South African’s National Liberation Movement

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ANC submission to the World Conference against Racism NGO Forum

10 August 2001


One of the critical national and international challenges that confront us as a country and a people is to succeed in the objective of creating a truly non-racial society. There is no society on earth where the phenomenon of racism has been as much an integral part of the everyday life of a people, which has permeated all levels of a people’s being and self-perception, as it has been in South Africa. Many across the globe believe with good reason that because of our specific history we have the possibility to make an important contribution to the universal struggle to defeat the scourge of racism.

This statement aims to stimulate discussion in South Africa and beyond. It is a contribution to the ongoing global debate around racism and intolerance that draws on our rich history of practical and theoretical engagement with these issues. Our approach to non-racialism has evolved over ninety years of struggle for freedom, democracy and dignity. Its defining feature is seeking to build the future in the present through united action. In the course of colonialism and apartheid our people resisted assaults on their dignity, but did not surrender to the temptation of advocating black racial domination.

Instead they reached resolutely and optimistically for the antithesis of apartheid – the ideal of non-racialism: of unity in action against racism among diverse peoples. Throughout its history the African National Congress has played a decisive role in nurturing and building this humanist response to a system that sought to deny our humanity.

Racism is a system of power relations in which one racial group dominates others with the purpose of inequitably distributing social and economic goods and services within a common society, employing race as the determinant criterion of access. Few historical epochs provide a better illustration of racism as system of power relations than the Atlantic slave trade, the conquest and colonisation of Africa, and the apartheid system in South Africa. Racist ideology regarded Africans as less than human, thus providing a perverse moral sanction for these crimes against humanity.

Among the broader public in the respective societies, racist ideology also served to legitimise the actions of its perpetrators.

A freer world has emerged from this painful past. But the legacy of slavery and colonialism continues to shape relations between nations. The distribution of economic endowments has been decisively influenced by the positions racial communities and groups have occupied in this historically determined hierarchy. The underdevelopment of the disadvantaged majority was the condition for the development of the privileged minority; the poverty of the oppressed groups was the condition for the relative wealth of the oppressor group. The current process of globalisation threatens to further entrench the unequal distribution of resources in the world, both between and within societies.

However, if approached correctly, the advent of a global economy and globalised society also provides us with a unique and historic opportunity to address the inequities generated by our shared history. In order to build a better future, we must act now, in concert with the peoples of the world.

But this in turn requires that we acknowledge the past from which we have emerged and change the persistence of patterns of privilege and poverty which are its legacy in the present. For the first time in history we have the potential to act in genuine partnership with the nations of the world, to build non-racialism in action, by working together to ensure a better life for all.

What is racism?

There is only one human race. Religion and science agree. It appears to have originated here, on the Highveld of Africa, hundreds of thousands of years ago, and then migrated, by foot and raft, round the world. On the way its pigment was bleached or burnt, its limbs and features adapted to its environment, it developed social structures, cultures and religions. Racism is founded on the fallacy of purity: the false belief that there exist within the human race, ‘pure breeds’ that can be objectively separated. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in its famous statement, declared that:

‘All human beings belong to a single species and are descended from a common stock . . . 

All peoples of the world possess equal faculties for attaining the highest level in intellectual, technical, social, economic, cultural and political development. The differences between the achievements of the different peoples are entirely attributable to geographical, historical, political, economic, social and cultural factors. Such differences can in no case serve as a pretext for any rank-ordered classification of nations or peoples.’ 

But the fact that all the world’s religions have consistently call on the pious to embrace the idea of a single human family is testimony to the persistence of the ideas of ‘race’ and the ideology of racism throughout human history. While the category ‘race’ has no biological basis, ‘race’ is nonetheless a social and political construct in terms of which power, status, and access to wealth and to social position can be, and have been, assigned.

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) was adopted by the United Nations in 1965. Over 160 states are party to this declaration, which defines racism as:

‘Any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise, on equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, or any other field of public life’.

At an individual level, racism manifests itself as the exercise of racial prejudice through acts of unfair discrimination that have the purpose or effect of undermining human dignity. Racial prejudice involves making subjective judgements about other people/s on the basis of the alleged racial characteristics, where ‘race’ may be defined not only by colour but also by descent or ethnic or national origin. Typically, racial prejudice involves inferring that people who share certain physical, cultural or ethnic characteristics also share certain personality traits or characters.

Such prejudices may be consciously held beliefs or unconsciously held attitudes. Racism entails bringing into effect such ideas or attitudes through acts that victimise other individuals and undermine their human dignity. As is clear in the CERD definition, it matters not whether such an act is intended to impair human dignity or unfairly discriminate: the test of racism is whether the act has the effect of doing so.

At a societal level, racism exists in the context of social institutions, economic relations and patterns of political power, which reproduce themselves and change over time. Prejudice and the commission of discriminatory actions reflect a historically specific system that legitimises and, in a perverted sense, gives moral sanction to the political oppression, economic exploitation, and inequitable treatment of a segment of society. It entails the exercise of political, economic and social power and control over racially defined categories of people by a dominant racial group..

The existence of such institutionalised racism also generates a particular moral universe, an ethical environment through which the identity of both perpetrator and victim is constantly filtered. In the words of Oliver Tambo (ANC President from 1967 – 1991):

‘Racism, one of the great evils of our time, bedevils human relations, between individuals, within and between nations and across continents. It brutalises entire peoples, destroys persons, warps the process of thought and injects into human society a foul air of tension, mutual antagonism and hatred. It demeans and dehumanises both victim and practitioner, locking them into the vile relationship of master race and untermenschen, superior and underling, each with his position defined by race’ 

Over time the existence of racist institutions inevitably results in psychological damage to both superior and underling. We would contend that, far from imposing on themselves these psychological chains of racism, our people have responded with heroic optimism and determination to free themselves from racial bondage. The most downtrodden have been the most courageous at the forefront of their own liberation, and have not been bound by self-doubt and timidity. However, it is clear that when subjected to institutionalised racism, victims often internalises the racism of the perpetrators. This involves turning in on oneself, blaming oneself, holding the perpetrators in high esteem and regarding the system of racial oppression as natural. The consequences of internalised racism are often manifest in low self-esteem and self-loathing, which can lead to high levels of abuse of the most vulnerable within the oppressed group (such as women and children) and a general prevalence of inwardly directed violence.

Racism, therefore, is not simply an individual pathology: it is a societal malady. Thus the solutions to problems of racism do not lie simply in the re-education of those who, in defiance of a growing global consensus, continue to hold morally reprehensible views. The eradication of racism requires that we address the relations arising out of the oppression, injustice and domination that underpin it, by fundamentally transforming our society Slavery, Colonialism and Apartheid Nowhere is the role of racism in justifying the morally indefensible more clearly illustrated than in the histories of the Atlantic slave trade, the conquest and colonisation of Africa and apartheid domination in South Africa. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Western Europeans developed a technological edge over the rest of the world. Industrial and military advantage made possible the conquest of other parts of the globe and the domination of other peoples. Once Europeans had established this technological superiority the might of their military became irresistible.

Political and economic domination gave birth to and was sustained by the notion that white Europeans were intellectually, culturally, spiritually and morally superior to other peoples, races and cultures. The presumed superiority of the Europeans was said to be proven by fact of domination itself. White supremacy justified conquest. Even the bloodiest and most genocidal acts of aggression in the history of humanity could be rationalised as expressions of the laws of nature in which the strong overwhelm the weak; the fittest eliminate the unfit.

The Atlantic slave trade was driven by economic imperatives. However, it could be represented as morally acceptable because of the belief that Africans were less than human. Between 10 and 20 million people were transported across a vast ocean in conditions that resulted in the death of up to 20% of the captives. The system promoted racist ideology. Gerard Mellier, the then Mayor of Nantes, a major slave-trading centre, gives a typical example of late eighteenth century European attitudes:

‘At bottom, the blacks are naturally inclined to theft, robbery, idleness and treason. In general, they are only suited to live in servitude and for the works and the agriculture of our colonies’ 

When they reached their destinations in the Americas, African slaves were regarded as no more than an input into the productive process. The reduction of Africans to the status of chattels was for many years organised directly by the agents of European states in partnership with favoured commercial interests. This commerce in humans, sugar, cotton, tobacco, indigo and other goods produced on the basis of slave labour in the Americas played a vital role in the emergence of a global trading system and contributed decisively to the industrialisation of Europe.

The colonisation of Africa was also an important element in the first period of globalisation and European industrial expansion in the nineteenth century. Colonialism made possible the unfettered extraction of Africa’s rich natural resources and created markets for Europe’s manufactured goods.

In 1884 and 1885, European powers met in Berlin to divide Africa among themselves. King Leopold of Belgium was given personal sovereignty over a territory in the Congo basin, several times the size of Europe. In his quest to reap profit from the global boom in demand for rubber, Leopold conducted his commercial activities in a manner that is estimated to have resulted in the death of ten million Congolese5. This is one chapter in a history of many genocides perpetrated by the colonial powers: by the Germans in Namibia; by the Portuguese and Spanish in Latin America; by White settlers in North America; and by the Dutch and the British at the Cape, all of which had resulted in the annihilation of entire peoples. Taken together, conquest, colonisation and African slavery did indeed constitute an African holocaust.

Racist ideology provided a perverse moral justification in the minds of the functionaries of this terror. It also lent ethical legitimacy to crimes against humanity among the broader European public. In some cases, racist beliefs elevated the perpetrators of these crimes to the status of heroes. A Belgian children’s story describes the brutal suppression of a Congolese mutiny amongst conscripted African soldiers in 1897 thus:

‘The situation was desperate. 
All seemed lost. 
But brave De Le Court sprang into the breach. Together with two other Belgian officers and the remnants of their platoons, he immobilised the black demons who had rushed into the pursuit of the column . . . 
Sinister black heads seemed to emerge from every corner, grinding their white teeth . . . 
He fell . . . He understood the supreme moment of death had come . . . 
Smiling, disdainful, sublime, thinking of his King, of his Flag, . . . 
he looked for the last time upon the screaming horde of black demons . . . 
Thus Charles De Le Court died in the fullness of youth in the face of the enemy’

Apartheid, too, was a crime against humanity. Extending from the park bench to regulation of the labour force, it sought to entrap South Africans forever within the confines of legislated racial categories. The purpose of this system, which was built upon the solid foundation of British colonialism, was clear: to perpetually subordinate black South Africans to economic and political whims of whites, in order to guarantee the accumulation and maintenance of material wealth and cultural supremacy.

JG Strjdom, who later became Prime Minister of South Africa, clearly articulated the National Party’s policy objectives:

‘Our policy is that the Europeans must stand their ground and must remain baas in South Africa. If we reject the herrenvolk idea [the idea of a pure, unadulterated race] and the principle that the white man cannot remain baas, if the franchise is to be extended to the non-Europeans, and if the non-Europeans are given representation and the vote and the non-Europeans are developed on the same basis as the Europeans, how can the European remain baas . . . 
Our view is that in every sphere the Europeans must retain the right to rule the country and to keep it a white man’s country’.

Three years after the defeat of Nazism as the world community began to embrace a universal human rights culture, the white electorate in South Africa voted into office a party whose political platform was constitutionally sanctioned racial domination in the political, economic, social and cultural fields. Our country thus became the last outpost of racist ideology, of racist practice and domination, devised and implemented by the disciples of Hitler. Chief Albert Luthuli, the President of the African National Congress from 1952-1967, said, on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961, that:

‘[Apartheid] is a museum piece in our time, a hangover from the dark past of mankind, a relic of an age which everywhere else is dead or dying. 

Here [in South Africa] the cult of race superiority and of white supremacy is worshipped like a god. Few white people escape corruption and many of their children learn to believe that white men are unquestionably superior, efficient, clever, industrious and capable; that black men are, equally, unquestionably inferior, slothful, stupid, evil and clumsy. 

On the basis of the mythology that ‘the lowest amongst them is higher than the highest amongst us,’ it is claimed that white men build everything that is worthwhile in the country; its cities, its industries, its mines and its agriculture, and that they alone are thus fitted and entitled as of right to own and control these things, whilst black men are only temporary sojourners in these cities, fitted only for menial labour, and unfit to share political power. 

The Prime Minister of South Africa, Dr Verwoerd, then Minister of Bantu Affairs, when explaining his government’s policy on African education had this to say: 
‘There is no place for him (the African) in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour.’

There is little new in this mythology. Every part of Africa which has been subject to white conquest has, at one time or another, and in one guise or another, suffered from it, even in its virulent form of the slavery that obtained in Africa up to the 19th Century…

These ideas survive in South Africa because those who sponsor them profit from them. They provide moral whitewash for the conditions which exist in the country: 

  • for the fact that the country is ruled exclusively by a white government elected by an exclusively white electorate which is a privileged minority; 
  • for the fact that 87 per cent of the land and all the best agricultural land within reach of town, market and railways is reserved for white ownership and occupation and now through the recent Group Areas legislation non-Whites are losing more land to white greed; 
  • for the fact that all skilled and highly-paid jobs are for whites only; for the fact that all universities of any academic merit are an exclusive preserve of whites; 
  • for the fact that the education of every white child costs about £64 per annum whilst that of an African child costs about £9 per annum and that of an Indian child or Coloured child costs about £20 per annum; 
  • for the fact that white education is universal and compulsory up to the age of 16, whilst education for the non-white children is scarce and inadequate, 
  • and for the fact that almost one million Africans a year are arrested and gaoled or fined for breaches of innumerable pass and permit laws which do not apply to whites.’

Religious institutions played a regrettable role throughout the years of colonialism and apartheid. The concern of white missionaries and settlers for the conversion of ‘the heathen’ was held side by side with the conviction that ‘western civilisation’ and faith were inherently superior to anything black, and that Providence was the ultimate source of their imperialist power. Apartheid was developed and canonized within the Dutch Reformed Church as the will of God, and many other churches concurred in practice.

