Item 095 - Speech to the Foreign Policy Association by the President of the African National Congress of South Africa, Nelson Mandela

Identity area

Reference code



Speech to the Foreign Policy Association by the President of the African National Congress of South Africa, Nelson Mandela


  • 1992-02-17 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

Context area

Name of creator

(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

Biographical history

Archival history

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

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

ANC Website (

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Related descriptions

Notes area



Mr. chairperson,
Chairperson of the foreign policy society,
The director of the society,
Members of the executive committee of the society,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen.

It is more than a year that I received an invitation to address this august gathering. Commitments at home and abroad made it impossible for me to visit Denmark and honour the invitation.

Please accept my apologies for the delay.

The letter of invitation asked me to address the society on the policies of the ANC and "the difficulties and the possibilities that the future may hold for South Africa and its people." I intend to be faithful to this formulation of the invitation with a slight adjustment.

As an optimist I would rather deal with the possibilities first before dealing with the difficulties. Before I discuss the possibilities and the difficulties of the negotiation process in South Africa let me take a few minutes to tell you what the African National Congress is and what we stand for.

In the 1880s John Tengo Jabavu, a prominent newspaper and editor wrote to the Aborigines Protection Society in London and declared that the Cape colonial government was "playing political baal to the entreaties of the natives". Black people were beginning to become vocal about the discrimination, the alienation and the exclusion they felt from the various colonial government. Raising their concerns to the government was like praying to Baal, to a false god. Black people formed organisations of resistance and resisted militarily. By the beginning of this century it was clear to them that they would never win political rights in the South African colonies until and unless they engaged in a united struggle. Their view was reinforced by the formation, in 1910, of the Union of South Africa which excluded them. In response they formed the African National Congress in January 1912.

The imperative of national unity through struggle was pinned to the mast of the ANC from its very inception. In the long years of wars of resistance , the African people in particular were defeated by the colonizers as different ethnic units.

Their heroic spirit was weakened by their disunity. The formation of the ANC constituted an important break with the past: the adoption of new forms of struggle as a united people.

From the early years - in the campaigns against passes for women in 1913, the Land Act in 1913, the Hertzog bills in 1936, the passive resistance campaign of the Indian congresses in 1946, the great miners strike in 1946 and other actions - the ANC and its allies asserted the rights of the people in actual struggle. Although there were militant demonstrations on several occasions before, it was with the adoption of the Programme of Action in 1949 that the ANC set itself firmly on a course of active mass resistance to the system of white domination. This found expression in the Defiance Campaign, uprisings of the landless rural masses, women's actions against passes, stay-at-home strikes, bus boycotts and other forms of struggle.

All of these struggles were peaceful and disciplined. The government responded with extreme brutality to our efforts at ending apartheid. In 1960 it banned the ANC and other political organisations. No avenue was open to us, for us to express our opposition to apartheid. We either had to submit to perpetual subjugation or resist. We chose to resist by the only means open to us, the armed struggle.

Throughout the years of the ANC's struggle our people were keenly aware of the fact that it was not enough to oppose racial domination without clearly spelling out what it is that they wanted to substitute it with. They decided to hold a congress of all the people of South Africa in which all sectors of the society would present their claims and expectations of a post apartheid society. Discussion took place in the factories, on the farms, in universities, in churches, in sporting clubs, wherever people gathered. The resolutions of these discussions were brought to the Congress of the People in 1955 and they were consolidated into the Freedom Charter.

The Freedom Charter was the first comprehensive document on an alternative socio-economic and political vision for South Africa. The Congress of the People declared that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white. The Freedom Charter also declared the rights of the people to housing, education ,equality before the law, welfare, employment, health care, participation in the economy etc. the Freedom Charter has guided the policies of the ANC since 1955.

But, I am sure that you want to know what the policies of the ANC at the moment are. Up to this day all our major policies are derived from the principles laid in the Freedom Charter. We proceed from the viewpoint that South Africa, multi-ethnic as it is, is a single nation which, given a chance, could develop into a dynamic society that will allow people to be different without being racist. For this reason we acknowledge and guarantee the right of all ethnic and cultural groups to their languages, their cultural and religious practices.

We are convinced that non-racialism is not mutually exclusive to ethnic and cultural diversity. Our practical experience with the ethic and practice of non racialism as an organisation over the past forty years has demonstrated to us not only the moral superiority of that policy but also its irresistible force.

We declared in the Freedom Charter that the only legitimate way a government can exercise power is through the consent of the governed. That consent is only possible in a democratic multi-party system that guarantees regular and fair elections.

We put that principle at the centre of our constitutional proposals that we published for discussion in 1987. Given the diversity of South Africa it is our view that the electoral system of proportional representation is the best suited for our conditions.

As the ANC we do not want to concentrate on the labels of federal or unitary states because these terms mean different things to different people. What we want in South Africa is a central government that has the capacity to take decisions and to embark on programmes that can address the legacy of apartheid such as the education crisis, the housing shortage, the failing health and welfare system etc. such an effective central government is not mutually exclusive with regional government with a cloud and vibrant local government.

One of the central features of the apartheid system is economic exploitation, underdevelopment and exclusion of black people. Our policy proposals on the economy are meant to address the legacy of apartheid on the one hand and growth with equity on the other hand. We would like to create conditions in which the South African economy can serve the entire population as opposed to serving a minority. At this stage in our history we are advocating a mixed economy that will have private, public and cooperative sectors.

It is our considered view that extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of a minority of the population and the domination if not control of the economy by six conglomerates is an unhealthy situation that will affect the stability, growth and competitiveness of our economy. We have proposed a range of policy remedies for this situation that range from nationalisation of sectors of the economy, to affirmative action in favour of those previously excluded, to consideration of anti-trust legislation and other forms of state intervention. We have asked the South African business community to put their proposals on the table on how the problems we identify in the economy can be addressed. As yet we have not seen any proposal that seeks to deal with the problem honestly, practically and within a reasonable time span.

The ANC will be taking firmer decisions on economic and other policies in a policy conference scheduled for April this year. Our economic policy decisions will also seek to integrate the issue of environmental sensitivity into our economic and industrial strategy. For a country whose primary wealth is in minerals a sensible environmental policy as an integral part of economic policy is essential.

Our economic policy will also take into account the need for foreign investment in South Africa especially for purposes of reconstruction. In that regard we are on record that an ANC government would honour all the country's obligations even though many loans were used to further the objectives of apartheid. It is our view, though, that any loans to the regime at this late hour would be an hostile act against the forces of democratic change in South Africa. In order to attract foreign investment we will abide by all internationally recognised standards that are consistent with our objectives of growth with equity.

The ANC is committed to the existence of active institutions of civil society such as trade unions, residents associations, sport associations etc. these institutions would be independent of the state and be able to keep the state in check whenever it seeks to curtail the rights of citizens.

We will, therefore, seek constitutional guarantees for the free and independent existence of institutions of civil society and non governmental organisations.

All our policies are based on the primary belief that the basis of a stable, just, caring and productive society is the unqualified respect for human rights. This belief is the premise and the point of departure of the Freedom Charter.

The ANC was the first, and up to now the only, political organisation that has published a proposed bill of rights for South Africa. Our bill of rights is justiciable in the sense that an individual who feels that his or her rights are violated or threatened can seek relief from the courts.

It is our view that a bill of rights such as we propose for South Africa will go a long way in allaying the fears of minorities such as whites and in ensuring that no government beyond the apartheid regime ever abuses power again. For this reason we are opposed to constitutional guarantees for minorities because all the legitimate protections such minorities need are guaranteed as individual rights. The guarantees that are now sought by the regime are intended for nothing more than political abuse in the future.

