Suppression of Communism Act, No. 44 of 1950 approved in parliament

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Date: 26 June, 1950

The Suppression of Communism Act, No. 44 of 1950, according to which the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) was declared an illegal organisation, was approved on 26 June in parliament and came into force on 17 July 1950. Dates concerning the approval vary slightly in different sources, i.e. it is given as 24 June in Illustrated History of South Africa, but 26 June seems to be the most accepted date.

The Suppression of Communism Act, banned the South African Communist Party, and gave the government the power to ban publications that promoted the objectives of communism, and the power to 'name' people who could be barred from holding office, practicing as lawyers or attending meetings.

The Act, later extended through the Internal Security Act, sanctioned the banning/punishment of any group or individual intending to bring about 'any political, industrial, social or economic change in the Union by the promotion of disturbances or disorder, by unlawful acts or omissions or by the threat of such acts and omissions'. This definition of communism was so broad and crude that its liberal opponents suspected it was seeking also to trap liberals in its net.

The Act was progressively tightened up in 1951, 1954, and yearly from 1962 to 1968.

Between 1948 and 1991, the apartheid government banned more than 1,600 men and women. Banned persons endured severe restrictions on their movement, political activities, and associations intended to silence their opposition to the government's apartheid policies and stop their political activity.

In additon, the Act facilitated the governments take down of liberation organizations such as the  African National Congress (ANC). The Act forced these groups to go underground with their activism. Ironically, because of this act, groups such as Umkhonto we Sizwe (armed and 'underground' wing of the ANC), did seek support from Communist parties for financial aid. Liberation struggle leaders like Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Govan Mbeki all received life sentences in prison partly because of this Act (Rivonia Trail).

Read the statement condemning the first banning under the Suppression of Communism Act.

References:

  1. Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau.
  2. Muller, C.F.J. (ed)(1981). Five Hundred years: a history of South Africa; 3rd rev. ed., Pretoria: Academica, p. 493.
  3. Reader's Digest. (1988). Illustrated History of South Africa: the real story, New York: Reader's Digest Association, p. 380.
  4. Potgieter, D.J. et al. (eds)(1970). Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa, Cape Town: NASOU, v. 3, p. 369.
  5. Timeline of South African Legislation [online], available at: sahistory.org.za [Accessed September 2009]
  6. Hermann Giliomee and Bernard Mbenga. (2007). New History of South Africa. Tafelberg Publishers, Cape Town, p 322.