Indemnity Act, 1961

The Indemnity Act 61 of 1961 was a law enacted by the apartheid government in South Africa, which protected the government from any legal repercussions of the Sharpeville massacre and other violent events that followed. It prevented the courts from hearing any criminal charges or civil claims against the government, its leaders or its employees for actions taken between 21 March 1960 and 5 July 1961.[1]

Indemnity Act, 1961
Coat of arms of South Africa (1932–2000).svg
Parliament of South Africa
CitationAct No. 61 of 1961
Enacted byParliament of South Africa
Assented to28 June 1961
Commenced5 July 1961
Status: Spent

The act indemnified the State President, the Cabinet, all members of the civil service, the defence force, the police force, the railways and harbours service, the prison service, and anyone else acting under their direction. It applied to any actions taken, orders given or information published "in good faith" between the specified dates to protect public order, essential services, life or property.[1][2]

The act was precipitated by 224 civil claims for damages, amounting to approximately £400,000 (R800,000), served against the Minister of Justice in September 1960 by victims of Sharpeville and their relatives.[3] All these claims were nullified by the act. In response to public pressure, the government set up a committee to examine the claims and to recommend ex gratia payments, but few were actually paid out.[4]

The act remains on the statute-books, although any claims to which it would apply would have prescribed (expired). It is also inconsistent with the modern Constitution of South Africa, which guarantees the right of access to the courts. The South African Law Reform Commission has recommended that it should be repealed.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Discussion Paper 129: Project 25: Statutory Law Revision: Legislation administered by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (PDF) (Report). South African Law Reform Commission. October 2011. pp. 49–50. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  2. ^ Indemnity Act 61 of 1961
  3. ^ Reeves, Ambrose (1966). "The Sharpeville Massacre: A watershed in South Africa". Archived from the original on 14 November 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  4. ^ Boddy-Evans, Alistair. "Sharpeville Massacre: World Condemnation and Political Aftermath". African History. Retrieved 3 December 2012.

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