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Ben Hudson

Professor Guthrie

HIS 342

12 April 2017

The People on the Front Lines

In South Africa there was the system of apartheid. This system was put in

place by the white government of South Africa. Apartheid was a system of racial

segregation and discrimination. There were many organizations that fought and

protested against this inhumane system. The organizations that fought and

protested against the apartheid sought to end apartheid and gain equal liberties

amongst their white oppressors. This paper will analyze some similarities and

differences between the organizations that fought against apartheid to gain equal

rights. The organizations that will be analyzed are the ANCYL Programme of Action,

The Women’s Charter, and The Freedom Charter.

As the analysis of these organizations begins, we will start with similarities

between these three organizations. The first organization that will be analyzed is

the ANCYL Programme of Action.

The program of action was proposed by ANC youth league. The ANC youth

league was tired of watching the ANC petition white officials and never having

anything to show for their efforts.1 This organization did not use violence as a way

to gain civil liberties. Instead, they used protests, boycotts, and sit-ins. One right

that they fought for was education. For example, the author writes, “Raising the

1Clifton Crais and Thomas V. McClendon, editors, The South Africa Reader (Duke
University Press, 2014, 301.
standard of Africans in the commercial, industrial and other enterprises and

workers in their workers’ organisations by means of providing a common

educational forum wherein intellectuals, peasants and workers participate for the

common good.”2 The Programme of Action wanted education to be for everyone

and not just the elite. They also wanted scholarships to be award to the African

youth so that they could travel overseas to different countries.3 This organization

fought for education because they understood just how valuable an education was

to their people.

The Women’s Charter also fought for civil liberties in South Africa. This

charter fought for equal rights among women. Women at this time in South Africa

did not have nearly as many of the same rights as men did.. They were put down

and did not have the same opportunities that the men did. In The Women’s Charter

preamble it says, “We hereby declare our aim of striving for the removal of all laws,

regulations, conventions and customs that discriminate against us as women, and

that deprive us in any way of our inherent right to the advantages, responsibilities

and opportunities that society offers to any one section of the population.”4 In the

same way that the Programme of Action fought for education, so did the Women’s

Charter. The times were changing, and women were being left behind with only

traditional practices that were becoming obsolete.5 The Women’s Charter decided

they had to do something about this, and they decided to fight for educational rights

for not just themselves but everyone in South Africa. The author writes, “It is our

2 Crais and McClendon, The South Africa Reader, 303.


3 Crais and McClendon, The South Africa Reader, 304.
4 Crais and McClendon, The South Africa Reader, 305.
5 Crais and McClendon, The South Africa Reader, 308.
intention to carry out a nation-wide programme of education that will bring home to

the men and women of all national groups the realization that freedom cannot be

won for any one section as long as we women are kept in bondage.”6 These women

felt like they were in bondage because of all the discrimination against them just

because they were women. The Programme of Action and the Women’s Charter

were not the only groups that fought for civil liberties and education. The Freedom

Charter followed suit and also fought for education as well as civil liberties and a

number of other things.

The Freedom Charter offers the vision that one day all may have access to

political and legal rights, along with education and economic opportunities.7 They

wanted to undo apartheid and give equal rights to everyone no matter what color

their skin was. In the first line of this charter, it says, “We, the People of South

Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know that South Africa belongs

to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim

authority unless it is based on the will of all the people.”8 This charter describes all

of the changes that the African people wanted to see in the their government. One of

these changes that they wanted to see that is similar to the other two organizations

is education. This charter talks about how education should be free for all children,

and adult illiteracy should come to end through an education plan that the

government puts in place.9 These people were looking out for the youth by fighting

for the right to get them a free education. They were also trying to better the adults

6 Crais and McClendon, The South Africa Reader, 308.


7 Crais and McClendon, The South Africa Reader, 320.
8 Crais and McClendon, The South Africa Reader, 320.
9 Crais and McClendon, The South Africa Reader, 323.
that missed out on an education during their childhood years. This charter fought

for education just as did the other two organizations because they all understood

the power that an education could bring to South Africa.

Now that the similarities have been covered, let us begin now with the

differences. The Programme of Action was again an organization that used action to

try to get equal rights. This organization used many different techniques to

accomplish their goals. One of the techniques that the Programme of Action used

was propaganda. The other organizations that have been mentioned in this paper

did not use propaganda techniques. They wanted to use propaganda in newspapers

and such to show the whole world the discrimination that they had to deal with

every day of their lives. To show in more detail about how they wanted to use

propaganda techniques, the author writes, “The usual press, newsletter or other

means of disseminating our ideas in or to raise the standard of political

consciousness; establishment of a national press.”10 They wanted to get the whole

country of South Africa on board with fighting apartheid, along with the rest of the

world.

The Women’s Charter was a charter that fought against apartheid in similar

ways as the Programme of Action and the Freedom Charter, but this charter focused

more on the rights of women. Women wanted to be equal to men, as well they

should be. The Women’s Charter fought for rights that were not given to them

because of their gender. For example, the Women’s Charter says, “We women do

not from a society separate from the men. There is only one society, and it is made

10 Crais and McClendon, The South Africa Reader, 303.


up of both women and men.”11 The Women’s Charter did not fight for equal rights

for everyone, but their main focus was equal rights for women.

Unlike the Women’s Charter and the Programme of Action, the Freedom

Charter offered a vision of a utopian society where everyone had equal rights no

matter what color their skin may be.12 This charter offered many ideas to fight

apartheid. It talked about how the native Africans were stripped of their rights by

an inhumane government. The charter also talked about how the country would

never be fully prosperous until everyone lived in peace and harmony with shared

equal rights.13 This charter put their ideas out so that everyone would see what

needed to happen in order for apartheid to come to an end.

Although there were similarities and differences between these

organizations, they all contributed to the fight against apartheid. They have faced

many trials and tribulations, but the key to their successes was that they never gave

up fighting for equal rights in South Africa.

11 Crais and McClendon, The South Africa Reader, 305.


12 Crais and McClendon, The South Africa Reader, 320.
13 Crais and McClendon, The South Africa Reader, 321.