Under colonial rule and apartheid, race, gender and class oppression were synchronised in an intricate system of oppression. The colonial rulers in Africa intensified the gender oppression found in pre-colonial societies. The combination of colonial and customary oppression denied women basic social and economic rights in the family and the community. Many women were barred from living in cities, from owning land, denied family planning, the right to inherit, excluded from borrowing money or participating in political and social struggles. The purpose of such practices was partly to intensify the economic exploitation of women and maximise the unpaid labour that was their contribution towards apartheid wealth creation. The system led to widespread abuse of women, both inside and outside the family. In apartheid South Africa, black women were confronted by triple oppression, oppression on the basis of their race, their gender and often of their class.

Racism and Society: 
The 20th Century’s Unresolved Burden 

As we enter the third millennium the problem of racism is as acute as ever. No country in the world, no matter how economically developed, has unravelled its historical link with racial oppression, nor resolved its current manifestations. The distribution of wealth within nations, as much as between them continues to be defined by the intersection of race, class and gender.

Our Non-Racialism

When Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as President of South Africa in May 1994, he declared:

‘The South Africa we have struggled for, in which all our people, be they African, Coloured, Indian or White, regard themselves as citizens of one nation is at hand . . . The struggle for democracy has never been a matter pursued by one race, class, religious community or gender among South Africans. In honouring those who fought to see this day arrive, we honour Africans, Coloureds, Whites, Indians, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews -all of them united by a common vision of a better life for all the people of this country.’

Mandela was expressing a deep and resonant tradition within the liberation struggle. For the African National Congress and its allies, non-racialism was not a programme that would be achieved after liberation. It was something to be built in the here and now. Throughout its history the ANC has played a decisive role in nurturing and building a humanist response to the system that sought to deny our humanity. Many in the international community, and even in South Africa, believe that South Africa’s racial reconciliation was the result of a miracle, precipitated by the magnificent actions of heroic leaders. Certainly, both our people and our leaders have displayed heroism and magnanimity of a degree uncommon in history. But the transition to democracy was made possible by the understanding of the millions of our people that all of us, regardless of race and colour are interdependent members of a common society. This in turn was the outcome of conscious and purposive human effort over many years by a liberation movement that firmly believed that black domination would be as evil as white domination. Chief Albert Luthuli said in 1961, following the massacre at Sharpeville and the banning of ANC:

‘How easy it would have been in South Africa for the natural feelings of resentment at white domination to have been turned into feelings of hatred and a desire for revenge against the white community. Here, where every day in every aspect of life, every non-white comes up against the ubiquitous sign, ‘Europeans Only,’ and the equally ubiquitous policeman to enforce it -here it could well be expected that a racialism equal to that of their oppressors would flourish to counter the white arrogance towards blacks.

That it has not done so is no accident. It is because, deliberately and advisedly, African leadership for the past 50 years, with the inspiration of the African National Congress which I had the honour to lead for the last decade or so until it was banned, had set itself steadfastly against racial vain-gloriousness.

We knew that in so doing we passed up opportunities for easy demagogic appeal to the natural passions of a people denied freedom and liberty; we discarded the chance of an easy and expedient emotional appeal. Our vision has always been that of a non-racial democratic South Africa which upholds the rights of all who live in our country to remain there as full citizens with equal rights and responsibilities with all others. For the consummation of this ideal we have laboured unflinchingly. We shall continue to labour unflinchingly.’

The defining feature of our non-racial, non-sexist approach is that it seeks to build the future in the present. The act of mobilising people for change simultaneously breaks down the existing order and builds a new one. Our non-racialism does not involve the subordination of one culture to another. Diversity does not detract from our commonality: it enriches our unity. Our non-racialism acknowledges our history and the nature of our society: that black people in general, and Africans in particular, have been, and continue to be the victims of the consequences created by the Apartheid social order.

Building unity in the present in order to achieve a non-racial future could only occur as an act of black self-emancipation, with the African people taking the lead in their own liberation. Indeed our non-racial ethos is a profound expression of the broad African nationalism that has always been at the heart of our struggle.

Our history of non-racial struggle

At its formation in 1912 the African National Congress became the pivot of African unity in South Africa and beyond. Its broad, outward-looking nationalism reflected both the humanist traditions of African democratic inclusiveness and the universalist values of the major religions of the world. From its inception the ANC conceived of a South Africa composed of diverse cultures living in a common society and sharing a common sovereignty, expressed through democratic representation. In its first years, the Congress focused on uniting African people in defence of the limited freedoms that they then had. Where previously separate indigenous armies had waged war against colonial forces, the ANC sought to unite the diverse peoples in an effort at moral persuasion.

Indeed, each act of the racist state that attempted to divide our people and prevent the emergence of non-racial unity generated greater determination within the liberation movement to achieve precisely this goal. In the words of Oliver Tambo:

‘ . . . Since it was the express aim of the Government to enforce sharp racial divisions among the population and to set up separate and possibly hostile racial camps, the very act of co-operation and unity among all opponents of racial discrimination and white domination was in itself an attack on Government policy. It was, therefore, of great political and strategic importance for the African National Congress to rally, and to welcome, the support of other oppressed groups and of democratic whites.’

The ANC is the oldest living political organisation in Africa. Its formation stirred the imagination of the continent. African National Congresses were formed in Zimbabwe, Zambia and even as far a field as Uganda. Our anthem, ‘Nkosi Sikelel’iAfrika’, which is sung in a host of Southern African nations, is a reflection of the pan-African vision and unity for which the ANC has always stood. When the storm of colonialism swept our continent, South Africa became the hub of the Southern African labour market. The wealth of South Africa has been created through the toil of the Southern African working classes. Our pan-African vision was sharpened by the emergence of a trade union movement that reflected this objective reality.

The Industrial and Commercial Workers Union, formed in 1919 became the first major union of black workers in the sub-continent, and was led by a Malawian worker, Clements Kadalie.

Throughout the twentieth century the ANC consciously fostered the unity of the broadest range of forces opposed to the racist state. Non-racial unity was forged in the crucible of working class struggle. The Communist Party of South Africa, (the CPSA later known as the SACP) was among the first organisations in South Africa whose membership was open to all races. The role of white Communists, some of whom became leading fighters in the struggle for national liberation, did much to build the spirit of non-racialism. Their presence was a constant reminder that our struggle was (and is) against an oppressive society and not a racial group. The enduring influence of Gandhi’s philosophy of action also contributed to the broad stream of the liberation movement’s non-racialism. Mahatma Gandhi conceived and inspired the tactics of Satyagraha during the 21 years he spent in South Africa after his arrival in 189312. His legacy found enduring organisational expression in Transvaal and Natal Indian Congresses (TIC and NIC), which he helped to found and which entered into a formal alliance with the ANC in 1947. Within the Coloured community, the African People’s Organisation (APO) emerged in the first decade of the twentieth century as perhaps the first truly national party, open to persons of all races and with branches in all the colonies that later constituted the Union of South Africa. Following the APO’s demise, the ANC developed a strong coloured support base, particularly among rural and urban workers in the Western Cape. In the 1950’s, the Coloured People’s Congress mobilised working class coloureds in defiance of apartheid laws, and led popular and effective campaigns against segregation on Cape Town’s trains. The CPC became a key component of the congress alliance in the 1950’s.

