I wish to extend to you warmest greetings from His Excellency Dr Sam Nujoma, President of the Republic of Namibia and the Honourable Theo-Ben Gurirab, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who both send their good will and best wishes for a most successful Symposium.
Today, exactly 40 years ago, the Anti-Apartheid Movement was launched in London at the request of the African National Congress of South Africa. Present at that historic meeting were Mwalimu Julius K Nyerere, former President of Tanzania and Father Trevor Huddleston, both of whom later played catalytic roles in fighting against the apartheid regime.
It therefore gives me great pleasure to be invited here and to talk to you about a topic close to my heart, namely international solidarity in support of freedom, justice and development. In Southern Africa we needed your support, and indeed we got it! With that support we got our freedom and justice. We are now engaged in a new and continued struggle: that of developing our countries economically, through national and regional solidarity. This is a struggle that requires new strategies and added energy in order to cope with the obligations of sustaining peace and democracy in an enabling environment. That means redirecting our efforts towards new goals, which also require international solidarity.
Victory against the apartheid system came on the heels of travail. Men and women, young and old, governments, organisations and institutions of various kinds resolved to uproot the evil system of apartheid. Their efforts bore fruit on 27 April 1994, when South Africa, the last country in Africa to get rid of colonial shackles, attained democratic rule under the revered, now former, President, Nelson Mandela.
Therefore the Anti-Apartheid Movement, together with others who fought day and night to help us achieve freedom and justice, can today stand up to be commended for a job well done.
In Namibia the struggle against the South African regime began immediately after the League of Nations placed the mandated territory of South West Africa under South Africa. Following the collapse of the League, South Africa tried to annex Namibia as a fifth province in the mid-1940s. It is worth noting that the South African Prime Minister, Jan Smuts, apparently had the support of Winston Churchill in this bid to annex Namibia. In protest at this action Chief Hosea Kutako, fellow compatriots of the time and Rev Michael Scott petitioned the United Nations. This marked the beginning of an irrepressible force for freedom and independence in Namibia and international solidarity for the struggle of the people of Namibia stems from this time.
The Anti-Apartheid Movement played a major role in this international solidarity for Namibia as well as for the rest of Southern Africa. We recall with appreciation the Anti-Apartheid Movement initiative which led to the hosting of an international conference on South West Africa in Oxford in 1966, under the chairmanship of the late Olaf Palme, then a prominent minister in the Swedish government.
To strengthen the international solidarity movement, SWAPO decided to open an office in Western Europe, and sent me to London in 1968 for this purpose. Our office's remit was to sensitise and mobilise public opinion against the atrocities of the South African regime in Namibia and to inform the international community about the imprisonment of 37 of our compatriots in Pretoria, including Comrade Andimba Toivo ya Toivo. It was during this time that the Terrorism Act was passed, specifically to deal with these Namibians and they were given long prison sentences and sent to Robben Island. Comrade Andimba ya Toivo was released only in 1984. He is currently serving as Minister of Labour.
In discharging my duties as SWAPO Representative for the UK and Western Europe, I worked closely with the Anti-Apartheid Movement, the Friends of Namibia Committee, later renamed the Namibia Support Committee, with a lot of support from the Labour Party, the Liberal Party, the Movement for Colonial Freedom, under the leadership of Fenner Brockway, the Communist Party of Great Britain and a few Conservative Party members. The International Defence Aid Fund played a critical role - that of providing legal services.
Also involved were friends such as Ethel de Keyser, Randolph Vigne, Phyllis Altman, Lord David Steel, Lord Bob Hughes, Mike Terry, Jo Morris, Abdul Minty, Vella Pillay, E S Reddy, Kader Asmal and Mary Benson. Among those who are no longer with us, five people stand out. These are Ruth First, Canon John Collins, Bishop Colin Winter, Alex Lyon and Joan Lestor.
We worked together to mobilise support for SWAPO and the people of Namibia and to get the UN Security Council to recognise the legitimacy of Namibia's liberation struggle under the leadership of SWAPO. Resolution 435 was adopted in 1978 and finally implemented in 1989, which led to Namibia's independence in 1990.
The total dismantling of apartheid was of course then around the corner. However, a lot of hard work still remained before the day in 1994 when freedom came to South Africa as well.
I wish to emphasise that the international solidarity support movements, and the liberation movements in Southern Africa, were fighting not against race, but against a system - a system that engulfed Namibia, South Africa, Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, although it was not necessarily called apartheid in countries outside Namibia and South Africa. The coming together of different people and organisations from different countries and continents stood out as an outstanding example of the oneness of mind, action and purpose of humanity, in the quest for God-given rights, which had been denied to us by the apartheid regime.
Since the attainment of freedom and independence in the region, we have upheld the objectives of our struggle by committing ourselves to a policy of reconciliation. There is no question that we are, indeed, determined to promote good governance, to uphold justice, and to protect human rights. Both Namibia and South Africa have specific provisions on human rights enshrined in our respective constitutions. That in itself is a testimony to the fact that Southern Africa has achieved a consensus on the essence of a moral community, an agreement to share social, political and economic values, thereby defining individual, community and institutional roles, without disregarding the principles of democracy.
As during the time of the struggle for independence, international solidarity is again becoming necessary as we strive towards economic development. It is important to note regional initiatives such as SADC and COMESA as concrete examples of sustained effort in regional co-operation.
Permit me to say a word about the role of the University of Namibia (UNAM), of which I have the honour to be Vice-Chancellor. Like most universities in Africa and elsewhere, UNAM has, since its inception, been striving to serve the needs and aspirations of our people through teaching, research and community service.
Our challenge is to contribute in the most effective and cost-effective manner to our country's human resource capital. We believe that this must be done strategically, through linkages with various universities in the SADC region and beyond. We also believe that small universities, like UNAM, can benefit a great deal from working in partnership with sister institutions of higher education in both the South and the North. In this connection, I wish to emphasise the important work being done to help UNAM network with universities in the UK, and to promote capacity building in specialised areas by the Canon Collins Education Trust, under the dynamic leadership of Ethel de Keyser, the British Council and the Africa Education Trust.
In conclusion I wish to express my sincere thanks to the organisers of this event for inviting me to join you in marking the 40th anniversary of the Anti-Apartheid Movement. This Symposium is a fitting tribute to the international solidarity that greatly contributed towards the independence of Namibia, and of all the formerly oppressed countries of the Southern African regime. There is no question that international solidarity played a pivotal role in mobilising world opinion against apartheid and injustices in Southern Africa. I wish to sincerely salute the Anti-Apartheid Movement and recognise the work it has done in supporting our struggle for liberation in Namibia and the rest of Southern Africa.