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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 553
Paragraph Numbers 100 to 106
Resistance and revolutionary groupings
100 In the wake of the declaration of a state of emergency, a number of organisations, including the ANC and PAC, responded to their banning by going underground and establishing armed wings. The use of violence as a mechanism of political protest fundamentally altered the nature of political conflict in South Africa and led to the increasing militarisation of the contest for power. The ANC’s armed wing MK, initially engaged in acts of sabotage which targeted railway lines and telecommunications networks, rather than people. Poqo, the military wing of the PAC, used violence more widely. In addition, a group of largely young, white South Africans, the ARM, was formed in the wake of the Sharpville massacre and embarked on a sabotage campaign.
101 On 15 and 16 December 1961, the first MK bombings took place in Durban, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth. On the Day of the Covenant (16 December), explosions caused damage to a Fordsburg post office, the Resettlement Board headquarters in Meadowlands and the Bantu Affairs Commissioner’s offices in Johannesburg. These were the first in a series of over 200 attacks which took place over the next eighteen months in all the major centres of the country and many of the smaller towns. There were thirty-one attacks in Johannesburg, most with incendiary bombs, five in the Vereeniging district, three in Pretoria and two in Benoni.14
102 Although the Transvaal was one of the centres of the ANC’s early sabotage campaign, no amnesty applications were received from those involved in carrying out these acts in this region. The sabotage campaign during this period did not lead to any deaths or injuries. However, the Commission received several statements from people who were involved in organising the initial sabotage actions, detailing their subsequent detention and torture. These included Mr Indres Naidoo, Mr Suresh Nanabhai, Mr Reggie Vandeyar, Mr Abdullay Jassat and Mr Laloo Chiba.
103 As the armed wing of the PAC, Poqo was the first African political movement in South Africa to adopt a strategy that explicitly involved killing people, and was probably the largest active clandestine organisation of the 1960s. The western Cape, in particular the Cape Peninsula, had been a stronghold of the PAC and it was here that Poqo was strongest.15 In late 1962, Poqo made preparations for a general uprising scheduled for 8 April 1963, with simultaneous attacks on a number of strategic targets. However, the police were able to forestall this by arresting over 3 000 Poqo suspects. In mid-1964 the Minister of Justice confirmed that 202 Poqo members had been convicted of murder, twelve of attempted murder, 395 of sabotage, 126 of illegal departure from the country and 820 of other offences related to membership of an underground organisation.16
104 Although the PAC organised clandestinely in the Transvaal during this period, the Commission received no reports of violations where the PAC or Poqo were identified as perpetrators of gross human rights violations in that province. Most of the evidence before the Commission regarding the PAC concerned activists who were detained and tortured for their involvement in the activities of the organisation.
105 Shortly before MK’s campaign started, the ARM began operations in Cape Town and Johannesburg. ARM’s activities were distinguished by technical expertise in the methods used, including dynamite and electrical timing devices, and the ambitious nature of its targets. In subsequent trials, it appeared that most of its members were white, numbering about fifty people altogether, concentrated in Johannesburg, where the ARM had been formed, and Cape Town.17
106 The only information received by the Commission about gross human rights violations in the armed campaigns of this period came from a victim of a bomb planted by Mr John Harris, a member of the ARM. As noted above, Harris was subsequently executed for his involvement in the bombing of the Johannesburg station14 Tom Lodge, Black Politics in South Africa since 1945, 1983. 15 Tom Lodge (1983). 16 Tom Lodge (1983). 17 Tom Lodge (1983).