President OR Tambo`s opening address to the ANC`s 48th National Conference
DURBAN, 2 JULY 1991
Comrade Nelson Mandela, Deputy President of the ANC,
Members of the National Executive Committee,
Commanders of Umkhonto we Sizwe,
Esteemed representatives of governments and political parties,
Excellencies, members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Comrades and friends,
We welcome you all with boundless joy, especially you delegates, who
represent the hopes and aspirations of millions of our people across the
length of our strife-torn country. We welcome you conscious of the fact
that you have come here propelled by our burning desire to make this Conference
the last one we shall have to hold under minority rule.
We salute our allies in the South African Communist Party and the Congress
of South African Trade Unions. We salute the ANC Youth League - the future
of our country. We salute the ANC Women`s League for steadfastly championing
our cause and particularly the largely unresolved issue of women`s emancipation.
We salute commanders and combatants of our glorious army Umkhonto we
Sizwe for the sterling contribution they have made to the struggle.
This Conference is not only unique because it takes place in South Africa
after a period of three decades, but also because of its representativeness.
Given the cloud of uncertainty hanging over this country and the climate
of confrontation fostered by enemies of peace and democracy; and given
our people`s and the world`s impatience with oppression, decisions emanating
from this Conference must infuse South Africa and our entire region with
consequences of historical magnitude. For congregated within these four
walls is the voice of reason, the voice of freedom, the voice of peace
- in fact the voice of humanity.
Comrades and friends,
It is my task to present a report back to our Movement, our people and
the country, on the mission we were assigned to do outside the country
more than three decades ago. I present this report on behalf of my colleagues
in the National Executive Committee (NEC), my peers and fellow combatants
in the external mission - both the living and the departed. In this context,
we pay special tribute to the heroes and heroines of our struggle. The
names of Robert Resha, J.B. Marks, Moses Kotane, Florence Mphosho, Lilian
Ngoyi, Moses Mabhida, Johnny Makatini, Duma Nokwe, Yusuf Dadoo, Vuyisile
Mini and countless others will forever remain on the roll of honour of
our struggle. We shall always remember them for their outstanding contribution.
Because the history of the past thirty years is as vast as the road
we have traversed, one can only but mention landmarks in this report. In
1959 the ANC took a decision that Comrade Josia Matlou and I were to leave
the country. Our mission was to rally international support for the isolation
of the apartheid state. We also had to create a reliable rear base for
our struggle. Comrade Matlou left before me. I left the country in 1960,
a week after the Sharpeville massacre and just before the ANC and the PAC
were banned. Sharpeville, of course, marked a major watershed in our history
and ushered in a whole new era.
Permit me to strike a personal note. I crossed the border illegally
into the then Bechuanaland with the help of Ronald Segal. I was aided too
by the late Sir Seretse Khama and spent some time in protective custody
because of kidnap threats by South African agents.
First Freedom Fighters
Together with Dr. Yusuf Dadoo and Segal we proceeded to Tanganyika.
It was there that we met Mwalimu Nyerere who was heading the struggle for
this country`s independence. We were amongst the first freedom fighters
to be received by this great son of Africa. Those were hopeful and exciting
days. They were also particularly frugal ones when we often did not know
where the next meal was coming from.
From Tanganyika we went to Ghana where we met Kwame Nkrumah. It was
there that the idea of a United Front was discussed between the ANC, the
PAC, the SACP and an organisation which was later to be known as SWAPO
of Namibia. Our discussions on this issue were finalised in London and
the South African United Front was formed. Thus began our international
crusade to win friends and isolate the racists.
Comrades and friends,
It must be remembered that the fundamental question that we then had
to resolve was how to transform our Movement to meet the new situation
in South Africa. The choice confronting us by a vicious and violent regime
was "to submit or fight". Rather than surrender we chose the
path of armed struggle. Our role outside was to prepare conditions for
the politico-military training of cadres of Umkhonto we Sizwe. Here
at home the leadership was recruiting cadres to go for training as well
as building the underground.
In this regard our mission abroad worked hard to ensure that the world
was mobilised in support of our struggle. We appealed for the isolation
of the regime and urged the international community to support our armed
struggle. From the very beginning we made steady gains in this regard.
The socialist countries, notably the Soviet Union and the newly independent
countries of Africa, Latin America and Asia threw their full weight behind
our struggle. Most of these were willing to support the armed struggle.
In the West we succeeded in encouraging the formation of a powerful
anti-apartheid movement and the formations which helped to isolate the
Pretoria regime. We are honoured by the presence of the President of the
British Anti-Apartheid Movement, none other than that great friend of the
South African people, Archbishop Trevor Huddleston. I am sure you will
all agree with me that he is a most fitting representative of the international
anti-apartheid forces. Welcome home Father. Welcome home Isitwalandwe
Comrades, our position in international organisations, like the Non-Aligned
Movement, the Afro-Asian Peoples` Solidarity Organisation and so forth
became unassailable. By 1974 the General Assembly of the United Nations
was able to refuse the credentials of the South African representative
despite strong resistance from some Western countries. It is a measure
of our success that by 1989, the ANC had more representatives abroad than
the South African government.
Comrades and Friends,
While we registered early victories on the international front, here
at home we suffered a devastating setback at the hands of a regime armed
with draconian laws of repression. The Rivonia arrests and the smashing
of the underground structures set us back many years. Although colonialism
was collapsing in Africa our subregion was still in the grip of reaction.
The imperialist powers collaborated with Pretoria, Portugal and Rhodesia
against the liberation movements. The cordon sanitaire they erected
made it difficult for our Umkhonto combatants to return home. Following
our discussion with ZAPU, we decided to send a detachment into Rhodesia,
with instructions that they were to fight their way back home.
It was in 1967 that a combined force of Umkhonto we Sizwe and
ZIPRA crossed the Zambezi into Rhodesia. This marked the beginning of what
was known as the Wankie-Sipolilo campaigns. As well as being an attempt
to return home this was a practical manifestation of our solidarity with
our sister people in the Frontline States. In this regard, our combatants
together with their Zimbabwean comrades acquitted themselves heroically
in battles against the combined Smith and Vorster forces. They carried
out their mission gallantly and valiantly. We salute Basil February, Patrick
Molaoa, Andries Motsepe and other comrades who lie buried in the soil of
liberated Zimbabwe. However, at the conclusion of the Wankie-Sipolilo campaigns,
our problem of reestablishing the ANC inside remained essentially unresolved.
By 1969 it was considered necessary to hold a National Consultative
Conference in Morogoro, Tanzania. Conference was to take stock of the totality
of our experience and, on the basis of that, map out the way forward. Morogoro
became a landmark and a turning point in our struggle. It was that conference
which produced a comprehensive document on the strategy and tactics of
Reporting to our Second National Consultative Conference in 1985, the
National Executive made the following observation about Morogoro: "Out
of Morogoro came significant results, the most important being the reorientation
of our Movement towards the prosecution and intensification of our struggle
inside South Africa, the restoration and reinforcement of unity within
our ranks and the integration of all revolutionaries within the external
mission of the ANC." The decision to open up the membership of the
ANC to all South Africans, regardless of the colour of their skin, was
a giant leap forward towards the true nonracialism within the ANC.
From Morogoro we created the Revolutionary Council (RC) which was charged
with the responsibility of prosecuting the struggle inside the country.
We later replaced the RC with the Political Military Council (PMC). The
PMC was answerable to the NEC and, under its leadership, forward machineries
were established. As a result, the post-1976 era witnessed a rapid reemergence
of the ANC within the country. Some of the many factors which contributed
to this development were the collapse of Portuguese colonialism and the
June uprisings of 1976. Following this, thousands of young people who went
into exile at the time found a political home in the ANC.
On the other hand, the independence of Angola and Mozambique created
new possibilities for our struggle. Angola provided us with military bases.
The MPLA, under the leadership of the late President Agostinho Neto, allowed
us training facilities regardless of their own serious problems. In spite
of years of destabilisation by the regime Angola stood firm and with the
assistance of Cuban and Soviet internationalism turned the tide against
Pretoria. It was at Cuito Cuanavale that the SADF met their match. Victory
there opened the way for Namibia`s independence and Pretoria`s historic
retreat in our region.
The cohesion and steadfastness of the Frontline States proved decisive
in enhancing our striking capacity. If these countries had not acted together
and created a united front against apartheid South Africa, we would have
been in serious trouble. In this regard, the independence of Zimbabwe in
1980 further consolidated the strength of the anti-colonial struggles in
our region. Thus, the balance of forces irrevocably shifted in our favour.
However, in an attempt to roll the wheel of history back, these states
were subjected to the most brutal form of destabilisation by South Africa.
