The Natal Indian Congress, the Mass Democratic Movement and the Struggle to Defeat Apartheid: 1980–1994

Ashwin Desai, Goolam Vahed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract: The Natal Indian Congress (NIC) was revived in 1971 in the context of what has become known as the ‘Durban moment’. This period also witnessed the emergence of the Black Consciousness Movement and an independent trade union movement inspired by the 1973 Durban strikes. Despite a government crackdown and opposition from anti-apartheid groups that asserted that ethnic identities were a relic of the past, the NIC attracted younger activists through the 1970s and by the early 1980s, had survived the banning and detention of its leadership to become involved in civic struggles over housing and education, and in mobilizing against government-created political structures. It also played a pivotal role in the United Democratic Front formed in 1983. This did not mean that the NIC was monolithic. The 1980s spawned vibrant and often vicious debates within the NIC over participation in government-created structures, allegations of cabals and, as democracy dawned, differing opinions of the future of an organization that first came into being in the last decade of the nineteenth century. In critically interrogating this crucial period between 1980 and 1994, when mass-based struggle was renewed, two states of emergency were imposed and apartheid eventually ended, this article adds to the growing historiography of the anti-apartheid struggle by focusing on an important but neglected aspect of that story. It focuses on the internal workings of the NIC and the relationship between the NIC, the emergent Mass Democratic Movement and the African National Congress (ANC) in the context of broader political and economic changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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