Women have consistently been at the forefront of our struggle. The growth of the women’s movement after the founding of the ANC Women’s League in 1941 and the Federation of South African Women in 1954 and the strong influence both acquired within the congress tradition ensured the evolution of a gendered perspective on questions of race and class within the ranks of the liberation movement. Oliver Tambo was a leading exponent of women’s emancipation within the liberation movement. He consistently articulated the position that evolved: that the oppression of women is inextricable linked with racial and class oppression:

‘The mobilisation of women is the task, not only of women alone, or of men alone, but of all of us, men and women alike, comrades in struggle. The mobilisation of the people into active resistance and struggle for liberation demands the energies of women no less than of men. A system based on the exploitation of man by man can in no way avoid the exploitation of women by the male members of society. There is therefore no way in which women in general can liberate themselves without fighting to the end the exploitation of man by man, both as a concept and as a social system’.13 The indigenous beliefs of the African people had never endorsed the notion of a God who picked favourites on racist grounds, and African converts to Christianity were amongst the first to mobilise against the domination and racist structures of imported religion. Very many of the early ANC leaders were clergy, and this strong support from people of faith has never ceased. Religious resistance stiffened through the years: the non-racial ecumenical Christian Institute led by Dr. Beyers Naude, the ‘Message to the people of South Africa’, produced in cooperation with the South African Council of Churches, which denounced apartheid as a false gospel, the World Council of Churches ‘Programme to Combat Racism’, and the ‘Kairos Document of the 1980s’ were all milestones in the mobilisation of communities of faith within the broad stream of the liberation struggle.

Non-racial unity decisively emerged from the crucible of the mass campaigns of the 1940’s and 1950’s, which united in action the organised might of bodies and movements representing all racial and class components of South African society. The Congress Alliance was born during the Campaign of Defiance against Unjust Laws of 1952. In the face of growing state repression, the movement intensified its challenge by outlining a vision of an alternative society. Thousands of volunteers trekking to all corners of the country, to hold meetings, rallies and public fora with ordinary people in factories, on the farms, in communities and churches, to prepare a schedule of popular demands for change. These were then collected and compiled. At the Congress of the People, an open assembly of democratically elected delegates held in 1955, the Freedom Charter was adopted in the midst of the mistrust between communities that the forces of racism consciously fostered. Its preamble states:

‘We, the People of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know:

That South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people;

That our people have been robbed of their birthright to land, liberty and peace by a form of government founded on injustice and inequality; That our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in brotherhood, enjoying equal rights and opportunities;

That only a democratic state, based on the will of the people, can secure to all their birthright without distinction of colour, race, sex or belief; And therefore, we, the people of South Africa, black and white, together -equals, countrymen and brothers – adopt this Freedom Charter;

And we pledge ourselves to strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage, until the democratic changes here set out have been won.’

For the majority, the Charter redefined the struggle. We would no longer aim to modify the existing order, or to reform a society whose basis was fundamentally flawed: a completely new order, based on the will of the people, was put on the agenda.

The apartheid state viewed the Charter as an act of treason. The racist state was particularly horrified by the coalescence of non-racial opposition. It moved decisively to intensify repression in order to defeat the forces of democracy. One hundred and fifty six leaders of the Congress Alliance were arrested and tried for treason. But the trial backfired badly, since it cemented the unity among the leadership, held together in captivity for the duration of the trial, and focussed international attention on the apartheid policy. The racist regime’s campaign of repression culminated in the massacre of 69 unarmed demonstrators at Sharpeville on March 21 1960. It followed this up ten days later by the banning of the liberation movements and the declaration of a state of emergency. All avenues of peaceful protest were closed.

The regime’s attempts to divide the resistance to apartheid along racial lines produced an opposite reaction: the unity of our people in struggle. In the prisons and detention, in exile, in mass action, in armed struggle and in international mobilisation, South Africans would unite against the racist state. The crisis of the Apartheid State and the mass struggles of the 1970’s and 1980’s served to further build non-racial unity around the programme of the Freedom Charter. The regime attempted to respond to its own political and economic crisis with a set of constitutional reforms intended to divert the people from non-racial unity. The tri-cameral parliament, where whites, coloureds and Indians would have separate representation was an attempt to build ‘group rights’, in explicit and direct opposition to the demands of the majority for a non-racial, united and democratic South Africa. This strategy was backed by the racially based distribution of government patronage, which sought to recruit elements of the oppressed groups to the side of apartheid. An alliance of organisations, including civic organisations, and trade unions responded by joining hands in their adherence to the Freedom Charter. A significant component of this movement was the United Democratic Front, which defined the moment with the slogan ‘UDF unites: apartheid divides’. Many religious groups and people of faith across the country threw their weight into the struggle too, until the apartheid state became ungovernable and change became irresistible. The emergence of organisations within the white community aligned to the liberation movement, such as the Five Freedoms Forum and the End Conscription Campaign, presaged the final cracks in the coherence and unity of the ruling block.

The Freedom Charter’s Unfinished Business

The vision of an alternative society outlined in the Freedom Charter remains our guiding light. Our goal is the creation of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society. This in essence means the liberation of Africans in particular, and black people in general, from political and economic bondage. It means uplifting the quality of life of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female.

The achievement of majority rule in 1994 was a decisive step in dismantling the legacy of apartheid. It constitutes a platform from which to launch a programme of social transformation: a programme that is absolutely necessary to uproot the demon of racism from South African soil. The constitution, in addition to providing for formal equality, enjoins all branches of government to implement this transformation project.

Our liberation struggle was a struggle against a system of oppression, not against Whites as a race. The Strategy and Tactics position paper that the ANC adopted in 1969 characterised apartheid South Africa as ‘colonialism of a special type’:

‘South Africa’s social and economic structure and the relationships which it generates are perhaps unique. It is not a colony, yet it has, in regard to the overwhelming majority of its people, most of the features of the classical colonial structures. Conquest and domination by an alien people, a system of discrimination and exploitation based on race, a technique of indirect rule; these and more are the traditional trappings of the classical colonial framework. Whilst at the one level it is an ‘independent’ national state, at another level it is a country subjugated by a minority race. What makes the structure unique and adds to its complexity is that the exploiting nation is not, as in the classical imperialist relationships, situated in a geographically distinct mother country, but is settled within the borders. What is more, the roots of the dominant nation have been embedded in our country by more than three centuries of presence. It is thus an alien body only in the historical sense.’

