South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid

Armed Struggle

Video Interviews

"One had no choice, it was almost overnight. We were tipped off ..."
Video interview segment with Bob Vassen [2:13]
2005

Images

Political Art: "Tell my people that I love them and that they must continue the struggle" Solomon Mahlangu
By Medu, a collective of cultural workers living in Gaborone, Botswana from 1977 to 1985. April 6, 1979

Documents

Personal Letter: Letter from Phyllis Naidoo to Sanna
By Phyllis Naidoo

Summary

The main liberation movements adopted armed struggle only after decades of polite protest and non-violent civil disobedience failed to yield results – and after the apartheid government responded to anti-apartheid organizing with increasingly violent repression. It was in response to the 1960 Sharpeville massacre and the government's declaring both the African National Congress and the Pan Africanist Congress illegal and detaining many of their leaders that these organizations formed armed wings, called Umkonhto we Sizwe (MK) and Poqo, respectively.

Their first armed actions, taken by small underground cells, were acts of sabotage designed to damage state-controlled facilities without injuring any people. With the ANC and PAC banned, a number of their members went into exile, some for military training. After the 1976 student uprising, the flow of young people into exile, and into the ANC military camps, increased substantially. The ANC did not believe that it could defeat the apartheid government forces militarily; rather the armed struggle was regarded as one element of a larger struggle, along with mass mobilization and resistance inside the country and international economic and political pressure to end apartheid.

Related Multimedia Resources:

Web Documents

Historical Document: "Manifesto of Umkhonto we Sizwe"

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Speech: Statement from the dock at the opening of the defence case in the Rivonia Trial
By Nelson Mandela
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"Armed Struggle and Umkhonto: Forward into the 1970s and 1980s"

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Historical Document: "Umkhonto we Sizwe "
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Resource: "Conscripts to Their Age: African National Congress Operational Strategy, 1976-1986"
By Howard Barrell
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AODL African Studies Center MSU Matrix NEH