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Oslo Conference: Extract from the opening address of Thomas Nkobi

15 March 1989

Your Excellency, the Foreign Minister of Norway,
Comrade Secretary General Nzo,
All comrades assembled here today,

I would like to voice our deep appreciation to the Government and people of Norway for all the assistance you give so generously to the ANC. This contribution is recognised by the entire people of South Africa. We greatly appreciate all your efforts that have enabled this conference to take place. We express our thanks in particular for your exemplary contribution to the development of both Mazimbu and Dakawa. The all-round humanitarian assistance you provide ensures the well-being and development of our people.

This is the first meeting of this nature in the history of our struggle, where fellow members of the NEC, all ANC Chief Representatives, Regional Treasurers and cadres involved in the financial affairs of our organisation have come together to map out the course that will guide the whole movement and enable us to inject the funds necessary for the successful prosecution of our struggle. Our financial and material resources are limited, and must be used in the most rational and effective way possible.

I would like my address to you today to be read in conjunction with my contribution to the National Fundraising Workshop of March 1986, where I spelt out, in some detail, perspectives on fund raising. The perspectives and declaration of the Fund Raising Workshop remain valid, and I will therefore not cover the same ground again today. Our task is to assess reasons for our failure to implement decisions, and concretise methods to ensure future implementation takes place.

In the days ahead of us our task is not only to concretise ideas but to ensure the means by which they will be implemented. Our work this week will be conducted within the framework of four commissions, namely

1. ANC Needs and Resources - Internal and External.
2. Assessment of the Implementation of the 1986 Resolutions and Broadening our area of Fund Raising thrust.
3. Handicaps to Effective Fund Raising.
4. Specific Funding for Resettlement of ANC Communities.

The findings of all the Commissions will be presented to Plenary. At the conclusion of this meeting we must not only have a Declaration of Intent and a Programme of Action: we must leave here with a clear perspective of the task each and every one of us has to bring the written word to life.

There have been exciting developments regarding initiatives for world peace and the settlement of regional conflicts. Great opportunities exist to obtain just settlements for peace and stability in both Angola and Namibia. to which we lend our maximum support.

But with regard to South Africa itself, we need to reiterate that we know our enemy well. We have lived for decades in the prison that is apartheid. The Pretoria regime has survived for so long by brute force, fed and sustained by international connivance and support. It is only when we are strong enough, including in armed force, that the regime will be forced to change.

Ours is a just war of liberation. Our people are determined to be free. We must convey our struggle, the heroism of our people, and the horrors of the genocide being perpetrated against us simply and effectively. We must not for an instant forget that our behaviour is judged as the behaviour of all our people, our personal failures magnified into their failures - but our successes and achievements, our dedication and loyalty, also become their achievements. We cannot let them down. To achieve our goal requires substantial funds. This must be regarded as a priority The decision has been taken by the National Executive Committee that all our people must move with immediate effect to Dakawa. What is Dakawa? The ANC has successfully negotiated for 10,000 acres of land in Tanzania, called the Dakawa Development Centre, land where we can plant the seeds of genuine liberation. Land where we can gain vital experience so viciously denied us. Land where we can train in order to produce, organise and administer. Land where we can learn managerial and engineering skills. Land where we can develop pride in our work and our own achievements. Land where we can put to the test all our theories and practices. Land where we will learn to govern ourselves as a community. This is the exciting potential that the Dakawa Centre offers us. Much activity is already under way. It needs the full support of the whole movement.

Allocation of Resources

I wish to outline the following:

  • The Office of the Treasurer General allocates the resources at our disposal in keeping with the agreed immediate and longer-term strategy and tactics as determined by the National Executive Committee.
  • To provide the much-needed funds for internal work the movement as a whole must work within a National Budget.
  • To make this National Budget effective, we have to know the resources at our command and tap them effectively.
  • All projects and requirements of the various departments and sections must be submitted through the OTG. This should in no way diminish the initiatives of these departments or sections. They can and indeed must find potential donors and sources of funds. and should do all the preliminary work. But this must he done in consultation with the OTG to avoid duplication and ensure most effective use of` resources.
  • This places a particular responsibility on the OTG to ensure that we have an efficient method of` dealing with such project submissions, and the expertise to prepare such submissions professionally.

Need for Funds Inside the Country

The successive states of emergency have seriously affected legal organising possibilities. Included in this harsh repression has been a direct onslaught on funding from abroad. Despite the severe legal restrictions and impediments already in place, the Disclosure of Foreign Funding Act will soon come into force. This is the reworked Orderly Internal Politics Bill, which met with such an internal and international outcry that it was withdrawn. This Act will paralyse organisations relying on overseas money. It is also legislation geared for information gathering - who is being funded, for what and by whom. Penalties are stiff, including a fine of R40,000 and/or ten years` imprisonment for refusal to comply with its provisions.

This will mean external funding of legal projects and organisations, whether through the churches, trade unions or other bodies, will be increasingly curtailed. We need to assess the implications of this for our struggle. There is also great concern about sources of funding and `tainted` money. The mass democratic movement is very conscious of the efforts being made to `buy off sectors of our people.

I would like to look at another aspect of internal fund raising. A common slogan of our people is the refusal to pay for their own oppression. The rent boycott is one example of the militant and defiant stand taken throughout the country, the people en masse refusing to pay rent to prop up collaborationist councillors and dummy institutions. The spirit of defiance permeates every facet of life. We will not be party to our own oppression! We will not pay money that sustains the very forces that oppress us - the councillors, whose fat salaries are paid from our hard-earned wages, the police, kitskonstabels or `green beans`.

But there is another side to this coin. Surely we, as a people, must be prepared to contribute financially to our liberation. We must not be dependent on donations, from whatever source. Dependence leaves us vulnerable to pressure. We have the responsibility to create alternate, reliable sources of funds, and the only sources that, in the final analysis will be reliable, will be those that come from our people. We must be able to determine our own destiny at all times.

If people are withholding their money for rent etc, why can`t part of it be channelled back into organisation and mobilisation in the communities? Can people not be asked to contribute financially as well to our own liberation?

We are able to receive donations from individuals internationally because their income level is such that they have disposable income which can be used at their discretion, over and above that required to meet their perceived standard of living. But this is not the case in our own country. Unemployment stands at approximately six million, or 48 % of the economically active population. Wealthy white towns such as Grahamstown have a black unemployment rate estimated at between 60 and 70 per cent of the workforce. This means that the average household experiences extreme poverty and difficulty in providing the daily necessities of life. Nearly two thirds of the black people of our country live below the minimum living level, which was fixed in 1985 at 8350 per month. 80% of our people living in the bantustans and rural areas live in dire poverty.

The majority of workers still remain unorganised. Cosatu, the largest union federation, has approximately one million members organised into 13 unions, divided into nine regions. These workers, while paying stop order dues to the unions, have many demands made on their wages, often providing for families within the urban areas and in the bantustans. Although employed, few among them have discretionary disposable incomes.

However, we must find ways that will enable our people to make payments into the various aspects of our struggle.

It is the task of this meeting to concretise a programme of action so that we establish the means by which people can contribute financially to their own liberation. Of prime importance will be ensuring that there is no abuse of trust or confidence.

As I have outlined, our funds, the food we eat, the very clothes we wear are provided by people the world over who support our liberation struggle. This is not something we can take for granted. People give so generously out of respect for our people`s heroism, courage and priceless sacrifices. This hard-earned pride of place in the hearts of progressive humanity must be jealously guarded. Each of us has a role to play. Our conduct, our contribution, our dedication is the means by which we earn this support.

All of you participating in these deliberations represent the driving force of our Movement. A heavy responsibility rests on our shoulders. I have every confidence that we will approach our discussions frankly, critically and with determination to go forward with renewed vigour.