Today in History, Dr J B Danquah, Mr. Joe Appiah, Mr. Patrick Quaidoo, Several prominent Opposition personalities and leaders of the railway workers Strike were arrested on 3 October 1961 under the Preventive Detention Act after the discovery of an alleged plot to murder President Kwame Nkrumah and other Ministers.
Strikes involving thousands of railway, dock, and other workers broke out on 4th September 1961, at the twin towns of Takoradi-Sekondi, subsequently spreading to Accra and Kumasi. The strikes began among railway workers at Takoradi-Sekondi, spread rapidly to port workers in the twin towns and to railway men at Kumasi, and virtually paralyzed the country’s rail system, thereby forcing other employees in the Takoradi area to stop work. Appeals by the Government and leaders of the Ghana T.U.C. for a resumption of work prior to a discussion of the workers’ grievances were unsuccessful, and on September 6th to 7th the strike spread to municipal bus workers in Accra and to employees of the trading firm of A. G. Leventis and Co., which is heavily backed by Government loans.
The strikes were in protest against the Government’s compulsory savings scheme and the price increases on sugar, flour, and other basic commodities, which it was claimed would reduce the workers’ living standards below an adequate level.
A limited state of emergency was proclaimed on 9 September 1961, covering both the area of Takoradi and Sekondi and the country’s railway system. This measure gave the Government power to requisition vehicles in order to maintain the movement of essential supplies, to control traffic, and to ban meetings; convicted saboteurs became liable to up to 10 years’ imprisonment; and senior police or military officers were empowered to detain suspects without a warrant.
President Kwame Nkrumah returned to Accra on 16th September 1961 from his holiday in the Soviet Union (after having been abroad for nine weeks); on the following day he announced that he had revoked the state of emergency and called upon all strikers to return to work immediately. While some of the strikers returned to work after a week, most did not go back until 22nd September 1961, after appeals and warnings by President Nkrumah in which he again called on the men to go back and denounced the strike as “illegal” and “subversive.
Dr Kwame Nkrumah announced on 28th September 1961 that, he had asked six members of his Government, including two Cabinet Ministers (Mr. K. A. Gbedemah and Mr. Kojo Botsio), to resign in view of their “varied business connexions”; that six other Ministers and members of the Government had accepted his request that they should surrender parts of their assets to the State; and that he had drawn the attention of the Speaker of the National Assembly to “the extensive nature of his business interests.”
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah carried out an extensive governmental reorganization two days later. Several prominent Opposition personalities, leaders of the recent strike, and others, were arrested on 3 October 1961 under the Preventive Detention Act after the discovery of an alleged plot to murder President Kwame Nkrumah and other Ministers. Those arrested included Dr J B Danquah, United Party candidate in the 1960 presidential election; Mr. Joe Appiah, deputy leader of the Opposition and son-in-law of the late Sir Stafford Cripps; other leading United Party members; and Mr. Patrick Quaidoo, who was a member of Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s Cabinet until May 1961.
The Government stated that the arrests followed the uncovering of several subversive activities, including a plot to murder Dr. Nkrumah and other Ministers and to overthrow the regime. Subsequently (Oct. 7) the Government announced that it intended to publish a White Paper giving the full circumstances leading up to the arrests.
The four detained Members of Parliament were subsequently deprived of their seats and byelections ordered in the four constituencies affected, on the ground that the members had automatically lost their seats because of the detention orders issued against them.