Married to the ANC: Tanzanian Women's Entanglement in South Africa's Liberation Struggle


Lissoni, Arianna, and Maria Suriano. 2014. “Married to the ANC: Tanzanian Women’s Entanglement in South Africa’s Liberation Struggle.” Journal of Southern African Studies 40 (1): 129–50. doi:10.1080/03057070.2014.886476.

Authors: Arianna Lissoni, Maria Suriano


The end of apartheid has opened up new research possibilities into the history of the African National Congress (ANC). Yet the scholarship on the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), remains largely restricted to questions of strategic, political and military effectiveness. The transnational character of the anti-apartheid struggle is mostly absent from nationalist historiographies, while little is known about the daily lives of those who made up the ranks of MK, their interactions with host communities, and the implications of having a large, predominantly male army – with their feelings, longings and frustrations – stationed outside South Africa's borders for three decades. Morogoro, a small upcountry town in Tanzania, was one of the key sites where relations between South African exiles and Tanzanians were forged. In the early years of exile, relationships between ANC/MK cadres and Tanzanian women were not officially sanctioned by the movement, but from the late 1970s they were increasingly formalised through marriage. In this way, the lives of many Tanzanian women became entangled with the South African liberation struggle. Relationships and marriages between South African exiles and Tanzanian women were not only a significant aspect of everyday life in exile, but also key components of an ANC familyhood, linked in turn to expressions of masculinity in MK and to the making of a national community and imaginary. This article seeks to illustrate the complex implications and present repercussions of these marriages and relationships by tracing the lives of seven Tanzanian women, which reveal a multiplicity of personal and emotional entanglements that are obscured by a narrow focus on military and strategic objectives.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Forced Migration, Gender, Women, Masculinity/ies Regions: Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa, Tanzania

Year: 2014

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