This year, 2009, the people of South Africa celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Harare Declaration, a significant document adopted by an OAU sub-committee on Southern Africa in its summit in Harare, Zimbabwe, on 21st August 1989. It poetically, but also prophetically, stated that: "We believe that a conjuncture of circumstances exist which, if there is a demonstrable readiness on the Pretoria regime to engage in negotiations genuinely and seriously, could create the possibility to end apartheid through negotiations".

We look back at this historic document which led us to 1990 and 1994 and the situation in the country and region then. In an editorial to the Work in progress no. 60 of August/ September 1989, captioned 'Negotiations- another site of struggle', the editor opined: "The air is thick with talk of negotiating South Africa's future. From the government of FW De Klerk and PW Botha to the rulers of England, the Soviet Union, the United States of America and West Germany;from the National and Democratic parties to the ANC and SACP;from the Mass Democratic Movement to Inkatha, the Reserve Bank and those financial, commercial and industrial interests which makes up South Africa's capitalist class: all have raised the vision of a negotiated settlement to the conflict over apartheid and South Africa's future."

Looking back then to another publication of the same period from New Era, Vol. 4. No. 2. August 1989, in an editorial titled 'Seize the Moment', articulated: "Our country stand on the threshold of a new era. The forces of the new South Africa - the South Africa of democracy, equality and peace - are once again on the march. "Negotiations" has become the watchword of those ranged against democracy in South Africa - Thatcher, Bush, FW De Klerk and others. They have failed to crush the democratic movement. Now they hope to force it to accept crumbs from their table. The democratic movement has responded clearly and firmly. They have demanded real negotiations for a transfer of power."

In an Introduction of even another publication titled, 'Negotiations -fighting with new weapons' - 'an erip resource book', stated: "The air is thick with talk of negotiations. A different political climate is rapidly emerging in South Africa. It brings with it new possibilities, as well as a new set of dangers. Two main factors can be said to have brought about this situation. Firstly, the state has not been able to eliminate the Mass Democratic Movement, even after all the repression and the continuous state of emergency. Secondly, the international situation has rapidly altered, favouring the liberation movement as a whole. By agreeing that there is a need for negotiations, the Pretoria regime is conceding that it is unable to defeat the organisations of the people. It is also admitting that it is unable to rule in the way that it would wish."

These editorials of progressive publications of the period around the adoption of the Harare Declaration, tell a story of the spirit of the moment. They are of value in understanding the Harare document and its aftermath. They capture a snapshot pictorial of the historic moment. They collectively give us a bird-eye's view of the political climate around the adoption of the historic and heroic Harare Declaration. They in graphic detail explain the road to Harare and the context of the content of the Declaration. We look back to that period with a sense of nostalgia and victory of the success of the negotiations platform elaborated by the Harare Declaration and the glaring success of the new democratic dispensation post-1990 and 1994.

Negotiations as a new terrain

The ANC has always, since its inception, been committed to the negotiations. Its deputations, delegations, memoranda and petitions to both the English crown and the Union Government in Pretoria for over fifty years before it was banned bear testimony to these. These were not just non-violent actions, as Pallo Jordan argues, but were active actions on the part of the Liberation Movement to engage the powers that be in talks about the future of South Africa. Until it was banned in 1960, the ANC always wanted to talk to the Pretoria regime about a new political dispensation for the country. The content of the memoranda and petitions sent to London and Pretoria bears testimony to this. The leadership of the ANC wanted to be part of the voters roll and be included in a universal adult suffrage, amongst others. They wanted equality with all other races. These they wanted to negotiate with the White rulers of the day about. It is only when the negotiations path failed that the ANC took arms in 1961.

Since its banning in 1960, and more elaborately since the Morogoro Conference in 1969, the ANC conducted the struggle through four pillars: - armed struggle, mass mobilisation, and viable political underground and international isolation of the apartheid regime. With the many interactions in the mid-80s, talks about negotiations were the buzz of the day. The critical question then was: - are negotiations another pillar of the struggle or not. But, what led to this situation.
The SACP credits the changed political climate in the Southern Africa region for the path to negotiate intensely by the regime to a change in the politico-military situation in the Southern Africa region as a whole. "A major factor in the regional crisis, overshadowing everything else, has been the Pretoria-led and imperialist-backed war of destabilisation. However, the apartheid regime has also paid a high price in conducting this war, and its ability to sustain the war was increasingly being eroded. By 1988, a significant change in the military balance of forces started to emerge in Southern Angola. In many ways, the opening of the present phase within our country and within our region begins, not on February 10th 1990, but in August 1988 when a combined Cuban, Angolan and SWAPO forces delivered a major military defeat to the apartheid army at Cuito Cuanavale." (SACP. 1991. Party programme. P8-9).

