President of the Senate,
Honourable Prime Minister Arthur Napolean Robinson and members of the Cabinet,
Honourable Members and Senators,
Allow me, on behalf of the African National Congress and the oppressed and fighting peoples of South Africa to convey the warmest greetings to this august assembly of the lawmakers of Trinidad and Tobago.
In particular, on this historic occasion, I greet you on behalf of those of our patriots, like Nelson Mandela, who are held in the prisons of apartheid.
In inviting the African National Congress to address this joint session of the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago, you have honoured, in a most profound and significant way, the oppressed people of South Africa and their heroic struggle for national liberation.
You will perhaps better comprehend what this occasion means to our delegation when I explain that no African has ever addressed what is described as the Parliament of South Africa. In the land of their own birth, no African has ever been a member of Parliament. Because of the colour of their skin, millions are totally excluded from the franchise. In racist South Africa, Africans are permitted to enter Parliament simply as sweepers and cleaners.
Mr. Speaker, through this sovereign Parliament all the people of Trinidad and Tobago, regardless of race, ethnic group, religion or gender, exercise their right of self-determination, and within these chambers, decision-making is shaped by democratic principles.
The system bequeathed to the Union of South Africa by Imperial Britain was very different. The first overtly racist legislation enacted by a British Parliament, the South Africa Act of 1909, gave to South Africa a constitution in which all those not "of European descent" were excluded from Parliament.
Two Alternative Paths
In 1912, two years after the formation of the Union, the African National Congress was formed. For 75 years now, we have been forced to operate outside the parliamentary system, and for the last 27 of these years, as an illegal organisation.
Throughout these 75 years, there have been two alternative paths before our people: two premises upon which we could organise our society, two opposing ideologies and sets of values that could guide our development.
The white minority, in whom political power has been vested, chose to construct a system of national oppression and exploitation on the ideological rationalisation that the many races that inhabit our country are mutually hostile, incapable of living together and cooperating in harmony.
From a value system based on the tenet that the white race is inherently superior to the black and brown peoples of the world have flowed the policies of segregation and apartheid. Our country has been fragmented, our people artificially divided and subdivided - racially, ethnically, geographically and economically. Each successive election, involving whites only, led to a further expansion of privilege, an erosion of the diminishing rights left to the African people, and a tightening of restrictions on the freedoms of all South Africans.
The path pursued by the white minority has brought suffering, death and destruction to the people of South Africa, and to our region. In the face of growing resistance, the regime has abandoned even the pretence of legality and resorted simply to greater and ever greater violence against the South African people, and against the people of southern Africa. There have been repeated acts of aggression against our neighbours and apartheid`s military forces remain in occupation on parts of Angola and all of Namibia. Over the past decade, damage in excess of US $15 billion has been inflicted on the economic infrastructure of the region. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed and thousands more have been displaced as a result of Pretoria`s systematic aggression, subversion and destabilisation. Attempts have been made to subvert sovereign governments and the very independence of our neighbouring States is threatened. Apartheid South Africa, already in breach of the peace of the region, is a threat to international peace and security.
Today, the policy of apartheid has been declared an international crime and the regime that practices it is an international pariah.
Outside of the parliamentary arena, our people have chosen a different path. The African National Congress was born of a recognition that as a divided people we have been conquered and dispossessed of our land. Deeply conscious of the attempted exclusion of the African people from the South African nation the whites were creating, we strove to unite all Africans and to expand that unity to encompass the other oppressed groups in our county: the Coloured community and the people of Indian origin who had come to South Africa as indentured labour. South Africa belongs to all who live in it. We have therefore also extended our hand to democratic whites. We have come together in struggle, and are forging a South African nation.
Escalation of Resistance
The ideology of the white minority has created an abiding hostility to all forms of racism among the oppressed majority. Our alternative is a nonracial, united, democratic South Africa, in which the diversity of our people would be channelled to enrich and strengthen the common stream of our national endeavour.
Today, we are within sight of this goal after many years of arduous struggle during which even peaceful protest was outlawed and the ANC itself was banned. The violence inherent within apartheid, the violence daily perpetrated against our people, and the violence used to maintain white domination, forced us to take up arms to defend ourselves and to fight for the destruction of the apartheid system.
The escalating repression has served only to strengthen the determination of our people to achieve our historic objective. Detention, torture, brutal assassination and imprisonment have served only to harden our resolve. The sacrifice of life, death of comrades and even children are now part of the process.
In a similar way, the attacks on the countries of southern Africa have not prevented the continued support for our struggle. The people and governments of the region know that so long as the Pretoria regime remains, so long will their own independence and sovereignty be jeopardised; so long as racism and apartheid persist there can be no peace in southern Africa, indeed, no peace in Africa.
As repression has grown, the people have found new ways to organise. Community-based grassroots organisations of every kind have come together under a United Democratic Front - more than 700 of them, representing millions of South Africans of all races. Workers have organised and formed the mighty Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) which, recognising that workers` demands can only be met in a democratic South Africa, has added the strength of hundreds of thousands of workers to our liberation struggle.
The challenge to the regime has been reinforced by the military actions of Umkhonto we Sizwe, which has been inflicting a mounting succession of casualties on the enemy.
