KwaZulu-Natal premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube has hailed the United Democratic Front (UDF), which celebrated its 40th anniversary in Johannesburg on Sunday, as a “revolutionary vehicle for social change”.
Formed in the 1980s, the UDF has been credited for dismantling the apartheid system, which has since been described by the UN as a crime against humanity.
An umbrella body for liberation struggle movements that had been banned under the apartheid government, the UDF was disbanded in 1993 following the unbanning of the ANC and other organisations that had been fighting the apartheid system.
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The late ANC stalwart, Albertina Sisulu, was the co-president of the UDF, which is currently being revived.
Dube-Ncube said the country’s liberation would have been delayed had it not been for the UDF and leaders like Sisulu.
“It was the UDF, made up of all the progressive forces in our land, that was the voice of the banned liberation movements inside our country, a vehicle that mounted the final push towards toppling of the gargantuan apartheid edifice.
“At its helm was Mama Albertina Sisulu, one of the co-presidents of this finest example of a truly non-racial, mass-based, revolutionary formation. It’s not stretching the truth to suggest that our freedom would have been delayed had it not been for the gallant acts of Mama Albertina and many other women and men who sacrificed life and limb for our freedom,” she said.
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High profile UDF members who attended Sunday’s anniversary included former finance minister Trevor Manual, former North West premier Popo Molefe and the organisation’s former secretary-general Cheryl Carolus. President Cyril Ramaphosa also attended.
Ramaphosa, who in the 80s was the secretary-general of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), urged citizens to draw lessons from the UDF. “One of the lessons that we can draw from UDF is community activism — being proactive, finding solutions and crafting solutions so that our people can live a better life,” he said.
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The celebrations, which took place under the theme, “Building Active Citizenry for Accountability and Transformation”, saw speakers call for the revival of the UDF. Carolus, who dismissed claims that those behind the UDF’s revival were planning to turn the movement into a political party, said the revived UDF will tackle corruption and other social ills.
“We as citizens have the right and, in fact, the duty to ensure that those who make themselves available to be public representatives must do so properly and serve and not abuse the public.
This is about active citizenry, not about party politics.
Former environmental affairs minister Valli Moosa, who is one of UDF’s founding members, said the organisation was one of the most effective in the entire world.
“We believe the UDF-led mass uprising of the 1980s has no equal in modern history in terms of its scale, intensity, resilience and focus …” he said.