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Politics: forward to people's power!

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AL2446_1455 FREE MANDELA : MASS RALLY : REGINA MUNDI produced by the Release Mandela Campaign (RMC) in 1984. AL2446_0078 MAKE YOUR MARK AGAINST APARTHEID : NUSAS SUPPORTS THE UDF MILLION SIGNATURE CAMPAIGN Popularising the UDF’s first major campaign: to mobilise one million people to sign against apartheid. The text reads: 'Make your mark against apartheid: NUSAS supports the UDF million signature campaign'


The struggle for democracy and non-racialism in South Africa has been a long one. For more than 300 years, since the arrival of the first colonialists, South Africans fought in various ways against the theft of their land, racial oppression and economic exploitation. But it is the 1980s which will go down in history as the decade of mass organisation. By the last days of 1989, this organisation had become so resilient and strong it was clear that the decisive shift from the politics of resistance to the politics of transformation was about to take place.


Strands of resistance

AL2446_1367 We the youth : TIME-TESTED LEADER OF THE PEOPLE OF SOUTH AFRICA 	This poster is an offset litho in black, red, yellow and green, produced for South African Youth Congress (SAYCO) by Graphic Equalizer, Johannesburg. The poster which includes a picture of Oliver Tambo relates to SAYCO celebrating the 70th birthday of Oliver Tambo, who was the then exiled president of the ANC AL2446_0830 Long Live the ANC! This poster represents one of the many posters used in legal protest marches that took place for the first time in years in 1989. It is also interesting to note that during this time the ANC was still banned.

The British colonial authorities handed power to the white settlers of South Africa in 1910. On the 8 January 1912, the African National Congress (ANC) was founded (under its original name of the South African National Native Congress). The ANC aimed to unite all existing black organisations working for a non-racial society into one strong force.

A second organisation, the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), now called the South African Communist Party (SACP), was founded in 1921. Although initially located among white workers, the party soon turned its efforts to mobilising the much larger black working class, linking the struggle against economic exploitation with the fight against national oppression.

AL2446_2532 THE FREEDOM CHARTER : 30 YEARS 1955 1985 : THE PEOPLE SHALL GOVERN  Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Freedom Charter in 1985. AL2446_1854 CONFERENCE FOR A DEMOCRATIC FUTURE : DECEMBER 1989 produced by the Conference for A Democratic Future (CDF) organising committee, Johannesburg. This poster advertises The Conference for a Democratic Future, which attempted to unite all organisations involved in the struggle against apartheid. Over time, the ANC and the SACP, together with the nascent black trade unions, formed a close working relationship in the struggle for a national democracy.

In 1948, the National Party was voted into power. Their first priority was to stem the tide of resistance to segregation and racial discrimination. In 1950, the Suppression of Communism Act was passed, effectively banning the Communist Party. The Act also cast a wider net — it was phrased in such a way as to allow the state to brand as communist anyone who attempted to change the prevailing political situation. The National Party also moved rapidly to introduce apartheid, a legally-enforced policy of racial segregation and discrimination.


Apartheid is introduced


AL2446_0150 People's power apartheid paliament. Don't support Apartheid Johannesburg.This poster refers to coloured South Africans who were called to join the people's extra-parliamentary struggle against racist electionsAL2446_1812 The United Democratic Front stands accused: Delmas Treason Trial: 1985 - 1988 This poster was produced as part of the campaign against the conviction of the treason trialists

But while the 1950s entrenched racial segregation in South Africa, that decade also marked the beginning of intense and sustained popular defiance to institutionalised racism. The ANC Youth League, under Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo, began the first Defiance Campaign, involving thousands in mass refusals to obey the new apartheid laws. This momentum led to the Congress of the People: on 26 June 1955 delegates from all over the country put forward the demands in the document known as the Freedom Charter.

The government could not permit this militancy. On 21 March 1960 police opened fire on a peaceful crowd in Sharpeville, killing 69 people. When the ANC called for a national stayaway to protest this massacre, the government banned both the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) (formed by elements that broke away from the ANC in 1959). The ANC turned to a long 30 years of underground work.

AL2446_0975 All shall be equal before the law.  ssued by the Screen Training Project (STP), Johannesburg, for the Freedom Charter campaign in 1985. This poster refers to the fifth demand of the Freedom Charter. The text reads “All shall be equal before the law.

AL2446_1454 VIVA ANC VIVA : HEROES OF THE PEOPLE 	This poster is an offset litho in black, green and yellow, issued by the National Reception Committee (NRC), Johannesburg. The image depicts various people dancing and celebrating the release of Walter Sisulu and other ANC leaders from prison in October 1989The 1960s also marked the beginning of the armed struggle. After so many decades of peaceful resistance in the face of state violence, the ANC concluded that force must be met with force, and formed its military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the Spear of the Nation.

