must go to get their Registration Certificates.
1952 Drum Mar. 7I had been to the Pass Office to have my passes fixed up and there I had heard a rumour about a job in a kitchen.
1970 M. Dikobe Marabi Dance. 74The ‘registering of Natives with the Pass Office and the signing of his Pass every month.’
1972 Drum 8 Oct. 14There were no records of me. I could not blame them at the pass office, because I had last had a pass in 1952.
1980 L. Callinicos People’s Hist. of S. Afr. I. 41All information on the pass was also registered in the files at the Pass Office.
1985 J. Makunga in Staffrider Vol.6 No.2, 35If you don’t get your ass to the pass-office and register for a job, don’t come back here tomorrow night.
1990 G. Slovo Ties of Blood 423He had gone to the pass office with reluctance but without showing any great fear.
1958 New Statesman (U.K.) 8 Nov. 619Pass raids’ are so commonplace in Johannesburg that even few liberal whites experience any real shock when they see a group of 10 or 20 Africans under police guard on a street corner, waiting to become part of the more than a thousand of the kind who, every day of the year, spend at least a day in custody because their papers are not in order.
1963 B. Modisane Blame Me on Hist. (1968) 24There was a Pass raid and two white police constables with their African ‘police boys’ were demanding to see the Passes of all adult African males.
1971 Rand Daily Mail 27 Mar. 1Perpetual insecurity, the harassment of pass raids and the miseries of life below the poverty datum line.
1985 Platzky & Walker Surplus People 58Pass raids have escalated average of R52000 per month was collected in fines imposed on Africans charged with being in the Cape Town area illegally.
1988 Now Everyone Is Afraid (Catholic Inst. for Internat. Rel.) 69The state used pass raids, eviction notices and a media campaign in its efforts to clear Crossroads.
1859 Queenstown Free Press 2 Mar. (Pettman)I have endeavoured to bring to the notice of the public the evils of the Pass system.
1896 Purvis & Biggs S. Afr. 106The pass system under which Natives have to register changes of address.
1936 Cambridge Hist. of Brit. Empire VIII. 614The native pass system was made less onerous.
1941 C.W. De Kiewiet Hist. of S. Afr. 231The monthly pass system, which required each native to carry a permit to seek work or a registered service contract.
1955 Report of Commission for Socio-Economic Dev. of Bantu Areas (UG61 1955) 93This system of issuing reference books, has certain advantages over the former ‘pass’ system.
1964 M. Benson Afr. Patriots 44The Government’s most effective instrument in controlling their movement and maintaining their subjection was the hated pass system which turned any African outside the Native reserves into a vagrant unless he were working for a European.
1963 A.M. Louw 20 Days 145We offered ourselves for arrest in great numbers, thus forcing the police to recall the pass system.
1972 Evening Post 2 Sept. 11A shock likely to force all Coloured youths between the ages of 18 and 24 years to carry a ‘certificate of registration’ in a system similar to the pass system for Africans.
1986 P. Maylam Hist. of Afr. People 146African mineworkers were strictly controlled by a pass system that severely curtailed their freedom of movement from one area to another.
1988 P. Edgar in Personality 25 July 68It did not matter to her in that moment that the hated pass-system was finally abolished.
Especially during the 19th century: a temporary permit in the form of a letter, certificate, or token issued by one in authority, allowing movement from one district to another, and required by law to be carried a. by visitors travelling through the Colony; b. by the settlers of 1820 when not on their own land; c. by Khoikhoi persons, in terms of vagrancy laws; or d. by black persons entering the Cape Colony, or moving livestock within the colony. In all senses also called certificate (sense 1).
From the late 19th century: an official certificate or letter (often from an employer), required by law to be carried by black men (especially in urban areas) as a means of controlling movement and enforcing liquor- and curfew-laws; certificate2; special. Also attributive.
an identity book which had to be carried at all times by black men (and women, after 1956) over the age of 16, and which was central to the administration of apartheid, being used particularly to limit the movement of black people to the urban areas; domboek; dombook; dompas1; dompass; reference book; stinker.
Hence passless adjective, without a pass.
1915 Transvaal Leader in D.B. Coplan, Urbanization of African Performing Arts. (1980) 137The haunt of the criminal, the passless native, the loafer.
1958 A. Sampson Treason Cage 53The police arrived on the scene, baton-charged the crowd and arrested the pass-less men.
1966 L.G. Berger Where’s Madam 190Living the life of a hunted passless native, one step ahead of the police.
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