Statement at the General Assembly of the United Nations – 1989/11/08

First of all we take this opportunity to congratulate Mr. Joseph Garba on his well-deserved election to the high position he occupies within this eminent Organization of the nations of the world. We also thank the General Assembly for the opportunity the African National Congress has been given to make this statement during the debate on the agenda item “Policies of apartheid of the Government of South Africa”.

That is indeed a very correct and apposite heading, because the reality of the situation in South Africa is that our people continue to suffer under the system of apartheid. Political power remains exclusively in the hands of the white minority and that power continues to be used to advance the interests of that minority and to protect the system of white minority domination.

We express our appreciation of the report of the Special Committee against Apartheid and the related documents submitted to this forty-fourth session of the General Assembly, which have exhaustively described and analysed the situation in South Africa. It is therefore not necessary for us to go over the ground that is covered in those documents.

One of the elements characterizing the situation in South Africa today is the pervasive air of hope that we might be approaching the end of the apartheid system. That view is encouraged by recent events, such as the release of some of our political leaders, the massive anti-apartheid demonstrations over the last three months and the statements made by various spokespersons of the Pretoria regime that the De Klerk leadership is committed to change.

It is clearly of central importance that we all understand the situation in South Africa as clearly and objectively as possible. The first element to understand in this situation is that, despite everything its leaders say, the ruling National Party is committed to the perpetuation of the apartheid system.

We believe that it is very necessary to understand this, precisely because the rhetoric of the Pretoria regime is intentionally designed to mislead and distort reality. All we need to do is look at the election platform of the ruling party, which it prepared for the white elections of last September, to see quite clearly that the idea of the separation and division of the people of South Africa into racial and ethnic groups remains fundamental to the entire perspective of the De Klerk regime. In its so-called five-year plan, its election programme, the phrase “group rights” occurs no less than 39 times.

Demands have been made both inside South Africa and internationally that the Pretoria regime should repeal various laws, including the Group Areas, the Land and the Population Registration Acts. This, of course, will not happen, precisely because these laws constitute the very foundation of the apartheid legal edifice. For the regime to repeal it would be necessary in the first instance for the regime to abandon its commitment to the apartheid system. We make this point also to challenge the idea that the De Klerk regime should be given a chance, that it should be given time to enable the white Parliament to repeal these laws. We repeat that the Pretoria regime will not repeal these laws. After all, it cannot be that the architects of the apartheid system become at the same time the force that abolishes the apartheid system.

As the Assembly knows, the South African regime has over the years put in place a whole complex of laws and a so-called national security management system intended to structure, institutionalize and legalize a policy of repression and State terrorism, which is an inevitable consequence of the oppression and exploitation of the majority by the minority. Not only is this entire system still in existence, but the De Klerk regime argues for its perpetuation on the grounds that the regime has a responsibility to maintain law and order. But of course we all know what the maintenance of apartheid law and order means: it
means the most brutal action against all opponents of racial domination and the repression of an entire population.
As a result of the maintenance of that law and order, Nelson Mandela and many others remain in prison. Tens are on death row awaiting execution because of their opposition to apartheid. Others are banned, as are the ANC, the United Democratic Front (UDF) and other organizations. The Congress of South African Trade Unions remains restricted, the state of emergency has not been ended, and so on. Indeed, the spending on the military and police by the Pretoria regime continues to increase despite its defeat in Angola and the withdrawal of its forces from both Angola and Namibia.

The signing in New York of the Agreements last December relating to the People’s Republic of Angola and Namibia gave the impression to some that the apartheid regime would complement its acceptance of Namibia’s independence by a similar readiness to work for an end to apartheid in South Africa as well. How reluctant and forced that acceptance was has been demonstrated over the months by the manoeuvres in which the Pretoria regime has engaged – in fact to undermine Namibia’s smooth transition to independence and to subvert and weaken the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO). Whereas it could have seen the process of ending apartheid in Namibia as helping to create the climate necessary for a similar process in South Africa, the Pretoria regime saw the genuine independence of Namibia as a threat to its interests, a historic outcome that would undermine its efforts to perpetuate the apartheid system in South Africa.

Whence, then, the air of hope we spoke of earlier that it might be that we were approaching the end of the apartheid system? For us that atmosphere derives from our confidence in the inevitability of the victory of our struggle.

The masses of our people are engaged in a political offensive which is unparalleled in the numbers of people that it is drawing into action. The firmness of the commitment of these masses to the goal of total and genuine liberation has never been stronger than it is today. Their clarity as to the result they seek – a united, democratic and non-racial South Africa – cannot be questioned. Their organizational capacity to mobilize themselves in united action continues to grow with each passing day, just as the broad anti-apartheid front continues to expand, with the activization of new sections of the population in the struggle, including segments of the white population.

The senior leaders of the ANC who are within our country will themselves work to encourage and reinforce these processes of struggle. Their specific input will undoubtedly help to quicken the pace of mobilization and cement the unity of the forces that are active against apartheid.

These leaders have already correctly pointed out that the conditions which obliged us to resort to arms have not changed. Consequently, the armed struggle itself must continue. In this regard, we continue firmly to oppose any suggestion that we are to blame for the violence within our country and will firmly resist therefore any attempts to compel us unilaterally to suspend or renounce the armed struggle. We have said in the past, and we repeat today, that when the right moment comes the ANC is ready to enter into an agreement with the Pretoria regime to suspend hostilities on both sides and to negotiate an end to the apartheid system so that the violence of the system is ended and the reasons for which we had to take up arms no longer obtain.

If the apartheid regime had been serious about a negotiated resolution of the South African question, it would long ago have responded to the Harare Declaration on South Africa, which was adopted nearly three months ago and has now been adopted also by the non-aligned countries. The provisions of that Declaration, which are the result of extensive consultations within our country in a process which included such leaders as Nelson Mandela and the mass democratic movement, are a serious and reasonable set of proposals that point the way forward to a political settlement of the conflict in South Africa, which necessarily must be predicated upon ending the apartheid system.

But, as the Assembly knows, F. W. De Klerk has not even done those things that it is in his power to do by presidential decree and that he could, therefore, effect even tomorrow if he so wished. We must, therefore, continue to proceed from the position that actions speak louder than words. The actions of the Pretoria regime continue to reaffirm its unwillingness to engage in a process leading to the abolition of apartheid.

It is for this reason that we believe that the General Assembly, as part of its continuing commitment to help end the apartheid crime against humanity, should once more adopt important resolutions to impose new sanctions against apartheid South Africa, strengthen the existing measures, and work for the imposition of comprehensive mandatory sanctions. This is vitally necessary in complementing the struggle the ANC, the mass democratic movement and the masses of our people are waging within our country. The message reaching Pretoria from New York must be clear and unequivocal: that the international community will continue to take action against apartheid until the system comes to an end.

In this regard, we urge the Assembly to give the Special Committee against Apartheid and the Centre against Apartheid the means for these bodies to continue their important work aimed at the speedy and total elimination of the apartheid system. We also look forward to the forthcoming special session of the General Assembly which, we trust, will further unite the peoples of the world against apartheid and for a democratic South Africa.

Finally, we should like to take this opportunity to convey the greetings and best wishes of the ANC and the people of South Africa to the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) and the people of Namibia. The exercise in which they are currently engaged is of historic importance to themselves, to our own country and our region as a whole. Its outcome, for which this Organization has a continuing responsibility, has to be the genuine and complete independence of a democratic and non-racial Namibia. We are certain that SWAPO will pursue these goals, in keeping with the wishes of both the people of Namibia and the rest of the international community.

Similarly, we extend our greetings of solidarity to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the State and the people of Palestine, the Sahraoui Arab Democratic Republic and other peoples who are fighting for their emancipation.

The apartheid system will come to an end sooner rather than later; it will do so as a result of struggle and pressure. We continue to rely on this body to contribute its full share to the escalation of that pressure, in the interests of freedom and justice in South Africa, peace and development in our region and the elimination of the scourge of racism throughout the world.

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