White Man's Justice: South African Political Trials in the Black Consciousness Era

Synopsis

This major new study examines the use of political trials by the apartheid regime in South Africa against its opponents in the 1970s, the decade when the ideology of apartheid was reaching its apogee. After tracing the early history of the South African Students Organization and the Black People's Convention, it shows how the state reacted to the threat posed by the black consciousness movement by launching a major trials of ideas, using the notorious Terrorism Act. It examines how, at the same time, the authorities sought to crack down on white dissent by prosecuting the leaders of the National Union of South African Students. By making a detailed study of trial transcripts in addition to other materials, it explores how the state sought to infiltrate and crush nascent ANC and PAC structures which were re-emerging in the mid 1970s within South Africa. It shows how the prosecution policy and the legal stategy of the state changed during the decade as the nature of the threats it faced altered, culminating in the trial of the leaders of the Soweto Students Representative Council in 1979 for sedition. Arguing that the political trial was perhaps the only venue where white ideology had to engage directy with black protest, this original and thought-provoking account demonstrates how the trials became platforms for competing views of society and politics, which give a unique insight into the conflict between the political ideals held by blacks and whites in this era. It also reveals how large a part politics played in securing the conviction of many dissenters, and how large a part events beyond the courtroom played, in the detention and torture of many activists.