This year, June 26, will mark the twentieth anniversary of the beginning of the "Campaign of Defiance of Unjust Laws," launched jointly by the African National Congress and the South African Indian Congress. This Campaign was first conceived towards the end of the most shameful session of the South African Parliament in the middle of 1951. The all-white Parliament had placed no less than seventy-five pieces of apartheid legislation on the Statute Book during this single session. These included the African Building Workers` Act, depriving African building workers the right to work in "white areas", that is, outside the Reserves; the Separate Representation of Voters` Act, depriving the Coloured voters the right to vote for the same candidates as White voters; the Suppression of Communism Amendment Act, curtailing the rights of free speech and assembly; and the Native Laws Amendment Act, making tens of thousands of urban Africans into displaced persons in the country of their birth.
The African National Congress reacts
Discussing these and other draconian measures adopted by the Nationalist Party Government since it came to power in 1948, the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress (ANC), meeting during the week-end of June 16-17, 1951, decided to invite the head committees of other black national movements - the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) and the Franchise Action Council (an ad hoc federal body representing several Coloured organisations, which was set up in Cape Town to fight against the threat of the removal of Coloured voters from the Common Roll) to discuss a joint campaign of civil disobedience and a general strike against "the Government`s drive towards the establishment of a racist-fascist State". The Conference of the National Executives of the ANC and the SAIC, together with representatives of the Franchise Action Council, met in Johannesburg during the week-end of July 28-29, 1951.
Opening the Conference, Dr. J.S. Moroka, President-General of the African National Congress, set the tone of the deliberations that followed, when he said:
"It is my contention that no matter where a man comes from, if he has made South Africa his home, then he is a South African. We want to live in cooperation with all in this country... We have come together to find ways and means to fight this great fight which is before us. When we work together in a spirit of cooperation we shall go along the road to equality..."
At the end of its two-day deliberations, this historic conference, in a public declaration, stated its "firm conviction that all people of South Africa, irrespective of race, colour or creed, have the inalienable and fundamental right to participate directly and fully in the governing councils of the State". Stating that the rising tide of oppression against the people of South Africa had reached unbearable limits, especially among the Union`s black population, the declaration said:
"The brutal enforcement of the inhuman and enslaving pass laws, and the further impoverishment of the African people by the policy of stock limitation and so-called rehabilitation schemes, and also recent legislation such as the Group Areas Act, the Separate Representation of Voters` Act, the Suppression of Communism Act and the Bantu Authorities Act have caused untold misery and bitter resentment among the non-white peoples of South Africa.
"The Nationalist Government in its mad desire to enforce apartheid, has at every opportunity incited the people to racial strife and has attempted to crush their legitimate protests by ruthless police action."
The declaration concluded by stating that the Conference, therefore, decided to embark upon an immediate mass campaign for the repeal of these oppressive measures and to establish a Joint Planning Council consisting of representatives of the ANC and the Indian Congress to coordinate the efforts of the African, Indian and Coloured people in this campaign.
By the year`s end, the Joint Planning Council - whose members were J.B. Marks, President of the Transvaal ANC; Walter Sisulu, Secretary-General of the ANC; Dr. Y. M. Dadoo and Y. A. Cachalia, President and Joint Secretary respectively of the SAIC, with Dr. J.S. Moroka, President-General of the ANC, as Chairman - after months of considered deliberations with the highest officials of the African National Congress, the South African Indian Congress and the Franchise Action Council presented their blueprint for action to the National Executives of these three organisations.
I. PLAN OF THE CAMPAIGN
The ANC presented the plan to its 39th Annual Conference held in Bloemfontein from December 15 to 17, 1951. Adopting the report of the Joint Planning Council, the Conference decided to embark, in 1952, on mass national action, based on non-cooperation, against certain specified unjust and racially discriminatory laws of the Union Government, unless these laws were repealed before March 1, 1952. The Conference in the course of a lengthy public statement on this historic decision stated:
"All people, irrespective of the national group they belong to and irrespective of the colour of their skin, who have made South Africa their home, are entitled to live a full and free life.
