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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. [Volume 39, Issue 8. April 1976]

Lessons from Apartheid

page 16

Lessons from Apartheid

"A generous description of the current political system in South Africa would be to call it a partial democracy. More correctly it is a racial oligarchy. The National Party is firmly in power, the official White opposition supine and without hope of every defeating it. The appurtenances of democracy are retained in free elections, a parliament and the rule of law. This is a facade. The free elections are confined to the White fifth of the population; Parliament consists of a government and an opposition, both dedicated to the maintenance of White hegemony; the rule of law is distorted by numerous discriminatory laws and extensive delegated powers, despotically applied"

Opposition to the ruling Nationalist Party within South Africa covers a spectrum of groups. Firstly, there are four other White political parties which aspire to gain power by winning a parliamentary majority from the existing White electorate.

White Political Parties:

a) The United Party:

The United Party, the official opposition would if successful try to maintain White supremacy throughout the Republic by milder means than those introduced by the Nationalists. The United Party has been committed on 'White leadership" in the interests of all our people and as an instrument bring about a sharing of power and responsibility among all our population groups.

In recent years they have adjusted thier policies to those of the Nationalist Party to such an extent that they are little more than an English carbon copy of the ruling party.

The United Party has accepted that certain Bantustans may become independent states, but considers that close links should be maintained with such territories, and that as much of South Africa as in feasible should be preserved as a single economy.

In terms of its federal plan, various communities would be identified according to ethnic and geographic considerations. Each would be established, consisting of M.P.'s and members of each assembly, to advise the central (White) parliament on matters affecting the community concerned.

A federal assembly would be created consisting of three representatives of each legislative assembly together with 120 members elected on the basis of a formula reflecitng the contribution of each community to the country's gross domestic product.

Parliament would, in its discretion, gradually delegate certain powers concerning matters of common interest, to this federal assembly. This body would not be able to interfere in the internal affairs or special interests of the various communities and their legislative assemblies.

The Party believes that seperate social and residential facilities for the various racial groups should be retained. But permanently urbanised Blacks should have the right to acquire freehold title to land in their own residential areas, should be afforded a greater sense of security, and should have improved standards of living, educational facilities, and training for employment.

b) The Progressive Party

The Progressive Party would introduce constitutional reforms, giving full political rights to all adults who meet a test of "civilisation"; create safeguards against group domination and guarantee the fundamental rights of all individuals.

The Progressive Party bases its policy on the belief that South Africa is, and will remain a multi-racial country whose citizens are interdependent. Its philosophy is that in any society, the individual human being is of paramount importance. Each citizen must be treated with equal dignity. Merit, and not skin colour, should be the measure of individual worth.

The Party opposes compulsory social integration as well as compulsory segregation. Social relationships should be regulated by the conventions of society and the attitudes of individuals. The Progressives consider that South Africa should become a federation of, largely, autonomous provinces, the provincial boundaries being redrawn to take into account demographic, economic and other factors.

For approximately 13 years the Progressives held one seat in the White Central Parliament, that of Helen Suzman but at the general election and a subsequent bye- election, in 1974, increased their number of seats to eight.

On 11th February, 1975, a new South African political party was formed from dissident members of the United Party. Largely composed of the Young Turk faction of the United Party, this Reform Party as it was called, later merged with the Progressives to form the Progress Party.

c) The Herstigte Nasionale Party

The Herstigte Nasionale Party, led by Dr Albert Hertzog, former Minister of Posts and Telegraphs, believes in the intensification of apartheid on more restrictive lines reminiscent of the old Afrikaner Society of the 19th century.

The Herstigte Nasionale Party believes that international forces making for racial integration must be resisted. The Party regards the maintenance of separate identities by the Whites and Blacks as paramount; the latter must not be given expectations of social equality with Whites.

Economic forces militating against separate development must be countered to ensure peaceful progress in which the separate development of the White and Black groups should be strengthened. Industrialisation should be checked if it is overstimulated by foreign capital and labour.

d) The Democratic Party

The Democratic Party, led by Theo Gerdener, former Nationalist Minister of Interior, was formed in 1973. It advocates a "twin-stream" policy. In the one stream would be the Whites, Coloureds and Indians. All basic rights presently enjoyed by the Whites only would be extended gradually to the others. In the course of time, all public facilities would be shared, and a state would emerge in which all citizens had full equality, petty discrimination based on colour being eliminated.

The democratic Party would redraw the boundaries of the Bantustans to consolidate into large areas which could become viable, completely independent, states. Large urban African townships might be converted into autonomous city states of into integrated parts of Bantustans, or else urban Africans could form a third bloc of the peoples of South Africa.

The mixed White, Coloured and Indian areas together with the independent African city states, and possibly neighbouring states would be linked in a confederation, economically inter-dependent but politically independent.

