Compatriots, fellow South Africans and comrades,
On behalf of the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress, and on my personal behalf, I greet you all. We bring to this conference the best wishes of the combatants and militants of our movement, both inside and outside South Africa.
We address a special word of welcome to those who have come directly from home to the city of Lusaka; a city that will surely be remembered in the annals of the struggle for freedom and independence in this region of Africa, as the second home of all the liberation movements that have wrought such immense change in our subcontinent during the past two decades.
The Republic of Zambia, the Zambian people, their party and its government, have hosted wave upon wave of national liberation movements since this country's independence. Every movement, that has subsequently become a government in this region, owes something to the unstinting hospitality of the people of Zambia. This weekend, once again Lusaka plays host to a galaxy of distinguished personages from our country.
There have been many occasions before this, when the ANC has received delegations representing various contingents from sections of South African society. Perhaps more than most such gatherings, this meeting will be a milestone along the road leading to a South Africa cleansed of the legacy of racism and white domination. Your presence here is a vivid demonstration of the recognition that that South Africa has eluded us for too long. Apartheid must be destroyed: now, not after five years.
We are keenly struck by your fortitude in refusing to bow to the diktat of the regime regarding whom you should and should not meet. Your delegation, drawn from various strata of the white section of the emergent South African nation, includes in its ranks parliamentarians, business people, farmers, academics, teachers, clerics, journalists, workers, housewives and students. It counts in its number women, men and youth representing a variety of political opinions. All of you are, however, bound by a common concern to find lasting solutions to our country's problems.
We would like to express a word of congratulation to our Chairman and the rest of the Five Freedoms Forum for your foresight and organisational skill which have made this occasion a reality. We also welcome, with great felicitation, the many luminaries from the broad anti-apartheid front who grace our gathering. There are many among us who deserve a special accolade - they are parliamentarians, including the parliament's unfading star, the indefatigable Helen Suzman and the go-getting Jan van Eck. There are religious leaders, intellectuals, city councillors, trade unionists, students, famous journalists and dedicated workers for justice such as Maggie Friedman. May we at this point rise and observe a minute's silence in solemn tribute to the life of Dr. David Webster.(2)
(Minute of silence).
The fact that we are all here is an expression of the unity of purpose among concerned patriots. It is a portent of the unity of the South African people. It serves also as an example of how South Africans should meet - not in tricameral parliaments or in so-called National Forums; but as equals, as compatriots, engaged in a common endeavour to create a better future for us all. Sooner or later that too will come to pass within our own country, shorn of all the trappings of apartheid.
I am certain, Mr. Chairman, that I express our collective conviction when I say that this conference taking place during the first days of July, must bring us closer to the cherished goal of liberating our country from the yoke of apartheid. Otherwise it will prove to have been a worthless exercise.
It is indeed our collective responsibility to rid our country of the cause of conflict, deprivation and disunity which has earned it the distaste of the rest of humanity. We are not an accursed people, singularly incapable of raising ourselves from the quagmire of racism and human degradation. Ours is a gifted and industrious society, with as yet untapped potential to offer humankind a towering example of nonracial unity based on the recognition of the rich tapestry of cultures that make up South Africa. We can and must do it!
Gathered here in Lusaka, dear compatriots, we can confidently say that ours is not an insurmountable task. The experience of Zambia, whose illustrious leader we all had the honour of meeting last night, affirms this. The unity of this nation, symbolised in the person of Comrade President Kenneth Kaunda, is a continuing reminder that difference is not a source of conflict. His profound anxiety for the fate of our people and his earnest quest for peace in our country and the region is reflective of his deep humanity.
Even as we speak, in a neighbouring country, a great drama of historic dimensions is beginning to unfold. Namibia, a small nation, having been held in thraldom by South Africa's rulers for three-quarters of a century, stands on the threshold of independence. The freedom towards which the Namibian people are so confidently striding has been earned at great cost - in the first instance to themselves, and to their neighbours. Given the determination of the Namibian patriots and the commitment of the international community to their cause, the victory of the struggle for independence was inevitable.
