African National Congress (ANC)

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Barbara Masekela’s speech (ANC Women’s Section), 1982

Speech at the meeting of the Special Committee against Apartheid in observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Struggle of Women in South Africa and Namibia, August 9, 1982

On behalf of the Women's Section of the African National Congress (ANC) and in the name of the entire oppressed and struggling people of South Africa; I wish to convey our sincere appreciation for the invitation extended to us to participate in commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with the Struggle of Women in South Africa and Namibia.

We salute you for your unrelenting support of our struggle, particularly in relation to efforts for the marshalling of the international community to inaugurate the International Year for the Mobilization of Sanctions against South Africa and all the achievements for coordinating material support for the work of the ANC Women's Section.

The efforts made during our twenty-fifth anniversary last year by the Special Committee against Apartheid, in keeping with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly, resulted in the formation of a special task force on women and children whose work is already beginning to bear fruit. As our struggle intensifies, the demands on the Special Committee and on the ANC Women's Section have also multiplied., and we in the African National Congress face the challenge ahead with confidence, because we rely on your unequivocal support.

The issue of apartheid and its effects not only on women but also on the whole South African population is one which is not solely an ANC responsibility hut also that of the whole international community, which has declared the apartheid system a crime against humanity.

Before I continue with my statement, I should like to express, on behalf of the Secretariat of the African_ National Congress Women's Section, our regret at not being able to have with us our representative Esther Maleka to address this meeting, owing to a visa denial by united States authorities. We have since learned that the visa to Pendukeni Kaulinge, Secretary of SWAPO Women's Council and member of SWAPO's Central Committee, was also denied on technical grounds.

The attitude of the United States Administration to the liberation struggle of the peoples of southern Africa, as led by the ANC of South Africa and SWAPO

of Namibia, was expressed earlier this year when the so-called U.S. Sub-Committee on Security and Terrorism held hearings to investigate so-called terrorist activities and communist links of ANC and SWAPO, Since then the alliance between Pretoria and Washington has continued to grow.

As we observe this Day we also take special note of the fact that the intensification of the struggle for the liberation of Namibia and South Africa has also led to the aggravation of the security situation throughout southern Africa and the coterminus escalation of intimidation, repression and even terrorism against the foes of apartheid by the Pretoria regime. Simultaneously, the economic position of the majority of the people of South Africa has continued to deteriorate, especially with the consolidation of the Bantustan policy which places the women of South Africa in the ignominious position of victims of triple discrimination   as women, as workers, and as blacks.

It is with horror and abhorrence that we view the plight of these women, citizens of one of the most developed African countries whose sole duty on earth has been reduced to bearing child-victims of poliomyelitis, cholera, typhoid, tuberculosis, diphtheria, malnutrition - diseases of poverty in a country of plenty; a country where for the white minority these diseases have been completely eradicated. To us, this is no less than genocide.

These women are the wives, sisters and mothers of the mineworkers of South Africa, migrant workers who have been deprived of their citizenship in the country of their birth.

The women of South Africa are deeply affected by these developments, both as militant fighters for people's power in our country and as victims

of the criminal policies pursued by the South African racist regime and its allies, This situation presents the Democratic Women's Movement in South Africa and internationally with the urgent task of reinforcing the general offensive against the South African racist regime by itself raising its own offensive to even higher levels.

During this year of unity in action - the seventieth anniversary-6f our vanguard movement, the African National Congress - the Democratic Women's Movement in South Africa has these major tasks to perform: to mobilize the greatest possible number of our oppressed and exploited women into active struggle; to unite these millions of women into one fighting force; and to strengthen the popular women's organizations and galvanize them into a united struggle.

On this occasion, we are assessing what accomplishments we have made towards the aforementioned goals, and we pledge to redouble our efforts at achieving our objectives in the interest of our own liberation and that of our country as a whole. In the words of our President, Oliver Tambo:

?The modernization of women is the task, not of women alone or of men alone, but of all of us - men and women alike, comrades in struggle. The mobilization of the people into active resistance and struggle for liberation demands the energies of women no less than of men. A system based on the exploitation of man by man can in no way avoid the exploitation of women by the male members of the society. There is therefore no way in which women in general can liberate themselves without fighting to end the exploitation of man by man, both as a concept and as a social system.

?The Women's Section is not an end in itself: it is a weapon of struggle to be correctly used against all forms and levels of oppression and inequality in the interest of a victorious struggle of our people.?

Our bonds of solidarity with women all over the world are well known, and in this context we salute the suffering but fighting women and people of Palestine, led by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and reiterate our commitment to stand with them against Zionist terror and in favour of the inalienable right of the people of Palestine to self--determination.

We also greet the heroic women and people of Western Sahara, mobilized under the flag of the POLISARIO Front.

We extend our congratulations to the women - indeed, the entire people -- of Mauritius, who have registered a resounding victory in common struggle for social emancipation and genuine national independence.

Our greetings extend also to the democratic women's movement in the rest of southern Africa and Africa as a whole, in Asia, Latin America and the Western world, convinced, as we are, that we all need to unite our efforts to bring about an international order in which men and women shall together be free of the ravages imposed on us by imperialist domination and war.

We greet our comrades and sisters in the socialist countries and wish to express our gratitude for their hand of solidarity and friendship with our fighting women and people.

We salute the National Executive Committee of the ANC, which this year bestowed on our late leader, Lilian Masidiba Ngoyi, the rank of Isithwalandwe Seaparankoe, in recognition of her services to the cause of the total liberation of the women and people of South Africa and the unity of the international democratic women's movement.

In addition, it would be amiss not to salute the women freedom-fighters of South Africa - women who, despite intimidation, harassment and repression in the form of bannings, restrictions, detentions, torture and long--term imprisonment, have stood fast and proud in the struggle. It is impossible to name them all here, but we have in mind comrades and freedom-fighters like Winnie Mandela, Albertina Sisulu, Dorothy Nyembe, Helen Joseph, Tandy Mudisse, Fatima Nie and many, many others. They are an inspiration to us all and we hope that we can live up to their stature of dedication.

As our armed struggle by Umkhonto We Sizwe , the Spear of the Nation, the military wing of the African National Congress, intensifies all over South Africa, the racist apartheid regime, in its vain attempt to thwart us, increases its brutality against South African patriots. As I speak to the Committee, there are innumerable illegal trials against trade union activists, church and community leaders; white war resisters and other opponents of apartheid. Only last week, Thursday, we received news of the imposition of the death sentence on three more South African patriots of the African National Congress. They are: Thelle Simon Mogoerane, 23 years olds Jerry Semano Molololi, 25 years old; and Marcus Thabo Motaung, 27 years old. They were sentenced to death on charges of high treason and for their alleged role in the attacks on the Orlando and Waudeboom police stations, in contravention of the notorious Terrorism Act.

The African National Congress most vehemently condemns the imposition of these savage death sentences on our compatriots, and we appeal to all of you to urge all Member States and the international community to undertake concrete measures to save the lives of the three and to demand their release, to impose comprehensive mandatory sanctions on the apartheid regime, whose criminal policies have been condemned as a threat to peace, and to call for the intensification of the demand for the release of all political prisoners and detainees.

On the occasion of 9 August, we pledge to continue along the path charted by Lilian Masidiba Ngoyi, that great hero of our people. We shall spare neither our strength nor our lives until South Africa and Namibia are free, until peace is restored throughout southern Africa and until our region becomes a fountain of peace and friendship among peoples.

Long live 9 August, South African Women's Day. Long live the International Day of Solidarity with the Struggle of Women in South Africa and Namibia. Long live the unity of the international democratic women's movement. Long live the struggle for national liberation in South Africa and Namibia. The struggle continues; victory is certain.

Last updated : 01-Jul-2012

This article was produced for South African History Online on 04-Apr-2011