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How People and Churches in Africa Fought Apartheid

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By its nature apartheid was a divisive force. The effects of apartheid were being felt very differently across the city's communities. For Africans, influx control was the most difficult aspect, whereas for coloureds the Group Areas Acts was breaking up community life. Whites were privileged, and few would risk taking part in protest action that might lead to arrest. Opposition groups were thus divided and became critical of one another.

The government's reaction to protest was to outlaw opposition. The Criminal Law Amendment Act made it a particular offence to break a law 'to protest, or in support of any campaign against the law'. Hence if one stood in the wrong queue by mistake one may get away with a reprimand, but if this was judged to be 'out of protest' then one could be liable to a large fine or five years in prison.

The Public Safety Act was soon added, thus enabling the government to declare a State of Emergency whereby it could act without restraint in the name of curbing protest. The Suppression of Communism Act (1950) had already given the government power to ban meetings and organisations.

Another law made it illegal for African workers to strike, and while they were allowed to join trade unions their employers were no longer obliged to negotiate with them.

Although draconian legislation suppressed and controlled opposition organisations, alliances between organisations emerged under the ANC-led Congress Alliance and united opposition began to emerge for the first time in the mid-50s.

The battery of security laws enabled the National Party to repress the ANC's Defiance Campaign and in 1953 they secured a larger majority in the national election. With a firmer platform, they went on to implement further segregation and successfully deterred opposition.

In the late 1950s a radical breakaway party emerged called the PAC, and their activities led to confrontation with the police, strikes and riots in Cape Town. A state of emergency was declared, opposition groups banned and a crackdown on security that lead to what has become known as the 'silent sixties'.

Resistance in the first years of apartheid was widespread but disunited. Organsaitons were divided and government repression helped to stifle and squash new formations. As the 1950s went on, however, the ANC (African National Congress) and other organisations were able to successfully coordinate a common front.

In response to the 1950 Suppression of Communism Act, which gave the Government sweeping powers to ban organisations, Sam Kahn, a Communist Party MP, addressed a crowd of 6,000 people on the Parade, most of whom then marched through the city streets shouting 'down with apartheid, we want freedom'. The government reacted by clamping down harder and made any like-minded party to the CPSA illegal, and sanctioned the 'naming' of members with subsequent restrictions on their actions.

There were few whites who were prepared to engage in protest that risked arrest. However during the 1950s a principled and articulate white liberalism developed that enjoyed regular exposure in the Cape



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