Thursday, 5 April 2012

An Experiment in Confrontation: The Pro-Frelimo Rallies of 1974*

by Julian Brown, Journal of Southern African Studies

This article examines the political nature of South Africa’s Black Consciousness movement through an account of the pro-Frelimo rallies organised in Durban and at the University of the North by the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO) and the Black People’s Convention (BPC) in September 1974. It places these rallies in the context of these organisations’ adoption of confrontational and public forms of protest after 1972. These represent a high-water mark in Black Consciousness organisation and provided the excuse for the state’s prosecution of the leaders of the movement. Despite this, these rallies have been understudied. This article therefore presents a new account of these protests. It shows how the leaders of SASO and the BPC progressively revised their ideas about public confrontation through the process of
organising these rallies. After the Minister of Justice announced his intention to ban them, these leaders refused to back down. The rallies each took place as planned, and each provoked a response from local police forces – which, in turn, were clearly expecting the rallies and prepared for the task of dispersing them. This article suggest that the embrace of confrontational forms of protest by SASO and the BPC should be understood as representing a significant moment in the development of public forms of mass protest in South Africa.
Click here to download this paper in pdf.