Matilda Vantura, June 2023
My thoughts go back to the launch of United Democratic Front (UDF). I was attending classes at Hewat Training College in Athlone to finish my Primary Teachers Diploma (PTD). We wrote tests on that day when the UDF was launched, so I missed the launch, but my heart was in Mitchells Plain.
I was also active in the Cape Housing Action Committee (CAHAC). In Elsies River, we campaigned for houses, security, and comfort. We did lots of door-to-door work, handing out pamphlets, talking to people, encouraging them to join our campaigns, doing surveys, and organising house meetings.
The late Mr. Wilfred Rhodes was the CAHAC organizer. He taught us how to run house meetings, do workshops. Theresa Solomons and Uncle Willy of Mitchells Plain, were my teachers. The late Mr Joseph Marks from Steenberg and Retreat, made all our CAHAC meetings very lively and interesting. We looked forward to every CAHAC meeting because you learn new things every time.
I was also involved in the Children’s Movement, with the Children’s Resource Centre and Marcus Solomon, and Molo Songololo with Patric Solomons. We established children’s groups in Elsies River, and elsewhere, and organised children’s mothers and women into the United Women’s Congress.
Through the UDF we also made the community our second home. That is where I picked up community development skills. We got media training with the Community Arts Project, as well as poetry and creative writing lessons, and gender training.
The UDF as umbrella organisation and movement. The UDF made it possible to meet people from all walks of life, different background, experiences, and all with different skills.
What was so amazing for me was the fact that nobody was selfish. EACH ONE TEACH ONE, became a reality to me. Everything I was Taught in the organisation’s I took back to the Northern Suburbs to empower the people for a better life.
The UDF gave me power to face the struggle in the staffroom where I taught. If gave me power to face the council authorities, who we faced in the rent offices; and to talk to people on a Saturday morning at an information table or confronting the day hospital superintendent about bad treatment of patients.
Community House in Salt River became our second home. It was a centre of connection, a safe haven; a place where like-minded people gathered, shared experiences and planned action campaigns. Children, youth, women, trade unions, and media organisations, all under one roof.
The UDF united us against Apartheid. It was a united democratic front of people’s power, through community actions. Such a united people’s movement can fight poverty, violence, crime, corruption, poor services; and become actively involved in and hold government and parliament to account.
Matilda Vantura is a Educator, community leader, organiser, activist, project developer; women’s empowerment innovator, parliamentarian, mother, and grandmother