Address by Nelson Mandela at the 28th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organisation for African Unity

29 June 1992

Your Excellency, President Abdou Diouf, current Chairman of the OAU,
Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government,
Your Excellency, Salim Ahmed Salim, Secretary-General of the OAU,
Your Excellencies, Ministers, Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Comrades leaders of the liberation movements,
Delegates, observers, ladies and gentlemen,

We would like to thank you most sincerely for giving us the opportunity to address this august gathering. This gives us the opportunity to share with you our thoughts on a matter that is close to us all - namely, the liberation of South Africa

But before we deal with this, we would like, as we did yesterday, to thank President Diouf, the Government and the people of the Republic of Senegal for the welcome they have extended to us since we arrived and the generous assistance they have given to us to enable us to participate in this summit and earlier meetings of the organisation.

We would also like to add our own congratulations to you, Mr President, for your unanimous election to the high post of Chairman of the OAU we are confident that under your experienced guidance, Africa will make further strides forward towards the solution of the problems that she confronts.

We would also like to take this opportunity to express our profound appreciation to President Ibrahim Babangida, our outgoing Chairman, for the outstanding work he did during his period in office. As before, we will continue to depend on this advice, assistance and support.

Since we last met in Abuja, last year, one of the most significant events in the political life of our country was the summoning of the convention for a democratic South Africa - CODESA.

This was in keeping with the provisions contained in the Harare and UN Declarations on southern Africa, which visualised a stage during which the various parties in South Africa would get together to elaborate the steps towards the transformation of our country into a non-racial democracy. We were pleased and greatly strengthened that this organisation supported this initiative and sent observer delegations to South Africa to participate in the work of CODESA during its sessions in December last year and in may of this year.

As the summit knows, this latter session of CODESA did not produce all the results that we had expected.

The results we expected were:

an agreement on various measures intended to create a climate of free political activity;

an agreement on an elected, sovereign constituent assembly that would draw up the new constitution;

an agreement on the interim government that would carry out all necessary functions to ensure that free and fair elections were held for the constituent assembly; and

an agreement dealing with the issue of the re-incorporation of the bantustans, so that our people in these areas would participate in the processes of transformation in the same way as the rest of the people of our country.

The reality is that agreement was reached on these matters, with the critical exception of the issue of the elected constituent assembly.

The heart of the problem is that the proposals of the ruling National Party with regard to this question constitute a denial of democracy.

Simply stated, the National Party wants us to agree to a constitutional and political system which will give power to the political minority to veto the majority.

This is obviously contrary to the fundamental principle of majority rule that is intrinsic to any democratic constitutional system. Any constitution based on this principle would obviously be unacceptable to the majority which would quite correctly reject it as illegitimate.

It is such provisions that the National Party describes as a system of power-sharing. But clearly this does not represent sharing of power, as would happen when you had a coalition government. Rather it is a device to ensure that the minority party of white minority rule continues to exercise effective power by virtue of its ability to veto the decisions of the majority.

This veto power would obviously be used to paralyse government and prevent the elected majority party from carrying out the fundamental structural changes that will be needed to end the legacy of apartheid and transform South Africa into a truly united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist country in which all its citizens would share in the wealth of the country and enjoy equal opportunities.

CODESA 2 therefore did not deadlock on a matter of a detail of negotiations. It is stalled on the fundamental issue of non-acceptance by the National Party of the transformation of South Africa into a democratic country.

The issue about special majorities in terms of adopting the constitution, with the National Party insisting on 75 per cent, was precisely about ensuring that a small minority has the capacity to overrule even a large majority. In itself, this proposal flies in the face of international convention which, in most cases, makes provision for special majorities of two-thirds, at most.

In the context of the process of negotiations, therefore, the deadlock will not be resolved merely by the parties going back to the negotiating table. The sine qua non for the negotiations to succeed has to be acceptance by all the negotiating parties of the need to transform South Africa into a non-racial democracy.

This is consistent with the history of decolonisation in Africa. In that instance, negotiations succeeded because all the negotiating parties agreed that the sine qua non for those negotiations was acceptance of the fact that the outcome of the negotiations would be the independence of the countries concerned.

In much the same way as the liberation movement in the rest of Africa could not have entered into negotiations to reproduce a system of colonial dependency, the South African liberation movement cannot be expected to engage in negotiations to recreate an undemocratic society.

It is in this context that the mass struggles taking place in our country must be understood. They are being conducted to assert the people's determination to bring into being a non-racial democracy and to oblige the National Party of apartheid to commit itself to a genuinely democratic outcome.

Far from constituting something that destabilises the process of negotiations or that creates a climate that is not conducive to such negotiations, these mass struggles, the referendum of the voteless, are also the very midwife which will deliver the non-racial democracy to which we are all committed.

Cognisant of the responsibility that devolves on the ANC to expedite the process, of change, we have used the period since the second session of CODESA to engage in a broad process of consultation with the various parties at CODESA, including the National Party. This was to see ways of overcoming the problem that had arisen.

