Address by Nelson Mandela to the Party Parliament Group on South Africa, United Kingdom

3 July 1990

Honourable Members of Parliament;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

We would like to express our thanks to you for according us the honour and privilege to address you in this grand committee room. Over the last few weeks we have had the honour and privilege of visiting several countries in Europe and North America. It was a fighting tribute to the people of South Africa that we were warmly received in all countries and addressed the European parliament, the parliament of Canada, the joint session of the houses of congresses of the United States of America and the joint session of the dial in the republic of Ireland.

Today on the final leg of our tour before we return to the shores of Africa, we have entered the citadel of the mother of parliaments . This has added significance for us because we are all conscious of the very deep historic and multi-faceted tiers between our country and Britain-ties which have left their mark on our political and legal institutions, and indeed on the way we think and work, and the language in which we largely communicate with each other.

This relationship has had two contradictory process -benefit and suffering. Edmund Burke in 1790 stated that "people will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors". It is in this spirit that we painfully recall that it was the intervention of superior armed English Soldiers that finally led to the defeat of African Armies and tour dispossession; after the Anglo Boer war, the founding fathers of the ANC came to England to petition the Government and seek we gained was the ignominious act of Union of 1910, which consecrated the apartheid state over and above the heads of our people.

Today we are in a process of transcending a relationship that was a product of British imperial tradition. The situation demands a restricting of our relations, which must be built on the positive aspects of our historical ties, and on the basis of the principles of equality and mutual benefit.

We are deeply moved that today you honour our people by allowing us, who were outcasts only yesterday, to experience if only briefly, what it means to stand and speak at a place whose existence is based on the recognition of the right of all the people to determine their own destiny. Our humanity is enhanced by the fact that you have reached out from across the seas to say that we too, the rebels, the fugitives the prisoners deserve to be heard.

Our message to you is indeed simple. Our people demand democracy. Our country must be transformed into a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa. We demand the right of every adult South African to vote and have the possibility to be elected to all organs of Government without discrimination on the grounds of race, colour or sex.

We are determined that our country should be a multi-party democracy in which the rights of all its people will be inviolable and in which all will be equal before the law. Accordingly, in addition to a democratic constitution, there should be an entrenched and justiciable bill rights, enforced by independent judiciary.

We are committed to ensure that all our people enjoy equal rights to their languages, culture and religious freedoms.

We also visualise a constitutional arrangements whereby there is devolution of power to regional and local levels of Government to ensure the broadest possible participation of the people in Governing themselves. However, given the present South African realities, we are opposed to the idea that we should opt for a Federal State. We refuse to accept that present fragmentation of our country into Bantustans is a given fact, on which we should try to build a new reality. Any attempt to do this would merely perpetuate the racial and ethnic divisions whose abolition stands at the core of our struggle. We cannot seek to end apartheid by continuing to maintain the structures of the apartheid system under any guise whatsoever.

We are seriously committed to a new, non- racial democratic South Africa. It is an ideal for which many of us went to prison, for which many have died in prison cells, on the gallows, and on the killing fields of our towns, townships and in the countries of southern Africa. Are we correct to assume that we can expect your total support in achieving the universally accepted objectives that we have outlined?

We are also determined that the political freedom of which we have spoken, should go side with freedom from hunger, want and suffering. To institutionally impose is to dehumanise them. In South Africa millions of our people have been dehumanised by unbelievable poverty and deprivation. This injury is made that more intolerable by the opulence of our White compatriots and the deliberate distortion of the economy to maintain that opulence. It is therefore of vital importance that we re-structure the South African economy so that its wealth is shared by all our people, Black and White, to ensure that everybody enjoys a decent and rising standard of living.

We do not seek to impoverish anybody or redistribute such poverty. But we are sure that you will all agree that a new democratic society will have to urgently address the issue of the impoverishment of millions of our people. To achieve our objectives to provide adequate housing, food, education, health services and social security, we need a strong and growing economy. Given the apartheid structure of the economy and the enormous needs of the people, it is inevitable that a democratic Government will have to intervene in the economy. Clearly the need for a public sector is one of the elements in the complex and multi-faceted strategy of economic development and restructuring that we all seriously consider. The point should also be understood that there is no self-regulating mechanism within the South African economy which will, on its own, ensure growth equity.

At the same time are conscious that the private sector is an engine of growth and development, which is critical to the vitality of a future mixed economy in South Africa. We are, therefore, committed to ensure that both South African and foreign business people have confidence in the security of their investments, are assured of a rate of return on their capital and business in conditions of stability and peace.

We will need the support the international community to achieve the post apartheid economic objectives, which are an intrinsic part of the process of the relation of the human rights of the people of South Africa. Let me once again repeat our firmly held conviction, that our future economic cooperation should not be a relationship between donor and recipient, between a dependent and a benefactor. We must ensure that the while we benefit from your resources in terms of capital, Technology. Expertise and markets, you too must benefit from this relationship. This will help us to ensure that we who are fighting to liberate the very spirit of an entire people from the bondage of the arrogance of the ideology and practice of White supremacy, Do not build a relationship of subservient dependency and gratitude. We are convinced that Southern Africa has the human and material resources which will combine to give millions of our people a bright future and which will make it profitable and worthwhile for the international community to enter into a mutually beneficial system of cooperation.

Distinguished Members Of Parliament

Successive generations in our country have known nothing but conflict, tension and death. Peace is something we fight for but have yet experience. For many decades we sought a peaceful resolution of the problems facing our country. This was vigorously opposed by successive White Governments. Today a new dawn is breaking. There is growing optimism that in our country who saw themselves as the master race, have learnt the error of their ways. There is hope that they have learnt the realised that tyranny is but the progenitor of the forces of its own destruction. There is hope that perhaps, at last, these who sought to deny the humanity of others, have understood that by that act they also dehumanised themselves.

On the initiative of the ANC, the process to finding a political solution has started. We consider it a victory for all South Africans that the meeting between us and the South African Government took place in Cape Town in May. This meeting made some progress in removing the obstacles to negotiations that we had identified. We are determined to do everything possible to ensure that this process is successfully completed.

At this stage we must repeat our conviction that President De Klerk and his colleagues are men and women of integrity who are committed to working with us to find a political solution. However the road ahead is still fraught with major challenges. Too many of our White compatriots are steeped in the ideology of racism and fear democracy. Some of them are taking up arms in a desperate effort to resist the inevitable change that must come.

Clearly the progress achieved, including the unbanning of the ANC and the other organisations, the releases of some political prisoners and the lifting of the state of emergency over the grater part of our country, should not lead us to believe that fundamental and irreversible change has taken place, leading to the freedom of our people.

The reality is that the apartheid system is still alive and very destructive. The State's instruments of oppression, in particular the police, continue to kill and maim the opponents of this system.

White neo-fascist groups openly carry out military exercise and have threatened physically to liquidate all those it considers to be anti-apartheid. They are reinforced by similarly armed Black vigilante groups, a phenomenon that has reached intolerable proportions in Natal.

The consequences of this, continue to be felt not only within our borders but through Southern Africa, especially in Mozambique and Angola. Peace will not come to our country and region until the apartheid system is ended. Therefore we still have a struggle ahead of us. This is not a time to relax our vigilance. as a result of continuing struggle, we must ensure that the movement forward towards the final abolition of the apartheid system is not interrupted.

It is in this context, that we have raised and emphasised the importance of international pressure. sanctions were imposed to help us to get rid of a system which has been declared a crime against humanity. Any premature and ill considered move towards removing or relaxing international pressure, would create the situation in which White South Africa would feel comfortable with the minimal changes that have taken place and once more regress into their larger and attempt to sabotage the processes of change. We appeal to you to cede the prerogative to the people of South Africa to determine the moment when it will be said that profound changes have occurred and irreversible progress achieved, enabling you and the rest of the international community to lift sanctions.

I would like to take this opportunity to salute the British people. They have proved themselves not only to be steadfast friends of our struggling people but great defenders of human rights and the idea of democracy itself.

We salute and thank them all, political parties, the ante-apartheid movement, the trade unions, the churches, non-governmental organisations, students and intellectuals, elected representatives who serve in this parliament and elsewhere, the children and many others who raised the flag of solidarity because the knew that the absence of freedom for ourselves reduced their own liberty as well. They knew that no person of conscience could stand aside as a crime against humanity was being committed.

We are certain that the British people will stay the course with us, not only as we battle on to end the apartheid system but also as we work to build happy, peaceful and prosperous future for all the people of Southern Africa.


That future is still ahead of us. as for now, and to make certain that our common hopes are realised,, we must, together, continue the struggle. We seek your support to sustain the international pressures which you in this country and others in the rest of the world have imposed. We seek your agreement that the perspectives contained in the Harare and United Nations Declarations on South Africa, including the vision of a truly democratic, non-racial and united South Africa.

In the aftermath of the agreement we reached with the Government at the beginning of May, we also require your support to help us repatriate and resettle those of our compatriots who were forced into exile by the apartheid system. We material assistance to help us conduct the extensive political work among the 36 million people of our country, which is such a vital and central part of the process of drawing these millions into the common effort to arrive at a just, permanent and negotiated solution of the South African question.

Distinguished representatives of the people of the United Kingdom, history has bestowed on us the honour to participate in the final struggle to end the evil system of apartheid. A momentous time is in sight. It will not be long now before we, as head of racism throughout the world is no more and that political power has passed into the hands of the whole people.

Our people will exercise this power with all the sensitivity that is due in our situation. Never should racism in our country and from whatever quarter, raise its ugly head again. All South Africans, both Black and White, must build a shared sense of nationhood in which all nations of vengeance and retribution are impermissible. Our country must, by its actions, take its place among the nations of the world as a champion of peace, a defender of freedom and democracy, an enemy of poverty and human degradation.

As an expression of our common humanity, and not as an act of charity, we call on you to walk the last mile with us.

We thank you for the campaign to secure our release from prison. You gave us for the possibility to join hands with our people, with you and the rest of humanity to bring about change in our country and our region, which even the mute, but blood-stained stones in the killing fields of southern Africa demand, must come and must come now.

Our common victory, the victory of democracy and non-racialism is within our grasp. Liberty, equality and fraternity shall reign supreme in our country as well.

Thank You.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation