Have You Heard From Johannesburg is seven documentary stories, produced and directed by Connie Field, chronicling the history of the global anti-apartheid movement that took on South Africa’s entrenched apartheid regime and its international supporters who considered South Africa an ally in the Cold War.
I watched this documentary series on the BBC, probably in 2012. I wish it was more readily available. I believe everyone should see it. Visit Clarity Films to get the DVDs or watch online. If you have access via Kanopy or Box of Broadcasts, you could watch it on those platforms too.
I use some of the episodes in my teaching. The Road to Resistance and Free at Last, I use to explain how the trajectory of most anti-racist resistance movements often move through similar phases of external silence, increasing support, minor superficial gains and then seemingly major gains. However, often ignored is how the object of resistance during this time reforms itself in new ways to continue to largely serve its original exploitative purpose… the structure of oppression has changed so much in the duration of the struggle that the fight seems completely successful. But the fight has taken too long. The oppression oppresses in different ways now. It did not disappear. It changed address.
With From Selma to Soweto and The Bottom Line, I explain how each system of oppression has an economic foundation. As Cedric Robinson says, racial violence is a permanent, rather than anterior, condition of capital accumulation. So, while it is possible to encourage companies to be socially responsible, as long as companies consider their bottom line to be their main purpose, they will continue to create and exploit inequalities to increase that bottom line. Another point to be taken from viewing not just these two episodes, but the entire series, is the global nature of racial oppression and also the global nature of the resistance to it. It takes the whole world. There is no apolitical sphere.
Episode 1: Road To Resistance 1948 – 1964: The world reacts with horror when protesters are gunned down in the town of Sharpeville and the entire ANC leadership is forced underground or imprisoned.
Episode 2 : Hell Of A Job : 1960 – 1969: ANC Deputy President Oliver Tambo escapes into exile and embarks on what will become a 30-year journey to engage the world in the struggle to bring democracy to South Africa.
Episode 3: The New Generation 1969 – 1977: It is youth, both inside and outside, who next join the growing movement against apartheid.
Episode 5: From Selma to Soweto 1977 – 1986:: A grassroots movement to get colleges, city councils, and states to divest their holdings in companies doing business in South Africa spreads across the entire nation pressuring the U.S. Congress to finally sanction South Africa.
Episode 6: The Bottom Line 1965 – 1988: Boycotts and divestment campaigns bring the anti-apartheid movement into the lives and communities of people around the world, helping everyday people understand and challenge Western economic support for apartheid.
Episode 7: Free At Last 1979 – 1990: A mass movement gains unprecedented momentum when three generations of resistance fighters band together as The United Democratic Front (UDF). Faced with growing international isolation, the apartheid government tries to win allies and convince the world of the merit of its piecemeal reforms even as it struggles to suppress open revolt, at times using savage secret tactics. Caught between an unstoppable internal mass movement and ongoing international pressure, the apartheid regime is finally forced to the negotiating table and at last lifts the decades-long bans on the ANC. After twenty-seven years in prison, Nelson Mandela is released, sparking a global celebration as he tours the world to thank all. After 30 years in exile, Oliver Tambo is finally able to return to South Africa.