Statement by Nelson Mandela on the 32nd anniversary of Mkhonto we Sizwe

16 December 1993

Master of Ceremonies
Ladies and Gentlemen
Comrades and friends

I am overwhelmed by the great feeling of glory and pride which permeates the air in this stadium today. Those of us who stand at the helm of your organisation, the ANC, and our popular army, Umkhonto we Sizwe, are moved to the highest possible level of satisfaction in the near conclusion of a mission we set ourselves to accomplish, this day, 32 years ago. A mission, which shall find its historic emblazonement in the establishment of a genuinely free and democratic South Africa come April 27th 1994. It is therefore right and proper that as we celebrate what is perhaps the last national occasion of MK as a liberation army, we should pause to salute the entire officer corps of MK, the numerous commanders and commissars here gathered, the complex of martyred heroes and heroines, the maimed and disabled veterans of the liberation struggle, as well as those of us who are still fit and willing to join the new national defence force which is to be established in the coming period.

I elect this moment to ask you to rise up in solemn remembrance to all our fallen comrades who remained loyal to their assigned tasks up to the very last. As you stand erect, in recognition of the unparalleled heroism, dedication and commitment of our erstwhile comrades, I ask of you a pledge to remember them to our people and to posterity. Immortalise their memory through good deeds and the force of example in your contribution towards a future of hope and justice for all. I have no doubt in my mind that what we ask of you today cannot be any less than what that greatest of South African leaders, O.R. Tambo and that matchless commander Chris Hani, would have asked you to do. Let us observe a moment of silence in memory of our gallant heroes and heroines.

Dear Comrades

The significance of this event is graphically captured in the presentation of Army Commander, Joe Modise. Coming as it does on the eve of our country's entry into a new democratic political dispensation, it is a fitting tribute to the sacrifices of all our people, combatants and non-combatants alike, have had to make over the years.

It is an occasion meant to celebrate our liberation effort on the battlefield and yet, an occasion we have to use in our rededication to peace, freedom and stability. If in the past Umkhonto we Sizwe was the spear of the nation, the time has indeed come for it to assume the role of the shield of the nation, acting together with other democratic formations, to defend the democratic values which we cherish and aim to uphold throughout the difficult but exciting years ahead of us. Concomitantly, we must invite all our compatriots to join us in an all-round commitment to peace by effectively closing the era of armed conflict and concentrate on the reconstruction and development of the country.

As MK prepares to be in the integrative process regarding military formations, we trust that the fundamental principle that "our military line grows out of our political line" will continue to inform our perspectives. Even though we are committed to the creation of a new defence force which must be apolitical in its form and content, it is imperative that products of MK must be in the forefront of efforts to improve standards in the new defence structures, by amongst other things, maintaining the highest standards of discipline and an undying thirst for knowledge, and more knowledge. For it is the power of knowledge, acquired formally or empirically, that can sustain any institution or organisation in its flight towards excellence. We charge you to carry this all-embracing truth into the new military establishment we are about to put into place.

Dear Friends

For almost three decades, our army and people were compelled to engage in a war of the disadvantaged against the privileged, a slow but intense war of attrition. In the process many of you lost opportunities for un-hindered self-improvement and upgrading in the various disciplines and skills departments. This great sacrifices you made as you pledged all your mental and physical energies for victory over the most reactionary circles of South African racism represented by the system of apartheid. Today, as we stand on the threshold of an epochal transition into a new democratic order you must justifiably feel proud of your noble endeavours. But always remember to live by the dictum made famous at the close of World War II, "in victory, magnanimity".

The very reasons at the base of our just struggle for freedom which form the core of our system of democratic beliefs must now drive us to a new plateau of gallant submission to the spirit of tolerance and national reconciliation. We need to summon all our intelligent courage in rallying to the protection of the genuine interest of all our people irrespective of race, colour, creed or sex. It is expected of us to assist the incoming government in its arduous task of reshaping the fortunes and fate of our great country. Conversely, it is the duty of the new government to ensure that your educational and welfare needs as loyal servants of the nation are adequately met within the limits of the broad economic climate.

Comrades and friends.

Now that the TEC is in place, we are confronted with the reality that disgruntled political factions, particularly on the far right of the political scene, are coalescing into a potential source of internal destabilisation and conflict. Treated hypothetically, this development might seem to be a minor irritant.

But the fact of incessant sabre-rattling and threats of civil war by certain pockets within the rightwing fold is enough cause for concern. This situation calls for the undivided attention of the TEC, the entire democratic forces as well as concerned citizens at large in order to thwart the ignoble intentions of these veritable spoilers.

We of the ANC went to the negotiating table with a clear understanding that the content and flow of debates must be informed by the cherished ideals of South Africans from all walks of life and political persuasions. No greater legitimacy to the process of transition can be found outside this support given to the Kempton Park undertaking by the majority of our people. The point however, is that we sincerely hold on to our conviction that in order to assuage feelings and boost confidence in the future, we must continuously engage in frank and open discussion even with those who seek to put the clock back. Nevertheless, we aim never to countenance any secret agendas from whatever quarter, the government included.

Comrades and friends.

The ANC has a mammoth responsibility to ensure that the forthcoming election is not only successful, but is also held in an atmosphere of peace. This will be the litmus test for anybody who claim to have the interest of the people at heart and seek to carry them forward to democracy and the pursuit of life and liberty.

On this historic day, the 32nd anniversary of Umkhonto we Sizwe, we are proud to place on record the heroic role played by this peoples army in bringing about the changes we are witnessing today. South Africa is where it is, thanks to the contribution and sacrifices you comrades, commanders, officers, commissars and the soldiers of Umkhonto we Sizwe made.

We call upon you to go forward with the same resolve, commitment and determination as you join with all other armed formations in the creation of a new defence force for our country. As fighters for democracy we expect of you to bring into that new army, the democratic culture that has been our inspiration as a movement and on army of resistance. With your heroic exploits - we believe MK is ready to meet the challenge of transformation.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation