The ‘special branch’

From the book: My Spirit Is Not Banned by Frances Baard and Barbie Schreiner

We had to work very hard to "Be successful with our campaigns and our organizing because the special branch and the police were always trying to interfere and make things difficult for us. They always wanted to know what we are doing, all the time. Hawu! They always used to follow us. They used to follow everyone, all the time. All the time they are just following, following. They used to come to my house sometimes in the middle of the night and they knock on the door, gong-ong-ong! Loud, you know, like they always do. And then I wake up and go to the front door and I ask, 'Who is it?' 'It's the police.'
When I hear that it's them, then I must open the door. And then they look at me and say, 'Oh, all right, go and sleep;'
'Hawu! But how can you come to my house at this time of the night, just to wake me up like this?'

'No, I just wanted to make sure you are in.’, One even said, 'Well, we can't go round the whole night looking for you people, working the whole night, and you are lying at home sleeping - that's not fair!'

But you get used to them when they have been around you for a time. After a while you don't even feel frightened when they come to arrest you. You just feel, 'Well, if I have to go to jail, then I have to go.' We used to carry on with our work as best we can, no matter what they are trying to do. The worst thing was how they used to interfere with a person's work. You would be out in the street organizing, or at a meeting, and they come and chase you away and they tell you that you are going to be arrested if you do this and this. They do that to intimidate people so that the people will be scared and will not fight against the government.

We always used to try to hide our meetings so that the police didn't know where they were. We would have one meeting here, and the next one there, and try to stop them finding us. But they always knew. I don't know how they found out about our meetings, but they did. I remember this one time, I'll never forget it, I was with Makiwane and them, some of the ANC leaders, and we went to a place called George in the Eastern Cape. We were going to organize the people and to hold a meeting there for the ANC.

And George! That" place! It's got such long, tall trees. It was in the evening when we got there and the special branch- I don't know how they knew we were there - but there they were, trying to go after us again. We were going to have this meeting in a place, which the special branch didn't know, but we had to park the car in one place and then walk a very long stretch to get to that place.

It was very dark that night and we had to walk through under these tall trees. There were little streams and patches of water all about, running under the trees. I couldn't see anything. I just put one foot, and then the other one, and then suddenly I feel my foot go poep! in the water! I take it out and I carry on in the dark, one foot, then the other. I go on, poot, poot, poot, and then I feel that other foot of mine go right in the water. Hooh! It was then that I stood still and said to another man who was there, 'If one really has to suffer like this for freedom then thank you man, but it is too much!' But we went on, walking and walking, and we walked until we got to the place where we were going to have the meeting.

I think the police didn't sleep that whole night either, looking for us, because they didn't know where we were. The next morning we went back to where we had left our car parked at the side of the road away from the meeting, and there they were. Oooh! They were so fed up when they saw us coming. 'Hawu! We have been looking for these people the whole night and we couldn't find them, and now here they are!' Then they came to us: 'pass! Pass! Waar's jou pass?' [Where's your pass?]

They looked at Makiwane's pass first. He was from Fort Hare. Here's a bloody . . .' I don't know what, communist or what, but you know their language! 'Go into the car!' And they arrest him. And some of the others haven't got their passes, I don't know what happened to their passes, and so they were also arrested. They left the rest of us there and we had to remain in the car until these men had been told what they are charged with and so on. They came back and told us there was a certain sum of money that had to be paid. So we paid that money and then we could leave.
'And I said, 'No more George! Haai! No more!'
I nearly broke my leg there. It was so dark that night it was terrible man, you walk like a monkey, just poot, poot, poot, and with the water arid the streams and you can't see anything. I said 'No more George!'

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