Speech by Oliver Tambo on the occasion of the award of an honorary Doctorate to Nelson Mandela by the Karl Marx University of the German Democratic Republic, 11 November 1987, Leipzig

Comrade Professor Doctor Rathmann, esteemed rector of Karl Marx University,

Members of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany,

Members of the Council, staff and students of the university,

Distinguished guests, comrades and friends,

On behalf of the African National Congress, its leadership and its people`s army - Umkhonto we Sizwe - on behalf of the oppressed peoples of South Africa and those of Namibia, on behalf of Nelson Mandela and hundreds of other political prisoners, on behalf of southern Africa, I extend warm and fraternal greetings to you.

This day, November 11, is important for the people of southern Africa not only because of the occasion which brings us here but also because it is the 12th anniversary of the independence of the People`s Republic of Angola. Allow me to salute the heroic Angolan people who have been continuously at war for the past 26 years.

We meet a few days after the celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. This event, more than any other, transformed the destiny of mankind. It opened up a new dawn for millions of people. On the occasion of our celebrations of this anniversary, we noted that today the two most pressing issues confronting humanity are national liberation and peace.

The peace initiatives taken by the USSR on the occasion of the CPSU`s 27th Congress, the statement of January 15th setting out a programme for nuclear disarmament and the October 1986 Reykjavik meeting are all important milestones in mankind`s search for peace.

Unfortunately there are still forces who are relentlessly opposing genuine steps to peace and disarmament. We must all strive to ensure that the forthcoming meeting between Comrade Gorbachev and President Reagan succeeds and that a long and lasting basis for peace and security is established. Our meeting today is a concrete manifestation of the dialectical relationship between national liberation and peace.

Mandela, a Symbol

We are gathered here on the occasion of the conferment of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (honoris causa) on Nelson Mandela, who is unable to be here to receive this great honour in person. Nelson Mandela, a most popular national leader of the people of South Africa, an outstanding champion of national liberation and peace - this great fighter is a symbol of our people`s resilience in the struggle for freedom and peace. In honouring Nelson Mandela, you honour the people of South Africa. You honour all of southern Africa and all of Africa.

In doing so, you express not only your solidarity and support for our just struggle but also that of the people of your great country, the German Democratic Republic.

It is my singular privilege today to represent my friend, brother and partner-in-struggle and to receive this prestigious award in his name and on his behalf. I know that he in turn regards this great honour as belonging to the fighting masses of our country.

Role of the University

The Karl Marx University, which has been in existence for an incredible 400 years, is a striking example of how the objectives of academic institutions are determined by the nature of society. Today your institution is not only raising the academic and intellectual calibre of your students, which include many from Africa and other continents, but you are striving to create in each student a new person.

Like so many other academic institutions in the German Democratic Republic, the Karl Marx University is in the forefront of the struggle for peace, freedom and justice. The quest for truth and knowledge has not only become an end in itself but has also become an instrument for the creation of a new society.

In 1960 Professor Doctor Rathmann contributed fully to the sharp debates on neocolonialism. It is fitting that today he is rector of a university whose contributions to the education and training of people throughout the world and whose internationalism is highly appreciated. We look forward to extending our relations and cooperation with Karl Marx University.

Education for Liberation

It is an indictment against the apartheid system that its jails are filled with hundreds of outstanding patriots. Many of them have been in prison for almost a quarter of a century. They, who would have made a contribution to the creation of a nonracial, democratic and peaceful society, whose leadership would have moved millions to fight for this goal, have been condemned by the apartheid regime to spend the rest of their lives in prison.

The cause for which they have been incarcerated has an importance not only beyond the prison bars, but also beyond the borders of South Africa.

Apartheid exists as the concentrated expression of the worldwide cancer of racism. As in Nazi Germany, so in South Africa, the ideas and practices of racism have been institutionalised and they reign supreme. The apartheid regime`s cynical, crude and systematic use of education and culture to propagate its philosophy of racism has seen few parallels in the modern world. In 1955 Verwoerd, the architect of the apartheid policy, stated:

"Good race relations are spoilt when the correct education is not given. Above all good race relations cannot exist when the education is given under the control of people who create wrong expectations on the part of the native himself.

"If such people believe in the policy of equality, if, let me say, for example, a communist gives this training to the natives, such a person will by the very nature of the education he gives, both as regards the content of the education and as regards its spirit, create expectations in the mind of the Bantu which clash with the possibilities of this country. It is therefore necessary that native education should be controlled in such a way that it should be in accord with the policy of the State."

To achieve this objective a special "Bantu education" was introduced. Our people have fought this educational system and refused to allow it to turn us into docile servants of the so-called "master" race, to reduce us into subhumans with no higher purpose in life than to serve as hewers of wood and drawers of water. Today, under the slogan "Education for Liberation", many of our educational institutions are in the forefront of the struggle against apartheid. Several schools, colleges and universities have been closed, many campuses are under military occupation and hundreds of students have been expelled, or arrested.

All this has failed to curb the growing resistance to the apartheid system. Our people know that freedom and peace cannot be achieved without struggle and sacrifice. They are maintaining the mass popular offensive, and the working class has defied bullets, imprisonment and torture in heroic battles whose political content is clearly discernible.

Demand for Release of Prisoners

The honorary doctorate conferred on Mandela is also in recognition of the fact that even in prison our compatriots continue the search for truth. Despite stringent restrictions and obstacles, hundreds of prisoners have pursued their studies. The prisons of apartheid have been transformed into "institutions of learning". Our graduates from prison have not only interpreted the world but are fighting to change it.

A striking feature of the struggle against apartheid violence is that these leaders and activists who have been released from prison have continued to play a leading role in the struggle. The international demand for the release of Nelson Mandela and all other political prisoners, and especially of detained children, must be sustained and intensified. In this connection the unconditional release of Govan Mbeki after 23 years of imprisonment on the notorious Robben Island prison represents an important victory.

We warmly welcome and heartily congratulate this brave patriot and staunch leader of the South African liberation movement. Far from being cowed into submission he has reaffirmed his commitment to the ideals for which he was imprisoned as a member of the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party, and has declared his determination to continue the fight for freedom.

Apartheid is Violence

As we meet today our thoughts are with our people who are being subjected to an unprecedented reign of terror. A state of emergency has been in force for over two years in apartheid South Africa. In this period about 3,000 people have been killed and an estimated 30,000 activists have been detained. About 8,000 of these detainees are children under the age of 18. The regime`s paramilitary forces are being aided by State-sponsored vigilantes and death squads.

There are even special camps created for the brainwashing of our children. At a recent conference held in Harare on the theme "Children, Repression and the Law in South Africa", graphic and horrific accounts of torture, maltreatment and abuse of children held captive by the apartheid regime were given. This violence has also become a permanent fact of life for the peoples of southern Africa. The region of southern Africa holds the key to the political, economic and social renewal of the entire African continent and especially sub-Saharan Africa. South Africa is the largest country in the region. The combined populations of the SADCC countries and South Africa is almost 100 million - a quarter of the population on the African continent.

The liberation of South Africa and Namibia will alter the strategic position of the continent which will contribute internationally to the strengthening of the peace forces. Imperialism recognises all this and therefore pursues a policy aimed at ensuring the permanent ascendancy of pro-imperialist forces. The apartheid regime continues to occupy Namibia illegally and is carrying out daily atrocities against the people of Namibia.

Angola`s territory is occupied by South African troops and Angola has suffered immense economic and manpower losses. UNITA continues to receive military and other assistance from South Africa and many other Western countries, especially the United States of America. In Mozambique the South African regime continues its support for the MNR bandits.

The peoples of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana are also subjected to destabilisation and harassment. This indicates that apartheid is violence. Thus to end this violence and achieve peace and social progress, the apartheid system has to be liquidated. It cannot be reformed or amended. It either is or is not. It cannot be made acceptable by changes to any one of the elements which make up its totality.

Our Vision

We seek to create a united, democratic and nonracial society. We have a vision of a South Africa in which all our people - black or white - shall live and work together as equals in conditions of peace and prosperity.

It is to this objective, this ideal, that Nelson Mandela has dedicated his entire life - an ideal for which, if needs be, he is "prepared to die".

Nelson Mandela will hold high the ideals that Karl Marx University subscribes to and he will always work to ensure that the bonds between the people of German Democratic Republic and South Africa will be further strengthened.

Together let us strive to create a new world order free of racism, colonialism, war and exploitation.

A Luta Continua!

Our Common Victory is Certain!

ES Reddy

Donate with Snapscan