While an ever increasing proportion of the White electorate has supported the Nationalist Party since 1948, there has been a small but continuous stream of Whites fundamentally critical of the official policy. These are drawn from both Afrikaner and English speaking communities, and are mainly academics, journalists and clergymen.

They have pointed to the glaring gulf between theory and practice of apartheid, to the absence of any adequate substitute for participation in the political process for Blacks and to the harshness of the methods employed to maintain apartheid. In the main they have been ineffective in creating an opposition within South Africa, but have embarrassed the Government by their effectiveness in arousing public opinion abroad. They, too, like all opponents, are allowed to function, harassed at the Government's discretion. After that they are then arrested jailed, placed under house arrest or deported.

Nusas and Christian Institute:

Mention must be made here of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) and the Christian Institute of Southern Africa.

NUSAS is the White Students organisation with memberhsip drawn largely from the English speaking White universities in South Africa. It was founded in 1924 by the late Leo Marquard, a leading liberal historian and educationist. In the late 1950's and early 1960's NUSAS constituted a vocal opposition to the Nationalist Party government, as a result of which very many of its leaders were deported, banned and placed under house arrest.

Following the establishment of the radical Black South African Students Organisation (SASO) there were attempts by NUSAS at restructing in an effort to adjust to the rising tide of Black consciousness. The leadership of NUSAS realised that if NUSAS was to remain a viable body working for change in South Africa then White students, would have to speak to Whites to make them aware of the injustices perpertrated against Blacks rather than speaking to or on behalf of Blacks.

In February, 1973, the Schlebusch Commission of Inquiry into certain organisations produced its first interim report on NUSAS.

The Commission (a secret commission consisting of politicians from the ruling Nationalist Party and the United Party) had been appointed by the Government to investigate the objects, organisation, financing and activities of the University Christian Movement, NUSAS, the Christian Institute and the South African Institute of Race Relations and any related organisations, bodies, committees, or groups of persons.

Shortly after publication of the interim report, seven members of NUSAS and a university lecturer were banned for five years under the Suppression of Communism Act.

In September, 1974, NUSAS was declared an affected organisation under the Affected Organisations Act, No 31 of 1974. This means that NUSAS can no longer receive funds from abroad. Any individual who receives or attempts to receive funds from abroad on behalf of NUSAS is liable to fine of R 10,000 ($10,000) or five years imprisonment, or both on a first conviction; and on a second or subsequent conviction, R20,000 ($20,000) or ten years or both. Rather than ban the Organisation outright the Government clearly aimed to strangle the Organisation through lack of funds for its activities.

The Christian Institute:

The Sharpeville massacre of 1960 caused concern among clergymen several of whom established the Christian Institute of Southern Africa. Preaching that the system of apartheid is incompatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ and the basic tenets of Christianity has brought members of the Institute into disfavour with the Government and its supporters. Members of the Institute have been harrassed by the security police, banned and placed under house arrest and, together with other liberals, have bene subjected to right-wing terrorism.

There have been over 400 reported cases of right-wing terrorism; academics, students and clergymen have had the windscreens of thier cars smashed, tyres slashed, molotoy cocktails thrown into gatherings and buildings set on fire.

One academic had bullets fired through his bedroom window, which just missed his wife and child by inches. Very much of this terrorism has been conducted by reactionary elements among the Afrikaans - speaking, but the police have also been reportedly seen carrying out such acts. Except for the arrest of a fire-bug who called himself Scorpio the crimes have gone undetected.

In 1975 the Christian Institute was declared an affected organisation which means that it, too, can no longer receive funds from abroad.

Black Political Movements from Rebellion to Revolution:

Several organisations, consisting mostly of disenfranchised Blacks, seek to gain power by extra-constitutional means and create a non-racial democratic state. Since 1960 they have been for the most part functioning underground pursuing revolutionary goals by violent as well as non-violent means. This was in reaction to the Government's systematic and violent suppression of all forms of Black protest, climaxing with the banning of both of the major Black political organisations, the African National Congress and the Pan-Africanist Congress.

The African National Congress (ANC) was formed in 1912, but the distinction of being the first Black political organisation of non-violent nature belongs to the Imbumba Yama Afrika, the Union of Africans, which was formed in the Eastern Cape in 1886.

The formation of the ANC was a significant event in the history of the Black people of South Africa. It gave them hope that one day they would reverse their military defeats and win back their political power through the ballot-box. The ANC was essentially a reformist elite-led association for the betterment of Black economic, social and political conditions within a non-violent legal frame-work

The All African Convention:

The All African Convention, a political organisation which had been founded in 1935, won massive support among Blacks when it called for the rejection of all dummy bodies and advocated a policy of non-collaboration with the minority government. They made this bold stand at a time when Black intellectuals were vying with one another for positions on the bogus institutions for the "child race".

The All African Convention argued that to continue to operate the segregated institutions for any reason what soever was to accept the inferiority of the Black man and to involve the population in working the machinery of thier own oppression.

To implement the policy of non-collaboration a federation of political parties called the Non-European Unity Movement was formed. It comprised such organisations as the All African Convention, the ANC, and the Comm page 17 unist Party of South Africa. But there was soon a division among members of the Unity Movement: "The younger men wanted to boycott the body entirely, where as the older men, seeing that it was inevitable, waned to make it work in the hope of gathering a crumb or two. The views of the elders prevailed......." 1.

The policy of non-collaboration failed. The ANC and the Communist Party, whose leaders were anxious to use the dummy-bodies, withdrew from the Unity Movement. Though the policy of non-collaboration did not succeed it was certainly the correct path as events bowed later and still do today.

The Unity Movement still exists today operating from [unclear: nodest] quarters in Lusaka, Zambia. In 1971 13 members of the Unity Movement were tried and convicted under South Africa's Terrorism Act. The charges were wide [unclear: anging] and covered the period 1963 to 1970, alleging that the accused "endangered the maintenance of law and order and sought to overthrow the government by force of arms". The 13 were sentenced to terras of imrisonment ranging from five to eight years.

The Pan-Africanist Congress:

It has been mentioned earlier that the ANC was [unclear: essenially] a reformist, elite-led organisation working for the social, political and economic betterment of Blacks within a legal non-violent framework.

The growing restlessness of the Black youth "at lack of action led to the establishment in 1944 of the Youth League which worked within the ANC but demanded positive measures to publicise African opposition to [unclear: terimination]."2.

The Youth League was therefore a pressure group within the ANC but had its own basic policy, namely the overthrow of foreign domination and foreign leadership and implementing the fundamental right of the lack people to self determination.

One writer 3 observes: "Quite early in its history the League had committed itself to the policy of going on the offensive in its bid to alter the pace of movement [unclear: oward] freedom.

In pursuing this line, it had administered a fatal blow [unclear: of] the Native Representative Council. It broke Champion's [unclear: ship] on the ANC in Natal and threw Dr Xuma out of office by paying the way for Albert Luthuli, whom the [unclear: atal] Leaguers were steadily pushing to the fore as expressing the mood of the ANC. And when the League felt it had cleaned the Congress house sufficiently, it learned to direct action against oppression."

The militancy urged by the ANC Youth League was [unclear: manally] adopted in 1949 as the programme of the Congress [unclear: as] a whole.

The Programme of action proposed by the Youth league aimed at the attainment of National Freedom, which was defined as: "freedom from White domination [unclear: id] the attainment of political independence. This [unclear: oplies] the rejection of the concept of segregation, [unclear: partheid], trusteeship, or White leadership, which are all one way or another, motivated by the idea of White domination or the domination of White over Black".

The extent to which the ANC was rejuvenated by the Youth League can be seen in the 1952 Defiance campaign Against Unjust Laws, a campaign of passive [unclear: sistance] on the lines of Mahatma Gandi's philisophy of On-violence. Thousands of people participated in the campaign which resulted in mass arrests, the unbridled [unclear: avagery] of police brutality and eventually the enactment of more repressive legislation like the 1953 Criminal [unclear: aws] Amendment Act.

Among the members of the Youth League there was tremendous resentment of the dominant role being thought to be played in the ANC by the White members of the Communist Party. The members of the Communist Party were also members of the various [unclear: Confesses].

After the outlawing of the CP by the newly-elected Nationalist Party government in 1950, its members began to play an increasingly active role in the ANC - fact which led many of the militants to charge that he ANC was being used as a front by the CP members.

Following the Passive Resistance campaign and the Congress of the People" Campaign in 1955-56 the Africanists within the ANC left the ANC on 2nd November 1958 and formally formed the Pan-Africanist Congress on 6 April, 1959. A substantial amount of literature has been written about the split which led to the formation of the PAC - some of it hostile, some of it sympathetic - but that is outside the purview of this article.

The PAC took the first step in March 1960 in its non-violent national campaign against the carrying of passes. All over South Africa thousands of unarmed Blacks gathered around police stations, destroyed their passes and invited police to arrest them.

Thousands were peacefully arrested but in two places, Langa and Sharpevill, panicky police opened fire on the peaceful crowds. The horror of apartheid became known throughout the world with the Sharpeville massacre in which 69 people were killed and 183 wounded. The Government declared a state of emergency and outlawed the ANC and PAC under the Unlawful Organisations Act and jailed many of the leaders of both organisations.

Subsequently, three main underground revolutionary movements emerged:
(1)Spear of the Nation, founded by Nelson Mandela and other ANC leaders, intended to disrupt communications and destroy government offices holding that public order would gradually collapse, guerilla warfare would begin and white supremacy would be overthrown.