"Full democratic rights with direct say in the affairs of the government are the inalienable right of every South African - a right which must be realised now if South Africa is to be saved from social chaos and tyranny and from the evils arising out of the existing denial of the franchise of vast masses of the population on the grounds of race and colour.
"The struggle which the national organisations of the non-European people are conducting is not directed against any race or national group. It is against the unjust laws which keep in perpetual subjection and misery vast sections of the population. It is for the creation of conditions which will restore human dignity, equality and freedom to every South African."
The Conference also decided that Union-wide meetings and demonstrations of protest be organised on April 6, 1952, the 300th anniversary of white settlement in South Africa as a prelude to the launching of the Campaign of Defiance of Unjust Laws.
Indian Congress pledges support
Following close on the decision of the ANC to make 1952 a year of political action against unjust laws, the South African Indian Congress met in conference in Johannesburg from January 25 to 27, 1952, to discuss the report of the Joint Planning Council.
Appealing for unity to implement the plan of defiance of unjust laws adopted by the African National Congress, Dr. S. M. Molema, the ANC`s Treasurer General, told the conference of the Indian Congress:
"Only so long as the white man can succeed in making us believe that non-European destinies are antagonistic or incompatible will he succeed in destroying us one by one. If we realise the identity of our lot and combine to do relentless battle for our legitimate and common rights of life and liberty, we shall save ourselves and our children, and no power on earth can prevent our success."
The response of the Conference, after lengthy deliberations, was a unanimous vote in favour of joining the ANC in the Campaign of Defiance of Unjust Laws.
Correspondence between the Congresses and the Prime Minister
With the Indian Congress totally committed to the campaign and the Franchise Action Council pledging support for the demonstrations planned for April 6, the African National Congress addressed a letter to Dr. D.F. Malan, the Prime Minister. The letter, signed by Dr. J.S. Moroka and Walter Sisulu, President General and Secretary General respectively of the ANC, drawing attention to the aims and objects of the Congress, called for the repeal of the laws enumerated in its 39th Conference resolution, "by not later than the 29th day of February 1952, failing which the African National Congress will hold protest meetings and demonstrations on April 6 as a prelude to the implementation of the plan for the defiance of unjust laws."
With characteristic arrogance, Mr. A. Camp, Private Secretary to Dr. Malan, in a letter dated January 9, 1952, rejecting the demands of the ANC, rebuked the Congress for having written to him directly rather than to the Minister of Native Affairs to whom, according to the Prime Minister, such correspondence was usually addressed by the ANC.
In obvious reference to the growth of a new type of leadership sponsored by the ANC Youth League - a leadership pledged to a Programme of Action adopted by the League in 1949 - the Prime Minister, stating that this probably accounted for the direct approach to him, expressed doubt if the present leadership of Congress "could claim to speak authoritatively on behalf of the body known to the government as the African National Congress".
Concluding his letter with a threat of drastic reprisals if Congress persisted with its campaign, Dr. Malan said:
"The Government will make full use of the machinery at its disposal to quell any disturbances, and, thereafter, deal adequately with those responsible..."
Replying to the Prime Minister`s letter on February 11, 1952, the ANC rejected the contention that Congress had at any time accepted the position that the Department of Native Affairs was the only channel of communication between the African people and the State and pointed out that the subject of its communication to the Prime Minister was not a departmental matter, but one of "general importance and gravity affecting the fundamental principles practised by the Union Government."
Renewing its pledge to embark on a mass campaign of defiance of unjust laws, the letter, dealing with the Prime Minister`s contention that there was a danger of disturbances if the campaign was embarked upon, the ANC expressed its fear that the Government itself could create disturbances in order to suppress the movement.
Later events were to prove that this fear was not misplaced. Following on the ANC`s correspondence with the Prime Minister, the South African Indian Congress also wrote to Dr. Malan expressing its full support of the call of the African National Congress for the repeal of unjust laws. The plan for struggle has been adopted, stated the letter - signed by Dr. Y. M. Dadoo (President), Y.A. Cachalia and D.U. Mistry (Joint Secretaries) - to lessen the burden of oppression of the non-European people and "save the country from the catastrophe of national chaos and ever-widening conflicts." The Prime Minister neither acknowledged receipt of nor replied to the letter. The stage was now set for the first part of the Joint Planning Council`s plan - the April 6 demonstrations and meetings.
