The UDF, a former struggle movement, was launched during the month of August and was also dissolved in August. Recently, some activists have been pushing for it to be resuscitated, much to the annoyance and objection of others, which has led to heated arguments and legal threats.
The UDF was formed on 20 August, 1983, mainly to fight against the just-introduced idea of a Tricameral Parliament of the apartheid government. This type of parliament provided separate chambers of parliament with limited powers for Coloured and Indian minorities. It completely excluded the 24 million black majority at the time.
The UDF became a powerful organisation with members across the country. It was a consolidation of many organisations, from student, church, community and other freedom movements which fought against the unjust laws of the National Party government.
With its slogan, ‘UDF Unites, Apartheid Divides', it demonstrated its broad and highly inclusive nature which made it a powerful front against the apartheid regime. It was a coalition of non-racial organisations and also subscribed to non-sexist principles.
Women organisations such as FEDSAW (Federation of South African Women) were affiliates of the UDF who played a pivotal role in advocating for the liberation of women in South Africa and to abandon sexist policies.
Prominent former members include Albertina Sisulu, Trevor Manuel, Rev. Frank Chikane, Jeremy Cronin, Pravin Gordhan, and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
When it became apparent that the apartheid regime faced inevitable and imminent defeat together with the unbanning of the African National Congress, the UDF was left with nothing much to do. Following a mutual decision among its members, it dissolved on 20 August, 1990.
Arguments to resuscitate
A certain group of activists have, within the past weeks, been lobbying to relaunch the movement, saying there's a need for its work. This caused uproar from former UDF heavyweights who in turn issued a statement warning Mario Wanza, the activist pushing for the relaunch. The statement states, "We have taken legal opinion on the intention of Mario Wanza, or any other individual or grouping purporting to act in the name of the UDF, and to make use of its symbols. We recognise that we cannot prevent any individual or grouping using the colours red, black and yellow; but we can prevent its use together with the name and logo of the UDF."
However, Mario remains undeterred, he was quoted on the Cape Argus saying, "We don't need permission and nothing and no one is going to stop us."
SAHA developed a virtual exhibition, 'Women Hold Up Half the Sky - Commemorating Women in the Struggle', to commemorate the Women's Month (August). FEDSAW, which was an affiliate of the UDF and led by UDF activists is featured in the exhibition, together with brief information about the UDF itself.
Visit the virtual exhibition
SAHA also houses an extensive collection which relates to the UDF and its affiliates.
View the UDF Collections