How immeasurably sweeter that victory could have been if it had been less costly in bloodshed and pain!
Conscious of the deep crisis into which the policies of apartheid have plunged South Africa, the international community, the peoples of this region, and most importantly, the people of our country are paying the closest attention to our proceedings here in Lusaka. They expect that from this gathering will arise new initiatives and stimulating new ideas that will assist us in the execution of the great deeds to which history summons us.
These expectations are themselves inspired by the profoundest hopes of millions - in South Africa, in the neighbouring States and Africa as a whole, for a life of peace and fraternal cooperation on the basis of equality.
When we entered this auditorium to commence our work, we assumed a grave and inescapable responsibility. I am unshakably confident that the manner and spirit in which we shall conduct our deliberations will at all times be consonant with that recognition.
Over the next three days we shall thrash out many questions of fundamental importance to our people and our country. We shall certainly agree on many issues and perhaps agree to disagree on others. But this should not discourage us. To agree on some issues and to differ on others is characteristic of genuine democratic engagement.
We are entering the second half of the final year of the 1980s. After forty years of apartheid rule South Africa is a crisis-ridden country, stretched to near-breaking point on the rack of racial domination. The hour is indeed late. We are approaching the end of a decade during which the South African State has spread the tentacles of its violence in a grisly campaign of aggression throughout the southern cone of the continent. We cast our eyes back over nine years in the course of which our country has experienced unprecedented levels of violence. All this can be traced back to one source - the policies of apartheid.
Yet, despite this grim picture, it would be wrong to conclude that this is a time for despair. Even in the depths of our people's misery there are untapped wellsprings of hope. These are to be found in the unyielding courage of the South African people of all races. We are determined not to fail, because we dare not fail.
Even the apartheid rulers have been forced to concede free and fair elections in Namibia. One person, one vote, in a united, nonracial, democratic Namibia will soon become a reality. Laws proscribing organisations and individuals have essentially been done away with. Yet within our country, genuine democratic engagement is not only denied, but is also brutally suppressed and criminalised. To add insult to injury, the regime's response to the clamour of the overwhelming majority has been to call elections for a patently racist parliament.
Why this difference? That is the crucial question that we should answer in our discussions. Suffice it to state that running like a red thread through the events unfolding in South-Western Africa is the vindication of struggle. It is only hard-fought struggles, combined with international pressure, that have forced Pretoria to the negotiating table for the realisation of the United Nations Security Council resolution 435 and the withdrawal of the SADF forces from southern Angola.
"Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered," so wrote the American patriot Thomas Paine. We must meet the challenge and cannot flinch from the battle. The imperative not to submit is all the greater because of the sacrifice - including the supreme sacrifice of their lives - made by so many to the cause of freedom. In this remarkable roll of honour, a proud place is occupied by many hailing from the white community. We have an obligation to wage the struggle because it is the destiny of our people and our country that is at stake.
But it is more than the facts of geography alone that have brought us together for these few days. We have been drawn from our separate tasks and duties by a common commitment - a commitment to a shared future in a country we all love and cherish. We are keenly aware that the principal impediment in our path to that future is the system of apartheid.
None of the most fundamental issues of human rights, economic wellbeing, peace and progress can be addressed while that system is in place. The confrontation between those who want freedom and the defenders of apartheid is consequently bound to grow in intensity and sharpness until apartheid has been abolished.
One of the many visions that bring us together is the vision of peace. Peace for our country and for the region. Peace, so that we can buy food; Peace, so that we can build homes, schools and hospitals; Peace, so that we can produce and construct towards a new day; Peace, so that our children can learn and study.
Yet the vision of peace eludes like a mirage in the desert sands. The hard-earned resources of our country are frittered away on weapons of destruction. The cream of our youth have to master the skills of war instead of dedicating themselves to life. The daily experience of South Africa is not peace - it is the mailed boot of repeating cycles of martial law.
