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Letter sent by Bram Fischer to his Counsel in February 1965 when he went underground, and read to the court

By the time this reaches you I shall be a long way from Johannesburg and shall absent myself from the remainder of the trial. But I shall still be in the country to which I said I would return when I was granted bail.

I wish you to inform the Court that my absence, though deliberate, is not intended in any way to he disrespectful. Nor is it prompted by any fear of the punishment which might be inflicted on me. Indeed I realise fully that my eventual punishment may be increased by my present conduct.

I have not taken this step lightly. As you will no doubt understand, I have experienced great conflict between my desire to stay with my fellow accused and, on the other hand, to try to continue the political work I believe to be essential. My decision was made only because I believe that it is the duty of every true opponent of this Government to remain in this country and to oppose its monstrous policy of apartheid with every means in his power. That is what I shall do for as long as I can.

In brief, the reasons which have compelled me to take this step and which I wish you to communicate to the Court are the following:

There are already over 2,500 political prisoners in our prisons. These men and women are not criminals but the staunchest opponents of apartheid.

Cruel, discriminatory laws multiply each year, bitterness and hatred of the Government and its laws are growing daily. No outlet for this hatred is permitted because political rights have been removed, national organisations have been outlawed and leaders, not in gaol, have been banned from speaking and meeting. People are hounded by Pass Laws and by Group Area controls. Torture by solitary confinement, and worse, has been legalised by an elected Parliament - surely an event unique in history.

It is no answer to all this to say that Bantustans will be created nor that the country is prosperous. The vast majority of the people are prevented from sharing in the country`s wealth by the Colour Bar in industry and mining and by the prohibition against owning land save in relatively small and grossly over-crowded parts of the country where, in any case, there exist no mines or industries. The idea that Bantustans will provide any solution would deceive no one but a White South African.

What is needed is for White South Africans to shake themselves out of their complacency intensified by the present economic boom built upon racial discrimination.

Unless this whole intolerable system is changed radically and rapidly, disaster must follow. Appalling bloodshed and civil war will become inevitable because, as long as there is oppression of a majority, such oppression will be fought with increasing hatred.

To try to avoid this becomes a supreme duty, particularly for an Afrikaner, because it is largely the representatives of my fellow Afrikaners who have been responsible for the worst of these discriminatory laws.

These are my reasons for absenting myself from Court. If by my fight I can encourage even some people to think about, to understand and to abandon the policy they now so blindly follow, I shall not regret any punishment I may incur.

I can no longer serve justice in the way I have attempted to do during the past thirty years. I can do it only in the way I have now chosen.

Finally, I would like you to urge upon the Court to bear in mind that if it does have to punish any of my fellow accused, it will be punishing them for holding the ideas today that will be universally accepted tomorrow.