The 20th August 1983 was a special day. Over 10 thousand people came together at a meeting in Cape Town. They met to begin their fight against the government’s new plans.
The government now wants to give the “coloured” and “indian” people a small say in the running of the country. The big meeting said these plans will divide the people -africans on one side “coloureds” “indians” and whites on the other.
The government also wants to make new pass laws. The meeting said this will make the pass laws worse. Africans will not be able to live in the cities if they don’t have houses and jobs.
Over 400 organizations were at the meeting. They came to unite under the United Democratic Front (UDF) -and to fight the new laws together.
Before this about 300 other organizations also got together to fight the new laws. They met on 11 -12th June this year in Hammanskraal. They called themselves the National Forum. This group drew up a document (list of demands) that says workers must have the biggest say in the running of the country.
In Cape Town the UDF began its fight with the following words: “Today -August 20, 1983 -we speak with the voice of unity. Each one of us here carries the hopes and dreams of our people. In our thousands, from every corner of the land, from town and country, we send out our call for freedom. On this day,we stand shoulder to shoulder so that South Africa and all the world may hear our voice. We have come to build a better life for ourselves and for our children in the land of our birth.
Down the road, the apartheid parliament is meeting to prepare its plans. Our rulers fear our unity. They do not want to hear our voice. At Mountview, at Fort Hare, they silence the questions of our youth. In Mdantsane, in Lamontville, in Orlando and KTC, they drive us from our homes like dogs. Apartheid stalks our land.
Now our rulers are inviting some of us to join them. They offer us a third class seat in their apartheid train. For this, our children will fight on apartheid’s borders, they will drive us to the bantustans where there is only hunger and death. In their parliament, they are talking of their constitution and the Koornhof Bills, but it is we who will pay the cost.
So we have gathered here to say NO. To refuse their plans. We are here to say that no-one can tell us what we want; it is we ourselves who must rule our lives.
We have Iaunched the UDF so that we may go forward in unity. Black and white, young and old, worker, student, priest: on this historic day we have begun our march!”
At the meeting thousand people sang the songs of freedom.
Now the meeting is over. And the UDF faces the big test. Can it change the songs into action?
As Archie Gumede one of the Presidents of the UDF said , ” Slogans are not enough. Sweat and labour, careful thought and careful actions are needed.”