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date: 26 June 2022

Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK): The ANC’s Armed Wing, 1961–1993locked

Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK): The ANC’s Armed Wing, 1961–1993locked

  • Arianna LissoniArianna LissoniUniversity of the Witwatersrand

Summary

Launched in 1961 by leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa and the South African Communist Party (SACP), Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) was the military wing of the ANC until its disbandment in 1993. The initial stage of MK’s armed struggle involved sabotage against government installations and other symbols of the apartheid regime by a small group of operatives. Under increasing repression by the apartheid state, and thanks to the support received from African and socialist countries, MK adopted a strategy of guerrilla warfare as armed struggle assumed an increasingly central role in the liberation struggle, although the military was understood as an extension of political work, that is, linked to the reinvigoration of political struggle and organizations. Geopolitical constraints prevented MK from waging a conventional guerrilla war, and from the 1970s MK adjusted its strategy by turning to armed propaganda and people’s war. While debates on the role of MK in South Africa’s liberation are often reduced to the relative success or failure of military strategy and action, the history of MK remains a sensitive topic post-apartheid, carrying significant weight both symbolically and in the lives of thousands of people who served in its ranks, including women, who joined and participated in MK throughout the three decades of its existence.

Subjects

  • Southern Africa

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