South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid

Detentions

Video Interviews

"During the first 48 hours, we were all severely tortured."
Video interview segment with Laloo Chiba [7:57]
June 16, 2007
"They said I'm the ring leader and I will stay in jail until my head is straight."
Video interview segment with Lettie Malindi [1:44]
May 23, 2005

Images

Political Art: "A woman's place is in the struggle, not behind bars!"
By TOPS for the Detainees' Parents Support Committee, Johannesburg 1988

Summary

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded in its Final Report (1998) that the apartheid government’s detention of its political opponents was "widespread and systematic." The purposes of detention were to interrogate people, frequently using beating and other forms of torture; to hold people as potential witnesses to testify against their colleagues; and preventive detention to take political leaders out of circulation. Approximately 80,000 detentions occurred, all without legal charges being brought against the accused and outside the jurisdiction of the courts.

Beginning in the early 1960s, in response to successive waves of protest, the South African government enacted increasingly draconian laws which, among other things, permitted lengthy and secretive detentions of anti-apartheid activists. For example, the General Laws Amendment Act was used to justify the detention of members of the Umkhonto we Sizwe High Command while a case was prepared against them at the Rivonia Trial. The Internal Security Amendment Act in 1976, following the uprisings of students in Soweto that spread across the country, allowed for renewable 12-month periods of preventive detention and six-month detention of potential witnesses in solitary confinement. As mass protests grew in the 1980s, a new Internal Security Act was enacted in 1982 streamlining previous legislation. Section 29 of this Act allowed for detention until "all questions are satisfactorily answered" or "no useful purpose will be served by further detention." As thousands of people were held in detention in the mid-1980s, the Detainees’ Parents Support Committee sought information about detainees and provided valuable information to the media.

Related Multimedia Resources:

Related Essays:

Web Images

Photograph: Unlock Apartheid's Jails
From: African Activist Archive
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Web Documents

Report: "TRC Report: Torture and Death in Detention"

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Resource: "List of Deaths in Detention"
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Book Chapter/Excerpt: "Introduction: A Journey to Reclaim an Uncle, Comrade, and Martyr", Timol: A Quest for Justice
By Imtiaz Kajee
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Testimony: Testimony by Hawa Timol before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Human Rights Violations Committee in Johannesburg, April 30, 1996.
By Hawa Timol
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Testimony: Testimony by Ben Kgoathe before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Human Rights Violations Committee in Johannesburg, April 29, 1996
By Ben Kgoathe
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Testimony: Testimony of Singqokwana Malgas before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Human Rights Violations Committee in East London, April 17, 1996
By Singqokwana Malgas
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Newspaper Article: "Detainees Speak! Zou Kota", Grassroots
By Zou Kota
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AODL African Studies Center MSU Matrix NEH