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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Report from the underground 1990


When the unit was formed the township was characterised by the formation of people's structures and the enemy responded with severe repression.  There problems of ZP killings and harassment at section L and E, sinyoras at K section, vigilantes and tsotsi elements especially at section E.

The members of the unit play a central role in the open mass organisations.The attention of the members has been distracted by what is happening in the township and thus led to disturbances to the regularities of the meetings. The initial discussions. The initial discussions focused on functioning of the underground and its tasks.

A. Report on the unit

1. Activities

1.1 Discussions: Among other topics the following issues

were discussed:

-. Indo-African conflict - we observed that this problem will remain with us for many years if we don't address some of the root causes which we identified as exploitation of domestic and small business workers by their Indian bosses and cases of ill treatment of these workers, child labour employment and limited grassroots participation of the Indian community with most activities limited at leadership level. This gives the opportunistic elements a chance to exploit the gaps.

-. January 8 Statement - it was studied and discussed and on its basis a mass political programme was drawn.  Its copy was submitted.

-. Natal violence - it was noted that the power base of Inkatha has been eroded but its still has a support of the chiefs and indunas thus a need to organise more chiefs into Contralesa especially in areas outlaying our township.

-. Several statements of the movement were studied and discussed and on the one on restructuring it was felt that as the u/g we will not relegate some of our task that will be taken by the open ANC until such a structure is created and functions. We also noted that when the open structures of the movement start functioning our main task will be the building of the revolutionary army.

1.2. Political Education

On the basis of the proposed political education programme we worked our own based on our level of understanding and our needs (copy attached).So far topics dealt with are: vanguard movement - organisational aspect(MCW) and Secrecy which is still continuing. Though a time period target was set to be four to six month this proves to be not realisable due to both constantly changing situation and practical problems faced by the unit.

1.3. Personnel

It was realised that if we intend to give our u/g work all the attention and priority it deserves,a way must be worked out to relieve cdes of the unit of many tasks they perform in the mass structures. Ten people were identified and the process of organizing them is still continuing. We also realized a need for some sort of staff for our unit and a working committee of two people was formed.

2. Problems

-. The general process of the development of the unit is still slow resulting in some of our set tasks and targets not realized either in time or not at all.

-. Members still have to actively play a dual role and their centrality in mass organisations leads to u/g work not getting sufficient attention.

-. There is an uneven level of understanding in the unit which determines the pace of the unit.

-. Among problems we faced at the initial stages of the formation of the unit was the tendency to discuss and concentrate mainly on mass organisational work and the transitional period is still in the process.

-. There are still problems in securing our own accommodation but experience is being gained in the process of securing such places.

3. Overview

B. Report on the situation

1. Conditions

- Unemployment is one of the major problems, among the youth it is very high and this leads to a variety of problems mostly crime related.  People become creative and cunning in their tactics to overcome hunger and use the struggle to rob shop-keepers, delivery trucks and the community. Generally the rate of crime is rising everyday. Education crisis has led to the abandoning of schools by the youth and lack of seriousness to those who are still attending. Students attend school according to their will.

There is also a shortage of schools which then creates a substantial number of school going youth to idle in the township and end up being involved in unacceptable deeds.

The war that has been going on mobilised many people and has prevented us from educating our people politically. There is a lack of political consciousness and that leads to actions that destroy the image of the organisation. The comrades have acquired a lot of fire-arms through disarming the police and are misused to the extend that comrades kill each other unintentionally. Besides that the war has created an army with no commanders since there are no structures that discipline them.

The transition from war to peace has alienated our youth and that has led to the exodus to exile. Police harassment has displaced many youth to hiding and this has created identifiable groupings.

These groupings develop also because people want to belong to respected

unit that is active. When there is a lull the comrades have nothing to do and the opportunist use them for their own ends against their personal enemies.  We have problems of people being killed because they are suspected of being wizards, Inkatha related or state linked sometimes without any tangible proof.  Disciplinary committees sometimes function undemocratically or and unprofessionally and give unrealistic sentences that leads to death of culprits or evidence is not looked for prejudice.

-. There are hit squads who kill randomly.

When the unit was formed

When the unit was formed the situation was not relaxed in the area. This has led to a number of disturbances to the regularity of the meetings. And attention of the members has been distracted by what is happening in the area.  This has presented a real problem since these people are expected to play a central role in the open organizations.

These problems were - the senyora at section K, and the tsotsi elements in E section and the vigilante and ZP problems in L section.  In spite of all these problems the structure has continued to meet.  It was realized that as a matter of urgency the unit should have a programme.  This was done after the tasks were clarified and the Jan. 8th statement studied and discussed.

Form of the Programme

1st part - to address the area of mass mobilization and politicization.

2nd part - to deal with the underground (our main task).


Having assessed briefly the organizations in the area (with that understanding) and read the "Statement" the structure started to draw up the programme of action.  Because of the problems (of being stretched) involvement of the members in the process has taken quite too long.  Now the political education pro as been drawn after we read the Jan. 8th statement.  Much attention here is focusing on the MDM.  Our discussions helped by the statement identified these problems:

i)  Much emphasis in organizations seem to be laid on the leadership in terms of politics thus the mass of our people left with low level of consciousness;

ii)  Most structures are inoperative - they need to be revived and strengthened

iii)  There is no dynamic contact between the leadership and the masses

iv)  Leadership is not accountable to the membership and democratic practices are to be exercised in decision-making.

In laying out our plan we identified the ff tasks:

i. political education of our people;

ii. reviving of local structures,

iii. Culture; Sport; Education; Students; Youth; Women: Church; Natal


Earlier discussions

Our earlier discussions have shown that all the three members of the structure are caught up in the MDM work this cause them not to have sufficient time to do their u/g tasks - this is because there is a lack of leadership at the lecal level of the MDM - to address this problem 10 people were identified - the first idea was to call them together and discuss the leadership problem and the need to work towards the time where it could be possible to elect the leadership.  Here we saw areas of operation for these cdes being all the sectors; youth, women, civic, peace, etc.  The second idea was to group them in 3's, each group relating to one member of the APC as individuals so that they are developed as individuals rather than groups and carry out all the tasks that come out of the open and broader sense of the organizations to ensure that decisions are implemented.

We see some of the ideas brought out in our political programme getting implemented by these people as well and through them involving other people from the area. (cont. after -u/g)

Indo-African problem

In our discussion it came out that this is a serious problem and as long as we do not address the root causes it will remain with us for many years to come. It was also noted that there are some opportunistic elements who are exploiting the gap and that there is or are forces who are exploiting this situation and they are really touching where it hurts the people and that is why there is kind of reaction.  It is true that some people are not treated well by their Indian bosses, some are not well paid and young kids are made to work. This is not enough - we need to address this problem now for tomorrow it may be too late.  It is like a time bomb.  We must try never to be artificial in addressing this problem. Serious discussions must be conducted with the aim of arriving at a proper solution.

What happens to the u/g

As a structure we think that we should continue doing our work in the area until such time that there is a viable structure eg branch in the area that takes responsibility of all the work that is done by the U/G.  We say this because we are of the feeling that this may not happen soon enough.  Since the announcement of the setting up of open structures two months have gone by no national office, no regional office has been opened to perform its tasks. We also noticed that the tasks that will remain will be largely the ones related to the building of the army(MK).


We tried to see Inkatha as a formation and wanted to understand how it operates mainly in rural area.  We saw the chiefs being the most important force "Chief" GB has, because most of them being members of Inkatha and the fact that they respect the royal family.  It was also noted that since Inkatha does not exist as an organization in rural areas it is easy then for the organization in touch with Contralesa to do the work in trying to bring the chiefs closer to us and work with the people under the chiefs and other leaders such as the headmen.

Rural students

Because of the area closer to us we also saw the need to guide these young people on issues like school funds as the present demands are that funds must be returned to the pupils.  This is difficult because so far the govt. doesn't build these schools and at times does not provide other necessary equipment for the work to be done and thus the need to refocus these demands arises.

There is lack of leadership structures and those in existence are dominated by the youth.

-. The exodus of the youth in exile is worrying, and there is also harassment of the community by the youth especially when they are drunk.  Most of the youth are armed and misuses this firearms and end up killing each other in some instances innocent people.

-. The process of reviving MDM structures is in motion and programmes are being drafted.

-. Peace that is presently created seems to be threatened due to constant circulation of rumours of possible attacks.

2.  Activities

A programme of action was drafted on the basis of the Jan. 8th statement to address the problems of our area and also organizational issues.  A group of people are being organized to ensure the implementation of the programme.

3.  Overview

We still have the problem of resources both human and material and this retards the implementation of the programme.  Some of the items in our programme of action have been introduced to existing mass organizations through workshops and meetings. But they have not been implemented because of lack of understanding by cdes and they expect us to facilitate the implementation process.

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