In October 1963, leaders of the ANC and MK were arrested at Lilliesleaf farm in Rivonia near Johannesburg. When they were finally brought to trial, Nelson Mandela, already serving a sentence for leaving the country illegally, was charged along with them. Eight of the accused were sentenced to life imprisonment.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s the apartheid government appeared to have finally enforced an unwilling quiesence. The ANC, SACP and PAC were banned. MK continued its preparations for a sabotage campaign, but mass protests were muted. The emergence of black trade unionism in 1973, and of black student protest, seemed but a minor crack in the facade. That apparent passivity ended on 16 June 1976. Police opened fire on youths protesting apartheid education; within days, an uprising spread throughout the black South African townships. In the months that followed, thousands of protesters were killed by the police, others were jailed, and still others left the country to join the ANC, MK and other exiled organisations. As time went by, the anger and militancy were transformed into organised mass political protest.


The people re-organise

AL2446_1067 COSATU SALUTES 32 YEARS OF THE FREEDOM CHARTER  This poster refers to COSATU paying tribute to COPE and the adoption of the Freedom Charter on 26 June 1955.

The mass movement of the 1980s brought together a number of political and organisational strands. Building on the militancy of the 1976 youth uprising, it revived the vision of a united non-racial democratic South Africa embodied in the Freedom Charter. The demands of the Freedom Charter gave ideological direction and organisational unity to the spontaneous anger generated by the repression that followed 1976.

This focus on the Freedom Charter also renewed mass interest in the Congress movement, led by the ANC, then entering its third decade as a banned organisation. Meanwhile, the state tried a reformist strategy, introducing a new constitution that created coloured and Indian chambers in the South African parliament, but still excluded Africans from central political participation and firmly retained white control.


AL2446_0198 Unban ANC! Freedom day June26: The Freedom charter for the People's power his poster refers to the UDF celebrating the anniversary of the 1955 adoption of the Freedom Charter at the Congress of the People and how they called for the unbanning of the ANC  AL2446_2314 UDF UNITES - APARTHEID DIVIDES: UDF: UNITED DEMOCRATIC FRONT : FORWARD TO PEOPLE'S POWER!  This poster is an offset litho in black, red and yellow was issued by the United Democratic Front (UDF) in 1983.

The mass movement responded by forming the United Democratic Front in August 1983. The UDF brought together more than 600 youth structures, student organisations, trade unions, church groups, civic organisations, women's groups and political organisations. It identified clearly with the ANC and the Congress tradition. Old Congress structures like the Transvaal Indian Congress, which was never banned, joined the UDF along with new organisations which emerged for the first time in the 1980s. The UDF umbrella gave these groups a political focus directed at central state power, and also an organisational capacity and impact far beyond the individual potential of each structure. 


AL2446_2529 ONE YEAR OF UNITED ACTION Johannesburg. This poster refers to the UDF and how their first year was marked by the unity and action of its 600 affiliates.

This capacity was demonstrated in the campaign to reject the tri-cameral parliament and the black local authorities structure. Using slogans such as 'Votes For All', and through boycotts of elections for the tri-cameral parliament and black local authorities, the UDF convincingly demonstrated the determination of South Africa's people to fight token solutions, and to demand access to real political power.   


AL2446_2548 DON'T VOTE RALLY : VOTES FOR ALL IN A UNITED SOUTH AFRICA This poster depicts the way in which the UDF organized country-wide rallies to mobilize opposition to the apartheid elections. Cover of Images of Defiance: green book coverAL2446_0182 Don't vote in apartheid elections!; Forward to freedom. he UDF called on coloured and Indian South Africans to refuse to vote in the tricameral parliament elections.This poster refers to the UDF and how it was formed to oppose the tri-cameral system and all apartheid elections AL2446_0979 THERE SHALL BE PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP  This poster refers to the tenth and final demand of the Freedom CharterAL2446_2621 BUILD UDF his poster called on people to help build the newly-launched UDF

AL2446_0029 WOMEN UNITE AGAINST BOTHA'S DEALhe poster depicts the women of South Africa and how they were encouraged to unite against the apartheid government's latest 'deal'.Mass organisation — civics, youth and women's structures — developed fast. Nonviolent forms of political protest mushroomed: boycotts, stayaways, demonstrations and marches backed up demands connected with local issues such as rent increases, education and health problems, corruption in local authorities and transport shortages. The UDF convincingly linked these local grassroots issues to broader national political demands. 

In September 1984, a year after the founding of the UDF, police fired on a protest march in Sebokeng. The townships erupted again. The people turned on those they viewed as state puppets, such as community councillors, township administrators and the police: their houses were burned, they were killed or had to flee. Army troops were sent in to quell the uprising, but they used a level of violence that simply refuelled people's anger. Both the ANC underground and the legal structures of the UDF worked to give form to this outburst. Tactics like consumer boycotts and mass stayaways were wielded with immense power. Many of the discredited black local authorities collapsed. 



The State Crackdown

AL2446_1069 WANTED: 101 WAYS TO END APARTHEID produced by the Five Freedoms Forum (FFF), Johannesburg. This poster encouraged people, in particular white people, to take personal responsibility for ending the ‘dinosaur’ apartheid system.

AL2446_0147 No Botha. We will not help you oppress: We won't vote!  This poster refers to the community's refusal to participate in their own repression.

