Mobilization, conflict and repression: the United Democratic Front and political struggles in the Pietermaritzburg region, 1983-1991.
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In the eight years of its existence, from 1983 to 1991, the United Democratic Front had a major impact on the pace and direction of political struggles in South Africa. The UDF was a loose alliance of organizations, whose strength was determined by the nature of the organizations affiliated to it. This thesis explores the nature of the problems faced by the UDF in the Pietermaritzburg region, and how it sought to respond to them. Chapter one -covers the period from 1976 to 1984. This chapter surveys the political context in which the UDF was formed, beginning with the Soweto uprising of 1976, and continuing with the growth of extra-parliamentary organizations in the late 1970s and early 1980s, leading up to the formation of the UDF in 1983. This chapter ends with emergence of organized extra-parliamentary activities in Pietermaritzburg in 1984. Chapter two assesses the period between 1984 and mid-1986. This was the time when the UDF activists began to mobilize in the region, and it was during this period that UDF structures were set up. This period also witnessed growing tensions between youth and parents, and between UDF and lnkatha supporters. The chapter ends when the state clamped down on extraparliamentary activities by declaring a national state of emergency in June 1986. Chapter three assesses the period between mid-1986 and the second half of 1989. This was the period when the South African state and lnkatha came out in full force to suppress the UDF. Through the use of emergency regulations, the state detained and restricted UDF activists, and in February 1988 eventually banned organization. During this period, the UDF and lnkatha supporters were engaged in violent clashes. These struggles took on the proportion of a civil war in the region, particularly in 1987. However, political events took another turn in the second half of 1989, when extra-parliamentary organizations resurfaced and embarked on mass defiance campaigns. Extra-parliamentary organizations, organized these campaigns under the mantle of the Mass Democratic Movement. Chapter four starts by assessing the impact of the mass defiance campaigns and ends at the time when the UDF was officially disbanded in August 1991. These last two years were dramatic for the UDF, nationally and regionally. In Pietermaritzburg, immediately after a series of successful mass demonstrations, UDF activists began a programme of restructuring the Front. The process was short-lived because in February 1990, when the South African government unbanned previously banned political organizations, including the UDF, African National Congress, Pan Africanist Congress, and others, the UDF had to begin to redefine its political role. Most UDF activists crossed over to the ANC, and in- 1991 the leaders of the UDF decided to dissolve the organization. In the Pietermaritzburg region the UDF disbanded more quickly than in other regions, largely because of the particular problems that the Front had experienced in this region.