Demonstrations held throughout South Africa
The demonstrations on April 6 were preceded by hundreds of smaller meetings throughout the country. In the Transvaal and Natal, coordinating committees of the Provincial branches of the ANC and the Indian Congress were set up to make arrangements for April 6. In a leaflet calling on the people to attend the meetings and demonstrations on that day, the National Executives of the two Congresses declared:
"This year, l952, marks 300 years since, under Jan van Riebeeck, the first white people came to live in South Africa.
"The Malan Government is using this occasion to celebrate everything in South African history that glorifies the conquest, enslavement and oppression of the non-European people.
"Nothing is said of the fact that South Africa has been built up on the sweat and blood of the working people. Nothing is said of the leaders of the non-European peoples.
"This van Riebeeck celebration cannot be a time for rejoicing for the non-European. "It is the time to put an end to slavery in South Africa."
In the Cape, a special conference organised by the Franchise Action Council on March 16 discussed the part Coloured people would play on April 6. Among the speakers at the conference were Dr. Y.M. Dadoo, President of the Indian Congress, and Walter Sisulu, Secretary-General of the ANC. The Conference, which was attended by 91 delegates from 50 organisations representing 63,000 people in the Western Cape, pledged full support for the April 6 demonstrations and set up a special committee to organise meetings and demonstrations on that day throughout the Western Cape. International support for the April 6 campaign and the proposed Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign came from hundreds of Heads of State, Government representatives and organisations from all over the world. These included Prime Ministers Chou En-Lai of China, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of the Gold Coast and Dr. Mossadek of Iran; H.J. Brillantes, executive officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines; the President of the All India Congress Committee; the Secretary General of the Arab League; the Council on African Affairs in the United States, headed by Paul Robeson; the Peoples` Progressive Party of British Guiana; and the World Federation of Democratic Youth.
On April 6, the day on which white South Africa was celebrating the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck and his first white settlers in South Africa, the black people and some white supporters demonstrated their abhorrence to racism and apartheid in a way never before witnessed in the country. Meetings held in almost every city and town were among the largest ever organised by black movements in the country. The Johannesburg meeting was attended by over 15,000; the meeting in Cape Town was attended by 10,000 as was the meeting held in Durban. In Port Elizabeth some 20,000 attended a meeting held on a hillside overlooking the city and the sea. Thousands more attended meetings and prayer services in Kimberley, Pretoria, East London and elsewhere. At each of these meetings, a pledge to join in the struggle against unjust laws was enthusiastically adopted.
The Government, obviously alarmed at this great show of unity and determination on the part of the black people, took several steps in an effort to intimidate the people and to influence the decisions of the joint meeting of the National Executives of the ANC and the Indian Congress scheduled for June 1, 1952, in Port Elizabeth to discuss details of the Defiance Campaign and to set a date for its launching.
Among the measures adopted by the Government were:
- The banning of a number of leading Congressmen and trade unionists from participating in meetings; confining them to their provinces and ordering them to resign from their organisations. Among the first to receive banning orders were Indian and African Congress leaders J.B. Marks, Dr. Y. M. Dadoo, Moses Kotane and David Bopape;
- The expulsion of Sam Kahn from Parliament and Fred Carneson from the Cape Provincial Council, both elected to these bodies by Africans in the Western Cape, who at that time still enjoyed the right to vote for a white representative in Parliament and another in the Cape Provincial Council;
- The banning of the Guardian, an independent weekly newspaper which supported the campaign; and
- The arrest of E.S. ("Solly") Sachs, Secretary of the Garment Workers` Union, which had the largest organised black trade union branch in the country. Mr. Sachs was arrested for addressing a meeting of his Union in defiance of a banning order prohibiting him from attending gatherings and ordering him to resign from his Union.
