The obligatory carrying of passbooks by Black people in South Africa is lifted

South African PassbookSouth African Passbook

Date: 23 July, 1986

In July 1986 South Africa was in a state of martial law, with a nation-wide State of Emergency having been declared in June of the same year. To counter escalating international condemnation the government lifted the obligatory carrying of passbooks by Black people on 23 July 1986. The pass system was, however, not abandoned altogether: Black men and women were still required to have passbooks although they were no longer expected to carry them at all times and failure to present a passbook on demand by the police was no longer an offense.

From the mid-1950s the government had began to coerce rural woman into accepting passbooks - this sparked resistance in the rural areas, with massive and sustained revolts in Zeerust and Sekukuneland in 1958. It was a protest against the pass laws in 1960 that prompted the police to shoot and kill 69 people in what became known as the Sharpville massacre, leading to South Africa's first state of emergency and the banning of a host of anti-apartheid organisations, including the ANCand PAC.

Visit the feature on the pass laws in South Africa from the 1800s – 1900s.