The Role of â€œFreelanceâ€ Underground Operatives in the Struggle for Liberation in South Africa: The Case of Eastern Transvaal, 1980â€“1990
On 8 April 1960, the National Party (NP) government proscribed the African National Congress (ANC) and Pan Africanist Congress. This broke the back of black political opposition in South Africa, if only temporarily. In exile, the ANC introduced four pillars of its liberation struggle against the NP government. These were the armed struggle, international solidarity, mass mobilisation and underground work. A substantial body of work has been produced on the role of the first three but very little is known about underground work. This is largely due to its covert nature. Yet underground operatives played a significant role in reviving political mobilisation in South Africa that finally led to the defeat of the oppressive regime. In this article I will use the then Eastern Transvaal (todayâ€™s Mpumalanga Province), particularly parts of the Lowveld region, as a case study to demonstrate the impact underground work had on mass political mobilisation inside the country. Drawing on oral testimonies from a number of underground operatives, I will argue that this kind of â€œworkâ€ was not only carried out by individuals who were connected to the ANC, but also by those who were not; i.e. by â€œfreelanceâ€ operatives, particularly women.
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