Defiance Campaign

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
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 Campaign had roots in events leading up the conference. The demonstrations, taking place in 1952 were the first "large-scale, multi-racial political mobilization against apartheid laws under a common leadership."[2]


In 1948, the National Party (NP) won the election in South Africa and began to impose apartheid measures against blacks, Indians and any people of mixed race.[3] The NP restricted all political power to white people and allocated areas of South Africa for different races of people.[4] Workers, trade unionists and others spoke out on October 6, 1949 against apartheid measures and discuss a possible political strike.[3] In December of that year, leaders in the African Congress Youth League (ANCYL), such as Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo, took power.[3] The African National Congress (ANC) also "adopts the Programme of Action" on December 17, which advocated a more militant approach to protesting apartheid.[3]

In 1950, the ANC started promoting demonstrations, mass action, boycotts, strikes and acts of civil disobedience. During this time, 8,000 black people are arrested "for defying apartheid laws and regulations."[3] The South African Indian Congress (SAIC) worked in partnership with the ANC.[5] The NP used the Population Registration Act to ensure that individuals were permanently classified by race and only allowed to live in areas specified by the Group Areas Act.[3] On June 26, 1950, the National Day of Protest took place.[6] The ANC asked that people not go to work as an act of protest.[7] As a result of the protest, many people lost their jobs and the ANC set up a fund to help them.[7]

The Campaign[edit]

The Defiance Campaign was launched on the anniversary of the National Day of Protest, June 26, 1952.[3] The South African police were alerted about the action and were armed and prepared.[8] In major South African cities, people and organizations performed acts of defiance and civil disobedience.[5] The protests were largely non-violent on the parts of the participants, many of whom wore tri-color armbands signifying the ANC.[9] Black volunteers burned their pass books.[10] Other black volunteers would go into places that were considered "whites-only," which was now against the law. These volunteers were arrested, with the most arrests (over 2,000 people) being made in October 1952.[11] When protesters were arrested, they would not defend themselves in court, "leading to large-scale imprisonment."[10] Others who were offered fines as an alternative chose to go to prison.[12] The mass imprisonment, it was hoped, would overwhelm the government.[8]

The South African government viewed the protests as acts of anarchy, communism and disorder.[13] The Nationalist newspaper, the Oosterlig, wrote that the protesters "find prison a pleasant abode. These people only understand the lash."[9] Police often used batons to force protesters to submit.[9] On November 9, 1952, police fired on a group of black rioters in Kimberley killing 14 and injuring 39.[14] Other orders to shoot demonstrators "on sight" were issued by the South African Minister of Justice, Charles Swart.[15] Arrests of peaceful protestors "disgusted a section of white public opinion."[9] In July of 1952, there were raids of ANC and SAIC offices.[16]

As a result of the protests, the NP started "imposing stiff penalties for protesting discriminatory laws" and then created the Public Safety Act.[2] The goals of the Defiance Campaign were not met, but the protests "demonstrated large-scale and growing opposition to apartheid."[2] The United Nations took note and called the apartheid policy a "threat to peace."[15]

The Defiance Campaigns, including bus boycotts in South Africa, served as an inspiration to Civil Rights Activists in the United States.[17] Albert Luthuli, the current president-general of the ANC was tried for treason, was assaulted and deposed of his chieftancy of his Zulu clan.[11] Mandela took over the ANC after Luthuli.[18]

Notable participants[edit]



  1. ^ Lodge, Tom (1983). Black Politics in South Africa since 1945. London and New York: Longman. p. 39. ISBN 0-582-64327-9. 
  2. ^ a b c "The Defiance Campaign". South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid Building Democracy. Retrieved 3 September 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Defiance Campaign Timeline 1948-1952". South African History Online. Retrieved 3 September 2016. 
  4. ^ "National Party (NP)". South African History Online. 30 March 2011. Retrieved 3 September 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Phalen, Anthony (11 June 2009). "South Africans disobey apartheid laws (Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign), 1952-1953". Global Nonviolent Action Database. Retrieved 3 September 2016. 
  6. ^ "'Report on the National Day of Protest, June 26, 1950.' Issued by the Secretary-General of the ANC and initialed by Nelson R. Mandela, June 26, 1950". South African History Online. Retrieved 3 September 2016. 
  7. ^ a b Mandela 1990, p. 32-33.
  8. ^ a b "South Africa Armed Police Altered as Non-Whites Prepare Defiance Acts". Newport Daily News. 26 June 1952. Retrieved 7 September 2016 – via 
  9. ^ a b c d "'Defiance' in South Africa". The Economist. 16 August 1952. Retrieved 7 September 2016. 
  10. ^ a b Herbstein, Denis (September 1994). "The Exile Returns". Africa Report. 39 (5): 78. Retrieved 7 September 2016 – via EBSCOhost. (subscription required (help)). 
  11. ^ a b Okoth 2006, p. 176.
  12. ^ "Cape Coloreds Choose Prison". The Age. 4 September 1952. Retrieved 7 September 2016 – via 
  13. ^ Pillay 1993, p. 16.
  14. ^ "14 Africans Shot Dead in Riot". The Age. 10 November 1952. Retrieved 7 September 2016 – via 
  15. ^ a b "Explosive Issue Before U.N.". The Age. 13 November 1952. Retrieved 7 September 2016 – via 
  16. ^ "Widespread Raid Across South Africa". The Ottawa Journal. 30 July 1952. Retrieved 7 September 2016 – via 
  17. ^ Reddy, E. S. (26 June 1987). "Defiance Campaign in South Africa Recalled". O'Malley: The Heart of Hope. Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory. Retrieved 3 September 2016. 
  18. ^ Okoth 2006, p. 180.


External links[edit]