ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From 50 Years Ago: South Africa's Day of Blood.

Editorial from Vol XII No 13, march 26, 1960.

Although the South African pass laws and their defiance by the followers of the Pan-African Congress were only the immediate cause of the riots which broke out in the neigh-bourhood of Johannesburg and Cape Town last Monday, they were a very compelling immediate cause. It is difficult for anyone who has never been personally acquainted with the operation of these thoroughly notorious laws to visualise, even approximately, the plight of the urban African community under them. It is not only a sad plight and a humiliat-ing one, it is exasperating. The irritation and tyranny the laws cause are continuous. There is absolutely no letting up. Only the most up to date of Johannesburg or Cape Town lawyers can say with any degree of certainty as to how many passes an African in a township is ex-pected at all times to have on his person. The passes are too numerous and their form is amended and altered too frequently for any-one but an obsessively law-abiding and law-knowing person to keep track of them. An African cannot go out into the street without a particular type of pass; he cannot stay at home without another. His place of employment demands a third type of card; and the police expects him to carry with him at all times an up to date record of his employ-ment, wages, tribe, location, residence, thumb-impression and a dozen other things which no one outside the iron walls of South Africa can even think of. The result of all these laws is simply this: that any policeman can, as a rule, pick up any African he chooses and be sure to find him short of one or more passes. Indeed it does not seem unfair to suggest that this is in all probability the precise purpose of the passes – to have a perfectly legal excuse handy at all times to arrest any particular African and throw him behind bars.

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