The Pan-African Congress announced on Saturday 19th March 1960, that it would embark on a campaign against the pass laws from Monday the 21st. The President, Mr. Robert Sobukwe, a lecturer in Bantu languages at the University of the Witwatersrand, called on people to leave their pass books at home and present themselves peacefully at police stations for arrest. There would be no bail requested, no defence offered and no fines paid. The campaign, he said, would be conducted in a spirit of absolute non-violence. It would be the first step in the African's bid for total independence and freedom by 1963 ('Cape Times', 19th and 2ist March, 1960).
Responding to the appeal, small groups of Africans presented themselves at police stations in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Vereeniging, Cape Town and Durban to surrender their passbooks and to invite arrest. Among them were Sobukwe and his organization's secretary, Mr. K. Leballo. They were detained together with 130 other Africans in Johannesburg. The P.A.C. achieved its most notable successes in Vereeniging and Cape Town, where thousands of men stayed away from work.
During the course of these events, the police fired on demonstrators at Sharpeville near Vereeniging and at Langa in Cape Town. According to official reports 68 Africans were shot dead and 227 were wounded at Sharpeville. Estimates of casualties at Langa were 3 dead and 46 wounded. Various public buildings in Langa, including schools and administrative offices, were set on fire during the night after the shooting.
On the following day the Prime Minister, Dr. Verwoerd, gave the House of Assembly two explanations for the disturbances. They were symptomatic, he said, of what was happening on the African continent. He specified similar outbreaks that had taken place in other territories. It was a worldwide phenomenon, but especially evident in countries that were gaining independÂence. In fact, South Africa had experienced less trouble of this kind than all the other territories in Africa (Assembly Debates, 22nd March, 1960, Cols. 3877-8).
In the same address, he told the House that these events occurred in cycles and as a result of incitement. They could not be attributed to the policy of apartheid or any aspect of it, such as the identity book system or influx control. He cited precedents in 1946””7 to show that such disturbances simply happened in South Africa. At this stage Dr. Verwoerd evidently leaned towards the second and simpler explanation. He rejected the Opposition's proposal of a judicial inquiry as premature and a political move. When the Cabinet met on the morning of 23rd March, it had before it reports of widespread and unfavourable comments in the overseas press, and of a statement by the U.S. State Department that deplored the tragic loss of life resulting from the measures taken against the demonstrators in South Africa. The Cabinet then decided to appoint two single-judge commissions of enquiry to establish the facts. The Prime Minister said that it was also contemplating the appointment of another commission to investigate the underlying contributory causes (Assembly Debates, 23rd March 1960, Cols. 3914””5').
Mr. Harry Lawrence of the Progressive Party drew the conclusion that the Prime Minister had changed his mind under pressure from the rest of the Cabinet and because of the criticisms in the world press (Assembly Debates, 23rd March, 1960, Cols. 4004””5). The inference is a reasonable one, and implies that the Government at this stage was anxious more about the nature of the reactions abroad than the African's state of mind. But internal and external developments interacted. To contain the flood of hostile criticism from abroad, the Government would wish to avoid a repetition of the shootings at Sharpeville and Langa, and therefore to prevent further demonstrations.
On March 23rd, Chief Luthuli, the banned President of the African National Congress, called on Africans to observe Monday the 28th as a Day of Mourning, instead of holding the anti-pass demonstrations originally planned for March 31st ('Cape Times', 24th March, 1960).
The Prime Minister, after describing the A.N.C.'s plans for passive resistance on this and subsequent dates, assured the House that the Government intended to take immediate steps to meet the threats (Assembly Debates, 23rd March, 1960, Col. 3994). On the following day, the police raided the homes of individuals and the offices of organizations in the main towns. On the same day Mr. Erasmus, the Minister of Justice, imposed a ban under the Riotous Assemblies Act on the holding of public meetings in 24 magisterial districts.
Apparently to meet this development, Luthuli issued a further statement. He appealed to members of all races to stay at home on the Day of Mourning. Striking the religious note that has characterized his approach to the African struggle; he asked ministers of religion to offer prayers for the dead and their families and to leave the churches open for people who wished to meditate ('Cape Times', 25th March, 1960).
Leaflets calling on people to stay at home on the Day of Mourning were distributed during the weekend from Friday the 25th, and some of the distributors were arrested. In a parallel action Africans under the leadership of the Pan-African Congress came to the police station at Caledon Square, Cape Town, to hand in their pass books and court arrest. According to the regional secretary of the P.A.C., Mr. Philip Kgosana, a young student at the University of Cape Town, 90 of the men were taken into custody on Thursday.
The biggest event of this kind took place on Friday morning, when some three thousand Africans marched to Caledon Square in order to surrender their passbooks. After the police had interviewed Kgosana and Mr. Patrick Duncan, a prominent member of the Liberal Party and the editor of 'Contact', Kgosana addressed the crowd and then led them back to Langa where they dispersed without further incident.
The march produced a widespread state of tension in Cape Town and gave rise to many wild rumours which penetrated into the Houses of Parliament. The Minister of Justice announced that the Government would proceed at once with legislation to declare unlawful the A.N.C., the P.A.C. and other (unnamed) organizations. Whether taken in response to the demonstration in Cape Town or to the A.N.C.'s stay-at-home campaign, the decision marked a turn in the Government's approach.
On Saturday the 26th March, police throughout the country were instructed that they should not arrest Africans for failing to carry passes. The official notice described this as a temporary concession which, the Minister of Justice claimed subsequently, probably saved many lives. The enforcement of the pass laws was evidently suspended to avert further conflicts between police and Africans, but Mr. Mitchell, the Opposition United Party's leader in Natal, condemned the instruction as "a shocking exhibition of complete weakness in dealing with the matter" (Assembly Debates, 28th March, 1960, Col. 4202). His criticism was at variance with his Party's declared policy of relaxing the pass system, and must be assumed to have weakened any tendency in Government circles to come to terms with the African population.
A.N.C. leaders reacted sharply to the announcement of the proposed ban. Chief Luthuli ceremoniously burnt hiss pass on the Saturday and called for an intensification of the campaign against the pass system. He declared that he would never carry a passbook, that the Government's decision to suspend the laws was merely an evasion, and that the banning of the A.N.C. would create even deeper chaos than at present. He warned that the A.N.C. would not see Africans deprived of their freedom of action ('Cape Times', 29th March, 1960).
The stay-at-home campaign was successful in most of the big urban centres. An almost complete stoppage of work by Africans was reported in Cape Town, Worcester and Port Elizabeth, while an overwhelming majority struck work in Durban, Johannesburg and many parts of the Reef. Indians in Natal and the Transvaal closed stores and offices for the day.
Two kinds of violent disturbance took place on the Sunday and Monday. One type was prominent on the Rand, where Africans attacked and attempted to derail trains as they returned to the townships with people who had gone to work in disregard of the appeal to stay at home. According to police reports, threats of reprisal were used in many centres against Africans who showed a desire to go to work on the Day of Mourning and succeeding days.
A different pattern appeared in some African townships in the Cape, notably at Cradock and Worcester, where residents set fire to schools and churches.
Parliament began on Monday, in an atmosphere of tension and mounting crisis, to debate the Unlawful Organizations Bill. The United Party promised its support on condition that the powers asked for were made subject to annual review by Parliament.
Members of the Progressive Party opposed the Bill. They argued that if the Government thought that a state of emergency existed, it should use the powers conferred by the Public Safety Act, passed in 1953 as a result of the Defiance Campaign. Rather than take extreme measures, the Government should consult with the Africans 'leaders (Assembly Debates, 28th March, 1960, Col. 4199).
Mrs. Ballinger, the Native Representative for Cape Eastern, expressed the same opinion. If there was no state of emergency at the time, the sort of legislation now being proposed would quickly produce one. There could be no safety for South Africa until authority came to terms with the responsible elements of the non-European population and until the African leaders were persuaded that the Government was acting in the interests of the country as a whole. Some means had to be found for consulting with African leaders (ibid. 4210””11).
The Government side rejected this view. Mr. Vorster, the Deputy Minister of Education, Arts and Science, denied that an emergency had arisen. If action were taken under the Public Safety Act, it would be exploited by people who would then say that the Government had allowed an emergency to arise. Other members of the Government agreed that it was neither necessary nor advisable to declare a state of emergency.
Tuesday the 29th passed quietly, with Cape Town's African population continuing its stay-at-home strike and groups of Africans in towns throughout the Western Cape handing in their passbooks at police stations. The Minister of Justice opened the debate on the second reading of the Unlawful Organizations Bill by warning that he would not hesitate to use the powers of the Public Safety Act if conditions grew any worse. What had to be stopped, he said, was the reign of terror conducted by the P.A.C., the A.N.C., and terrorists, white and non-white, who instigated from behind the scenes. He described the actions of the two Congresses as bordering on revolution. They wanted to bring to its knees any white government in South Africa which stood for white supremacy and white leadership. "What they want," he explained, "is our country" (Assembly Debates, 29th March, 1960, Cols. 4302””3).
Such a frank acknowledgement that his government was a government of, by and for the white minority could not have reassured either the darker-skinned South Africans or outside critics as to the State's ability to maintain a balance between competing groups. Sir de Villiers Graaff, the leader of the United Party, referred obliquely to this aspect of the Government's policy, when he described as intolerable a situation in which a large section of the population had no say at all in government and no contact with it except on a master and servant basis (ibid., Col. 4320).
His speech evoked an outburst of strong language from Mr. de Wet Nel, the Minister of Bantu Administration and Development, who described Sir de Villiers Graaff's attitude as "one of the dirtiest things" and the biggest "stab in the back" ever made by the leader of the Opposition in South Africa's history. The Minister blamed a small group of whites who played a devilish game behind the scenes in order to obtain political power and fill their pockets. He also blamed the English press, English persons, and some members of the Opposition for the state of emergency that, he said, undoubtedly existed in South Africa (ibid., Cols. 4324-33).
Not all members of his Party were prepared to go as far. Mr. Froneman, the member for Heilbron, conceded that there was an emergency throughout the country but only to ' 'a certain extent". To declare a state of emergency throughout the country would, he contended, involve making an admission to the outside world and thus would affect the nation's whole economic well-being (ibid., Col. 435'9). His speech terminated the debate on Tuesday evening. By the time that the House met on Wednesday afternoon to resume the debate on the Unlawful Organizations Bill, the position had changed dramatically.
On Tuesday 29th it became evident that the Afro-Asian group at the United Nations would succeed in their efforts to induce the Security Council to take action on the South African crisis under Article 34 of the Charter. The article provides that the Council may investigate a dispute or situation in order to determine whether it is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security. Whether because of this pending action, or for other reasons not disclosed, the Government decided to invoke the powers of the Public Safety Act.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning the police invaded homes and arrested between 200 and 300 people in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Paarl, Worcester and other towns. Those arrested were office-bearers and members of the Congress Alliance (the A.N.C., the S.A. Indian Congress, the Congress of Democrats, the S.A. Congress of Trade Unions and the S.A. Coloured People's Congress), the P.A.C. and the Liberal Party. Among those arrested were the accused in the Treason Trial and Chief Luthuli himself, who was being examined as a defence witness in the trial.
The police, using the powers granted by the Public Safety Act, made the arrests without warrant. On applications to the Witwatersrand Supreme Court for the release of four detainees under a writ of habeas corpus, the Crown was unable to show that a state of emergency had actually been proclaimed. The judge ordered the release of the detainees. A few left the Union or went into hiding; most were re-arrested later in the day. A further application for the release of 44 detainees was heard shortly before midnight, but failed when the police produced copies of the proclamation and emergency regulations which had been sent by military aircraft from Cape Town.