The implication of this analysis is that the oppressed nation is composed of various stratas and classes, all of whom have an objective basis for opposition to the oppressor regime. However, what is special is that, unlike the struggles in other parts of Africa, South Africans would have to deal with the reality that the ‘colonising power’ was naturalised. The resolution of the conflict, therefore, required the destruction of the racist regime in order to build single nation out of the oppressed and the oppressor groups. Unlike the racial question in many developed countries, ours is not a struggle to ensure the protection or inclusion of a marginalized minority. Rather, we must act to ensure the advancement of an excluded majority. This does not entail tampering or reforming the system, but its complete and progressive transformation, since racial inequality in South Africa is not a set of isolated aberrations that can be corrected by the equal application of the law, or the re-education of pathological individuals. The legacy of apartheid continues to dominate all facets of South African reality. While we are a middle-income country, 61% of Africans are poor, compared with only 1% of whites. According to the UNDP:

‘Virtually every social indicator betrays the extreme inequalities that define South African society. Measured by the Gini coefficient, inequality in South Africa is among the highest in the world . . . Comparisons of inequality between races in South Africa reveal that, measured by the Gini co-efficient, the gap between white and African is increasing.

The experience of extreme poverty is dramatically concentrated among Africans: 57.2 percent of Africans live below the poverty threshold, compared to 2.1 percent of whites. The poorest 40 percent of citizens remain overwhelmingly African, female and rural . . . [T]wice as many female-headed households are in the bottom quintile. When race and gender are aggregated, the figure rises to 31 percent of African, female-headed households in the lowest quintile, compared to 19 percent of African, male-headed households.’

Thus, our country remains one divided by its history into two nations. In the words of President Thabo Mbeki:

‘One of these nations is white, relatively prosperous, regardless of gender or geographic dispersal. It has ready access to a developed economic, physical, educational, communication and other infrastructure. This enables us to argue that . . .. all members of this nation have the possibility to exercise their right to equal opportunity, the development opportunities to which the Constitution of ’93 committed our country.

The second and larger nation of South Africa is the black and poor, with the worst affected being women in the rural areas, the black rural population in general and the disabled. This nation lives under conditions of a grossly underdeveloped economic, physical, educational, communication and other infrastructure. It has virtually no possibility to exercise what in reality amounts to a theoretical right to equal opportunity, with that right being equal within this black nation only to the extent that it is equally incapable of realisation.’

We cannot claim, therefore, that we have yet achieved our objective of a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa as envisaged in the Freedom Charter. It is still our responsibility ‘to break down barriers of division and create a country where there will be neither whites nor blacks, just South Africans, free and united in diversity.’

In doing so it is important to draw a link between the material realities of racism, and the ideologies that strive to maintain it. Ideology is historically specific: it changes as societies change. In South Africa the idea of non-racialism has been triumphant, asserting its hegemony in every sphere. The ideology of white supremacy and black inferiority has been resoundingly defeated: it has receded from the centres of power to the lunatic fringe of a few die hards. But ideas that offer a perverse moral sanction and sense of legitimacy to continuing inequality remain common.

Modern racist ideology includes ideas and practices that endorse the notion that racial discrimination and prejudice no longer pose a significant social problem. Some argue that, since the attainment of formal equality, the main racial problem in society is that blacks are becoming too demanding and that their demands are unfair. Such arguments overlook or seek to deny the continuing patterns of racial inequality in our country and the world. They are sometimes underpinned by a resentment of mechanisms aimed at redressing these patterns of inequality and antagonism towards demands for the elimination of racism in its various manifestations. At apex of such views in South Africa is the idea that even to discuss the question of racism is itself an act of racism.

Thus to respond to the question of racism in South Africa requires us to address both the material inequities that are its legacy and also engage in a battle of conscience against those ideas which are its flower. Again in the words of our President:

‘In conceptual terms we have to deal with two interrelated elements. The first of these is that we must accept that it will take time to create the material base for nation building and reconciliation. The second and related element is that we must therefore agree that it is the subjective factor, accompanied by tangible progress in the creation of the new material base, which must take the lead in sustaining the hope and conviction among the people that the project of reconciliation and national building will succeed.’

In other words, while the long-term solution to racial problems may reside in socio-economic development, our subjective actions in the short to medium term will eventually determine the extent to which such objectives can be achieved. South Africa is making remarkable progress in both areas. Our Constitution: Taking forward the Struggle for a Non-Racial South Africa The South African Constitution fully embodies the triumph of non-racialism, non-sexism and democracy and enjoins the entire nation to advance and contribute practically to the life of these concepts. We have shown through our history that the struggle to free our people, far from denigrating the dignity of others, creates the opportunity for all to live in peace and dignity. The notion that action can and must be taken which advances the cause of the oppressed and yet causes no injury to the dignity of other groups is central to our constitutional jurisprudence. It gives legal expression to the message we have propagated in the course of ninety years of struggle for self-determination, equality, dignity and freedom.

The constitution endorses a conception of equality that is unambiguously substantive. In an unequal society, positive action is needed to overcome the continuing effects of past discrimination. Only by recognising and addressing the injustice that is inherent in any unequal society, only by building, through action, a just future in the midst of our unjust present, can we hope to achieve our goals. In the words of the Constitutional Court:

‘The prohibition on unfair discrimination in the interim Constitution seeks not only to avoid discrimination against people who are members of disadvantaged groups. It seeks more than that. At the heart of the prohibition of unfair discrimination lies recognition that the purpose of our new constitutional and democratic order is the establishment of a society in which all human beings will be accorded equal dignity and respect regardless of membership of particular groups. The achievement of such a society in the context of our deeply inegalitarian past will not be easy, but that that is the goal of the Constitution should not be forgotten or overlooked.’

Corrective action is provided for in the constitution to ensure that the awesome legacy of apartheid is combated.

The constitution also provides for numerous mechanisms to monitor and enforce the ongoing transformation of society while ensuring the protection of minorities. These include a Human Rights Commission, a Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities and a Commission for Gender Equality.

Government Programmes to eradicate the demon of racism

Government has embarked on a sustained programme to uproot the demon of racism from South African soil, in the first place by addressing the inequality and injustice that are its consequences. In pursuit of a non-racial society, some key elements of the government’s programmes include:

  • Restructuring of the State to create a democratic, representative state from an institution that created and developed as an instrument of white minority rule. The civil service, the judiciary, the army, the police and the intelligence structures were all moulded to attain the opposite of what we now intend to achieve. Thus it is a critical part of the ANCs programme to change the doctrines, the composition and management style of all these structures to reflect and serve South African society as a whole.

  • This includes the involvement of more and more of those who were discriminated against, especially blacks, women and the disabled, and particular sensitivity to their needs and interests. It also involves the creation of democratic and non-racial structures of governance at all levels. At local government level this programme took a decisive step forward when the first non-racial local government elections were held in December 2000.

  • A wide-ranging legislative programme aimed at addressing the legacy of apartheid through affirmative action and special protection for the historically disadvantaged. Central to this programme is the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, through which every minister and level of government is required by law to implement within their portfolios measures aimed at the achievement of equality. Such measures include the elimination of unfair discrimination in any form including the repeal of any law, policy or practice, for which that minister is responsible, that results in the perpetuation of inequality. Ministers are also required to draw up clear implementable plans for uprooting inequality. The Employment Equity Act is another instrument to ensure that we overcome the legacy of the workplace colour bar, which was one of apartheid’s central features.

