Breaking the Fetters in Durban

A Film Screening of Breaking the Fetters by Hennie Serfontein

As South Africa moves to celebrate 25 years of democracy, we look back at an event that set the ball rolling on the road to a negotiated settlement.


The almost 60-minute long documentary film ‘Breaking the Fetters’ (1987), directed by Hennie Serfontein, tells the story of how representatives of the then banned ANC met with prominent Afrikaners from all fields of society opposing the apartheid regime in Dakar, Senegal in 1987. Even though the Afrikaners faced backlash upon their return to South Africa, this historic meeting paved the way for a negotiated settlement and democracy.

At the time, the film material had to be smuggled out of South Africa and was edited in Amster-dam, as the ANC and its leaders were still banned, imprisoned or exiled. The film includes inter-views and footage of former President Thabo Mbeki who led the delegation at the time and then ANC President Oliver Tambo while in exile in Lusaka. After the ANC leaders returned from exile in 1990, a new version of the documentary was produced in 1993 which also included then President of the ANC, Nelson Mandela.

The screening ended with a panel discussion which consisted of apartheid stalwart and retired ANC presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj, political analyst and Civil society veteran Sthembiso Madlala, Blessing Nyoni of Abahlali Basemjondo Movement as well as Riaan Van Greunen.

According to Ms. Anli Serfontein, the screening in Durban was one of the 3 screening this year to be held in commemoration of the 25 years of Democracy and the 31st Anniversary of the historic meeting in Dakar, respectively in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.

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