Item 1140 - Statement of the Deputy President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela at the 27th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the OAU

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ZA COM MR-S-1140


Statement of the Deputy President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela at the 27th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the OAU


  • 1991-06-03 - 1991-06-05 (Creation)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare

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27th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the OAU

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  • English

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Mr Chairman,
Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government,
Distinguished Ministers and Ambassadors,
Your Excellencies, the Secretary General of the OAU and the Executive Secretary of the ECA,
Comrades Leaders and Members of the Liberation Movements,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

First of all, let me say how happy I am to be back in Nigeria, a country which is for us a firm ally in the struggle to liberate the people of South Africa. We have come to understand how genuine the warmth and hospitality is with which we are received by the government and people of Nigeria. For that we wish to express our sincere thanks.

We are very happy that the heads of state and government and leaders of delegations unanimously elected His Excellency General Ibrahim Babangida as chairman of the OAU and accordingly congratulate you, Mr Chairman.

The next twelve months are going to be very important with regard to the question of the future of South Africa. We are please that you, Mr Chairman, will be leading the OAU during this period.

We would also like to take this opportunity to salute the outgoing Chairman, His Excellency Yoweri Museveni, who led the OAU during the preceding period which was also critical to the process of the transformation of our country. We place a very high value of the support, assistance and guidance he gave us as we tried to deal with the complicated situation we face in our country.

Mr Chairman,


The ANC is now 79 years old. Those are 79 years of unrelenting struggle. During this struggle we have lost many people who have been killed both inside and outside of South Africa. Tens of thousands have been imprisoned or detained. Thousands were driven into exile. And yet we persisted on our course as we persist to this day.

Therefore we speak to you as an organisation and a people in struggle. We speak to you as an organisation that has borne the brunt and continues to bear the brunt of that struggle, a movement without which it would be impossible to solve the South African question. As we stand here, we wish to reassure this eminent assembly that nothing whatsoever will divert the African National Congress from the pursuit of the central objective of the speedy transformation of South Africa into a non-racial democracy.

The road to liberation which we have to travel is not straight. Nor is it smooth and tarred like the main street of Abuja. There is no text book which describes what we have to do to reach the goal of freedom, which instructs you what tactics you must adopt in response to a changing situation.

I say all this, Mr Chairman, to emphasise the importance of leadership. The situation in South Africa is changing. This necessitates that we must change our tactics from time to time.

The critical issues that must however always guide us, as we carry out those inevitable tactical changes, are the unwavering pursuit of the strategic goal of the transformation of South Africa into a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist country and a firm commitment to such non-negotiable principles as one person one vote and complete rejection of the concept of separate development with its consequences such as the tri-cameral Parliament, the Bantustans and Group Areas.

We also say all this, Mr Chairman, to emphasise the point that we must ensure that, s a continent, we improve the continental process of consultation and decision-making concerning the South African question. We must aim for the situation where, at all times, we understand South African reality in the same way, take on board such changes as may take place as quickly as possible and continue to march forward together in unity with regard both to strategic and tactical issues.

I presume that the responsibility to ensure that this happens devolves on ourselves, the Chairmen of the OAU and the frontline states, the Secretary General of the OAH and the Executive Secretary of the Liberation Committee. We will do everything in our power to play our part in this process.

Mr Chairman:

The changes we are speaking of have been and will be brought about through struggle. The very acceptance by the South African government that the obstacles to negotiations, as spelt out in the Harare and UN Declarations, must be removed is itself an important victory of our combined struggles. So also is its acceptance that the legislative pillars of the apartheid system should similarly be removed.

With respect, these matters are not peripheral to the process of change in South Africa. It is precisely for this reason that we have said that no negotiations on a new constitution can take place until a climate conducive to such negotiations has been created by the removal of these obstacles.

As a result of struggle and the agreement which this brought about, some progress has been achieved with regard to this matter. However, our demands, contained in the agreements we have reached with the government, have not been met in full.

That is why, for instance, members of the African National Congress still in prison have now been on hunger strike for over a month and the ANC and its allies have organised mass actions to demand the immediate and unconditional release of all remaining political prisoners. That is also why we continue to wage struggle around such other questions as the enactment of the agreed general amnesty for exiles and political prisoners and the genuine repeal of repressive legislation as well as the various apartheid laws.

We believe that the Assembly should, among other things, demand that the Pretoria Regime meets its commitments with regard to these issues, without further delay.

While these various obstacles have not yet been fully addressed, a new and important obstacle has emerged in the form of the campaign of terror that is being waged against our people and specifically members and supporters of the ANC and its allies.

So serious has the matter become, that we have said that the ANC cannot proceed to discuss with the regime such matters as the All-Party Congress and other constitutional questions until various specific things have been done by the regime and the violence against the people brought to an end.

We deeply appreciate the similar concern shared by this Assembly, the leaders, governments and peoples of Africa for an end to this violence. We believe that the Assembly should make a strong and unequivocal statement demanding of the Pretoria regime that it meets its obligations to ensure the security from violence of all the people of South Africa.

I would also like to take this opportunity to assure the Assembly that we ourselves are doing everything in our power to ensure that this violence comes to an end. Among other things, we continue to engage both the government and Inkatha on these questions as well as other organisations that are relevant to this matter.

One of the important initiatives we have taken is to request the religious leaders of our country to facilitate the convening of a peace conference out of which should come agreements binding the government to end the orchestrated campaign of terror being carried out by elements of its own Security Forces, with the connivance of the regime itself.

At such a conference, the ANC would also be ready to conclude a binding code of conduct with all other political organisations and other social formations which would ensure that violence does not occur among members and supporters of these organisations.

We are convinced that such a peace conference must and will take place. We are working to ensure that it makes a real and decisive impact on the vital question of peace for our people. We urge the Assembly to support us in these various initiatives and undertake to keep you informed about what is happening, through the Chairman and the Secretary General of the OAU.

Mr Chairman,

Your Excellencies:

The ANC continues to do its work to unite the broadest possible spectrum of the democratic and anti-apartheid forces of our country. Apart from our traditional allies, we are bringing into the fold of the forces committed to the perspective of a non-racial democracy such other forces as the homeland leaders and their organisations, the traditional leaders, the business community, the intellectuals and other sectors of our society.

By agreement with the PAC, and acting together with these other forces, we will convene a conference of patriotic forces in August as a further step in this continuing process of building the unity of the forces for democratic change.

We are pleased that we enjoy the support of the Assembly with regard to this issue. We will continue to call on you to extend to us such assistance as may be necessary to realise this strategic objective of the unity of all anti-apartheid and democratic forces.

We would like to take this opportunity once more to thank those heads of state and government who have come to our aid with generous financial and material support to enable us to carry out our work inside our country. Without this assistance, we would today be experiencing more serious problems than we are.

Your support has enabled us better to wage the common struggle, to challenge the regime on all relevant fronts, to re-establish our organised structures and to mobilise our people both into resistance and into the peace process.

And yet the reality is that we need even more assistance as we carry out the critical task of building our national liberation movement, its ancillary organisations and the broad democratic movement. This work is most important of South Africa into a non-racial democracy.

We therefore renew our appeal to all the leaders present not to tire in their efforts to generate and provide us with the resources to enable us to carry out our historic mission of leading our people to freedom and thus make our contribution to the common offensive for the total liberation of our continent.

Mr Chairman, the Council of Ministers resolved that sanctions against South Africa should be maintained. This position is correct. We would therefore urge this Assembly, the highest organ of the OAU itself to support and endorse this position.

As we have said earlier, not even the process of removing obstacles to negotiations and apartheid legislation has as yet been completed. The question of violence is also still with us. Quite clearly, therefore insufficient progress has been achieved to require of us that we call for anything other than the maintenance of sanctions.

Given the controversy there has been about this question, we hope that this statement makes our own position very clear.

In this regard, we would like to reiterate our grave concern that various countries, including those of both Eastern and Western Europe, have moved with indecent haste to lift sanctions. This does not help the peace process in our country and can lead to a situation of even greater conflict than exists at this stage.

We therefore take advantage of this occasion to call on these countries and all others to desist from the path they seem to have embarked upon and respond positively to the call that we have been making and which, we are certain, this Assembly will support.

As the same time, Mr Chairman, we cannot avoid making a more specific appeal to all the African countries represented here themselves to stop what is developing into a headlong rush to normalise relations with South Africa. Apart from anything else, this weakens the moral authority of our continent which would enable it to lead the rest of the world into continuing to support the positions we have just explained.

In the end, the fundamental national interests of every country present here are best served by the speedy elimination of the system of apartheid, an objective whose realisation requires the continued use of the sanctions weapon until victory is achieved.

We must however also point out that our struggle will continue to score new victories as it has done already. The situation in South Africa will change, along the lines indicated in the Harare and United Nations Declarations. We say this because we are confident of our own strength and confident of what we will achieve through struggle.

In the first instance, the obstacles to negotiations will be removed and apartheid legislation repealed, not necessarily because of the good faith of F.W. De Klerk, but because of our own ability to bring about these results, through struggle.

Inevitably, sooner or later we shall have to deal with the consequences of these successes. Sometimes this is not an easy thing to do. But it must be done.

We must recognise the fact that sanctions were, in part, imposed as a response to such issues as the imprisonment of our leaders, the death of patriots in police hands, the Sharpeville, Soweto and other massacres, the banning of organisations, the enactment of apartheid legislation, the driving of people into exile, the enactment of a state of emergency, and so on.

Accordingly, it is only logical to expect that when our common struggle brings about movement in the opposite direction, the intensity of the pressure for sanctions will be affected. It would obviously be absurd to say the struggle should not make progress so that sanctions can be maintained and indeed intensified.

We need to take all this into account and find ways and means by which we are able to mobilise the entire international community to continue to use the weapon of sanctions even as the situation changes in our favour, until final victory is achieved.

Accordingly, the ANC has been putting forward various proposals on the question of sanctions to meet the challenges that have begun and will continue to face us as a consequence of our victories. We would be happy if agreement were reached that the relevant organs of the OAU meet at the appropriate moment to look at this situation, so that we do indeed ensure that we continue to hold the weapon of sanctions in our hands, precisely in the situation in which our struggle is making notable and visible advances.

As Africans, Mr Chairman, we too are concerned and deeply interested in the future of our continent as a whole. We would therefore like to congratulate the OAU and the peoples of Africa for the various initiatives they are and have been taking to ensure a better life for the millions of the peoples of our continent.

In this regard, we would like to mention such initiatives as the adoption of the Charter of Human and People’s Rights, the treaty establishing the African economic community and the elaboration of the Kampala Document for the Proposed Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa.

We would also like to congratulate our brother, President Eduardo dos Santos of Angola on the occasion of the conclusion of agreements between the government of Angola and UNITA. We do sincerely hope that peace will at last be brought about, enabling the people of Angola to attend to the urgent task of national reconciliation and reconstruction.

We also extend our best wishes to our brother, President Joacquim Chissano of Mozambique and express our hope that the initiative of the government of Mozambique to bring about peace in that neighbouring country will bear fruit soon.

With regard to both these issues, we remain committed to do everything in our power, within South Africa, to ensure that the Pretoria regime does nothing to delay, hinder or complicate the sovereign efforts of the peoples of Angola and Mozambique to determine their destiny.

We would also like to pledge our support to our brother, President Sam Nujoma, the government and people of Namibia in their struggle for the unconditional return of Walvis Bay and offshore islands to Namibia. This is not a matter that should await the constitutional negotiations in South Africa. We will continue to make this matter clear to the South African government.

We are pleased that progress now seems possible with regard to the issue of Western Sahara. We trust that the Bahrawi Arab Democratic Republic will soon be established as a fully fledged independent African state. We will do everything we can and should to make our own small contribution towards the realisation of this goal.

We greet our brother, President Yassir Arafat, and reaffirm our support for the cause of the people of Palestine in their struggle for the restoration of their legitimate rights. We do believe that this support is now more urgent than it has ever been before and hope all who can must assist to resolve this.

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 18/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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