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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Archives Groups/South African History Archives: Individual Entries

AL2431 United Democratic Front (UDF)

Papers, publications, computer disks; 1983-1991; 75 boxes; inventory available

Brief historical background

At the Anti-South African Indian Council conference held in January 1983, the call was made for a united front to be launched to co-ordinate the campaigns against the establishment of black local authorities and the Tri-cameral parliament. A committee was established at this conference to look into "the feasibility of forming a united front". On 20 August, the UDF was launched at a rally at the Rockland

Civic Centre in Cape Town. This non-racial organisation had structures and affiliates country-wide. It has since been disbanded.See the following books for more information on the UDF:

Jeremy Seekings, The UDF: A History of the United Democratic Front in South Africa, 1983 - 1991 (David Philip, 2000)

Ineke van Kessel, "Beyond our Wildest Dreams": The United Democratic Front and the transformation of South Africa (University Press of Virginia, 2000).

Notes on the collection

The UDF Head Office, located in Khotso House, was frequently raided and was bombed in 1988. This resulted in valuable UDF documentation being lost.

This UDF collection has been created by compiling documents from different sources. Some of the material was donated by individuals who, in one capacity or another, were active in the UDF or its structures or affiliates. Some material comes from Valli Moosa and Murphy Morobe and some (especially the press statements and policy documents) from the UDF Information Office. Most of the documents from 1989-1991 are from the UDF offices all over the country. Also added to the collection was a group of UDF documents that were deposited at Historical Papers for safekeeping (AD1789). Given these various sources, there are still some important gaps.

The Northern Transvaal documents have never been located and the material from Natal is scarce. These gaps and the lack of documentation highlight important characteristics of the period like the severe repression, the uncertainty, the escalation of violence and resistance. No "open" UDF office existed, Popo Molefe and Terror Lekota with others were on trial in the "Delmas Treason Trial". Valli Moosa, Murphy Morobe and other UDF officials operated clandestinely, and were constantly 'on the run' to avoid detention. This impacted on the process of record creating and record keeping. A study of this period cannot therefore solely rely on the written document.

Included in this collection are minutes, speeches, discussion papers, correspondence, newsletters and pamphlets of the UDF from the national and regional structures, as well as computer disks from UDF head office. Material from the Conference for a Democratic Future, National Reception Committee and on National Civic Co-ordination are included.

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.