You are on page 1of 18

South Africa

:
Campaign against
Apartheid

Sophiatown
EARLYON A WEDNESDAY MORNING IN 1955, thousands of police and a fleet of
military trucks drove into the dusty streets of Sophia town, a black neighborhood
less than seven kilometers (four and a half miles) from the center ofJohannes-
burg. Armed men stalked into the yards of homes, shouted at the people inside
to come out, and ordered them to pile all their belongings into the trucks. Then
they were driven away with their pots and pans, mattresses and old furniture, to
the newly built township of Meadowlands, eight miles away. Within a few years
everyone had been cleared out of Sophiatown, and all of their homes and
dwellings had been torn down.
The nrst Mricans had moved to Sophiatown around the turn of the century,
when it was still some distance from the settled heart of Johannesburg. It was
one of the few places in South Mrica where nonwhites were allowed to own real
estate, and it turned into a boom town for black Mricans and the Indians and
people of mixed descent called "Coloureds"-all of whom were legally barred

white or born in the Netherlands and raised in South Mrica. together brewery of rich Mrican and Asian culture. and its coveted location doomed this vibrant enclave. doctors. he had once said he did would launch armed raids. eighty percent of South Mrica- these Southwestern Townships (which became known by the acronym including all major cities. Racism was made the organizing principle of South Mrican life. white merchants depended on black spending. Eight (later ten) reservations were set aside. or Sophiatown and o. By the end of Homelands. nothing could isolate the nonwhite majority new strategy of seeking national power. domineering man declared. affairs in the government-and was made prime minister in 1958. Since Dutch colonists had So the government had to find some way to run a multiracial society. Its first disembarked at the southern tip of Mrica in the seventeenth century and solution was an intricate system of control over the comings and goings of non- then pushed aside the natives and taken their land. by force if necessary.of the governing minority did not. worked as a newspaper editor. It was the homeland for Europeans. Johannesburg's white population surged out Mrikaans. along the rocky trail of South Mrica's racial travail. industrial areas. And guerrillas based outside the country Stabbed to death on the floor of parliament in 1966. Sophiatown became a rollicking. apartheid. all those made homeless by forced relocation had been installed in eventually attaining independence. While a home to writers. B~t Verwoerd ~ad been wrong.rher townships perched on the desirable northern rim of the Mrican-and then saw to it that these "races" were separated from each other city." Yet then became a teacher."z ordinary people would do to challenge the state in their own neighborhoods and. to embrace a fantasIze about raCial separation. Party that the nadir was reached. "is to maintain white supremacy for all time ideology behind the racial system. lawyers." economic leverage to push for change. it was clear they could not live without them. But by midcentury. who was The new name was apt. he decided that "separate development" recalled Azhar Cachalia. and a new white suburb went up on top of their old town. wage Jobs and largely excluded from politics. Its new policy was called "aparrness"-in During the same decades." raCialIsm at the core of Nazi thinking. so-called Bantu to be dispossessed. "Our motto. and prime farmland-became Soweto). because that was where they could work and that The razing of Sophia town and the raising ofTriomfwere two of many landmarks was where they were needed. Mter attending German black. WIth ~ndians who first arrived as indentured laborers.from living in white areas. The state When voices were heard calling for removing blacks and Coloureds from assigned each individual to a racial category-European." The chief architect of this social zoology was Hendrik Vetwoerd. ports. the Mrikaans word for "triumph. there had rarely been a Europeans: Mricans needed permission from local authorities to live in cities. He Sophiatown. called Triomf. but it was not until the 1948 victory of the National found strong support." Intellectuals and religious leaders. Miners and factory workers would use to come over our own people and our own country. and white bungalows were tended by black domestics. modern state evolved in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. diverse community. "Many of us believed in the righteousness of our cause. While whites might not wish to live with blacks. could employ or feed the hundreds of thousands of people dumped there. Blacks gravitated to the cities.titudes . moment when white rulers' belief in white supremacy had faltered. and around Sophiatown. But he "was never persuaded that we were going to win.where he and other young Mrikaaners swallowed a large dose of the Coloured dreams. . and mostly poor--offering a fertile medium for political ferment. flashy gangsters. on less desirable ground to the southwest. the racial factory workers. it had also become overcrowded. During the 1920s an explicit policy where political opposition groups like the Mrican National Congress (ANe) of segregation was adopted. jazz musicians. could see no end to the domination of white reality over black and un~ve. clergymen. bypassed by industrial investment and transporta- Fortress Apartheid tion. Coloured. South Mrica's government starred readying new towns for those about as much as possible. South Mrica' s mining and manufacturing industries relied on black labor. served as minister of native Cachalia and others like him would soon turn South Mrica upside down. Mricans and Coloureds. The rest. the 1950s. who accounted for 20 percent of the population. an anti-government activist born after the emptying of was necessary to prevent conflict among South Mrica's different peoples. both black and white. Indian. for in those days most South Mricans. were barred from high- crime-ridden. 1 from the national economy. would denounce the this tall.rsities. As much as he and his political heirs might as they transformed their townships with nonviolent resistance. and domestic servants. where each Mrican "nation" was to develop its own society. And there was no way that the parched homelands. while still a veritable at. But nothing would be more fateful than what not "have the nagging doubt of ever wondering whether perhaps I am wrong.

Police could arrest people and . Coloureds. pure and simple. The mines. The result In ensuing decades. Mricans (along with Coloureds and Indians) could not live wherever they wished. teach them. . turned the ANC toward popular mobilization and declared a Defiance in Europe. spurred by anger over forced into the homelands. established squatter settlements.and they had to carry passbooks in which this permission was recorded. as with most modern nations. especially over radio and television broadcasts. and Indian civilians. and mass illegal border crossings. respectable means to protest-even as one brick after another was mortared onto the lengthening wall of white supremacy. and opposing the destruction of Sophiatown to challenging rents and bus fares. TheANC called it offin early 1953 ah:erviolent riots broke out and repressive laws were passed that authorized. against racial injustice. Black soldiers Meanwhile. meetings. leaving white neighborhoods safely insulated. . realm.o mO¥le was waged by Indians. thousands theaters. whose husbands and fathers worked as migrant laborers. which were soon populated mainly by women and forced population transfers. Europeans is not for them. espeCiallyfor lent protests. from churches t. Others were resistance from Mrican. Mrican students went to schools deSigned to of Indians had protested discrimination for seven years. for school and consumer boycotts. But this fortress state was not self-sufficient." and the government spent ten tim~s more ~n white students than on African ones. on fruitful ties with the generation of young militants. Its economy required . the proprietors prosper. But the most systematic campaign segregation in every public facility and conveyance. Politics became an exclUSively white though only temporarily. South Mrica's military was equipped with hardware produced Tambo. North America. defied the racialist order simply by bringing white and black women did most of the grinding manual labor. The wealth and muscle of white expired that gentle persuasion might alleviate the burden on black people. these were groups of educated professionals who giving itself arbitrary authority over civilians. and dismal conditions. Only as long as key trading partners were willing to do business with went to jail.hold them in solitary confinement and without trial for indefinite periods.5 with the system in some or all of these ways. registration laws. hope had tight. Israel. women allover South Mrica held demonstra- were a substantial minority of the permanent ranks of the armed forces. held marches and demon- children. It require. beginning in 1955. modeled on Gandhi's nonvio- capital. factories. their control in the townships rested partly on black informers. organized strikes. segregation. township. . The Federation of South Mrican Women. and farms that kept passbooks. prominent Mricans. until the government canceled some of the laws.d "vigilance associations" to voice grievances. and joined prohibited sexual relations and marriage across racial lines. and other ordinances and minerals. even if they had been born and raised there. led byNelson Mandela. usually miles At the century's outset. Black people had launched petition drives and boycotts. The state strations. Much like the Indian National Congress before Gandhi's return to India. . through strikes. Early Resistance Moreover. though tions. Mncans remained aloof from the battles of ordinary people. Walter Sisulu. they were confined' to racially zoned townships. and international export markets. fronI cracy and the police employed many black people in subordinate staff jobs. Ifblacks could suspend their cooperation leaders together to plan and carry out the protests. White domInIOn whipping of protestors. But the campaign was strong only in a few regions and won little a state committed to racial inequality could South Mrica's economy and its white support from whites. And censorship was very When the stridently racist National Party won the 1948 elections. but it did call Control over the homelands required compliant Mrican leaders. Thousands violated curfews. "to realize that equality with burning registration cards. including the Mrican National Congress. A South Mrica depended. they could mount a challenge to In 1959 dissidents in the ANC who rejected the organization's nonracial ideology and its goal of forging alliances with sympathetic whites created a rival white rule-as some had discovered decades before. which was behind these white South Mrica in material comfort could function only if millions of blacks campaigns. as Coloured and Mrican voters were stripped of the franchise. and Oliver rest of the world. and Indians had 3 established national organizations. the regime erected a citadel oflaws and rules represent their interests. and Taiwan. to was a system of white power. The strictures of apartheid were applied in manifold ways. from taxis to hearses. The bureau. In defense of white supremacy. . technology. and it became involved in local protests. Coloured.foreign Campaign against newly enacted apartheid laws. There was another weak thread in the fabric of apartheid. among other things. Starting in 1907. led by Mohandas Gandhi. Nonviolent action had prevailed. and marches to denounce the law that made them carry conscripts and reserves were all white. the European rulers of South Mrica had faced outside city limits. They professed loyalty to who protested or joined an opposition group could lose permission :0 live in a the state and used legal.4 could be maintained only with the cooperation of a critical number of blacks. in the words of one official. The ANC then desisted from lawbreaking for several years. petroleum.

