The Literature Police


Date Politics Censorship Publishing Culture Selected decisions
1910 Union of South Africa created out of the nineteenth-century Boer republics (Orange Free State and Transvaal) and British territories (Cape and Natal)     Official languages are Dutch and English  
1912 South African Native National Congress (precursor to the African National Congress) formed     New African movement gains momentum  
1913   Customs Management Act      
1914 National Party formed        
1915     Nasionale Pers founded Hertzog Prize founded  
1916     Die Huisgenoot founded    
1918 Afrikaner Broederbond formed        
1921 South African Communist Party formed     International PEN founded in Britain  
1922 Inkatha founded        
1925       Afrikaans replaces Dutch as second official language in the Union  
1927       SA PEN founded  
1930       Négritude movement launched in Paris  
1931   Entertainments (Censorship) Act establishes the first Board of Censors      
1932     Afrikaanse Pers founded (later APB)    
1934 United Party and Purified National Party formed Censorship Board’s powers extended to imported books   Afrikaans Writers’ Circle founded  
1935     Bantu Treasury Series launched Afrikaans Coalition for the Free Book launched  
1937         Cloete’s Turning Wheels banned
1939       Van Wyk Louw coins the phrase lojale verset (‘loyal resistance’)  
1942     Fighting Talk founded    
1943     African Bookman Series launched    
1945     Standpunte launched; mission presses still dominate African-language publishing Afrikaner historians affirm their own cultural history in narrowly nationalist terms  
1947     Traditional Markets Agreement ensures that British publishers continue to dominate English-language publishing in South Africa until the 1970s    
1948 D. F. Malan’s National Party comes to power on a platform of apartheid        
1949 Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act        
1950 Suppression of Communism Act, Population Registration Act, Group Areas Act, Immorality Amendment Act; SACP banned Press Enquiry launched      
1951     Drum founded; Tydskrif vir Letterkunde, journal of the Afrikaans Writers’ Circle, launched    
1952 ANC-led nationwide Defiance Campaign        
1953 Non-Racial Liberal Party and Congress of Democrats formed; Bantu Education Act; SACP reconstituted underground        
1954   Cronjé inquiry into ‘Undesirable Publications’ launched New Age founded    
1955 Congress of the People adopts the Freedom Charter A new Customs Act consolidates previous measures to control imported books      
1956 Treason Trial begins   Africa South founded; Purple Renoster launched Butler calls on English-language writers to affirm their own national tradition Bloom’s Transvaal Episode banned
1957   Cronjé Report published     Abrahams’s Tell Freedom banned
1958 H. F. Verwoerd becomes Prime Minister   Seven Seas founded in East Berlin   Gordimer’s World of Strangers (hardback) and Paton’s Too Late the Phalarope (paperback) passed; Hofmeyer’s The Skin Is Deep and Stein’s Second-Class Taxi banned
1959 Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) formed after a split within the ANC, partly over SACP links   Human & Rousseau founded; African Communist launched   Mphahlele’s Down Second Avenue passed
1960 Sharpeville atrocities; ANC and PAC banned; Alex La Guma and Brian Bunting detained   Contrast founded   Hutchinson’s Road to Ghana banned
1961 South Africa becomes a Republic; Treason Trial ends in acquittal; ANC adopts armed struggle     Central News Agency Award founded; Mphahlele becomes head of the Congress of Cultural Freedom’s Africa programme; exile-led international cultural boycott gains momentum in Britain Matshikiza’s Chocolates for my Wife banned
1962 General Law Amendment Act (Sabotage Act); Bunting and La Guma under house arrest Blanket bans affect individual writers, including La Guma, Pieterse, and Brutus Heinemann African Writers Series founded; New African launched; South Africa: Information and Analysis started   Mphahlele’s African Image, Gordimer’s World of Strangers (paperback), Rooke’s Greyling, and La Guma’s Walk in the Night banned
1963 Rivonia Trial (the well-known trial of Mandela) begins; foundation of the Christian Institute; First, Brutus, and La Guma detained New Publications and Entertainments Act covers imported and locally produced book; Dekker Board formed Classic founded; Sestiger launched Sestiger group emerges Modisane’s Blame me on History and Rive’s African Songs banned
1964 Eight Rivonia accused, including Mandela, imprisoned for life; Hugh Lewin, a member of the African Resistance Movement, and Brutus imprisoned       Rive’s Emergency and Smith’s Lion Feeds banned; one issue of Purple Renoster banned; Brink’s Lobola and Mutwa’s Indaba passed
1965   Trial of Smith’s When the Lion Feeds     La Guma’s Threefold Cord and Abrahams’s Wreath for Udomo banned; Leroux’s Sewe Dae passed
1966 Verwoerd assassinated; B. J. Vorster becomes Prime Minister; Bram Fischer sentenced to life imprisonment Blanket bans affect individual writers, including Kunene, Matshikiza, Modisane, Mphahlele, and Nkosi, all by then in exile     Gordimer’s Late Bourgeois World banned; Leroux’s Derde Oog passed
1967         Nkosi’s Home and Exile and Jail Diary of Albie Sachs banned
1968 Liberal Party dissolved; South African Students’ Organization (SASO) formed Kruger Board formed Kol launched; Buren founded Rise of Black Consciousness; Sestigers divided over lojale verset; UN General Assembly endorses the cultural boycott Brink’s Miskien Nooit passed
1969 Bureau of State Security created; Serote imprisoned       Cope’s Dawn Comes Twice banned
