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The state of emergency

The police in South Africa have always had many powers. But on Saturday the 21st July, the State President gave the police even more powers. He gave them these new powers in 36 places in South Africa. He said that these places were now under a state of emergency.



Benoni Delmas Brakpan Nigel Heidelberg Germiston Boksburg Springs Westonaria Randfontein Roodepoort Randburg Johannesburg Alberton Vereeniging VanderbijI Park Sasolburg Kempton Park


Adelaide Fort Beaufort Albany Bathurst Alexandria Pearston Somerset East Kirkwood Hawkley Uitenhage Port Elizabeth Cradock Graaff Reinet Jansenville Steyterville Humansdorp Balfour Bedford.


Under the state of emergency, the police are not the only ones with new special powers. The emergency laws give the railway police, the army, and people from the prisons the same new powers. What are these new powers?

  1. They can search your house and take away anything they want.

  2. They can stop any meeting.

  3. They can arrest you and keep you in jail for 14 days. If they want to keep you longer, the Minister of Law and Order can sign an order – and then they keep you for as long as they like.

  4. The head of police can stop the newspapers from writing any­ thing about the places under the state of emergency.

  5. The newspapers cannot give the names of people in jail – even if someone says their son or daughter is in jail. The papers can only print the names that the police give to them.

  6. The emergency laws give the police many other powers. In some places they have started curfews. This means people cannot walk in the street after a certain time. For example, in the Eastern Cape and Vaal townships, people can’t go out from 10 o’clock at night until four o’clock in the morning. And in many townships, schoolchildren can’t walk in the streets during school hours. They must stay in the school grounds.

  7. You cannot do anything if you are unhappy with the police or other people with special emergency powers. You can’t take them to court – no matter what they do to you.


People who are detained under the emergency laws have very few rights:

  1. Your family can bring you clothes and some money to buy cigarettes and things like soap. You can’t get any books for read i ng or for study. You can only read a Bible.

  2. Your family can visit you – but only if the Commissioner of Police gives permission.

  3. You must get one hour of exercise a day.

  4. The district surgeon (doctor) must visit you.

  5. They can lock you up all on your own. And if you break their rules in jail, they can punish you. They can fine you – and if they want, they can even whip you.


  1. Finding a detainee: Find a good lawyer to help you. The police do not always listen to the families of detainees. If you do not know a good lawyer, you can get help from two organisations. These orga­nisations are the Detainees Parents Support Committee (DPSC) and the Detainees Support Committee (Descom). These organisations work to­gether. They will help you to find a lawyer.

If you want to know if the DPSC has a branch in your area, write or speak to them in Johannesburg. Their address is: 2nd floor, Khotso House, 42 De Villiers Street, Johannes­ burg. Their phone number is (011 )23 – 6664. The box number is: P.O. Box 39431, Bramley, 2018.

Ask the lawyer to find out if your relative is in detention ­ and at what jaiI they are holding your relative. The lawyer must speak to the Police Public Relations Division in Pretoria. Their telephone number IS (012) 21 – 2063.

2. Parcels: Detainees can get clothes and money – if there is a shop in the prison. If there is no shop, they can get food parcels.

Ask the lawyer to help you get permission to take parcels. If you are short of money, tell the people at the DPSC. They can give you track suits, food parcels and money for detainees.

3. Visits: You can ask for visits.

You must say why you want to visit. You also have to give your name, address and your identity number. Once again, ask the lawyer to help with visits.

  1. Doctors: If the detainee has a sickness or health problem, you must tell the doctor at the prison. The DPSC has a list of names and phone nu mbers of prison doctors.

  2. Help with money: If the detainee is the breadwinner in your famiIy, speak to an organisation called the Dep­endants Conference. They will give you money for rent and food. You can speak to them at:

King Williamstown (0433)20511/ 23165 Queenstown (0451) 3446 Cape Town (021) 452100 Durban (031) 3013944 Pietermaritzburg (0331) 54819 Transkei (0477) 23653 Port Elizabeth (041) 28201 Northern Transvaal (01521 )3872 Johannesburg (011) 282251

4. Start a care group: Try to start a care group with the detainees friends and family. The group shouId meet and take care of the detainees affairs. For example, the group must tell the detainees employer about the detention. They should also try to pay the detainees rent and accounts. And the group can also work together packing food and clothing parcels.

The group should meet often. They should try to help the detainees family – and to keep their spirits high. And if the detainee was working in an organisation, the group should try to carry on the detainee’s work.

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