The African and Indian Congresses, meeting in conference on June 1, far from being cowed by these measures, reacted swiftly by taking the following decisions:
- Setting June 26 for the commencement of the Campaign of Defiance of Unjust Laws;
- Announcing that before this date banned leaders will defy their banning orders. Even while the Port Elizabeth meeting was in progress, Moses Kotane, National Executive member of the ANC, was arrested at a meeting he was addressing in Alexandra African township, Johannesburg, where he lived. Others were arrested in quick succession. J. B. Marks, Transvaal President of the ANC, was arrested at a meeting of residents in Orlando township, Johannesburg, and David Bopape, the Transvaal ANC Secretary, and Dr. Dadoo, President of the Indian Congress, were arrested at a meeting in a cinema in Fordsburg, Johannesburg; and
- The staff of the banned Guardian brought out a new weekly publication, the Clarion, which continued to follow the pro-Congress policy of its predecessor.
II. ACCOUNT OF THE CAMPAIGN
On June 26, 1952, planned acts of defiance of unjust laws were committed by bands of volunteers in all the main centres of the Union. For the first time in South African history, Africans, Indians and Coloured persons went into political action side by side, under a common leadership. In Johannesburg, 53 African volunteers defied the curfew regulations which applied only to Africans. In Boksburg, 53 African and Indian protesters led by the veteran passive resister, Nana Sita, President of the Transvaal Indian Congress, defied regulations requiring non-residents to obtain a permit to enter an African location. In Port Elizabeth, 30 volunteers were arrested for defying apartheid in railway stations by occupying a waiting room reserved for whites only. In Worcester in the Western Cape, nine Coloured and African people were arrested after they had joined a white queue in the local Post Office. In Durban, 25 Indian and African Congressmen were arrested for selling "Freedom Stamps" at a mass meeting. In Cape Town, Sam Kahn, banned member of Parliament and a member of the City Council, was arrested when he attended a meeting of the City Council in defiance of the banning order restricting him from attending gatherings. Among those arrested on this, the first day of the Campaign, were prominent leaders, Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, Yusuf Cachalia and Raymond Mhlaba.
This pattern of resistance continued throughout the campaign and when sentenced, resisters chose imprisonment, rejecting the tempting option of a fine. Nor did they plead in mitigation. Instead group leaders used the Court to restate their abhorrence of apartheid and all that this vicious form of racism stands for and demanded full freedom and democratic rights for all in South Africa.
Intimidation and brutality
The campaign gained momentum in the days that followed. Smaller towns and rural areas joined the campaign in increasing numbers. Batches of resisters were defying a variety of unjust laws and regulations in scores of small towns and villages such as King Williams Town, Middledrift, Peddie, Brakpan, Pietermaritzburg, Queenstown, Stellenbosch and Ladysmith.
In the face of this great upsurge, in yet another move to intimidate the people, the South African Security Police (the Special Branch), conducted, early in August 1952, the largest ever police raids on the offices and homes of the liberation movements and their leaders. Many of the raids were conducted without valid search warrants. Where offices or homes were locked they were broken into. The raids covered not only such major centres as Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Cape Town, Pretoria and East London, but also such towns as Vryburg, Dundee, Kimberley, Mafeking, Ladysmith, Worcester, Pietermaritzburg, Hermanus, Middledrift and Thaba 'Nchu.
Apart from wanting to intimidate the people, the aim of these raids, as events were to prove later, was to find evidence for a major conspiracy trial, for the Government was desperately trying to cut off the leadership of the ever-growing Defiance Campaign from the people. Meanwhile, the courts which, at the beginning of the campaign were sentencing resisters to relatively short terms of imprisonment, began handing out maximum sentences in almost all the areas. In Port Elizabeth, a magistrate began sentencing youngsters under 21 to canings. Police treatment of spectators at resisters` trials began to get rougher and there were many cases of men and women being injured as a result of police brutality. Reports from most prisons indicated that resisters were being singled out for extremely harsh treatment and forced to do the most back-breaking and menial jobs. A leader of one group of resisters in Brakpan was sentenced to three days of solitary confinement and spare diet in Boksburg gaol after he had given the Congress salute "Afrika!" in front of some warders. There were several reports of resisters being beaten up by prison warders. Despite this wave of intimidation and brutality, however, the campaign grew in momentum.
National leaders arrested
On August 26, exactly two months after the campaign had begun, and roughly three weeks after the massive police raids, twenty national leaders of the African National Congress and the Indian Congress and the youth movements of both these organisations, as well as the Chairman of the Transvaal Council of Non-European Trade Unions, were arrested and charged under Section 11 (b) of the Suppression of Communism Act. The leaders included: Dr. J.S.Moroka and Dr. Y.M.Dadoo, the Presidents of the ANC and the Indian Congress respectively; Nelson Mandela, President of the ANC Youth League; Ahmad Kathrada, President of the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress; and James Phillips, the Coloured Chairman of the Transvaal Council of Non-European Trade Unions. They were accused of leading the Defiance Campaign which aimed at "bringing about a change in the industrial and social structure of the country through unconstitutional and illegal methods".
Unprecedented scenes greeted the opening of the court case. The magistrate had to adjourn the proceedings to enable Dr. Moroka and Dr. Dadoo to address the thousands of people who had jammed the courtroom, the corridors and the courtyard, singing national songs and giving the "Afrika!" salute. Both leaders urged the people to be silent so that the trial could proceed. The crowd responded by moving over to an open square across the road from the court where they held an all-day meeting. Far from slowing down the campaign, the arrest and trial of the leaders aroused greater interest and determination and over 600 volunteers courted imprisonment in the week following the arrest of the leaders.
By October, less than three months since the campaign had begun, over 5,000 volunteers had been imprisoned. All over the country, in the African townships, in the rural reserves, in Indian and Coloured areas, enthusiasm for the campaign had reached new heights. Meetings of the Congresses were drawing more and more people. There was a wave of national consciousness and national unity of all the oppressed, unprecedented in the history of the country. Leader writers in the white-owned English-language dailies, who had attacked the campaign before it had begun, were grudgingly admitting that vast masses of the black people were supporting the Congresses and the Defiance Campaign.
Violence breaks out
It is at this precise moment, that which the leadership of the campaign feared most and constantly warned against, happened: riots broke out, first in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, and then in the southern Transvaal town of Denver, in Kimberley and East London. Immediately after the riots began in New Brighton township, Port Elizabeth, on the afternoon of October 18, 1952, Dr. J.L.Z. Njongwe, President of the Port Elizabeth Branch of the ANC, whose home was in New Brighton, called for a Judicial Commission of Inquiry. This demand, which was supported by the National Executives of the ANC, the Indian Congress and many other organisations and leading individuals, both black and white, was rejected out of hand by the Government.
From independent reports received by the Congresses at the time, the following facts emerge:
First, the Port Elizabeth riots followed the death of an African shot by a railway policeman on the busy New Brighton railway station. The police later alleged that the dead African had stolen a pot of paint. Hearing the shot, people from the nearby New Brighton African location rushed to the scene. Learning that one of the residents had been shot dead, the people began stoning the station buildings. Police reinforcements, which had also arrived on the scene, opened fire on the people, killing seven persons. The people retreated from the station and in the rioting that followed, four whites were killed.
Second, the riots in Denver, Southern Transvaal, began when residents of the Denver African Hostel, who had refused to pay increased rentals - from 11 shillings to one pound - rushed at a tenant who tendered the full rental on November 3, 1952. When the tenant was taken into the municipal buildings for protection by the municipal police, the people stoned the building. The arrival of a large contingent of armed police forced the people back into the hostel. The police then hid behind protective barricades and fired into the hostel, killing three people and wounding four others.
Third, five days later, three youths who had been drinking beer at the Municipal African Beer Hall in No. 2 Location, Kimberley, are alleged to have shouted the Congress salute when they had finished their drink. They were ordered out of the hall. They left and most of the other drinkers followed them out and congregated outside the beer hall. Some began stoning the hall. Police, heavily armed, arrived and instantly opened fire on the crowd. Thirteen Africans were killed and 78 injured.
Fourth, at East London, on November 9, a bona fide religious meeting for which permission had been granted by the authorities, was baton-charged by a large body of police whose commander decided that the meeting was not a religious one. The Government had earlier banned all meetings except religious meetings and had introduced a curfew in five areas including East London. The 1,500 people who had gathered at the open-air meeting moved away and while they were doing so, the police climbed on to their open lorries and indiscriminately fired into the homes of the people while their lorries patrolled along the main roads of the location. The people reacted irrationally. They were reported to have burnt the local Roman Catholic Church and killed a nun and a white man.
