Notes from the underground

Raymond Suttner, Professor and Head of the Walter and Albertina Sisulu Knowledge and Heritage Unit at the University of South Africa has written a history of the African National Congress, The ANC Underground in South Africa. An ANC underground operative, Ray was jailed for his activities during the apartheid era (he wrote about this in an earlier work, Inside Apartheid's Prison (2001)).

"It is commonly held that the ANC -after its banning in 1960 and the imprisonment of its leaders - largely disappeared off the face of South Africa until public support for it revived in the wake of the Soweto uprising of 1976. This book takes issue with that view. Drawing on substantial oral testimony, Raymond Suttner develops a convincing case that internally based activist, sometimes working independently of the ANC in exile and sometimes in combination, were able to reconstitute networks within South Africa after the organisation's banning. He discusses the broad features of their secret underground work, the impact it had on their personal lives, and the opportunities that were presented for both bravery and abuse. One of the distinctive features of his approach is its treatment of such illegal activity through a gendered lens. Suttner concludes by exploring the dominant position which the ANC had established by the 1970s (partly through underground activity), enabling it to become the prime political beneficiary of the Soweto uprising and ultimately creating the conditions for a negotiated settlement in South Africa."

Tom Lodge, author of Mandela, A critical life says " [This work] will certainly supply the foundation for important revisions in our understanding of the history of anti-apartheid resistance politics and the ANC’s role within them. In particular, it enriches the existing historiography that addresses the 1963–1976 period. It draws upon a rich base of original data as well as assembling evidence from a range of published autobiographical testimony.”

The cover shows Chris Hani, the assassinated People's army leader, dancing the toyi-toyi. Published by Jacana Press ("we publish what we like"!!), this book will shortly be available in India (and will then be on our site, but till then, please just write in to us to ask). Paperback, 256 pages, ISBN 9781770095977.