Wip Theatre Plays UDF REVUES

UDF REVUES

 

UDF   REVUES

1983

In the 1960s, the Apartheid Government established the National Indian Council (1964) and the Coloured Representative Council (1968), advisory bodies to which it appointed members.  Though there were demonstrations against these structures, opportunists, willing to collaborate with the Apartheid Government, accepted appointment to the councils.  About fifteen years later, the government to demonstrate its commitment to democracy to a world that had imposed sanctions on South Africa, announced that the Indian community would be allowed to choose the members of the Indian council and announced elections to this structure.   As the Council was a part of the government's separate development scheme and had no real power, the Indian Congresses mounted a campaign to educate people about this dummy body and at mass meetings exhorted people to boycott the elections. In 1981, when there were sufficient candidates to make it worthwhile, elections were held and only about 2% of the people voted. Though the boycott campaign had been a great success, people had been elected and there was now a South African Indian Council (SAIC).

Immediately after the SAIC elections, still determined to convince the world that separate development was democratic, the Government announced it's plan for a new constitution in the President's Council's (PC) Proposals. A Tri-Cameral Parliament, would be established with three separate chambers, one for Whites, one for Coloureds and one for Indians and matters specific to each race group would be discussed in these separate racial chambers. Matters that required joint discussions would be discussed in the President's Council to which the President appointed twenty-five (White) members, the White Parliament elected twenty members, the Coloured Parliament, ten, and the Indian Parliament, five. In effect, there could be no opposition from Coloureds and Indians as they could always be outvoted. Africans were left out of the PC Proposals as the government believed that it had catered adequately for African people in providing Town Councils and Homelands that were under its control.  This system of separate development was meant to demonstrate to the international community that South Africa was a democracy with universal suffrage.

The Rev Allan Boesak and the Indian Congresses rejected the proposals and began a  massive boycott campaign that united all activists, Black, White, Coloured and Indian. The WIP (Work-in-Progress) Theatre Company became involved in the campaign and from April 1983 put on performances of The Masterplan, a revue that depicted the onerous Section 10 regulations and the fraudulent nature of the PC Proposals.  In August 1983, the United Democratic Front (UDF) was launched and formally brought all organisations opposed to apartheid under one umbrella.  WIP Theatre Company joined the UDF.

The Masterplan, written at the request of the Natal Indian Congress (NIC), was first performed at a celebration in April 1983 to welcome back Terror Lekota, who had been released from prison.  After this initial performance, the revue was performed at NIC mass meetings. In September 1983, it was banned a week before a fund-raising function and Chicken Licken was written to take its place.  In response to a request, Alan's Coon Carnival was written for the Coloured community.  The final revue, devised with a group of youngsters from Lamontville, was entitled Freedom Train. As this was an improvised piece, it did not survive. 

Information on Section 10 provisions, influx control regulations and the homelands policy (attempts to turn South Africa into a White homeland by denying African people citizenship) was obtained from Sheena Duncan's Black Sash papers.

 

THE MASTERPLAN 

(April 1983)

Critics tended to label all work by black theatre artists as agit prop, protest theatre, didactic. I do not believe that most of my plays were protest plays. With the exceptions of We 3 Kings, which is a satire based on the South African Indian Council elections of 1981, and Luci's Dilemma, a farce that lampoons apartheid, my plays examine the influence of apartheid on people's understanding of who they are, how they relate to others, what they believe and how they act.

The Masterplan, however, and the other UDF revues, written at the time of the President's Council's (PC) Proposals for a Tri-Cameral Parliament, were clearly didactic in intent.

The first of the revues, The Masterplan, was written at the request of The Natal Indian Congress (NIC)[1] which had just been involved in an Anti-SAIC campaign calling for a boycott of elections to the South African Indian Council, and was embarking on a campaign to oppose the PC proposals. The NIC organised mass meetings to make people aware of the fraudulent nature of the PC proposals and to dissuade them from voting.  It was at these events that The Masterplan was performed.

I am not sure that the revue will make much sense to people today.  Reading the background material obtained from Sheena Duncan of the Black Sash may help.


 


[1] A key organisation in the formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF)

 

 

 

CHICKEN LICKEN

(September 1983)

Chicken Licken was written practically overnight to replace The Masterplan, banned just about a week before an important United Democratic Front fundraiser for which tickets had been sold.  The new revue covered the same material, the Koornhof Bills, which restricted the movement of African people into urban areas and attempted to confine them to Homelands, and the President's Council's (PC) Proposals for a new constitution.  The PC proposals represented the culmination of the apartheid government's attempts to create separate governing bodies for all black people of South Africa. 

These attempts had begun in the early sixties immediately after group areas removals had divided the population into clearly demarcated racial areas.  African people were to be governed by ethnic Homeland Governments in rural areas, and by town councils in urban townships. For Coloureds and Indians, the government appointed advisory bodies, known as the Coloured Representative Council and the National Indian Council to advise the government on issues concerning these minority groups. All these structures were under close control of the white central government. Though there were huge protests against these attempts to hoodwink the communities, the country and the international community, with a form of government masquerading as democracy, a small minority in each community chose to collaborate and give credibility to apartheid separate development.  

In the 1970s, the government moved from ‘self-governing' homelands to ‘independent' homelands for Africans.  After Transkei (1976), Bophuthatswana (1977) and Venda (1979) accepted ‘independence' and became ‘Sovereign' States, the government turned to the question of Coloured and Indian ‘self-determination.'   As appointment to the Indian Council contradicted the notion of self-determination, the government announced elections to this structure which would now be known as the South African Indian Council (SAIC). The Indian Congresses immediately launched Anti-SAIC campaigns to educate people and lead a boycott of the elections.  After many postponements of the election date, elections were eventually held on 4 November 1981. Despite the almost total boycott of the sham elections, the government, with the co-operation of collaborators, proceeded as though the Councils had received mandates from their communities and after the elections, established the President's Council, which was to draw up a new constitution.

The President's Council, which included a few Coloured and Indian appointees, drew up proposals for a new constitution that would cater for Coloureds and Indians in a Tri-cameral Parliament: three separate parliaments - the existing parliament for whites, and two new chambers, one for Coloureds and one for Indians for which elections would be held.  The white parliament would deal with issues concerning the whole country; the Coloured and Indian Parliaments would be allocated certain limited areas in their own ethnic communities. 

Organisations that repudiated the PC Proposals came together as The United Democratic Front (UDF), to make people aware that the vote meant collusion in their own oppression. WIP Theatre Company, as an organisation in the UDF, became involved in disseminating information about the PC Proposals.  The Masterplan had depicted the meaning of the Koornhof Bills and the President's Council's Proposals for a Tri-Cameral Parliament, but Chicken Licken focused on the opportunism of collaborators.

Chicken Licken was presented in the same style as The Masterplan.

Five Actors in black played all the parts.  They used appropriate accessories such as hats, caps, scarves, etc to indicate changes in character.  They interacted freely with the audience. 

Stage and auditorium lights remained on during the entire performance.

Dialogue was interspersed with song and dance. 

A guitarist provided musical accompaniment.

 

ALAN'S COON CARNIVAL

(September 1983)

This revue, like The Masterplan and Chicken Licken, was performed with a cast of five actors and a guitarist.  Each actor played multiple roles. Props, hats, clothing items easily donned and doffed, hand props, etc, indicated changes in roles.  Auditorium and stage lights remained on for the entire performance.

Unlike The Masterplan and Chicken Licken, this revue is set in the future, two years after the Tri-Cameral elections for the Coloured and Indian Houses of Parliament. The revue presents the second anniversary celebration of the establishment of The Coloured House of Representatives in a variety programme on the Coloured People's TV Show.

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