  • Directed developmental interventions aimed at addressing the huge social backlog that exists with regards to the poorest of the poor, the vast majority of whom are African and women. Such interventions include the recently launched Integrated Rural Development Programme and the various Urban Renewal Initiatives. Land reform programmes are also crucial to address racial and gender disparities and these are receiving high priority.

  • Expanding access to services for the poor: The supply of water, sanitation, housing, health care and other public goods are expanding through directed government programmes. A recent Statistics South Africa report found that access to and use of housing, clean water, electricity, telephony, health care has increased since the achievement of a democratic government.

  • Developing our human resources, which is regarded as both an end and a means to an end. A central component of apartheid was the design of an education system aimed at creating in the African population, people who only aspired to be ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’. Our educational programmes include the implementation of measures to redistribute educational resources in favour of the majority, the building of a culture of teaching and learning, the introduction of a new curriculum in tune with the country’s needs and the development of our teachers.

  • Supporting the restructuring of the economy. The Freedom Charter envisages a society where the people share in the wealth of the country. Our economic policies aim to both stimulate economic growth and equalise the distribution of income between population groups. An important component of this are programmes to deracialise the ownership of assets, such as land and private equity. Currently, black people own less than two percent of the equity listed on the Johannesburg stock exchange. Government is, through affirmative procurement, strategic engagement, the restructuring of state assets and other measures continuing to support the growth of black enterprise at all levels, including providing more and more opportunities for small business.

Building Non-Racialism: 
Towards the 21st Century

The existence of formal constitutional rights, and the action of government to address the terrible legacy of apartheid and expand the floor of social economic access and are crucial for the building of a non-racial, non-sexist South Africa. But the people themselves, through acts of self-empowerment, through conscious organisation and participation, must lead the process of transformation and people-centred development. Together, South Africans are fighting racism and sexism. Together South Africans are building democracy. The space is open for them to seize the moment and deepen the process of change. 

The African National Congress is a mass based non-racial movement. Its ninety fighting years have equipped it to meet this challenge like no other. Over these years we have learnt much, corrected many mistakes and deepened our approach to non-racialism, non-sexism and democracy in both theory and in practice. Within our society today, the ANC remains the only extra-governmental institution where South Africans of all colours, of all creeds, from all walks of life, from all communities meet in open debate to confront the challenge of reconstruction. Through its campaigns and activities at branch, provincial and national level the African National Congress continues to act with all South Africans in pursuit of a non-racial future. It continues to stand resolutely by the principles that have shaped its history. It continues to stand as a central pillar of our non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.

Our history of non-racial struggle, over ninety years, is what gives us confidence that we will be able to lead South Africa from the nightmare of its past to a future of unity in a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa. The ANC is fundamentally committed to continuing its traditions of non-racial unity in action. For the first time, democratic governance provides the framework within which black people can begin to shape their own advancement. Together, with government action to address the material consequences of racism, and ongoing organised community action, we are convinced of steady progress in the battle against the demon of racism.


The liberation of South Africa was achieved through the indomitable courage of our people. Our transition was also an element of a dynamic political process: of a world redefining itself with the end of the Cold War. To the extent that the new global situation has not resolved the contradictions within and among nations, between poverty and opulence; to the extent that ethnic, religious and racial tensions continue to ravage parts of the globe; to the extent that some of these contradictions find bold expression in our own society; to this extent and more, the transformation taking place in our country is closely intertwined with the search for a new world order.

The endowments of human, social and physical capital held by the nations of the world in modern times have not been the outcome of unconstrained bargaining in a free market, where economic agents respond to price signals in their own interest and a benign invisible hand ensures the optimal allocation of resources. Far more decisive in the allocation of global resources has been the iron glove of state-led coercion. The underdevelopment of the majority of the world is directly correlated to the industrialisation of its minority. These inescapable relations of power and resource allocation are defined by the history from which the present global order has emerged: a history of slavery and colonial domination sustained by, and supportive of, racist ideologies. The ideological, economic and political legacy of this history continues to colour relations between and within countries. It continues to shape the contours of wealth and poverty in the world. It continues to define the terrain on which we must determine our common destiny. Privilege and underdevelopment, which were its outcome, are not artefacts of history, but a living legacy.

The Era of Globalised Capitalism

We enter the third millennium in the era of globalised capitalism. The collapse of the socialist bloc and the end of the cold war, the crisis of state-led protectionist industrialisation, the information and communications technology revolution and the strengthening of institutions of global governance and economic regulation have facilitated the emergence of a single world economic system. The integration of the global economy has reached a level and intensity not witnessed since the start of World War I. This is partly a result of the development of productive forces, and partly the upshot of policy choices made, and in some cases imposed, across the globe. This economic integration is but one aspect of the development of a global society. In culture, sport, policy formulation and implementation, in academic discourse; indeed in all aspects of human activity, global as opposed to local influences are becoming more and more important.

Globalisation has seen a significant change in the operation of the world economy. Corresponding to a transition from an ‘international’ to a ‘trans-national’ mode of operation, the period since the late 1980’s has seen strong pressures for the free movement of commodities and capital across national borders with corporations seeking the ability to locate in any part of the world. Driven and facilitated by a revolution in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), production processes in many parts of the world are increasingly coordinated into what Manuel Castells has called ‘global networks’. At the same time the application of ICT coupled with the liberalisation of capital and currency movements, has created a world in which capital flows into and out of countries are literally instantaneous.

These developments have led simultaneously led to an increase in global wealth and a widening of global inequalities. For those with wealth and appropriate skills it has meant greatly enhanced access to new opportunities. For those lacking resources or appropriate skills, or excluded from global networks, globalisation has meant growing marginalisation and poverty. Understanding this dialectic is the key to the required policy responses. It means that measures to adapt to take advantage of new opportunities thrown up by globalisation need to include conscious efforts to counter the tendency towards inequality and marginalisation that the process has thus far exhibited.

Africa in an integrated world

Today, income in the whole of Africa is little more than that of Belgium. Africa is the poorest region of the world. Colonialism intended to ensure Africa’s permanent role as a supplier of cheap labour and raw materials. In doing so it deliberately degraded Africa’s human resource endowments, undermined and destroyed its social capital and skewed investment towards the extraction of raw materials in order to serve European industry.

The independence of African nations was won through struggle involving the masses of African people. Its victory was one of the great human achievements of the twentieth century. It provided Africa and the world with its first opportunity to reach for the dream of freedom, equality and human dignity. But from an economic and developmental point of view the post-independence project has not realised these great expectations. In the last 30 years Africa has become more and more marginalized, and has made little progress towards restructuring its relationship with the world. GDP per capita in Africa is significantly lower today than it was in 1970.

