Defiance Campaign 1952

Defiance Campaign timeline 1948-1952

1948
May 26, The National Party (NP) wins election and immediately introduces apartheid (separateness) measures against Blacks, Indian immigrants and those of mixed race.
1949
October 6, Group comprising workers, trade unions and certain individuals speaks out on the possibility of a political strike.

December, A new leadership nurtured in the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) comes into power in the African National Congress (ANC). ANCYL leaders include Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and others.

December 17, The African National Congress (ANC) adopts the Programme of Action which sees the organisation abandoning its traditional reliance on tactics of moderation such as petitions and deputations. The ANC starts to follow a militant approach for its cause.

1950
The African National Congress (ANC) begins the year with a commitment to militant African nationalism, mass action and tactics of boycotts, strikes and civil disobedience.
Some 8 000 Blacks are arrested for defying apartheid laws and regulations and the African National Congress (ANC) membership rises by tens of thousands.
The National Party (NP) government lays the groundwork for the mass trial by which it seeks to stigmatise the African National Congress' (ANC) advocacy of equality and support for violence and high treason.
The Population Registration Act aimed at giving everyone a permanent racial classification and the Group Areas Act (Ghetto Act), to classify all areas by function and race, are passed.
January 6 - January 8,    Last conference of the Communist Party before its dissolution is held in Johannesburg. It attacks the African National Congress (ANC) Programme of Action. 
February 18,   The Planning Council of the ANC and SAIC meet for the first time, in order to strategise on the Defiance Campaign.
March  26,    The Executive Committee of the Transvaal African National Congress (ANC) in cooperation with the Johannesburg Branch of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC), and the provincial branch of the virtually non-existent African People's Organisation, convene for the Defend Free Speech convention in Johannesburg.
May, The left-wing newspaper Guardian is banned and reappears as the Clarion.
Yusuf Dadoo calls for broad anti-nationalist front to oppose the National Party's discriminatory laws such as the Group Areas Act.
Sam Khan and Yusuf Dadoo are placed under restrictions in terms of the Riotous Assemblies Act. They are prevented from speaking in eight major centres.
May 5 - May 6, Emergency meeting of Central Committee is held to discuss the unjust laws that are being passed by the government.
May 31, The Joint Planning Council holds its meeting without its banned members.
June 2, South African Communist Party member Moses Kotane is arrested.
June 12,   Professor Z. K. Matthews leaves South Africa to spend the academic year in New York as the Henry W. Lace Visiting Professor of World Christianity at the Union Theological Seminary, thus missing the entire Defiance Campaign. But he was to perform a potentially valuable role as the official representative of the African National Congress (ANC) in the United States and at the United Nations Organisation (UNO).
June 26, The Defiance Campaign begins. It becomes the day of National Protest and Mourning, when all Blacks are to stay away from work and keep their children from school.
Secretary of the African National Congress (ANC) in Natal, Selby Msimang and A. W. G. Champion are at war following the stay-at-home strike and Champion's refusal to recognise the Congress Youth League (CYL).
July, The Suppression of Communist Act is enacted.
July 17, The government introduces the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950.
July 30,  The police raid the homes and offices of the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) officials in some sixteen centres throughout the country and confiscate papers. The offices of the left-wing Clarion are also raided.
1951
Franchise Action Council holds its conference in Cape Town and unanimously resolves to embark upon a further series of political strikes, both local and provincial, to co-operate with national organisations for the purpose of general strike in defence of the political rights and civil liberties of Africans.
January 21, While the Franchise Action Council (FRAC) prepares its campaign the White Civil Rights League is unpopular with communists and condemned by Edwin Mofutsanyana for not supporting the Witzieshoek defendants. Calls for a protest meeting in Johannesburg. Addresses given by Margaret Ballinger, Rev W. A. Palmer, Adv. B. L. S. Franklin and Julius Lewin. Proposes organising a petition together with the Durban branch of the South African Labour Party.
February 15, Dr. J. S. Moroka says he does not rule out the possibility of a general strike following the government's continual passing of apartheid laws. 
February 22,    A protest day with marches is announced for 20 March 1951. The Food and Canning Workers Union and the Cape Town branch of the African National Congress (ANC) pledges their support.
March 1, 3 000 people gather at the market square in Johannesburg to support the Defiance Campaign.
March 11, Impressive political strikes are held in Cape Town, where some 15 000 Coloureds march through the city.
April,    The first protest is staged in Johannesburg when a coffin bearing the constitution and wreaths is placed on the cenotaph.
April 5, G. J. Golding and Van der Ross lead the vote against the strike.
June 17,  At the African National Congress (ANC) meeting a decision is taken to invite the head committees of the national movements to meet and discuss methods of direct action against the government's oppressive laws and policies.
June 21,     The Guardian announces the Defiance Campaign under the headline: African National Congress (ANC) civil disobedience Defiance Campaign.
June 29,    The Joint Planning Council, the five man committee of the national executive committee of both the South African Indian Congress and the African National Congress meet.
November 8, The Joint Planning Council of the African National Congress (ANC) and South African Indian Congress (SAIC) issues a report.
December 6,  The Joint Planning Council (JPC) of the African National Congress (ANC) and South African Indian Congress (SAIC) are to place a blueprint for action before the Bloemfontein conference of the African National Congress (ANC).
December 15 - December 17, The Defiance Campaign finally opens. The day is celebrated annually by the African National Congress (ANC) and its allies as South Africa's Freedom Day.
December 20, Threat of mass action unless the unjust and discriminatory laws are repealed.
December 28 -  December 29, The African National Congress (ANC) calls a meeting in Johannesburg in which South African Indian Congress and the Franchise Action Council (FRAC), African People Organisation executive committee members are invited to strategise. However, African People's Organisation (APO) snubs the ANC invitation and does not attend the meeting.
1952
Towards the end, the Defiance Campaign is marred by sporadic rioting and violence and the leaders are placed on trial or restricted. However the Campaign continues and starts to spread to the rural areas. Elsewhere its progress did not come near its projected aim of industrial action and a general strike.
The Defiance Campaign finally opens. The day is celebrated annually by the African National Congress (ANC) and its allies as South Africa's Freedom Day.
The rise of mass support for the African National Congress (ANC) is confirmed in the next campaign which it launches. The launch of the Defiance Campaign sees the membership rise from a few thousand to 100 000.
Encouraged by the success of huge rallies organised on 6 April in protest against the Van Riebeeck tercentenary celebrations, the executives of the African National Congress, South African Indian Congress (SAIC) and Franchise Action Council (FRAC) decide that the Defiance Campaign will commence on 26 June.
January 12,  Ilanga lase Natal, criticises the Joint Planning Council for practically taking over the control and the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) and opposes any form of ultimatum being issued in an atmosphere of boisterousness, although it fully supports the Programme of Action adopted in 1949.
January 21,  Walter Sisulu issues a statement in court during Defiance Campaign, before being sentenced for pass offence.
Dr. J. S. Moroka and Walter Sisulu send an ultimatum to Prime Minister D. F. Malan calling for the repeal of six unjust laws by the 29 February 1952 deadline.
January 25, In his opening address to the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) Dr. Molema declares that Blacks have hoped in vain for a change of heart among the white rulers. 
January 25 - January 27, Dr. Yusuf Dadoo in a presidential address to the 20th Annual conference of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC), states that the plan for the Defiance Campaign did not rise exclusively from the situation in South Africa.
February 29, An ultimatum is issued to Prime Minister D. F. Malan that if certain laws are not repealed, protest meetings and demonstrations are going to be held.
April 6, The Defiance Campaign is basically proclaimed as Africanistic.
The climax of the countrywide Van Riebeeck festival, white South Africa celebrated the tercentenary of Jan Van Riebeeck's arrival at the Cape.
Professor Z. K. Matthews defies an order given to him and shortly after the Jan Van Riebeeck day demonstrations, issues a statement that the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) and South African Indian Congress (SAIC) face the choice of action now or later.
April 21, Walter Sisulu, Dr. Yusuf Dadoo, A. M. Dadoo and Y. A. Cachalia are detained at Idutywa when they enter the area without the necessary permission.
May 31, A national action committee includes key members Walter Sisulu and Moulvie Cachalia. They conduct the Defiance campaign with a national volunteer board which includes Nelson Mandela as volunteer-in-chief. Both the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) are responsible for setting up the body.
June 1, African National Congress (ANC) and South African Indian Congress (SAIC) executive committees hold a meeting in Port Elizabeth to discuss the details of the Defiance Campaign.
June 26, Those who initiate the Defiance Campaign, do so with a sense that history is being made. This sees Blacks and Indians with a few Coloureds engaging in joint political action under a common leadership.
The Defiance Campaign to secure the repeal of six unjust laws is launched by the Joint Planning Council, composed of leaders of the African National Congress (ANC), South African Indian Congress (SAIC) and the Franchise Action Council (FRAC).
July 17, The Commando leaders, decide at their first national conference, to cut down on mammoth torch meetings and turn to house-to-house visits to ensure that all voters are registered prior to the elections of 1953.
August, Police arrest twenty national and Transvaal leaders of the Defiance Campaign.
South African Security Police conducts widespread raids on the offices and homes of members of the liberation movements.
August 5, Joseph Matthews, Professor Z. K. Matthews' son writes to his father to say that the Defiance Campaign is remarkable in having released the minds of the people. The people are absolutely sure they are heading for freedom in a few month's time.
August 12, The Defiance Campaign is increasingly met by tough reaction from the police.
2 171 volunteers go into action. Nelson Mandela, Yusuf Dadoo, Walter Sisulu, S. Selo, Moulvie Cachalia, Ahmed Kathrada, J. B. Marks, Moses Kotane, Dan Tloome and James Philips are arrested and charged with High Treason under the Suppression of Communism Act.
August , Twenty arrests are made in Natal including Delizantaba Mji and Harrison Motlana, who are students at the medical school with a prepatory examination in four days time. 
August 26, Twenty national leaders of the African National Congress and South African Indian Congress (SAIC) and their youth movements as well as the chairman of the Transvaal council of Non-European Trade Unions are arrested. 
September, Fifteen leaders of the Defiance Campaign in the Eastern Cape are arrested.
September 3, Joseph Matthews, Professor Z. K. Matthews' son claims to be directing the African National Congress (ANC) and the Defiance Campaign in the Eastern Cape from Kingwilliamstown to Fort Beaufort.
October 2, The Defiance Campaign reaches three months of action. In a letter to his father, Joseph Matthews claims that freedom cannot be halted.
October 12, Selby Ngcobo, writing to professor Z. K. Matthews from Durban claims that the Defiance Campaign against unjust laws is gaining momentum in Natal where it first appeared to be a flop.
October 18, Riots in Port Elizabeth. These are followed by riots in Kimberley, East London and Johannesburg, extending to the first week of November.
November 13, One day strike takes place in Durban, protesting against the ban on meetings and curfew.
November 30, Joseph Matthews writes to his father, Professor Z. K. Matthews that South Africa is now in the hands of the government troops.
December, Dr. Moroka travels around the country urging people to join the Defiance Campaign.
December 16, An unsigned memorandum prepared for the national action committee revives the government onslaught. Efforts are made by regime to link the Defiance Campaign with Mau Mau and unite Whites against Blacks.
December 18 - December 20, Chief Albert Luthuli is elected President General of the African National Congress (ANC).
1953
The fifteen Defiance Campaign leaders who stand trial in Port Elizabeth are found guilty and their nine months sentences suspended for three years.
Former communists and other left-wing Whites who desire to identify themselves with the aims of the Defiance Campaign take the initiative in the meeting, and in the elected provincial committee they undertake to organise the Congress of Democrats as an ally of the African National Congress (ANC).
A stay at home is called, this being the only effective way of fighting the Public Safety Bill and Criminal Amendment Bill both enacted at the end of 1952.
January, The Defiance Campaign formally ends.
April, Chief Albert Luthuli calls off the Defiance Campaign after the introduction of the Criminal Amendment Law, and the Public Safety Act.
September, The Minister of Justice, Mr. C. R. Swart introduces two draconian laws, the Criminal Law Amendment Act, and the Public Safety Act, to try to counter the Defiance Campaign.
1956
Some of the Defiance Campaign accused are charged with High Treason.
1959
The Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) splits from the African National Congress (ANC).

Last updated : 21-Jul-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 21-Mar-2011