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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

UDF unites apartheid divides

When killing became a state programme in the 1980s, the UDF kept the struggle alive, writes Cornelius Thomas.

BY 1985, the flag of the then banned African National Congress had become commonplace in South Africa's African and coloured townships. But the ANC flag did not fly from official flagpoles; it draped coffins at mass funerals.

Although the country had reached the midpoint of its darkest decade at the time, the catch phrase "UDF Unites, Apartheid Divides" -- punctuated these political occasions.

Within two years in the 1980s, one organisation caused South Africa to change from a country at relative peace to one embroiled in virtual civil war.

That organisation was the United Democratic Front (UDF). Over 10000 activists launched the UDF in a hall in the Cape Town coloured township sprawl of Mitchells Plain, popularly named Mitchells Complain, in August 1983.

It was formed in opposition to the Piet Koornhof Laws which sought to implement a three-chamber parliament for whites, coloureds, and Indians, with Africans relegated to homelands and urban bantu councils. The coloureds of Cape Town especially rejected this offer; they would not collaborate in the instruments of their own oppression.

The UDF adopted as one of its patrons the liberation theology dominee, Dr Alan Boesak. His mission was to destroy apartheid.

In its first newsletter the UDF asserted: "The President's Council and the new parliament are a government plan to try to divide us. The government wants to fool us that coloureds and Indians will share in apartheid's power and privileges. But they only want to use masses of our coloured and Indian people."

Having initially considered the UDF as a paper tiger, the government soon became concerned because of its visibility (mass rallies, boycotts, and marches), its international outreaches, and its charismatic leaders like Boesak, Albertina Sisulu, Archie Gumede and Trevor Manuel. With its presence in schools and in townships, the UDF loomed as one of the largest facets of South African life

For full text see: http://www.dispatch.co.za/2000/01/07/features/UDF.HTM

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.