Frederick John Harris

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Frederick John Harris (4 July 1937 – 1 April 1965)[1] (known as John Harris) became a member of the anti-apartheid African Resistance Movement (ARM) having been detained and banned for his activities as Chairman of SANROC (the South African Non Racial Olympic Committee) including petitioning the International Olympic Committee in 1964 to have South Africa excluded from the Olympics for fielding a white-only team.[2]

On 24 July 1964, Harris telephoned to inform the Johannesburg Railway Police that a bomb had been planted on a whites-only platform of Johannesburg Railway Station. The bomb later exploded, killing a 77-year-old woman and injuring 23 others. Harris, a school teacher, was convicted of murder, and hanged on 1 April 1965.[3] He was represented at trial by David Soggot, who later became one of South Africa's most prominent civil rights lawyers. At his cremation, 15-year-old Peter Hain (whose family had been friendly with Harris) stood and recited Ecclesiastes 3:3: ‘A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down and a time to build up".[4] Peter Hain later became active in anti-apartheid resistance while in exile in London, and a primary proponent of sanctions to end apartheid. He later stood for a political seat in Britain and never returned to live in South Africa.

A memorial to remember Harris' life was held around the 40th anniversary of his death at Freedom Park in Pretoria.[5]

Harris was the only white person executed for crimes committed in resistance to apartheid.[6] All those executed for such crimes were honoured by South Africa's President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of the launch of the Gallows Museum at the C Max Pretoria Central Correctional Centre on 15 December 2011: "The 134 men were terrorists or trouble makers to the authorities then. But to their people and families, they were freedom fighters who wanted to see a free, democratic and non-sexist South Africa." [7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Frederick John Harris South African History Online
  2. ^ Sports and the Liberation Struggle Sports and the liberation struggle : a tribute to Sam Ramsamy and others who fought apartheid sport
  3. ^ Okoth, Assa (2006). A History of Africa: African nationalism and the de-colonisation process. East African Publishers. p. 389. ISBN 978-9966-25-358-3. 
  4. ^ Herbstein, Denis (2004). White lies: Canon Collins and the secret war against apartheid. James Currey Publishers. p. 340. ISBN 978-0-85255-885-0. 
  5. ^ Tribute: On the occasion of a memorial for John Harris (1937 - 1965) South African History Online
  6. ^ Wetmore, Kevin J. (2002). The Athenian sun in an African sky: modern African adaptations of classical Greek tragedy. McFarland & Company. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-7864-1093-4. 
  7. ^ Keynote Address by President Jacob Zuma The Presidency: Republic of South Africa