Statement by Dennis Goldberg, ANC at the meeting of the Special Committee against Apartheid in observance of the Day of Solidarity with South African Political Prisoners

This gathering is truly a solemn event, convened to mark the international Day of Solidarity with South African and Namibian Political Prisoners.

We wish to thank the Special Committee against Apartheid, and especially its Chairman, Major-General Garba, for the work it has done to make known the situation in South Africa and in southern Africa and to mobilize opinion against the apartheid regime.

We wish to honour those already executed by the apartheid regime for their actions to achieve the national liberation of the colonially oppressed mass of the peoples of South Africa and Namibia. That goal, the right to self-determination of peoples enshrined in the United Nations Charter, and their actions, including armed struggle, are politically right and lawful in terms of international law. We would cite an article by Kader Asmal entitled "Reagan Administration betrays the new laws of war," published in The Legal Front recently in New York.

Yet those heroic comrades of ours have been executed. Those known to us and those we wish to honour are our comrades Vuyisile Mini, Khayinga and Mkaba, Solomon Mahlangu, Jerry Mosololi, Simon Mogoerane, Marcus Motaung, Benjamin Moloise, Lucky Payi, Xulu Sipho, Maowasi, Matsepane, Jantjies and Mielies, who were executed just a couple of days ago, as we have heard.

We call upon the world to act - and I would stress the word "act" - to put a stop to executions for political and military acts against the illegitimate racist regime and its collaborators. Right now on death row, as far as we can ascertain, there are 30 or 31 of our heroic comrades. I shall not read the full list of names. In prison at this time are some hundreds of political and military activists whose so-called crime has been their opposition to the internationally recognized crime against humanity of apartheid.

Some of our comrades have been imprisoned for a quarter of a century, but even those who have been freshly imprisoned are entitled to our support. The most famous of the political prisoners are, of course, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni and Elias Motsolaedi, all sentenced in the Rivonia trial in 1964, as well as Wilton Mkwayi, sentenced in December of that year.

We call upon the world to act now to achieve the unconditional release of these comrades of ours - outstanding people not only in the history of South Africa but in the struggles of all peoples throughout history against tyrannical oppression. We call upon the world to act now to achieve the unconditional release of all political prisoners in South Africa. There are untold thousands of people, mainly young boys and girls, sentenced to terms of imprisonment under laws which make them criminals for their politically motivated actions against the apartheid regime. Their acts are acts of conscience. They, equally with those sentenced in overtly political trials in the racist courts, are prisoners of conscience.

We call upon the world to act now for the release of these comrades of ours. Since the most sustained and widespread uprisings in our history began at the end of 1984 and since the imposition of a state of emergency tantamount to martial law, some 30,000 people have been detained by the police and military forces of the regime. The Detainees Parents Support Committee has estimated that one third of them, some 8,000 to 10,000 people, are under 18 years of age. Some are as young as 8 or 10 years of age. They are called "threats to the security of the State."

Torture is the norm in the interrogation of security police of the racist regime. A study conducted by experts at the University of Cape Town reveals that 83 per cent of those interrogated by the security police had been tortured. Beatings, electric shocks to the genitalia, suffocation, injection of drugs and physical brutality dreamed up in the nightmare minds of the interrogators are the order of the day. And this does not take into account the psychological torture imposed by the system of detention without trial. The former South African ambassador to Britain, Mr. Worrall, conceded in a press interview that child torture occurs in South African prisons. He added, ingenuously, that this was against Government policy. He did not say that it was also against the law. He did not explain why it continues, despite being against Government policy. The implication is clear: torture is not only tolerated, it has been encouraged by successive Ministers of Justice and Police Commissioners. How otherwise do they explain the secrecy provisions in the legislation enabling detention for the purposes of interrogation?

It is impossible to know the exact number of those murdered under interrogation in South Africa, which must be taken to include the pseudo-independent pseudo-homelands or Bantustans. Our estimates are that well over 100 of our comrades have been murdered while in police hands since 1963. My comrade Looksmart Ngudle was among the first, in 1963. We have since seen such famous names as Steve Biko, Dr. Neil Aggett, Andries Raditsela and many others.

We call upon the world to act now to put an end to these tortures. The recent Conference on Children, Repression and the Law in Apartheid South Africa, held at Harare, Zimbabwe, heard direct testimony of the systematic torture of children while in detention. Inevitably, many have died. Almost all survivors require psychotherapy to enable them to overcome the trauma in their young lives. With Archbishop Huddleston, we can say that a regime which wages its war of oppression against children is morally bankrupt. It must be overthrown.