Investment per capita has also declined and exports per capita have collapsed. In contrast, all of these indicators have significantly increased in Latin America, East Asia and South Asia. Unlike these other regions, Africa has failed to diversify its productive base and remains largely an exporter of primary products. Since independence, income inequality has increased to levels comparable with Latin America. Today 40% of Africa’s population live on less than a dollar a day.

Several factors explain this tragedy of a dream unrealised. Certainly the legacy of colonialism and slavery are key among them, as are the quasi-colonial interference and war mongering that characterised the cold war. However, these factors also impacted on Latin American and Asian countries. Africa’s own choices have contributed to her continued marginalisation.

The threat posed by the process of Globalisation

The process of accelerated globalisation that we have witnessed over the past twenty-five years is a thoroughly contradictory one. As already noted, in addition to an overall increase in global wealth, inequality in the distribution of wealth has widened, both between many developing and developed societies, and within societies, including within the developed world. Globalisation threatens to inaugurate a new apartheid, on a global scale, where the victims of past abuses are consigned to an economic and developmental abyss, while the beneficiaries accumulate greater wealth and power. The practices and beliefs associated with racism, xenophobia, gender and related intolerance buttress the tendency so far manifest in the globalisation process to further marginalize the developing world.

In particular, globalisation could result in the further marginalisation of Africa. The opening of the world to trade does not necessarily lead to the convergence of growth rates between the developed and developing world, and the continued exclusion of Africa from global productive networks presents the danger of the divergent growth. Racist and xenophobic attitudes can exacerbate these tendencies. For example, attitudes of Afro-pessimism can fuel sentiments that impede long term capital flows to African countries. Racism and xenophobia can also restrict legitimate access of people from the South to business opportunities and trade in the North.

As well as threatening to reinforce the material basis of racism on a global scale, the process of globalisation is also associated with the emergence of new forms of racism, xenophobia, gender and related intolerance. While the free movement of capital and goods across national borders is encouraged, and is growing (although increasing protectionism amongst the developed nations in the context of a global recession cannot be ruled out), the movement of people across borders, especially the movement of unskilled labour from less developed to the more developed countries is becoming increasingly circumscribed. This, combined with policies that conspire to actively ‘poach’ the cream of skilled labour produced in the South, means that nations which stand outside the centres of capital accumulation are most disadvantaged by these restrictive migration regimes. These developments, which intensify the tendencies towards marginalisation in the process of globalisation, are spurred by xenophobia, the hatred of foreigners. In turn such restrictions give credence to these animosities.

The relationship between xenophobia and racism is inextricable as both are manifestations of intolerance to people who are different, and at the same time express real differences in power and control over resources. Through challenging racism – both social and material manifestations – which also manifests itself within all these relationships, it is possible to challenge xenophobia.

The opportunity presented by the process of globalisation

The advent of a global economy also provides us with important opportunities to address global inequities. First, the strengthening of organs of global governance and the emergence of developing economies as independent nation states on the global stage have created the political and institutional framework within which global developmental action can potentially succeed.

In the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, the extension of the world economy was often driven through the agency of colonial domination. However, the second half of the twentieth century saw the demise of the old colonial systems and millions of formerly colonised people now enjoy (in varying degrees) formal national sovereignty and basic citizenship rights. The existence of many more independent states within the world system is an important new reality. The sovereign capacity of many new states is often severely impaired by debt, and structural adjustment programmes that have hollowed out the public sphere in these societies. Nonetheless, the existence of many relatively new independent states is an important reality in the world inter-state system, and places on the agenda the need for, and the possibility of greater equity in world trade regulations, the reform of multi-national institutions and more genuine global partnerships between peoples.

Second, the information and communications technology revolution, while powerful transnational corporations in the North dominate it, nonetheless creates an infrastructure and a potential flow of information that can underpin a greater sense of our common humanity.

Third, growing globalisation, including media globalisation, have been accompanied by the development of a wide range of generally progressive and genuinely popular social movements, focused on balanced development, peace, disarmament, gender questions, the environment, health-care and human rights questions – including the world-wide movement against apartheid and racism.

While these increasingly well-mobilised social movements are often hostile to the present character of globalisation, they are also often the products of the new realities and they have used the global information and communications infrastructure to publicise their perspectives, and to network amongst themselves.

Combined these factors open the possibility of unity in action for a non-racial world on a global scale. Partnerships between peoples and governments can be built to ensure that globalisation, far from entrenching the calamities of history and the animosities they have generated, enables us to enter a new era of common dignity. To do so requires that we take remedial action that addresses the structural consequences of historic injustices.

Remedial Action for Historic Injustices

The nature of the damage caused by slavery and colonialism is complex and manifold: it involves the wholesale destruction of peoples and groups, the erosion and in some cases theft, of social, economic and human capital and the destruction of the social fabric of entire peoples. There is no doubt that Africans themselves must and will take the lead addressing the legacy of this African holocaust.

In recent years, there has been a growing demand that some form of satisfaction be provided for these serious and grievous wrongs. South Africa’s experience convinces us that to delay or avoid this discussion would not serve the cause of human fraternity. In legal terms, such wrongs are separated from the less serious ones by describing them as crimes against humanity, or war crimes or the crime of genocide. These are international wrongs and the wrong doers are liable to universal jurisdiction, as illustrated in The Hague and Rwanda Tribunals.

Until recent times, any state could, either on its own behalf or on behalf of its citizens, bring claims for reparations. This term, which is borrowed from international law, is broad and generic. It provides for various remedies, including:

  • Reviving the status quo ante, a remedy that would wipe out all the consequences of a wrong or a crime. The nature of the crimes against humanity associated under discussion mean that such an approach is hardly applicable.
  • Financial or other forms of compensation is another form of reparation. This has been the preferred route, but it is based on wrongs committed to individuals who are identifiable, when the parties against which the action are brought are also identifiable and where the nature of the wrong can be compensated by monetary means.
  • Satisfaction, when the aggrieved party receives, in one form or other, a recognition of the wrong committed. This could take the form of an acknowledgement that the activities such as slavery, racial discrimination and colonialism were forms of crimes against humanity. Acknowledgement could be accompanied by an apology for the grave crimes committed or simply a statement of contrition.

However, the problem about these remedies is that they remove the element of the structural consequences of these wrongs. As already noted, the core of modern racism lies in the historical injustice that continues to shape the relations of economic and political power. Structural changes in the world economy that would contribute towards eradicating the material basis for global racism include:

  • Debt reduction or cancellation, beyond the limits envisaged in the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative;
  • Reversing the growing trend amongst countries of the North towards
    a reduction in Overseas Development Assistance to the countries of the South;
  • Ensuring equitable market access for the South by ending protectionism and unfair state subsidy, which have the purpose or effect limiting fair competition from developing countries.
  • Taking positive and direct action towards bridging the digital divide in order to ensure that Africa in particular is not further marginalized in the formation of global networks.
  • Democratising the multi-lateral institutions of global economic governance.
  • Promoting an environment in conducive to increased long term capital flows to developing world, in particular by countering unfounded Afro-pessimism, which is often rooted in racist prejudice.

