Banned Persons

Image of Robben Island by mr_mayer.

September 12 was the 35th anniversary of the death of Steve Biko, an anti-apartheid activist and leader in the South African black consciousness movement, who died in police custody on September 12, 1977. (If you’re a fan of Peter Gabriel, you may know of him through the song “Biko“; if you’re a Denzel Washington fan, you may about Steve Biko from the movie about his life, Cry Freedom.) Biko’s death was a watershed moment in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

Biko was also one of over 1,600 people who were “banned” in South Africa. A banning order severely restricted the person’s movements and associations with others. Banning orders could restrict someone to a specific district or city, and sometimes placed the person banned under house arrest. Helen Joseph, a prominent white member of the anti-apartheid movement, was restricted to her home for years. She was not allowed to receive visitors on the weekends or at night, and was also restricted to speaking with one person at a time. Banning orders often prevented people from visiting family and attending events like weddings and funerals.

More information on banning orders is available in books in the Law Library such as Apartheid: A Documentary Study of Modern South Africa and online resources such as South African Apartheid Legislation, available through HeinOnline. A list of many of the persons banned, along with details about the banning orders, is also available from South African History Online.

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