On Wednesday morning police entered the Langa Township and ejected people from their homes and barracks to get them to go to work. Africans reacted to the coercion by leaving the township and descending on Cape Town. An estimated 30,000 assembled outside the police station in Caledon Square by noon.
Their spokesman, Philip Kgosana of the P.A.C., asked for an interview with the Minister of Justice in order, it has been reported, to secure the release of their leaders and the satisfaction of the P.A.C.'s immediate demands: abolition of the pass laws, a minimum wage of £35 a month, and no victimization of leaders and strikers. On receiving an assurance from the police chief that he would arrange an interview, Kgosana led the people back to the townships.
The demonstration was far bigger but no less disciplined than that of the preceding week. Huge bodies of men performed the considerable feat of walking the six miles to Cape Town and back again in orderly procession without dislocating traffic or causing a single unruly incident. Kgosana claimed justifiably that the leaders had shown their ability to control the people and conduct non-violent demonstrations peacefully as long as no one interfered with them (' Cape Argus', 3oth March, 1960).
Members of the Government had a different opinion. The Minister of Bantu Administration, in the speech already cited, claimed that "those people" accepted him as their leader. Ninety per cent of the Africans were law-abiding, while the terrorists constituted only one per cent of the African population (Debates, 29th March 1960, Col. 4330). But Mr. F. S. Steyn, the Nationalist member for Kempton Park, thought in contrast that African nationalism had developed the unique quality, which had never been seen before, effusing the rebellious spirits with the masses””taking advantage of a herd instinct that was compatible with that of buck and migratory birds. The Africans' instinctive spirit of massing together in a revolutionary tendency was wholly anarchical and destructive, as witnessed by the organized marches. The spirit supplied the leaders, who shared the language, psychology and mood of the masses, with ideal revolutionary material (Debates, 30th March, 1960, Cols.4404-5).
The Government showed some apprehension. It threw a cordon of police and troops armed with rifles, machine-guns and Saracens around the Houses of Parliament. When the House of Assembly resumed its sitting at 2.20 p.m., however, the Prime Minister was able to assure members that the position was completely under control in all areas, and that the Africans who had gathered in Cape Town were moving back to the Townships in two columns.
Dr. Verwoerd proceeded to tell the House that in the Government's opinion, unwarranted interference by the Security Council in South Africa's domestic affairs would encourage and incite agitators and rioters in the Union. The intervention could lead to a situation requiring vigorous action and further bloodshed (Assembly Debates, 3oth March, 1960, Col. 4362).
He was followed by the Minister of Justice, who announced that the Governor-General had proclaimed a state of emergency as from March 29th in the areas in which public gatherings had been banned. Emergency regulations were being promulgated for some 80 districts out of the approximate total of 300. Mr. Harry Lawrence drew the obvious inference from the action.
After 12 years of rule the Nationalist Government had decided that they could not govern and maintain order under the ordinary laws of the country (ibid., Col. 4436). Standing Orders were suspended to allow the debate on the Unlawful Organizations Bill to proceed through the night. The second reading was passed at about 8 a.m. on Thursday by 128 votes to 16. The United Party voted with the Government.
The minority consisted of the Progressive Party, the Native Representatives and two of the Coloured Representatives. Those who opposed the Bill stressed the futility of relying only on force. They pointed out that the autocratic powers asked for by the Government could become a permanent feature of the Administration. They argued that a solution could be reached by removing legitimate grievances in consultation with responsible non-white leaders.
Government spokesmen naturally rejected both criticisms and proposals. They denied that responsible leaders existed among the urban Africans; there were only incitors and instigators among the people, who imposed their will on the masses by intimidation and violence. Previous governments had faced similar troubles and employed similar methods, as during the last war. The basic cause of the unrest was the machinations of unscrupulous power-seeking politicians who drew support and encouragement from anti-government elements in the white population.
The Opposition came in for much of the blame. Mr. J. A. F. Nel, the Member for Port Elizabeth North, quoted from the House's Votes and Proceedings to show that members of the Opposition had introduced motions condemning racialism, the Groups Areas Act, pass laws, university segregation, and asked: "When motions such as these are moved in this House, is it surprising that we have riots in South Africa?" (ibid., Cols. 4415-7). Dr. Coertze, the Member for Standerton, gave examples of questions put in the House on the racial incidence of corporal punishment and of convictions for murder and rape, and of the number of men, women and children wounded at Sharpeville. Such questions, he argued, were put "with the scandalous object of creating the impression amongst the Natives that they have reason for grievances" (ibid., Cols. 4463””5).
Much of the contribution by members of the Nationalist Party was expressed in the following interchanges:
Mr. M. C. van Niekerk: ' 'I am of the opinion that the Native Representatives in this House are responsible for three-quarters of this critical situation." Mr. Speaker: "This argument has been used repeatedly." Mr. Van Niekerk: "I also charge the United Party with the tremendous part it has played in this incitement." Mr. Speaker: "That argument has already been used and the hon. member must now submit new arguments" (ibid., Col. 454-8).
It is not to be wondered at that, in the atmosphere created by such hostilities, the Member for Zululand, when asking for information about the mass arrests of the early morning, should have drawn from the Member for Van der Byl Park the interjection: "You should be in gaol" (ibid., Col. 4454). Members of the Opposition Parties in the House when exposed to attacks of this kind had some reason to be apprehensive about their own prospects under the Emergency Regulations.
Any fears that they may have entertained on this score would hardly have been removed by a statement made by the Minister of Justice in the committee stage. He had decided to abandon a proposed amendment to the Unlawful Organizations Bill which would have excluded from its provisions any political party whose object it was to promote the election of candidates to Parliament or a provincial council. For, he said, when once one political party was exempted, a difficult position might arise””though he did not elaborate on the nature of the difficulty (Debates, 31st March, Col. 4614).
Government members widened their definition of political criminals and traitors to include the Opposition Press and a host of organizations. Unless legislation aimed at the Press were introduced, said Mr. Abraham, the Member for Groblersdal, the Government would not be able to combat the situation.
"Freedom of the Press" was idle fancy, if they permitted the Press to betray South Africa "in a manner in which the vilest defamer and traitor would sell his country to its enemies" (ibid., Col. 4498). Mr. Pelser, the Member for Klerksdorp, asked whether there would be peace and quiet if organizations like the Black Sash continued to assist Natives with food, or if' 'strangers" were allowed to send wild stories to newspapers overseas (ibid., Col. 4561). The Minister of Bantu Development could not imagine greater incitement of non-whites to revolt than what they were getting in the English Press and from certain leaders of the English Church (by name, the Revs. Reeves, Hopkins and Huddleston) who were committing treason and putting a blot on the English Church (ibid., Cols. 4331””2).
The debate revealed a deep cleavage, at least in the minds of Government members, between Afrikaner and English South Africans. Some Nationalists spoke as though the Afrikaner people were endangered””against the world, the blacks and the English in their midst. One might almost suppose that of the three evils, the English were the greatest. Mr. Ben Schoeman, the Minister of Transport, expressed his personal conviction that the British newspapers in South Africa would rather that the Natives governed than that the Afrikaner Nationalists remained in power. These newspapers, according to him, had never forgotten that the despicable Boers had taken over the reigns of government; they were still fighting the Anglo-Boer war (ibid., Col. 4428).
A notable feature of the debate and one that distinguished it from similar discussions in previous years, was the absence of reference to Communism. Only one member saw it as the real culprit, and he belonged to the United Party and not to the Nationalists. It was Dr. Steenkamp, the Member for Hillbrow, in Johannesburg, who made this original contribution. It was clear to him that the basic cause of the whole situation was nothing but a Communistic move in South Africa. Here was clear proof that the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950 had not been effective. The Government should again consider how to put a stop to these Communist tendencies. If it was not Communism, however, then the only alternative explanation was that ultra-nationalism had developed among the African population (ibid., Cols. 4424”” 5). But the Minister of Justice, when closing the debate, remarked that the Suppression of Communism Act could not justifiably be applied to an organization unless it was known to be Communistic. The Government could therefore not make use of the statute to suppress the A.N.C. and P.A.C. (ibid., Col. 4604). At this stage, therefore, the Government did not attribute the crisis to a Communist plot.
While the legislature was thus sleepily engaged, the executive arm of government proceeded apace with its measures to restore law and order. Troops were being called out, military and naval units were brought by air to Cape Town from Pretoria, and at 2 a.m. on Thursday an armed cordon was drawn around Langa and Nyanga to seal them off from the rest of the city. Later in the morning police made another swoop on the Rand and arrested 34 members of the A.N.C. and P.A.C. More offices of African and Indian organizations were raided. In Cape Town Kgosana was allowed an interview with the Secretary for Justice, but neither he nor his two companions returned to their homes.
The police raided the offices of 'New Age', a weekly newspaper that supported the Congress Alliance, seized documents and confiscated copies of the current issue. Police made baton charges on African demonstrators in two Reef townships. In Durban, thousands of African demonstrators marched from Cato Manor into the city. In New York, the Security Council met to discuss a motion on racial violence and segregation in South Africa.
Demonstrations outside South African legations took place in a number of European cities and in New York. The House resumed on the afternoon of Thursday the 31st to receive a report from Mr. Eric Louw, the Minister of External Affairs, on developments at the meeting of the Security Council in New York. The Union Government would take a serious view if the Security Council acted in regard to the Afro-Asian complaint. Another matter that was receiving his serious attention was the attempt by two well-known agitators, Oliver Tambo, the Deputy-President of the A.N.C., and Ronald Segal, the Editor of 'Africa South', to cross from Bechuanaland into Southern Rhodesia and proceed by air to New York (Debates, 31st March, Col. 4611). The House then went into committee and adopted the Unlawful Organizations Bill with little opposition.
On the following day the Security Council passed a resolution by nine votes to none, with Britain and France abstaining. It asked the Secretary-General to make arrangements with the Union Government to uphold the principles of the United Nations Charter in South Africa. The resolution also deplored the Union's racial policies and called on the South African Government to abandon them.
Friday passed relatively quietly in South Africa. Brian Bunting, the Editor of 'New Age', was arrested under the Public Safety Act, the Treason Trial in Pretoria was adjourned to April 19th because the Court agreed that the Emergency Regulations would tend to restrict the defence witnesses, and Africans staged another march through Durban. A gazetted proclamation called out and mobilized all commandos, the Permanent Force Reserve, the Citizen Force Reserve and the Reserve of Officers “for service in the prevention or suppression of internal disorder in the Union". The object of the call-out was that units should be in readiness for service at short notice. Emergency Regulations were extended to 31 more districts, bringing the total affected to in.
Troops were flown on Saturday to Durban from the Rand. In Johannesburg an African first offender was sentenced to a fine of £ 100 or 12 months, for destroying his pass book. Several thousand Africans started out from Nyanga to march to Cape Town, but were turned back by the police and military. Passbooks, a school and a shop were burnt at Paarl, while reports came in from small country towns such as Grabouw, Somerset West and Hermanus, that Africans were handing over their reference books to the police. Prominent Coloured leaders drew much praise from the custodians of law and order by appealing to Coloured workers to maintain order and to ignore calls to stop work ('Cape Argus', 2nd April, 1960).
Newspapers were able to report on Monday, 4th April, that calm was returning to the Union's troubled centres. Early that day helicopters showered leaflets on Cape Town's African townships to warn residents that they would not be allowed to leave after 8 a.m. At least 40,000 of the Peninsula's African labour force of 60,000 were said to have returned to work. Docks, building and engineering trades, dairies and bakeries, where work had been virtually paralyzed or disrupted for the 10 days of the crisis, operated at something like normal. The Peninsula was under military occupation. Troops, armed with rifles and machine-guns and supported by armoured cars, moved in to guard all key points.
Acting under Emergency Regulations, groups of police scoured Cape Town's streets, stopped Africans and, according to eyewitnesses, beat them in the streets or at police stations with truncheons, clubs and loaded rubber hoses. Heads of the Cape Chamber of Industries protested that numbers of law-abiding and responsible African workers had been assaulted. An African University lecturer was slapped in the face. An African clergyman was beaten with a sjambok. Fourteen clergymen of the Anglican Church appealed to the police to stop using indiscriminate violence on people in the streets. Police chiefs explained that Emergency Regulations gave police power to use force in order to remove or prevent any suspected danger. Force had to be used to get potential intimidators and trouble-makers off the streets. The aim of the police was not to make arrests but to deal with troublemakers on the spot and send them on their way ('Cape Argus', 4th April; 'Cape Times', 5th April, 1960).
The stay-at-home strike continued in full force only at Nyanga, the township where thousands of families had been resettled after being moved from other parts of the Peninsula. Members of the P.A.C. told a conference of foreign correspondents on Wednesday the 6th, that Nyanga residents, though sorely in need of food, would not go back to work until their national president, Sobukwe, gave the word. Although the police had moved from house to house chasing out and beating up the men, they remained obdurate. Sporadic clashes between police and residents occurred, an African constable was killed, a baby was shot dead, 45 Africans were injured.
On Thursday the 7th, troops were removed from Langa and sent to reinforce those at Nyanga, a few miles away. Police and troops swept into the township, went through every room of the shacks and cottages, removed over 1,500 men and women for screening, and held nearly 200 in custody. The operation achieved its aim of breaking resistance in Nyanga. Cape Town thereafter regained an atmosphere of apparent calm normalcy.
Durban was the only other scene of major disturbances during the week. After three days of continuous unrest at the Lamontville Township outside the city, police fired on a crowd of more than 1,000 Africans claimed to have been "intimidating those who wished to go out to work". One African was shot dead and four were wounded by gunfire. On the next day, Wednesday, heavily armed police, A.C.F. units, Saracens and armoured cars surrounded the Smith Hostel near Lamontville, and ordered the men outside. They were screened at the gate. Those who were allowed to proceed to work were marked with indelible ink stamped on their palms. More than 300 men were detained ('Cape Argus', 6th April, 1960).
South African reactions to the crisis were as varied as could be expected from the diversified and disunited character of the society. The establishment naturally supported the measures adopted to suppress African protests, strikes and demonstrations.
But a considerable body of white opinion expressed dissatisfaction with the wholly negative content of Government actions. Of particular significance were the protests that came from Afrikaners and Nationalist circles. The influential Nationalist newspaper, 'Die Burger', made several appeals for a more urgent and radical development of the constructive aspects of the Government's apartheid policy and for ameliorative action in the matter of passes, wages and the liquor laws. At the same time, the paper said in a leading article, the prospect of a common society was quite unacceptable. The enemy was black nationalism, which would not allow itself to be deflected from its aim of domination by numerical superiority. Concessions and a flexible policy were conceivable, but only within the framework of separation between white and black ('Die Burger', 6th April, 1960).
Nine leading ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church signed an urgent appeal to the authorities to restore harmony in human relationships and to reduce friction to a minimum. The Chairman of the Wool Board, Dr. Moolman, commented on the disastrous effects that the crisis might have on the farmers, and called on the Government to "amend their policies or else. ..." Mr. Anton Rupert, the tobacco magnate, also called for a revision of policies.
