B.J.Vorster and the Sabotage Act

The Apartheid state, of late and horrible memory, was established by various pieces of legislation. Votes in a parliament of men who thought themselves liberal and acting for their security, ensconced in a racist and cold war mindset and unable to see that what they were doing was the logical result of their sickness, were obsessed with security.

After the Sharpeville uprising of 1960, the leadership elites of South Africa, with a few honourable exceptions, became convinced that their white state faced the possibility of 'sabotage'. They identified communist terrorists as the worst threat to Africa.

Their panic was of a piece with their construction of Apartheid. Apartheid wasn't a generic name for all imperialist racism. It was a specific scheme in which a state would eventually confine huge numbers of people who belonged to a country to 'bantu' areas. In the name of security, it would label them, extend its power over their reading materials, strengthen its police, and require people to identify themselves regularly to the police.

A system in which speaking of, carrying materials for or likely to be useful to, or associating with people associated with, a broadly defined terrorism, even if there was no evidence that they had done anything, was established.

Three years later, in the face of rising pressures, and convinced that he was only opposed by 'little pink liberalists', B.J.Vorster, with the consent of his client state, had what to him seemed a fine idea.

Ninety days detention without trial as an amendment to the sabotage act. Such was the challenge the Republic of South Africa was faced with, said Vorster, nothing else would do.

ID cards. Ninety days detention. Permanent surveillance. Those with good in their hearts have nothing to fear. The guilty are a threat to all. The challenge is without precedent. It is a worldwide conspiracy. The newspapers and television say so.

All phrases of the time. My reader will know I have no illusions about Islamism, or antisemitism, or any of the other horrors of our time. But I hope that I can at least join with others, like the Notes from the Underground site, in pointing out how the pathologies of security and authoritarian surveillance work in the common law world, with one extracted example. The picture accompanying this blog is of B.J. Vorster.

Nkosi Sikeleli Free Africa.


Steve Hayes said…
I ddi a web search to check some facts about B.J. Vorster and the Sabotage Act, and your blog post came up, and I saw that you had cited an earlier blog post of mine. Is this a circular reference, or what?

Anyway, please to meet you through your blog!
Martin Meenagh said…
Lol--consider yourself squared or cubed, or whatever the appropriate term is. Very many thanks for the original post.

If my memory serves, we have briefly corresponded before, over the issue of your very strong and admirable orthodoxy, and my somewhat plastic catholicism.

Very best to you anyway


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