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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Umkhonto Wesizwe (MK)

This military wing of the ANC,* established soon after the ANC was banned in 1960. Literally the 'spear of the nation', MK, as it was commonly known, undertook acts of sabotage in attempts to bring down the apartheid government. Training camps were set up by the ANC in exile and guerillas infiltrated into South Africa through Rhodesia in the 1960s, but were checked by the South African security forces. The Soweto uprising in 1976 was a watershed in the struggle and many thousands of new recruits joined MK's ranks. Some of these young people went to Angola and died fighting against UNITA.* Others entered South Africa in the 1970s to perform acts of sabotage. Among the widely publicized attacks (in total there were about 1 500 in a 12 year period from 1977 to 1989) were those on the Sasol refinery (1980), the attack on the SADF* headquarters near Pretoria (1981) that on the Koeberg power station near Cape Town in 1982 and the car-bomb explosion in Church Street, Pretoria (1983). The escalation of MK attacks such as these became an important reason why the government agreed to enter into negotiations early in the 1990s. The ANC consented to discontinue the armed struggle but MK was not disbanded. After the 1994 election MK members were absorbed into the SADF which was re-named the South African National Defence Force.

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.