General Law Amendment Act No 37 is approved

Thursday, 2 May 1963

This Act was an amendment to Section 17, the ninety-day detention law. This meant that any commissioned police officer was empowered to detain, without warrant and for the purposes of interrogation, anyone suspected of a political crime. They could be legally held in solitary confinement for ninety days and denied access to a lawyer or recourse to law through the courts. On expiry of that period the security forces needed only to apply for a renewal of another ninety days of detention.

Since detention without trial was first introduced in apartheid South Africa more than sixty people have died while in detention. The Act also gave the state powers to ban people after their release from detention. This restricted them to a specific geographic area, severely hampering the pursuit of their political objectives. The area could be a magisterial district or as restrictive as the confines of their own home. Periodic reporting (possibly weekly, daily, etc.) to the local police station could also be a part of the state order.

The first person to die in detention, as a result of this law, was Ngudle Solwandle. The police claim that he committed suicide by hanging himself. Though possible, it is more probable that the police murdered him and simply claimed it was suicide. A very large percentage of those who died in detention did so under mysterious circumstances.


South African History Online

Last updated : 29-Apr-2015

This article was produced by South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011

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