big houses.. but housing and municipal June morning students dressed in their school uniforms marched toward the services were not ready for them. and everybody had electricity. that their lives and customs had dormant. One deserting the homela~ds had flooded into Soweto. and now he Police officers known as Black Jacks would descend on Soweto houses in the argued for armed action. as Gandhi did. more Mricans seeking jobs and students in Mrikaans. He had come of the minds of individuals. which shot . the language of their oppressors-decided to protest. One day he was taunted by a white boy his own age. they would have to liberate themselves. singing songs and carrying signs overhead with messages like in a typical four-room house. Most houses had no running water. But the state moved swiftly to round handcuffed him. After doing paved roads." Mandela carried the day. railroad lines. he quoted an ol~ proverb: "The attacks of the wild beast cannot be averted permISSIOnto hve In the township. killing almost seventy he was not w~lcome there. the ANC formed an armed house when a policeman came up and asked him to produce his pass. Indians. Those who escaped arrest fled the country and set themselves up in ~outh Mricans he learned that his ability to be at a certain place at a particular exile. people. He believed. when popular civilian protest against the regime seemed schools. that emancipation had to originate in had been only seven at the time of the massacre at Sharpeville. Molefe also found out nothing for hours. Like other black to prison. hammered home in age in the 1960s. to prepare them for obedient service to white employers. including strikes and riots. They had to reject the message. Molefe came to believe that black people "were capable of doing anything Because Molefe's parents could not afford to raise all their eight children. By the mid-1970s about seventeen people lived center of town. Nelson Mandela had Molefe came to know the law and the police as capricious and intrusive. by the end of 1964 Mandela and other ANC leaders had gone kilometers Molefe was suddenly released and left to walk home.000 appeared at the police station in Sharpeville. the message of Black some days he walked there barefoot. not look to whites for help. and waited to be taken into custody. Over 10. He wing. were arrested. which was not In May 1976 Molefe and other members of a Black Consciousness group. he was twenry-four when he finished high school. while many put up shacks on whatever open space "To Hell with Mrikaans. and the white media. humiliating lesson by humiliating lesson. Umkhonto we Sizwe (spear of the nation). Only when he was ten did he begin school. and power stations. The Sharpeville massacre sparked weeks of mass protests allover the who called hIm kaffir (a near equivalent of "nigger") and slapped him. that any other human being was able to do"-a self-confidence that was bound he had been taken in by his aunt. marking time in schools designed caddy at Johannesburg's golf courses. The officer refused. unusual for someone from the townships? rankled by the government's new policy of teaching some subjects to Soweto As Molefe inched his way through school. At a meeting of the ANC Working Committee in June night: r~ust ev~ry~ne from bed. Biko proposed that Coloureds. Molefe country. sooner or later to collide with the myriad barriers of apartheid.000 people. buildings. In the white neighborhoods there were industrial city in the Transvaal. h~t hi~ back." Then they ran into a police detachment. perturbed and terrified. She threatened to assault me for doing what I did to this white boy. he discovered the difference arrested. harbored doubts about a nonviolent strategy since the mid-1950s. For young blacks Molefe sold apples at railroad· stations and football matches and worked as a growing up in cramped and fetid townships. Forced to operate underground. Black Consciousness. One time Molefe was standing outside his with only bare hands." regime that answered nonviolent protest with bullets. and Popo Simon Molefe had been just three years old when he watched the police M~icans should acknowledge a common identity as "blac~" people and build a herd his family into trucks and haul them from Sophiatown to Soweto. some days hungry. Although he was a bright Consciousness could only be a call to rebellion.6 In the early 1970s Molefe gravitated toward a new force in Mrican society. the nonviolent campaigns of the 1950s. and hauled him away by foot. Steve Biko. he and his lesser value. and he UnIted front. and demand to see passes proving they had 1961. who worked as a live-in domestic servant. and bombed government explained that it was inside and offered to go get it. student. Mter they had gone several up the fighters. When Molefe went to work on Mricans to go to police stations without their passes and let themselves be at the golf courses or visited his aunt at her employer. On March 21. the police finally fired into the crowd. Early in 1960 the PAC called they could find. and the PAC and the ANC were banned. Mrican leaders debated how to confront a I felt very angry. duectIOn. its most prominent advocate. 5. Armed struggle had not brought black people any closer to liberation than tIme depended on getting permission from the authorities. contended that white rule had divided the oppressed peoples of South Mrica and instilled a psychology of acquiescence. generation of young black people were gradually being motivated to act. The state hit back hard.group called the Pan-Mricanist Congress (PAC). "There was an adult white woman coming from the opposite almost all Mricans. Yet through it all. history books. an between white and black Johannesburg.

Bus Fares. and asking township residents to boycott liquor and Christmas spending as a sign of mourning for those who had been killed. When it was over. The greatest wave of popular resistance to apartheid that the country had ever known was over. national sectetary of the United Democtatic Front. and the flight of many leaders. Although they had been checked by repression. They created a Soweto Students' Representative Council to coordinate new protests. A crushing blow came in September 1977. The students held their ground. For three active in earlier ANC campaigns and then drew up a "blueprint" for Soweto. in February 1985. clashed with police. and the police put all of them behind During the months that followed. killing a thirteen-year-old boy. they experimented with other sanctions. instead of fighting in the streets with security forces. more than sixry with ideas for better local services and democratic self~government. Everywhere Civic Association. and died by the scores. the death toll had reached 1. some now began to form a new movement based on the lessons they learned. Students had only stones and other crude weapons-and piling up casualties was not a way to build a movement. Credit: ©Reuters/Archive Phoros Rents. days there was rioting and rifle fire in Soweto. It took another two years for a true grass-roots otganization. when Steve Biko died after brutal treatment at the hands of police. and that had been widely accomplished. at a tally in Soweto. the Soweto Coloured townships in practically every part of South Mrica. Packs of young people smashed Consciousness. mass arrests. and Electricity off tear gas. and the rioters had killed two white men. At the same time that workers and intellectuals in Poland were taking steps to operate independently of the regime they faced. By the time the violence subsided ten months later. Absorbing the lesson. and the Black Parents' Association-met windows and set fire to municipal vehicles. The Black Consciousness movement had also run its course. Fighting police in the streets was a ferocious but futile way to resist white rule. to spring up and give ordinary people a way to deal with . They elected a "Committee of Ten" led by a doctor The police kept shooting at students wherever they could find them. students were the nucleus-they marched.8 Popo Molefe. But the movement had no plan for organizing a broad campaign against the regime or any strategy for overcoming white political control. and government buildings. The police In June of 1977 a group of Soweto's leading citizens-people from Black opened fire. opponents of apartheid in South Mrica were moving in the same direction. The students who had moved from consciousness-raising to active opposition had had to improvise.149 people. YMCA. Liberating blacks from a sense ofinferioriry had been its foremost goal. the uprising spread to Mrican and bars. South Mrica. and by the following year student organizations had been decimated by killings. and some threw stones. rioted. which included refusing to go to school. members were not very representative. But its Mricans were dead. schools. to talk about the future. the YWCA. just 5 of whom were white. But enlisting other people had only mixed success. organizing work "stay-aways" for a few days.

EspeC1~llyI~fluentI~ was a In the township of Duduza. where the council announced that rent and service manual written by Filipino activists in 1974 and later publIshed m En~hsh by a charges would double over three years to pay for the installation of sewer lines. Some tried to le~rn f~om h~story. a work stay-away. mcludmg Leon demonstrations."IO There was a precedent for this in the South Mrican labor movement. Black South Mricans. and struggling for real gains would come self-assurance. Opposition groups. many Mricans had been afraid of getting involved in political groups. once established. it wanted now to improve various services-but it also wanted to make the townships pay for them. Walmer. WhI. so as not to invite repression and jeopardize the chance to improve conditions in factories and mines. Unwittingly. rea d mg wor 0 11 ••••• I Trotsky's history of the 1905 revolution m RussIa. Now black council members would have to evict squatters. but ° 9 the government announced that all the residents of one small township. and also tools and Not only was the community council going to hike rents and service fees. carrying the millstone of apartheid. accessible target against which to contested a rent increase-and delayed it for a year. the government tried to insulate itself by having administrative boards (which had supervised townships) surrender powers to councils elected by local voters. Since the 1977 crackdown. which looked like a sure ticket to jail.I~Black women carried "night buckets" full of waste to the township's administrative C~nsciousness had insisted that thinking independently was a p~econdIt1on f~r offices. The regime's goals had become contradictory: To secure political stability."ll change. rent hikes and the destruction of movement more inclusive and disciplined. rent boycotts. collect rents (almost all township everyday problems. and picketing of community council meetings. and raise fees for services. There were public · ks f CoreiOgn revolutionaries or political theonsts. but they had given Mricans the opportunity to develop power in the workplace. modest but real improvements in their lives. also would have to bear the cost of rehabilitating their dismal neighborhoods. should identifY those issues that are "essential. organizers hoped to build a sturdier movement. This made sense to activists. had largely steered clear of political protest. . the government had handed local activists a new. sanitation. The strategy of organizing communities around tangible grievances dove- tailed with new conditions facing the townships. an automobile manufacturing center on the Eastern Cape. the Filipino activists said success would come froomhelp~~g people wm In Port Elizabeth. sanctions for new campaIgns. The unions had not attacked apartheid. Using a lawsuit. it housing was municipally owned). real and vital" in the townships and that give the people "the confidence that through their united mass action they can intervene and change their lives on no matter how small a scale. 0 0 The Soweto organizing reflected the desire of local black aCtiVIstsaround mobilize people. and other problems. was one of those who felt this way. They even had convinced state officials that allowing workers to unionize was better than driving them into the arms of revolutionaries. From making declSlons together the regime's tough new way of running townships meant additional hardships. Popo Molefe. Anticipating unrest. who would join the Soweto Civic Association in 1982. so the bosses there "would feel the smell. By disavowing subversive claims and focusing on complaints about housing. In the 1970s Mrican workers had gone on strikes and fought for the right to form their own trade unions-which. by squatter settlements spurred people to organize and resist. the country to tap into the militant energy shown in 1976 but also ~ake the In townships allover Transvaal province. he wrote. and a rent boycott. Ja anese organization under the title Organizing People for Power.

Our work must be geared to extinguishing the fire which cautious people who came to mass meetings heard inflammatory rhetoric and causes the smoke.." Passive acceptance or violent rebellion manifestly were not the Co~oured. Older. because. but only choices open to black people. one each· for white. 6. Arrests of to stretch our poverty wages a bit further?." and they were scared off. "Due to constant pressure of a national democratic struggle . The civic movement was in this sense "self- leveled Walmer. TheIr solution: Civics would stick to campaigning on local the route to Durban-the only way for most people to get to work-sparked an matters. it now appeared willing to toleJ:ate civic organizations. To~nshi~ ~rganizing in South Mrica in the early 1980s succeeded in doing PEBCO succeeded in getting rent hikes canceled and preventing metered what PO~IS~dISSIdentshad done in the 1970s. bemg only the smoke. They were told.15 songs. Image abroad and boost its legitimacy at home. sewerage pipes laid and a new civic hall is a new parliament. by giving Indians The authorities in Pretoria decided to treat orderly action by those who had an a~~ Colo~r~ds even partial rights that were denied to Mricans. organization. was apartheid. People in Indian-designated areas Retaining the tactical advantage of organizing around local grievances without organized a women's march on city hall to protest higher service fees. "More roads for a stronger movement. bus fares and electricity charges as bread-and-butter issues and was caught up in bigger political themes. Since it did not present a political would gain more say over townships but still would be unable to live and work menace.13 -:'fncan townships were given full autonomy. wave at a number of Port Elizabeth factories. The new lea. township people undertook the most disciplined of forms of organization-a process which would culminate in the development nonviolent actions to put pressure on local councils. of course. Mricans long as action was based on local issues. Instead of directly defYinga regime water charges for one township. When its limiting"-it strove to create the basis for wider resistance before presuming to chairman was fired from his job. Botha's government proposed are being built. "From that base of first-level grassroots shuttled workers to their jobs. "that PEBCO was there to liberate them." The fire. Alarmed." asked Cape Town activist Wilfred leaders in January 1980 left it in disarray. the regime might economic or community agenda in a more accommodating way. W. Next it threatened a for mdependent action beneath the roof of the state. "we can start to build progressively more political In pla~e after place. and Indian representatives. Just as the state had recognized black trade unions gathered in October 1979 and decided to form the Port Elizabeth Black Civic in the late 1970s. and it also helped people evicted for arrears on ste~ped m Its own orthodoxy and capable of repression. they opened up room rent to break the locks on their homes and move back in. the goal. "We must see the increasing rents. as new "second-level" organizations channeled grass-roots energy into eighteen-month bus boycott. composed of three separate chambers. the civic movement did not attract the kind of crackdown that had where they wished.14 Organization (PEBCO). 12 The black townships around Durban. in which they could organize boycott of buses and white-owned businesses if the government went ahead and people to help themselves. Intended to soften the regime's The civic movement in townships proved it was possible to mobilize older.would have to relocate so that the "buffer" zone adjacent to the white mig~t ~istract them ~r~m their political impotence or co-opt blacks who might neighborhood of Walmer Estates could be expanded. and the bus company eventually backed down. These changes were hazardous to the opposition." Molefe wrote. to be built soon.dership drifted away from ~odes. just as the Tsar's Octo ber . like Popo Molefe-politicized veterans of Black Consciousness and 1976- In just a few months PEBCO had united Port Elizabeth's black community lower rents and better sewers were not the point.. In the s~c:ifici~g. demanding township improve- Yet the civics' leaders still had their sights set on that higher goal. a port city on the Indian Ocean. street lights erected. to represent all the city's townships. Mricans would be denied any role. For activists ments as well as better working conditions. the reforms rearranged the more ~onservative Mricans whom Black Consciousness had not reached-so furniture of apartheid without changing the floor plan of white power. of political change was the strategic challenge now facing Mrican township of Lamontville. "Are we fighting for lower rents and forced local authorities to bend." reported a newsletter put out by . PEBCO helped coordinate a two-month strike challenge the existing political structure. one organizer acknowledged. were "We Want All Our Rights" the site of another productive campaign. "16 the Divisional Council has finally woken up.000 people otherwIse become mIlItant. Prime Minister P. a bus fare increase by the monopoly controlling CIVICactiVIstS. In 1982 the regime made constitutional changes that sharpened the need the Lotus River-Grassy Park Association (Western Cape) in 1982. winning a reprieve for the condemned township. curbed the ANC in the early 1960sand Black Consciousness in the late 1970s. but its success was short-lived. thinking it dIVIdetheu m terests and thwart the movemen t' s unity. A fleet of minibuses driven by township people the broader battle against white power.

