United Democratic Front


The United Democratic Front (UDF) was created in 1983 to provide a forum to oppose the Tricameral Constitution, which created a new parliament with separate, but token, legislatures for Coloureds and Indians, in addition to the all-powerful and all-white House of Assembly. Africans, representing nearly three-quarters of the population, remained totally excluded. This purely cosmetic reform had the unintended effect of unifying and radicalizing opponents of apartheid. The UDF came to include more than 500 political, labor, youth, sport, religious, and community organizations from across the country.

The UDF was not in competition with other liberation movements, but rather it was an umbrella organization for anti-apartheid groups. The UDF adopted the Freedom Charter, and linked itself increasingly openly with the still-banned African National Congress. Youths were active in the UDF and continued to demonstrate over education issues. The emergence of indigenous liberation theology and the increased brutality of the state toward people advocating equality and justice brought religious organizations into the UDF, exemplified by the activism of the Reverend Allan Boesak and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

Related Multimedia Resources:

Web Documents

Historical Document: "Statement by UDF National Executive Committee on National Launching of UDF"
By National Executive Committee of the United Democratic Front
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Resource: "List of Organisations which Support and are Affiliates of the Regional UDF"
By Interim Publicity Secretary of the UDF
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Suggested Reading

The UDF: A History of the United Democratic Front in South Africa, 1983-1991
By Jeremy Seekings
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AODL African Studies Center MSU NEH Matrix