The Defiance Campaign was the beginning of a mass movement of resistance to apartheid. apartheid aimed to separate the different race groups completely through laws like the Population Registration Act, Group areas Act and Bantu Education Act, and through stricter pass laws and forced removals.
“Non-Europeans” walked through “Europeans Only” entrances and demanded service at “White`s Only” counters of post offices. Africans broke the pass laws and Indian, Coloured and White “volunteers” entered African townships without permission.
The success of the Defiance Campaign encouraged further campaigns against apartheid laws, like the Group Areas Act and the Bantu Education Act.
The government tried to stop the Defiance Campaign by banning it`s leaders and passing new laws to prevent public disobedience. but the campaign had already made huge gains. It brought closer co-operation between the ANC and the SA Indian Congress, swelled their membership and also led to the formation of new organisations; the SA Coloured people`s Organisation (SACPO) and the Congress of Democrats (COD), an organisation of white democrats.
These organisations, together with the SA Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) formed the Congress Alliance.
The Congress Alliance came together to organise the Congress of the people – a conference of all the people of South Africa – which presented people`s demands for the kind of South Africa they wanted.
The demands called for the people to govern and for the land to be shared by those who work it. They called for houses, work, security and for free and equal education. These demands were drawn together into the Freedom Charter which was adopted at the Congress of the People at Kliptown on the 26th June 1955.
The government claimed that the Freedom Charter was a communist document. Communism had been banned by the government in 1950, so they arrested ANC and Congress leaders and brought them to trial in the famous Trason Trial. They also tried to prove that the ANC and its allies had a policy of violence and planned to overthrown the state.
In 1955 the government announced that women must carry passes. A huge campaign was mounted by women, countrywide. Women also led a militant campaign against municipal beerhalls. According to the law it was illegal for women to brew traditional beer. Police raided homes and destroyed home brewed liquor so that men would use municipal beerhalls. In response, women attacked the beerhalls and destroyed equipment and buildings. The women also organised a highly successful boycott of the beerhall.
There were many other community struggles in the 1950s. Resistance in the rural areas reached new heights. In many areas campaigns were led by the ANC against passes for women, forced removals and the Bantu Authorities Act. The Bantu Authorities Act gave the white government the power to remove chiefs they considered troublesome and replace them with those who would collaborate with the racist system.
The collaboration of chiefs with government officials was one of the causes of the Pondoland Revolt, a major event in the resistance by rural people. The Pondos also demanded representation in parliament, lower taxes and an end to Bantu Education.
The struggles of the 1950s brought blacks and whites together on a much greater scale in the fight for justice and democracy. The Congress Alliance was an expression of the ANC`s policy of non-racialism. This was expressed in the Freedom Charter which declared that South Africa belongs to all who live in it.
But not everyone in the ANC agreed with the policy of non- racialism. A small minority of members who called themselves Africanists, opposed the Freedom Charter. They objected to the ANC`s growing co-operation with whites and Indians, who they described as foreigners. They were also suspicious of communists who, they felt, brought a foreign ideology into the struggle.
The differences between the Africanists and those in the ANC who supported non-racialism, could not be overcome. In 1959 the Africanists broke away and formed the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). Anti-pass campaigns were taken up by both the ANC and the PAC in 1960.
The PAC campaign began on the 21st March. People were asked to leave their passes at home and gather at police stations to be arrested. People gathered in large numbers at Sharpville in the Vaal and at Nyanga and Langa near Cape Town. At Sharpville the police opened fire on the unarmed and peaceful crowd, killing 69 and wounding 186.
The massacre of peaceful protestors at Sharpville brought a decade of peaceful protest to an end. On 30 March 1960, ten days after the Sharpville massacre, the government banned the ANC and the PAC. They declared a state of emergency and arrested thousands of Congress and PAC activists.