Address by Nelson Mandela at opening of African National Congress (ANC)/Inkatha Freedom Party Summit

29 January 1991

Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi President of the Inkatha Freedom Party,
Your Royal Highnesses: Princess of the Zulu Royal House,
Members of the Central Committee of Inkatha Freedom Party,
Comrades and friends.

Allow me, on behalf of the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress and indeed our entire membership, to express my profound gratitude to all gathered here, for this historic encounter between our two organisations.

I wish in particular to thank the ANC National Executive Committee, the Sub-Committee on Natal led by Comrade John Nkadimeng, and the Inkatha Freedom Party Delegation led by Dr. Frank Mdlalose, as well as the Joint Working Committee [JWC] for the splendid preparatory work they have done to make this occasion the success that it must be.

Our ultimate praise should indeed be reserved for the masses in the province of Natal and other parts of the country whose yearning for peace is the driving force of our deliberations today. It is on their behalf that we crown the local and regional initiatives such as the Lower Umfolozi Accord, with a meeting of this nature. It is to satisfy their yearning, and facilitate their efforts that we have gathered here.

The fact that we have traversed a long and tortuous road before this opportunity availed itself gives this august meeting its special significance.

For us this meeting represents the culmination of our persistent efforts to bring an end to the confrontation which has plagued our two organisations and our people. We set up contact between the Joint Working Committee of COSATU [Congress of South African Trade Unions] and UDF [United Democratic Front], on the one hand, and Inkatha on the other. We hoped then that through this body we would be able to end the violence.

In July 1990 we went further and appointed four members of the National Executive Committee of the ANC to form a Sub-Committee on Violence. The sub-committee was instructed to work in close co-operation with the JWC operating in Natal.

I also wrote to Chief Buthelezi from Victor Verster and expressed concern over our failure to stamp out the violence.

We are now meeting as a result of the initiative taken by the ANC.

Right at the outset we want to make one thing crystal clear. We have not come here to apportion blame for the fact that it has taken so long before we managed to sit around a table of peace and reconciliation.

Nor do we think that it would benefit the cause of peace if we spent our time in this meeting pointing fingers to identify those responsible for the terrible carnage which has left so many thousands or our people dead and wounded.

If we are to fulfil the true purpose of our get-together, there must be no victors or losers as between the ANC and Inkatha. Only our people must be the victors. And the only losers should be those whose racist policies are served by carnage among blacks.

The eyes of the world are on us. The majority of the people in this ravaged province and other parts of the country certainly wish us success. The angels of death and destruction - the defenders of white minority rule - will the opposite. We must satisfy and disappoint in equal measure. We must deliver.

For me personally, this is a particularly important moment. As you know, this is not my first visit to the province of Natal. We have come and gone. We have urged an end to this intercommunal strife. But more often than not, we have talked at each other rather than with each other with the leadership of Inkatha in particular. Today we can at last exchange views on an issue which is literally a matter of life and death for so many of our people.

Belated as it might be, I wish in particular personally to thank Chief Mangosuthu Buthelhzi and the leadership of Inkatha for your contribution in helping secure my release and that of the other leaders of our movement. The messages of support and comfort during our long years of incarceration did not go unnoticed.

Comrades and Compatriots,

It is ironic that a meeting between organisations of the oppressed should require such a special effort to accomplish. Be that as it may, it is certainly a tragedy that the Land of Kings Shaka, Dingane and Cetshwayo should drown in the self-inflicted bloodletting of its own sons and daughters.

We meet in the province which has mothered some of the greatest liberation figures of our whole country. Among the unforgettables are the Great Warrior Bambata of the last armed revolt before modern South African history. King Dinizulu, John Dube and Josiah Gumede were founder members of the ANC. We owe these and other heroes, including Chief Albert Luthuli and Bishop Zulu, peace in their graves.

Their sacrifices were for the unity of the people against the common enemy of all the oppressed - the apartheid system. They shed their blood so that peace can finally prevail with the destruction of the apartheid system.

This is what the African National Congress was formed to achieve. And this is what it strives to attain today. The yoke of white colonial domination still rests on the shoulders of our people. To throw it off is the profound wish of every African, no matter what station he or she might occupy in life.

The foundation stone laid by our forebears is the rock upon which our encounter today must be based. The attempts to divide our people along ethnic lines, to turn their rich variety into a dagger with which to pierce their hearts, must be made to fail.

There can be no salvation to our beleaguered country but the realisation by all and sundry that we are one people - black and white. Cast in a mould that can be different, but one inter-dependent people all the same - irrespective of the political and ideological creed that each one of us might hold dear.

Thanks to the untiring efforts of the people, the grim and infamous era of apartheid is coming to an end.

Our people had to sacrifice generously to bring the administrators of apartheid to the realisation that they have no future as South Africans if they do not accept the reality that the fate of our country needs to be determined by all its people, as equals.

Comrades and Compatriots,

Many thousands have died in inter-communal violence, in Natal and other parts of the country. In the final analysis, we are justified to lay the blame at the door of the apartheid regime which has created conditions of such squalour and degradation among our people. We are certainly right to assert that the removal of this system is a basic precondition for an end to violence in our country. But generalities of this nature will not take us very far.

Among ourselves, we could point fingers and apportion blame in all directions. Perhaps that would satisfy an ego. But deflecting criticism, however justified we may be in doing so, would not help resolve the problem.

Therefore, whatever the concrete outcome of our meeting today, contact among us must continue, precisely to nurture areas of agreement and seek lasting solutions to areas of conflict.

Comrades and Compatriots,

The African National Congress believes that the efforts of our people have brought about a situation in which apartheid can be eradicated by peaceful means.

This requires an atmosphere of free political activity in which all people can freely canvass their positions within the rest of society. The use of force against others and the denial of access to public facilities, be it in inter-communal strife or by means of instruments of the state, simply because they hold differing views, can only make the views of the perpetrator the more despicable.

Such free political activity and the peace that we seek require that an the security forces of this land act impartially and in a way that promotes peace.

We also firmly hold the view that movement to that new South Africa is the business of all South Africans. It should be undertaken on the basis of mass involvement and broad consultation among all interested organisations. Our proposal for an All-Party Congress derives from this belief. So do our calls for an impartial supervisory mechanism as well as an elected body to draft a new constitution. Otherwise the final product and the process itself will lack popular support.

The ANC does not demand of the Inkatha Freedom Party complete agreement with these our views. If we have to reach the prosperous South Africa to which we all aspire, we must let the culture of debate flower in full bloom. We must ensure that every South African, including those in the security forces, help to build a nation of which all of us can be proud. More immediately, we must rebuild and develop communities in a manner that removes the potential for violence and heals the wounds of conflict.

This challenge faces us as we start our historic deliberations. In struggle, we have . achieved the possibility of movement forward to a democratic future with a minimum of bloodshed.

Today we are called upon to cement this. If we do play our role as a catalyst to this process we shall have accomplished our mission. To all intents and purpose we cannot afford to fail. Violence must end. Let peace prevail.

Thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation