Avatar photo

By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

UDF’s call for accountability could not have come at a better time in SA

The UDF is calling on all South Africans to bring the country back to its core principles.

As the country reflects with much nostalgia at the birth 40 years ago of the United Democratic Front (UDF) – a mass democratic movement, which was representative of all races and backgrounds – it is not difficult to see why it became a catalyst for change in SA.

Launched in Mitchells Plain in Cape Town on 20 August 1983, the UDF drew members of the clergy, workers, students and communities into its leadership ranks at the height of state repression and had fiery orators like Dr Allan Boesak and Archbishop Desmond Tutu – which helped to drive the message locally and abroad that apartheid was no longer sustainable.

IN PICTURES: Bodies of United Democratic Front political prisoners exhumed

Formed at a time in the history of SA when the ANC, PAC and other liberation movements were banned, with leaders like Oliver Tambo driven into exile and Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Wilton Mkwayi, Raymond Mhlaba, Govan Mbeki, Dennis Goldberg, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni in prison, the UDF kept the political fires burning.

“Klim op die UDF wa (climb on the UDF wagon),” became one of the most powerful songs in rallying support in the Western Cape and other Afrikaans-speaking communities – soon filling the anti-apartheid political void left by the banning of liberation movements.

With nonracialism, nonsexism and democracy for all as its core principles, the UDF became a theatre of revolution across the length and breadth of the country. Many supported its rallying call: “UDF unites, apartheid divides.”

ALSO READ: Human remains of five UDF political prisoners to be exhumed

As one of its founding members, Murphy Morobe, remembers: “It was the UDF’s mass mobilisation campaigns, which channelled the energies of youths, students, workers and communities – collectively embracing their historic mission to liberate themselves from oppression and exploitation.”

Morobe’s call to South Africans for the leveraging of the UDF’s rich history – by defending and deepening the country’s hard-earned democracy, currently facing severe threats – which should serve as an inspiration to all.

While South Africa enjoys human rights enshrined in its world-acclaimed constitution, the country has been slowly going a slippery slope under the ANC government.

High levels of corruption, state capture, crime and decaying infrastructure have become synonymous with our current leaders, whose narrow and selfish interests have put individuals first and not the country and its people.

ALSO READ: ‘New’ UDF to be reborn, debate about anti-apartheid body contesting elections

The call to action by UDF founders in “building an active citizenry for transformation and accountability” could not have come at a better time in South Africa.

Morobe says the UDF “seeks to use the opportunity of its anniversary to reflect on this legacy – not for its own sake – but to the extent to which the current situation in our country has deviated from those core principles as our driving force against apartheid”.

An ANC government returning to its true values and principles is what the UDF wants and it will use constructive criticism of current political practices and tendencies, which are foreign to the liberation movement.

The UDF legacy steering committee aims at consulting with and bringing on board political entities, faith-based organisations, student organisations and UDF-affiliated trade unions, as well as structures like Defend Our Democracy and the Active Citizens Movement – all with similar objectives.

ALSO READ: We need leaders of Madiba’s stature to take us out of current quagmire

No bigger tribute can be paid to UDF founders Morobe, Shamim Hargovan, Cheryl Carolus, Valli Moosa, Titus Mafolo, Popo Molefe, Goolam Aboobaker, Neeshan Balton, Azhar Chachalia, Albertina Sisulu and Sam Ndou, than a call to galvanise South Africans back to the drawing board.

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits