We Are People. We’ve Got the Right To Live.


There is a Zulu saying that basically says, “People don’t go in one direction like water.” Water can be blocked but it finds its way around because it’s finding its way to the sea.

In Part 7 of Have You Heard From Johannesburg?, the film started off  in the 20th year of exile. Oliver Tambo had never imagined that when he left South Africa in 1960 that he would be gone for more than 5 years.

In 1978 South Africa was an international pariah facing a U.S arms embargo, a sporting boycott, and threat of economic sanctions. Something had to finally give. Leader of South Africa, P.W Botha said, “we will have to adapt or die.” This might have been true for a realist, but for the thousands of black South Africans who deserved more than a “piece of freedom”, they would not stop there. Although Botha accomplished abolishing many labor laws, there was still the major issue facing blacks, and that was the exclusion on voting. The three chamber parliament was voted upon, however, it excluded blacks. This created an existential dilemma for whites since they had to deal with pressures from white people outside South Africa and they had to be accepted by whites from civilized nations.


P.W Botha

Botha went on a European tour to convince Europe about the importance of reform. He even had an interview with pope. What should have been a push or reality check for Botha was when he traveled to the UK and was excluded from any transportation, hotel or lodging – as well when Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister, would not shake his hand in public. They couldn’t afford that kind of publicity, and she believed that keeping the economy alive for all people to govern and play a part in government was most important. Not surprisingly, Botha’s reform failed to impress Europeans.

When asked if there would ever be a one man one vote principle in South Africa, the foreign minister, said no. Black South Africans needed everyone to get together to show a united front and break through the wall against voting. The first union occurred on August 20, 1983, when people went to Cape town  carrying hopes of the people with them. As a united front, these young people were not intimidated. They didn’t even taunt police, rather, they smiled and waved.

 “Some have marched to jail, some have marched to death, some have marched to exile in far off lands. And thousands today have marched to Mitchell’s Plain.” – Helen Joseph, UDF

The politics of refusal was the refusal of black South Africans to be manipulated, or bought by the apartheid regime. The UDF convinced most colored and Indians to boycott the polls. The success of this refusal laid the foundation of the work of the UDF in the 1980s. Their demand was one man, one vote.

“A new south Africa now, today. Not tomorrow” – Oliver Tambo

united democratic frontTo make a statement, blacks bought only from blacks, and the white supremacy was taken away from whites for a short period of time. Business dropped for whites as a strong democratic movement that represented ordinary men and women – the strength of the UDF – had people taking charge of their own lives.

Broadcasting from neighboring countries in Tanzania, etc, to South Africa would have people listening to Oliver Tambo’s messages through the radio. The plan was to begin creating chaos in order to bring South Africa to its knees. The people were virtually ungoverned where they wouldn’t listen, and they would burn and destroy things causing whites to become afraid. Would there be a “French Revolution” in South Africa?
In July 1985,  P.W Botha declared a state of emergency in South Africa. Billions of dollars were spent on defense. They needed a strategy to control the crowd. Troops moved into townships to take control and started shooting people. They created roadblocks to contain the people in areas while batons were used to beat people up. The tragedy continued as some people were poisoned, some people  disappeared, and others dumped in rivers with crocodiles to be killed. To this day there are people who haven’t been accounted for, which raises the question, “what did we [UDF] achieve?”

The United Democratic Front, UDF, expected that before the end came, there would be rivers of blood. “We have seen streams” but “we are helpless to the slaughter” – paraphrased by Tambo.

Mandela and TamboPresident Reagan (US), Margaret Thatcher and other political leaders would not participate in violence or the program that Oliver Tambo, the ANC, PAC and UDF had to offer. With no help, grass roots movements were formed. Boycotts broke out from students and people all over the world in support of South Africa. People from New Zealand were beaten up, there were risks of expulsion at Columbia University, others in London were standing out in terrible weather. It seemed that the greater the struggle was, the greater the support. The publicity came roaring in when there was blood to show, which gave the public more of an opinion and also movement on the issue.

urlNelson Mandela became the “face” of the ANC and shortly after his name became a household staple. You could turn left or right and see his name somewhere. Whether it be on street signs, or businesses, he was the reason for the united support all over the globe. Not taking kindly to this, the South African government censored the media by beating and shooting the press, and they monitored the publicity so that people all over the world were limited to what they saw happening in South Africa. Celebrities and musicians, then, took it upon themselves to keep the word alive. Concerts were held called Artists Against Apartheid, and hundreds and thousands of people would attend. “When you see the crowd, you see human kind” – Oliver Tambo. People had begun sending letters from all over the world to Nelson Mandela on his birthday; people from prison even wrote to him. “The writing was on the wall”, they needed to release people from jail.

• In 1989 P.W Botha steps down as a national leader.

• In 1989 Walter Sisulu was released from prison after 26 years.

• In 1989 Oliver Tambo was released from exile.

• In 1990 the ANC and PAC bans were lifted.

• On February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandel was released from prison.

• In 1994 the first vote occurred. Black South Africans thought the voting process would be more dramatic or fun, but at the end of the day they got the vote.

• In 1994, Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa.

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