When I returned to London after six weeks Esmé was not very pleased with me for being away so long. For both of us we were faced with shaping our new life together. We had to get to know each other again and I had to find my feet in my new home. After the lonely time in prison Esmé’s house was quite a shock. She had many young people boarding with her. It was how she paid her rent and satisfied her need to be a Mother and to have company. For me it was overwhelming. I was accustomed to being with just a few people who generally spoke softly in one-on-one conversations. Now there was a continuous babble with the television going at the same time. It was difficult to hear what was being said in a roomful of chattering people. It sounded like a waterfall in my ears and I had to concentrate hard on the person speaking to me to understand anything. I preferred to watch TV on a second set in our bedroom. It even had a remote control so I did not even have to get out of bed to change the channel.
Esmé was the physiotherapist at a ballet school and six of the young students had been living in her house for some months. They were preparing for their annual concert and used every countertop or edge of the kitchen sink as a barre as they flexed and bent their supple limbs. Walking ahead of me and suddenly stopping to place their hands flat on the floor with their knees locked and their bums in the air was disconcerting in an age of miniskirts. Our friend Sadie Forman asked if I I thought they were pretty. I said I wasn’t sure because I had not yet got around to looking at their faces. Sadie was not amused. Feminism had moved on and I learned that such remarks were in bad taste. One evening there was much giggling outside our bedroom door and Esmé invited the girls in. I was half dozing when they came in en point around our bed. They were showing Ez their tutus which they had altered to make them fit exactly right. I opened my eyes and seeing their loveliness asked, “Am I in heaven?” They sweetly pretended to swoon.
There was also a constant stream of young people who had been volunteers on Hilly’s kibbutz who, on their way home to the United States, Canada, Australia and South Africa, spent a few weeks or months in London. The young White South Africans found acceptance in Israel but would be met with hostility in most European countries. They told me they tried to conceal their South African origin to avoid embarrassment. I was not sure about them wondering if they were the innocent passers through or if they were South African agents? I do not know the answer but some of them certainly learnt a great deal of the truth about apartheid South Africa that they had not allowed themselves to see or hear about. Ez was a remarkably patient teacher who because of her informality was more like a surrogate granny than a mother to them. She seemed to be able to attend to the needs of each of them while doing her daily work as a physiotherapist.
I had to relearn ordinary daily routines. Getting dressed in the morning and time keeping were difficult for me. Now I had to choose what clothes to wear: blue socks or brown, sweater or warm shirt, and so on. Television advertisements were a real distraction but fascinating too because a complex story would be told in thirty seconds and the name of the product would be fixed in your mind. There were also very clever cartoons and animated films that I had been starved of for so long.
Making appointments to see people was difficult. Sometimes I could not get to the one I needed to see first. Esmé took me in hand. She said make the appointments you can and the others will then fall into place. She also insisted that I had to do everything for myself because I would become ineffective, dependent on others to make decisions for me. Comrades who had come out of prison after much shorter prison terms had taken much too long to adjust because their families pampered them. I confess that she often figuratively pointed me in the right direction and sometimes literally did so to stop me dithering.
She wanted me to have my own bank account as another step towards independence. She dropped me off outside the Abbey National Bank in Golders Green. I could not see the bank. I did not know its logo and there was no sign saying ‘Bank.’ Banks looked like shops and not like the stone built fortresses I knew in South Africa. I felt quite foolish when a passerby told me I was at its front door. Inside, the problems multiplied. I found the required application form but the questions made no sense to me. I understood the English words but even with my four university degrees I did not know what answers were required. Perhaps I simply froze because I was afraid to appear stupid. I asked a young assistant to help me.
The International Defence and Aid Fund (IDAF) gave me a settling in grant in two portions of 1000 Pounds each (about 100 Pounds for each year of my imprisonment) and that made a real impact because I had no personal funds at all and the grant enabled me to make a contribution to the costs of new clothes and household necessities which Esmé paid for as well as my keep. They had kept so many people going and paid for our legal defence with no fanfare at all. In the nature of clandestine work undertaken for good humanitarian reasons the success of the work has to be the reward that those who did it may hope to receive. Perhaps my few words of gratitude after so many years will have meaning for those who helped us survive until victory.
In London after all the years of prison the fruit and sweets and cakes with sweet cream were overwhelming and irresistible. There seemed to be no season for fruit. Everything was available, winter pears and summer grapes, peaches and plums. Granny Smith apples were piled up high but that had to be a no-no because I knew that there was a fruit boycott to bring pressure to bear through peoples’ sanctions against the South African economy. Such a pity because I was feeling quite strange in London and it would have been lovely to bite into a Granny Smith apple, large, green and crispy to the bite. The very thought took me back to my childhood and youth. The beautiful grapes on sale at the kiosk next to the Angel tube station in Islington near the ANC office were irresistible. There was nothing to say they were the ‘Product of South Africa.’ I ate them with huge enjoyment crushing the green globes and feeling the semisweet juice burst into my mouth. I told Esmé of my mouthwatering delight. She spoke sharply: “We have to boycott South African fruit, you know.” I said I had looked very carefully to see where they came from. She insisted they were South African grapes because only the forbidden fruits were available in London at that time of the year. “Did the label say, ‘Cape Grapes?’” “Yes.” “That’s the trade name for the boycott product,” she said as though I should have learnt this in my prison cell 10000 kilometres away. My enjoyment turned a bit sour … but they were the best export quality.
I found living in London quite difficult. I had no experience of living in such a metropolis where you are never alone. By the end of every day the kaleidoscope of sights and the jumble of sounds of the big city left me exhausted. I was also not used to the weather. It was dark when I got up and dark again by three in the afternoon. The cloud filled sky felt as though it was draped over my shoulders. Getting about on my own was exciting, however. Going to sort out my passport was exhilarating. I felt like I had when I was a ten-year-old allowed for the first time to go into Cape Town on my own and find my way back home again. Travelling in the London underground trains was a new experience and very disconcerting. There were always people crowded around you leaving you no space to be and no air to breathe and the air was awful. If you got a seat you sat with your nose in the groin of a standing passenger. It took me two years to get used to living in London.
I had hoped that I would come out of prison into a free South Africa, and that my family would come back to join me in South Africa. What I wanted was to be with my family. I had not thought about exile. For a long time I felt like an exile because friends needed explanations of what seemed implicit to me because I had grown up in South Africa. I had to consciously remain a South African freedom fighter in order to do my work building solidarity. I had to express myself in such a way that my audience could understand a situation or conflict that was beyond their daily experience. For example, in Britain you could live anywhere you chose if you could afford to buy or rent the house of your choice. In South Africa you were forced to live in an area set aside by law for people of your own race; or you could try to get any work for which you were qualified but in South Africa there was Job Reservation of skilled work for whites only, such as bricklaying or plumbing. I needed always to study an audience to see if they were following what I was saying.
My knowledge of the ANC office was limited to my first quick visits after I had arrived in London from Israel. Now I had to get accustomed to the daily work going on there and try to fit in with it. After the headquarters in Lusaka, the London office was the most important representation in the world. The ANC office was quite familiar. It was dingy, it was dirty, it was like all the left wing offices I had known all of my childhood while growing up in Cape Town. It was old fashioned and cramped, on many stories at number 28 Penton Street, in London. There were piles of leaflets and pamphlets which had never been distributed lying around. Wherever I travelled in Northern Europe and in America and in Canada and Greece, and in Italy, I went into offices that all looked the same. They were dingy with grey paint on the walls, old fashioned, with old fashioned lifts, and the people looked the same.
The Scandinavian countries were different. There everything was clean and tidy with new modern equipment funded by national or regional governments. My negotiated release from prison created difficulties among some of my comrades in exile. It seemed to me that the further I got from South Africa the harsher just a few of them were. Even in Lusaka only a few were aware of the matter. In London, only Solly Smith, the ANC Chief Representative, was informed and he later turned out to be an informer for the apartheid regime. Without discussing it with anybody, I made the decision I would preserve the leadership’s silence about their involvement. If quiet negotiations were going on, revealing them could defeat the purpose
Since the leadership chose not to say that they were involved or at least informed, that was a good enough reason to keep quiet. I was a kind of trial balloon for both the ANC and the South African Government about how to deal with the issue of political prisoners. So I kept quiet and swallowed hard when people said, “Nelson Mandela rejected PW Botha’s offer, why couldn’t you?” Most of the compatriots I met were marvellous and welcomed me and refused to add to the media hype that sought to sow divisions within our ranks. Comrades who came from South Africa to London at that time went out of their way to literally embrace me. They said they understood exactly what I had done and they knew I was working in the ANC and speaking all over the world about our struggle. They had heard radio and seen tv interviews with me and they were pleased that I was back in action. It was not an easy time for me because it was easier to get involved in the armed struggle than to say that I would not in future be involved in it. I did not and never have repudiated the rightness of our decision to take up arms. One makes one's choices and lives with the consequences! That is life! "C'est la vie", or "kenjalo-ke" in Zulu.
Some years later I toured Canada and received an unexpected affirmation when I met several exiled South Africans. One of them was a young woman, the daughter of Achies Patel, a trade union activist originally from Johannesburg. She had visited ‘Uncle’ Ahmed Kathrada (Kathy) at the Robben Island prison. He gave her a message for me that circumstances prevented my Rivonia comrades from accepting their release but that they fully understood and supported my decision. Such thoughtful Comrades. They had no way of knowing that I would indeed end up at some point in Vancouver but yet felt the need to reassure the exile community and me of their support. It seemed to me as if Kathy had put a message into a bottle and thrown it into the sea and it washed up on the distant shore I was then standing on.
Now when I reflect in my more philosophical moments on these conflicts in our Movement, I come to the conclusion that our exploitative society - Apartheid in particular - has damaged all of us. That has affected our behaviour and relationships inside our movement. Yet I have to add that despite all that damage, to this day all of us in the movement have a vision of a better society that we are trying to build together with people who are not angels and some who are deeply scarred by the past. Yet we move forward to achieving that vision. If we do our work properly the next generation will be less traumatised. And maybe the one after that will be even less traumatised, and we shall get closer to achieving the goal of what society ought to be. This is another way of saying that every society bears the birthmarks of the one from which it emerged.
Why should people who have grown up in an acquisitive society where status depends on your position and especially your income and whether you are known or not known (are you a celebrity?), whether you can give people orders or not, be any better than they are? But the human capacity to do what is right is enormous. Our vision of what we have to achieve is no mere pipe dream. The potential is inherent in our existing society. I felt no need to discuss these ideas with Esmé because I knew that she shared this belief even though she had lost respect for many who were leaders. Yet over and over again I experienced Esmé’s influence in Britain. An example of this occurred at a dinner organised by antiapartheid activists in Sheffield. She had on this occasion accompanied me. Most of the guests were coal miners and their wives who had shortly before ended a yearlong strike. During my after dinner address there was that wonderful attentive silence I have described. I ended with great praise for Esmé who had stood by me and now we were together again. The miners’ wives were amazed by her fortitude. They were rightly proud of their role in the miners’ strike, coming out of the shadows of traditional working class women’s obscurity, to play a leading role. They said they had found it hard to endure one year of struggle and she had been politically engaged and then been through 22 years where I was not with her. It pleased me greatly that they took Ez off to one side to hear her story and give her the recognition she deserved.
At home I found her collection of newspaper cuttings dating from her arrival in Britain at the end of 1963 while the Rivonia Trial was still going on. She spoke to many audiences and lobbied Parliament. She met important people, calling upon them to stop the Trial and start negotiating an end to apartheid. But if that could not be achieved then the death sentence should not be imposed. I also found a photograph of Ez and Hilly sitting together waiting for the sentence to be pronounced. Their anxiety is palpable. When I pressed her she told me that the moment the trial was over our comrades found her of no further interest and had little to do with her. She set about earning her living through building up her physiotherapy practice. That enabled her to be available for our children when they needed her and after my Mum joined her after the end of the trial she was there to be with the children when she was working.
Esmé had her own political and friendship circles. Among them is the still existing Woodcraft Folk which is an organisation that seeks to educate children and youth to self awareness, peace and cooperation. It grew out of the radical labour movement in the nineteen twenties. It was a wonderful organisation that opened young people to collective action and awareness of social questions. One of the great moments in Woodcraft Folk history was saving hundreds of young people from the Nazis in the nineteen thirties and getting them to safety in Britain. They are my kind of people. This organisation of 30000 people, parents and children, took Esmé and our children under their wing when they arrived in Britain. Ez made many good friends and the Folk, as they always called themselves, became ever more connected to anti-racism issues and opposed apartheid in every way they could, especially through the boycott of South African fruit. The cooperative retail movement supported the Folk who in turn demanded that the Co-op stop selling South African fruit. When I arrived I was accepted as Esmé’s husband and acquired a whole array of new friends.
