South Africa there were a myriad of laws that provided for detention of
persons under all kinds of circumstances including detention for
interrogation; preventative detention; short-term detention; detention of
State witnesses, and State of Emergency detention.
Detention II shows a female detainee under the 90-Day
Detention Law which was introduced in May 1963. Persons could be
arrested and detained without access to an attorney or notification to
family members for up to 90 days without formal charges.
30" x 24" Oil on
reality many were released, only to be re-detained for an additional
90-day period. This draconian law was replaced on Jan. 10, 1965 with
the 180-Day Detention Law. Helen Suzman, the only woman and only
Progressive Party member of Parliament, was the only legislator who voted
against the amendment. While the laws applied to all population
groups they ultimately impacted the black majority more than any other
Volume II of the TRCís Final Report indicates that between 1960-1990
there were a total of 80,000 detentions-without-trial of which 10,000 were
women and 15,000 children under the age of 18. During the 1985
and 1989 States of Emergency, 48,000 of the 80,000 detainees were under 25
years of age. In the late 1970ís, South Africa had one of the
highest prison populations in the world, with an average daily prison
population of 100,000.* The wide ranging powers of the police,
including an extensive indemnity provision and lack of censure for
excesses, reinforced the policeís understanding that they enjoyed impunity
for extensive abuses committed in the interests of state security.
Detainees were subjected to a variety of the most inhumane treatment
including interrogation at gunpoint; subjection to electric shocks; tear gassing
in confined spaces; kept naked during interrogation; forced to do physical
exercise and remain in forced positions while interrogated; brought to
points of suffocation with a wet bag placed over their heads; pressure to
sign false documents; accused falsely and threatened with violence;
deprived of food and sleep, and inflicted with torture, cigarette burns,
beatings and whippings.
* Population in South Africa in
1980ís was 30 million.