It was in the midst of this that the horrendous massacre took place at Boipatong, involving the cold-blooded murder of the most innocent people that anyone of us can think of. These included babies, pregnant mothers and the very old.

As I said when I visited the bereaved, none but wild beasts could have carried out this terrible outrage. The pictures and the description of this massacre sent shock waves throughout our country and into all corners of the globe, so gruesome it was even compared to the intolerable murders that continue to take place in various parts of the country.

The message this crime conveyed and the message that the masses of our people themselves conveyed to us was very clear. It was that something very radical had to be done to address the continuing campaign of terror against the people and the democratic movement.

We have therefore said that this must indeed happen. The campaign of death must be brought to an end.

The responsibility for this lies squarely with the De Klerk regime. Had its police acted as they were advised, the massacre would not have taken place. From all the evidence available, the conclusion becomes inescapable that the police did not respond to the prior information they were given because they did want the massacre to take place and did want to ensure that the murderers were not apprehended.

Current evidence indicates that the Boipatong massacre was carried out by a force of foreign mercenaries under the control of the South African police and a secret murder squad housed at a hostel nearby, all acting under the command of white security officers.

We would therefore like to warn the continent and the rest of the world not to fall victim to the propaganda of the regime which seeks to portray the victims of violence as the originators of that violence. The problem is not one of the so-called black-on- black violence.

The problem is the fomenting and perpetrating of terror by agents and surrogates of the regime. The fact that some among these are black does not detract one iota from the culpability of the regime.

When indigenous colonial forces were unleashed against the peoples of Africa fighting for the liberation whether in Algeria, Senegal, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Namibia and elsewhere, this did not constitute black-on-black violence. The situation in South Africa is no different.

We are aware of the positions taken by the OAU ad hoc committee on southern Africa when it met in July last year in Abuja. Those positions, which coincided with our own, required that we move as speedily as possible, to arrive at a democratic transfer of power to the people without allowing the issue of obstacles to negotiations to impede such progress.

We are still committed to that speedy movement forward and as stated in the statement of our national executive committee at the end of its session to consider the Biopatong massacre, we are also committed to the process of negotiations as the best way to transform our country into a non-racial democracy.

But movement forward with respect to the political negotiations has become impossible because of the question of violence. At this moment we face the actual prospect of the most horrendous violence breaking out with the ordinary people hitting out against anybody they consider responsible for the death of the over 11,000 people who have died in the last 5 to 6 years.

We cannot allow this to happen. To prevent it happening means that we have to use everything within our power to oblige the Pretoria regime to take all necessary action on the issue of violence, in keeping with the detailed proposals that we have put forward.

We are greatly strengthened by the continued support and involvement of the OAU in the common struggle for the liberation of our people and country. We need that support more than ever before because it is clear that the closer we get to that goal, the more difficult the situation will get, with those opposed to change behaving like a wounded animal that is unleashing its dying kick.

Immediately, we believe that the assembly should endorse and act upon the decisions of the Council of Ministers to convene an emergency meeting of the Security Council to consider ways by which it can effectively address the problems that have arisen which constitute an obstacle to the realisation of the objectives stated in the 1989 Harare and UN Declarations on southern Africa.

Secondly, we believe that, as agreed by the Council of Ministers, the OAU should send its monitoring group back to South Africa.

We further believe that the OAU should also use its influence among all member states to discourage them from moving too precipitately in terms of establishing contact and relations with the apartheid regime and apartheid society in general,

Clearly, if we do not end the process of dealing with the apartheid regime as though it were no longer such a regime, then it will not be possible for us, as the African continent, to persuade the rest of the world not to normalise relations with the Pretoria regime.

We further need to use the influence and authority of this organisation indeed to communicate with the rest of the world particularly to address the two issues of violence and the acceptance by the regime of the need to move speedily to a genuinely democratic system.

The pressure on the resources available to the ANC continues to grow. Even the present situation itself creates more demands on these resources, requiring as it does that we establish a nation-wide machinery to specialise on the issue of violence to ensure that all the time we are able to intervene with all necessary speed whenever any outbreak threatens.

We therefore renew our appeal to the organisation and the continent to stretch themselves even further by extending more financial and material assistance to ourselves so that we can carry out the tasks that fall on us as the leader of the democratic movement of our country.

The masses of our people are more than ever determined to liberate themselves. The violence unleashed against them to intimidate and terrorise them into a state of submission has failed in its purposes. On the contrary, it has strengthened their resolve to ensure that apartheid is abolished and buried sooner rather than later.

We must also make the point that these masses are more united than ever before, whatever problems might exist between various organisations. This has just been confirmed by the political actions which took place on 16 June when we observed the anniversary of the Soweto uprising of 1976, as well as by other mass struggles since then.

The victory of the masses is assured. Whatever the enemy does, the enemy is doomed to fall. Through struggle, South Africa will be transformed into a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist country. We will achieve this goal sooner if this organisation, its member states and the peoples of our continent continue to join hands with us to make the final drive which will end the system of white minority rule on our continent once and for all.

We are greatly strengthened by the knowledge that we can indeed count on this involvement

Thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation