- Pre 1900: Colonial conquest and resistance
- 1902-1910: Constructing the Union of South Africa: negotiations and contestations
- 1910-1924: African nationalism and working-class and popular protests
- 1924-1939: State policies and social protest
- 1939-1948: The Second World War and its impact
- 1948-1960: Apartheid and the limits of non-violent resistance
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An alphabetical listing of political, civic, youth, & women's 20th century organisations involved in the liberation struggle (including repressive organisations). If you have any suggestions please click here.
African National Congress (ANC)
The ANC has been South Africa's governing party since April 1994. Members first founded the organization as the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) in 1912 in order to protest injustices against the black South African population. The organization formed a military wing, the Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) in 1961.
ANC Women’s League (ANCWL)
The Bantu Women’s League (BWL) was formed in 1918 as a branch of the ANC. It became involved in passive resistance and fought against passes for black women. The ANC only accepted women as members at the Congress’s 1943 conference and in 1948 the ANC Women’s League was formed.
African People's Democratic Union of Southern Africa (APDUSA)
A workers union affiliated to the N.E.U.M. formed in 1961 (PDF)
African People's Organization (APO)
In 1902, Coloureds in Cape Town formed the African Political Organisation to represent the interests of “educated ... Coloured people.”
Azanian People's Organization (AZAPO)
Socialist movement founded in 1978 that found its intellectual stimulus in the Black Consciousness philosophy.
AZAPO’s Women’s Wing: Imbeleko
Imbeleko was formed because AZAPO recognised that women have unique problems, and thus formed a wing that concentrated on women’s affairs.
Azanian Students Organisation (AZASO later SANSCO later SASCO)
SASO was formed under the leadership of Steve Bantu Biko in 1968. The organisation was banned in 1977, leading to the formation of AZASO.
Black Consciousness Movement (BCM)
Black People’s Convention (BPC)
In 1971, to encourage adult participation and promote their broad objectives, SASO leaders established an adult wing of their organisation, the BPC.
In 1955 a small group of white middle-class women who were predominantly English-speaking formed an organization called The Women's Defence of the Constitution League . It came to be called the Black Sash because the women wore black sashes over one shoulder as they stood to demonstrate against discriminatory legislation.
Black Women's Federation
In 1973 Natal women formed a federation of Black women.
In June 1918 disaffected Afrikaners were brought together in a new organisation called Jong Suid-Afrika (Young South Africa). The following year its name was changed to the Afrikaner Broederbond (AB). The organisation had one main aim: to further Afrikaner nationalism in South Africa – to maintain Afrikaner culture and develop an Afrikaner economy.
Christian Institute of South Africa (CISA)
Founded in 1963, many church bodies became members and discussed the influence of apartheid on the church.
Congress of Democrats (COD), South African
In 1953 the South African People's Congress met with the ANC, the SACP, the SAIC, banned members of the Communist Party and other organisations in the Congress Alliance with the view to form a Congress of Democrats (COD).
Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) - outside link
COSATU was launched in December 1985 after four years of unity talks between unions opposed to apartheid and committed to a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa. At the time of the launch COSATU represented workers organised in 33 unions.
Council of Non-European Trade Unions (CNETU)
In 1941 African workers brought together African trade unions to form a federation to be called the Council of Non-European Trade Unions (CNETU).
Democratic Alliance (DA)
The Democratic Party (DP), now the DA, was formed in 1989, when the former Progressive Federal Party, Independent Party and National Democratic Movement merged.
Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW )
FEDSAW or FSAW was launched in 1954 as the first attempt to establish a broad-based women’s organisation.
Federation of South African Trade Unions (FOSATU)
FOSATU came into being after SACTU and FFATU disintegrated in the 1960’s. It aimed to be a national, non-racial umbrella organisation that could coordinate Black trade union movements.
Federation of Transvaal Women (FEDTRAW )
FEDTRAW was formed in 1984, bringing together close to 200 women from all over the Transvaal (now known as Gauteng). The formation of FEDTRAW was based on the celebration of the formation of its mother body Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW).
The Garment Workers Union (GWU)
Formed in 1928 by Emil “Solly” Sachs, this was a union of women factory workers that transcended barriers of colour and class.
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)
In 1975, Chief Gatsha Buthelezi formally launched the Inkatha Cultural Liberation Movement to fan Zulu nationalism and pledge allegiance to him. This movement was later constituted as the non racial political party, IFP.
Natal Organisation of Women (NOW)
NOW was formed in December 1983 as one of the affiliates of the UDF.
National Council of African Women (NCAW)
NCAW was established in 1933, it amalgamated a number of smaller welfare groups countrywide that had formed to improve social conditions for Africans.
National Initiative for Reconciliation (NIR)
Launched in 1985, NIR is a network of Christian individuals, congregations and organisations working for justice, reconciliation and peace in South Africa.
National Land Committee (NLC)
An organisation formed post-1994 to adress issues of land dispossession in South Africa since 1913.
National Party (NP)
The first leader of the NP became Prime Minister as part of the PACT government in 1924. The NP was the governing party of South Africa from 1948 until 1994, and was disbanded in 2005. Its policies included apartheid, the establishment of a South African Republic, and the promotion of Afrikaner culture.
Non-European Unity Movement (NUEM)
Body which aimed to unite, members of the 3 main 'ethnic groups' - Africans, Coloureds and Indians - irrespective of religions, castes, or 'tribes'. Ultimately, white groups would also join to help in the formation of one large federated movement. Launched in 1943, it split in 2 by 1957 and went into decline thereafter.
National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) -outside link
In 1987, NUMSA was formed and merged four different South African metals idustry unions namely; MAWU, MICWU, NAAWU and UMMAWOSA.
National Union of South African Students (NUSAS)
In 1924 the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) was founded aimed at representing and promoting the interests of university and college students. NUSAS was open to students of all races.
Pan Africanist Congress (PAC)
PAC, later called the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania, was a South African liberation movement that later became a political party. The PAC was founded in 1959 after a number of members broke away from the African National Congress (ANC) because of various ideological and theoretical differences.
PAC’s African Women’s Organisation
Formed in 1986, the organisation sees 'national oppression and sexual oppression as two sides of the same coin and is committed to fighting male domination and male chauvinism, alongside male comrades'.
Poqo was formed as an armed wing to the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) during the 1960's
Progressive Federal Party (PFP)
The Progressive Federal Party (PFP), successor to the Progressive Party (PP), was formed in 1977 after a group of liberal members of the United Party (UP), broke away to form a parliamentary opposition against apartheid.
South African Communist Party (SACP)
Founded in 1921, The Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) changed its name to the South African Communist Party (SACP) in the 1950s.
South African Coloured People Organisation (SACPO)
Formed in 1953 SACPO was later renamed the Coloured People Congress (CPC).
South African Indian Congress (SAIC), with NIC and TIC.
The NIC and TIC (previously TBIA) were founded as early as 1894 and 1903 respectively. But it was only as late as 1919 that the SAIC was founded, to spearhead the struggle at a national level.
South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU)
Non-racial trade union formed in 1955
South African Defence Force (SADF)
A history traced back to the 1660s
South African Liberal Party (SALP)
South African Police (SAP)
The SAP that we are familiar with today had its origin after the Second Anglo-Boer War in 1902.
South African Students Movement (SASM)
Schools in the Eastern Cape, the Eastern Transvaal and Soweto formed the SASM in 1972.
South African Student Organisation (SASO)
SASO was formed in 1968 after some members of the University of Natal’s Black Campus SRC (Student Representative Council) decided to break away from NUSAS.
South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO)
SWAPO was founded in South West Africa (presently Namibia) in 1960. The party was originally formed to advocated immediate Namibian independence from South Africa and became the country’s leading party following independence in 1990.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was a court-like body assembled in South Africa after the end of Apartheid. Anybody who felt they had been a victim of violence could come forward and be heard at the TRC. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from prosecution.
Trade Union Council of South Africa (TUCSA)
The Trade Union Council of South Africa (TUCSA) was founded in October 1954 by 61 unions mainly representing White workers and mixed unions of Coloured and Indian workers.
Umkhonto weSizwe (MK)
Umkhonto we Sizwe ("Spear of the Nation") or MK was launched in 1961as an armed wing of the ANC.
United Democratic Front (UDF)
'a united front of churches, civic associations, trade unions, student organisations, and sports bodies’ to fight oppression' - Alan Boesak. The UDF was launched in 1983, delegates of 565 organisations attended the launch.
UDF Women’s Congress
The UDF Women’s Congress was formed on the 23rd of April 1987, primarily as a body that will uphold the Freedom Charter and the Women’s Charter, both which were drawn up in the 1950s.
United Women's Congress (UWCO)
Primarily as a result of parent’s reactions to the 1976 uprisings and their aftermath UWCO was formed in 1981. The organisation took up campaigns such as childcare and the right to crèches, bread price and bus fare increases.
Women's Enfranchisement Association of the Union (WEAU)
Until 1930 there were no women in South Africa who had the right to vote. A small group of suffragists met in Durban in 1911 and formed WEAU to work for their cause: to gain the vote.