Individually and together, these organisations have destroyed many of the institutions of apartheid and made parts of the country ungovernable. As the regime enters into the third State of Emergency in two years, it is clear that it has failed to regain control of the situation. Within the last two months, and despite the ban on political organisation and meetings, three new national federations have been launched: the South African Youth Congress, the South African Students` Congress and the UDF Women`s Congress Alliance; and notwithstanding the military clampdown and occupation of the townships there are more frequent reports of armed clashes and bombings by the people`s army. Censorship may help the regime to conceal the continued escalation of resistance; it cannot help them destroy it.
Death Throes of Apartheid
There is today a universal recognition among people across the South African political spectrum, that apartheid can no longer continue as before. To those whites who wish to maintain apartheid, albeit in another form, Botha has been able to offer no strategy, nor any solution. The so-called reforms he offers to blacks are but a reiteration of the regime`s objectives, adapted to meet the new situation. They have been recognised as such and have been repeatedly rejected. The National Statutory Council which he has now invited Africans to join, will suffer the same fate as other such institutions. Africans are not seeking to join Botha on advisory or consultative councils, nor will they allow themselves to be coopted into the joint administration of white domination.
The oppressed, united as never before, know their objective, and are determined to establish the nonracial, united, democratic South Africa for which they have striven so long. We are also convinced, as always, that victory is certain.
But the death throes of apartheid are painful and can be devastating in their consequences for our people, for the people of southern Africa and for our Continent.
The recent white election signalled that the regime remains determined to unleash even more violence in a bid to crush the extra-parliamentary opposition - the United Democratic Font, the trade unions, especially COSATU, the youth and women`s movements, the community organisations, and the ANC itself. It will not and cannot succeed. It has tried and failed in the past; it will fail again. No levels of violence and destruction by the regime will save the apartheid system from collapse.
The scope, scale and duration of the violence and destruction which must precede the demise of apartheid, and which will inevitably extend beyond the frontiers of South Africa, seriously threatening international peace can be limited by effective action on the part of the international community.
Commonwealth must Act
The action we speak of is sanctions, comprehensive sanctions, immediate sanctions, In addition, the Frontline States, already targets of South African aggression and destabilisation, must be assisted to survive any sanctions that South Africa may try to pass on to them. Assistance to the Frontline States is an imperative component of any effective support for the liberation struggles in Namibia and South Africa. But such assistance cannot be a substitute for sanctions: for it is only the destruction of apartheid that will create the conditions in which these States will be able to develop their economies and consolidate their political independence.
Mr Speaker, you might consider that I speak needlessly thus to the converted - for this country and much of this region imposed sanctions against the apartheid regime many years ago. But it is precisely because you understand the reasons for sanctions and appreciate their significance that we appeal for your assistance at this time. The Commonwealth Summit will be meeting later this year in Vancouver. In keeping with the tradition that decisions be made by consensus, hitherto Commonwealth Governments have made many compromises in order to accommodate the British Government`s well-known opposition to sanctions. Last year, the seven Commonwealth Heads of Government charged with considering the report of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group broke new procedural ground. So great was their concern about the situation in South Africa as reported by the EPG, and so patently obvious the need to apply additional pressures on the regime, that the Heads of Government did not allow the desire for sanctions to become an effective British veto against collective action by Commonwealth governments against the racist regime. Our people applauded that decision.
It is our hope, our appeal, that Trinidad and Tobago will take the initiative along with other Caribbean countries in mobilising support for a Commonwealth decision to impose comprehensive sanctions against the Pretoria regime, while allowing the British Government to enter its reservations in the communique.
Twenty-six years ago, as the country of Tanganyika (now Tanzania) approached its independence, its leader Mwalimu Julius Nyerere declared that to permit South Africa to remain in the Commonwealth would be a betrayal of its principles and would amount to a rejection of Tanganyika`s own admission to the Commonwealth. Those principles have not altered, and today it would be a greater betrayal of the Commonwealth if its members did not take the action that they know the situation now demands.
Where is the need for deferment? As a calypso I heard at the cultural rally last night asked: "How many more must die before South Africa is set free?" Is there anyone that still believes that Botha will voluntarily change? A regime that sets its police and soldiers upon children, tortures and murders them, is a regime beyond redemption.
Mr Speaker, we have come 5,000 miles from our shores and found here in Trinidad and Tobago a people with whom we share a common circumstantial origin, and a common objective. In your streets and within this House, we see a people much like our own, who were drawn from many countries, and who as the result of the colonial experience of slavery, indenture and colonialism, inherited social formations fashioned to meet the labour needs of the plantations and mines of the British empire. You have gone a long way in overcoming that divisive heritage. From the diversity of your origins you have built a unified nation and a national culture that continues to grow increasingly blind to race, colour and creed. We hope to learn from your experience.
The majority of the people of South Africa, the people of Namibia, led by SWAPO, the leaders and people of southern Africa, the people of Africa, all look with confidence to the day when the scourge of apartheid in South Africa and the illegal occupation of Namibia will have ceased to outrage the conscience of humankind, the day when the total liberation of Africa will have been achieved. That day will come - sooner, rather than later.
Once again, we take this opportunity to express our gratitude for the warmth with which we have been received and the honour you have done our people.