Even many government supporters, including the biggest Afrikaans newspaper in South Africa, the national Rapport, have been dismayed or at least embarrassed by a recent wave of arrests and "bannings" of student leaders, journalists, and trade union leaders.
Academics, opposition leaders, and student organizations have condemned the government action outright and warned that no amount of "strong-arm tactics" or "neurotic attempts to gag opponents" will "dampen the spirit of those who are working for a just society."
Rapport, owned by a company that is controlled by members of the ruling National Party, said Sunday that "it is not going to solve any problems" to fill prisons with political prisoners, and that "we must work for a political system that does not need to be propped up by banning orders or detention without trial."
More than 150 people are believed to be held in jail at present without trial , most in solitary confinement, and more than 160 people are "banned."
The terms of the various "banning orders" can vary. Usually they prevent the people concerned from moving outside a limited area, attending social gatherings , taking part in any meetings, or delivering speeches. Newspapers may not quote banned people. If they do, they can be fined and their editors can themselves be jailed.
The latest to be "banned" is a young student leader at the biggest university in Johannesburg, the University of the Witwatersrand. He is a law student, Sammy Adelman.
No reasons are given for bannings. Nor may they be contested in court.
Mr. Adelman's mother, Bella Adelman, told newsmen she was too shocked to talk about the banning of her son.He himself may not be quoted.
One of the arrests that received wide publicity in recent weeks is that of Andrew Boraine, who is the president of the National Union of South African Students, an organization representing students at English-language universities.
Two security policemen arrested Mr. Boraine at the student organization's offices in Cape Town. And as a courtesy that is not always extended, the police informed his parents of his detention.
But neither his father, Dr. Alex Boraine, a member of Parliament for the opposition Progressive Federal Party, nor his mother, was allowed to see him, nor would the police tell them even in which city he was being held.
After two weeks his father was finally allowed to visit him in the central prison in Pretoria, the country's administrative capital, which is more than 1,0 00 miles from his home in Cape Town.