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    Freedom in Our Lifetime
    South Africa 1984
    From "A Force More Powerful"

    Subject:     World History and Culture - South Africa

    Ages:     12+.

    Length:     Snippet: 25 minutes; Lesson: Approximately one 45 - 55 minute class period depending on how deeply teachers want to go into nonviolent mass actoin.

    Learner Outcomes/Objectives:     Students will have striking mental images of and understand the complex cooperative nature of ant behaviors.

    Rationale:     It is important for students to understand the complexity and cooperative behaviors that can develop in the insect world.

    Description of the Snippet:     This is the first segment of the documentary, "A Force More Powerful". The film describes six occasions in which nonviolent mass action changed governments or promoted social reform.

Learner Outcomes/Objectives
Description of the Snippet
Supplemental Materials
Links to the Internet

    Supplemental Materials

    A note about nomenclature.    Civil disobedience has come to mean masses of powerless people acting nonviolently to change their situation. However, civil disobedience also means breaking unjust laws or, in an effort to publicize injustice, breaking other laws. In this Learning Guide the term "civil disobedience" will be used in its narrower technical sense. The larger set of tactics, pioneered by Gandhi and used in countries all over the world, including boycotts, sit-ins, demonstrations, marches, etc. will be referred to as "nonviolent mass action."

    Three Types of Methods Used in
    Nonviolent Mass Action

    198 Methods of Nonviolent Action have been catalogued. They can be divided into three categories: protest, noncooperation, and direct action. In the paragraphs below some of the methods used in India, Nashville, and South Africa are discussed in relation to these categories.

      South Africa: protests: there were mass meetings which publicized the activists' demands and motivated their supporters); noncooperation: the boycott of the merchants put financial pressure on one segment of the business community and divided the oppressors; the sit-ins were also events that led to publicity; direct intervention: None. (Direct intervention by the South African protesters would have led to brutal repression.)

    After the end of apartheid, Mkhuseli Jack started a construction business in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. He devoted a lot of time to his family and was appointed to the Consultative Advisory Forum for Marine Living Resources.

    South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is an excellent example of how a successful nonviolent reform movement treats its former opponents. The Commission was set up by the Government of National Unity to help heal the wounds of the apartheid era. The TRC had three committees: the Amnesty Committee, the Reparation and Rehabilitation Committee, and the Human Rights Violations Committee. On October 26, 1996 the TRC submitted a final report to President Nelson Mandela.

    People who had perpetrated political crimes during apartheid could obtain amnesty from the Commission if they made a full and truthful disclosure of their activities. Many white and black perpetrators confessed and were exonerated. See, e.g., the story of Amy Biel and the boy who murdered her in Learning Guide to "Cry the Beloved Country". However, many would not comply with this requirement and were denied amnesty. One example was the security officer who tortured Mkhuseli Jack in August 1985. See TRC AMNESTY COMMITTEE DECISION REGARDING GERHARDUS JOHANNES NIEUWOUDT.

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the chairman of the TRC. Below is a section of his forward to the Commission's final report.
    Those who brought to birth the TRC process also ought to be commended for their wisdom, which has recently been demonstrated no more clearly than by the trial [and acquittal] of Dr. Wouter Basson. [See Article on Dr. Walter Basson from Court TV's Crime Library]. Without making any judgment on the correctness of the judge's decision, the case has shown clearly how inadequate the criminal justice system can be in exposing the full truth of, and establishing clear accountability for what happened in our country. More seriously, we have seen how unsuccessful prosecutions lead to bitterness and frustration in the community. Amnesty applicants often confessed to more gruesome crimes than were the subject of the Basson trial, yet their assumption of responsibility, and the sense that at least people were getting some measure of truth from the process, resulted in much less anger. For the sake of our stability, it is fortunate that the kind of details exposed by the Commission did not come out in a series of criminal trials, which -- because of the difficulty of proving cases beyond reasonable doubt in the absence of witnesses other than co-conspirators -- most likely would have ended in acquittals. ...

    It is something of a pity that, by and large, the white community failed to take advantage of the Truth and Reconciliation process. They were badly let down by their leadership. Many of them carry a burden of a guilt which would have been assuaged had they actively embraced the opportunities offered by the Commission; those who do not consciously acknowledge any sense of guilt are in a sense worse off than those who do. Apart from the hurt that it causes to those who suffered, the denial by so many white South Africans even that they benefited from apartheid is a crippling, self-inflicted blow to their capacity to enjoy and appropriate the fruits of change. But mercifully there have been glorious exceptions. All of us South Africans must know that reconciliation is a long haul and depends not on a commission for its achievement but on all of us making our contribution. It is a national project after all is said and done.

    We have been privileged to help to heal a wounded people, though we ourselves have been, in Henri Nouwen's profound and felicitous phrase, 'wounded healers'. When we look around us at some of the conflict areas of the world, it becomes increasingly clear that there is not much of a future for them without forgiveness, without reconciliation. God has blessed us richly so that we might be a blessing to others. Quite improbably, we as South Africans have become a beacon of hope to others locked in deadly conflict that peace, that a just resolution, is possible. If it could happen in South Africa, then it can certainly happen anywhere else. Such is the exquisite divine sense of humour. Chairperson's Forward.
    Discussion Questions with Suggested Answers -- South Africa

    For the discussion questions in the form of a comprehension test, suitable to be printed and distributed to a class, see Comprehension Test -- Freedom in Our Lifetime -- South Africa 1984. Note that the test assumes that the concepts underlying the answers to the questions have been discussed in class.

