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Article
1980s Anti-Apartheid Organisations
The UDF The ECC The Church
The UDF
In August 1983, 15,000 people gathered at Rocklands Community Centre in Mitchell's Plain to launch the United Democratic Front (UDF). Their call was for 'all our rights, here and now'. Almost two thirds of the affiliated organisations (student groups, women's groups, civics etc.) were from the Western Cape.

Their slogans were simple and reached a broad support base; 'Apartheid divides, the UDF unites' and 'the past is theirs, the future is ours'. The UDF pressed forward with action in an unprecedented fashion, instigating boycotts of the coloured and African local elections, the collection of a million signatures against the new constitution and a mass meeting to protest the removal of squatters in Crossroads to Khayelitsha.

These campaigns had some success as only 29% of all registered coloured voters in South Africa voted and only 19% of Indians. The figures in Cape Town were even lower.

The arts also played a role, with UDF gaining the support of the South African Musician's Alliance and the Congress of South African Writers whose input helped bring local culture to the political cause.

In August 1985, the police blocked a march of UDF supporters to Pollsmoor prison demanding Mandela's release. The clashes resulted in 8 deaths, many injuries and 29 arrests - including some nuns.
The ECC
A small number of white students at UCT formed the End Conscription Campaign (ECC) in August 1984. The ECC declaration stated that conscripts were used to defend apartheid, support the illegal occupation of Namibia and to wage war on the neighbouring ('front line') states.

One of the most prominent activists in this movement was Ivan Tomms, a doctor in Crossroads who conducted a 21 day fast as part of the ECC's 'Troops Out of the Townships' campaign. He was later jailed for refusing to attend an army camp.

In January 1987, the Cape Town ECC used creative publicity techniques to oppose the annual call up. They tied a dummy to the war memorial in Heerengracht, and 40 supporters wearing the ECC T-shirts built a huge sandcastle in the shape of the city's castle, which was the headquarters of the defence force's Western Cape command. The police ordered them to destroy it.

The national State of Emergency of June 1986 made calls for an end to conscription illegal, thereby giving the police carte blanche to intimidate members of the ECC, which was effectively banned in 1988.
The Church
Churches, religious leaders and funerals played an important part in Cape Town's resistance owing to the tight restrictions in place on lay gatherings. Para-church organisations, such as the Western Province Council of Churches were predominantly focused upon coordinating anti-apartheid activities.

In September 1986 Desmond Tutu was enthroned Archbishop of Cape Town. Tutu had been a vociferous critic of the government since he was elected general secretary of the South African Council of Churches in 1978.

In his role as archbishop he urged whites to become more involved in peaceful protests, and all Christians to disobey unjust laws. Some of his services at St. Georges Cathedral were overtly political and in 1988 he, with the Catholic archbishop and Methodist president, was arrested very briefly as they tried to march to parliament in protest against the banning of political organisations.

Tutu gained huge support from blacks, but his actions and words drew criticism from some whites. Yet by the late 1990s when he was chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Tutu was widely regarded as a tireless advocate for inter-racial understanding.


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