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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Janet Cherry

Janet Cherry was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa and became politically active while studying at the University of Cape Town in 1980. She was involved in the Wages Commission, doing support work for independent black trade unions, and in worker education and adult literacy programs in Crossroads and Nyanga townships. In school, she ran the student printing press as a member of the Student Representative Council. In 1982, she was recruited into the African National Congress (ANC) underground. Then in 1983, she was elected General Secretary of the National Union of South African Students. At that time, she was involved in discussions around the formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the End Conscription Campaign (ECC).

In 1984, Janet Cherry relocated to Port Elizabeth to set up an adult education program working with youth and women's organizations, as well as trade unions. She was also chair of a UDF area committee before UDF meetings were banned in March of 1985. At that time, she worked to set up a Port Elizabeth ECC branch, of which she was chairperson. When her adult education program was stopped, she worked with others to set up a Crisis Information Center, doing support work for people detained or who had disappeared during the uprising. Cherry herself was detained in 1985, in 1986-7, and again in 1988 before being put under house arrest in 1989. In recognition of her work as a young activist, Janet Cherry was one of the first recipients of the Reebok Human Rights Awards in 1988.

In the early 1990's Janet Cherry worked for human rights and democracy NGOs IDASA and Black Sash, and was vice-chair of the ANC Walmer branch before moving to Grahamstown to lecture in Political Studies at Rhodes University. Then in 1996 and 1997 she worked as a researcher for the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Since 1998 she has been lecturing in Development Studies at University of Port Elizabeth. She continues to be involved in human rights work, as a member of Amnesty International and conducting research on human rights policy. Janet Cherry is currently researching for a doctorate in political sociology, on political participation in Kwazakele township, Port Elizabeth.

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.