Thanks to the rulers of our country, South Africa today bears the unenviable distinction of conducting possibly the world's highest number of executions per year. An average of ten each month! Presently, something in the region of one hundred and ten people are on death row, awaiting execution for actions of an essentially political nature. Apartheid "justice" ensures that more will be added to this number.
Not only do the State's attempts to suppress the spirit of the new South Africa include arrests and detentions, but these days it does not scruple at perpetrating acts of terror and murder, carried out by vigilantes and specially trained hit squads that operate inside and outside South Africa. For every Rick Turner gunned down in the streets of Durban, there is a Dulcie September in Europe. For each Matthew Goniwe murdered in Craddock, there is a Ruth First in Maputo.(3)
The conclusion is inescapable: In South Africa peace and freedom have become inseparable. We shall never enjoy the former until we have achieved the latter. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to attain peace by peaceful methods only. Often, to activate peace you have to wage war and cause loss of life. This is exactly what happened and is happening to the ANC. While we decry the violence of the apartheid system and its regime, we must admit that, as a result of that violence, in order to stop it, we too have had to be violent. More on this in our deliberations later.
All the regime's efforts, whether they assume the shape of assassinations, detentions, jailings or hangings, are an expression of the desperation of the apartheid State. Regardless of the means it may employ to disguise this, everything that the South African regime says and does is a rear guard action whose chief objective is to preserve apartheid against destruction. Even its authors have been compelled to admit that their policy is in a shambles. Unable to offer any meaningful alternatives, the regime lurches from one hopeless proposal to the next one.
The refurbished tricameral system unveiled by De Klerk yesterday is yet one more example of this loss of coherence.(4)
It would appear that the National Party is dominated by a sense of contingency and, in matters of policy, has been reduced to a hand-to-mouth existence. The hollowness of De Klerk's undertakings can be gauged by the myopic vision expressed in his master plan.
There are many who sincerely believe that these institutions might still offer a measure of hope to effect substantive change. We would urge such to give more serious consideration to the political arena beyond and outside the apartheid parliaments. This, we are convinced, is the decisive terrain. The tricameral system, reformed or unchanged, is neither competent nor is it designed to bring about the fundamental changes that are essential to secure our country's future. It is recognition of this hard reality that has already persuaded an increasing number of our white compatriots to seek out the ANC.
You have come to Lusaka because you refuse to be paralysed by uncertainty, fear and despondency. It is precisely this confidence in the future which we must jointly seek to spread amongst the ever growing number of whites. We should proclaim as loudly and as often as we can that there is a future without apartheid; that future is democracy.
How to move to that future with all deliberate speed is the business of this meeting. Many crucial and concrete questions cry out for answers. We have before us a lengthy programme of work.
There are many in the corridors of power who wish this historic conference ill. They fervently pray that the participants will quarrel and part as sworn enemies. On the other hand, our people expect that the occasion of this conference between the ANC and white South Africans will see the opening up of a vital new front in our common struggle. It is our collective duty to ensure that those hopes are realised.
The Conference between a Five Freedoms Forum delegation and members of the ANC was held at the Intercontinental Hotel, Lusaka, from June 29 to July 2, 1989, on the theme "The Role of Whites in a Changing Society". It was the largest Conference until then between whites in South Africa and ANC leaders in exiles. The delegation from South Africa consisted of 115 people from diverse backgrounds. President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and Mr. Tambo addressed the Conference on July 1st.
3 Dr. Richard Turner of the University of Natal was shot dead at his home by an unidentified gunman on January 8, 1978. Ms. Dulcie September, ANC Chief Representative in Paris, was assassinated on March 30, 1988.
Matthew Goniwe, teacher, community leader and an organiser of th United Democratic Front, was assassinated on June 27, 1985. Ms. Ruth First, journalist and writer, was killed in Maputo by a parcel bomb on August 17, 1982.