For a bill of rights to be a worthwhile constitutional guarantee there is a need for an independent and non-racial judiciary that will help resolve disputes that arise in this regard. The ANC is committed to the creation of such an independent, non-racial and non-sexist judiciary in South Africa.

I have presented these policies to you without fear and trepidation because I know that they are progressive, humane, pragmatic and have been in South Africa way ahead of all political parties. They represent a vision of a new South Africa that is free from discrimination, domination and abuse of human rights.

It is these qualities in our vision that have moved millions of people in South Africa into action and mad millions more abroad to embrace our struggle as if it is their own. It is these policies that made me bold in 1964 to declare that was prepared to live for the ideals of the ANC but, if need be, I was prepared to die for them.

Mr. chairman, ladies and gentlemen, it should be clear to you from this exposition of ANC policies that it is the ANC and not the regime that has been responsible for the initiation, the direction and the keeping within rails of the peace process in Africa. It is quite common to dress Mr. F.W. de Klerk in borrowed robes by crediting him with all the progress that has taken place in the negotiation process.

The fact of the matter is that I was instructed by the ANC to initiate discussions with the regime in September 1986 with a view to braking South Africa's political logjam. It was after three years of swallowing insults that I finally met then President P.W. Botha in 1989. As a result of those initial contacts the regime saw its way clear to releasing Mr. Govan Mbeki in 1987 and Mr. Walter Sisulu and seven others in October 1989.

The unbanning of political organisations, my release and the release of other political prisoners and the commitment of the regime to negotiated settlement in February 1990 should be seen as a culmination of our multi-pronged assault on the system of apartheid particularly since 1984. That attack included fierce internal resistance, targeted and effective armed assault, mobilisation of militant international opposition, sanctions and other boycotts that reduced the capacity of the apartheid to wage war on its people and the region. The options of the regime were reduced to such an extent that it began to reluctantly consider abandoning the apartheid system which had become ungovernable and an albatross around its neck.

We entered discussions with the regime as soon as the opportunity availed itself. At summits at Groote Schuur, Cape Town in May 1990 and in Pretoria in August 1990 we sought to achieve two objectives, namely the removal of all obstacles to negotiations and the creation of a climate of free political activity in South Africa. We entered into agreements with the regime as to what it had to do to remove obstacles and to create a climate of free political activity.

The regime failed us dismally when it came to the implementation of these agreements. It soon became clear to us that it was pursuing a double agenda . it was talking peace to us whilst waging war against us. In a physical sense the state sponsored violence against innocent civilians in the PWV and Natal areas, especially after the decision of the ANC to suspend all armed action against the regime, proved the duplicity of the regime.

It was later to be confirmed with a government admission that the regime was funding Inkatha of Chief Buthelezi with a view to increasing its capacity for violence against the supporters of the ANC. By mid 1991 neither the obstacles to negotiation nor the climate of free political activity had been achieved in full. Instead it seemed as if new obstacles were beginning to arise. We became convinced that the only way to save the peace process was to accelerate it because as long as the regime acted as both player and referee no progress was possible. The only way to stop the regime from being player and referee at the same time was to create an interim government of national unity which would oversee the transition period. As the ANC we believed that an interim government could be best negotiated in a congress that would bring together all of South Africa's significant political parties and organisations.

Before moving towards that goal we sought to unite all anti-apartheid forces to a common platform through a Patriotic Front that was constituted in a meeting of 91 organisations in October 1991. The ANC then applied heavy pressure on the regime in bilateral talks in order to make the CODESA preparatory talks possible. After the preparatory talks the ANC worked extremely hard to ensure that a declaration of intent was drafted and accepted by the majority of participants at the CODESA meeting of 20 and 21 December, 1991.

Through the CODESA process we hope to have an interim government installed within the year. The interim government will be constituted by all the parties that are involved at CODESA. It will have the duty of overseeing the transition which, in our view, should last about 18 months to two years on the outside. Once the interim government is in place it will make arrangements for the holding of non-racial universal adult suffrage elections for a Constituent Assembly at the advice of the CODESA working group on constitution-making mechanisms. The Constituent Assembly will then draw a new constitution for South Africa using constitutional principles agreed to at CODESA as a basis.

