Statement at the meeting of the Special Committee against Apartheid in observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Struggling People of South Africa (Soweto Day), 16 June 1989

On behalf of the South African Youth Congress, whose leadership is working under most precarious conditions inside South Africa, I should like most sincerely to thank the Committee for affording us this opportunity to participate in this gathering marking 16 June.

We owe the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid a debt of deep gratitude for its tireless efforts undertaken to unite world opinion in support of our struggle. In 1963, when the General Assembly established the Special Committee against Apartheid, our struggle was not yet known and barely received any recognition among the welter of international issues and conflicts that preoccupied the international community. But today, thanks to the highly commendable work of this Committee, supplementing our struggles, South Africa and the problems facing our region are among the priorities being addressed by the community of nations.

I should like also to take this opportunity, on behalf of SAYCO, to convey our heartfelt congratulations to Ambassador J. N. Garba, under whose leadership the Special Committee has done its work over the past year. The depth of his commitment to the cause of liberation is reflective of the consistent policy pursued by his country, Nigeria, to underscore the importance of the struggle to overthrow apartheid. We salute Nigeria for the swift and decisive action it has taken against countries and companies that have sought to violate the decisions and resolutions of the United Nations. Certainly the oppressed people of our country drew great encouragement from such demonstrative acts of international solidarity.

It was exactly 13 years ago in Soweto, Johannesburg, that thousands of peacefully demonstrating students were gunned down by racist policemen who were armed to the teeth with modern and sophisticated weapons. Those students were protesting against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools. What was sparked by enforced Afrikaans as a medium of instruction soon became a generalized national resistance against apartheid. When parents and workers joined the youth armed only with determination, they faced a hail of bullets. Hundreds were murdered and thousands wounded. The first victim was 13-year-old Hector Peterson. A lot of innocent blood was shed. The enemy, the South African regime, was extremely vicious against a totally unarmed people. The impact that the events of that day had on the minds of our people remains immeasurable. When we dipped our banners in memory of our fallen heroes on 16 June 1986, the tenth anniversary of the uprising, we declared that, from that day on, 16 June would be South African Youth Day.

This year`s South African Youth Day falls on the tenth anniversary of the execution of Comrade Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu. That young lion was among thousands of people who witnessed the fascism and barbarism of the racists in 1976. He joined our people`s army Umkhonto We Sizwe, which gave him skills in the art of modern guerrilla warfare. He inspired millions at home and abroad when he defiantly and heroically gave his young and fresh blood to the struggle. To millions of us South Africans he remains, and shall for ever be, a symbol of resistance and the determination of our people to fight against apartheid. The list of such courageous young fighters is endless; it includes, among others, the executed Jerry Mosolodi, Andrew Zondo, Stanza Bopape, Sicelo Diomo, Chris Ntuli, Ashley Kriel and Mary Mini.

When, in 1986, we declared 16 June South African Youth Day, arrangements for the formation of our gigantic South African Youth Congress were under way. Despite the fact that the racists declared martial law, youth activists, organizers and the leadership adapted themselves to new and challenging conditions with the sole purpose of taking that historic mission to its logical conclusion - the formation of a national youth organization. In keeping with the aspirations of millions of our youth, this mammoth youth movement was launched on 27 March 1987 under the very nose of the regime, just 10 minutes away from the Parliament in Cape Town. Needless to say, that was possible because we had correctly captured Solomon Mahlangu`s spirit of no surrender.

Today the situation in South Africa is characterized by the most vicious repression by the racists, on the one hand, and the undying determination of the majority of the oppressed South Africans to continue to fight, on the other.

For the fourth consecutive year the racist regime has kept the state of emergency intact. This suggests that the original objective for which it was imposed has not yet been fulfilled - that is, rendering our mass organizations ineffective and non-functional. With the emergency the Boers have deployed thousands of troops in our townships. These troops are detaining, torturing and maiming activists of our organizations. They are actually terrorizing and intimidating our communities in general and our youth in particular.

