About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

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Mass Democratic Movement (MDM)

This was a loose alliance of anti-apartheid groups that formed in 1988 when the apartheid government placed restrictions on the United Democratic Front* and other activist organizations. The MDM, made up of UDF* and ANC* supporters, then emerged as an even wider, more amorphous front to resist apartheid. It also had strong links with the Congress of South African Trade Unions* (COSATU). The fact that the MDM had no permanent structure made it difficult for the government to place a ban on its activities. In July 1989 COSATU took the lead and called for support from the MDM for a nation-wide defiance campaign of protests against segregation in hospitals, beaches and public transport. The result was six weeks of defiant activity, with volunteers deliberately breaking offensive laws and filling prisons. It was also decided to organize a massive worker stay away to show contempt for the tricameral elections due to take place on 6 September 1989; more than 3 million workers heeded the call. The campaign was halted in mid September when the government, with De Klerk taking the lead, agreed to enter into a new era of constitutional negotiations with the ANC.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.