ANC STATEMENT ON THE COMMEMORATION OF THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE UNITED DEMOCRATIC FRONT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
20 AUGUST 2023
The ANC joins millions in commemorating the 40th anniversary of a colossal upon whose shoulders and values we proudly stand and espouse in advancing the people’s interests and the renewal of our movement. On 20 August 1983, a large and diverse range of progressive forces met in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town in what became one of the turning points of our history. On this day, the United Democratic Front (UDF) was formed.
At the time, the apartheid machinery of oppression, political killings, bannings, and abductions was grinding viciously throughout society. At the time the ANC was exiled and with political bannings the order of the day, a large majority of South Africans were left in distress without a voice. The church, which provided light and hope for the oppressed people was under the apartheid radar, its leaders threatened, poisoned, and killed.
The brutality of the apartheid system extended to organized labour, youth and women’s organisations, the civic movement, academics, the legal fraternity, and the student movement. During this period, the ANC challenged the apartheid system and called on communities and all organised formations to render apartheid South Africa ungovernable and apartheid unworkable. The UDF was formed out of this context. The UDF’s goal was to establish a non-racial, united South Africa in which segregation is abolished and society is free from clutches of institutional and systematic racism.
The formation of the UDF shook the apartheid establishment at its core. Its formation fortified the ANC’s pillar of mass mobilisation by rallying progressive forces around the agenda of a non-sexist, non-racial, united, and democratic society based on equality, freedom, and justice.
Undeniably, the UDF played an important role in the liberation struggle. In the course, promoting values of commitment and dedication to the revolutionary cause including ethical leadership, non-racialism, and non-sexism, commitment to women leadership as epitomised by the leadership of Comrade Albertina Sisulu as one of UDF’s presidents, Comrades Cheryl Carolus, Sophie De Bruyn, Frances Baard, Ray Alexander Simons and many women of stature who dared the apartheid system. As a coincidence of history, the UDF was formed in August which we commemorate as National Women’s Month. In
recognition of the importance of women’s struggles and the plight of women, the ANC declared 1984 as the year of women.
In the forty years of this rich history emanating from the UDF’s formation, the liberation struggle has evolved resulting in a democratic Constitution which recognizes the equality of all racial groups as espoused by the Freedom Charter and advanced by the ANC as one of its strategic goals. The UDF reaffirmed the ANC’s conviction that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, that all national groups shall have equal rights and that the people shall share in the country’s wealth. All these are commitments expressed unambiguously through current laws and programmes of the democratic government.
As a record of history, the UDF galvanized society behind the agenda of the ANC when the oppressed were voiceless, freedom of political activity and association stifled through draconian apartheid laws. The UDF taught us about the power of unity as a potent force towards a particular goal, hence its motto of “UDF unites, apartheid divides”. In the face of the daunting challenges of unemployment, poverty, the gender-based violence epidemic, endemic crime, and other social ills, South Africans must unite to tackle these problems.
In celebrating this massive feat, the ANC celebrates women who led the UDF at the difficult time of our struggle, subjected to the worst of dehumanisation and indignity. We pay tribute to heroes and heroines who were murdered at the brutal hands of the apartheid system and salute the people of South Africa for the birth and nurturing of this giant.
Happy 40th anniversary!
“UDF Unites! Apartheid Divides!”
ISSUED BY THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS
ANC NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON
076 891 5420
ACTING NATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
066 056 0911