Amandla (power)

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Amandla in IsiZulu means "power".[1] The word was a popular rallying cry in the days of resistance against apartheid, used by the African National Congress and its allies. The leader of a group would call out "Amandla!" and the crowd would respond with "Awethu"[2] or "Ngawethu!"[3] (to us), completing the South African version of the rallying cry "power to the people!".[4] The word is still associated with struggles against oppression.

Mandla, which is derived from amandla, is also a common first name in South Africa. The Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC) publishes a magazine by the same name.

Current use in South Africa[edit]

The word amandla is also used when people make a bet, deal or promise; they say the word and hold up their hands with their thumbs up.

Since apartheid ended, people have begun to use the rallying cry "Amandla" to express their grievances against current government policies including those of the ANC. Trade unions still use it at mass meetings and protests.

The use of the term has also become popular again during service delivery protests and among poor people's movements. South Africa's independent social movements such as Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Anti-Eviction Campaign and the Mandela Park Backyarders[5] use "Amandla Ngawethu!" during their anti-government and anti-political party protests.[6][7][8] The chant is often used by the movements as a way of beginning or ending a speech as well as quieting down a crowd when a speaker has something important to say.[9]

Abahalali baseMjondolo have developed the anti-apartheid call and response slogan 'Amandla! Ngawethu!' (Power! It is ours!) to 'Amandla! Awethu ngenkani!' (Power! It is ours by force!)[10]

The Anti-Eviction Campaign also uses the phrase "Power to the Poor People" as a variation on "Amandla Ngawethu" and "Power to the People" to denote the need of poor people's movements to control and speak for themselves and not have wealthy leftist NGOs speak for them.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Amandla, int." Dictionary of South African English. Dictionary Unit for South African English, 2018. [1] 25 February 2019.
  2. ^ "Welcome to the official South African government online site! - South African Government". Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  3. ^ Statement by the President of the ANC, Thabo Mbeki, at the unveiling of the Thokoza Monument, 16 October 1999, Thokoza[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Minister Essop Pahad: Address on the occasion of The Presidency Budget Vote National Assembly, 12 June 2007 Archived 30 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Mandela Park Backyarders". Archived from the original on 15 September 2010. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  6. ^ "Five families from Symphony Way get their keys but refuse to move into their house". Anti-Eviction Campaign. Archived from the original on 2009-11-26.
  7. ^ ""Amandla Awethu": Direct Action by Civil Society in eThekwini". Abahlali baseMjondolo.
  8. ^ "What's the Deal With Toyi-toyi?". Cape Town Magazine.
  9. ^ "Post Annual General Meeting Speech by S'bu Zikode". Abahlali baseMjondolo.
  10. ^ [Mr President 2 Million Jobs is Not Enough!], Polity, 2019
  11. ^ "African movements continue their fights against NGO authoritarianism". Anti-Eviction Campaign. Archived from the original on 2009-05-01.