Defiance Campaign

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Fighter for liberation of South Africa Nelson Mandela on a 1988 USSR commemorative stamp

The Defiance Campaign against Unjust Laws was presented by the African National Congress (ANC) at a conference held in Bloemfontein, South Africa in December 1951.[1]

The ANC decided to implement a national action the following year based on non-cooperation with certain laws considered unjust and discriminatory. The conference in the course of a lengthy public statement on this historic decision stated:

All people, irrespective of the national group they belong to and irrespective of the colour of their skin, who have made South Africa their home, are entitled to live a full and free life
Full democratic rights with direct say in the affairs of the government are the inalienable right of every South African - a right which must be realised now if South Africa is to be saved from social chaos and tyranny and from the evils arising out of the existing denial of the franchise of vast masses of the population on the grounds of race and colour.
The struggle which the national organisations of the non-European people are conducting is not directed against any race or national group. It is against the unjust laws which keep in perpetual subjection and misery vast sections of the population. It is for the creation of conditions which will restore human dignity, equality and freedom to every South African.

Demonstrations in support of the Defiance Principles were organised for 6 April 1952, the 300th anniversary of white settlement in the Cape of Southern Africa.

Of approximately 10,000 people who protested the apartheid laws, around 8,500 of them were imprisoned, including Nelson Mandela.

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Lodge, Tom (1983). Black Politics in South Africa since 1945. London and New York: Longman. p. 39. ISBN 0-582-64327-9.