Sunday, January 8, 2012

#8 I love Bloemfontein but...


I love the town in which I was born, went to university there and lived in it for a few years but this weekend I am so happy that I am not there!

The ANC (African National Congress) - South Africa's ruling party - with the emphasis on PARTY :) - is celebrating their 100th anniversary this weekend in Bloemfontein! AT LEAST 100,000 people, including 46 heads of state, are expected in Bloemfontein in South Africa’s Free State province this weekend to mark the beginning of the ANC party’s year-long centenary celebrations. However, the former liberation movement’s most famous leader, Nelson Mandela, will not be among the guests because of his advanced years.
Tata Madiba - Nelson Mandela

Brief History of the ANC
excerpts from the ANC website article

White settlers from Holland first came to South Africa in 1652. My own forefathers first came to the Cape in 1689 on the ship the Oosterlaak - Jean Prere Plessis was the first medical doctor in the Cape of Good Hope. He was one of the French Huguenots that fled the persecution of the Christians in France...persecuted by De Cardinale de Richelieu at the helm - who also happened to be a Plessis. 

The "du" in Du Plessis only came about once the Huguenots settled in South Africa, as a result of the Dutch influence - "du" actually means "from". They were "from" the town of "Plessis" in France.

Many bitter struggles were fought over land and cattle. Although the African kingdoms lost land and cattle they were still independent some 200 years later.

But in the 1860s Britain brought large armies with horses, modern rifles and cannons, to take control of South Africa. The Xhosa who had fought nine wars of resistance against the colonizers, were finally defeated in 1878, after more than 100 years of warfare.

Led by Cetshwayo, the Zulu brought a crushing defeat on the British army at Isandhlwana in 1878, but were finally defeated at Ulundi by British reinforcements. Soon afterwards the British attacked and defeated the Pedi who had also remained independent for many years.

Leaders like Sukhukhune, Sandile and Cetshwayo were captured and imprisoned or killed. By 1900 Britain had broken the power of the African kingdoms and they then fell under the control of the colonial government. In 1910, Britain handed over this control to the Boer and British settlers themselves, when it gave them independence. The union of South Africa was formed with a government that recognized only the rights of white people and denied rights to blacks.

The wars of resistance ended with the defeat of Bambata`s rebellion. Africans had to find new ways to fight for their land and their freedom. In 1911, Pixley ka Isaka Seme called on Africans to forget the differences of the past and unite together in one national organisation. He said: "We are one people. these divisions, these jealousies, are the cause of all our woes today."

The service tonight at the Wesleyan Church
where the 1st meeting was held on 8 January 1912
On January 8th 1912, chiefs, representatives of people`s and church organisations, and other prominent individuals gathered in Bloemfontein and formed the African National Congress. The ANC declared its aim to bring all Africans together as one people to defend their rights and freedoms.

The ANC was formed at a time when South Africa was changing very fast. Diamonds had been discovered in 1867 and gold in 1886. Mine bosses wanted large numbers of people to work for them in the mines. Laws and taxes were designed to force people to leave their land. The most severe law was the 1913 land Act, which prevented Africans from buying, renting or using land, except in the reserves.

Many communities or families immediately lost their land because of the Land Act. For millions of other black people it became very difficult to live off the land. The Land Act caused overcrowding, land hunger, poverty and starvation.

The Land Act and other laws and taxes forced people to seek work on the mines and on the white farms. While some black people settled in cities like Johannesburg, most workers were migrants. They travelled to the mines to work and returned home to the rural areas with part of their wages, usually once a year.

But Africans were not free to move as they pleased. Passes controlled their movements and made sure they worked either on the mines or on the farms. The pass laws also stopped Africans from leaving their jobs or striking. In 1919 the ANC in Transvaal led a campaign against the passes. The ANC also supported the militant strike by African mine-workers in 1920.

However, some ANC leaders disagreed with militant actions such as strikes and protests. They argued that the ANC should achieve its aims by persuasion, for example, by appealing to Britain. But the appeals of delegations who visited Britain in 1914 to protest the Land Act and again in 1919 to ask Britain to recognize African rights, were ignored.
Mandela and Sisulu

In 1944 the ANC Youth League was formed. The young leaders of the Youth League - among them Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo - based their ideas on African nationalism. They believed Africans would be freed only by their own efforts. The Youth League aimed to involve the masses of people in militant struggles.

The government tried to stop the Defiance Campaign by banning it`s leaders and passing new laws to prevent public disobedience. but the campaign had already made huge gains. It brought closer co-operation between the ANC and the SA Indian Congress, swelled their membership and also led to the formation of new organisations.

