|Divided Resistance to
Apartheid in the 1950s
|Resistance to apartheid was
widespread in the early 1950s, but was divided due to the very different
experiences of people from different racial and economic groups. Political and
social movements formed, re-formed and fragmented as recriminations were made
for working within the apartheid system. The work of the Franchise Action
Committee (FRAC), for instance, broke down due to in-fighting.
In 1951 the government brought in the Separate Representation
of Voters Bill through which they intended to remove coloured voters - most of
whom supported the United Party - from the main voters roll. In response,
members of the now illegal Communist Party formed the Franchise Action
Committee (FRAC) which brought together many civil society organisations.
FRAC was led by Sam Kahn, Reggie September, Cissie Gool and
Johnny Gomas, and was essentially a campaign against the disenfranchisement of
coloureds. It was supported by the CPNU, and a number of white organisations
such as the Torch Commando and the Civil Rights League.
Such consolidated support suggested that for the first time in
South African history a broad multi-racial front was emerging to combat
legislated racial discrimination. Tangible expressions of opposition to the
Separate Representation of Voters Bill included a FRAC rally of over 10,000
people on the Parade, the Civil Rights Movement's collection of 100,001
signatures, and a 'stay-away' from work. This level of organised protest
against the National Party was not witnessed again until the 1980s.
However, coordinated opposition broke down in recriminations.
The NEUM (Non-European Unity Movement), which at this point controlled the fast
receding APO, renounced members of the larger and more moderate Coloured
People's National Union (CPNU) calling them a variety of names including
'leeches', and 'bootlickers' because some served on the government Coloured
Advisory Council (CAC).
In addition the NEUM were quick to criticise the ANC and the
Communist Party for participating in government structures. They objected to
the approach of 'sectional' (racially exclusive) campaigns and criticised their
support of mass action as 'opportunist'.
These two groups fired back with a critique of NEUM and the
anti-CAD movement as 'inactive', saying that their primary concern was to
protect bourgeois members. Some felt that the anti-CAD movement made a negative
contribution because it isolated a generation of coloured intellectuals from
the rest of the liberation movement. Both sides disrupted each other's
By 1953 FRAC had disintegrated, following opposition to their
support of the ANC from the CPNU and NEUM, as well as a spate of violence in
Langa probably precipitated by the government crackdowns on defiers across the
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