Statement by Olive Tambo at the freedom rally organised by the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement, 26 January 1979, Dublin

Dear Friends and Comrades,

We bring you greetings on behalf of the African National Congress, the cadres of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), inside and outside of South Africa, the workers, peasants, students and indeed all of the struggling people of our country. We greet you also on behalf of the people of Africa and especially the people of southern Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Zambia with whom we are involved in a struggle against the fascist regime of Vorster/Botha and Smith and their allies.

It is quite appropriate that this rally is taking place in Liberty Hall, the headquarters of ITGWU, a Union founded by James Connolly, who stood for one tradition in the national liberation movement and because of this, was murdered by the (British) imperialists.

It is an honour to share this platform with James Larkin`s son, Denis Larkin. We are informed that Sean MacBride, who is 75 today, cannot be with us. We are sorry that illness has deprived this rally of the esteemed presence of that great son of Ireland, Nobel Peace Prize Winner and a Lenin Prize Winner - we salute him.

The Convention goes further to say: "The States Parties to the present Convention declare criminal those organisations, institutions and individuals committing the crime of apartheid."

The African National Congress endorses these positions as correct. We think that this rally must also proceed from the position of acceptance of the principles contained in the Convention.

The second position we would like to state is this that the EEC as a bloc and the West in general constitutes the principal partner of racist South Africa in all areas of international intercourse, including the economic and military areas.

The third position that is of importance is that all such international intercourse has the effect of strengthening the apartheid regime and therefore constitutes encouraging, aiding and abetting the commission of the crime against humanity.

It is therefore fair and just that we should from this rostrum, in the name of the suffering millions of the people of our country and indeed of the whole of southern Africa, denounce this cooperation between the countries of the West and apartheid South Africa as a hostile act against our people and demand in the interests of all humanity that it should cease.

Since we do want in all seriousness that this cooperation should in fact cease, we must ask ourselves whether this new appeal and the decisions that will come from this conference will suffice to persuade the countries of the EEC to comply with our long-standing demand for the total isolation of the apartheid regime, a demand which is supported by the overwhelming majority of mankind!

Experience has taught us that we must answer this question in the negative. It is quite clear that the extent and level of involvement of the countries of the West in the perpetuation of the apartheid system in fact serves as justification for the enhancement of this involvement on the basis that this is necessary to protect the already existing interests of these countries in South Africa.

We have no alternative therefore but to struggle for the realisation of the objective of the total isolation of apartheid South Africa.

It is a moving experience for me to speak for the second time in ten years in Ireland, among a people who know as intimately what it means to suffer under colonial domination and imperialist plunder. It is fortunate also because through the centuries, the Irish people have given example to the world and to us that progress cannot come about except through struggle and a willingness to sacrifice.

Inspired by this rally, the conference which begins tomorrow should, to justify its convening, come out with a concrete programme of action to oblige the member countries of the EEC individually and collectively to terminate their infamous collaboration with apartheid South Africa.

We are up against powerful forces. To cite just a few figures, by 1976 exports of the EEC countries amounted to US $ 400 billion as against US $ 113.4 billion exported by the USA. In this same year, the military expenditure of the European members of NATO, dominated by countries that also belong to the EEC surpassed US $ 41 billion. (By way of contrast, South Africa`s military expenditure for the current year amounts to 5 per cent of that expenditure.)

Behind these figures lie such international household names as Barclays Bank and ICI, Deutsche Bank and Siemens, the Bank of Paris and Dassault, Fiat, Shell and so on.

It is these financial groups, together with their political representatives and the military circles grouped in the NATO force, which are behind the continuing and increasing ties between the West and South Africa. It is they that we have to compel to bend to the popular will.

The amount of work that still needs to be done is evident from the positions taken only two days ago at the current session of the United Nations General Assembly once again by the leading EEC countries and the United States to block all effective international measures against the Botha-Vorster regime.

The struggle in South Africa is one between the forces of national liberation and democracy on the one hand, the colonial domination, racism and fascism on the other. Between these forces there can be neither compromise nor peaceful coexistence. The very recent history of Europe herself proves this. This was as much the case in Nazi-occupied Europe as it was in Franco`s Spain, the Portugal of Salazar and Caetano and in the Greece of the colonels. This was the case of Ireland. Our own case was no different.

Fascism and colonialism in Europe could not be reformed or amended and had in fact to be uprooted by force of arms in the majority of cases. To pretend that the situation in South Africa can be otherwise is to seek to delude us into permanent submission and to persuade the world to acquiesce in the continued strengthening of the racist regime by its allies in Western Europe and elsewhere, to encourage increased participation in the perpetuation of a horrible crime.

The so-called Code of Conduct adopted by the EEC for firms with subsidiaries in South Africa is a manoeuvre intended to achieve these purposes. The attempt to soften the intensity of the exploitation of our people and our country`s resources by these multinational corporations by desegregating canteens and such measures will not succeed to hide the fact that these firms are in South Africa exactly because of the super-profits that the apartheid system guarantees these corporations.

This manoeuvre also cannot camouflage the fact that it is exactly these firms which constitute the material and technical base for the production of war materials in South Africa including nuclear weapons. The cosmetic changes proposed in the "code of conduct" are therefore not motivated by any desire to improve the lives of our people but more by the desire to present a predator as a benefactor, to allow the predator more time and scope to achieve its ignoble purposes.