The ANC and the Indian Congress called on the people not to be provoked into violence and warned them against agents provocateurs, whom they suspected of instigating the riots which broke out in quick succession in four different areas separated by hundreds of miles. The ANC also warned the people that the chaotic condition brought about by the situation would be used by the Government to declare a State of Emergency and to suppress the movement.
The Congresses, however, called on the people to rally closer to the movement and to continue with the campaign with the same discipline and unity they had displayed earlier in the campaign. More and more resisters joined the campaign and courted imprisonment and these were joined by four white democrats in Cape Town and seven in Johannesburg.
Suspension of the Campaign
Towards the end of November 1952, the Minister of Justice issued a proclamation banning all meetings of more than ten Africans anywhere in the country. Soon thereafter the Government enacted two savage and antidemocratic laws especially designed to suppress the Defiance Campaign. In terms of the first law - the Criminal Law Amendment Act - any person who broke any law in protest or in support of a campaign could be sentenced to the following: A fine not exceeding three hundred pounds; or
- imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years; or
- a whipping not exceeding ten strokes; or
- both such fine and such imprisonment; or
- both such fine and such a whipping; or
- both such imprisonment and such a whipping.
Other provisions of the Act laid down similar severe penalties for any person who "in any manner whatsoever advises, encourages, incites, commands, aids or procures any other person... to commit an offence by way of protest against a law..."
Similar penalties were prescribed for any person "who solicits, accepts or receives from any person or body of persons... any money or other articles" for the purpose of assisting such a campaign or for "assisting any person" who has committed any offence as a protest against any legislation. Persons convicted under the Act would subsequently be prohibited by the Minister of Justice from being within any area defined in the prohibition order.
The second law - the Public Safety Act - empowered the Cabinet to suspend all laws anywhere in the Union whenever it was of the opinion that a state of emergency existed and to publish emergency regulations for anything it deemed necessary. These regulations could carry any penalty, including death, for any contravention, as well as confiscation of goods and property.
It was in this situation that in the middle of April 1953, Chief Albert John Mvubi Lutuli, who was elected President-General of the ANC in December 1952, declared that in the light of Government proclamations and the new laws, it was necessary for the organisation to take stock of the situation. He called off the Defiance Campaign and announced:
"It means studying our programme and the new situation in which we find ourselves, to adapt our plans and to see what we could now do to achieve our freedom."
III. AIMS OF THE CAMPAIGN AND ITS RESULTS
Although the movement was partly based on the experiences of the Indian passive resistance movement led by Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa in 1906 and 1913, unlike the Gandhian campaigns, the Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign was seen clearly by the leaders as a tactical step towards politicising the masses, inculcating a spirit of national consciousness among the people and thus building the national liberation movements into mass organisations of the people.
In the detailed discussions that were held by the National Planning Council and the leaderships of the African National Congress and the South African Indian Congress prior to the formulation of the plan of action, the efficacy of the Gandhian philosophy of satyagraha (i.e. changing the hearts of the rulers by passively suffering imprisonment) in the face of an avowedly fascist regime was discussed at length. Undoubtedly there was a very small minority among the leadership who supported the Gandhian creed absolutely. But the vast majority agreed that the campaign itself could not defeat white supremacy. The major aim therefore was to build the liberation movements so as to embarrass the Government and to lead the people to mass industrial action.
The Defiance Campaign did not achieve the objective of mass industrial action because it had to be called off prematurely, due to the repressive measures adopted by the Government. The Campaign did, however, accomplish the other objects of the campaign. For the first time in its history the country witnessed a united and determined campaign embracing all the oppressed peoples under a single leadership, thus marking a turning point in the forms and methods of struggle hitherto conducted. In a relatively short period of time, the Congresses had organised a force of 8,557 highly disciplined volunteers who courted imprisonment. In the less than nine months that the campaign lasted, the membership of the African National Congress shot up from a mere 7,000 to over 100,000, and the ANC established itself as the undoubted leader of the struggle for democracy, freedom and national liberation in South Africa. The campaign transformed the ANC from a loose-knit body into an effective mass movement, with branches in almost every single area in the country and with offices manned by full-time personnel in all the major centres. Correspondingly, it strengthened its leadership, both at the national and local level. Dr. Moroka, who had succumbed to the pressures of the authorities during the trial of leaders, was replaced by Chief Lutuli, whose courage and dynamism was to dominate the political scene in South Africa until he died in 1967.
The Indian Congress likewise greatly consolidated its ranks and was the only spokesman of the South African Indian community, until it was silenced by the banning of all its national and local leaders in the early 1960s.
The campaign also stimulated the growth of the South African Coloured People`s Organisation (later the South African Coloured People`s Congress). The Congress of Democrats was formed at a meeting in December 1952, in Johannesburg, at which Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo, the present Acting President General of the ANC, spoke to over two hundred white supporters of the campaign. The Congress was composed of whites who were unconditionally committed to the policy and programme of the African National Congress. Branches of this organisation were established later in all the other major cities in South Africa.
The Defiance Campaign left an indelible mark on a variety of individuals and organisations. The Liberal Party, which was formed during the campaign, initially advocated a qualified franchise for the black people, but changed later to call for universal adult suffrage for all as demanded by the Congresses. Many Church organisations, particularly black church bodies, came out in support of the campaign. Many Chiefs, who had hitherto remained aloof from the struggles of the people, expressed support for the movement. Many joined the Congress and later led valiant struggles in their areas against the establishment of "Bantu authorities", stock limitation and forced removals.
The impact of the campaign outside South Africa surpassed the expectations of the Congresses. On September 12, 1952, the delegations of 13 Asian and Arab States proposed that the General Assembly of the United Nations should consider "the question of race conflict in South Africa resulting from the policies of apartheid of the Government of the Union of South Africa".
The Assembly had, since 1946, considered the question of the treatment of people of Indian origin in South Africa and had declared, in resolution 395 (V) of December 2, 1950, that a policy of "racial segregation" (apartheid) is necessarily based on doctrines of racial discrimination.
By resolution 616 (VII) of December 5, 1952, the General Assembly established a three-member commission to study the racial situation in South Africa. It also declared that "in a multi-racial society harmony and respect for human rights and freedoms and the peaceful development of a unified community are best assured when patterns of legislation and practice are directed towards ensuring equality before the law of all persons regardless of race, creed or colour, and when economic, social, cultural and political participation of all racial groups is on a basis of equality". It affirmed that "governmental policies of Member States which are not directed towards these goals, but which are designed to perpetuate or increase discrimination, are inconsistent with the pledges of the Members under Article 56 of the Charter."
In Britain, the Labour Party and the Trade Union Congress condemned the South African regime in resolutions adopted at their Congresses. The National Council of Civil Liberties held a nation-wide conference, a month after the campaign began, "to take action on the urgent situation created by the wholesale violation of civil rights by the Union Government."
A "Committee for a Democratic South Africa" was formed in London and, in New York a campaign launched by the Council on African Affairs to collect a minimum of $5,000 for the campaign and to secure 100,000 signatures to a protest petition, succeeded in not only obtaining the signatures but also raising more than double the amount modestly set by the planners.
In British Guiana, the Legislative Council passed a resolution condemning the South African Government and requested the Governor to convey copies of the resolution to the British Government and to the United Nations.
The total disregard of world opinion by the South African Government and its vicious reaction to such a disciplined and avowedly non-violent resistance led to serious discussions among the leaders of the resistance movements. New methods of struggle were evolved and each action by the people led to vicious counteraction by the Government in which many hundreds of people lost their lives. Ultimately, convinced that they had no choice but to lead the people on the path of armed guerrilla action "to meet police violence with organised revolutionary violence", the Congress movement established Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) as its military wing. It announced its existence with the bombing of Government installations and buildings on December 16, 1961. Umkhonto declared in an illegal leaflet:
"This is a new independent body formed by Africans. It includes in its ranks South Africans of all races... Umkhonto we Sizwe will carry on the struggle for freedom and democracy by methods which are necessary to complement the actions of the established national liberation organisations. Umkhonto we Sizwe fully supports the national liberation movement and our members jointly and severally place themselves under the overall political guidance of that movement...
"The people`s patience is not endless. The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices - submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa."