South African’s National Liberation Movement

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Response by Nelson Mandela to President FW de Klerk's Letter of 2 July

I have received the response of Mr. F.W. de Klerk to a memorandum which I addressed to him on the 26th June, 1992. I enclosed the statement of the Emergency meeting of the National Executive Committee of the ANC adopted on the 23rd June, 1992.

In my Memorandum and the statement of the ANC we pointed out that South Africa is on the brink of disaster for which we hold the NP government entirely responsible. Specific and concrete demands were made to Mr. F.W. de Klerk as a means of finding a way out of the impasse.

These demands related to two crucial aspects:

Firstly, the deadlock in the negotiating process because of the refusal by the NP government to move together with all of us in the process of truly democratising South Africa. Our fundamental position in this regard is that we cannot accept an undemocratic constitution aimed at addressing the fears of a minority party about its own future at the cost of democracy. This is at the root of the negotiations deadlock. It is for this reason that we focussed attention on the Constituent Assembly. We are clear in our demands that the NP government abandon positions directed at subverting the sovereignty of the Constituent Assembly, which include subjecting it to a veto by a second house and ensuring that a minority in the Constituent Assembly shall be able to frustrate an overwhelming majority.

Secondly, with regards to the violence in our country our demands centered on three aspects:

  • Ensuring that the direct and indirect involvement of the NP government, it’s surrogates, the security forces and police are brought to an end forthwith.
  • Ensuring that the De Klerk government immediately implement agreements reached with the ANC more than a year ago on curbing violence.
  • The establishment of an international commission of inquiry into the Boipatong massacre and all acts of violence as well as the international monitoring of violence.

In communicating with Mr. F.W. de klerk we made it crystal clear that “(his) response and practical steps … to these demands will play a crucial role in determining the direction and speed with which bona fide negotiations can take place”.

He has chosen to ignore the gravity of these demands. He seeks to channel them into endless negotiations and discussions. In particular, the content of his reply seeks to elevate government to a legitimate and credible force standing above the crisis. This is part of the deliberate attempts to perpetuate the notion of “black on black” violence rather than draw attention to the central role of the De Klerk government and its security forces.

He tries to enhance this position by calling for a meeting between Dr. Buthelezi and myself at which Mr. F.W. de Klerk and his government will participate “in view of it’s (i.e. the De Klerk governments) responsibility for the maintenance of law and order”. He persists in shielding his regime behind the back of the government-supported IFP. Government covert and open support for the IFP has been confirmed in numerous instances. These include the Second Interim Report of the Goldstone Commission, the International Commission of Jurists fact finding mission and the Amnesty International report.

De Klerk’s memorandum, and his state of the nation address on 2 July, 1992 are characterised by a threatening mode and a propensity towards repression. He assumes the legitimacy of the existing order and his government. He appears also to believe that the military power that his government commands can be a means of resolving the conflict. This was demonstrated when Mr. de Klerk attempted to visit Boipatong, where the people in the township demonstrated their anger and revulsion. Shaken by this overwhelming rejection, at a press conference held immediately thereafter, he threatened to return the country to the old style repression of the P.W. Botha regime by raising the possibility of the reimposition of the state of emergency.

We have sought to ensure that the De Klerk regime responds to our demands positively and undertakes practical steps. We have done so with the clear knowledge that the longer it takes to find a way out of the current impasse the more difficult it will be to reach agreement and the more difficult it will be to ensure peace and stability in the future. If he shared this commitment, there is nothing in our demands that he could have not have addressed practically and immediately. His response has failed to address the crucial issues. It is riddled with factual inaccuracies, distortions and blatant party political propaganda. It confirms the fundamental feature of our society that he and his government want to be both player and referee. By responding in the manner he has done, Mr. F. W. De Klerk has chosen to drive South Africa into a collision course.

I accordingly see no reason to mislead the public and the international community about the gravity of the crisis facing our country. No good purpose will be served in my meeting him at this stage.

The National Executive Committee will look into the question of providing a detailed reply to the memorandum I have received from Mr. F. W. De Klerk.