Together with our hosts, members of the ANC became victims of cross-border
raids. We remember our martyrs who fell in Matola, Maseru, Gaborone and
The remains of Obadi Kokgabudi, Gene Gugushe, William Khanyile, Morris
Seabalo and many others remain buried in the Frontline States and must
be brought back home. Representatives of these states have joined us today,
to once more reaffirming their unflinching support for our cause. We are
grateful to them and to their people for all they have done for us. Never
shall we forget the support they rendered and continue to render to us.
Whilst aiming to destabilise the Frontline States, the regime increased
efforts to weaken the ANC through the infiltration of its agents. Comrades
were poisoned in the camps, others kidnapped and many more killed. And
in 1984 enemy agents managed to start a mutiny in our camps. We could not
allow the enemy to destabilise us with impunity. We strengthened our Department
of Intelligence and Security and sought to contain the dangers posed by
infiltration. We have now released all agents we held but must continue
to uphold our vigilance.
Comrades and friends,
One of the greatest historical failures of our times has been the inability
of successive white regimes to halt our struggle. Even at the most difficult
times our people never surrendered. Whether it was under the banner of
black consciousness in the late 1960s and the 1970s, or with the Durban
strikes of 1973, our people never ceased to struggle. As a result, despite
all the schemes aimed at destroying our Movement, we grew both in stature
and effectiveness. Our survival and growth as a fighting force is the major
victory that our people have scored under difficult conditions of illegality.
Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College
As well as fighting the regime, we consciously prepared our people to
play a meaningful role in a liberated South Africa. In this regard, we
founded the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College in Morogoro, Tanzania, in
1979. When we approached the Tanzanian government with the idea of a school,
they readily gave us land on which SOMAFCO stands today.
The beginning of the 1990s witnessed the maturing of both the subjective
and objective factors in favour of our people`s victory. As we were poised
for a great leap forward, we designated the 1980s the "Decade of Freedom".
We proceeded to call upon our people to make South Africa ungovernable
and apartheid unworkable. To this call our people responded in their thousands.
Everywhere in the country, popular organs of people`s power emerged, challenging
the apartheid structures.
Umkhonto we Sizwe
Our people`s confidence in their ability to defeat the regime was restored
by the daring armed actions of Umkhonto we Sizwe. The blows which
were struck at SASOL, Voortrekkerhoogte, Koeberg and other installations
inspired our people and demoralised the regime. In this regard, we pay
special tribute to Barney Molokwane, Clifford Brown, Ronald Malapa and
other glorious martyrs who made the supreme sacrifice in the service of
their people and country. In the same period we successfully reestablished
the underground as a vital pillar of struggle.
It was this underground which through its propaganda and leadership
stimulated the formation of the mass democratic organisations. With the
dynamic growth of the UDF and COSATU, we reached the point where our four
main pillars of struggle - mass struggle, armed struggle, the underground
and international support - posed the most serious challenge to white minority
rule ever seen in our country. As a result, the regime was forced to declare
the state of emergency in 1985. As the crisis of the apartheid state deepened,
so did the confidence in our victory grow.
Internationally there was an almost universal turning of the tide in
favour of our struggle. Even the traditional allies of the regime found
it impossible to continue supporting apartheid. It was in this context
that, in 1987, an official ANC delegation was received in Washington, for
the very first time. And at last, the United States Administration fell
in line with other governments who had long been supporting our cause.
In this respect we would like to single out the powerful and consistent
support provided over the years by Sweden and Norway.
Even as we made these impressive gains, it is fair to say that on some
issues and in some instances we could have put up a better performance
than we actually did. It was with the view of resolving some of our subjective
weaknesses that we convened our second National Consultative Conference
in Kabwe, Zambia, in 1985.
Conference took place against a climate of heightened confrontations
between our people on one hand and the regime on the other. Like today,
the regime and the South African press sought to create divisions amongst
us by resorting to all sorts of schemes including attempts to draw a wedge
between the youth and the older generation within the ANC.
None of these schemes have succeeded. Amongst its many positive decisions,
Conference resolved to open up the membership of the NEC to all South Africans.
We, therefore, became second to the SACP, the first truly nonracial political
movement in South Africa.
We also resolved to strengthen democratic principles within the Movement
and in particular, to urgently address the gender issue. Further, we resolved
to rally to the defence of our people by intensifying the struggle inside
the country. Of note was the way we stressed the important balance and
relationship between the main pillars of our struggle. We stressed that
in struggle, even where arms are employed, the masses are the key to change.
Above all we emerged from Conference as a united and strengthened organisation,
much to the dismay of our adversaries.