Since 1985, when a state of emergency was imposed for the second time, over 55,000 people have been detained in terms of the emergency. It is by no mistake, and nor is it a coincidence, that over two thirds of them came from the ranks of the youth, our shock troops of the revolution - the young lions. Among us there were also children who were held for a lengthy period without trial. Troops have occupied schools, colleges and universities. Vigilantes and murderous squads have sprung up all over the country, especially where mass democratic organizations are the strongest.

We also saw the marathon of treason trials aimed at criminalizing our united Democratic Front (UDF) and Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) leadership, and the effort to prove that the mass movement is a front of the African National Congress. Some of our best fighters are today serving sentences of years of imprisonment emanating from treason trials. Courts are also used to instil fear in our people by condemning scores - actually hundreds - to death. Today the blood-dripping hands of the Pretoria hangman are waiting to chop off the heads of over 200 innocent patriots, most of them youth and workers. As a desperate measure the racist regime banned 17 organizations simultaneously, followed by several others later. Among the banned organizations are UDF, COSATU, SAYCO, the Release Mandela Committee, and others. The racist regime and its courts have failed to criminalize our organizations.

These inextinguishable flames of resistance continue to burn in the hearts of millions of oppressed South Africans. Our activists, organizers and leadership have responded with overwhelming enthusiasm in the face of fascism. New creative methods that fitted hand-in-glove with repressive conditions were developed. Our semi-clandestine nature ensured our continued survival in the face of fascism. The South African Youth Congress, the Women`s Congress and the national Release Mandela Committee were formed under the nose of the enemy. Despite vigilante and other Pretoria-paid murderous squads, our organizations managed to regroup and fight. All public events organized by the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Council of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) were banned. That includes the famous anti-apartheid coalition conference which was to be held in Cape Town in September 1988. The October municipal elections failed dismally despite the fact that almost the entire leadership of the democratic movement had been rounded up and imprisoned. Our people refused to vote for puppets because their own candidates were behind bars.

Despite lengthy periods in detention, we refused to be cowed into submission.

We rose above those dehumanizing and humiliating conditions of detention. Our specific strategic objective was immediate and unconditional release. After all other methods to secure our release were explored without success, the final method was starving to death if need be - that is, a hunger strike. With this weapon we shook Andrian Vlok and forced him to release us. Escapes and sit-ins were prevalent. Needless to say, these forms of struggle are dangerous and risky. Their use can only demonstrate the extent of our quest for freedom and our hatred of apartheid.

Over 800 former detainees were restricted upon their release. The regime restricted activists to the houses they had run away from at the time of their capture. In terms of the restrictions, hundreds of our people cannot work, cannot participate in any political organizations and are under house arrest for up to 20 hours a day. Furthermore, the majority have to report at police stations once or twice a day. Needless to say, this is extremely frustrating, since individual movement is greatly curtailed; what is more important is that the majority of those who are restricted are vulnerable to attacks by murderous squads, thus putting their lives at stake. They are sitting targets to the forces of darkness because the regime has made them defenceless. The murder by these squads of Chris Ntuli on his way back from reporting can only demonstrate the truth and the degree of that vulnerability. Therefore the task of fighting against these restrictions falls on the shoulders of all peace- and freedom-loving people the world over. We must never cease our campaign for the lifting of the state of emergency by putting all possible pressure against the racist regime.

Through its struggle the oppressed majority has thrown the racist regime into a deep ongoing crisis, both politically and economically. At present it is being torn apart by corruption, leadership crises, breakaways and defeats politically and militarily. The defeat at Cuito Cuanavale and that of the so-called reforms are the most glaring examples. The regime is currently confused, and hence it has no direction. We need to rout it and annihilate it from all sides. In this regard, we vow to do our part, and we call upon the entire international community to take a rightful position.

