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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

United Democratic Front (UDF)

The UDF was an extra-parliamentary, loosely constituted, non-racial political alliance of various organizations, united in their endeavours for a democratic South Africa. The Freedom Charter* of 1955 became the core component of UDF ideology. Although many members espoused socialist ideals these did not predominate in the organization. It was set up in 1983 at a meeting at Mitchell's Plain, a Coloured residential area near Cape Town, in response to a call by the Rev. Allan Boesak for opposition to the proposed tricameral constitution. Some 600 delegates from more than 320 organizations and 13 000 other sympathetic people converged on the area. The umbrella body, that was formed was comprised of so many disparate groups that initially, at least, it was very difficult for the authorities to pin-point controlling bodies in order to suppress the UDF. Its organizational strength soon spread throughout the country. By 1985 the government began to apply controls on the leaders and office-bearers. Many were detained and several were involved in high profile treason and terrorism trials; there was also a spate of states of emergency. The UDF's determined action was clear evidence of the strength of internal opposition to the government and this became one of the reasons why it was decided to negotiate with the ANC.* The UDF was disbanded in 1991 once the deliberations were under way. Many of its leading members subsequently played important roles in ANC politics in the post-1994 period.

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.