Suppression of Communism Act, 1950

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Suppression of Communism Act, 1950
Coat of arms of South Africa (1932–2000).svg
Parliament of South Africa
  • Act to declare the Communist Party of South Africa to be an unlawful organization; to make provision for declaring other organizations promoting communistic activities to be unlawful and for prohibiting certain periodical or other publications; to prohibit certain communistic activities; and to make provision for other incidental matters.
CitationAct No. 44 of 1950
Territorial extentSouth Africa, South West Africa
Enacted byParliament of South Africa
Assented to26 June 1950
Commenced17 July 1950
Repealed2 July 1982
Administered byMinister of Justice
Repealed by
Internal Security Act, 1982
Anti-communism, political repression, exile, censorship
Status: Repealed

The Suppression of Communism Act, 1950 (Act No. 44 of 1950), renamed the Internal Security Act in 1976, was legislation of the national government in apartheid South Africa which formally banned the Communist Party of South Africa and proscribed any party or group subscribing to communism, according to a uniquely broad definition of the term. It was also used as the basis to place individuals under banning orders, and its practical effect was to isolate and silence voices of dissent.

More than 20,000 black, Indian and coloured South Africans gather in Durban on 28 May 1950 to protest the Group Area and Suppression of Communism bills.


The Act, which came into effect on 17 July 1950,[1] defined communism as any scheme aimed at achieving change—whether economic, social, political, or industrial—"by the promotion of disturbance or disorder" or any act encouraging "feelings of hostility between the European and the non-European races [...] calculated to further [disorder]". The Minister of Justice could deem any person to be a communist if he found that person's aims to be aligned with these aims, and could issue an order severely restricting the freedoms of anyone deemed to be a communist. After a nominal two-week appeal period, the person's status as a communist became an unreviewable matter of fact, and subjected the person to being barred from public participation, restricted in movement, or imprisoned.[2][3]

The government justified passage of the Act by noting the involvement of members of the South African Communist Party in the internal resistance to apartheid.[4]


The Act was worded in such a way that anyone who opposed government policy could be deemed a communist. Since the Act explicitly declared that communism sought to encourage racial disharmony, it was frequently used to legally gag critics of racial segregation and apartheid. The Act defined communism so sweepingly that defendants were frequently convicted of "statutory communism". Justice Frans Rumpff, presiding in the 1952 trial of African National Congress (ANC) leaders, observed that such an offence might have "nothing to do with communism as it is commonly known."[5]

The Act facilitated the government suppression of organisations such as the ANC and others which advocated for equal rights for blacks, coloureds and Indians.[4] The Act forced these groups to go underground with their activism. Because of this Act, groups such as uMkhonto we Sizwe, led by Nelson Mandela as a branch of the ANC, did seek financial support from the Communist Party.

Superseded 1982[edit]

Most of the Act was replaced in 1982 by the Internal Security Act, 1982.[6]


  1. ^ General South African History Timelines South African History Online
  2. ^ Separate and Unequal South Africa: A Country Study, Library of Congress.
  3. ^ "Justice Takes Its Course". Time. 28 July 1952. Archived from the original on 25 November 2010. Retrieved 24 December 2008.
  4. ^ a b Byrnes, Rita M. (1996). "Legislative Implementation of Apartheid". South Africa: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress.
  5. ^ "Death the Leveler". Time. 15 December 1952. Archived from the original on 13 February 2009. Retrieved 24 December 2008.
  6. ^ "The legal veneer". South African History Online. 31 July 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2019. ...from the book A Crime Against Humanity - Analysing the Repression of the Apartheid State edited by Max Coleman, (Cape Town)

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