People Are Destroyed – October 1955

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On the
effects of apartheid, and in particular the pass laws, on people’s lives.

Musi is fifty-three years of age. She and her husband had lived in Krugersdorp
for thirty-two years. Throughout this period, he had worked for the Krugersdorp
municipality for £7 l0s. a month. They had seven children ranging from nineteen
to two years of age. One was doing the final year of the Junior Certificate at
the Krugersdorp Bantu High School and three were in primary schools, also in
Krugersdorp. She had several convictions for brewing kaffir beer.(1) Because of these convictions she
was arrested as an undesirable person in terms of the provisions of the Native
Urban Areas Act and brought before the Additional Native Commissioner of
Krugersdorp. After the arrest but before the trial her husband collapsed
suddenly and died. Thereafter the Commissioner judged her an undesirable person
and ordered her deportation to Lichtenburg. Bereaved and broken-hearted, and
with the responsibility of maintaining seven children weighing heavily on her
shoulders, an aged woman was exiled from her home and forcibly separated from
her children to fend for herself among strangers in a strange environment . . .

In June
1952 I and about fifty other friends were arrested in Johannesburg while taking
part in a defiance campaign and removed to Marshall Square. As we were being
jostled into the drill yard one of our prisoners was pushed from behind by a
young European constable so violently that he fell down some steps and broke
his ankle. I protested, whereupon the young warrior kicked me on the leg in
cowboy style. We were indignant and started a demonstration. Senior police
officers entered the yard to investigate. We drew their attention to the
injured man and demanded medical attention. We were curtly told that we could
repeat our request the next day. And so it was that Samuel Makae spent a
frightful night in the cells reeling and groaning with pain, maliciously denied
medical assistance by those who had deliberately crippled him and whose duty it
is to preserve and uphold the law.

In 1941 an
African lad appeared before the Native Commissioner in Johannesburg charged
with failing to give a good and satisfactory account of himself in terms of the
above Act. The previous year he had passed the Junior Certificate with a few
distinctions. He had planned to study Matric in the Cape but, because of
illness, on the advice of the family doctor he decided to spend the year at
home in Alexandra Township. Called upon by the police to produce proof that he
had sufficient honest means of earning his livelihood, he explained that he was
still a student and was maintained by his parents. He was then arrested and
ordered to work at Leeuwkop Farm Colony for six months as an idle and
disorderly person. This order was subsequently set aside on review by the
Supreme Court but only after the young man had languished in jail for seven
weeks, with serious repercussions to his poor health.

Tuesday 14 June 2011 11:59

o them, the end justifies the means, and that end is the creation of a vast market of cheap labour for mine magnates and farmers

breaking up of African homes and families and the forcible separation of
children from mothers, the harsh treatment meted out to African prisoners, and
the forcible detention of Africans in farm colonies for spurious statutory
offences are a few examples of the actual workings of the hideous and
pernicious doctrines of racial inequality. To these can be added scores of
thousands of foul misdeeds committed against the people by the Government; the
denial to the non-European people of the elementary rights of free citizenship;
the expropriation of the people from their lands and homes to assuage the
insatiable appetites of European land barons and industrialists; the flogging
and calculated murder of African labourers by European farmers in the
countryside for being ‘cheeky to the baas’;(2) the vicious manner in which African
workers are beaten up by the police and flung into jails when they down tools
to win their demands; the fostering of contempt and hatred for non-Europeans;
the fanning of racial prejudice between whites and non-whites, between the
various non-white groups; the splitting of Africans into small hostile tribal
units; the instigation of one group or tribe against another; the banning of
active workers from the people’s organisations, and their confinement into
certain areas.

All these
misdemeanours are weapons resorted to by the mining and farming cliques of this
country to protect their interests and to prevent the rise of an all powerful
organised mass struggle. To them, the end justifies the means, and that end is
the creation of a vast market of cheap labour for mine magnates and farmers.
That is why homes are broken up and people are removed from cities to the
countryside to ensure enough labour for the farms. That is why non European
political opponents of the Government are treated with such brutality. In such
a set-up, African youth with distinguished scholastic careers are not a credit
to the country, but a serious threat to the governing circles, for they may not
like to descend to the bowels of the earth and cough their lungs out to enrich
the mining magnates, nor will they elect to dig potatoes on farms for wretched

these methods are failing to achieve their objective. True enough they have
scared and deterred certain groups and individuals, and at times even upset and
temporarily dislocated our plans and schemes. But they have not halted the
growing struggle of the people for liberation. Capable fighters and organisers
are arising from amongst the people. The people are increasingly becoming alive
to the necessity of the solidarity of all democratic forces regardless of race,
party affiliation, religious belief, and ideological conviction.

advantage of this situation, the people’s organisations have embarked on a
broad programme of mutual co-operation and closer relations. The Freedom
Charter recently adopted by people of all races and from all walks of life now
forms the ground-plan for future action.

the fascist regime that governs this country is not meeting this situation with
arms folded. Cabinet ministers are arming themselves with inquisitorial and
arbitrary powers to destroy their opponents and hostile organisations. They are
building a mono-party state, the essence of which is the identification of the
Nationalist Party with State power. All opposition to the Nationalists has been
deemed opposition to the State. Every facet of the national life is becoming
subordinated to the overriding necessity of the party’s retention of power. All
constitutional safeguards are being thrown overboard and individual liberties
are being ruthlessly suppressed. Lynchings and pogroms are the logical weapons
to be resorted to, should the onward march of the liberation movement continue
to manifest itself.

spectre of Belsen and Buchenwald is haunting South Africa. It can only be
repelled by the united strength of the people of South Africa. Every situation
must be used to raise the people’s level of understanding. If attacks on the
people’s organisations, if all discriminatory measures, be they the Industrial
Conciliation Amendment Act, Bantu Education, or the classification of the
Coloured people, are used as a rallying point around which a united front will
be built, the spectre of Belsen and Buckenwald will never descend upon us.


1. Home-brewed alcoholic beverage, illicit brewing of which was
one of the few ways African women could earn money. The word ‘kaffir’ is used
as an insulting term for Africans but the term ‘kaffir beer’ was widely used in
English as a name for this drink

2. Afrikaans
for ‘master’