By the time of the Kabwe Conference we had succeeded to place the issue
of the transference of political power firmly on the agenda. This reality
was beginning to be recognised by farsighted sections of the white community
who began to seek for discussions regarding the future of our country.
More importantly, contacts between democratic forces inside and outside
were intensifying. In the circumstances, the need to address conditions
under which we would be prepared to negotiate a democratic transfer of
power was placed on the agenda. Equally, we had to elaborate principles
upon which the constitution of a democratic state would be founded.
In response to these, we issued an NEC statement in 1987 outlining conditions
under which we would be prepared to enter into negotiations with the regime.
At the same time we commissioned the ANC Constitutional Committee to begin
elaborating constitutional principles on the basis of the Freedom Charter.
It was our view that such principles would constitute a basis for a national
debate on the new constitution. We, therefore, hoped to initiate a process
whereby the new constitution would emerge from the people themselves. Through
these and other initiatives, the ANC increasingly defined the terrain and
tempo of our struggle. In this manner we provided overall leadership to
Even as we provided leadership, we were always conscious of the fact
that the ANC was the people`s parliament. The widespread circulation of
Constitutional Guidelines was a further assertion of the sovereignty of
the people. The unity in action of our people has remained the guiding
beacon throughout the days of illegality. To reach our goal of a united,
democratic, nonracial and nonsexist South Africa, sooner rather than later,
then we must not deviate from this course.
In this context, we considered it important that decisions of the ANC
were to be shaped by popular mass endorsement at all times. Even if such
decisions were acceptable within the Movement, they would have come to
naught unless they enjoyed popular support beyond the bounds of the ANC
itself. Whilst our policies were in terms of our beliefs and convictions,
they also reflected and served the people`s interests. Above all, we sought
to make the people part and parcel of our decisions.
Operating within the logic of a people`s struggle - armed and political
- and supported by the international community, we managed to push the
enemy into a crisis which could not be resolved within the confines of
the old order. For the first time possibilities to end apartheid and national
oppression through negotiations were created. As a result of struggle the
closed door that our late President, Chief A.J. Luthuli, knocked on for
many decades was finally opened. It is our responsibility and destiny to
seize this historic opportunity.
In this regard, it was vital that we did not surrender the initiative
to our adversaries. We initiated a process of wide-ranging discussions
within the ANC, between the ANC and the Mass Democratic Movement and between
the ANC and the OAU and, in particular, the Frontline States. These consultations
resulted in the adoption of the Harare Declaration by the OAU in 1989,
the endorsement of this declaration by the Non-Aligned Movement and the
Commonwealth and the adoption of the United Nations Consensus Resolution
on South Africa of 1989.(1)
Once more, the world stood united behind democratic forces in this country.
The unfolding democratisation process is, therefore, taking place on the
basis of the agenda set by ourselves. Accordingly we must continue to assert
the ANC`s leadership of this process. This means that we have an ongoing
responsibility to lead the process of negotiations. As in the past, our
leadership should be exercised both here and abroad. This becomes even
more important given the changing face of the international community.
We must therefore refocus international attention on the need of continued
support, including support we shall need in order to reconstruct our country
and the region in the post-apartheid era.
Comrades and Friends
I was struck down by a stroke on the eve of the adoption of the Harare
Declaration. The Deputy President(2)
will continue with this report in a moment. However, I wish to pay a
special tribute to all of you here, and many more around the world who
wished me recovery from ill-health which at times gave cause for concern.
In particular, I thank my security aides who were the first on the scene
and who to this day have continued to provide me with tremendous support
and help. I must also thank His Excellency President Kenneth Kaunda who
did everything possible to save my life - including paying all expenses
relating to my illness and sending his best doctor and nurse to accompany
me to London. Many comrades who visited me in Sweden and London were of
great help towards my recovery as were the prayers many of you offered.
Finally, I want to thank my wife Adelaide and my family for giving me the
love and the support I could not have survived without.
Unity of the ANC
Before I sit down, I wish to make a few observations: we did not tear
ourselves apart because of lack of progress at times. We were always ready
to accept our mistakes and to correct them. Above all we succeeded to foster
and defend the unity of the ANC and the unity of our people in general.
Even in bleak moments, we were never in doubt regarding the winning of
freedom. We have never been in doubt that the people`s cause shall triumph.
Finally I would like to thank all who have contributed to making my
Presidency a worthwhile experience for me personally.
1 United Nations General
Assembly resolution A/RES/S-16/1, of December 14, 1989.
2 Nelson Mandela