The Government showed no sign of yielding to pressure. The Minister of Bantu Development insisted that the Union's racial policy was the right one and would be continued. The Minister of Justice issued a statement declaring that the passbook system would remain, but that an attempt would be made to apply it in such a way as to bring to the tore the advantages which it held for the Africans without sacrificing the functions of control.
Parliament debated the third reading of the Unlawful Organizations Bill on Monday the 4th. Discussion was largely confined to the Progressive Party and its Nationalist critics, but the major contribution came from an Independent M.P., Professor I. S. Fourie, who had resigned from the United Party. He warned that legislation of the kind under discussion would sound the death knell of the whites. It confronted South Africa with only two alternatives: white baasskap (supremacy) supported by force and black baasskap. In the light of history he had no doubt which baasskap would triumph. Baasskap, like liberty, was indivisible. The price of baasskap over the blacks was baasskap over the whites. Turning to the U.P., he denounced its leader for his "cowardly attitude" in supporting the Banning Bill. He ended his speech by appealing to Afrikaners to remember their own history. Every time one of them had stood for a truth, he had been stamped an agitator. Organizations like the A.N.C. could not be banned, because their ideas could not be banned ('Cape Times', 5th April, 1960).
A long-expected measure, the Publications and Entertainments Bill, was read for the first time in the House on Tuesday the 5th. It provided for a Government-appointed Board to exercise internal censorship over books and periodicals, which would have to obtain the Board's permission before publication. Pamphlets, paintings, photographs and records would be rendered liable to the Board's ban. Newspapers would run the risk of prosecution if they published undesirable matter. Included in the definition of undesirable was anything which prejudiced the safety of the State, disturbed peace, good order, and the general welfare, or offended decency and religious convictions. The Government, also on Tuesday, gave a foretaste of the censorship when the Minister of Justice banned 'New Age' and 'Torch', two weekly newspapers published in Cape Town, under Emergency Regulations which enabled him to act against a publication that he considered to be subversive. The ban on 'New Age' brought to an end a venture launched in 1937 that had become the mouthpiece of the Congress Alliance.
On Friday, April 8th, the Governor-General assented to the Unlawful Organizations Act and signed a proclamation in terms of the Act, banning the A.N.C. and P.A.C. The A.N.C., which had been in existence since 1912 as the Africans' most important political organization, anticipated the ban by closing its offices earlier in the week. It now became an offence for any person to join, support or carry on any of the activities of the banned Congresses. Earlier on Friday, security police visited homes and arrested more than 100 Whites, Africans and Indians in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. Some of the wanted people were not at home and had apparently disappeared. The arrests were made under the Emergency Regulations in terms of which the names of detainees could not be divulged. It is known, however, that most of them had been included in the lists of Communists drawn up under the Suppression of Communism Act in 1950 and 1951.
The pattern of these arrests differed from that of the arrests made on March 3oth. In the earlier operation, the majority of the persons arrested were office-bearers and members of the Congress Alliance. Those arrested on Friday the 8th did not fall into this category. Some had been inactive politically for many years, many had been banned from membership of or participation in the activities of a large number of specified organizations.
They were arrested presumably not for participation in the events that produced the crisis, but because they were 'named' (listed) Communists.
The Minister of Justice has announced that charges will be brought against the detainees, after exhaustive investigations have been made. Under the Public Safety Act, however, they can be detained indefinitely and without charge. After the expiry of 30 days from the date of arrest, the names of detainees must be laid on the table of Parliament, if in session, within a further 14 days. If it is not in session, the names must be tabled within 14 days of the next session. When he complies with these requirements, the Minister will be able to show that 'named' Communists form a substantial proportion of the detainees. A basis could thereby be laid for an allegation that the crisis originated in a Communist plot, even if no evidence were produced to establish a link between the 'named' Communists in detention and the crisis of 21st March and the succeeding days.
18th April 1960.
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