President Cyril Ramaphosa has commended the leaders who were at the forefront when the United Democratic Front (UDF) was formed 40 years ago.
“You were torchbearers in the onward march towards a free country, and we salute you all,” President Ramaphosa said on Sunday.
Speaking at the 40th anniversary celebration of the founding of the United Democratic Front in Johannesburg, President Ramaphosa said it is heartening that leaders remain committed to playing an active role in the politics of the country.
The UDF was formed at the Cape Flats 40 years ago.
“The UDF was launched as a popular front ‘to bolster the tide of the struggle’ against the great injustice of apartheid. The delegates came from the length and breadth of South Africa,” President Ramaphosa said.
President Ramaphosa said amongst the delegates who supported the UDF when it was formed were some 575 civic organisations, trade unions, student formations, the women’s movement, faith-based groups, anti-apartheid coalitions and community organisations.
“As we know, the launch date of the 20th of August was deliberately chosen. This was the date the regime planned to introduce a constitutional amendment to set up the Tricameral Parliament, a hated structure with its separate Houses for whites, coloureds and Indians. The African majority was left out in the cold.
“It was an attempt to lend legitimacy to an illegitimate system. The very purpose was to divide the ranks of the oppressed.
“In a massive show of defiance, the UDF was introduced to South Africa and the world at a public rally in Mitchell’s Plain attended by 10 000 people,” President Ramaphosa said.
The President told delegates that the new organisation had the potent slogan ‘UDF Unites, Apartheid Divides’.
“The UDF would go on to mobilise communities across South Africa against so-called grand apartheid, a system of brute force and petty laws. The UDF organised protests, rent, consumer and bus boycotts, and strikes and stay-aways.
“Affiliates assisted the families of detainees, campaigned for their release, organised political funerals and conducted political education. What made the UDF unique was its distinct political culture. It was able to forge alliances with organisations that identified with its aims.
“At its height, there were three million community members and more than 400 organisations under the banner of the UDF,” President Ramaphosa said.
President Ramaphosa said it is clear that the UDF transformed the country’s political landscape.
“What is remarkable is that it achieved so much when it was in existence for just eight short years.
“We also remember the many UDF activists who were detained without trial, tortured and killed by the regime, and the many men and women from across South Africa who made up the rank and file of the UDF,” he said.
Source: South African Government News Agency