The SACP further says: "By the end of the 1980's various factors both positive and negative in international, regional and national situation created a climate conducive to a negotiated settlement in South Africa. It is the combination of these factors which has produced the present political situation within our country. It is a situation in which democratic change through negotiation has become possible." (SACP. 1991) That was  a correct Marxist-Leninist reading of the political situation around the adoption of the Harare Declaration and negotiation moves by the apartheid regime.

The New Era magazine put the climate in the period around the adoption of the Harare Declaration more succinctly: "events that would have seemed unimaginable in Southern Africa 18 months ago are now history. Pretoria has negotiated Angolan Peace and Namibian Independence with Cubans and Soviets. Angola's President, Dos Santos, has shaken the hand of UNITA's Jonas Savimbi. FRELIMO has offered to speak to the RENAMO bandits. PW Botha met and had tea with the imprisoned Nelson Mandela. People have been able to march in their hundreds of thousands in the main city centres as well as many of the rural towns of South Africa. FW De Klerk has released several key Rivonia trialists with high ANC profiles - Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Elias Motsoaledi, Raymond Mhlaba, Oscar Mpetha, Wilton Mkwayi and Andrew Mlangeni." (New Era. 1989)

Indeed these events were barely incomprehensible in the midst of draconian apartheid legislation, diabolic PW Botha, a permanent state of emergency, thousands of detainees and hundreds of political prisoners languishing in jails, SADF trigger-happy troops in townships, many political executions, many freedom fighters in exile and political organizations proscribed and restricted.

A senior Soviet foreign ministry official, A.A. Makarov, put it unequivocally that: "organizationally, politically and militarily, the anti-racist resistance movement is not yet ready to topple the regime and capture power, while the regime is no longer capable of curbing the growth of resistance."(WIP. 60. 1989. P. 15.) And this is the stalemate in the balance of forces that led to talks about negotiations and the ultimate negotiations for a democratic South Africa between the liberation movement and the apartheid regime.

Meanwhile, the apartheid regime's pseudo-negotiations attempts were a phenomenal failure. They all floundered like a house of straws one after the other. The Bantustan system never had roots in the rural African communities and were essentially illegitimate sellout structures. The Tri-cameral parliament was effectively a toy-telephone that gave false representations to the Coloured and Indian compatriots. The Black Local Authorities never really took off the ground; they were stillborn in the womb of the apartheid system. Intensified mass resistance by the urban communities, general ungovernability and insurrectionary climate made them die long before their birth. The so-called the Great Indaba was nothing more than an apartheid regime's Sunday school get-together. It was an expensive talkshop of sell-outs, puppets and their masters. Genuine negotiations had to ultimately happen between the real representatives of the people, the liberation movement and the apartheid regime.

In its 1991 Manifesto, the SACP eloquently aired its articulations of negotiations which in principle the liberation movement as a whole shared. "We have entered negotiations because they may offer the shortest and most peaceful route for the transfer of power to the people. Our participation in negotiations does not rule out the use of any forms of struggle, in principle or in the long term, if negotiations do not offer a path to the transfer of power to the people. Negotiations are a terrain of struggle. Power in negotiations is derived from outside the negotiating forums, in particular through the creation of centres of real power on the ground. For the regime this means the maintenance of control by the repressive apparatus and the system of local authorities. For the liberation movement this means the strengthening of the power of mass organizations as alternative sources of power in townships, the rural areas and the factories.  Central to our understanding of negotiations is the concept of strategic initiative. This is the ability by one side in the negotiations to determine and control the pace and direction of the negotiating process."

These are the general articulations that represented the perspectives of the entire liberation movement, the ANC, SACP, SACTU, UDF, COSATU and the entire MDM. It is these general elaborations that drove the move for the Harare Declaration and the movement's general approach to possible negotiations with the Pretoria regime. This was the thrust that laid the basis for what came to be the Harare Declaration. The key bedrock understanding being negotiations should be understood and handled as a terrain of the overall struggle for freedom.

For a better understanding of negotiations as a terrain of the struggle, the best example can be found in as complex an individual as President O. R. Tambo. He as President of the ANC had authorised Thabo Mbeki to meet with NIS, the Broederbond and other white South Africans, ANC NEC team to discuss with Afrikaans business, intellectuals, politicians and other verligtes, at the same time when he was commanding operation vula to intensify and escalate the armed struggle to new heights and to dovetails in a skillful combination with a viable political underground machinery and intensified mass mobilisation.

This demonstrates how a negotiation does not replace the other methods of conducting the struggle, but is supposed to augment and strengthen the overall struggle for freedom to achieve its objectives. The ANC held numerous talks with both white and black business groups, while at the same time mobilising for tougher sanctions against South Africa. Nelson Mandela would meet with Minister of Justice Kobie Coetzee while MK is escalating the bombing of police stations and magistrate offices, and whilst many ANC activists are on trail and even sentenced to hang for their political activities by the regime's judicial system.

These examples demonstrate clearly how the ANC understood clearly negotiations as a terrain of the struggle and how it relates creatively and usefully with other pillars of the struggle. This point of negotiations being the site of struggle was elucidated adequately by none other than President O.R. Tambo himself: "If peaceful negotiations will result in the formation of a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa we are not only willing but ready to enter into such negotiations."

Walter Sisulu regards negotiations as a weapon in the freedom struggle that must not be weakened in any way. "Negotiations are for us a weapon and terrain of struggle, which we use in order to further our overall struggle to free our people and create a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa. There are some of our members and supporters who believe that we show weakness by talking to the government. What needs to be remembered is that it is not government who forced us into talks. It is we who forced them. It is through the people's struggles that the government was forced to meet the ANC and discuss ways of ending the conflict and moving towards a negotiated settlement."

Rantete also agrees that: "The road to negotiations cannot be seen in isolation from the overall struggle against apartheid" (Rantete. P. 115) Pallo Jordan adds: "Negotiations cannot and will never be a strategy in any political conflict, whether the conflict be between states, classes, nations or oppressor and oppressed. Negotiation is an aspect of a strategy. A tactic, as conventionally understood, is a conjunctural instrument of policy, employed to achieve an objective that is relevant within a set time-frame." (AC. 1992. P. 9).

The lifelong commitment of the founders and leaders of the ANC to non-violence and peaceful resolution to the country's racial problems is unquestionable. It was only when the path to negotiations failed that the ANC took the road to arms, whilst paradoxically with the Nationalist Party it was only the failure of arms, violence and repression that it was forced on the negotiations route. Even when it adopted the armed struggle and formed Umkhonto we siswe the ANC understood perfectly Ho Chi MinH's motto that: "Military actions must produce political results." That the army is an instrument of the political route.

The apartheid regime also understood perfectly well how negotiations are terrain of the struggle. The apartheid Minister of Law and Order, Adriaan Vlok, stated unequivocally that, "talking to the ANC is a way of fighting them with another instrument." His words were echoed by the Secretary to the State Security Council (SSC), Charles Lloyd that, "We must defeat the revolutionaries with their own weapons in their own battlefield." They entered the negotiations platform with very faulty intentions, principally to regain the tactical and strategic initiative they had lost to the liberation movement. From the onset the regime did not enter negotiations with the objective of building a new society on the ruins of apartheid, but the continued survival of the system albeit reformed under new conditions. Amongst the regime's principal objectives to negotiate were:

To relieve international pressure;
To reform apartheid;
To weaken and /or finish-off the intensified struggle for freedom;
To confuse and demobilize the democratic movement;
To divide the forces ranged against apartheid; and,
To divide the ANC itself, and the ANC and its allies inside the country.
The position of the ANC has always been that any negotiations should be about the transfer of power to the people of South Africa. It has throughout been committed to achieve this through the creative combination of the four pillars of the struggle. Negotiations therefore can only be about the creations of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.

The road to Harare

Roots of what later came to be known as the Harare Declaration, can be found in the signals to negotiate by the Pretoria regime both to the ANC in exile and the imprisoned Nelson Mandela; the Soviet resolve by President Mikhail Gorbachev to solve regional conflicts by negotiations (Afghanistan, North Africa, Southern Africa, Latin America and South East Asia); the unenviable position of the frontline states in relation to apartheid destabilisation and economic devastation; white business, intellectuals and politicians going to meet the ANC in Lusaka, Dakar, England or Ogadougou; and the OAU's active commitment to resolve the situation in Southern Africa.

The liberation movement understood the importance of taking the initiative so that it is not left to Pretoria and its imperialist-backers to define the process of negotiations as it happened in Zimbabwe, Namibia and so on.

The very first white South African to go to Lusaka to meet the ANC was Professor H.V. van der Merwe of UCT in October 1984. The following October 1985, Frederick van Zyl Slabbert led a delegation of white parliamentarians to meet an ANC delegation including Mac Maharaj and Thabo Mbeki in Lusaka. Slabbert who left parliament and the Progressive Federal Party (PFP) to found the Institute for a Democratic Alternative in South Africa (IDASA) led many of the ANC-white South Africa dialogues.

In 1985 the regime began to send signals of its intentions to talk to the ANC by engaging the imprisoned Nelson Mandela. First it was the Minister of Justice Kobie Coetzee, then NIS's Neil Barnard followed, ultimately it was PW Botha himself. In subsequent years many South African groups- Black business (NAFCOC), Afrikaner business, intellectuals and students went to meet the ANC. Then NIS delegation met Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma in a Switzerland Hotel.

Then in October 1987 the ANC reiterated its uninterrupted commitment to negotiations. It even went further to identify the steps which Pretoria would have to take to create a climate conducive to negotiations. Those conditions included:-

The release of all political prisoners;
The unbanning of banned organizations;
Unconditional return of exiles;
The withdrawal of troops from the townships; and
An end to the state of emergency and creation of an atmosphere conducive to political freedom.
The ANC further articulated that negotiation could only take place with the agreement of the entire democratic leadership of South Africa and its aim would be to transfer power to the people and to transform South Africa into a united, democratic, non-racial country.   

Meanwhile, in his address to Parliament on 31st January 1985, apartheid President P.W. Botha had publicly offered to release Nelson Mandela if he 'unconditionally rejected violence as a political weapon.'(Mandela. P.509) Nelson Mandela took an opportunity to reply through a letter read by his daughter Zindzi on the occasion of a UDF rally at Jabulani Amphitheatre on 10th February 1985. Mandela outlined what were principally the preconditions for his release and the ultimate negotiations with the ANC. He stated: "Let Botha show that he is different from Malan, Strijdom and Verwoerd. Let him renounce violence. Let him say that he will dismantle apartheid. Let him unban the people's organization, the African National Congress. Let him free all who have been imprisoned, banished or exiled for their opposition to apartheid. Let him guarantee free political activity so that people may decide who will govern them." (Mandela.p.510-11)

Mandela characteristically and defiantly, and very prophetically put a nail on the coffin of the apartheid regime and P W Botha's halfhearted crocodile attempts. He did this by asking them questions they could never answer. "What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? What freedom am I being offered when when I may be arrested on a passoffense? What freedom am I being offered to live my life as a family with my dear wife who remains in banishment in Brandfort? What freedom am I being offered when I must ask for permission to live in an urban area? What freedom am I being offered when my very South African citizenship is not respected? Only a free man can negotiate. I cannot and will not give any undertaking at a time when I and you, the people, are not free. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated. I will return." (Mandela. 510-1)

 Meanwhile one of the earliest full table meetings between an ANC delegation led by President O.R. Tambo and a delegation from South Africa took place on 13th September 1985 in Zambia. The South African delegation led by Gavin Relly of Anglo American, included Tony Bloom of Premier Miling, Chris Ball of Barclays Bank, Mike Rosholt of Barlow Rand, Harold Pakendorf of Die Vaderland newspaper, Hugh Murray of Leadership Magazine and Tertius Myburg of the Sunday Times. (Calinicos P. 580) The ANC delegation included Mac Maharaj, Pallo Jordan, Thabo Mbeki, Chris Hani and James Stuart.

The British Commonwealth of Nations, also sent a team to the country called the Eminent Persons Group (EPG), led by General Olusegun  Obasanjo of Nigeria which met President Tambo in Lusaka and Mandela in Pollsmoor, the MDM, PAC, AZAPO and Foreign Minister Pik Botha and the apartheid cabinet  in March and May 1986. The EPG attempts to bring the two sides together was destroyed by the intransigence of the regime and bloodthirsty aerial bombing attacks on capitals of neighbouring countries in search of ANC cadres.

The value of those kind of initial interactions, as did many, to follow, was to help ensure that the ANC was no longer just a myth or a demon in the eyes of white South Africa. They gave birth to a plethora of interactions, and creative engagements on many fronts, in various ways.

All these engagements opened eyes of the ANC to develop a platform of potential negotiations with the apartheid regime. ANC President Tambo then put together a team to develop such a blueprint and negotiated the draft document with the frontline state leaders. The document was ultimately adopted as a standpoint of an OAU adhoc committee on Southern Africa in its meeting in Harare on 21st August 1989. That platform came to be known as the Harare Declaration, and went on to be adopted by the entire OAU Summit, then with slight alterations by both the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations Organisation. The road to Harare was paved by the long and arduous struggle of the people of South Africa and the undying solidarity with the peoples of the World in their various actions, singularly and collectively, through their various state and non-state actors.

The context of the content of the Harare Declaration

A key component of the Harare Declaration is the creation of a climate for negotiations. It argued, that:"a conjuncture of circumstances exist which, if there is a demonstrable readiness on the part of the Pretoria regime to engage in negotiations genuinely and seriously, could create the possibility to end apartheid through negotiations. Such an eventuality would be an expression of the long-standing preference of the people of South Africa to arrive at a political settlement." To demonstrate that readiness the Pretoria regime must create the necessary climate for negotiations.

The Harare Declaration also lists principles, which were essentially an elegant extrapolation of what the Freedom Charter said. "We reaffirm our recognition of the rights of all peoples, including those of South Africa, to determine their own destiny , and to work out the institutions and the system of government and which they will, by general consent, live and work together to build a harmonious society." "We make these commitments because we believe that all people are equal and have equal rights to human dignity and respect, regardless of colour, race, sex or creed. We believe that all men and women have the right and duty to participate in their own government, as equal members of society. No individual or group of individuals has any rights to govern others without their consent."

The Declaration elaborated on the conditions for negotiation to take place between the regime and the liberation movement. Those were:-

Release all political prisoners and detainees unconditionally and refrain from imposing any restrictions on them.
Lift all bans and restrictions on all prescribed and restricted organisations and people.
Remove all troops from the townships.
End the state of emergency and repeal all legislation, such as, and including, the Internal Security Act, designed to circumscribe political activity.
Cease all political executions.
Obviously political prisoners had to be released because they could not negotiate behind bars of prison. Exiles had to be allowed back home because they could not negotiate in far-away lands. Banned organisations had to have their proscriptions lifted, to freely consult with the people to obtain mandates for negotiations.  Troops had to be removed from townships to allow for a climate of free political activity, unhindered meetings and discussions. The presence of troops in townships creates a climate of repression, intimidation and harassment and prevents people from meeting freely. Security or emergency regulation and legislation that interfere with free political activity had to be repealed. All people sentenced to death for their political activities had to be given stay of execution, until the negotiations process has decided what the future of those political prisoners should be.

 The Declaration also contains a programme of action, which focused on what is to be done for the implementation and success of the path elucidated therein. It elaborates a campaign for support of the declaration, heightening of sanctions against the regime and providing the necessary support to the liberation movements in South Africa.

It also outlines the process of negotiations. It ensured that the negotiations between the regime and the liberation movement are substantive and qualitative, and are able to take the country directly and uninterruptedly to a new democratic dispensation. It elaborated the conditions of creating a climate conducive to negotiations based on the release-unban-remove-dismantle-negotiate step by step process.

The evolution of the document that came to be adopted as a Harare Declaration is both complex and interesting. It started as a document put conditions for negotiations by the ANC. The Frontline States were consulted on it and an OAU sub-committee on Southern Africa adopted it at its summit in Harare, Zimbabwe, on 21st August 1989. An OAU Heads of State Summit later adopted it in Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia. It was later adopted by a General Assembly of the United Nations as a blueprint for a negotiated settlement in South Africa. With every adoption, at every stage, with every step, pressure on the apartheid regime mounted for real negotiations with the true representatives of the people of South Africa.

Negotiations and compromises

Negotiations by definition include compromises. Compromises should be understood as tactic for longer term advance of the democratic revolution. Compromises in reality and potentially which sacrifice the objective of the freedom struggle for short-term advantages are treacherous, myopic and sell-out. And because negotiated settlement would always reflect the balance of forces in the struggle and no matter how skillful, negotiation cannot make-up for weaknesses on the ground. Compromises must be judged on the basis of whether they facilitates the democratic forces' ability to organise the masses and continue the struggle, or whether they undermine that capability.

Negotiations are therefore not an alternative to the struggle. They are part of an ongoing struggle, whose outcome would be decided less by what happens at the negotiations table than away from it in the battlefield of the struggle. Negotiations are not an all-or-nothing affair.

In every revolution there would of course be over-confident, infantile, ultra-leftist elements who reject any mention of a compromise. This amateurish and politically unwise approach has a tendency to isolate and weaken the revolution, and may divide and ultimately destroy a national liberation movement.

On the other hand, an over-optimistic approach ready to make any and every unprincipled compromise may demoralise and demobilise the people, weaken a national liberation movement and derail the revolution. In every negotiation there are tactical things one can compromise on and strategic things that cannot be compromised.

That is why negotiations cannot be employed alone, but must be used along with other forms of action in order to shift the power balance in favour of progressive forces, because negotiations don't result in a total and final victory, but can create conditions for it to be realised. Negotiations are just one of the sites or terrains of the struggle and should be used to augment the work of other pillars of the struggle. Otherwise you can seize power and install a new government which resembles the old regime in everything but name!

One criterion for resorting to a particular compromise is whether it would accelerate the acquisition of power or retard it. In the South African context, the timing for the lifting of sanctions and the suspension of armed actions against the regime were designed and timed to facilitate and unblock a faster progression of the negotiation between the Nationalist Party regime and the liberation movement. A process of negotiations is by definition a give and take. It is for tactical and ultimately for strategic consideration what you give and when, and what you take and when.

Negotiations are therefore as much about agreeing as they are about tilting the balance of forces. What takes place on the negotiations table- the reverses, the setbacks, the successes, the victories- is determined by what takes place in the battlefield of war. You cannot win on the negotiations table what you have not won in the struggle.

Joe Slovo argues that point very succinctly that: "the key test for the acceptability of a compromise is that it does not permanently block a future advance to non-racial, democratic rule in its full connotation. The starting point for developing a framework within which to approach some larger questions in the negotiating process is to answer the question: Why are we negotiating? We are negotiating because towards the end of the 80's we concluded that, as a result of its escalating crisis, the apartheid power bloc was no longer able to continue ruling in the old way and was genuinely seeking some break with the past. At the same time, we were clearly not dealing with a defeated enemy and an early revolutionary. Seizure of power by the liberation movement could not be realistically posed."(AC. 1992) Negotiations and compromise are like Siamese twins, but the level of compromise is determined by the balance of forces in the struggle.

The negotiations debate within the ANC

It is because negotiations, not just non-violent struggle, had always been on the agenda of the ANC from its inception in 1912, that even during the darkest hour of the freedom struggle occasioned by the bannings in 1960 the ANC still talked of achieving political solutions by other means. In the manifesto of uMkhonto we Sizwe it elucidated: "The time comes in the history of every nation where there remains only two choices-to submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa and we refuse to submit and choose to fight using every means at our disposal in defence of our people, freedom and future." This was later to be regarded as the most eloquent elaboration of revolutionary morality since the Second World War.

The armed struggle was designed to force the regime to a negotiations table so that the armed struggle, like negotiations were not the end in themselves, but a means, a path, towards the goal. While the armed struggle was forced on the ANC by the regime's actions, even after the formations of MK in 1961, an All-in-Africa conference was held in Pietermarotzburg called for a National Convention to discuss the country's future. Its call also fell on deaf ears.

In 1983 in anticipation of the Nkomati Accord of 1984, a peace treaty type of agreement between Pretoria and Mozambique's Machel, the ANC "started to explore proactively scenarios for negotiation, lest they be caught flat-footed."(Calinicos. 576.) The ANC wanted to avoid a pressure from the frontline states to settle with the regime unprepared, like the Lancaster House compromising situation in Zimbabwe.

In 1987 an ANC task team was set-up by President Tambo to explore the guidelines, for a free South Africa. The team headed by Zola Skweyiya, included Kader Asmal, Zingile Jobodwana, Penuell Maduna, Bridgette Mabandla, Shadrack Pekane, Albie Sachs and Jack Simons. The team came up with constitutional guidelines for a democratic South Africa, including a Bill of Rights.

Emerging from the many discussions in NEC, NWC and so on, in 1988 President Tambo appointed a Team on Negotiations to develop the ANC's perspectives on negotiations, and so that the ANC determines the process. The tactical and strategic initiative for negotiations had to rest with the ANC. The ANC had to put a bottom-line for negotiations with the regime canvassed the document for adoption by OAU and then UN. The team was headed by Neo Mnumzana, included Joel Netshitentzhe and Ngoako Ramatlhodi to do a preliminary draft on the ANC's terms for negotiations. The document setting out conditions for negotiations was adopted by the NEC in 1989, sent to Presidents Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Dos Santos Angola, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Quite Masire of Botswana. Cuba and the Soviet Union also commented on the document.

One week before the OAU Summit in Harare on August 1989, President Tambo in a small jet offered by President Kaunda visited all Heads of state in the frontline states along with Steve Tshwete, Ramatlhodi, Maduna, Mbeki and Jordan. All the Frontline States Presidents suggested some improvements on the final document setting conditions for negotiations with the apartheid regime.

On 07th and 08th August 1989, the NWC of ANC discussed the final draft of the document after input by Presidents of the Frontline states in the whirlwind trip by Oliver Tambo. The document loudly stated a conviction of the ANC at that stage that: "We believe that a conjuncture of circumstances exist which, if there is a demonstrable readiness on the part of the Pretoria regime  to engage in negotiations, genuinely and seriously, could create the possibility to end apartheid." President Oliver Tambo got a huge stroke before that document he worked tirelessly for, spending every aorta of his energy, time and strength at his age, was adopted by an OAU sub-committee on Southern Africa in Harare. On that historic day, the 21st August 1989, he was lying in a Lusaka Military Hospital speechless and partially paralysed, when the ANC Secretary-general, Alfred Nzo represented the organisation in the Harare summit. That document came to be known as the Harare Declaration.

Under pressure from the World, the general crisis of the apartheid regime and F.W. De Klerk began in September/October 1989 to meet some of the conditions for talks put down in the Harare Declaration. The Rivonia tralists were released, restrictions of meeting were lifted, and in February 2nd 1990, the ANC  was unbanned, Nelson Mandela was later released and exiles began returning home. The ANC held first full exploratory talks with the regime in Cape Town, then in Pretoria and there were talks about talks, until the CODESA negotiations forum. All these processes let to the interim constitution and the historic April 1994 Elections.

Inside the ANC a tough debate was raging. A cat was put amongst pigeons by Joe Slovo's intervention in 1992, 'Negotiations: What room for compromise?' An SACP editorial of the African Communist No. 130. 4 Quarter 1992 put it more clearly that, "Joe Slovo's intervention, has started a major debate within the ranks of the national liberation movement. Indeed, the debate has broadened out well beyond the movement, and it has even been taken internationally." The debate was taken up freshly by Jeremy Cronin, Pallo Jordan, Blade Nzimande, Harry Gwala, Raymond Sutter and the ANC Negotiations Commission. The debate flowered the negotiations and the democratic revolution immensely.


The historic Harare Declaration of 21 August 1989 is one of the very significant documents that laid a basis for the negotiated settlement in South Africa. It opened the way for negotiations between the liberation movement and the apartheid regime, that ultimately brought a non-racial, non-sexist, united, democratic and prosperous South Africa. This year, 2009, the people of South Africa, Africa and the World celebrate 30th anniversary of this bedrock document that is doubtlessly was a midwife for the establishment of a new society on the ruins of apartheid. We should also take this opportunity to celebrate the foresightedness and tried and testedness of the leadership of the ANC, the Frontline States and the OAU; and the entire peoples of the World for their undying support for the freedom struggle. Let the spirit of the Harare Declaration live long!


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