In July 1985, the state declared a partial State of Emergency, banning all public meetings, arresting and detaining activists, and sending troops to occupy townships. But while repression disrupted the activities of national organisations, it also forced the process of mass mobilisation to become local and decentralised. New organisational structures, such as street, zone and block committees sprang up in the townships. These structures brought a new rallying call for people's power — empowerment of all the people from the street level up.      

The state imposed successive States of Emergency. Although increasingly forced underground, activists replied with ongoing political campaigns — against the bantustan system, the tri-cameral parliament and black local authorities, against continuing repression and economic exploitation, for the unbanning of organisations, for votes for all in a united South Africa. The Emergency wrought havoc on the economy and tightened the noose of international disapproval. South Africa's isolation became almost complete. In the face of this, the white monolith began to crack, and the first of a series of influential whites made their way to Lusaka to meet with the ANC and discover what this illegal but ever-present force had to say about the future.


AL2446_2577 We demand: End to High Prices SUPPORT THE CONSUMER BOYCOTTAL2446_2526 WE DEMAND: FEWER GUNS : HIGHER WAGES : UDF : SUPPORT THE CONSUMER BOYCOTT!AL2446_2622 WE DEMAND:THE PEOPLE SHALL GOVERN SUPPORT THE CONSUMER BOYCOTT!  his poster is the first of a set of five posters produced to highlight the demands of a consumer boycott in the Western Cape.AL2446_2528 WE DEMAND: SADF & POLICE OUT OF THE TOWNSHIPS! : UDF : SUPPORT THE CONSUMER BOYCOTT! his poster is one of a set of five posters produced to highlight the demands of a consumer boycott in the Western Cape,

By early 1989, the Mass Democratic Movement (a general term used to identify the organisations which could not organise openly under the State of Emergency) called for a second Defiance Campaign to demand that troops leave the townships, an end to the Emergency, and the unbanning of popular opposition organisations. At the heart of this campaign lay the call to unban the ANC.

This poster advertises an Anti-Apartheid Conference which would have been held from the 24-25 September 1988, but was banned by the state.The caption reads

As the decade drew to a close, it was clear to all, including the apartheid government, that without the ANC there would be no solution to South Africa's problems.     

On 2 February 1990, the regime unbanned the ANC, the SACP and the PAC. Nine days later, on 11 February 1990, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was freed after 27 years in prison.       

AL2446_1153 CrossRoads: KTC: Whose New Deal? ssued by the UDF, Cape Town.This poster refers to the continued plight of the squatters in the Western Cape, while the state boasted of 'reforms' in 1984.

The ten fighting years of the 1980s had brought the South African people closer to freedom than ever before. 



AL2446_0262 Run for Peace: DISMANTLE APARTHEID. produced by the Concerned Citizens, Johannesburg. The poster depicts the Concerned Citizens response to the first State of Emergency. Their ‘Run for Peace’ was banned as a ‘threat to the security of the state’. TheAL2446_2620 WELCOME MBEKI produced at the Community Arts Project (CAP) and issued by the Gardens Media Group for the Welcome Mbeki Committee, Cape Town. The image is in the form of a mural which celebrated the release of ANC leader, Govan Mbeki from life imprisonment. The mural is made up of six A1 posters. AL2446_0404 Subservient in Power : Equals in Defence : from CONSTITUTION to CONSCRIPTION : When JUSTICE rules, then will PEACE reign.  This poster depicts the existing issue of racism when coloured or Indian people conscripted into the army. Even though the coloured and Indian people would have the ‘privilege’ of being conscripted into the army in return for the vote, they would remain politically subservient to the white government.




AL2446_0258 CALL TO WHITES: Public Meeting: " produced by the Johannesburg Democratic Action Committee (JODAC), Johannesburg. This poster represents the ‘Call to Whites’ campaign of 1986 Where to, White Politics?"AL2446_0129 	FREEDOM FROM WANThis poster refers to the demands of the FFF, specifically the "Freedom from want". The text reads “FREEDOM FROM WANT”Title:	Delmas Treason Trial : Protest Meeting  This poster refers to a protest meeting, which was banned after a number of UDF leaders were convicted of treason in 1988


AL2446_0899 AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS : 1990: The Year of Peoples' Action for a Democratic South Africa The image depicts the African National Congress (ANC) wheel, colours, spear and shield; to commemorate the unbanning of the ANC in 1990. AL2446_0823 Sisulu, Mpetha, Kathrada, Mlangeni, Motsoaledi, Mkwayi, Hlaba. Long live ANC

AL2446_1055 Democracy?: WHITE PARLIAMENT: DP REV RAJ NP CP : OUR LEADERS ARE JAILED! 80% OF US CANNOT VOTE! produced by the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM), Johannesburg. This poster refers to the 6 September 1989, where government held yet another whites-only election, while popular organisations were banned and popular leaders were imprisoned.

AL2446_0602 SACP Launch Rally: Build the Party! This poster refers to the SACP relaunching their party in 1990,on the anniversary of the formation of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) in 1921.

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