We are a Force - Speech at Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College by O. R. Tambo, Mazimbu, Tanzania, May 1984

Comrade Chezi, Representative of the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, 

Comrade Director and members of the Directorate, 

Comrade National Commissar, 

Comrade Regional Commissar, 

Comrade Principal, staff, comrades members of the community, leaders of this community, young comrades and comrades who are here representing the international community and our friends abroad,

Comrades, I should like to be as brief in what I have to say as is my visit to Tanzania and to this district, in particular to this region.

I would like to thank the leadership of this institution, this school, this home for our people, for the reception that I and my colleagues have received since coming. We spent the morning in Dakawa and we were thrilled by the general mood and morale of the comrades, that seemed to us to be their determination to make the best of everything, exactly to the discharge of their assignments - some of these assignments emanated from the very nature of our struggle. They are in Dakawa and many of us are here because we are the people in struggle, and we do not always have the privilege to choose where we shall be the following day or the following week, or where we shall spend several nights, whether moving about in freedom or imprisoned in some cells somewhere in Africa. It doesn't rest with us. I'm struck here by the numbers of this vast population of young people who came here from South Africa at different times, some of them from other parts of Africa, and they have gathered here in large numbers, each of them with a purpose, a purpose related to our future, the future of the people.

But a community growing where to? What for? To achieve what? And how much have we grown since we started this institution here? What have we produced? What is coming this year? What will it be like next year?

In a way, it is a great inspiration to come back to Mazimbu, come back to SOMAFCO, to see the buildings, this great establishment, a large village built with dedication and skill, a monument to the peoples of the world and to this country, who are supporting our struggle. It is good to be back and to find our children here, of varying ages, our friends, our brothers and sisters. So I'm happy, and I would like to thank you for the opportunity of the meeting.

To the Battlefront for Liberation

At this time we are compelled to reflect daily on the future of our struggle, because at this time the enemy, that is responsible for your leaving your homes in the first instance, has been terrorising southern Africa, as you all know very well. And he has registered a breakthrough, let us admit that much. The enemy has won a point, has gained a very important position, a position none of us thought the enemy would get quite so easily.

After all, were we not born in southern Africa? Do we not belong there by the demand of nature and history? Have we not been there for countless centuries? Have we not been engaged in the same struggle with all the peoples of that region? Are they not our brothers by blood and our brothers and comrades in arms? Have we not even died together on the battlefield? Are not the remains of some of our gallant youth interred in the soil of Zimbabwe? Were not Tiro massacred, well, assassinated, in Botswana? Has the blood of our people not been spilt in Swaziland? Was the Maseru massacre not in our region? Yes, we fought in Zimbabwe, we were ready to fight everywhere else. That is why we fought in Zimbabwe; we had one enemy.

It is our region, and yet a regime that is hated by everyone except itself and its stooges can stand up and order our comrades, our brothers, our people, to drive us out from a region that is ours, and they do it. And so scores of our people have left the southern part of southern Africa and gone somewhere else, because the Pretoria fascists had ordered that it should be so. And it has been so.

And who is the ANC? What is this body which is being told to leave southern Africa? It is the body which started politics on the continent. I think we were formed even before the Nationalist Party of Botha. They got the idea of forming a party from us, even. We are the beginning of the political struggle which has brought independence to the countries of southern Africa, and these fascists say that we must leave southern Africa.

Well, comrades, history does not work that way. We are more surprised by what has happened than demoralised by it. We think this is a way of guarding us on to the battlefield, to the battlefront for liberation. We think what has happened is thoroughly unnatural, politically and historically, and cannot survive the forces of justice, national liberation and emancipation. We think a people who have been in the struggle for as long as we have are not going to be deterred because some of them have been arrested in that country, some of them have been ordered out of that country. Some, because those who have left Swaziland are a drop in the ocean in relation to the masses that are involved in our liberation struggle. Those who flew out in virtually a day's notice from Maputo are a drop in the ocean in relation to the vast masses that have been involved in our struggle.

And we have suffered more than leaving the country. We have suffered the Soweto massacres. We have suffered shooting all over the country. We have suffered torture countless times for many years. We have suffered hangings. We have known what it is to be a Solomon Mahlangu. We have known what it is to be Elias Motsoaledi, Andrew Mlangeni, Aggett, Kathrada and various others. Dorothy, Thandi, Jerry Mosololi, we have known all that. So it is nothing to get on a plane and fly from Maputo to Dar es Salaam, is it? A flight from Maputo to Dar es Salaam, no problem. No problem. Detained in Swaziland, maybe, for a few months. But we know what it is to be detained for 22 years. A little inconvenience. And so the struggle goes on. And we hope that our people everywhere have become more determined as a result of these things.

A Great Challenge

Determined to be the best in struggle. It is a great challenge and in a way gives us an opportunity to demonstrate our calibre. Well here in Mazimbu, we have no reason to think you have been disturbed in any way by these developments. We would hope that they have fired your imagination and resolve. We would hope that these developments will help our efforts to produce young men and women of great worth, and that you will understand that to be here is to be on a mission. To be here is to respond to the support of the many good people who have enabled us to put up these buildings and set up these institutions. We hope that everybody demonstrates our worthiness of this support.

Comrade Director said I will tell you about the general situation in the country. Quite frankly, I can't in a few minutes. I can give you certain assurances, warn you against certain things.

The assurances are that the people inside South Africa have recognised that victory will come as a result of their struggle, their own efforts; as a result of their reliance on themselves. What they see across their borders tells them that this victory, of course is unescapable; that it is not going to be done by Mozambicans. Even if the Mozambicans had allowed us to stay there, it would be wrong to think that they are going to liberate us. Even if the people of Swaziland (the Government of Swaziland - I don't think the people mind), the Government of Swaziland had defied Pretoria and said, "These are our people; they are going to stay here whether you like it or not," even if the Government had said that, the fact would remain that our liberation is our responsibility, not the responsibility of Swaziland.

And our people are now assuming, they are proceeding on the assumption, that what the regime can get out of Mozambique it can get out of everybody else. Therefore, in theory we can be told to leave Zimbabwe, to leave Botswana, to leave all sorts of countries. We can, in the extreme case, even be told to leave Angola and Zambia. It's a matter of a brute who has power and it uses it indiscriminately, confronting any country with a simple choice to be destroyed or to carry out the orders of Pretoria. That's what has beaten us. So now we must proceed on the assumption that what has happened in Mozambique can happen everywhere else. In that case, what happens to our struggle? Our struggle continues.

This is the realisation that has come home to the minds of our people. And I think it is a very, very positive development, because we can do it. In fact we have tended to think that Umkhonto we Sizwe will do it all and Mozambique will help us do it. In fact, we can do it, and that is what is coming for Botha. This might not be the best audience. Look at who you have, young men here, not quite the best audience, talking as if I was addressing a political meeting. But you might as well know what is happening. You have a rather different assignment by way of specialisation. But the success of those at home depends also on the success that you make of your own assignments. So, within the country, the mood is that of fighting or resisting.

The main issue at the moment, of course, is the elections that have been fixed for so-called Coloureds and for the Indian community. We are not just trying to frustrate elections. We are going beyond elections. We are challenging the regime itself. It is illegitimate.

It derives no mandate from the people. It deserves to be overthrown, and the system it operates destroyed. And the elections are simply a lever which we use to mobilise the people into this central struggle, for this central objective.

The ANC is a Force

It has been thought that our capacity to continue the struggle has been limited by the removal of facilities which have been available to us in some of the countries. No, the struggle has not been frustrated. The struggle progresses on all fronts, politically, the labour front, the armed fronts, the international front. And on all those we are making headway. I think on the academic front as well, a very important front. That is why, at home, schools are getting closed, students are going on strike. They are fighting on the academic front against one of the manifestations of the apartheid system, Bantu education. So in a way nothing has changed; the struggle continues.

In the meantime, we would like our people to know that there are attempts to bring the ANC into discussions with the Pretoria racists. The ANC must talk to Botha and Botha must talk to the ANC. That campaign is building up all over. Some genuinely think that that is the natural thing to do. If Botha is travelling around talking to everybody in southern Africa, to leaders, why does he think that there are no leaders in South Africa? How genuine are his talks with Mozambique and everybody else? And therefore his bona fides, his honesty, is being questioned. And so he is answering, "Well, we have no objections in talking to the ANC, but the ANC must throw away its weapons first, and surrender. Then we can talk to them." That is the effect of their language.

But they are under pressure to talk to us. They are under pressure. We are under pressure to talk to them. What do you say? What do you say? You say "No"? Okay, right. Next time we are approached by somebody about talking to Botha, some of our friends, we will tell them, "You know, if we are talking to Botha we are talking about the future. Even if it's next year, it's still the future. And the future belongs to our youth. Before we start talking we will have to go and get their permission." Is that all right? (Cries of "Yes!") So we will come back. Is that all right? ("Yes!") We will come back and find out what you say.

Anyway, the fact that they want to talk to us, and say so publicly, means that they are accepting what the rest of the world has long accepted: mainly that the ANC is a force to be reckoned with in southern Africa, and anyone who wants peace must reckon with the ANC and its struggle. You cannot ignore the ANC.

Our friends are here. They represent organisations and countries who have accepted this position. The ANC is a force. Botha has known that. That is why he has been attacking the independent countries of Africa. The ANC is a force. But it is even such a force that he can't make headway by talking to Mozambique, to Swaziland, to Botswana, to Lesotho, to Zambia, about the future of southern Africa and not talking to the ANC. That's important - why are we a force? Because of you. Because of you. People have come here, seen the school, seen you, and they have been impressed by what the ANC is trying to achieve. This is your contribution.

We are a force because everywhere we are honest. We are a force because we are fighting the world's biggest criminals, a regime guilty of crime against humanity, a powerful regime which has failed to destroy us, because we are a force. But I say we are a force because of you, because of Mazimbu, because of SOMAFCO, because of what you represent here, because of the community that you have set up here, a community that we can display to the world. I hope we can. I think we can. Can we? (Cries of "Yes! Yes!") Can I bring a newspaperman here? ("Yes!") Can we ask a South African journalist to come here? ("Yes!") And see for himself? ("Yes!") And go and publish the story in South African papers? ("Yes!") Are you sure ("Yes!") All right, he will come. He will come. He will be coming to find out what sort of community is this; what sort of secondary school; what sort of primary school; what sort of creche; what sort of members of staff; what sort of young people. What sort of young men; what sort of young girls. Who is here. What they like. What they are like.

We Are in Struggle

I said I would give you an assurance and a certain warning. The warning is simply this: that we are in struggle. We are a threat to a regime that is fighting for its survival. It has not surrendered. It's not even about to surrender. It's continuing. And we must remain resolved to continue the struggle as long as that regime is there. And we must realise the regime is dangerous - it can be desperate. And before we reach our objectives we will have inflicted a lot of damage on the regime and what it represents. They will have inflicted a lot of damage on us. That is the story of Mozambique. It's the story of Zimbabwe. It's the story of Angola. It's the story of every country that's gone through a tough, difficult struggle. But let us never allow one moment's doubt of the fact that, after it all, victory shall be ours, because history is on our side.

Given that, we must repeat what I never omit to say: that the burden of our progress rests on each one of you. Comrades who left South Africa at the beginning of the 60s, who have been battling through all these years, comrades who left only this year, comrades who have been in Lesotho for many years, in Swaziland for many years, in Maputo for many years. You are here. Let not any one of us doubt this. Doubt will be dangerous and unjustified.

Now, there are suggestions that there are splits in the ANC. Division suggestions come from the enemy. So you know how to assess their value in the first instance. But let's tell the truth to ourselves, even if the truth coincides with what the enemy is saying. Let us tell the truth. Are there divisions and splits in the ANC? I think you will say no, because there are no divisions and splits here. If I knew there were I would say yes. Are there splits and divisions anywhere? Let us tell the truth even if the truth coincides with the enemy's accusations. Are there any? (Cries of "No.") None? Well, you don't know because you are here. I know because I am everywhere. No, no, the answer is no. There are no splits in the ANC. There are no divisions. There are people who are dissatisfied from time to time about one thing or another. Sometimes the dissatisfaction is justified. Sometimes the dissatisfaction arises because somebody has been careless. So, we are not perfect. But these are no splits that the enemy can talk about. They are no divisions. ANC is united. That's the truth. If you listen to RSA(2)

broadcasting their commentaries, when they finish saying the nonsense that they are saying, tell them to go there. (Cries of "To hell.") Right, right. Tell them to go there.

A Very Sad Occasion

In April, comrades, I and the Secretary General of the ANC, Comrade Alfred Nzo, were in Arusha on a very sad occasion, the occasion of the funeral of the late Prime Minister of Tanzania. Even if he had died from a heart attack, it was very sad. We knew him, we adored him immensely. We followed his work, and he was one of the greatest men this country has known. It was a very sad thing. But it became unbearable, certainly for me, when I got the details of how he lost his life, how Tanzania had lost him. And I was in Arusha already when I got those details. That incident is not quite history yet, because few people in the country, and I think few of us, have been able to forget it. The ANC was involved. In other words, although accidents occur, if we were not on the road that day, there would have been no accident. The Prime Minister would still be alive. But we happened to be on the road, and that determined the end of his life.

Before that, we had come to Tanzania again with the Secretary General, after we got to know that we had to leave Mozambique. And we were shocked and stunned by that decision. We could see South Africa sailing across southern Africa. We could feel there was a state of disarray in the region. And we came to Tanzania and met President Nyerere. And he gave us strength. He was so cool. He was so correct in what he said. He was so much with us. He understood the situation so clearly. And we went back strengthened and inspired and confident. Then there was a state visit from the President of Mali. President Nyerere made a statement, or released a statement, which featured the ANC, a remarkable statement, at the time when South Africa was screaming at countries to throw the ANC out. And it appeared they were getting away with it. Here was this pillar of strength defending the ANC, and summoning the OAU and the people of the world to rally. Here was this pillar of strength.

Then came the tragedy in the country that was supporting us so firmly at this time, when we needed support, I think, more than at any time in the past 24 years. We had never been in this situation. President Nyerere and his people stood up to be counted on our side. Then at that moment came this worst of all tragedies. The Tanzanian leadership didn't jump up to blame the ANC. They kept quiet about the ANC very deliberately. Although they had lost so much, they were still protecting the ANC. I would like you to understand this level of support, this depth of support. Then, comrades, I would now like to read you this letter which Mwalimu wrote to me, that is, to the ANC, after the funeral, knowing all he knew. Knowing our involvement, he wrote me this letter. May I read it, comrades?

State House 

Dar es Salaam 

Tanzania

April 4, 1984

President O. R. Tambo, ANC (SA) 

President's Office 

Lusaka 

Zambia

Dear Oliver,

On behalf of the people, the party and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, and on my own behalf, I wish to thank you for the messages of condolence and sympathy on the tragic death of our Prime Minister and comrade, the late Edward Mwaringe Sokoine, which you conveyed to us on behalf of the ANC.(3)

At the same time, I would like to say how much we appreciate your action in coming personally to represent the ANC at the funeral ceremonies at Monduli. This demonstration of solidarity and shared grief encourages us as we struggle to adjust to our great loss and reorganise ourselves for the many tasks involved in overcoming the present economic difficulties in developing our country.

Yours sincerely

Julius K. Nyerere

Shall we rise for a minute's tribute to the late Prime Minister Edward Sokoine? Thank you.

Then the Secretary General came here after the funeral. He discussed this incident with the Directorate, and the effect of his message was never should any of our people be found guilty of a traffic offence. Least of all, negligent driving, reckless driving, which can only endanger the lives of Tanzanians. They are the ones who are in the streets.

Finally, comrades, this community is being harassed by the mosquitoes. We have one enemy to fear and we are justified in fearing it. A mosquito, one, you don't have to be bitten by many. One; it's a serious development, it's going to be killing us. It has become a killer in some of the areas where we are, like Angola; it has taken a remarkable number of lives. Mosquitoes; and I should like to propose, Comrade Director, and to you, comrades, to all of you, that we fight mosquitoes, we declare war on the mosquitoes. We eliminate it here, while we defend ourselves against its attacks. But we really go out to fight it.

I understand that the mosquito lives in tall grass and breeds there, it grows there and multiplies itself in tall grass, damp areas near water, little puddles. I don't know if some of the classes that are attended are about the mosquito: what it is, how it operates, where it lives, how it grows, how it bites, why it lives. But an enemy like mosquitoes needs to be studied. While we are studying it, we wage a war against the mosquito. Now, from the little that I have picked up, it seems that the tall grass that you find everywhere around here is a starting point of mosquito bites. If that is correct, then we should attack this source; attack its base, its breeding ground, remove the tall grass, so that we don't rely on tablets. We don't wait until we are on the floor after the attack. We prevent the attacks. We attack the source. Sometimes we should learn a little from our enemies - we are not mosquitoes, they call us terrorists, we are not even terrorists, we are freedom fighters. But you know they think that we are breeding in Swaziland, breeding in Lesotho. So they are attacking what they consider our bases in Pretoria, believing that if they do that, of course, they will live in peace. They won't live in peace in our case. But I think we can live in peace if we attack the mosquitoes at their base.

The Small Enemy and the Big One

Comrades, I suggest we remove the tall grass and replace it with lawn. I have seen some beautiful gardens between some of the blocks. I think something beautiful is coming, something also preventive is coming. I have also seen whole areas of tall grass which are very menacing, threatening. I think we should evolve a slogan, something to the effect: "No to long grass. Yes to lawn grass."

I would like, comrades, to say that we are greatly concerned about the loss of life among our people. You see, we are here, we are not even with our parents. We don't have too many doctors here. We would like to leave as few of our comrades in the secret cemeteries as possible. We are worried about death that comes unnecessarily, and we think as a movement we should fight the cause of death, so that comrades can be preserved for the struggle, for the future, for service to our people and to our struggle. And those causes that we can eliminate, let us eliminate.

I have some belief. I've always thought that we can attack the area where the mosquito grows, that will at least reduce the incidence of malaria. We should organise ourselves into brigades, or whatever, find 250 slashers, and we go on cutting down every tuft of grass that we see, exposing, dry up every puddle, clean up the place, spread a green carpet on our grounds, a lawn as a protective measure.

In any case, the institution will look even cleaner for that, and we will be the healthier for it. I do not know how practicable this proposition is, but when next I come here I will be coming to see what has happened in the war against mosquitoes. And I would like to urge that all these defensive measures like nets should be brought in. You should scream at the leadership to bring them, because sometimes if we have lost a day we have lost a life. Nets are in the world. let's have them. Let us fight this enemy; it's very small but if we defeat the small one, we can defeat the big one. Let's fight.

Amandla!

The Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (SOMAFCO) - named after Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu (1956-79), a freedom fighter who was executed on April 6, 1979 - was established by the ANC in 1977 to provide education and training to the many young people who fled from South Africa since the Soweto uprising of 1976, and to contribute to the liberation struggle as well as the building of a new South Africa. The Tanzanian Government provided land at Mazimbu and Dakawa, and the project received international assistance from several governments and organisations. The first group of students were accommodated in 1979.

By 1991 the institution catered for over a thousand children in the nursery, primary and secondary schools and a day care centre. It also included a farm, a furniture factory and a motor repair workshop.

In 1992, following the return of exiles to South Africa, the ANC closed SOMAFCO and Mr. Tambo handed over the settlements to Tanzania.

2 Radio South Africa

3 Edward Sokoine, Prime Minister of Tanzania, 1983-84, died in a traffic accident on April 12, 1984.