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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 163
Paragraph Numbers 27 to 39
Historical overview of the period
27 Several factors converged at the beginning of 1960 to usher in a decade characterised by extreme repression and demoralisation in the political life of the nation. With the 1959 Bantu Self-Government Act in place, the Nationalist government embarked on a policy of ‘divide and rule’. The banning of the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) in April 1960 was an attempt to repress all forms of opposition, although non-violent and legal, in the country as a whole. In Natal, the decade was marked by the widespread imposition of restrictions, banning and banishment orders on individuals, arrests, detentions and police brutality, and by criminal prosecutions under the main pillars of apartheid legislation.
28 From the early sixties, the pass laws were the primary instrument used by the state to arrest and charge its political opponents. By the same token, it was mainly the popular resistance mobilised against those pass laws that kept resistance politics alive during this period. Africans in Natal incurred heavy fines for burning reference documents. One of those fined was Chief Albert Luthuli, president of the ANC and 1960 Nobel Peace Laureate. Shortly before its banning, the ANC organised anti-pass law demonstrations in Durban, resulting in large-scale arrests and detentions. Protests against the Group Areas Act became another major feature of resistance at this time, particularly in areas where residents were under threat of removal.
29 The ANC established a separate armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), in 1961 and developed an underground campaign to expose and counter state repression. The multi-pronged strategy included a propaganda campaign and student protest action in a number of black and English-medium universities. On 16 December 1961, MK launched Operation Mayibuye, a sabotage campaign directed mainly at government installations. This led to a large number of bannings, arrests and prosecutions, and the Commission heard several accounts of torture of detainees in Natal. Many operatives and activists were sentenced to jail terms for sabotage or for membership of the banned liberation organisations; many more were driven into exile. By the mid-1960s, the underground structures of the ANC had collapsed and formal opposition politics were at their most subdued.
30 After the Rivonia trial (1963–64) in which Mr Nelson Mandela and other members of the MK high command were tried, an attempt was made to reconstitute the high command, but all its members were subsequently arrested. The internal units of MK were in disarray, and any Natal operatives who were not in prison or on trial went into exile. About 800 MK cadres were in exile by 1965, undergoing training in Tanzania, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union and China under the command of Mr Joe Modise.
31 In 1967, MK cadres were sent into Rhodesia with Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) units in what was known as the ‘Wankie Campaign’. The main MK unit (the Luthuli Detachment) was to forge a way to South Africa whilst another established a transit base in Sipolilo, Rhodesia. The South African security forces were invited into Rhodesia by the Smith government and launched a joint operation against MK-ZAPU units. These were the first cross-border actions against MK cadres from Natal. The Luthuli Detachment included well-known Natal MK cadres such as Mr Justice Mpanza from Groutville and Mr Daluxolo Luthuli4. Many of these cadres and their families later told their stories to the Commission.
32 In 1969, the ANC in exile established a Revolutionary Council to oversee all political and military work. Various attempts to send MK into South Africa, particularly into the rural areas, were thwarted when operatives were captured or killed, so there was very little MK activity in the late sixties and early seventies. The political landscape changed with the release of MK cadres such as Mr Harry Gwala, Mr Joe Gqabi and Mr Jacob Zuma from Robben Island starting in 1972 and with Mozambique’s independence in 1974, giving MK a corridor into South Africa. MK units in Natal began to redevelop routes to their units in Swaziland.4 Daluxolo Wordsworth Luthuli, said to be the grandson of former ANC president Chief Albert Luthuli, was later arrested and convicted of terrorism. He served his sentence on Robben Island. On his release in 1979, he joined Inkatha and in 1986 became involved in an Inkatha paramilitary training project. Luthuli accompanied a group of 206 Inkatha supporters who underwent six months of secret training by the SADF in the Caprivi in 1986 and acted as their political commissar.
33 Early in the 1970s, new forms of resistance and new challenges emerged internally. A number of new organisations, such as the (black) South African Students’ Organisation (SASO) and the Black People’s Convention (BPC), espoused the philosophy of Black Consciousness, which addressed the psychological oppression and the daily experience of racism of black people. The NIC was revived in 1971. While the movement rejected the exclusivist aspirations of Black Consciousness, it became an outspoken opponent of ethnic and racially-based government administration in both the province and the country, and was effective in raising political consciousness in the Indian community.
The KwaZulu National Assembly
34 Those in the Black Consciousness tradition expressed clear opposition to blacks operating within government-created institutions. This rejectionist position served increasingly to isolate people like Zulu leader, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who headed the Zululand Territorial Authority created in 1970 and its successor, the KLA. From these positions, he sought to advance his own political agenda as well as his opposition to both apartheid and a specific strand within the ANC. He became a thorn in the flesh of the National Party (NP) government, which tried by various means to unseat him. He made it clear to the central government that he would only consider accepting homeland ‘independence’ on condition that the territory was consolidated to include the new harbour of Richards Bay and all ‘white’ towns north of the Tugela.
35 The Durban strikes of 1973 marked a turning point in the history of political resistance in the province. With wages practically frozen for over a decade, the growing poverty in the cities – and therefore also in the rural areas where families depended on the wages of migrant breadwinners – led to strikes which affected 150 establishments and involved 60 000 workers during the first few months of 1973. The strikers were ultimately forced to back down, but they laid the foundations for a new labour union movement and for organised social resistance in other
spheres of the anti-apartheid struggle. The General Factory Workers’ Benefit Fund also opened the way for the organisation of workers in a number of industrial fields. This was an initiative of the Wages Commission, set up at the University of Natal in 1972 to research labour conditions and to provide workers with a vehicle to voice their grievances.
36 While most homeland leaders limited their concerns mainly to the citizens of their own territory, Chief Buthelezi, the most outspoken of these leaders in attacking the South African government, used the Durban strikes to voice the more general aspirations of Africans and to assert an ethnic, specifically Zulu, mode of resistance. The KwaZulu government supported the strikers’ demands for increased wages and used the opportunity to demonstrate to the white authorities what collective action could achieve unless concessions were made to African people.
37 Towards the end of 1974, several Black Consciousness supporters were arrested in Durban in connection with the planning of Viva Frelimo rallies to celebrate the fall of Portuguese colonialism in Mozambique. Many members of Black Consciousness organisations fled the country. Some were detained and others were charged under the Terrorism Act No 83 of 1967.
38 In 1975, the Inkatha Cultural Liberation Movement (Inkatha) was revived, marking a new era in the province’s political life. Its strategy and its future relationship with other opposition groupings were shaped by the Durban strikes as well as by the scholars’ uprising of 1976 in Soweto.5
39 The formation of Inkatha had the approval of the ANC, because the new movement appeared to offer access to rural areas. Initially, Inkatha placed itself squarely within the political tradition of the ANC’s founding fathers. However, Inkatha was later to operate uncontested on any scale within the space provided by the homeland policy and the state’s repression of all other opposition.5 The Soweto uprisings are described in the chapter on the Transvaal in this volume.