Statement by Oliver Tambo on the tenth anniversary of the Soweto uprising, 16 June 1986

On June 16, 1976, as we all know, the children of Soweto, Mamelodi, Gugulethu and other areas rose united in response to a massacre unprecedented in its nature and scale. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of that uprising, the youth and students, the children, parents, teachers and other professionals; the workers in town and country, on the mines, in commerce, industry and the farms; the religious community - in fact, the entire oppressed population together with democratic whites are bound together by the blood that covered the streets of Soweto, the blood that has since soaked the soil of our motherland in even bigger quantities.

On this truly historic occasion the nation will pay fitting tribute to the young heroes and martyrs, including eight-year-olds, who fell in that titanic battle against the forces of apartheid repression. And so the repression we experience today is not new. But as we can see today the sacrifices of those heroes and martyrs were not in vain. The declaration of yet another state of emergency, this time across the length and breadth of the country, means that the entire people of South Africa, black and white, the oppressed and the oppressor, friend and foe alike, are focussing on the tenth anniversary of the Soweto Uprising, the South Africa Youth Day.

This means that the Botha regime has wittingly or unwittingly defined Monday June 16, 1986, as the biggest national occasion since Soweto. It deserves to be and we shall make sure that it is. The declaration of the state of emergency at this time means that the struggle has intensified and spread to every part of the country, uniting all our people against the apartheid system. It means the regime has been pushed to the limits of its repressive capabilities.

The state of emergency means, as Botha admits, that the ordinary laws of apartheid domination, the iron chains which have bound us hand, foot and mouth over the decades, have become inadequate to halt the mounting popular offensive against white minority rule and exploitation of our labour. The use of vigilantes and impis has failed to serve Botha`s purposes. The regime has been forced by the relentless advance of the democratic forces in our country to come out from behind the vigilante defence lines and undertake itself the task of defending the system. It is forced to take on the people`s offensive. We stand face to face not with surrogates but with the racists themselves.

This helps to clear any confusion there may have been as to who we are fighting, what we are fighting and what we are fighting for. With the state of emergency the enemy is there for all to see. The lines are clearly drawn: the fighters for a nonracial, democratic and united South Africa on the one side and on the other the armed defenders of the apartheid crime. This is the struggle the ANC and the democratic movement is leading. It is the people united in action against baaskap, for baaskap is baaskap by any other name.

As the struggle has grown and reached unprecedented levels of intensity, the apartheid regime, faced with the irresistible advance of the masses, decided to hire black policemen, black vigilantes and black impis, to fight, murder and die in its defence. Hence the so-called black-on-black violence, an expression which is a distortion of reality. It is of course part of the apartheid survival strategy that the slave master should hire slaves to save him from the revolt of the enslaved. But this strategy, like all its predecessors, has failed. That is why Botha resorts to desperation of the state of emergency.

The stark reality of the South African situation is that the people are inexorably, irresistibly rising up from slavery. Victory is calling and we earnestly urge all our people to leave Botha to do his own thing, to defend the indefensible if he dare. Let us all rejoin the ranks and unite in action for freedom. Let us focus and concentrate our attack on the apartheid system and its structures. Let none defend this doomed system or its tottering structures. Our people must refuse to be used against their own interests, against their own future, for the perpetuation of their own domination.

Apartheid must not be left to die a natural death when it is something like 70 years old or more. It must be destroyed now. Those who say it is dead have no reason to defend it, and our unity in action must make its mark on the tenth anniversary of Soweto. Let June 16, 1986, be the take-off to new heights of struggle for a new South Africa in this decade of liberation, the decade of the 80s. The time has come for a showdown with the forces of oppression, repression and exploitation.

Fighting with us are the peoples of the world. International pressures are being mobilised at this time as never before, precisely around the tenth anniversary of the Soweto Uprising. We have had the report of the Group of Eminent Persons submitted on 12th June. On June 16 one of the biggest world conferences to deal with the South African situation and decide on appropriate measures in the form of sanctions is taking place in Paris. And this week the United Nations Security Council is meeting again to discuss and decide on the situation prevailing in South Africa.

A people determined to challenge the South African regime in all its strength, with all its states of emergency, is a people that can only be rewarded with victory. And the tenth anniversary of Soweto will see a challenge of this state of emergency in massive defiance, with Umkhonto we Sizwe and its units and detachments moving into action across the country. All this adds up to spell a new and unparalleled crisis for the Pretoria racist clique. The countdown has indeed started. We must sustain the momentum of our offensive for the destruction of the system and the creation of a new order in our country.

ES Reddy

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