    1.  How did activists in the Indian movement for independence, in the Nashville sit-ins, and in the opposition to apartheid in South Africa use the three forms of nonviolent mass action: protests (such as meetings, parades, and demonstrations), noncooperation (such as boycotts and resignations) and direct intervention (such as factory occupations, takeovers, and blockades)? Suggested Response: There are several correct answers. Some suggested good responses are: India: protests: mass meetings and demonstrations; noncooperation: the refusal to pay the salt tax; the boycott of cloth made in England, the resignations of village headmen and other officials; direct intervention: the effort to take over the salt works; Nashville sit-ins: protests: mass meetings and the march on the Mayor's office; noncooperation: the boycott of downtown stores that would not integrate their facilities; direct intervention: sitting at the lunch counters; South Africa: protests: there were mass meetings, often limited to funerals, the only public forum that was permitted by the government; noncooperation: the boycott of white-owned stores; direct intervention: None.

    2.  For each use of the three forms of nonviolent action listed in your answer to the preceding question, briefly describe how each action contributed to the campaign of nonviolence. Suggested Response: There are several correct answers. Any answer that shows that the student is beginning to grapple with the way in which nonviolent mass action works should be given credit. Some suggested good responses are set out at Three Types of Methods Used in Nonviolent Mass Action.

    3.  What was the role of economics in the triumph of the blacks of South Africa? Suggested Response: As shown by this episode in the movie, it was essential. The international economic sanctions and internal resistance forced white South African businesses to recognize that an apartheid future was one of economic stagnation and eventual decline. This is not to denigrate the courage of de Klerk and his white supporters in releasing Mandela and engineering a turnover of power from the white minority to the black majority. But economic pressure was a major motivating factor.

    4.  What action by the South African government showed that it had lost the consent of the majority to govern them? Suggested Response: The fact that the government had to declare states of emergency and martial law to keep control.

    5.  Did the violent struggle by the ANC and other revolutionary groups have any hope of success against the apartheid government? Suggested Response: Not much. The apartheid government had well trained troops that were armed with modern weapons. As a last resort it had about six nuclear weapons.

    Links to the Internet -- South Africa


Possible Problems for this Snippet:     None.

Location on DVD: This snippet starts 30 minutes into the film, after the segment on the Nashville Sit-ins.

Why not show the whole movie? TWM strongly recommends this film, especially the sections on the Nashville Sit-ins, Gandhi and the Indian independence movement, the resistance to apartheid in South Africa, and the emergence of Solidarity in Poland. See Learning Guide to "A Force More Powerful".

This Snippet Lesson Plan consists of sections of the Learning Guide to "A Force More Powerful".

Click here for a website from the filmmakers.

Question #1 has been adapted from Question #1 in the Discussion Questions suggested in the website from the filmmakers. The answers have been supplied by TWM.

This section of the Learning Guide explores what the South African blacks did when apartheid was abandoned and the majority came to govern South Africa. It is the best example of the principles of nonviolence applied to the aftermath of a successful struggle.

Click here for a website from the filmmakers.

BUILDING VOCABULARY: apartheid, casualties, appalled, strife, boycott, ungovernable, civic organizations, umbrella (as in an umbrella organization), organizer, surge, most effective weapon yet, tolerate, state of emergency, occupy (as in an army occupying an area), crisis, military intelligence, passive resistance, spontaneous, outburst, discredit, legitimate, grievances, negotiations, deadline; reimpose, banning order, fascism, exodus, marshall law, scour, disperse, legitimacy, viable.

The boycott leaders were concerned about defections during the Christmas buying season. One of the reasons they suspended the boycott in the fall was to prevent division in their own ranks. Leaders of nonviolent mass action must be able to gauge the commitment of their followers.

When Mkhuseli Jack stated that "Monday is the D-Day" he was referring to the day for the beginning of a major action to liberate a people. D-Day was the code name for the date of the invasion of Normandy in WWII, the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany.

The Indian followers of Gandhi, the Nashville students conducting the sit-ins, and the citizens of the South African townships led by Mkhuseli Jack mobilized the "buying power" of their people.

The violent struggle of the African National Congress against apartheid came to nothing. The apartheid government had a well trained army and had clandestinely put together six nuclear weapons. It could not be overthrown by military means. The ANC adapted by pressing the nonviolent struggle. The South Africans forged new ground applying the principles of nonviolence in creating a second political miracle, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The government and people of South Africa offered perpetrators of political violence during the anti-apartheid struggle, both black and white, immunity from prosecution if they confessed their crimes and sought forgiveness. Mandela's government also voluntarily and verifiably gave up its nuclear weapons. Information about the South African nuclear bombs from "Living Under the Cloud", Time Magazine, August 1, 2008, pg. 38.

Give us your feedback! Was the Guide helpful? If so, which sections were most helpful? Do you have any suggestions for improvement? Email us!

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

Reminder: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing this snippet.

Question #1 has been adapted from the first question in the Discussion Questions suggested in the website from the filmmakers. The answers have been supplied by TWM. For TWM's suggested answers, see Answers to Discussion Questions for "A Force More Powerful".

The young activists in South Africa didn't come up with the breakthrough tactic of staging a boycott. That was suggested by middle aged women.

(1) in PDF or (2) instructions on how to print from your web browser.

    Assessment:      None.

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