We should ask: Why a war against children? We must answer that the people of South Africa, men and women, have not been cowed, have not been broken, by the repression and the torture. This is a regime that seeks out quite consciously the most vulnerable - the weakest, the children - in its effort to intimidate the adults determined to be free. We call upon the world to act now to put an end to the ceaseless destruction of young lives.

The apartheid regime has also murdered and abducted our comrades in defiance of international law through their actions in neighbouring States. Our comrade Ishmael Ibrahim Ishmael is now on trial, having been brought before the court after being kidnapped in Swaziland. Our comrade Priscilla Njanda was also kidnapped in Swaziland and seems to have disappeared. Nobody knows where she is. Our comrades Paul Dikeledi and Cassius Make were recently brutally murdered in Swaziland by agents of the apartheid regime.

I did not know the works of our comrade that are hung here today. They show far more graphically than any words can describe what prison means. They show the distortions of life; they show a mother and her babies in prison. They show a people in prison but on their feet, not cowed, not broken - their lives distorted, true. Despite all these actions by the apartheid regime, it has not been able to stop the people`s movement towards the overthrow of the apartheid system, the movement towards people`s power in this the seventy-fifth anniversary year of the founding of the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC). The ANC has named this year, 1987, the Year of Advance to People`s Power.

We must always bear in mind that apartheid is very much more than the brutalities practised by the apartheid regime in its desperate attempts to maintain itself in power. Apartheid itself is a denial of human rights and dignity. In their daily lives - we cannot in all conscience call them "ordinary lives" - the majority of the people of South Africa live lives which the philosopher Hobbes would have described as "nasty, brutish and short". Our people live under a virtual military and police occupation. Death squads, euphemistically called vigilantes, are not only tolerated by security police but are actively encouraged by agencies of the apartheid State.

Apartheid is a system of State terrorism. South Africa is an imprisoned society. Our people, in destroying the apartheid system, will put an end to that State terrorism. They are tearing down the walls of that prison. Our people will be free in a united, democratic, non-racial South Africa.

We call upon the world to act now to help free our comrades literally in prison and the whole of our people from the prison which is apartheid. No - we do not call upon the world: we demand that the world - and especially those Western countries such as the United States of America, Britain, the Federal Republic of Germany, and their allies Israel and others, which actively support the apartheid regime and protect it through diplomatic and other means - act now.

Do not tell us to wait for reforms. Do not tell us to wait for the apartheid cancer in our society to prescribe its own cure. Ernesto Galleano cites a Guatemalan Foreign Minister saying over 100 years ago that asking the United States to solve the problems of Guatemala was asking a cancer to cure itself. Who shall know better than President Reagan that a cancer must be excised?

Do not tell us to be non-violent. Tell the apartheid regime to stop its violence against our people. Do not tell us that sanctions will harm the oppressed people of South Africa. In the darkness of the suffering caused by the system of apartheid in the daily lives of the people and the suffering caused by the State terrorism employed to maintain the system, it is an impertinence to say: "We will not impose sanctions so that you will not suffer." It is an impertinence for the United States and the United Kingdom to veto Security Council draft resolutions intended to impose mandatory comprehensive sanctions. It is an impertinence to equate the legitimate violence of a people struggling to be free with the State violence of the repressive apartheid State.

We demand of the world to impose mandatory comprehensive sanctions now. Do not tell us that the trifling sanctions that have been enacted are ineffective. You unwillingly enacted them, are lax in applying them and then tell us they do not work. You trifle with the lives of our people.

We demand an end to the apartheid crime against humanity. In relation to Namibia we demand mandatory comprehensive sanctions to enforce compliance with Security Council resolution 435 (1978) and an end to apartheid South Africa`s illegal occupation of that country. In relation to apartheid South Africa`s continuing aggression against Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana, action is required urgently. We demand of the world the full application of all the provisions of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter to bring an end to that aggression. Nuclear-armed apartheid South Africa is already at war with its neighbours and is a threat to international peace and security.

We wish also to express our solidarity with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and with the people of the Sahraoui National Liberation Front, as well as with people everywhere fighting for their freedom from national oppression.

This is a solemn meeting of solidarity with political prisoners in South Africa and Namibia. It should also be a joyful occasion on which we celebrate the triumph of the human spirit, of endurance, of determination to destroy the evil apartheid system. In the words of the prologue to our Freedom Charter,

"these freedoms we will fight for, side by side,

throughout our lives,

until we have won our liberty."

I have not talked about my own experiences. We have heard from our comrade, Dean T. S. Farasani, what torture means. It is much more difficult for me to strip aside all the protections one builds up over 7,904 days of imprisonment. But what we knowis that we will fight side by side all our lives until we have won. I would only say in closing: "Amandla Ngawethu: Maatla ke a rona: Jana Shakti!" Power to the people!

 

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