and churches election process permitted political debate. it was simply "morally indefensible" for those who condemned Ma~dela. ' "There is no reaSC>llwhy. apartheid was wrong. Through that commitment. "the ."19 that the MK was completely neutralized" by the regime. 1950s and young people who had watched as police shot down their schoolmates While. The new group's structure was decentralized. The delegates-whites. student organizations and sports NatIOnal UnIOn of South African Students was represented at the founding bodies should not unite on this issue.Secular . But the practical ways: The ~~uth ~rican Council of Churches (with funding from constitutional reforms were also an opportunity. churches.. "was never really a threat to us they weren't effective at all. while limited. did not harm the regime. Civics. proposed just that in January 1983. and we want them here and we want them now. The "first generation" of Islanders. excluding them would deny additional strength to the cause." That very night serious planning began conference.2o t~lent:d old people" who imparted "information and discipline and skill. and labor unions explained Lourence DuPlessis. the UDF claimed kinship with the legacy of to launch the United Democratic Front (UDF). community center in Mitchells Plain. Articulate and genial. others listened from under a tent pitched democrat~c South ~~ica. however." Among the movement's most'visible figures were a number of churchmen. he was an accessibl~ figure to groups. and then you Molefe's words.. trade unions. we're ready. The Island became "an institution of politicians. Allan Boesak. The white presence municipal councils.17 as community ~rganize~s and p.21 This new. The mostly white churches. and when he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 minister in the Dutch Reformed Church. This was vital. especially at funerals. and Dennis Goldberg. you sleep politics. The clergy also joined the fight in municipal authorities. how do you come together and work for an objective. and the "second generation." Boesak told a Johannesburg conference. The hall was so packed that the ANC. was the iconic status of ANC liberation was a job for blacks alone. students. Apartheid's builders had claimed that since God created different they were let out. and Allan Boesak made no bones about what it was: "We want all our I saw . But Desmond Tutu. "The armed struggle. who went about blasting the moral defensibility of white counts-it's . had experience in local reasons not to do so. In Mike Xego. Africans." When supremacy. a :~rmer Islander.1983. . but it had a single in the 1980s. the MK) . as fervor for the ANC among black nearby. they were different men. such as Nelson take up the post). argued that the Tower of Babel story taught that breaking ?ne test of t~e UDF's readiness was its call to boycott the upcoming the human community into separate pieces was a sin. women."22 black Anglican prelate. he became essentially untouchable by the regime. And goal. multiracial organization necessarily discarded the notion that What could not be neutralized. and since Christ had come elections for a raCIally segregated parliament.ublic speakers.:"hite South Africans also joined the UDF. held during November and December 1983.Manifesto was supposed to do to the Russian opposition in 1905. a communist boycott elections to the new chambers of parliament and elections to the new ~nd veteran of t~e ~C' s armed campaigns in the 1960s. As long as white people were willing to contribute talent reSIstance.elved short-term sentences in the mid-1970s. a Coloured many white South Africans. an organizer of~omen' s for a new national opposition. were symbols of endurance. "Here was this cream of young guys peoples. and UDF "patrons" included Helen Joseph. civic associations. He must have meant to keep them separate. and Indians-included veterans of ANC campaigns in the launched by the ANC's U mkhonro we Sizwe (familiarly . because the ratification and abroad) defended polltlcal pnsoners and supported their families." Young rebels were thrust together with "very peaceful and just future" was the keystone. a Coloured township outside Cape Town. in a new coalition against the regime. especially among Coloureds and served as meeting places when other venues were offlimits. "You eat politics. Th ese sorties." in the words of and money.. Clergymen doubled Indians-and this debate could add another dimension to resistance. was enough to lend credibility to its commitment to On August 20. "Uniting the largest section of South Africans committed to a are taught politics across the globe." who had racism to exclude any group on account of race-but there were also strategic rec.18 In the UDF. Archbishop Resisting the reforms also might be a cause that could link civics with other Tutu was espeCiallyactive. an organization that would appeal to voters to protests against the pass laws in the 1950s. chief of police intelligence in the Eastern Cape were represented.heartening to Africans. In elections to the new African to take away sins. young activists "came to realize that it's not color that white as well as black.. whose Freedom Charter in 1955 had called for a nonracial and some people hung from the rafters. while more sat outside as a light rain fell." on Soweto's streets in 1976. people from more than 500 organizations rallied in a a nonracial future. turnout was . LIstening to them. For Popo Molefe. ANC documents that were leaked in which the ANC admitted rights. South Afncans was nSIng-albeit due more to sensational raids into South Africa Coloureds. a who were prepared to go and say to South Africa. who became UDF leaders held in the prison on Robben Island or their influence on young national secretary (he left his job as a machine operator for Kodak in order to opponents of apartheid.

and freezes on rents and service charges. But still people came to look for work. cost money and generated ill will around regrouped outside the house and stone-throwing resumed. When the police returned. to challenge civilian government in the townships and overturn the . school reform. police massacres. As they Mrican government in Pretoria. less than 20 percent of those eligible in each group voted.24 police vehicles. then as an occupying force. As stores. regime. were expedient. granting Coloureds and when he ran out the back. there was still a political struggle services and levied fees. looted turned away from the polls turned down this sweeter-smelling apartheid. But the UDF's election boycotts complicated this strategy. Dlamini knew he was despised and armed himself for protection. Then someone set fire to his house. so township politics were polarized. and others fled after their homes were destroyed. On September 3. If going on. Putting down rebellion by armed scattered them with tear gas and rubber bullets. One was Sharpeville." one resident remembered. But the costs were passed on to the Amabutho. the civic movement had taught hacked to death. nonviolent action could force the did their share of killing too. or "comrades. first as auxiliaries weakening. killings perpetrated by both sides. doused with gasoline. Young people built roadblocks to seal off townships. hitting a person. who were ists responded by recruiting a trade union federation to call a two-day protest seen as agents of white power. civics were run increasingly by those who wanted to rupture. A tougher economy had brought new hardships. a Sharpeville councillor. In October. and at night the streets were bathed in the glare to pass from nonviolent groups to the clenched fists of young Mrican men-the of stadium-sryle high-mast light towers. conflict over local massacre. The initiative in opposing authoriry seemed ments: Sewer lines had been laid. and giving Mricans more say over township life. Dlamini took a the world. as the government did in 1976. and young people to police. and those who police opened fire. In elections for the Indian and Coloured parliamentary chambers him a bribe. and they were widely believed to abuse their power. The state had long starved the township of much in the way of public issues escaped from the control of civics and other organizations and turned amenities or adequate housing. into the street. and torched buildings. townships. marches turned into riots after of at least some of the nonwhite population. and the violent.." while the police-mostly "young white boys with too much People who felt squeezed blamed the Lekoa Town Council. he was showered with stones. Monthly charges for rent and services were the highest in the country. like God. dragged Indians further political rights. pursued by the South resign"-marched toward the administration offices to pay their fees. Activ- The election stay-away had denied legitimacy to black councillors. but the strong turnout foreshadowed the availabiliry of rank-and-file It was reached first in the Vaal Triangle south ofJohannesburg. There were riots. and set ablaze. and you were living in a shack and wanted to move your family into a permanent in Soweto. the UDP claimed. down almost a third from an election a few years earlier. A combustion point was nearing. And the strike in early November. soldiers were sent in to keep order. then reforms-allowing black trade unions.. knocked out. and he would take care of it by evicting a current tenant. If dulling the sharp edges of the system could tranquilize the defiant shot from a window. The police township people that their own organized. one of South workers for political action. Councillors were the main targets: One was a different model for achieving change. Yet by 1984 the market for gradual progress was government disintegrated. 7. In August 1984 Dlamini announced a rate increase. Police appeared and apartheid. only one in twenry eligible voters bothered to go house. the site of the 1960 inexorably across South Mrica. "Spontaneous Waves of Militancy" several hundred people-carrying placards reading "puppet councillors Since the late 1970s. White dominance would be more assured ifit earned the consent the councillor was dead." Their "day-to-day sport was playing chicken with residents. and hundreds of horrific result was overcrowding. paid to the polls. some threw stones. which the testosterone"-selected black people to beat up "as part oflife's daily sport. but when they left. As township councillors resigned and local government to yield.only 21 percent. Mrica's centers of heavy industry. his wife tooled around town in a Toyota Cressida-"they thought they were The UDF's call for a "politics of refusal" had been answered.000 troops sealed off the were boycotting schools again and injecting new volatiliry into the struggle. not just pressure. The councillors delivered Yet beneath this mayhem and repression. a mob force. He and held the next year.25 1982 reforms had placed in charge of Sharpeville. demanding the withdrawal of troops. In recent years the regime had made a few improve. In one township after another. 23 Elsewhere in the Vaal Triangle that day. conducted house-to-house searches. and impulse. in hopes of undercutting black rage. the strategy for stifling the opposition. you went to Kuzwayo Jacob Dlamini. had been to temper the most blatant aspects of came alongside Dlamini's house. and arrested hundreds. where small Mrican townships had been The strife that had ignited in the Vaal Triangle in September 1984 swept created to house factory workers. The stay-away did not sway the local authority. arson.

language that the white officers could not understand. anarchy would only lead to more repression. were firebombing the This imposed enormous costs on the regime. In fact. The regime's resentment. hundreds more black councillors. besides dismantling white supremacy.old order. where police were not allowed unless they were Even if violence appeared to have tactical uses. his son. Activists paid the rifles. a of the UDF or its local affiliates. vigilantes. and was nervous talk of "Khmer Rouge" elements.the processof mobilization . In the ensuing the violent actions of an oppressive regime with "acts of resistance and self- eighteen months.. killing twenty people. working in cahoots with police. there were worries ab~ut events in the townships. its leaders came to realizethat they were "unable to respond effectivelyto administration and policing in disarray. and there then people stacked tires around his shoulders and head. rumbling through in armored carriers at all hours. the next region to explode. Two days after Langa. not far from Port Elizabeth. So fearsome was the violence necklacings and arson had scared many collaborators and police out of the directed at apartheid collaborators that councillors and police in some townships. and dragged them around. Someone stabbed Kinikini. bristling with shotguns and class black people were targets of soldiers' harassment. rather On March 21. with people's power. Even and set upon him. roadblocks. middle- At one point they came upon two armored cars. 1985.26 populace was even higher.29 watched as he burned to death inside of them. With civilian the call. most of them leaders funeral on the other side of the city. keeping order was increasingly left to the spontaneous wavesof militancy around the country. set them on fire. keeping their influence on the streets meant townships fled altogether and took refuge in guarded. They attacked . The violence of the township rebellion created a dilemma for the opposition. barbed-wire enclosed keeping their misgivings about the comrades to themselves-controlling vio- compounds." Some even insisted that violence served a purpose.30 designated as "no-go" zones. " Both he and and abduct Amabutho.000 people were detained without any charges." a sadistic expression Declaration (signed by 150 religious leaders) stated that it was wrong to equate of the wrath that wracked township life in the mid-1980s. 257 councillors had resigned. was naked repression. Even respectable.28 But insistence on nonviolent conduct was not absolute. The marchers were singing in Xhosa." as a confidential UDF soldiers. it could lose its status as a legal of whom were shot in the back. stone-throwing and arson in townships close to Port Elizabeth became covering areas where the uprising was most acute. Meanwhile. Desmond Tutu insisted that the struggle's methods had to be consistent councillor-he and his family were believed to be helping the police to identify with its ends. By the end of that year just four of thirty-eight Black Local townships to "render South Mrica ungovernable" and the UDF had responded to Authorities created by the 1982 reforms were still operating. and thousands of soldiers township outside the white city of Uitenhage. so it could withstand the "harsh scrutiny of history. The State Security Council common. For some activists. By mid-1985 a few areas in Eastern Cape townships were lence was not regarded as important as controlling those who used it. "One thing is clear. Military commanders referred to operations in the townships as the paper admitted in May of that year. Although By May. not the end of apartheid. and authority in the townships a statement from the exiled ANC in January 1985 had called for people in the collapsed entirely. and two nephews. The 1985 Kairos Kinikini was one of the first victims of the "necklace. One UDF leader warned his colleagues to not "confuse coercion. house-to-house searches.27 organization." One target was Tamsanqa Benjamin Kinikini. a crowd burned Kinikini's house Allan Boesak intervened personally to protect people from crowd violence. stuffed strategy to govern the townships with black collaborators was dead. When they came near." in addition to their expeditionary operations in foreign countries. Echoing informer. walking to a at least 8. 1985-the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Sharpeville than bringing liberation. Events began there with a school boycott in October 1984. "The Langa shooting was the last straw. but the price paid by the homes of student activists and union leaders. since the threat of suspected informers met the same gruesome end. The only them into a metal box attached to their vehicle. the police surmised that the marchers were Amabutho on their way to heaviest price. most If the UDF endorsed any violent acts. a widely hated Gandhi. police officers and defense. every house belonging to a known strength of the community"-the latter was qualitatively different. it was still clear that township in convoys of armored vehicles. only turned neighborhoods into war zones. the government in Pretoria declared a state of emergency months. One soldier told of how his patrol grabbed young people. "fourth front. "The the use of force against the community. wreak havoc in Uitenhage. In the following On July 21. Joint patrols of police and soldiers riding around in armored cars drew essentially delegated martial law powers to police and soldiers. with massacre-a column of marchers filed through the streets of Langa. Killing councillors and driving out police. a curfews." said a journalist on the scene. the officers opened fire with everything they had.. In the eight months after the state of emergency was declared. and amongANC leaders. the people were mourners. This was evident in the Eastern Cape. the collective people couldn't accept it. alternative.

had begun to expetiment again with nonviolent opposition. he had crusaded for sexual chastity. CRADORA activists went into township neighborhoods to get people on Jack had noticed that during previous uprisings. once quelled. some of them Robben Island bodies were found shot. in Lingelihle. and respect for elders. "it became extremely difficult created by the disintegration of the old council. 1984 had been the first of three years of such experimenta."31 reputation spread across South Mrica. Stepping into the breach ourward." wrote gave him credibility among the comrades. a township outside the Eastern Cape city of Cradock. the committees assigned street for the security forces to crush. of course. Spontaneous eruptions. For the Lingelihle detonated at once. CRADORA also seized public functions. while his reputation as a disciplinarian a local journalist. to the pinnacle of a mass boycott were behind bars and all public meetings had been banned. students boycotted schools to protest the firing of Matthew Goniwe. and they were soon to blaze similar trails. A girls to city schools and formed the Port Elizabeth Youth Congress-and peculiar combination of political subversive and moral traditionalist. left no to serve on area committees." said Lourence DuPlessis. In March of that year. he realized.32 the word "politics. only small organizations each street to form committees. Three weeks later Goniwe and three colleagues were New models for organization already had taken root in townships of the abducted on their way home from a UDF meeting in Port Elizabeth. through many cadres. The committees were a way for older people to assert their of the struggle." But after advocating that view in a school debate. he leader and school principal." he led demonstrations on behalf of admitting rural boys and Then Goniwe was released in October and went back to Lingelihle. Pass councillors and counterattacks on CRADORA activists roiled the township for laws restricting blacks' movement had prevented him from enrolling in school. In early 1985. "an activist in the true sense of the word. As it broadened. With its new mass base. community" had been created. as a civic problem "was just whites. in his remote township had become known to civic leaders across South Mrica. "He was an extreme troublemaker." So a new slogan was coined. spreading the street committee system to a number of towns. Jack at first believed that his people's also had been point man in Cradock for the banned ANC. a white lawyer from a privileged family who died marijuana. and their Eastern Cape. as Goniwe traveled around Mobilization to Organization. "From It was. On June 7 the Eastern Cape security police requested permission from Pretoria to arrange for the "permanent removal from society" of Goniwe. he had succeeded in getting an education himself. Others also took notice of what he was doing." because "big centers of resistance within the patrols to discourage hooligans and public drinking. which had vanished in the violence. and without ever having heard those in many other townships." and Popo Molefe.has far outstripped that of organization. But by then what Matthew Goniwe'had achieved region's towns. But later. elected delegates had worked to rouse the people. He would listen to the other won him points with older people. events in Lingelihle had been no different from After migrating to the city to seek an education. where a handful of activists. Street violence in alumni. most of 1984."33 ing it. His credentials as a radical that "you couldn't judge people by their color. was blazed entirely by his own determination. The street committees. mutilated. For the next phase CRADORA. but would convince him. he and other activists had to build an organization authority and steer the township in a new direction. when he came to national attention-was resolved to keep the next rebellion ." Yet his methods were not merely community's unity." Jack was "a natural leader. within rwo weeks Goniwe and other civic leaders kilometers (43 miles) outside Port Elizabeth. which selected chief organizers to work with structure in their wake to sustain action against the regime. Attacks on campaign against apartheid. speaking at a UDF conference. the police Goniwe's inspiration was to revitalize the civic organization by democratiz. and burned. a school principal and leader of CRADORA. "For one thing. nicknamed "Khusta"-only rwenty-seven years old setting up adult literacy courses. abstaining from heard the story of Brown Fisher. his called for activists in townships to start setting up "alternative structures. earlier spent four years in prison for taking part in a Marxist study group and Influenced by Black Consciousness. Within a week police and students The trail that Mkhuseli Jack took from the farm where he was raised about 70 were fighting in the streets. the Karoo. supervising payment of pensions and The young agitator. He was ideally positioned to restore the man's point of view. especially in UDF circles. Until that point. verbal. on a dry plateau known as the Karoo. stabbed. He enforced the school uniform code and in prison while serving a life term for opposing apartheid-and then he realized punished students who came late or failed to do work. tion-and dangerous living. too good to last. intelligence chief. the local civic organization. in turn. he was not arrogant.

Economic pressure drove a wedge between business and government. mass action. the most effective weapons that . old or young. government . A white member of parliament called the boycott "one of South Mrica. we are not the government. :'We won't buy even a box of matches on Monday!" And on Monday. "If they don't want to buy. removing troops from the townships. boycott would be suspended until March if the businessmen arranged for black And that is what led to the boycott. leader of rhe consumer boycotr campaign against apartheid in Port Elizabeth." they pleaded with one black always be bottled up by repression and never confront those who allowed leader. it would left prostrate. you will be rotting in jail. Curfews and travel restrictions took hold. "The police were very delighted to get .. Jack and his it started doing more harm than good. Now the boycott committee added to their demands: The state of emergency would have to be withdrawn. was virtually empty. what sort of crime is it?" DuPlessis recalled. but it was only five days later that Pretoria declared a state of emergency for a number of magisterial districts. 1986.36 ." In November a deal was reached: The "Let us take this fight in the townships away. namely the white community. carry guns. Jack addressed a huge crowd at a funeral (the only kind of public gathering that the government still permitted) . disabled or not" to avoid joining. On August 2 it located and arrested chief reason to remain nonviolent was to win the "high ground in the community Mkhuseli Jack and other boycott leaders. "we cannot be as bad as this apartheid to survive. 30 percent of their business." But the earners. it was loosened when As clashes with police turned streets into free-fire zones. But the But the regime went after a few." remembered Tango Lamani. and ending workplace discrimination. and ordinary citizens whom the movement would need to movement had put down deeper roots than the regime realized. speaking at a funeral on May 10. In July.. Store owners rained telegrams on government officials. telling them to meet the Mkhuseli Jack. The boycott had immediate bite. suspending it idea of boycotting white businesses in Port Elizabeth. women.." The Amabutho "were committed to violent us.. normally jammed with black shoppers. their demands were modest. boycott committee's spokesman. "and you leaders. Jack recalled telling the boycott committee." he later admitted. "We won't buy in town on Monday. two days before the boycott was to begin. the majority of older people. and soldiers in the streets were given the power to make peremptory searches and arrests. let's not destroy them. Khusta Jack became the also served to keep the movement unified. They told him the consumer boycott would strategies of direct action." noting that he had received more phone calls from constituents on the issue than he ever had before. and bring it right to their homes. like a tourniquet.. "35 no excuse for anybody. including opening public facilities to all races. and political prisoners-including Nelson Mandela-would have to be released before the boycott would be ended. "Please. "It wasn't going to suit me to .. White-owned stores in Port Elizabeth lost. "It's nonviolent. Since the upcoming Christmas shopping season would In May 1985 several middle-aged women had gone to PEBCO with the have strained the black community's adherence to the boycott. on average.. So they said to each other. And the boycott could not be halted by repression. Khusta Jack went into hiding to avoid being picked up. boycotters' demands." he shouted. 34 stayed in place like a tourniquet-and. In the first round.. White shop-owning families had been colleagues realized that if the struggle was confined to the townships. the North End retail district in Port Elizabeth." leaders to be released. You can't Nonviolent action also had an advantage in building the movement: "there was lock them all up. with Port Elizabeth at the head of the list." and the bedlam they spawned had alienated the wage be over in three weeks. and what do you do? You can't shoot all these people. and the boycott sustain mass action against the regime long enough to prevail. the blacks have found for some considerable Credie ©Reuters/Archiw Photos time.

and Amabutho went after black councillors. 39 had been wrested away by its own people. the committees established their own was the force behind that cause. A rent strike had already dried up some surprise state of emergency. and repression could only postpone the day courts and criminal justice system. The distributed wisdom of the Robben Islanders. The After the fighting ended. in turn. (Banning was equivalent to house arrest." But in fact it had been belonging to councillors and other collaborators. the mass parishioners at the church where the mayor was a priest refused to hear him organizing of the UD F. the regime succumbed again to the temptation Over the next six days. which tried to turn customers. ungovernable by white Pretoria.) This drew protest as far these violent days. that up his banning orders at a giant rally where people were mobilized to resume should be destroyed.. A network of street and area committees those killed. apartheid. "Mkhuseli Jack masterminded a great symbolic entry of the Alexandra were an impoverished black island surrounded by an affluent white released detainees into the township. Under this barrage. Eleven days told the comrades to listen to him: "[A]partheid and unemployment force people later a Supreme Court justice in South Mrica lifted the ban on Jack. it had been earmarked for extinction but was saved from African business was equally large.1986." explained Mark Swilling. all council members resigned. Now the AAC added a selective consumer boycott. Water came from communal taps. On March 11. let their frightened prize flee. The committees also helped tees back in early February. not the man. and your business cannot thrive under conditions of keg waiting for a match. "People's consent and active participation on a very big scale" a township-wide executive. a twenty-two-year old youth organizer named Mzwanele away as Washington. and burned his uniform. and it issued licenses to street vendors who were allowed to buy goods the uprising into a nonviolent campaign. Mayekiso was new to Alexandra but not to this kind of scene. They even helped settle With the committees in place and the AAC gaining stature. of making demands. a political scientist who often rode with Jack around In the northern suburbs of Johannesburg. The peasants who set up their own when it would force the government itself to change. and police officers even were dumped by their girlfriends. The government. . On one of civic leader. the dirty.C." he pointed out. the house where Mayekiso lived became the boycott committee issued a price list to keep black merchants from gouging headquarters of the Alexandra Action Committee (AAC). Alexandra. street. To make clear to the people that mass action had been effective. It was the system. They agreed. "If the majority of South Mricans are not Some 200. He strongest terms" the banning of the two Port Elizabeth activists.42 to harness the hearts of black youth and the sober heads of older citizens to a The AAC now acted as the supreme authority.000 tin and plywood shacks on a treated like human beings. Pretoria banned KhustaJack and one other killed seventeen people. He accused black "revolutionaries" of being 44.000 people were crammed into 10. Stores and taxis refused to serve nonviolent action in places like Port Elizabeth that had confounded the councillors. who tore to become policemen.000 rands to just anniversary of the Soweto uprising. organizing street cleaning in the Eastern Cape. where Assistant Secretary of State Chester Crocker Mayekiso came across a squad of comrades preparing to necklace a black told a congressional committee that the United States "condemned in the policeman. to "demonstrate the tangible benefits of negotiating. [if] their human rights are not respected." The lesson that boycotts taught to South sea. It helped organize a mass funeral for from white wholesalers and resell them. D. there cannot treeless square mile.40 The renewed boycott was even better disciplined than the 1985 effort. targeting stores interested "only in a violent takeover of power. and block commit- at a time when top leaders were liable to be arrested. strategy to undercut the local council. this country. the town was consumed by street warfare. Feeding this instability itself. kit. and tireless warriors such as Khusra Jack had managed preach. instability." recalled Popo Molefe. consciously emulating what had already been done people cope with the collapse of local government. Like Sophiatown. South Mrica's president declared another. unpaved precincts of Port Elizabeth. "37 The police provided one in February 1986 by attacking a funeral procession.000. over a hundred domestic quarrels: Wife battering reportedly declined in Kwazakele after the people representing all kinds of local organizations-from the chamber of committees sprang Up. letting the committees elect common cause.38 commerce to the Alexandra Women's Organization-met and mapped out a Nine weeks into the boycott.41 and penalizing those who threw garbage into the streets. so they should let the officer resign and turn over his police the boycott nine days.later. and speakers implored young people to find another way to combat helped activists communicate with citizens and filtered responsibility downward. "We were saying to business: you are part of the bulldozers by years of protests-and then was neglected by the government. AAC activists had started organizing yard. intended to head off disturbances on the tenth of its funds: Monthly rent receipts had dropped from 156. security forces of repression. Alexandra was a powder be stability in the country.

" explained Zwelakhe cupboard. For people like Mathiane." People were "beginning to exert control over their own come to a meeting at a neighbor's house.. she and her neighbors waited until three boys. . a local activist reported with pride: "We have them to funerals and would no longer hijack cars. They were trying to organize a lives .. surprise... they were no match for There was "a power vacuum. people made vacant lots into and from local authorities by re-naming streets and schools and by setting up parks. Taking hold most were arrested and imprisoned without trial. the committees integrated the mundane action of One day in June 1986 Nomavenda Mathiane peered out her window and individuals into collective.000 people what Mkhuseli Jack and his colleagues did in Port Elizabeth." was doomed. By applying sanctIons such as consumer and rent boycotts. They promised they would no longer come for girls to go with Kwazakele. When boys came to her house wanting to of the Cold War." In in ordinary thugs. The regime's answer was more repression. "We are already taking over. While she Sisulu. the boys said they wanted to work with the adults. Armed with stones and Molotov cocktails." as vehicles for nonviolent organizing or as embryonic forms of self-rule. large-scale nonviolent action. Censorship regulations barred the strongly in the Eastern Cape and the Transvaal but also in parts of the Western media from covering "unrest" in the country. an effort sponsored by rhe Soweto Civic Association. besides reprinting official bulletins. chaired by a man over fifty years old. committee. In the year after President Botha tees. and The next night.. they were also boycotting school and sacrificing even the meager black people would be awarded after they won an ultimate victory over white benefit that township education. in conscious imitation of what Matthew Goniwe had done in Cradock and declared a second state of emergency in June 1986. He accepted the post with one condition-that he "There Was Really Nothing That We Could Do" would never be told to necklace anyone or torch anyone's house. the police have been forced to leave were eager to take instructions from these young comrades. Township activists thought as much too. the son ofjailedANC leader Walter Sisulu in March 1986. despite being under racist rule. all under eighteen. became nervous when she saw some teenage boys coming to her door." said a street committee president in Langa. she also had become convinced that their kind of struggle point. "If! am asked to do that. she hadseen firsthand how young organs of "people's power. might have providedY power. so they would not take her (as a trophy) to a funeral." government prosecutors said ominously. second rate as it was. in the midst ofTsarist repression. in the process of struggle. communities. The adults started to see the built our own democratic government.. Through the committees in Soweto. it was a new way to help rule their own " . But much to their . they Mathiane noticed an immediate change on her street after that: Residents challenged its power. and the judiciary by operating 'dem- disappearance of central authority. beginning to govern themselves. the people had not yet "managed to control and direct the situation." By organizing democratically. But when she answered the door that day. Political power is shifting to the hands of the people's own organizations.45 committee as a chance to regain some control. Either this committee. And while they were getting shot townships were filling this vacuum. they brought ordinary people into the movement against apartheid without battling security forces. the government saw Bolsheviks behind the organizing.republic in Guriia. The youths got cold looks from everybody-no adults community council has been brought down. Like the Indian civil disobedience campaign.'. people in the the formidable South Mrican Defense Forces.. the people comrades could intimidate people-once she had to hide her daughter in a "have broken the shackles of direct government rule. A As early as the end of 1985. Fond of justifying racial tyranny by invoking the demons acted like neighbors to each other. Sisulu saw that power was not something in the streets. the boys politely asked her to before actual liberation. these committees were bulwarks against wild rebellion and why they did it. They elected an executive.46 All across South Mrica. UDF leaders had spoken of the committees as journalist who had lived in Soweto eight years. "From take her daughter to a vigil. more than 25. I want to tell you here and now that I will stop being chairman of The advent of consumer boycotts and street committees jarred Pretoria.. civic organizations built networks of local commit. But at that resented the bullying. it was possible to create "people's power now. she told them they had to clear it with the street backyards in Alexandra. outside Port Elizabeth. mad~ the movement more resilient in the face of state violence.. patrolled the streets. comrades usurped the functions of the police with anti-crime campaigns. "The walked into the house. would have understood Cape and Natal. and punished wrongdoers-easing the effects of the alternative structures of self-government. so they could rein and we can begin to think about forming our own people's government. that's no boast but fact. ocratic people's courts." Having made townships ungovernable. "44 committee on her street.

Services and infrastructure wen::improved in the poorest townships." recalled Lourence including work stay-aways and consumer. The idea was to give reinstated councils a chance to regain legitimacy. In Alexandra. the councillors returned to the townships and took up the powers tried to sort that out. the committees mobilized stay-aways to protest. That's what it boils down including break-ins." DuPlessis said. In 1988 came morning to go to work. after major changes at the national level. new houses. would the Soweto boycott end. the Soweto Council unwittingly helped sustain the rent boycott. The council turned offwater and electricity to non-payers' homes. Against this onslaught. The regime also tried to inflame the tension between rival black organizations. Street committees also wilted.. So it served no purpose . the authorities also tried to palliate black rage. All would DuPlessis. "We cordoned off the black areas with razor wire. South Mrica. but the new detentions trawled much deeper. Civic activists had been Demonstrator against apartheid. by the police or military.. Even as they jailed tens of thousands and ." Nowhere had those roots become more tenacious than in Soweto. apartment blocks. supported to. rent.47 Yet however soft-soled. some of them come in late. but workers who belonged to a UD F-affiliated union turned them back on again. Police and soldiers evicted residents. the incentive to pay and break ranks with fellow boycotters flagged. about . rampaged through neighborhoods thought to be UDF strongholds. as would street committees. because the people had to be let out every now be punishable as subversion. clumsily. So great was the number of people arrested in the Port Elizabeth area that new prison cells were built to make room for them all. 1986. They were not prepared to be suppressed any longer. but the regime-which before had been unwilling to provide Credit: ©Dave Hartman/Impact Visuals even the simplest modern amenities to black communities-was trying to pacify those it held down." action at all. Using military measures against defiant civilians was no way to enlist their Under cover of a virtual military occupation and equipped with expanded cooperation. The 1985 state of emergency had skimmed off big names.. printing fake pamphlets and using paid agents to sow trouble. put behind bars. The regime's attempt to "annihilate the enemy" was just one part of a multifaceted counter-insurgency strategy. The authorities "looked at various reasons for dissatisfaction and police forces. Cape Town.. while a few roads were paved and sewers laid. Only in 1990. By adopting an all-or-nothing payment policy. Covert operations were mounted against opposition leaders. In its sprawling maze of townships.. the government dashed around pulling out the roots of "people's power. Allover the Eastern Cape. There wa~ really nothing that we could do.shrank the space in which the opposition could maneuver. bombings. "but that's not what the whole thing was they had abdicated. since as arrears mounted. People just didn't want apartheid anymore. some of them comein early more rules effectively prohibiting the UDF and local affiliates from taking any . the civic organizations atrophied. Vigilante mobs."48 . or school boycotts. and the consumer boycott lost steam. repression was still a boot-and it came down The regime forbade any of the major nonviolent sanctions used in previous years.. but "it had no effect. security forces had a hard time hunting down activists. and assassinations. and school buildings went up.

civil rights leaders and famous entertainers were arrested game for apartheid. South Mrica had experienced the armed offensive. "49 At the end of the decade. "and only the action of the international community The years of intransigence had not extinguished either side's intelligence. Defending apartheid also imposed indirect costs. Mikhail Gorbachev was . would settle for nothing less than majority and armored troop carriers rolling through townships had become staples of rule. they had begun to talk to each other. The magnitude of the impact of international sanctions is disputed. township uprisings. So strong had this campaign grown. and there were black leaders who were committed to nonracialism. The European Community imposed its own sanctions the same year. espedallythe labor union federation veto) banning new investments. and. In Washington. firms pulled out of the country. Popular mobilization could not overwhelm apartheid. By the end of the 1980s." apartheid. journalists. still locked up on Robben Island. Although an arms embargo and United in exile-also understood that no combination of brute force. distant events gave further impetus to the end by app Iymg pressure can save us. There were 281 reported attacks in 1989. Conservative governments in Washington and industrialists flew to Zambia to meet with exiled ANC officials. especially the conse. and strikes became there is no doubt that Pretoria and South Mrican businesses found a multitude of ways to evade them. and the guerrillas were going after more "soft" (civilian) targets this doubt. police massacres. compared to just 13 a pessimism that the government could turn this around. could bring down the regime without devastating many Western governments and corporations had earlier balked at serious the nation. white clergy. apartheid would have to go.. Images of South Mrican police beating protestors Black South Mricans. intellectuals. these damning scenes set the stage for petitioning showed that there were white leaders who could imagine a future without foreign governments to escalate sanctions. a group of white tough sanctions seemed remote. formed in November 1985. since apartheid required repression and repression brought unacceptable economic damage. But their political effect was not a simple function of the prime vehicle for popular opposition. business in South Mrica. Mandela was both firm and flexible: through "constructive engagement. loans. Sanctions only deepened decade earlier. The center of resistance after sanctions. and cutting off military aid to foreign countries that broke the arms had been pushed by rank-and-file militants into c~opetating with civics and embargo. a rising number of influential white South burden on the white government. . The ANC was accelerating the guerrilla campaign with each almost a decade of slow growth and high inflation. and there was widespread passing year. Campus protests helped persuade European cities." Now all that had changed. and quences of international isolation. In 1989 people surged through the streets of Eastern marching outside the South Mrican embassy. the communist regimes in those countries universities to pull endowment money out of stocks of corporations that did . with troops patrolling short-term loans to South Mrican corporate borrowers. "We face a catastrophe in this land. All these contacts 1986). In the mid-1980s the unions had coordinated protest strikes. For the opposition. and city and state governments did the same with their pension funds.50 than ever before. township streets and opposition groups out of commission due to the crackdown. students. melted from the heat of nonviolent force. but Pretoria's America's ally in World War II-had issued an executive order imposing limited repression rechanneled opposition into new streajlls. and others had more believed that the ruling National Party could be coaxed into reforming apartheid meetings with the ANC. and the regime held secret meetings with Nelson Mandela. Unable to stifle all resistance. Prominent opposition leaders-inside the country. and states of emergency-the threat of As early as 1985. raids or popular insurrection. on Robben Island. The next year Congress enacted a tougher law (overriding Reagan's 1986 shifted to the black labor movement. but the end of white domination would not mean black supremacy. In the early 1980s-before the able-that a political way out must be found . Over the next London clutched Pretoria as a talisman against communism in Mrica and naively several years. that by 1985 even President The stalemate in the townships reflected a broader standoff in South Mrica in the Ronald Reagan-who was given to remind people that South Mrica had been late 1980s. Now. Archbishop Tutu declared. Both sides recognized that a violent showdown would be unthink- economic measures against South Mrica. sooner or the armed forces. whether armed Nations-sponsored sports and cultural boycotts had been in effect for some time. later. black violence could never really overpower Mricans concluded that. the regime also made limited progress against their economic results. In Moscow. he insisted. Mriean unions established in the 1970s products. one by one. and Western news coverage (until the state banned all media coverage of unrest in whites would find a secure place in a democratic South Mrica. and imports of certain South Mrican COSATU. and union dozens of u. and banks refused to roll over leaders had been active in township organizitig. and factories and union halls became major venues for resistance.S. But even though the cost of containing these attacks was a great In this suffocating atmosphere.

before he was imprisoned by the apartheid regime.' were released from prison. In his trial in April 1964. strikes. In the last months of 1989. It was as ifviolence itselfwould not give govcl'I1ment would no longer be able to call itself the last barrier to a Moscow. ifhe waited too The parliament elected Nelson Mandela as South Mrica's president. Two months later the new president opened the South Mrican parliament by stating that "the time for negotiation has arrived. and Nelson Mandela walked out of prison. finally free after twenty-seven years. the ANC won more than 60 percent in February 1989 and the president of South Mrica in August. On February 11. and boycotts put pressure on white of1991. Until that was ratified. Repression subdued the civics and committees. but it discredited the regime's authority and compromised its strategy for altogether with the advent of majority rule. the regime reacted South Mrica would be governed by an interim constitution. de Klcrk met with Mandela. exemplified what could be done without recourse to violence. the white minority would not be shut out of power rule. worsened the savagery-fomented mainly by those who figured to lose out in the transition repression. the idea of a "communist threat. Stay-aways. nonracial parliament status quo. Faced with this variegated challenge. In October. fed. but both the National Party and Inkatha (which agreedto participate nothing would really change as long as apartheid remained and that the only at the last minute) won enough votes to be represented in the government. while the ANC set up shop inside South street corner of the townships. He said that his followers were losing confidence in the policy of to democracy. community. 52 the regime knew it could not annihilate the opposition. he concluded that "as violence in this COUntry ." The associates. directed takeover fronted by the ANC." The government would The political rapprochement that brought genuine democracy to South Mrica lift the ban on major opposition groups. and committees on every other that still remained on the books. And on December 13. recognized that of the vote. When the Frederick Wilhelm de Klerk. Africa and converted itself from an underground organization to a mass Nonviolent sanctions were an indispensable link in the chain of events that political party. to terrorism. Nonviolent power did not by itselfbring down the curtain on white Thanks to this deal. and he was long. Apartheid laws were through belligerent force was not possible. seven ANC leaders. it seemed. disturbingly. not after years of Not long afterward. Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi and his Inkatha was not flinching from brutality. and they undermined white attachment to the elections were scheduled for April 1994. this mutual accommodation by old enemies. Democratic business owners and employers. the authorities began to allow the last state bastion of racism had passed from the earth. shielding apartheid from the many forces arrayed against it. and never again shall it be that generation of ANC leaders who seemed to be more conciliatory than their junior this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another. 53 opposition breathing space and refrained from breaking up nonviolent protests. he might lose the opportunity to deal with Mandela and the older sworn in on May 10. civic organizers." The South Mrican Witwatersrand. that individual rights the regime any chance of avoiding economic punishment by the international be guaranteed. Right-wing whites carried out bombings and assassinations nonviolence and were turning. the Cold War was land into a unitary South Mrican state. and a new. usurped their functions. including Walter Sisulu. 1994. government's position would not improve with time. could not smash the regime. the government eliminated the key apartheid laws contending with protestors. and street committees would be charged with writing a new constitution. it was not the fruit of a unilateral victory by the black opposition. Since the government against opposition leaders. and it would end the understanding by both opposition and government leaders that victory the state of emergency and restrictions on the press. It sprang from would release political prisoners and permit exiles to return. determined to resist the incorporation of the KwaZulu home- NlII'vivcdwith Soviet stipends. Formal negotiations on South Africa's future began at the end ended the old order. certainly not with any violence at its disposal. way to democracy without a fight. and that minority parties be given seats in the central cabinet. who became the leader of the National Party elections were held April 26 to 29. never. The opposition came to realize it acknowledged to be "obstacles" to a peaceful settlement. battled ANC loyalists in Natal and the over and with it.llning subsidies to would-be revolutionaries around the world who had long Freedom Party.51 De Klerk and Mandela let none of this impede their progress. Moreover. Thousands were killed. Rent boycotts defunded local councils. Almost in the blink of an eye. but it also cost the homelands be integrated into the rest of the country. But in one of Nelson Mandela had argued that fifty years of nonviolent action by black South South Mrica's many sad ironies. vowing that "never. although it was two years before the parties reached a deal. it was hammered out agains~ a backdrop of Mricans had not secured their rights but had only. including the ANC and theUDF. mandating that with open force. This extraordinary agreement.

"it was. in fact. there is nothing that will stop them." concluded Desmond year old mother. and after three years in the United States.200 armed have made up their minds to that."56 soldiers and national police also swarmed around the terminal as the jetliner carrying Benigno ("Ninoy") Aquino taxied down the runway after landing. in Massachusetts." explained Janet Cherry. It was early on a Sunday morning in August 1983. Nearly 1. Once they and 20. As a member of the Philippine Senate. Cory Aquino had heard that her husband's nemesis. but many of the ideas and strategies that were its substance Restoring Democracy first germinated in South Mrica. the leading opponent of the Philippines' authoritarian govern- ment was coming home from foreign exile."55 The nonviolent legacy of the twentieth century is embedded in the histories of many nations. "But in fact. it would be unrealistic and wrong for Mrican leaders to continue preaching peace and nonviolence at a time when the Government met our peaceful demands with force. in mass The Philippines: organization. he had been the leading figure of the opposition before Marcos imposed martial law in 1973. his in-laws and a few close friends- Tutu. in the thoughts and actions of an Indian lawyer who felt the strop of bigotry laid on his own back as the centUlY was dawning. by itself. Jailed for seven years before being flown to America for medical care. But if Mandela believed that nonviolent action is the opposite of force.000 Filipinos waited outside Manila's airport. Philippine army chief of staff. What does work. the activities of the UDF. he telephoned his wife. Aquino had come to . he was not right-it is in fact another form of force. Corazon. the conflict that Gandhi began to fight in South Mrica before he rallied to his own country's cause was finally won for all people of color in that land-and was won in part through "Ninoy. and other methods of resistance that he had pioneered. The regime of President Ferdinand Marcos had reason to dislike Aquino. an hour-long flight from Taipei to Manila. Before boarding the last leg of his journey. and what worked in South Mrica twenty years after Nelson Mandela delivered his valedictory on the first half century of the struggle."54 Mandela was right: Preaching peace is not a strategy for winning a conflict. "Despite all of the rhetoric of the ANC about the armed struggle. a tyrant needs to fear. Principled preference for nonviolent methods does not. "I suppose that human beings looking at it would say that arms are the most THE VIP LOUNGE WASPACKED with his family and friends-his seventy-three- dangerous things that a dictator. You Are Not Alone!" strikes. would try to block Aquino's entry and force the airline to fly him back to Taiwan. give such methods force. So it is altogether fitting that before the century ended. no-it is when people decide they want to be free. herself an underground member of the ANC. and taking nonviolent action in order to avoid using violence does not make it successful. which brought about the change in South Mrica. is mobilizing a movement that makes it impossible for arbitrary rulers to control life in the communities where people live and alienating those rulers from the support they need at home and abroad. boycotts.was inevitable. Major General Fabian Ver. his sisters and brothers.