Response by Nelson Mandela, African National Congress President, to speech by State President, FW de Klerk, at first session of CODESA

20 December 1991

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

I said I would like to raise a matter of national importance, and I am happy you have given me the opportunity to do so. I am gravely concerned about the behaviour of Mr de Klerk today. He has launched an attack on the African National Congress, and in doing so he has been less than frank. Even the head of an illegitimate, discredited, minority regime as his, has certain moral standards to uphold. He has no excuse, because he is a representative of a discredited regime, not to uphold moral standards. He has handled - and before I say so, let me say that no wonder the Conservative Party has made such a serious inroad into his power base. You understand why.

If a man can come to a conference of this nature and play the type of politics which are contained in his paper, very few people would like to deal with such a man. We have handled the question of Umkhonto we Sizwe in a constructive manner. We pointed out that this is one of the issues we are discussing with the Government. We had bilateral discussions but in his paper, although I was with him, I was discussing with him until about 20h20 last night, he never even hinted that he was going to make this attack. The members of the Government persuaded us to allow them to speak last. They were very keen to say the last word here. It is now clear why they did so. And he has abused his position because he hoped that I would not reply. He was completely mistaken. I am replying now. We are still to have discussions with him if he wants, but he must forget that he can impose conditions on the African National Congress and, I daresay, on any one of the political organisations here.

I have tried very hard, in discussions with him, that firstly his weakness is to look at matters from the point of view of the National Party and the White minority in this country, not from the point of view of the population of South Africa. I have gone further to say to him, no useful purpose will be served by the ANC trying to undermine the National Party, because we wanted the National Party to carry the Whites in this initiative. And I have said to him on countless occasions that no useful purpose will be served by the National Party trying to undermine the African National Congress. He continues to do exactly that and we are going to stop him.

He has told you - and I say he is less than frank, because he has not told you that it is the African National Congress, not the National Party, nor his Government that started this initiative. I have been discussing with Mr Kobie Coetsee and other top Government officials since July 1986, when I was still in prison, asking that the ANC and the Government should sit down to explore a peaceful solution. As a result of the pressure of the people inside this country, and of the international community and as a result of persuasion from us, they eventually agreed to sit down to discuss with us. We have gone a long way in trying to contribute to the creation of an atmosphere whereby this initiative can succeed. As part of that effort, we suspended the armed struggle. What has happened on the side of the Government? We suspended the armed struggle in spite of the fact that our people were being killed and the Government, with all its capacity to put an end to the violence, were doing nothing to stop the slaughter of innocent people.

I have said to him: You have got a strong, well-equipped, efficient Police Force and Defence Force. Why are you not using that capacity to stop this violence. I have pointed out to him that the perception that exists amongst our people is that in the forefront of this violence, are elements of the Security Forces. No doubt. It is common knowledge that organisations like the CCB, their main task is to eliminate freedom fighters in this country. So many activists have been killed, without trace. The killers have never been traced, or hardly ever traced. And in those massacres not a single member of the National Party was even grazed with a spear. It is all activists who are in your position who fight apartheid.

Nevertheless, we have told him, and done things to show our commitment to the peace process. I have indicated that only last night I had a discussion with him about this very Declaration of Intent. There were certain loopholes which, when it was reported to us, we found in the document, and I was instructed to ensure that those loopholes are closed. I discussed the matter with him. He then persuaded me, saying that this document has gone through to the relevant committees. We must not amend it at this moment. I agreed with him. And I went back to my committee to say, it is now too late for us to do anything. They accepted that because of our commitment to the peace process, our desire that this process should succeed. Now he is attacking us because we have not dissolved Umkhonto. He is not even telling you, reporting to you that when we agreed, we had a discussion in Cape Town at the beginning of this year on Umkhonto we Sizwe. We then had an agreement in terms of which we had to hand over our weapons for joint control by the Government and ourselves, but we linked that to the development of the political process.

We said when the process has reached a certain stage, which can ensure that we would have an effective control or say in Government then it would be easy because that would be our Government. Their army will be our army. We would be ready at that time to do so. That was the spirit of our discussions and I have met him - I have met him for example before the signing of the Peace Accord, when he was threatening to do then what he has done now - and I say to him: You are asking us to do something. You are asking us to commit suicide, because when your Government is not prepared to intervene and stop the violence; when the perception perception amongst our people is that it is elements in the Security Forces that are killing our people; when our people are demanding to be armed, what political organisation would hand over its weapons to the same man who is regarded by the people as killing innocent people.

And I asked him not to insist on this because we would never agree, and I told him that we should discuss the matter and see whether we can reach a solution. And I met him Thursday, last week. He raised the same point. I again emphasised to him that he is asking us to do something that is absolutely ridiculous and that we wouldn't do so. We could never give our arms to a Government which we are sure either has lost control over the Security Forces or the Security Forces are doing precisely what he wants them to do. I can't see any head of Government who would allow such a culture of violence to take root, without interfering. We have discussed certain mechanisms and agreed that these mechanisms should be applied, in documents setting out the principles of the Peace Accord.

Nevertheless, in spite of those mechanisms, violence still continues in this country and he has given a lot of statistics to show now many new policemen have been employed, what courts have been created. He does not: relate what is happening, because in spite of what he has done, the incidence of violence is growing, is increasing in the country. And I regret very much that he should try to take advantage of this meeting for petty, political gains. It confirms what we have been saying all along, that the National Party and the Government have a double agenda. They are talking peace to us. They are at the same time conducting a war. They are busy doing certain things which are unacceptable, using taxpayers' money. They are funding certain organisations through the Police and he comes forward and says he didn't know about it. If the head of the Government does not know when as much as R7 million is spent, he doesn't know about it, then he is not fit to be a head of a government.

He is calling on us to disband Umkhonto we Sizwe, yet hit squads are operating freely in this country. When we heard that at the funeral of a prominent activist, Sam Ntuli, who was gunned down by the same hit squads as the mourners were dispersing, eighteen people were killed in broad day light and the Police were in the vicinity. It was clear that these were killers who were carrying out their job in the knowledge that the law enforcement agencies would not interfere with them. They walked away freely, without fear of any detection. You can make your own inferences at that.

If Mr de Klerk promises to do his duty as the head or Government, to put an end to the violence, to restrain his security services, to clean the country of hit squads and other elements which are responsible for killing innocent people, then he can come to us and say: I want you to hand over your weapons to us for joint control. But as long as he's playing this double game, he must be clear that we are not going to co-operate with him on this matter. He can do what he likes. We are not going to disband Umkhonto we Sizwe. We are not a political party. We are a political organisation, perhaps with more support world-wide than he has. We have used Umkhonto we Sizwe to help in the exertion of pressure on the Government to change its policies.

We have no illusions. It is not the operations of Umkhonto alone which have brought about these developments, but Umkhonto has had a very significant contribution towards the struggle and cannot hand over that instrument to the National Party. I must appeal to him to work harmoniously and seriously with the African National Congress. This is our initiative. A number of people have paid him compliments. Very well, we agree with that. He has tried to undo what his brothers have done to us. Through the policy of apartheid, they have created misery beyond words. Nevertheless, we are prepared to forget and he has made a contribution towards normalising the situation because without him we would not have made this progress. I ask him to place his cards on the table face upwards. Let's work together, openly. Let there be no secret agendas. Let him not persuade us that he should be the last speaker - because he wants to abuse that privilege and to attack us in the hope that he will get no reply.

I am prepared to work with him in spite of all his mistakes And I am prepared to make allowances because he is a product of apartheid. Although he wants these democratic changes, he has sometimes very little idea what democracy means and his statement here, many people will regard it as very harsh, where he is threatening us, where he says this cannot be done. He is forgetting that he cannot speak like a representative of a Government which has got legitimacy and which represents the majority of the population.

These are statements which can only be used by somebody who represents the majority of the population in the country. He doesn't represent us. He can't talk to us in that language, but nevertheless I am prepared to work with him to see to it that these democratic changes are introduced in the country and we can only succeed if we are candid and open with one another. This type of thing, of trying to take advantage of the co-operation which we are giving him, willingly, is something extremely dangerous and I hope this is the last time he will do so.

Thank you very much, Mr Chairman.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation