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

By Michael Lobban | Go to book overview

Appendix: Terrorism Act Trials 1975-9

This appendix includes a list of the trials held under the Terrorism Act considered in this study. The survey is taken from various sources, primarily court records or newspaper reports and contemporary reports, and is therefore not necessarily exhaustive or infallible. It should be tested against other contemporary accounts. In the 1970s, the number of political trials in progress was monitored by the South African Institute of Race Relations. According to the Institute, 15 Terrorism Act cases were completed in 1977, with 35 defendants being convicted, and thirty-two defendants being acquitted or having charges withdrawn. In 1978, according to its figures, 29 trials under the Terrorism Act were completed, with 31 defendants being convicted and 25 defendants being acquitted or having charges against them withdrawn. In 1979, 16 trials under the Terrorism Act were completed with 20 defendants convicted and 5 defendants acquitted or discharged.

The SAIRR's statistics also included trials where terrorism was an additional count. In 1978, 37 trials were completed where the accused faced charges involving terrorism, in which 41 defendants were convicted and 31 defendants acquitted or discharged; while in 1979, 21 trials were completed where the defendants faced charges including counts of terrorism, with 61 defendants convicted and 7 defendants acquitted or discharged.

In addition, the Minister of Justice also gave periodic figures of trials in progress to the South African House of Assembly. According to the Minister, 50 were convicted of offences under the Terrorism Act in 1976, 6 of those charged were convicted of lesser charges, 8 were acquitted, and 4 had charges withdrawn. 28 of the ninety-six charged that year were still on trial at the end of the year. The Minister reported that in 1977 44 people were convicted under the Terrorism Act, 18 were acquitted, and two were convicted of lesser charges. 43 of the 108 charged under the legislation were still on trial or awaiting trial. In 1978, the Minister reported that 56 had been convicted under the legislation, sixteen had been acquitted, 10 had had charges withdrawn either before or at trial, 6 were convicted of lesser offences, and 17 of the 105 charged were still on trial: see South African Institute of Race Relations, A Survey of Race Relations in South Africa 1977 ( Johannesburg, 1978), 131, A Survey of Race Relations in South Africa 1978 ( Johannesburg, 1979), 90-2, A Survey of Race Relations in South Africa 1979 ( Johannesburg, 1980), 125-7.

Below is given a list of the Terrorism Act cases considered in this study. The cases reveal slightly different statistics from those quoted above, but nevertheless still similar. Differences may be attributed not merely to errors in identifying cases but to the fact that, in many instances, charges were altered in the course of the case, while in some, there were many alternative charges. For instance, not included in the table below are the Grahamstown Thirty-Three, 31 of whom were convicted in January 1977 and given a five year sentence for planning an 'invasion' of Port Elizabeth on 10 September 1976: they had been charged under the Terror-

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