POQO, founded by members of the PAC after the outlawing of the Party, as the military wing. POQO militants armed with pangas, axes, home-made bombs and a few stolen guns and pistols engaged in several dashes with the police and with pro-apartheid government chiefs and supporters. The most serious clash was the Paarl uprising which resulted in a fierce attack on the police station probably in an attempt to capture arms. In the struggle which ensued two whites were killed and several police wounded. This alarmed the Government and its supporters; a one-man Commission of Enquiry into the spate of armed uprisings was instituted.

On 4 February 1963 at Bashee Bridge in the Transkei five whites were reported killed with home-made bombs, causing alarm among whites in the country. The government denied that the killings were politically motivated but newspapers soon contradicted official reports by revealing that POQO was responsible. This period was characterised by great uncertainty. There were a number of uprisings and press-suppressed clashes between POQO forces and white police Black informers and spies were killed.

(3)The African Resistance Movement, a multi-racial body of young students became active in 1963 with acts of violence in the hope of frightening the Government into making concessions.

After three years of sabotage, killing and attacks the Government banned these three movements under the General Laws Amendment Act of 1962-63. By mid 1963 only scattered remnants of POQO remained and in July of that year the Security Police uncovered the headquarters of the Spear of the Nation. Subsequently Mandela, Sisulu and Lsovan Mbeki, among others were imprisoned for life and Robert Sobukwe was detained on Robben Island. After Robert Sobukwe had completed his three year sentence for incitment a special act of Parliament - known as the Sobukwe Clause - was passed enabling parliament to detain him for one year periods. He spent an additional six years on Robben Island and when he was eventually released in 1970 he was immediately banned and placed under house arrest under the "Suppression of Communism Act. He is presently confined to the magisterial district of Kimberley and last year he was banned for a further five years.

Sharpeville Closed the Old Chapter:

Sharpeville was neither the first nor the last massacre of Blacks in South Africa. Between 1919 and 1960 there were approximately 21 massacres: e.g. the Bulthoek massacre in 1920 when members of a religious sect were gunned down leaving 163 killed and 129 wounded; there was the 1946 miners strike when 13 miners were shot dead by police. In the post Sharpeville period, in September 1973, 14 black miners were killed by police after a strike at Carltonville.

The importance of Sharpeville is that it marked a qualitative change in the Black struggle for liberation. While the protesters chose as their target the pass laws which were the scourge of the people and a daily reminder of their physical oppression, they in fact challenged the entire system. The ultimate aim of the uprising was the seizure of political power. By inviting arrest the men aimed at depriving the system of that on which it thrived - their labour.

More importantly the Sharpeville massacre removed all doubt about the futility of non-violent protest. Thereafter both the ANC and the PAC adopted the principle of armed struggle as the only means to achieve a non racial democracy in South Africa. Both movement are still operating in exile and are committed to the armed struggle.


The Present Situation:

Despite the systematic violent suppression of all protest in South Africa the racist regime has failed to cow the people into submission. In fact it is a truism that repression breeds resistance. Despite the large number of Draconian laws which provide for indefinite detention without trial and arbitrary restriction without trial, the apartheid system is being challenged by all sections of the oppressed, particularly Black workers inside the country.

From the beginnings of 1972 to the present period, South Africa has been hit by a series of strikes by Black workers shaking the very foundations of the economy and White minority rule in the country.

Despite the fact that all strikes by Black workers are illegal in South Africa, in 1973 alone, police were called to 261 strikes, 46 labour disputes and 16 partial stoppages The most effective opposition being presented to the apartheid regime is that of the Black Consciousness Movement which has been working towards the solidarity of all the oppressed people.

The Black Consciousness Movement comprises:
  • the South African Students Organisation. (SASO)
  • the Black People's Convention. (BPC)
  • the Black Community Programme. (BCP)
  • Black Allied Workers' Union. (BAWA)
  • and the Cultural Committee (CULCOM) which is made up of various drama and theatre groups.

The Black consciousness movement has made vast progress over the past six years and despite very many leaders being banned, jailed, forced into exile, continues to flourish inside the country. The Movement completely rejects apartheid and all apartheid institutions.

At a Black Renaissance Convention held at Hammanskraal in December, 1974, delegates declared:

"We dedicate ourselves towards striving for a totally united and democratic South Africa, free from all forms of oppression and exploitation. A society in which all people participate fully in the government of the country through the medium of one man one vote. A society in which there is an equitable distribution of wealth and an auti-racist society."

Henry Isaacs

Silhouette image of two people dragging another

1 Albert Luthuli, Let My People Go, p 102

2 J.A. Davis & J.K. Baker (editors) Southern Africa in Transition, p 9

3 J.K. Ngubane, An African Explains Apartheid, p 98