Above all a world free of racism requires us to acknowledge the past and change the present. In South Africa, more than anything else, repairing the damage caused by apartheid is the central focus of all government programmes. Our vision is a society founded on the principles of the Freedom Charter: a society of justice, equality and peace. This overriding aim animates our being. It is a deep spiritual commitment which arises from the roots of our human race. Its achievement requires partnerships between South Africans: non-racial partnerships across the colour bar, partnerships between men and women, partnerships between civil society and the state.

We are convinced that unity in action on a global scale can build the partnerships required to address past wrongs. Remedies must be developmental: they must be directed towards reversing the manifest developmental consequences of racism in history.

Forward to African Development

In order to build such global partnerships, South Africa has raised the question of the ongoing marginalisation of Africa in numerous international fora. The New African Initiative adopted by the 37th Ordinary Session of the OAU Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Lusaka in July 2001 boldly declares that:

‘Africa recognises the centuries-old historical injustice and the need to correct it. The central injunction of the new partnership is, however, for combined efforts to improve the quality of life of Africa’s people as rapidly as possible. In this, there are shared responsibilities and mutual benefits between Africa and her partners.

We are convinced that an historic opportunity presents itself to end the scourge of underdevelopment that afflicts Africa. The resources, including capital, technology and human skills that are required to launch a global war on poverty and underdevelopment exist in abundance. And are within our grasp. What is required to mobilise these resources and to use them properly is bold and imaginative leadership that is genuinely committed to a sustained effort of human upliftment and poverty eradication, as well as a new global partnership based on shared responsibility and mutual interest.’

The plan, which incorporates the Millennium Partnership for the African Recovery Programme (MAP), as expanded through the integration of Plan Omega, provides a basis on which to structure this partnership for the realisation of our shared global objectives.


The transition to a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa was not as miraculous as is sometimes believed. It is the outcome of purposive human action in many struggles waged over a number of years. The concept of non-racialism evolved gradually within the liberation movement. It advocated the overarching value of bringing all South Africans together in struggle against a common enemy. Such unity in action would neither undermine African leadership of our struggle nor deny the distinct characteristics and value of different communities and cultures. Nelson Mandela in his speech from the dock in 1964 stated:

‘Above all, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans.

This makes the white man fear democracy.

But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division, based on colour, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one colour group by another. The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs it will not change that policy.

This then is what the ANC is fighting. Their struggle is a truly national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by their own suffering and their own experience. It is a struggle for the right to live. During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’

Our non-racialism does not derive from intellectual discussions alone, though there have been many. It emerged in the course of action, with all the blemishes, weaknesses and problems encountered in a living organism.

The scars of its own evolution are reminders of its historical endurance. Like the building of non-racialism in South Africa, the creation of a world free from racism requires partnership in purposive action in the fight against racism. Globalisation, far from rendering us impotent in the face of powerful market forces, has opened the possibility of united action by the people and government’s of the world, to restructure global economic, political and cultural relations for the benefit of humanity. Repairing the damage inflicted by centuries of colonialism and slavery demands that we join hands in global non-racialism.

The richness of the planet’s cultural diversity is in itself the latent all-embracing spiritual force from which we can create a world that is free of conflict and poverty, racism and intolerance. Through the centuries we have witnessed disregard and contempt for the inalienable dignity of human beings, we have witnessed barbarous acts that have outraged the conscience of humankind: slavery, genocide, colonialism and war. We have proclaimed that the advent of a world in which all human beings enjoy fundamental human rights and freedoms is highest desire of all. Our aspirations can only be achieved if all nations, all peoples, all governments, join in the common action. We call on the World Conference Against Racism to build unity in action for a non-racial world, to acknowledge the past, to change the present and to build the future.


  1. UNESCO, Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice (1978), adopted and proclaimed by the General Conference of UNESCO at its 20th Session on 27 November 1978
  2. United Nations, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Adopted and opened for signature and ratification by General Assembly resolution 2106 (XX) of 21 December 1965, entry into force 4 January 1969, in accordance with Article 19.
  3. Oliver Tambo, Racism, Apartheid and a New World Order: Speech in Acceptance of the Third World Prize on behalf of Nelson and Winnie Mandela, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 5 May 1986. Printed in Sechaba, July 1986.
  4. Cited in the Slave Trade by Hugh Thomas, Papermac, 1998, p300
  5. See King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild, Macmillan, pp 225 -234
  6. Cited in King Lepold’s Ghost, by Adam Hochschild, Macmillan, 1999, pp136
  7. Cited in The Rise of the South African Reich, by Brian Bunting,
  8. Albert Luthuli, Africa and Freedom Text of the Nobel Lecture delivered by Chief Albert Lutuli in the Oslo University, on December 11, 1961,
  9. Nelson Mandela, Address to the people of Cape Town, Grand Parade, on the occasion of his inaugurations as State President, Cape Town, 9 May 1994,
  10. Albert Luthuli, Africa and Freedom Text of the Nobel Lecture delivered by Chief Albert Lutuli in the Oslo University, on December 11, 1961,
  11. Oliver Tambo, Preparing for Power: Oliver Tambo Speaks, Heinemann Educational Books, 1987, pp 11
  12. Frederikse, The Unbreakable Thread: Non-Racialism in South Africa, Zed Books, 1990, p 29
  13. Oliver Tambo, Speech At The Concluding Session Of The Conference Of The Women’s Section Of The ANC, Luanda, Angola, September 14, 1981
  14. The Freedom Charter, adopted at the Congress of the People, Kliptown, on 26 June 1955,  
  15. Cronin and Suttner, 30 Years of the Freedom Charter, 1985, pp. ix
  16. African National Congress: Strategy and Tactics of the ANC adopted by the ‘Morogoro Conference’ of the ANC, 25 April – 1 May 1969,  
  17. United Nations Development Programme: South Africa: Transformation for Human Development, UNDP, Pretoria, 2000, pp 63 – 67
  18. Thabo Mbeki, Statement of Deputy President Thabo Mbeki at the opening of the debate in the National Assembly, on ‘Reconciliation and Nation Building’: National Assembly, 29 May 1998.
  19. Cited in Oliver Tambo: His Life and Legacy, by Luli Callinicos,
  20. Duncan and De la Rey, in collaboration with Braam: Racism: A Psychological Perspective, commissioned by the Human Rights Commission as a background paper to the South African Conference on Racism.
  21. Thabo Mbeki, Statement of Deputy President Thabo Mbeki at the opening of the debate in the National Assembly, on ‘Reconciliation and Nation Building’: National Assembly, 29 May 1998.
  22. 1997 (4) SA I (CC),
  23. Statistics South Africa, South Africa in Transition: Selected findings from the October household survey of 1999 and changes that have occurred between 1995 and 1999, 2001
  24. World Bank, Can Africa Claim the 21st Century, Washington DC, 2000
  25. New Africa Initiative merger of the Millennium Partnership for the African Recovery Programme and Omega Plan, July 2001,
  26. Nelson Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s statement from the dock at the opening of the defence case in the Rivonia Trial, Pretoria Supreme Court, 20 April 1964