Harassment, Detentions and Press Freedom: EVENTS OF OCTOBER 19 1977


Editor’s Note: We bring you an excerpt from a dossier prepared by the Writers Association of South Africa (WASA) on the apartheid government’s onslaught on black press. Some parts of the WASA report are no longer illegible but we’ve managed to republish most of the report. 


The myth of press freedom in South Africa was shattered by the tragic events of October 19 when The World and Weekend World, the Union of Black Journalists, and 17 other black organisations were banned.

The World and Weekend World, both newspapers with a strong black tradition, the UBJ, the only legitimate black journalists organisation were banned without reason, and we believe, without cause.

At the crack of dawn on that day, black people suddenly found themselves without a voice. Freedom of the press had been violated, freedom of the individual was tampered with, black aspirations stifled.

The editor of the World, Mr Percy Qoboza and the newspaper’s news editor, Mr Aggrey Klaaste were detained under Section 10 of the Internal Security Act. They were never brought before a court of law, they were never given reasons for their detention.

It is a year since these inroads were made into the freedom of the press and of the individual . . . yet the harassment of black journalists continues.

The arbitrary actions, unparalleled in the annals of our country’s history, finally put an end to the grandiose myth of freedom of press.

Also banned that day were 17 organisations, all founded on the basic and honourable principle of articulating and aggregating black aspirations.

We urge you to join with us as we observe this important day in our history and be steadfast that you will not be intimidated by such diabolical, unjustifiable and unnecessary acts.

A year after those events, people are still languishing in jail, the dark dungeons of this country’s conscience.

We deplore detention without trial, we deplore the harassment of black people by agencies of this State, we deplore the rule of fear.

Detained . . . Jan Tugwana

Jan Tugwana

Rand Daily Mail Reporter. First detention in 1976 under the Internal Security Act. Second detention was on June 30, 1977. was He picked up at St. Peter’s Lodge…First detained under the Terrorism Act but was recently transferred to the Internal Security Act. He is currently Modder Bee. No charges have been brought against him.


Detained . . . Juby Mayet

Juby Mayet

The Voice journalist and mother of eight kids, Juby Mayet has been in detention since June 1978. She appeared with Phil Mtimkulu on an allegation of theft. They were alleged to have stolen assets of the banned Union of Black Journalists which had vested in the liquidator. They were found not guilty. No charges have been brought against her.


Detained . . . Willie Bokala 

Willie Bokala

Former World reporter was first detained in 1976 under the Internal Security Act. Second detention was during June 1978 while on an assignment in Soweto. He was detained under Section Six of the Terrorism Act, but was later transferred to Section 10 of the Internal Security Act. No charges have been brought against him.


Detained . . .lsaac Moroe

Isaac Moroe

Chairman of WASA in Bloemfontein. Detained in May 1978 first under Section Six of the Terrorism Act. But he has since been transferred to Section 10 of the Internal Security Act. No charges have been brought against him. 


Detained . . . Thenjiwe Mtlntso

Thenjiwe Mtintso

Detained in 1976 under the, Terrorism Act. Banned and banished on release. Detained again in October 1977 under Section 10. Released re-detained in September 1978 – under Internal Security Act, being held at Potchefstroom Prison. No charges have been brought against her


Subsequent to the October 19 clamp down on the Press, the following acts of harassments have been inflicted on Black journalists:

November 1977

  • Senior Post reporter, Thami Mazwai arrested at Regina Mundi for allegedly ‘obstructing the police. Charge later withdrawn.
  • Two weeks later the same reporter was detained under Section Six.

December 1977

  • Former executive members of the banned Union of Black Journalists, Phil Mtimkulu and Juby Mayet arrested for alleged theft of UBJ assets which had vested in the liquidator. They appeared in court and were acquitted.

January 1978

  • Rand Daily Mail reporter, Willie Nkosi assaulted by Riot Squad police at an assignment. 

February 1978

  • Several journalists called to Protea for questioning.

May 1978

  • Reporter from Bloemfontein, Isaac Moroe detained under Section Six of the Terrorism Act

June 1978

  • Juby Mayet detained under Section 10 of Internal Security Act and Bulara Diphoto from Kroonstad under Section Six of the Terrorism Act
  • The Voice banned by the Directorate of Publications Control Board. Ban later lifted in September.
  • Photo-Journalist Alf Khumalo assaulted charged for ‘obstructing the police, t pending.
  • Sunday Times reporter Enoch Duma acquitted under two charges under the Terrorism Act.
  • Journalists Thami Mazwai and Kingdom Lolwana arrested and charged with obstructing the police. Charges later withdrawn.
  • WASA Congress in Port Elizabeth banned by Chief Magistrate.

August 1978

  • Minister of Justice, Mr Jimmy Kruger threatens Post after the Newspapers comment on Internal Security Act

September 1978

  • Former UBJ President Joe Thloloe released after 547 days in solitary confinement. No charges brought against him.
  • Banned journalist, Thenjiwe Mtintso detained under the Internal SecurityAct
  •  Isaac Moroe, Jan Tugwana and Willie Bokala transferred to Section 10 of the Internal SecurityAct

October 1978

  • Bulara Diphoto released from three months detention under Section Six of the Int Security Act. No charges brought against him
  • Five Post Journalists refused Press Card. No reasons given
  • Thami Mazwai refused accreditation to South African State President’s inauguration because he is a security risk. Also refused accreditation to the Western Five — Namibia talks with South African authorities.
  • WASA representatives in Pietersburg and Durban questioned by Security Police
  • WASA Exco-members called in for questioning 
  • Journalists Wiseman Khuzwayo, and Duma Ndlovu forced to leave the country


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