Ivan Toms - Conscription


Toms was drafted into the national service in the South African Defence Force (SADF), as a non-combatant doctor in 1978. He opposed the goals of the SADF, but refused to leave South Africa. He spent much of his six months as a doctor in Namibia, which was then known as South West Africa and was controlled by South Africa.

Once he returned to Cape Town, Toms set up a medical clinic in the squatter settlement of Crossroads, which is located about 15 km outside of the city in the Cape Flats area. He was the only doctor who served the Crossroads' population of approximately 60,000 people. In September 1983, Toms witnessed a three week long confrontation between the Crossroads community and the South African police and security forces, who were trying to tear down "illegal" buildings in the settlement. After witnessing the violence and brutality of the raid, Toms vowed never to serve in the SADF again, even in a non-combatant capacity. He went public with his opinions on what he had witnessed and became a founding member of the End Conscription Campaign (ECC) in 1983. Toms' co-founders of the ECC included other prominent anti-conscription activists including Nan Cross.

Toms went on a three week long hunger strike in February 1985 to protest the government's decision to buldoze the Crossroads shanty town. The destruction of Crossroads resulted in violence and the deaths of several people as residents tried to resist the destruction. Toms commented during his hunger strike that, "As a Christian, I am obliged to say no, to say never again will I put on that SADF uniform."

The SADF officially took control of Toms' health clinic in 1986. The following year, in July 1987, Toms defied the SADF when he was called up for one month of compulsory service. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison in 1988 for defying the order and ultimately served nine months in Pollsmoor Prison.

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Famous quotes containing the word conscription:

    No Raven’s wing can stretch the flight so far
    As the torn bandrols of Napoleon’s war.
    Choose then your climate, fix your best abode,
    He’ll make you deserts and he’ll bring you blood.
    How could you fear a dearth? have not mankind,
    Tho slain by millions, millions left behind?
    Has not conscription still the power to weild
    Her annual faulchion o’er the human field?
    A faithful harvester!
    Joel Barlow (1754–1812)

    We have our difficulties, true; but we are a wiser and a tougher nation than we were in 1932. Never have there been six years of such far flung internal preparedness in all of history. And this has been done without any dictator’s power to command, without conscription of labor or confiscation of capital, without concentration camps and without a scratch on freedom of speech, freedom of the press or the rest of the Bill of Rights.
    Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945)