ANC National Conference and Plans of Mass Action ↵ 

The ANC held its National Policy Conference between 28 and 31 May. The conference confirmed the agreements that were reached at Codesa and provided guidelines for its vision of the process.

“One purpose of the conference was to adopt a set of pragmatic policies demonstrating that the ANC was ready to govern. Another important objective was to review the recommendations of a “negotiations commission”. This was a committee of senior alliance leaders who were earlier mandated to create a plan of action to “force the government to begin negotiating seriously about an interim government.” The report began by analysing the balance of forces in the country, revealing a deepening crisis but a regime commanding great military and other resources. The report emphasized the importance of dealing with negotiations as “an arena of Struggle”, and encouraged the ANC to make sure that “negotiations and mass action are creatively linked”. The ANC’s strategic objectives should be the removal of the regime from power, by breaking its resistance, thus leading to a speedy transition to democracy, while strengthening the ANC at the same time. The programme of action was to include: sustained or ‘rolling’ mass action, the setting of deadlines for the introduction of an interim administration and constituent assembly, and an increased public focus on political violence. 

The report outlined four aims that were meant to guide the ANC’s action programme. The first was to “expose the government’s complicity in murder, violence, and the destabilisation of political opponents”. The second aim was to “expose the scandals and gross abuse of power of the regime”. The third was to dismantle apartheid rule by resisting remaining apartheid laws and dismantling the Bantustan system, especially in Bophuthatswana and Ciskei. The fourth would be to advance democracy by exposing the regimes dishonesty in the negotiation process, particularly at Codesa and with emphasis on exposing the governments double agenda of participating in negotiations while “destabilising and undermining its political opponents”.

The conference accepted the commission’s recommendations and decided to embark on a new campaign of mass action. Rolling mass action would proceed in four phases, as Anthea Jeffery (2009) outlines: 

“The first phase would begin on 16 June with 70 rallies in diverse towns and cities and would last until the end of the month. The second phase would start on 1 July and would be marked by marches, boycotts, and acts of civil disobedience. Phase three would begin in August with a national strike, and was also intended to bring governance to a standstill through besieging and occupying government buildings. Phase four would start thereafter and would be maintained until the government was overthrown.”

The government condemned this plan. Stoffel van der Merwe accused Ramaphosa and Mandela of using violent and racist rhetoric which did not credit the ANC. On 2 June 1992, mass action began with a strike at Soweto’s Baragwanath Hospital. The National Education and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) insisted on a minimum wage of R724 a month, rejecting an offer of R708 a month and called on its members to strike. More than 1500 general assistants stopped working, as well as others who were not Nehawu members but who were unable to do their jobs. Furthermore, strikers prevented store personnel from delivering goods, while clerks, kitchen staff and general assistants were moved out of their work stations. The strike then spread to nine other hospitals.” 

 Source: South African History Online:




It was with disappointment that I took note of the aggressive tone and the style of conflict which characterise recent ANC statements.

Protest actions of the extent and nature which are envisaged do not accord with the spirit of honest negotiation to which the ANC and its alliance partners have committed themselves at CODESA. They are also at variance with the spirit of the Peace Accord.

The present state of affairs with regard to the negotiation process can also not be rendered as justification for this type of mass action. There is no reason to assume that we cannot continue in the foreseeable future to build successfully on the good progress which has already been made with negotiations regarding the transitional phase to a new political dispensation.

Similarly, nobody anymore doubts the irreversibility of the reform process.

It is untrue to allege that the Government is clinging to power at all cost as long as possible; indeed, the Government is committed to instituting transitional government in a justifiable manner as soon as it is practicable.

Within this framework the planned actions of the ANC and its allies are untimely, uncalled for and, given the present climate of violence, irresponsible.

The Government will not be intimidated by the present threats or any actions flowing therefrom. We will persist in our efforts to remove remaining obstacles in the path of constitutional reform through discussion and negotiation.

The assurance is given to the public that the Government has done, and will continue doing everything in its power to see to it that law and order is maintained and that disruption will be kept to a minimum.

I appeal to law-abiding and peace-loving South Africans to give their co-operation to the authorities in this regard, not to allow themselves to be intimidated and to distance themselves from disruptive and undemocratic actions.