About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Frontline States

Frontline states were those bordering on or in close proximity to South Africa, including Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. After 1960 the anti-apartheid forces had to adjust to the new environment of exile politics. It became crucial to cultivate and maintain overseas sanctuary, support and funding. But it was equally crucial to have the cooperation of independent African states closer to home. These could provide sites for military training; they could also become launching pads from which to infiltrate South Africa and impose other pressures on the apartheid government. In particular, the three former protectorates, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland were South Africa's Achilles heel. They became invaluable to the exiled ANC*, serving for almost 30 years as havens of asylum for political activists and freedom fighters. For reasons of logistics, activists from the eastern Cape tended to use Lesotho, while those from Natal went to Swaziland. Botswana was also used for sanctuary until entry there from South Africa became more regulated. By the mid-1960s the ANC external mission also had important African bases in Tanzania and Zambia. However a major drawback to gaining the cooperation of many of the frontline states was their economic reliance on South Africa and the fact that numbers of their people worked as migrant labourers on South African mines.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.