Even though there is confusion in the ranks of the enemy, it talks about "negotiations". This is also echoed by its friends and allies the world over, especially the United States and British Governments, which invoke negotiations to replace the armed struggle. Let us put the record straight: in the South African situation the fundamental problem lies in the transfer of both economic and political power to the millions of oppressed and dispossessed people. Therefore, whether that transfer takes place through this or that method is immaterial to us. At the same time, we should stress that we have never been and we are still not opposed to negotiations so long as they deal with the modalities of the transfer of power from the racists to us, the oppressed and exploited.

In South Africa there are only two leading protagonists: the racist Nationalist Party, which is the disintegrating government; and the African National Congress, the government in the making. These two, and only these two, can negotiate. The policy of the United States and Britain in refusing to recognize the African National Congress and continuing to refer to it as a terrorist organization convinces us that they are just trying to buy time and ultimately deprive our people of their fighting spirit. Our fighting youth, together with the mass democratic movement, has concluded that the only way forward is by intensifying the all-round struggle against the racists. Therefore, our guiding slogan is: defend, consolidate and attack.

The demands put forward by the mass democratic movement as pre-conditions for any negotiations still remain valid. These are: lifting of the state of emergency, the release of all political prisoners, lifting of the ban on the African National Congress, lifting of the restrictions on UDF, COSATU, SAYCO and other organizations as well as individuals, removing the South African defence force troops from our townships and schools, and the guaranteed safe return of all exiles, led by President Oliver Tambo.

Sanctions and disinvestment will weaken apartheid and thus make the task of its destruction less difficult and costly in human lives and property. For over 100 years foreign investment has been pouring into our country. We, the oppressed, are no better off today than we were 100 years ago. Instead we are worse off than ever before. Even before the campaign for sanctions was begun, apartheid had led to the creation of millions upon millions of unemployed, and their number is rising with each passing day. We have noted that it was mostly during periods of economic boom that the most repressive and discriminatory legislation was adopted.

The most glaring examples occurred in the period immediately after the Second World War and in the 1960s. Who, then, can deny that investment in South Africa has benefited only business in general and the privileged whites in particular? There is no doubt that disinvestment will weaken apartheid. There is no doubt also that investments in South Africa strengthen apartheid by giving it a healthier material and economic basis from which to defend and perpetrate its evil policies. The campaign for sanctions is not economic but political. We therefore reject with contempt the argument that sanctions will hurt us blacks when we are already being killed by the guns and ammunition produced by the very same investments. We refuse to be made beggars for the sake of jobs in foreign companies that operate in our country. That is why the general strategic objective remains the seizure of power from the regime so that we can create jobs for every able-bodied person in South Africa.

The international community has correctly characterized apartheid as a crime against humanity. It can only be morally and politically correct to act against apartheid in every possible way. In this regard we call upon the United Nations to impose comprehensive mandatory sanctions against the regime. We call upon all international institutions, such as the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Non-Aligned Movement, as well as all Governments the world over, to exert ever more pressure against the racist regime and support the non-racial and democratic forces in South Africa.

On this solemn occasion we wish in particular to address warm salutations to our brothers, the heroic Namibians, and to their sole, authentic representative, the South West Africa People`s Organization (SWAPO), who are now returning home after many years of tremendous sacrifice for freedom, equality and dignity. We wish to commend them on their steadfastness in the pursuit of their struggle to end the racist regime in Pretoria and its illegal occupation of their country and to win their national liberation. We are especially proud of the statesmanlike manner in which SWAPO has conducted itself, despite the violent, intransigent, provocative and obstructionist behaviour of the Pretoria regime and its well-known allies. We likewise reaffirm our solidarity with the people of the Western Sahara and their vanguard, POLISARIO; with the people of Palestine and their sole, authentic representative, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO); and with all other peoples everywhere struggling against oppression and exploitation and for democracy, peace and progress.

With confidence we stand before the whole world. Whether we live or die, freedom shall rise in South Africa. Freedom or death, victory is certain.

Simon Ntombela (South African Youth Congress, SAYCO)