The Sobukwe Clause:

Today marks 93 years since President of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) was born.

Sobukwe was a man of exceptional capabilities who inspired radical black thought. Due to his influence in the struggle the apartheid government enacted the “Sobukwe clause”, a statute which at face value seemed to grant broadly applicable powers, but was specifically intended to authorise the arbitrary extension of Sobukwe’s imprisonment.

This Clause which was also seen as the 1963 General Laws Amendment Act No 37 “strengthened the 1962 [GENERAL LAWS AMENDMENT] ACT … by further defining political crimes” (Riley 1991: 82). For instance, Section 5 made a capital crime out of “receiving training that could further the objects of communism or advocating abroad economic or social change in South Africa by violent means through the aid of a foreign government or institution where the accused is a resident or former resident of South Africa” (Dugard 1978: 125t). It made provisions for imposing “sentences ranging from a minimum of five years’ imprisonment to death for anyone leaving the country to learn sabotage techniques, for advocating the forcible overthrow of the government or for urging the forcible inter-venti on in domestic South African affairs by an outside power, including the UN” (Riley 1991: 82).

The 1963 act also included certain provisions for an indefinite detention. The clause was also known as the “Sobukwe Clause” since it was specifically aimed at keeping the PAC leader Robert Sobukwe in jail (as also later admitted by the government). Thus after a three-year sentence, he “was actually detained for a further six years on the annual decision of the Parliament”.

Part of the reason for the drastic measures taken to prevent Sobukwe from speaking and protesting was that his ideologies of freeing the African mind were far too revolutionary for the apartheid government. This act was later superseded by the INTERNAL SECURITY ACT of 1976.

To learn more about this iconic struggle hero you can read:

  • How Can Man Die Better: The Life Of Robert Sobukwe by Benjamin Pogrund

You can also watch:

  • Sobukwe: A Great Soul (Movie)