The incredible struggle of the South African people to overthrow the Apartheid regime is world-famous as a righteous struggle against racism and oppression. The names of anti-Apartheid heroes, like Nelson Mandela, Chris Hani, Desmond Tutu and Steve Biko, are synonymous with freedom and justice the world over. In the United States, people know some of this history but the grassroots struggles of the South African people and their sacrifices are often left out.
In the 1980’s, amazing mass mobilizations by trade unions, civic groups, students and activists through the United Democratic Front (UDF) brought the ruling government to its knees. The UDF’s core demand for and end to Apartheid and that “the people shall govern” led to the first democratic elections in 1994. There were waves of hope and optimism for the “New South Africa” when the African National Congress, led by Nelson Mandela, was elected promising that the racism and exploitation of Apartheid would end.
After the end to formal Apartheid in 1994, people anticipated that their desperate needs for land, education, healthcare, and wealth redistribution would be addressed, but the reality of post-Apartheid South Africa has fallen short of those expectations. As the socialist bloc countries were overthrown and collapsed, Western imperialism went on a global offensive, and the ANC pursued a path of economic development that accommodated to and tried to manage neoliberal capitalism rather than overthrow it. While considerable social and economic gains were won, severe inequality remained, and in some respect has increased in recent years, while the needs for basic services like running water, electricity and housing are still unmet for the working-class Black majority. As a result, the ANC that was loved by the South African people has undergone several significant splits and ruptures as organizers try to chart a new and independent path forward to complete South Africa’s unfinished revolution.
The heroic struggle of the South African people against Apartheid has many lessons for those around the world fighting against racism and oppression. In the videos below, Mthetho Xali, an education officer with International Labor Research and Information Group (ILRIG), and Alex Hotz, an activist with Rhodes Must Fall and Fees Must Fall, speak about their struggles in South Africa. They also speak about their views of the Trump presidency and the importance to fight back against Trump’s agenda of racism and unrestrained capitalism. They share messages of hope, solidarity and internationalism for those building the resistance movement to Trump, and support for the People’s Congress of Resistance.