Opposition in South Africa: The Leadership of Z.K. Matthews, Nelson Mandela, and Stephen Biko

By Tim J. Juckes | Go to book overview

5
Violence and Counterviolence: Mandela Takes the Initiative

Toward the end of the 1950s, the Youth League was becoming increasingly important in directing the African National Congress policy. Even so, the old guard still played a role, moderating the young radicals. For the government, there was no doubt that the older leaders were still important; for years, it had been planning its cases against a large number of opposition leaders. The treason arrests at the end of 1956 were comprehensive, including virtually everyone who had been involved in any political activity perceived to be antigovernment.

The Treason Trial brought many opposition leaders together, and rallied support for the ANC within the country ( Karis & Carter, 1977a). Although released on bail, many accused were still under banning orders, and the continuation of the trial over four years limited the movement of these leaders and prevented their interaction with supporters. Effectively, this meant that younger, inexperienced leaders took over much of the organization ( Meer, 1990). Both factors led to a serious confrontation within the ANC, reflecting primarily the divide that had continued to fester in the YL between the exclusive-minded Africanists and the multiracial African nationalists.

One month after the treason arrests, a bus boycott was started in Alexandra Township and spread to other areas around Johannesburg and Pretoria. Workers spent hours each day walking the nine miles from Alexandra to Johannesburg and back. The ANC leaders on trial were indirectly

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