ZACF in press: anarchism “besmirched” by ANC (2007)

South African media rarely reports on the far left; its political attention is largely focussed on the major parties, which are today the EFF (a media darling with its headline grabbing actions), the ruling ANC, and the conservative DA. Smaller parties get some press time, but not much. The only left force that gets any attention, and then, only sporadically, is WASP, the small Marxist party. The South African anarchists are no exception, rarely getting mentioned in the state or capitalist press (where the term “anarchist” is usually a term of abuse).

That said, at least one ZACF statement did make the media — a statement complaining about the mis(use) of the term “anarchist” by an ANC-run town council in 2007.

The statement is here, and an examples of press coverage is below:

26 Jun 2007, Mail and Guardian

Nelson Mandela Rylaan? No, Dela Rylaan!

A little-known organisation has taken offence to the Potchefstroom city council blaming “racist anarchists” for the vandalisation of new street signs.


The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (ZACF) said its reputation had been “besmirched” by the remarks of council spokesperson Kaizer Mohau.

“We presume that Mohau is simply politically naive in … his mistaken attribution of these acts of vandalism,” the ZACF said in a statement on Tuesday. It described itself as a “small but active anarchist movement in Southern Africa”.

Mohau said on Monday that “racist anarchists” in Potchefstroom were removing new street-name signs and dumping them in the Vaal River. He said 15 to 20 new signs had been dumped in the river.

He said a street sign for Nelson Mandela Rylaan (avenue) had also been defaced to read “Dela Rylaan”—an apparent reference to Boer war general Koos de la Rey.

“Sixty percent of new progressive street names have been removed in the last few months,” he said.

Mohau said these actions were aimed at causing what he termed “political and social instability” and would not be tolerated.

The ZACF said the defacement of signs had been “clearly” carried out by racist right-wingers opposed to transformation, “not by left-wingers among whom we anarchists proudly count ourselves”.

Feelings have been running high over the past few months over proposals to rename Potchefstroom to Tlokwe. The final decision has not yet been taken.—Sapa


About Lucien van der Walt

I teach at Rhodes University, the Eastern Cape. I’m South African, born and bred. I have long been involved in union education, and have a background in social movement and left-wing activism, the Workers’ Library and Museum, the Anti-Privatisation Forum, and the National Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU). I’ve presented or published 100s of papers conferences and workshops, published in key journals like 'Capital and Class' and 'Labor History', have co-edited 4 journal specials (these on global labour history, African labour, and unions in the Global South), and produced five books. I was Southern Africa editor for the 2009 'International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest' (Blackwell). My focus has been on South Africa, but I have also done research in Zambia and Zimbabwe. I won the 2008 international 'Labor History' thesis prize, and the 2008/2009 Council for the Development of Social Science Research prize for best African dissertation, for my PhD thesis on South African anarchism, syndicalism and black militants. My books includd include 'Politics at a Distance from the State: Radical and African Perspectives' (2018, co-edited with Kirk Helliker), 'Negro e Vermelho: anarquismo, sindicalismo revolucionário e pessoas de cor na África Meridional nas décadas de 1880-1920,' and 'Anarchism and Syndicalism in the Colonial and Postcolonial World, 1880-1940: the praxis of national liberation, internationalism, and social revolution' (co-edited with Steve Hirsch, Brill, 2010/ 2014).