About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

1953. Criminal Law Amendment Act No 8

This act, together with the PUBLIC SAFETY ACT of 1953, was passed in response to the so-called Defiance Campaign of 1952, which was a non-violent campaign instigated by the ANC and the South African Indian Congress against six of the apartheid laws: the GROUP AREAS ACT of 1950, the STOCK LIMITATION ACT of 1950, the SUPPRESSION OF COMMUNISM ACT of 1950, the SEPARATE REPRESENTATION OF VOTERS ACT of 1951 (with sequels), the BANTU AUTHORITIES ACT of 1951 and the NATIVES ABOLITION OF PASSES & COORDINATION OF DOCUMENTS ACT of 1952 (Fine & Davis 1990: 118). The method of the Campaign was, first of all, to select volunteers who would "refuse to carry passes, defy 'European-only' signs in public places, enter restricted areas without a permit, etc. In the second stage, the number of volunteer corps as well as the number of centers of operation were to be increased until the campaign clogged up the judicial and administrative machinery of the state. The third and climactic stage was to involve mass participation, during which industrial action - described as 'the best and most important weapon in the struggle of the people for the repeal of the unjust laws' - would combine with political protest on a countrywide scale" (Fine & Davis 1990: 119). "By the end of December, some 5,000 volunteers had gone to gaol for periods of a week or months and some 8,400 had been arrested" (Fine & Davis 1990: 123).

In order to deal with the Defiance Campaign, the CRIMINAL LA WS AMENDMENT ACT of 1953 (together with the PUBLIC SAFETY ACT of the same year) was passed, and it included the following clause: "Any person who in any way whatsoever advises, encourages, incites, commands, aids or procures any other person ... or uses language calculated to cause any other person to commit an offence by way of protest against the law... shall be guilty of an offence" (quoted? by Lapping 1986: 169). It also made "passive resistence against any law illegal" (Riley 1991: 36).

Furthermore, it "introduced whipping [but see the CRIMINAL SENTENCES AMENDMENT ACT of 1952] and up to five years' imprisonment for even minor offences if the law was broken for political reasons" (Fine & Davis 1990: 123); thus it was also known as the "whipping post bill" (Riley 1991: 36). Specifically, the act "spelled out the following penalties: anyone protesting a law by breaking it or by supporting the Defiance Campaign would be subject to a £300 fine, three years' imprisonment and/or ten lashes of the whip, with whipping and imprisonment imposed for second and subsequent offences; anyone encouraging or inciting the protest of a law by breaking it would receive a £500 fine, five-year jail sentence and/or 15 lashes of the whip. Imprisonment and whipping were to be automatically imposed for second and subsequent offences" (Riley 1991: 36).

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to theThis resource is hosted by the site.