1970 UN General Assembly declares apartheid ‘a crime against the conscience and dignity of mankind’       La Guma’s Stone Country banned
1971 Ahmed Timol murdered in prison   David Philip founded; Renoster Books launched    
1972 Black People’s Convention (BPC) formed   Ravan Press founded; Black Review launched Music, Drama, Arts, and Literature Institute founded  
1973 Widespread strikes by black workers; rise of independent trade unions Kruger Commission launched; Biko, Strinivasa Moodley, and other members of SASO banned Ad Donker founded Black Literature and Arts Congress founded Serote’s Yakhal’inkomo passed; La Guma’s Fog of the Season’s End and Matthews’s Cry Rage! banned
1974   New Publications Act passed; trial of Brink’s Kennis van die Aand   Non-racial English Artists’ and Writers’ Guild founded; Kirkwood condemns ‘Butlerism’; Mphahlele affirms a specifically African humanism Brink’s Kennis/Looking on Darkness, Lewin’s Bandiet, Matthews’s Black Voices Shout, and Mphahlele’s In Corner B banned; Royston’s To Whom It May Concern, Gordimer’s Conservationist, and Head’s Question of Power passed
1975 Breytenbach imprisoned; Inkatha revived Three-tier censorship bureaucracy created, which includes a Publications Appeal Board (PAB); beginning of the Pretorius–Snyman era Taurus founded; New Classic launched Non-racial Afrikaans Writers’ Guild founded; Mofolo–Plomer Prize inaugurated Breytenbach’s Skryt, Feinberg’s Poets to the People, and Jensma’s where white is the colour banned
1976 Soweto student uprising, partly against the imposition of Afrikaans as a primary medium of instruction; Transkei declared the first ‘independent’ homeland; Jeremy Cronin, James Matthews, and Strinivasa Moodley imprisoned   Donga founded   Brink’s Instant/Oomblik passed
1977 Steve Biko murdered; SASO, BPC, and Christian Institute banned; United Party disintegrates, Progressive Federal Party becomes official opposition   Peter Randall banned Medupe founded and banned; Medu Arts Ensemble formed in Gaborone Coetzee’s Heart of the Country, Gwala’s Jol’iinkomo and Stockenström’s Uitdraai passed Leroux’s Magersfontein and Sepamla’s Soweto I Love banned
1978 P. W. Botha becomes Prime Minister; Azanian People’s Organization founded; Don Mattera detained Trial of Leroux’s Magersfontein; amendments to the 1974 Act create a special committee of literary experts to advise the PAB Staffrider launched; Inspan founded PEN (Johannesburg) formed; Federated Union of Black Artists founded Breytenbach’s Death White as Words and first issue of Staffrider banned; Donga and Inspan banned
1979 Federation of South African Trade Unions formed; Jaki Seroke imprisoned   Staffrider Series founded; Longman Drumbeat Series launched   Madingoane’s Africa, Matshoba’s Call Me Not a Man, and Tlali’s Muriel banned; bans on Brink’s Dry White Season and Gordimer’s Burger’s Daughter lifted on appeal
1980   Van Rooyen becomes chair of the PAB Wietie founded   La Guma’s Butcherbird and Wietie banned; Coetzee’s Barbarians passed; ban on Mutloatse’s Forced Landing lifted on appeal
1981   Abraham Coetzee becomes chief censor; beginning of the Coetzee–van Rooyen era   PEN (Johannesburg) disbanded; African Writers Association (AWA) founded; international cultural boycott re-energized with UN backing Mzamane’s Mzala passed; Sepamla’s Ride on the Whirlwind and Tlali’s Amandla banned
1982 Internal Security Act; ANC opens its first cultural desk in London   Skotaville founded; David Philip’s Africasouth Series launched, reprints many previously banned titles; The Classic revived AWA founds the H. I. E. and R. R. R. Dhlomo Drama Award, the Sol Plaatje Prose Award, and the S. E. K. Mqhayi Poetry Award; Culture and Resistance conference held in Gaborone Serote’s To Every Birth passed; Mzamane’s Children of Soweto banned; ban on the first issue of The Classic lifted on appeal
1983 United Democratic Front (UDF) formed, establishes its own cultural desk     Launch of the People’s Culture movement Serote’s Night Keeps Winking banned; Coetzee’s Life & Times passed
1984 New tricameral Parliament created, giving limited rights to ‘Coloureds’ and ‘Indians’; P. W. Botha becomes first executive State President       Freedom Charter unbanned
1985 Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) formed, establishes its own cultural desk; first in a series of States of Emergency declared     Military raid on Gaborone kills members of Medu and the group disbands; Writers’ Forum founded  
1987 Seroke detained; COSATU headquarters bombed; Mbuli heads up the Transvaal Interim Cultural Desk, aligned to the UDF, Congress of South African Writers, and COSATU; right-wing Conservative Party becomes official opposition   Ravan firebombed COSAW founded; Culture in Another South Africa Festival in Amsterdam  
1988 UDF premises destroyed; UDF and COSATU restricted along with other organizations; Mbuli detained; government attempts to cut off foreign donor support     COSAW founds the Alex La Guma/Bessie Head Fiction Award Rushdie’s Satanic Verses banned; Ndebele’s Fools passed
1989 F. W. de Klerk becomes State President     Progressive writers hold discussions about cultural matters with the ANC in Zimbabwe  
1990 Nelson Mandela released; ANC, PAC, SACP unbanned Van Rooyen not reappointed as chair of the PAB   Sachs’s paper ‘Preparing Ourselves for Freedom’ provokes extensive debate  
1994 First democratic elections held; Nelson Mandela becomes President        
1995 Constitutional Court inaugurated; Truth and Reconciliation Commission established        
1996 Democratic constitution signed into law New Publications Act passed, abolishing the censorship system   New South Africa has eleven official languages  

Copyright 2009 by Peter D. McDonald unless otherwise specified
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