The demands called for the people to govern and for the land to be shared by those who work it. They called for houses, work, security and for free and equal education. These demands were drawn together into the Freedom Charter which was adopted at the Congress of the People at Kliptown on the 26th June 1955.

The government claimed that the Freedom Charter was a communist document. Communism had been banned by the government in 1950, so they arrested ANC and Congress leaders and brought them to trial in the famous Treason Trial. They also tried to prove that the ANC and its allies had a policy of violence and planned to overthrown the state.

The ANC took up arms against the South African Government in 1961. The massacre of peaceful protestors and the subsequent banning of the ANC made it clear that peaceful protest alone would not force the regime to change. The ANC went underground and continued to organise secretly. Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) was formed to "hit back by all means within our power in defence of our people, our future and our freedom"

In 18 months MK carried out 200 acts of sabotage. But the underground organisation was no match for the regime, which began to use even harsher methods of repression. Laws were passed to make death the penalty for sabotage and to allow police to detain people for 90 days without trial. in 1963, police raided the secret headquarters of MK, arresting the leadership. This led to the Rivonia Trial where the leaders of MK were charged with attempting to cause a violent revolution.

Some ANC leaders - among them Oliver Tambo and Joe Slovo avoided arrest and left the country. Other ANC members left to undergo military training.

After the Rivonia Trial, the underground structures of the ANC in the country were all but destroyed. The ANC was faced with the question of how to bring trained soldiers back into the country to continue the struggle. However, South Africa was surrounded by countries that were very hostile to the ANC. Rhodesia, Angola and Mozambique were all controlled by colonial governments that supported the regime. MK would first have to make its way through those countries before it could reach home ground.

During the 1960s, as a result of the banning of the liberation movement, there were few signs of resistance. The apartheid system grew stronger and extended its control over all aspects of people`s lives. But, despite the lull, people were not prepared to accept the hardships and oppression of apartheid. In the 1970s workers and students fought back against the system. their struggles changed the face of South Africa.

From about 1970 prices began to rise sharply, making it even more difficult for workers to survive on low wages. Spontaneous strikes resulted: workers walked off the job demanding wage increases. The strike began in Durban in 1973 and later spread to other parts of the country.

1976 Soweto student uprising (SOHO)

Many Soweto student leaders were influenced by the ideas of black consciousness. The South African Students Movement (SASM), one of the first organisations of black high school students, played an important role in the 1976 uprising. There were also small groups of student activists who were linked to old ANC members and the ANC underground. ANC underground structures issued pamphlets calling on the community to support students and linking the student struggle to the struggle for national liberation.

In the 1980s, people took the liberation struggle to new heights. In the workplace, in the community and in the schools, the people aimed to take control of their situation. All areas of life became areas of political struggle. These strugglers were linked to the demand for political power.

Thousands of youths flooded the ranks of MK after the 1976 uprising. The violence used by the security forces to quell the uprising made the youths determined to come back and fight. The 1976 uprising also led the regime to change its strategy. For the first time reforms were introduced to apartheid. These aimed to win some support from the black community, but without making substantial changes. at the same time the military was greatly strengthened. They could use greater force and repression against people and organisations who ere considered revolutionary. Through the State Security Council and a network of other structures, the military also gained control over the most important decisions of government. This combination of reform and repression, the NP government described as winning the hearts and minds of black South Africans.

However, the reforms proposed by the government, such as the Tricameral Parliament and Black Local Authorities in African Townships, were totally rejected and only gave rise to greater resistance. 

The struggle for people`s power in the 1980s shook the foundations of the bantustan system. The regime tried desperately to save it by supporting vigilante groups and suppressing popular resistance.

In Natal, the struggle for people`s power was met with violence by Inkatha warlords who were opposed to the growth of community organisations. civic and youth organisations and Cosatu were opposed to the undemocratic practices of Inkatha and its ties to the KwaZulu government. The conflict led to a bitter war in Natal, where thousands lost their lives. 

19 February 1990  - Walk to freedom
In spite of detentions and bannings, the mass movement took to the city streets defiantly with the ANC and SACP flags and banners. The people proclaimed the ANC unbanned. In February 1990, the regime unbanned the ANC and other organisations. Nelson Mandela was freed from prison on 11 February 1990. 

By unbanning the ANC, the regime indicated for the first time, that it might be prepared to try and solve South Africa`s problems peacefully, through negotiations.

On the 10th of May 1994 Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the President of South Africa.

What has happened since then is a story for another day...

QUOTE OF THE DAY“It always seems impossible until it's done.” - Nelson Mandela

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