The negotiation process in South Africa has a real potential of ending the system of apartheid by peaceful means. This historical opportunity is still threatened by actions and omissions of the regime as well as its reluctance to adopt positions that will make change a less painful exercise. The greatest threat to the process is the state sponsored violence which has engulfed the black townships of the Transvaal and almost all the province of natal. The regime has two major objectives with the violence.

Firstly it seeks to lend credence to the lie that it has created and perpetuated that black people are not capable of governing themselves without violence erupting. The second is that the regime wants to create an impression that it is the only force capable of holding South Africa together. If both lies are accepted then it hopes that people in South Africa and abroad will see the continuance of white minority rule as justifiable.

The insistence of the De Klerk government that the outcome of negotiations will have to be accepted by whites in a referendum before implementation is a threat to the process. How can we spend years, resources and goodwill in a process that South African whites can exclusively vote out of existence?

The opportunity of a negotiated settlement in South Africa cannot survive a whites-only referendum. We reject that notion absolutely.

The regime seems intent on denying those whom negotiations seek to enfranchise the right to govern. The concept of a collegiate presidency with a rotating president and that of a constitutionally prescribed coalition government seek to deny majority rule in a new South Africa. The regime is constructing this devious constitutional mechanism in spite of the fact that the ANC is not calling for racial or ethnic majority but majority rule based on political and other interests.

The end result of the proposals of the regime would be a weak ineffectual, and unstable government. Such a government would not be able to take the tough decisions that are necessary and to embark on programmes that can boldly tackle the social problems apartheid has created. The status quo would thus remain untouched. We cannot accept such a situation because no justice or stability could arise in those conditions.

The negotiation process is also under threat from the growing right-wing in South Africa especially its neo-nazi manifestations. The De Klerk regime has acted with great ambivalence to the right wing and the threat it poses. It would seem that Mr. De Klerk approaches the right wing as an Afrikaner rather than as a South African. This limits his options considerably. Mr. De Klerk seems to play into the hands of the right wing with the insistence on a whites only referendum even though he is under no obligation to do so.

The threat of the right-wing cannot be underestimated. It will take a combined South African effort to deal with it. Mr. De Klerk's ambivalence in dealing with the right wing undermines the developments of a consensus on how to deal with this threat.

While the threats to the current negotiation process are many and varied we are confident that the democratic forces in South Africa are strong enough to prevail at the end.

The historical opportunity of a negotiated settlement in South Africa can be enhanced by nations and the international community in general maintaining pressure and sanctions against the regime in accordance with the phased process proposed by the ANC and embraced by the OAU and the commonwealth.

We enter the ninth decade of the ANC full of confidence that the ideals which inspired its formation are about to be realised. The words of one of the founders of the ANC, an illustrious leader of the South African people, Pixley Ka Isaka Seme, ring truer than ever before. Enjoining people to struggle in 1906, Seme said "the brighter day is rising upon Africa.." our people are determined. No one and no obstacle will stand between them and their sunshine. Indeed South Africa is going to be free in our life time.

Thank you!



Paragraph beginning: "It is more than a year that I received an invitation to address this August gathering."
Changes made: "August" changed to "august"

Paragraph beginning: "In the 1880s John Tengo Jabavu..."
Sentence in web text: "Raising their concerns to the government was like praying to baal, "
Changes made: "baal" changed to "Baal"

Paragraph beginning: "From the early years - in the campaigns against passes for women in 1913, he land act in 1913... "
Changes made: "he land act" changed to "the Land Act"

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Acquisition method: From website ; Source: ANC Website. Accessioned on 9 Nov 2006 by Helen Joannides




Accession area

Related people and organizations

Related genres

Related places