Treason Trial – Big Noisy Trial!

The Treason trials started off like an action-packed cowboy film when 156 men and women came before the court in Johannesburg at a preparatory examination. The treason trials, now the talk of South Africa and the world at large, started with a bang-bang-bang. There was drama inside the Drill Hall, where the preparatory examination into charges of high treason alleged against more than 150 persons from various organisations was held before the Chief Magistrate of Bloemfontein, Mr. F.C.A. Wessel. And there was drama outside in the streets of Johannesburg when the police clashed several times with the crowd. All because the Drilml Hall could not accomodate all of the 5000 people outside. if it had, there might never have been any trouble. First, is was a booing that led to a baton charge that led to a stone-throwing that led to a gun-shooting. And side interludes of snatching Press cameras and arresting photographers. Everybody was in a dirty mood, and as the police and the public were taunting each other,it looked like a situation that could any moment turn dangerous. Meanwhile, inside, the prosecution was outlining its case against the accused and the fog was lifting slowly over what the accused men and women are alleged to have done. Still, outside the police were keeping order. The mood of the public was electric and any moment threatened to spark off a nasty riot. From the threats and taunts hurled by many people it was clear that the drama outside the Drill Hall was packed with menace. For some reason the police could not abide a clicking camera. One of our cameramen, Peter Magubane, was manhandled and arrested no fewer than four times. Bob Gosani was roughed up once, Jurgen Schadeberg was arrested once, Can Themba was manhandled once. Even other photographers – the Rand Daily Mail Photographer was manhandled, the Transvaler photographer was arrested and his camera damaged. People were suggesting that the police were scared of Photographers who kept a clear, irrefutable record of everything the police were doing. But Senior Police officers kept explaining that it was all a mistake, some misunderstanding, and there was no intention to interfere with the Press. Inside things were sedate on the surface but deep down everybody knew in his heart that more than 150 men and women were defending perchance their lives. And Mr. V.C Berrange , for the defence, said the allegations made against them were a fantastic plot. Story Taken From Drum Magazine February 1957 ©BAHA