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Grassroots Publications, Cape Town
1980 - 1990
UNITED DEMOCRATIC FRONT
Grassroots was started in 1980 as the first of a series of community newspapers designed to give a voice to the 'voiceless' and oppressed peoples of South Africa. Only 5000 copies of the first (March 1980) edition were printed although in subsequent years circulation grew to between fifteen and twenty thousand. Grassroots was made up of over 60 democratic organisations: the civics under Western Cape Civic Association (WCCA) and Cape Housing Action Committee (CHAC), women's and youth organisations, the youth under Cape Youth Congress (CYCO), many trade unions and the United Democratic Front (UDF) were all linked in some way. The members of these organisations kept Grassroots alive by giving news and selling the paper itself. Grassroots struggled financially, but was assisted by small donations and the advertising sold to small Cape Town traders. Eight months after Grassroots began, its first organiser, Johnny Issel, was banned. However, it survived many further attacks from the government, going on to help communities start their own newspapers: Saamstaan, for example, represented the oppressed communities of Oudtshoorn, Mossel Bay, George, Ladismith, Swellendam, Calitzdorp and many other small towns. It was largely through this democratising role that Grassroots fulfilled its potential by providing a voice for these communities, uniting them against oppression and injustice, and building opposition against apartheid.
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