Today, 36 years, ago the United Democratic Front, the largest anti-apartheid formation since the banning of the political organisations in the 1960s was established in the Rocklands Civic Centre in Mitchell’s Plain, Cape Town.
This Front of community-based civic organisations, pressure groups, trade unions, church and sports formations and the like, came into being following a call by Dr. Allan Boesak, anti-apartheid cleric, to oppose the implementation of the Tri-cameral Parliamentary system. Beyond fighting the Tri-cameral system that granted limited participation in governance to Coloureds and Indians while excluding the African majority from having a direct say in the government of South Africa, the assembly committed itself to working towards a non-racial, democratic South Africa.
A total of a 1000 delegate’s representative of 565 organisations and about 500 observers attended the meeting and more than 10 000 people attended the rally that followed the launch. Keynote speakers were Dr. Frank Chikane (South African Council of Churches), Frances Baard (African National Congress Women’s League veteran) and Dr. Allan Boesak (World Council of Churches). Amongst the Free State delegates were Mosiuoa ‘Terror’ Lekota who was released from Robben Island eight months before the launch of the UDF and who became the organisation’s national publicity secretary.
From the onset the leaders of the organisation were harassed and detained for their activities. Throughout its existence the organisation fought for the establishment of a non-racial democracy and only surrendered its role with the unbanning of the African National Congress and other political organisations