Court conviction signals S. African clampdown
South Africa is stamping even harder on the activities of the African National Congress - the main black nationalist group seeking the overthrow of the white minority government.
The government has just won an important court ruling against an ANC member that may signal tougher penalties for those who involve themselves with the outlawed organization.
Barbara Hogan, a young white woman, was convicted of high treason Oct. 20 after a much-publicized trial. The case is significant because the government threw the book at her, seeking and obtaining conviction for treason for activities that were not violent. In the past, prosecutors have not sought such an extreme charge for activities of this sort.
In her defense, Hogan claimed that she did not support violence against the republic - even though the ANC, of which she is a member, endorses such action.
In the past the government has sought treason charges mainly in cases alleging violence against the republic. In this case, even though Hogan's activities were not violent, the judge said her activities were furthering all of the ANC's aims. He said Hogan was intelligent and well-informed about those aims.
Hogan's trial underscored several developments in the political arena that Pretoria is clearly concerned about.
Hogan was one of a growing number of educated white radicals that are moving closer to the ideology of the ANC, if not to the organization itself. The government is intent on stopping any fraternization between white and black radicals. Hogan is said to be the first white woman to be convicted of treason in South Africa.
Government concern over white radicals was evident last year when security police began a large scale clampdown with numerous detentions and promises of important trials this year. One legal analyst says the charge of high treason against Hogan was partly an attempt by the state to make good on that promise, particularly since so few of those detained were even charged with crimes.
The Hogan trial also demonstrated government concern about ANC influence in the emerging black trade union movement. Hogan helped organize two boycotts and worked to establish a trade union for unemployed black workers. The defense counsel argued that her activities, per se, were legal. But the state claimed they were carried out to further the ANC aim of crippling the economy. Hogan is to be sentenced soon.
The government has detained many of South Africa's more politically outspoken black trade union leaders, fearing black worker power is taking on overtly political tones.