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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 36

Paragraph Numbers 6 to 14

Volume 3

Chapter 2

Subsection 2

■ 1960–1975

Overview of Violations

6 Human rights violations in the Eastern Cape during this period were related to the detention and trial of ANC and PAC members in the early 1960s. The Commission heard numerous allegations of torture and assault in custody. Deaths in custody were also recorded for this period.

7 The sabotage campaigns undertaken by the liberation movements in the early 1960s were also felt in the Eastern Cape. In Transkei, a peasants’ revolt against tribal authorities and resistance to the impending creation of the Transkei homeland gathered momentum, resulting in the declaration of a state of emergency that would remain in force for more than a decade. Detentions and deaths in custody were a feature of these times.

8 The period also saw the creation of the first homelands. In 1963, Transkei became the first region in the country to be granted self-government, with initial strong resistance followed by brief attempts by some ANC groups to work within the new homeland structures. In August 1972, the Ciskei too became self-governing. Forced removals became a key part of Pretoria’s push towards ‘independence’ for these territories.

9 Towards the end of the 1960s, police repression, along with new apartheid laws and the forced removal of hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, generated a climate of fear which resulted in a period of relative quiescence in political resistance until the early 1970s.

10 Of the Eastern Cape violations reported to the Commission for this period, the highest number (42 per cent) were cases of severe ill treatment.

11 The next largest category of violations was torture (27 per cent), while 10 per cent were killings.

State and allied groupings

12 After the lifting of the state of emergency, the strategy of the security forces was to rely primarily on the existing legal system to contain opposition. Using what amounted to legalised violence, repression was enforced with particular ruthlessness in the Eastern Cape, the worst affected area being Port Elizabeth. According to figures quoted by the International Defence and Aid Fund (IDAF)1, security police detained over 1 000 people in Port Elizabeth between October 1964 and June 1965.

13 Unlike the 1980s strategy of using detention for preventive purposes, the policy in the 1960s and 1970s was to charge and try those arrested. IDAF records that, of the roughly 1 000 persons detained in 1964–65, over 500 were sentenced, 101 became state witnesses, a few had charges withdrawn and the rest were still awaiting trial at the time of publication. Sentences ranged from one to twelve years, often for minor offences such as attending ANC or PAC meetings, distributing leaflets or contributing to ANC funds. Port Elizabeth lawyer John Jackson2 notes that political trials in the Eastern Cape began in mid-1965 and were held in small rural courthouses or police stations. Most charges related to the banned ANC and PAC and acquittals were rare. He says of state witnesses:

The promise of personal freedom, if satisfactory evidence was given, was enough to ensure that they would implicate anyone … During these political trials, the Special Branch, as these policemen were known, conducted the investigation and interrogation. The allegations of torture were plentiful. The accused were mainly illiterate black men who had been recruited into one of the banned movements and arrested after attending meetings of the organisation. Conviction followed conviction.

14 The new laws promulgated during this period facilitated extended detentions. The General Law Amendment Act No 37 of 1963 and the Criminal Procedure Act No 96 of 1965 allowed first for 90-day and then 180-day detentions. Conditions in detention and jails were appalling. Mr Harold Strachan [JB04416/99OVE], who was detained at Port Elizabeth’s North End Prison in 1962 and later at Pretoria Central prison, told the Commission’s prisons hearing in Johannesburg that North End Prison was “a hellish place” and described seeing warders assault prisoners as a matter of routine. “Where purposeful cruelty and vengeance left off, neglect would take over. Nobody really cared, you know.”

1 IDAF, The Purge of the Eastern Cape: undated 1960s publication detailing the use of the legal system to contain opposition in the period 1963 to 1965. 2 John Jackson, Justice in South Africa, London: Penguin, 1980.
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