South African’s National Liberation Movement

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Oslo Conference

Extract from the statement of the Secretary General, Alfred Nzo

15 March, 1989

On behalf of the National Executive Committee of our organisation we bring warm revolutionary greetings to this historic meeting of representatives of the diplomatic service of the African National Congress and officials of the Treasurer`s department. Permit us, comrades, to convey the special salutations of our President, Comrade Oliver Tambo, who has been denied the opportunity of being present here by numerous urgent tasks he has to attend to in the interests of the further escalation of our revolutionary struggle.

From the outset, comrades, we must underline the special gratitude of our organisation and the democratic majority of our country to the government and people of Norway for hosting this important meeting. We estimate their assistance in this regard as marking up yet another milestone in the development of our relations which have pursued a positive course in the last few years. We hope to maintain the present tempo of our relations to the mutual benefit of our two peoples.

Initially this meeting had been convened to plan and implement a broad programme for the mobilisation of material and financial assistance for the pursuit of our revolutionary struggle. That remains an important platform for our future work during the next few days. However, realising that this aim could only be achieved in an atmosphere of better understanding and appreciation of the broad political perspectives of our struggle by the masses of the people amongst whom we are working, it became necessary that we organise our programme in such a way as to be able to exchange views on our experiences in this work. The aim of those exchanges by the political representative would be to maximise the mobilisation of those masses in support of our struggle.

We are therefore happy that this meeting is taking place shortly after the NEC decision assigning a new Head of our Department of International Affairs following the tragic demise of Comrade Johnny Makatini. Comrade Thabo Mbeki will undoubtedly take advantage of this rare opportunity to acquaint himself with the work of our diplomatic representatives abroad.

Having come together from different parts of our globe, it is obvious that an opportunity will not be missed to raise questions which are somewhat topical in countries in which we represent the ANC and the struggle of our people. Some of the questions undoubtedly get reported in distorted forms by the establishment media, expressing the hopes and wishes of the ruling classes in those countries that wish to see a different kind of South Africa emerge – a South Africa which is different from our own perspectives. We shall mention a few such issues.

1. The situation in South Western Africa

It will be recalled that in the January 8th statement of this year, the National Executive Committee announced our decision to redeploy our forces from the Angolan territory. It was indicated that the ANC was pre-empting the possibility of the enemy using our presence in Angola to obstruct the processes leading to the independence of Namibia under Resolution 435. The apartheid regime was of course quick to claim that our imminent departure from Angola was a victory for its own diplomacy. Some of its allies predicted an end to the armed struggle spearheaded by our glorious people`s army, Umkhonto we Sizwe; yet others ascribed our decision to pressures brought to bear on us by our Angolan allies who were now anxious to bring about peace in their country. The suggestion there was that we were responsible for the decision by the apartheid regime to pursue its aggressive policies against the newly independent and fraternal People`s Republic of Angola.

Of course, comrades, none of the above correspond to reality. Indeed it has become clear that we were correct in forecasting South Africa`s future behaviour on the issue of the independence of Namibia. As it is there is already reliable information that the apartheid regime has written to certain countries drawing their attention to a so-called decision of the ANC to establish military bases along the Namibia-South African border with the connivance of SWAPO. Of course the intention here is quite clear. An additional factor which bothers the ruling echelons of the apartheid regime is the favourable impact on the prestige of our movement internationally following the announcement of our decision. Certainly the allies of our struggle in Africa and elsewhere acclaimed our political maturity indicating our desire to contribute to the strategic victory of the people of Namibia.

Racists in Crisis

Racist rule in our country is in chronic and irreversible decline. This has been further confirmed by the deep cleavages exposed after PW Botha suffered a stroke. Botha is deeply worried that his programme for the perpetuation of white minority rule will not be efficiently implemented once he departs altogether from the political scene. He had hoped that one of his special favourites would inherit the mantle of party leadership after his resignation. This did not happen and now he has decided to precipitate a constitutional crisis, rather than risk what he perceives as an uncertain future for white rule after his departure. This of course does not mean that De Klerk would sweep white domination off the boards once he assumes total command. His demagogic statements after he assumed power pledging to do away with white domination and institute a regime of justice for all was so much balderdash. He certainly has no such future intentions. All he is interested in is to clear the ground for the greater acceptability of his regime of white domination, more especially by his external allies.

However, what is happening today within the ruling echelons of the Nationalist Party confirms another reality and we have pointed to this fact some time ago. The Botha regime has lost the strategic initiative. With the reform strategy torn to tatters, the regime has fallen back to the only means left for its survival – a reign of state terror. Even this, it is now obvious, is falling to pieces. There is ample evidence to confirm this. The successful boycott of the last year`s October elections; the heroic hunger strike action by political detainees emphasising a spirit of no surrender by our people even under conditions of continuing detention and torture; the stunning defiance by the three comrades of our peoples` army even in the face of death; the courageous positions taken by the democratic church leadership and many other instances, including the recent successful meeting of trade union shop stewards, prove the resilience of the democratic movement in our country.

Faced with this reality, the social base of the apartheid system is continuing to disintegrate whilst the search for alternative ways out of the crisis is going on. The recent decision of the Dutch Reformed Church to declare apartheid a sin and its expression of guilt over its role in establishing and maintaining apartheid, is an important indication of the sharp contradictions within the white camp. It should be obvious, therefore, comrades, that no matter what they do, whether Botha is allowed back into power to risk another and final stroke, or whether De Klerk is given a chance to assume total power – all that will not help. Firmly on the agenda today in our country is how soon the democratic perspective put forward by our organisation and the mass democratic movement will be realised. There can no longer be any turning back from this.

Orchestrated Offensive

However, we must be equally aware that our democratic alternative will not be achieved by any means other than through struggle, and this is where we come in. We have already stated our determination to intensify our all-round offensive inside the country. Equally, experience teaches us all the time that we cannot neglect the mobilisation of the international community over to our side. Here a lot of questions are going to be faced.

In its counter-offensive, our enemy, assisted by its loyal forces, will undoubtedly intensify its struggle to discredit our organisation and seek increasing acceptance of itself and its policies. We have already seen that they are venturing to capture ground that has been and continues to be our reliable terrain. Establishment media in some capitalist countries are at pains to demonstrate what they perceive as a growing rift between us and such allies as the Soviet Union. In pursuit of this objective, reality is as usual grossly distorted. There are suggestions of the possibility of re-establishing diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and Pretoria; this is fortified by what they perceive as a policy shift away from continuing Soviet support of our struggle, especially its armed component. We are entertained to reports that depict a different picture from what we ourselves personally experience during our contacts and discussions with Soviet official circles.

The classic example is the media assessment of what they say transpired during our recent visit to the Soviet Union. Our delegation is not only supposed to have been dissatisfied with the level of the CPSU delegation that met us, but they also see a shift of emphasis by the Soviet side on questions relating to our strategy of struggle. This of course is far from our actual experience and our overall assessment of our visit is very positive indeed. We have perceived no change whatever in our relations with CPSU and the Soviet people. The obvious intention of all of this is certainly to wean the Soviet Union away from supporting the ANC and our struggle. They are aware that if they achieve this, they will have dealt a mortal blow to our movement.

Campaign to Impose Sanctions Grows

Despite an orchestrated offensive by the regime and its major allies to bring South Africa in from the cold, the ANC-initiated campaign for its isolation continues to grow. On February 25th 1988, church leaders representing all denominations in South Africa held an historical meeting to assess the implications of the regime`s banning of 17 organisations and the restricting of activities of the non-racial trade union federation COSATU. The leaders stated that:

`We now hope the international community – and especially South Africa`s major trading partners – will wake up to the fact that this illegitimate government is threatening their interests as well as the lives and security of black and white South Africans. It has shown quite clearly that it has nothing to offer but instability and bloodshed. It must be isolated to force it off the awful path it has chosen`.

It means that internationally, and especially from wherever we are operating, we must seek always to consolidate and expand the base of support for our struggle. Much of this will of course depend on the contribution of our headquarters especially through consistent and expanding contacts with our various offices. We must certainly avoid sectarianism in our approaches to the forces amongst which we are working. We know that in some countries certain political forces tend to want to monopolise relations with the ANC in pursuit of their own national aims. We must not allow ourselves to commit the mistake of isolating other forces. In this way we shall be limiting the possibility of winning more support for our struggle. We must relentlessly pursue the struggle for the all-round isolation of apartheid South Africa, including our demand for the imposition of comprehensive mandatory sanctions. We urge you to intensify the campaign for the immediate and unconditional release of all political detainees and prisoners, including Comrade Nelson Mandela. Their release and unrestricted participation in the political, social and cultural life of our country has become an urgent and indispensable condition for the solution of the South African question. This task has become particularly urgent since the beginning of the hunger strike by hundreds of political detainees. Let us raise high the call for their immediate release, and for the immediate lifting of the state of emergency. We urge the international community to act now and decisively for the release of all political detainees and prisoners.

As demonstrated by our 1987 Arusha Conference, there is wide international support and acceptance for our perspective for a future united, non-racial democratic South Africa. That is our banner.