Address by Nelson Mandela to Organisation for African Unity (OAU) Ad Hoc Committee on southern Africa

28 April 1992

Mr President,
The Honourable Heads of State
Your Excellencies
Honourable Ministers

Allow me to express my great appreciation to you for affording me the opportunity to speak to you today, particularly as this meeting takes place in Arusha, close to the legendary Kilimanjaro mountain.

Events in South Africa have moved with tremendous speed since this Ad Hoc Committee of the OAU adopted what became known as the Harare Declaration in August 1989. This historic Declaration has played no small part in the developments since then. Most of the preconditions it spelt out have been partially met or are in the process of being resolved. However, the particularly thorny issue of political prisoners remains a burning issue, with hundreds still in jail. Moreover, new problems have arisen, particularly what is termed "violence", for us to grapple with. I will deal with the violence in some detail later.

We would like to briefly sketch the path we have travelled, and to dwell in some detail on where the process is at now, what the main obstacles are and share with you the ANC's perspectives of the way forward.

The South African regime initially rejected out of hand our calls for an All Party Congress, an Interim Government of National Unity to oversee free and fair elections for a Constituent Assembly.

Both these demands were the crux of mass campaigns and extensive public debate, resulting in general acceptance by many political organisations, including the Patriotic Front conference held in October 1991.

The Declaration adopted at the Patriotic Front Conference stated that:

"The All Party Congress/Pre-Constituent Assembly meeting shall:

underwrite the constitutional principles

find the modalities for drawing up the constitution through an elected Constituent Assembly

realise the establishment of an Interim Government or Transitional Authority

ensure the reincorporation of the bantustans

define a role for the international community, and

agree upon a time frame to bring about a democratic order in South Africa".

It was also agreed that a meeting should be held within a matter of weeks with the regime and other interested parties and organisations to discuss the date, venue and an independent convenor for such a Congress. And indeed, on 29 and 30 November 1991, such a preparatory meeting was held, attended by 20 political formations including the South African government and the various bantustan administrations.

The result was the historic Convention for a Democratic South Africa - CODESA - which had the following agenda:

The creation of a climate for free political activity

General constitutional principles

The constitution-making body

Interim government/Transitional arrangements

The future of the Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei bantustans

The role of the international community

Time frames for the whole process

The agreed agenda, and the reluctant acceptance by the regime that the OAU and four other international organisations be observers at the first and all subsequent plenary sessions of Codesa was a victory for the democratic forces.

The first plenary session of Codesa, held on 20 and 21 December 1991, established five working groups to work out the details of agreements on the above agenda items. These working groups began functioning on 6 February, and have been in session regularly since then.

Now, with a little more than two weeks before Codesa II is scheduled to meet, where are we?

The present negotiations in South Africa are about the transfer of power from the white minority to the people as a whole. The end result of negotiations must, of necessity, result in the destruction of the white monopoly of political power in South Africa. Advances have been made, despite the oft-repeated statements made by De Klerk and other National Party negotiators that they will not negotiate themselves out of power.

We would like to look at the advances in some detail.

Agreement has been reached among all parties that an Interim Government of National unity needs to be established in order to oversee the transition. We consider this a major breakthrough.

Furthermore, agreement has been reached on a two-phased approach to Interim Government arrangements. The first phase would be implemented as soon as details can be agreed upon. This phase would involve the establishment of multi-party structures to co-exist with present government structures, assuming responsibility for specific areas, namely local government, the security forces, international relations and the budget. In addition, non-partisan committees would be established to deal with two areas critical to free and fair elections: an independent electoral commission to oversee the elections, and a media commission charged with the task of establishing an interim independent communications authority with the specific task of ensuring free and fair reportage and access to the media.

The primary task of phase one of the Interim Government is to ensure that free and fair elections are conducted. Thus these interim structures would exist only until the first democratic elections are held.

We see this pre-election phase lasting no longer than six to nine months. In this phase the international community would have a vital role to play to ensure free and fair elections. This role should, at the minimum, be able to independently verify the outcome of the election. It may also be necessary to call on the international community for assistance in relation to the security forces.

The second phase of the Interim Government would come into being after democratic elections for a constitution-making body. The regime held the view that a forum like Codesa should draft the new South African constitution. By contrast, the ANC insists that a democratically elected Constituent Assembly should draft and adopt the new constitution, as was the case in Namibia.

While we have to reach agreement separately on each of the phases, agreement on and implementation of all steps must be seen as one whole package, each aspect unable to stand on its own. The regime would like to engage the ANC on aspects of the Interim Government, and prolong that process indefinitely. But for the ANC the Interim Government is only a transitional mechanism to take us forward to democratic elections for a constitution making body.

Through negotiations the regime has been forced to concede that the constitution-making body be elected on the basis of one person one vote through proportional representation.

However, deep differences still exist on matters of detail regarding the constitution-making body. These revolve around two key problem areas:

The regime hopes to construct the constitution-making body in such a manner that the National Party would have veto powers over its decisions, regardless of the outcome of the elections.

The regime opposes the participation of those South Africans who live in so-called independent bantustans, insisting that they are foreigners living in independent countries. This excludes approximately ten million South Africans.

The ANC position is that the composition of the Interim Government would take into account the support parties receive in elections. And unlike in phase one, the interim government would be comprehensive, taking over all governmental functions at an executive level. The elected constitution-making body would also act as the interim parliament.

Underpinning all of the above are the general Constitutional Principles all participants at Codesa are hammering out. There is agreement by all the parties on a range of issues, but the ANC is less than pleased with the progress being made. The main obstacle remains the regime's intransigence and refusal to accept meaningful power sharing during the transitional period and a democratic system as universally understood.

The National Party and De Klerk mouth acceptance of one- person, one vote, but then propose a constitutional dispensation that makes provisions to ignore the verdict of the electorate. The latest charade was De Klerk's proposal on 23 April that elections be held for an Executive Council. This Council would be composed of three to five leaders directly elected, who would rotate the presidency every three months. The Executive Council would carry out the functions of both head of state and head of government, and would take decisions by consensus. The scheme, rejected by virtually everyone barring the National Party, is designed to prevent genuine majority rule. It is in line with the regime's proposals for a veto power over the elected parliament.

What do we expect of Codesa II, scheduled for 15 May, 1992?

We would consider there has been substantive progress if agreement has been reached on the constitution-making body.

This must include:

recognition that it be an elected body based on one person, one vote;

that its tasks include drafting and adopting a democratic constitution;

that it will be a single chamber body and that its decisions will not be subject to any veto or overriding powers by any other structure.

Furthermore, the conditions under which the elections take place must be such that no single political player serves as referee. The holding of elections must be removed from the hands of the present regime and all parties must be satisfied that the elections will be free and fair.

This means that there must be substantive agreement to create a climate of free political activity.

This includes:

the removal of all legislation circumscribing and impeding free political activity;

agreements confining the activities of the security forces in such a way that they cannot intervene or interfere with the right to free political activity and in the electoral process;

agreements ensuring a moratorium by government on any unilateral restructuring at the socio-economic, political, security force and foreign policy levels; and

independent controls over state media to ensure impartial and fair coverage.

We also consider agreement on the second phase of interim arrangements as outlined earlier to be critical. This must perforce include the restoration of citizenship to all those who have been deprived of it as a result of the regime's bantustan policies, and their right to participate freely and fully in elections for a constitution making body.

We have detailed our expectations of Codesa II because we have grave misgivings arising from the National Party's intransigent behaviour since the all-white referendum of 17 March, 1992. It is our considered view, and recent developments within the National Party lend further weight to our perceptions, that the regime is stalling the negotiations. It appears that De Klerk feels confident that he does not need to respect democratic elections, and is determined to cling on to power by any means necessary.

And this brings us to the major problem confronting the oppressed people of South Africa - violence.

The situation in South Africa is increasingly comparable with that of Nazi Germany, where people were killed only because they were Jews. In today's "apartheid-free" South Africa, our people are massacred simply because they are black. White indifference is appalling: the death and destruction, the refugees, homelessness and scale of the terror, could be happening halfway across the world, not just a few kilometres away, across the great chasm that separates black and white in South Africa.

Pretoria's propaganda machine has effectively put across the image that this violence is a result of a political power struggle between various black organisations. When the ANC first spoke of a "Third Force", it was laughed out of court. Yet today, with over 13,000 lives lost, this "Third Force" concept has been recognised by most commentators and organisations within South Africa.

There are clear patterns that emerge within the violence. It mirrors political developments almost exactly. Media reports talk of ethnic antagonisms, or black-on-black violence, portraying a racial stereotype as the cause of violence. The different types of violence, be they attacks on train or taxi commuters, on mourners at vigils, attacks involving hostel dwellers, squatter communities, are taking a heavy toll with hundreds of people murdered every month.

The partiality of the police, the lack of arrest or conviction, confirm mounting evidence that the violence erupts at points which most weaken the ANC.

The International Commission of Jurists, after concluding a visit at the end of March 1992, stated that free and fair elections are not possible until the violence is brought under control. They expressed astonishment at the lack of action by the police, and identified the KwaZulu police as a private army which participated openly in joint attacks with Inkatha on people in their homes.

In terms of identifying the "Third Force" what has become known as the Trust Feed Massacre, which occurred in 1988, is instructive. The South African Sunday Times, not known for its support for the ANC, had this to say in an editorial on 26 April, 1992:

"In any catalogue of the horrors of this violent century the massacre of 11 people by the police at Trust Feed (Natal) must now rank among the most notorious atrocities of our time, like the Nazi massacre of Jews at Babi Yar, or the slaughter of civilians by American troops at My Lai.

In a terrifying judgement Mr Justice Wilson found not only that the massacre was carried out by the police, but that it was the final event in a security force operation to achieve a political purpose, and that it was followed by a cover-up reaching into the top echelons of the South African police.

The slaughter, carried out on innocents, including women and children, as they sat in mourning at the side of a dead relative, was intended, the court found, to disrupt the community, to displace a residents' association and to put Inkatha in control of the region. This aim was achieved by blaming the residents' association for the massacre, thus creating something in the nature of a blood feud which made it impossible for members of the association or their supporters to enter the region.

In short, the Trust Feed case has proved true, at least in this instance, the frequent accusations that the police acted, in pursuance of policy, as a "third force" to stimulate violent conflict between the ANC/UDF forces and other black people. Any suggestion that the South African police might now be trusted to act as an independent peacekeeping force has been rendered vain by this judgement.

... The massacre was followed by attempts to cover up.

The initial investigation, conducted by Captain Patrick Watruss, overlooked from the start the wealth of evidence indicating police involvement in the murders, and when two honest men, a police reservist and a constable, insisted on making statements that threatened to disclose the truth, the investigation was taken over by Brigadier Christo Marx, head of the Natal CID.

Mr Justice Wilson was driven to the conclusion that Brigadier Marx, who has since been promoted and has retired, sought guidance "elsewhere" before making a statement which appeared designed to put an end to the investigation. In the end, the judge came to the conclusion that the police records, which are usually given credence in our courts, were not to be trusted.

Nor was that the end. Attempts were made to intimidate Captain Frank Dutton, the policeman who exposed the cover-up. Even now, the first act of the Commissioner (of the South African Police), General Johan van der Merwe, is to gag everybody in sight in an effort to keep the lid on.

The effect will be to confirm the belief that the South African Police is the "third force" "that operates everywhere in this season of slaughter and atrocity."

It is regrettable to note that two prominent Inkatha leaders were repeatedly implicated during the judgement, and the court heard that the conspiracy was engineered from the Inkatha headquarters in Pietermaritzburg.

This single example is, in our view, the one instance which has been proved in court of a massive, nationwide network by elements within the security forces to destabilise South Africa. The ultimate purpose is to intimidate the oppressed population into rejecting their organisation, the African National Congress. Today, more than ever before in our struggle, to be a member of the ANC is to take your life in your hands.

This policy of destabilisation is coupled with a massive propaganda offensive against the ANC. Again it is instructive to look at the weight the media threw behind the "yes" vote. This is precisely what the ANC and the democratic forces are up against.

The picture painted in South Africa, and by extension to the outside world, is that it is the ANC that is the source of all evil - the violence, crime, unemployment, torture and above all, that the ANC is anti-democratic. And this comes from a regime whose 44-year reign has brought nothing but terror, death and destruction to 30 million people. And the Minister of Law and Order, Hernus Kriel, has the temerity to say that the government is doing all it can to end the violence, but the real responsibility lies with the ANC and Inkatha, and the continued existence of Umkhonto we Sizwe is the root cause.

We are very conscious of the need to end the proliferation of armies in South Africa, whether they be the SADF itself, the various armies and police forces under the authority of the bantustans, or those such as the Ystergarde. We fully support the establishment of one democratic army, and one democratic police force, each under a unified, central command structure. We are firmly committed to the placement of MK under the authority of such democratic command structures. But to do this we need an Interim Government which assumes responsibility for all the security forces. That is the answer to bringing these forces under control. And we repeat: we will never simply disband MK. To do so, in the face of the daily atrocities being perpetrated against our people, would be abdication of our responsibility and political suicide.

The ANC is, therefore, determined not to allow the forces of evil to prevail. While we recognise the severe handicaps the violence places on our ability to organise and mobilise, we are determined that elections must proceed. It is the regime and Inkatha, both of whom are afraid of the verdict that will be delivered by the people in free and fair elections, who say that elections must not take place because of the violence. But that is the very purpose of the violence, and we will not bow to intimidation. The only way to end the violence is to instal an interim government of national unity in the shortest time possible, and hold elections for a Constituent Assembly before the end of this year.

The ANC is asking for international support to end, or at least bring under control, the violence. While details still need to be worked out, we are convinced that international monitoring, and a role in securing a peace-keeping force, will bring under the spotlight all those in our country who are determined to plunge us into the abyss. We are asking all of you here today to seriously consider this appeal and come forward with proposals that you consider viable. We stress the urgency as our people continue to be Our country desperately needs to be democratised. The violence, compounded by the catastrophic drought afflicting the whole sub-continent, can only be tackled by a government that enjoys legitimacy in the eyes of the people. As long as the South African police and the South African Defence Force continue to be the private armed forces of the National Party, so long will the slaughter of our people continue.

Your Excellencies,

The African continent has reached the end of the last chapter of the long nightmare of apartheid and colonialism. To close that book forever requires the firm resolve and maximum unity of all anti-apartheid forces, inside and outside South Africa. The democratic forces inside South Africa have both the will and the capacity to ensure that the regime subjects itself to genuine democracy. Those same pressures that drove the apartheid regime to the negotiating table are needed to ensure a speedy political settlement. With your unwavering support we are confident of success.

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation