South African’s National Liberation Movement

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Oslo Conference


Extract from the closing address by Oystein Maeland, Political Secretary, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

21 March 1989

We feel privileged that you include us in your internal deliberations. We regard this as a sign of friendship, and we want to be your friends. I hope that these days here at Gran have been useful. Hopefully, you have also discussed ways and means of involving the international community even further in the struggle against apartheid. The Foreign Ministry expressed the need for advice. This is important because you are the people directly suffering from the system of apartheid. We should therefore listen to your views on how to bring down this brutal system.

I do think we have to add that the lack of international support for measures against apartheid is not due to lack of advice from your side. For years the ANC has called for sanctions in order to put pressure on the South African government to abolish the system of apartheid and bring about peaceful change in that country. This view has been reflected in the debates of the United Nations.

The reasons why only a few of us have followed the call are varied and I shall not dwell upon them here. However, I do want to make a new appeal to the international community to follow the Nordic countries in introducing comprehensive measures against South Africa. Our interest in South Africa is based on two factors:

Firstly, the system of apartheid symbolises the systematic violation of human rights. As was stated so eloquently by the late Olaf Palme: Apartheid can never be reformed, it must be abolished. We see the fight against apartheid not only as a fight for human rights in South Africa. As long as this regime is allowed to continue with its misdeeds, our struggle for freedom and human rights is challenged. We cannot feel free until apartheid in South Africa is destroyed.

Secondly, the system of apartheid represents a threat to international peace and security. We see a danger that a regional conflict in Southern Africa could lead to severe international consequences. This means that a peaceful change in South Africa is of vital importance to the whole international community.

That is why Norway has called for – and will continue to call for – comprehensive and mandatory sanctions against South Africa adopted by the Security Council. As from 1 st January 1988 the Nordic countries have implemented comprehensive sanctions which are intended to counteract apartheid and to reduce the dependence of the Frontline States and the SADCC countries on South Africa, as well as to promote economic development in the region.

We have no reason to boast, but it is necessary to tell you about what is going on as an example to others. The national legislation adopted by the respective Nordic countries includes, inter alia:

  • Prohibition of the import of goods originating in South Africa or Namibia.
  • Prohibition of the export of goods to South Africa or Namibia.
  • Prohibition of the transport of crude oil to or from South Africa or Namibia.
  • Prohibition of the transport of passengers or goods to or from South Africa or Namibia by Nordic or South African aircrafts.
  • Prohibition of the granting of loans, credits and guarantees to South Africa or Namibia.
  • Prohibition of investment and prohibition of the transfer of patents or production rights to South Africa or Namibia.

The absence of mandatory sanctions should not be used as a pretext for failing to act against apartheid. Pending mandatory sanctions by the Security Council, additional voluntary measures should be considered by the Council. An effective oil embargo would have a particular potential for influencing South African society, inasmuch as oil is virtually the sole strategic raw material in which South Africa is not self-sufficient. The establishment of the Inter-governmental Group to Monitor the Supply of Oil and Petroleum Products to South Africa and its subsequent work represent the first concerted effort by the international community to provide a basis for an effective oil embargo against South Africa.

Some countries argue that sanctions work only too well and will hurt the black majority population rather than affect the echelons of power. According to this argument sanctions will create increased suffering for the neighbouring countries. But even though sanctions may cause hardships in the short run, we hear you saying that this is preferable to the prolonged suffering that apartheid implies. The international society is obliged to listen to you as leaders of the black majority of South Africans.

In addition to restrictive measures, I would like to stress the need for positive support for those who suffer the effects of apartheid. SA`s neighbours find themselves in a particularly precarious situation, both because of their economic dependence on SA and as a result of South Africa`s policy of destabilisation in the region. To ensure sustained development, independent of SA`s economic might, Norway has for several years offered assistance to SADCC and the SADCC countries. We have also made it clear that we are prepared to increase our assistance to the SADCC countries in the event of further SA reprisals against these countries.

The Nordic countries provide humanitarian assistance to liberation movement, refugees and other victims of apartheid. This support has increased considerably and we will continue our assistance to these groups. Namibia`s transition to independence gives room for optimism. But it also calls for preparedness. Just as important as it was for the Norwegian Government in exile to prepare for freedom during the Second World War, just as important is it today for the ANC to prepare for a democratic, post-apartheid South Africa. You do not know when the time comes, you only know it will come, and then you must be ready. This conference could be looked upon in this perspective, and it will hopefully represent a new step in the long historic process towards a democratic South Africa. We are pleased to be able to host such a conference, and we like to see it as an expression of confidence by the ANC, a confidence which is also obliging for us. The Norwegian Government looks forward to future co-operation with the ANC, and we are confident that we will succeed in our struggle to create a free and democratic South Africa where all citizens shall enjoy the same rights and opportunities.