Ordinance 50 was a piece of legislation promulgated by the Cape government (South Africa) in 1828 which gave Coloureds a degree of equality with the white population that had been previously denied.
Ordinance 50 was primarily brought into effect because of the work of the missionary and humanitarian John Philip. In the early 1800s Philip campaigned for the rights of the Khoikhoi, San, Xhosa, and Griqua peoples in the Cape (South Africa).
Ordinance 50 repealed the Caledon Code of 1809, which had required all Khoi in the Cape to have a 'fixed place of abode'. Khoi servants had only been able to leave their place of employment if they carried a pass signed by their employers. Further, 'Hottentots and other free persons of Colour' would have the right to own land, and were no longer required to enter indentured labor contracts - the Ordinance actually went further and stressed the need for employers to provide service contracts to their employees.
Whilst satisfying calls for greater equality between Coloureds and whites, the Cape government also hoped to encourage a freer labor market - which was especially important in the pastoral eastern districts of the Cape - and to develop a Coloured elite. Unfortunately white farmers were opposed to the change, believing that the Ordinance would lead to a greater occurrence of vagrancy and higher labor costs.
Apart from the creation of Kat River Settlement near Fort Beaufort in 1829 (on land taken from the Xhosa and subsequently granted to 800 Khoikhoi settlers) very little was done to help Coloureds escape the existing master-servant relationship with whites. On the frontier, the distance from Cape Town made the legislation impossible to enforce, and traditional Boer settlers to continue treat the Coloureds more or less as they always had. The general level of impoverishment and economic abuse was such that John Philip actually stepped up his campaigns for equality, managing to halt introduction of new vagrancy laws in 1830.
Ordnance 50 was eventually replaced by the Masters and Servants Ordinance of 1841 which was created to enforce contracts of farm and domestic laborers (making desertion, neglect, insubordination and 'use of insulting language' a criminal offence).