Three leading members of the EEC, Britain, the Federal Republic of Germany and France are members of the group of five Western members of the Security Council that has been discussing the question of Namibia with the Botha-Vorster regime.(2) 

Once more we find that these countries are involved in a dangerous conspiracy designed in part to present that regime as an agent of progressive change in Namibia and indeed in the whole of southern Africa. The purpose is again the same - namely to present a predator as a benefactor, to allow the predator time and scope to achieve its ignoble purposes.

The apartheid regime is the immediate colonial power of southern Africa. What our people demand, what they are dying for is an end to colonialism and the victory of national liberation. We therefore fight against the coloniser and do not expect that he will be on our side in the process of decolonisation. Yet this is exactly what these leading members seek to present as the only way out for southern Africa, that the colonisers have turned into their own opposite, that the fascists can be the vehicle to bring about democratic change in our country and region.

The only democratic position which accords with the fundamental aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe and Namibia is that power should be transferred to the Patriotic Front and SWAPO respectively, the sole and genuine representatives of the peoples of their countries. That is the only role that we expect of the colonial powers - to hand over power to those sister movements, to haul down their colonial flags and to quit the stage of history.

Any genuine participation of the countries of the West in the struggle for the decolonisation of southern Africa would seek to achieve these goals. Any other participation is in fact continuation of the old policy by new means and methods. That policy, as we all know, has been to strengthen the racist regimes at all costs in order to retain them as the guarantors of continued economic enslavement and oppression of the people of our region. The attempt that is now being made to substitute black faces for white one does not change the substance of the matter.

The base exists within the countries of the West to enforce the all-round isolation of the South African racist regime. That base is constituted by the democratic and anti-fascist forces that are such an outstanding feature of the political reality of Western Europe.

These are our natural allies in as much as we of the ANC, of the South African liberation movement, are the representatives of democracy in our country. It is on these allies that the task rests to combat in their own countries and in this region of the world, the continued aiding and abetting of the apartheid crime against humanity.

To whom do we refer? We refer to the anti-apartheid movements, to the democratic political parties, the trade union movement, youth, women`s and other popular organisations, church people and religious organisations. Indeed we refer to such governments within the EEC, among whom we should perhaps count the Irish government, freed from sharp new direct links with apartheid and military groups, such as NATO and SWAPO, also to discharge their democratic duty to the embattled people of South and southern Africa.

The time has come that there should emerge in Western Europe a solidarity movement unprecedented in its strength, its clarity of vision, its unity and its persistence. The situation in southern Africa demands this. I am pleased to be informed of the close and effective links between the anti-apartheid movement in Ireland and the trade union movement.

At no time in our history have we been nearer victory than we are today. The principal feature that characterises the political situation in South Africa is the growing offensive by the masses of our people against the oppressive regime, under the leadership of our liberation movement.

In all corners of our country the people are saying "no" to oppression with a voice that grows louder and more insistent with each pressing day. The racist regime is no longer capable of imposing its policies as it wishes. In many instances it has been forced to retreat in the face of the most determined and unrelenting resistance by the masses of our people.

The white minority regime is now also forced to contend with the new situation of the permanent and active presence of combatants of our people`s army, Umkhonto we Sizwe, within the country, a fact which means that we have finally broken down the century-old policy of the colonial regime which aimed to ensure that our people were completely disarmed, that the white minority had a monopoly of arms.

It was with this background in mind that the ruling group in South Africa chose the seasoned fascist, P.W. Botha, as its Prime Minister. This racist group has realised that the time is not far off when it will have to depend for its survived predominantly on the massed strength of its armed forces. Through the appointment of P.W. Botha, the military establishment has been brought closer to the centre of fascist power in South Africa to prepare it for its role in the current stage of the history of our country.

We have entered a stage of sharper confrontations, a stage during which no quarter will be given, a stage in which the blood of the oppressor shall also soak the soil of our motherland.

This is an eventuality which our people had sought to avoid, because we had always thought that reason could overcome greed and prejudice. But the enemies of our people, the apartheid regime and its international allies have however forced upon us a path which is of their own choosing - the path of war. We are without an alternative to peace. Our abounding satisfaction lies on the certainty of the fact that our just cause will triumph. We are the offspring of the heroes that defeated the British army at Isandlwana in Natal 100 years ago on January 22, 1879, with spears in their hands. In honour of that historic victory this year has been designated by our people the "Year of the Spear". It is a year during which our people will, in struggle, emulate the example of our forefathers, to confront the enemy of mankind without flinching, to take the battle to the enemy, to fight for the victory of our cause.

We count on the democratic forces of Western Europe to stand with us during these coming battles, to give maximum political and material support to the ANC and our struggling people, to isolate the criminal regime that holds our country by means so heinous that they cry to the heavens, to give maximum political, diplomatic and material support to the Patriotic Front, SWAPO and the independent states of southern Africa. History has already vindicated our stand up to now. Our struggle is a struggle to free South Africa for all its peoples, black and white. We cannot fail in this.

Amandla!

ES Reddy