UDF anniversary

2008-08-25 00:00

The recent 25th anniversary of the launch of the United Democratic Front (UDF) raised relatively little interest. Its main achievement in the eighties was to mount a strong challenge to the apartheid state at a crucial point of weakness for any authoritarian system — when it was reforming itself.

Political convenience created the myth that everyone associated with the UDF was a closet member of the African National Congress (ANC). This facilitated its hasty closure in 1991. However, many of its affiliated organisations owed their loyalty not to any party, but rather to values like participative democracy, transparency, human rights and the rule of law.

Trevor Manuel calls UDF activists charterists. The ANC government has systematically betrayed the spirit of the Freedom Charter, especially its central belief that South Africa belongs to all its people. And the principled activism of many UDF workers has been undermined by corruption, opportunism and current disdain for non-racialism.

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