1959 was the year James Currey arrived in South Africa and found a nation in crisis. Sharpeville, in 1960, was a turning point in the struggle, and hope for overthrowing apartheid solidified in the resistance. Shortly after Randolph Vigne, Neville Rubin, Tim Holmes and James Currey founded The New African; a radical review of politics and the arts, which also served to mask the illegal work, sabotage and organisation of the African Resistance Movement. This is a personal view of the resistance from the letters of Clare and James Currey.
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From Sharpeville to Rivonia: 1959 to 1964 by Clare and James Currey
Event after event from 1959 to 1964 in South Africa gave hope of the end of apartheid. Quotes from Clare and James Currey’s letters provide a vivid account of the chain of crisis over those years as they worked in the Cape with the radical left, Patrick Duncan of the newspaper Contact, and Randolphus Vigne of The New African.
On 21 March 1960 the polica shoot and killed 69 nonviolent protesters at Sharpeville. Days later, 35 000 Africans marched non-violently into Cape Town and were betrayed with massive police brutality in Langa and in the city.
Much resistance went underground with some groups driven to sabotage. The verdict of the Rivonia Trial of the ANC was given on 12 June 1964. The police chief was quoted across the whole front of The Sunday Times as saying that all resistance in the country was at an end.
That night pylons were felled on the Reed and at the Cape. The police had no idea where this new resistance was coming from. It took days of torture to get their leads. The activity of publishing The New African had masked illegal work, sabotage and the organising of the African Resistance Movement.
On 11 July 1964 Randolph appealed to James and Clare to enable him to escape. James used his British passport to buy a ticket on a Norwegian freighter for Montreal with Vigne travelling as Currey. To stop himself going to Canada as well, James Currey leapt over the side of the ship, slipped and saved himself by the fingers of one hand. He was seen, but people thought that he was leaving a farewell party. He should have been arrested. Two days later Clare and James Currey flew out from Johannesburg. Apartheid was to survive for another 30 years.