Address by Nelson Mandela, Deputy President of the African National Congress (ANC), to the French National Assembly at Bourbon Palace, Paris - France

7 June 1990

Esteemed President of the National Assembly,
Distinguished Members of the Assembly:

We are greatly honoured and are grateful to you for giving us the opportunity to spend these few moments with you. The name France evokes among our people living images a successful struggle against autocracy, for democracy and justice. This assembly is one of the products of that struggle, an affirmation of the permanence of the victory of the French people against tyranny.

Beyond this, your assembly serves as an inspiration and an example to us as we continue to wage our own struggle against a White autocracy, for a united, democratic and non-racial South Africa. We are certain that we are not wrong to assume that you will continue to support us in our efforts to establish a democratically-elected National Assembly, constitutionally mandated to debate and adopt the laws of our country.

We should state it from the outset that there can be no gainsaying the fact that the problems facing our country will only be solved when it is transformed into non-racial democracy. This is therefore the immediate and pressing strategic focus of our continuous struggle. Whether there is movement forward should therefore be determined by whether we are indeed advancing towards the creation of a united, Democratic and non-racial South Africa.

We stress the point a united South Africa because a genuine solution requires that we break down the racial and ethnic barriers which have been and are the cornerstone of the apartheid system. We have rejected the concept of federation for our country precisely because we do not see what is there to federate. This notion has been put forward as a means to perpetuate the racial and ethnic apartheid divisions to which we have referred. We must therefore reject it because it seeks to entrench precisely what has to be abolished.

Similarly, we emphasis the point about a non-racial solution for reasons that are obvious to all of us here. The concept of a universal adult suffrage, of one person one vote, is fundamental to all democratic societies. In our situation it takes on added significance because it underlines the need to end the political system which has defined the population of our country as separate racial and ethnic political entities.

We are raising these points because the struggle in which we have all of us been engaged is not merely a struggle against apartheid. It is, more fundamentally, a struggle for democracy. It is vital that you continue to support us until this democratic result is achieved.

To walk away from your engagement before this democratic transformation has taken place would only result in its postponement.

We had, in the act and in the context of the issue of negotiations, raised the issue of the need to create a climate conducive to negotiations, if such negotiations were to take place at all. Our positions on this question were, as you know, later adopted by the organisation of African Unity, the non-aligned movement and the United Nations General Assembly.

Once President De Klerk took the steps which he announced on February 2nd, which included the unbanning of the ANC and other organisations, we took the initiative to propose that the government should meet us to deal with this issue of the creation of a climate conducive to negotiations. This is what the meeting between the government and ourselves at the beginning of May dealt with. As I am sure are aware, agreement was reached that these obstacles should be removed. This was a good and important result.

But then it is important to bear in mind that this agreement is what we said it is. It is an agreement to remove obstacles to negotiations. It is not an agreement to end apartheid. And when it has been implemented, apartheid, system of White minority rule, will still be in place. And again, we should not forget that the agreement has yet to be carried out in its totality.

We say this because the majority of political prisoners have so far not been released. Political trials have not ended. The exiles have not returned. The state of emergency has not been lifted. Repressive legislation has not been repealed. As we have said, the government has agreed that all these things should happen. But the fact of the matter is that they not yet been done.

We say this as a matter of fact and not to question the integrity of President De Klerk and his colleagues. Indeed, as we have said in the past, we do believe that they are men and women of integrity. Consequently, we expect that they will implement the Groote Schuur agreement. In addition, they have been speaking frequently of their commitment to help end the system of White minority domination and to participate in negotiations aimed at arriving at a democratic solution. Because we believe that they are people of integrity, we have taken them at their word and will work to ensure that they keep to this word.

At the same time, we must deal with reality. The real meaning of the spoken word has to be demonstrated by practical deeds. The integrity underlying the stated intensions has to be substantiated through the actual process of the democratic transformation of our country.

We say all this particularly in view of the reality that there are many among our White compatriots who are opposed to chance and are determined to fight for the maintenance of the system of White minority domination. The Principal danger arises from the fact that these people are armed. They are within the South African Defence Force and the South African Police. Others are also forming or have formed private armies and armed vigilante groups. These groupings are also supported by Black vigilantes who are used against the democratic movement.

The problems ahead of us are illustrated by the fact that police violence against the people is continuing. Activists of the democratic movement are still being killed or maimed during peaceful demonstrations, in police cells and in exile. All this is happening despite the declared intention of the government to stop the persecution of opponents of the apartheid system.

In the light of everything we have said, you will therefore understand what we mean when we say the struggle must continue. It is therefore quite incorrect and country to our common purpose of ending the apartheid system speedily, to urge that sanctioned should be lifted. These have to be maintained. We would therefore urge that you use your enormous influence to ensure that both the French government and the European community do not retreat on this matter.

We should also draw your attention to the fact that in any case, there is an international agreement on this matter. Last December, the special session of the general assembly of the United Nations decided unanimously that sanctions would remain in place until profound an irreversible changes had taken place in keeping with the objective of the transformation of South Africa into a democratic country. France committed herself to this position as did the other countries of the European community keeps to its undertakings.

Concerning the way forward towards fundamental change in South Africa, what we want to see happening is that the Groote Schuur agreement should be implemented without delay. We want the political prisoners released, exiles returned and other things done, both own sake and in order to create thee conditions about a new constitution to begin.

Discussions must also begin to get agreement on basic constitutional principles and on the mechanism that will draw up the new constitution. Concerning the latter issue, we are firmly of the view that the best path to choose is to follow the Namibian example and elect a constituent assembly on the basis of one person one vote.

This could immediately address two problem areas. It would answer the question about who the genuine representatives of the people are, since the people would have the chance to elect such representatives freely. Secondly, it would ensure that the constitution that emerges enjoys legitimacy in the eyes of the people and thus becomes a central factor contributing to the reinforcement of a national consensus. Such a consensus is a fundamental to peace, stability and stable human relations elements that are of critical importance for a such as ours with its history of violence, conflict and stability.

We will do everything in our power to achieve these results. We trust that you will continue to support us in these endeavours by advancing to the forefront the demand for an end to apartheid now and democracy now.

We are convinced that, acting together, will achieve these objectives sooner rather than later. That prospect of success in the common struggle of course poses other questions. These centre around the matter of the reconstruction of South Africa the matter of the construction of South Africa in the post- apartheid period.

The apartheid system has devastated the country. Poverty is rampant and endemic. The conditions of life for the people continue to worsen everyday. The needs that have to be met are both pressing and gigantic- Housing, Education, Health, Employment, Nutrition and so on.

We believe that the international community will to make a major contribution to help us address these issues. They need to be addressed as a matter of urgency and therefore the issue of ending the apartheid system needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. It is more than obvious that the political result we seek and will achieve, of the transformation of South Africa into a united, democratic and non-racial country, can only be lasting and meaningful if it is accompanied by such socio-economic changes as would lead to the rapid and visible improvement of the quality of life of the people as a whole, and the most disadvantaged in particular.

The success of the struggle against racism in this country and elsewhere in the world requires that the racist system in South Africa should be wiped out. We have the potential to develop a system of human relations in South Africa without could be an important example to all who seek to end racial tensions and conflict. For this reason, we believe that all people of goodwill would have a material interest in seeing the non-racial experiment in South Africa succeed.

We would therefore urge you that as you debate important questions of European Unity, of Europe in 1992 and beyond, you continue to pay special attention to the issue of the democratic transformation of South Africa as it affects not only the struggle against apartheid today, but as it will impact on economic reconstruction in future and the establishment and consolidation of all the democratic institutions that all democratic societies require. We will therefore continue to count on you political and material support today and tomorrow. In the interest of both our peoples, those of Southern Africa, Africa and the rest of the world, we are certain that you will not fault us.

Thank you for your attention.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation