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

The start of a bad time

The treason trial was the start of a very bad time. At that time they were after all of our organizations, wanting to stop what we were doing and us. In 1958 they banned the ANC in some places, like in Zeerust, where there had been a lot of trouble. And they banned a lot of meetings too at that time, especially meetings that were being held in the townships. Then, in 1960, a terrible thing happened. On the 21st March there were some peaceful demonstrations against the passes, because the people still didn't want passes. The police shot many people in those protests. I don't know why they did this, but at Sharpeville and at Langa the police killed many people. The people were very angry and. the government got very scared, and they declared a State of Emergency. In that State of Emergency they can arrest anyone they like, and they don't tell anyone where you are, and there are police everywhere just doing how they like. It lasted about five months, and they arrested thousands of people and put them in jail, with no trial, just put them in jail. And they ask you questions, questions about what you are doing. Or else they let you tay there so you cannot be organizing the people. But in those days interrogation was not like it is now; they didn't use torture and things so much.

It was during that time of the State of Emergency that they banned the ANC and the PAC, as well as arresting a lot of people. I was arrested then too. I spent nearly three months in Jail.

Some people stayed for less time, maybe two months, or two weeks, but I stayed there alone in jail to finish my three months. Then they released me too. But the emergency regulations made it very difficult to continue with our work. You can't have meetings here and here, and you can't do this, and you mustn't talk about this and this! A lot of leaders were banned from attending meetings and we were not allowed to be together with other leaders, and in many places meetings were illegal too.

After the State of Emergency we carried on working even though the ANC was banned. It was very difficult for the Federation too even though it was not banned, because when they banned the ANC, they banned most of the membership of the Federation. The ANC Women's League was the strongest part of the Federation, so it was no more as strong as it had been. But we went on working, and then the government started banning all the women's leaders too, Lillian and Florence and Helen and so on. And that made things very bad for the Federation.

We still carried on with the trade union and with the ANC but now we had to work underground. That was when we started to work with the M-plan. The M-plan was a thing worked out, by Nelson Mandela so that we could carry on working even though the organization was banned. I think Mandela could see that the government was going to ban the organization, and he worked out this plan so that we could carry on. He is a very clever man. That is why the government wants to keep him in jail all the time. The M-plan was this thing of dividing the ANC into cells. It worked very well. There were about 10 people in one cell and we were all from one place, one street and so forth. We would meet, just the few of us. Then the chairman of our group, he would have a meeting with other people, and so it would go on, small groups meeting all the time, never big meetings.

In the beginning of 1963 the police came to my house again and they gave me my banning orders, you know, that I mustn't go out of Port Elizabeth, and that I must go to the police station every week to show that I am still there, and that I am not allowed into any coloured area or any township other than New Brighton, that I am not allowed to talk to any other banned or listed what-what person or attend any meetings or gatherings, even social gatherings. I even had to make a special application to be allowed to attend church! Those banning orders came from Vorster! That was when he was minister of justice, before he became prime minister.

Those banning orders were a great nuisance but it didn't worry me too much because I had been expecting this sort of thing. But what must one do? I just carry on with my work as much as I can. Of course I couldn't go to the trade union offices any more but I still carried on working and talking to people and organizing as much as I can.

Then on the 18th October when I was still banned the police came to my house again! This time they came to arrest me. They also arrested some other people at the same time, friends of mine.

That time there were four children in my house who I was looking after. There were my own two sons and I was looking after one of Mildred's, children and one of Eleanor's as well. The one was about five years and the other was only about three years, still small children. Those children were staying with me alone because my husband had already died by then. We were all sleeping that night, and the house was very quiet. Then suddenly, in the middle of the night: KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!, the police came knocking on the door like they always do, very loud. They wanted to search the house and so forth. They came inside making a noise and putting the lights on and everything. The children woke up wondering what was happening now. They were standing there in their pyjamas in the middle of the night, watching, looking. 'What is happening with these people? What is Mama doing?'

When the police had finished in the house they took me to where a police car was standing by the gate, in the road. The children came with me in the dark as far as the gate. Then the police put me in the car. I looked at the children standing at the gate and my heart was just as if it would fall down. It was too pathetic to leave children at that time of the night alone in the house. And so I left in the police car, and that was the last those children saw of me until after so many years. It was 10 years or so, a very long time, until I saw them again.

During that time the cases were never spoken in Port Elizabeth. They used to take us out to some other place around there. I can't remember which place it was that time, but they took us to court and told us that we were arrested for such and such a thing, working for a banned organization and so forth.

They found the other people who were with me guilty and sent them to jail, but they discharged me. I was the only person discharged then. But immediately I got out the doors of the court they arrested me again and took me back to jail in Port Elizabeth. Most of those other people got two years or two and a half years. But they took me back to Port Elizabeth and put me into solitary confinement. That was in North End police station I remember. It is called Baakens Bridge because of the bridge right near it.

Solitary confinement