Speech by Oliver Tambo at meeting in London, 21 March 1980

Comrade Chairman and Comrades,

I would not like to temper with the great effect, in my own mind certainly and I would think yours, of the statements that have been made from this rostrum tonight. I am taking advantage of the opportunity given by you, Comrade Chair, to thank the convenors of this meeting, MAGIC, SACTU, SWAPO, Anti-Apartheid Movement and ANC, to discuss not what happened in Sharpeville 21 years ago but what is happening today, because the Sharpeville massacre - an event in Sharpeville in Vereeniging in South Africa - has, over the past 21 years, spread itself across the whole subcontinent of Africa. It has become our daily experience, and not alone the experience of the people of South Africa, not any more. The struggle has been joined by millions in that region, by the whole of Africa, by the nations of the world. What is surprising is that the South African regime persists. It is still there, perpetrating unspeakable atrocities daily.

Comrade Chair, I listened to the BBC, I think today or yesterday, reporting on how an American warship picked up about 100 Vietnamese refugees in the middle of some ocean. The report makes the point that amongst these refugees there was one pregnant woman. That is being broadcast to the whole world, a very good act - salvaging an expectant mother. It reminds one of the hundreds of thousands of expectant mothers which were blasted and bayonetted and blown to pieces in Vietnam by American imperialism. Perhaps the world has forgotten about those mothers. What about the hundreds of expectant mothers that are being murdered in Angola every day by the South African racists? What is being said about them? What is the rest of the world really doing to support Angola against the assaults and aggression of the racist South African regime?

There is a particularly dangerous Unholy Alliance that is emerging. We have had an Unholy Alliance of three in the sixties and early seventies that consisted of Ian Smith, Caetano/Salazar and Vorster. The latest one has emerged since the 20th January this year. It consists of Thatcher, Reagan and Botha. But to say it is an Unholy Alliance is to predict that, like the earlier one, it will be destroyed. That does not take away from the need for us to confront it. It is the inner group of a wider combine that is involved in trying to roll back the map of liberation in Africa. In a sense we are at the beginning in this point in time. There is a new challenge. It is, of course, the beginning of the end! But it is the beginning of a bitter struggle. A great responsibility rests upon the international solidarity movement, and especially the people of this country. Which country in the world has done more to cause pain, suffering and misery - wars - than Britain? The Anti-Apartheid Movement has a great responsibility to move the British people into action.

Comrades, we in South Africa - the African National Congress in particular - accept responsibility for the fact that we are entertaining in our country, maintaining, a regime that is spreading terror among peaceful people who have struggled for their independence, sacrificed for it, and would like to enjoy it. We in South Africa are the base from which this terror is launched. We are the servitors of that regime. We provide labour. We have guaranteed it a powerful economy. We have allowed it to survive to this point in time. It is our enemy before it is anybody else`s enemy. It is us who are going to have to destroy that regime to give meaning to the independence of the peoples of Africa. And until we do that hundreds of thousands of pregnant mothers will yet be killed, unfortunately perhaps not just in southern Africa. Until we do that there is no peace. I make this statement by way of a pledge to this meeting, that the totality of this whole situation means that we in South Africa must stand up and make revolution! That, for us, is the meaning of the Matola raid, the Matola massacre. I hope that I can come back in reasonable time and tell you that I meant what I said, that I was not speaking on my own behalf, but that I was giving expression to the feelings of the oppressed and exploited, the democratic people of South Africa, I was making a pledge in their name. That pledge we shall honour.

Amandla Ngawethu! 

Maatla ke a Rona!