Political Context of Revolt
- Black residential areas = townships
- The government tried to contain and suppress the violence --> Usually led to antagonising people more and fulled resistance.
- Government's reform process (Botha): He recognised that elements of apartheid hadn't been effective.
- He didn't want to end *********** just find new ways to preserve it.
- Homeland policy was a central route to Botha's government --> Spent a lot of time and money in trying to make them viable as separate states.
- Attempts made to draw in Coloured and Indian politicians through the tricameral parliament.
- One strategy = making black allies and giving them better political responsibility
- The state hoped that elected urban black councillors would absorb and defuse discontent.
- Some township residents thought they could make a difference from within the system.
- Powers: allocate housing, employ local officials, grant licenses for business
- By early 80's, was clear that the council would have to increase rent to make better public facilities or break even.
- Attempts to control the spread of unplanned, informal shack settlements created tension.
- Councillors were often seen as 'sell-outs' - participating in apartheid and taking advantage of the system --> Betraying their communities
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The UDF and grass roots organisations
- UDF = United Democratic Front
- 1983 - activists from different organisations felt they needed to take a stand against Botha's reforms --> Concerned that he was finding allies (in Coloured Labour Party and black councils)
- UDF mobilised against Botha's reforms and wanted a fully democratic S.A
- Those who had identified with ANC were at the heart of the UDF (e.g. Winnie Mandela/Albertina Sisulu - wives of jailed ANC leaders). Also new generation of leaders (e.g. Desmond Tutu)
- UDF adopted the Freedom Charter
- Didn't want an armed struggle
- Like a broad umbrella organisation used to manage several strands of opposition
- An affiliation of grass root organisations
- 1983 - COSAS aligned with the UDF
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- Dynamics of protest changed in later months of 1984 --> violent tactics becoming more attractive
- 3rd September 1983 - the day that the tricameral parliament opened in cape town - uprising against the government in Vaal Triangle
- Councillors killed in Sharpville (thought they had betrayed their communities)
- COSAS (Congress of South African Students) was established in 1979
- 1985, protest reached its peak - government and council officials in the townships became frequent targets
- 'Peoples power' became the slogan for the movement
- 1985 = ANC called for a 'peoples war' - made attempts to send Mk members into S.A.
- Youth living in S.A often saw themselves as 'comrades', helping with the armed struggle of the ANC --> Although the UDF did advocate such tactics
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- By the end of 1985, Alexandra (an overpopulated township) became a centre for rebellion
- The revolt broke out in 1986 after a month of tension - known as the 'six-day war'.
- Triggered by a youth activist (Michael Diradeng) when he was shot by a security guard.
- A night vigil was organised on the 14th of Feb
- On their route around the township, they petrol-bombed the shop where he had died. Burnt houses and the next morning they stabbed a policeman.
- His funeral took place the next day - attacks on the police and homes of councillors --> Most police fled their houses.
- Not led directly by the ANC but was a peoples war.
- The youth's brief ruling period had its harsh side - violence (inc Necklacing) was common against those who didn't participate in protests.
- Comtsotsis - combining comrade with tsotsis --> Meant those who used violence to establish what they saw as an alternative social order
- Their take-over (the youth) was mainly done with no help from the UDF --> distanced themselves.
- Winnie Mandela identified strongly
- 'With our matches and our necklaces we shall liberate this country' - Winnie Mandela
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Rural Rebellion + Government response
- Rebellion was mainly, but not wholly in the urban townships
- Sekhukhuneland in the Transvaal was a site for major rural rebellion in the 1950's
- Towns and rural high schools were centres of protest and recruitment routes for the Mk.
- June 1985 - Botha called for a national State of Emergency
- Sent troops into Townships protected by armoured vehicles and prepared to use their weapons.
- Retaliation from Alexandra was particularly strong in 1986
- Army sealed off the township - houses of activists were burned (sometimes with people inside)
- May 1986 - 1,500 troops moved into Alexandra and made house to house searches, arresting anyone suspected of resistance.
- 12 June - Second State of emergency --> 3000 arrests in Alexandra alone.
- Key leaders in Alexandra arrested and subjected to well-publicised trial.
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Government Suppression: State Suppression
- The National Party still had the power to repress black political protest
- Army and police were controlled by white people committed to the regime
- They shared the objective of maintaining white authority
- Police force increased from 49,000 to 93,600 between 1981 and 1991
- This was mainly to deal with increasing political problems and urban problems.
- By 1994, the police force was at around 140,000
- Common police tactics: mass arrests, imprisonment, banning orders
- Uncommon police tactics that did happen: kidnapping, interrogations under torture and death.
- Branch of the police kept files on opposition leaders and tried to get them to give information about the whereabouts of the ANC.
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Government Suppression: Conflict in the Homelands
- Not all Africans supported youth protest
- Those supporting the UDF in townships faced difficulties
- Main opposition - homeland of KwaZulu and parts of Natal
- Cheif Buthelezi (part of Inkatha Freedom Party) was increasingly hostile against the protests.
- He suppressed school boycotts and developed an alternative Youth Brigade
- In 3 years of township fighting in Zululand and Natal, 4000 people were killed
- This was mainly NOT an ethnic conflict but a difference of opinion about controls over the homelands.
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