Among them were Peter and Gina Mynors and their two children Lara and Natasha who were great family friends. Gina was a social worker and Peter was a fireman and was studying social work. I was able to advise him on his work for his Masters degree in Social Work. It pleased me that the academic work I had done in prison could help someone who had given Esmé so much support.
I spoke at many meetings of the Woodcraft Folk and at their Annual Conferences. Jess Cawley, another of Ez’s friends asked me to stand for election as President because some members wanted to overcome the encrusted organisational structures and make room for new ideas. I agreed provided that I could function as an Honorary President rather than executive President. I was elected with a majority of just one vote and did not play an active role. I was able to raise issues such as their use of pseudo Native American (Redskin) greetings and doggerel. Having lived under apartheid I believed that even though they meant well, and the founders in the nineteen twenties meant to honour the ‘noble savages’ who lived in harmony with their natural habitat, these habits of speech savoured of an undignified way of treating people of colour. Slowly others took up the issue and it was good that it became widely debated. I was happy to step down when the Folk decided to appoint the long time members as Honorary Life Presidents. Esmé and I spent many hours with the Folk and enjoyed our leisure time with them.
I was away from Esmé for many weeks at a time. At the end of 1985 I made a six weeklong tour of Scandinavia and Finland. Having made a hundred and twenty speeches and given over a hundred interviews on television, radio and to newspapers I was both exhilarated and utterly exhausted and needed ten days in bed to recover. That was what my life was like in my first year out of prison: I was away for more than half of it.
Ez wanted more normality in our life together. Coming home from long speaking tours I would find she had little to say to me and when I remonstrated she said that all I could talk about was the struggle, the people and places I had met and seen, and had no time for her and our family. I admit that I was guilty as she charged and I tried to focus more upon her when I was home in London. Then I understood the conditions she had imposed when she said we could try to be together again. She was not prepared to invest too much in the relationship unless I could reciprocate more fully. I needed her support and understanding and caring for me because I could not have done the work I did without her backing. She was asked to work with a ghost writer on her autobiography and she said that the working title would have to be “He’s gone off again.” In a very real sense my contribution to liberation was her contribution too.
She not only gave me moral support, but given the smallness of the pocket money we were given she kept me in her home, fed me, clothed me and loved me. Perhaps my commitment at the cost of family life was an unconscious need to justify having been released. Perhaps I felt subconsciously that I had to prove that I had come out of prison to fight back against the apartheid regime. I was away from home more and I could think of little else than solidarity campaigns and inner office politics within the ANC and how to rise above the pettiness. That was because of the difficult relationships within the ANC office that I experienced almost from my arrival there. In Britain and other countries ex-South Africans and exiles said that I could achieve more if I did not work in the ANC office. The London office of the ANC was said to be especially bad and among journalists had the reputation for being a place of holding people back, of manipulation and manouvering with favourites here and those out of favour, there. I could not see this at the beginning. And in any case if it were true I would have to work within the office to resolve these conflicts.
In our exile community there were many crosscutting currents and fractions who sometimes seemed to find that we were our own enemies and the oppressive Apartheid regime was forgotten in the internecine conflicts. There were fulltime officials and there were members who were sometimes consulted. But fulltime officials have to get on with what has to be done without time for consultation. Our work was public inside Britain and not so public or had to be secret relating to work in Africa and South Africa and these two strands caused more conflicts because it was easier to be silent about everything and therefore undemocratic than to decide what could be public and what confidential. Some fulltime officials had more direct contact to the top leaders than others and used the “need for secrecy” as a means of exercising power – “leader so-and-so has said ...,” and an office committee decision was overturned without discussion, causing even more frustration
Each fraction among the exiles believed they alone possessed the truth. There was a small group of people who were never in prison and had suffered very little but assumed that they should sit in moral judgment of all others. Some of them in their personal relationships betrayed each other in immoral ways. They lied and misled others when they did not like a certain comrade. One such case was discussed and I proposed that we could not exclude or expel a member without a proper indictment and he had to have the right to defend himself. They said they had done all these things. Years later we found there was no documentation at all. They lied and committed fraud that caused divisions among our supporters in the British anti apartheid movement. That did real harm to our movement and to our comrade.
I would not permit others to prescribe to me what I should think. Sometimes people in our office tried. “Why do you think you must try to break me?” I asked. “Experts tried for twenty two years while I was in prison and they failed. So do not even try because you will not succeed. But what puzzles me is why you want to break me. We have too much to do, let us get to work.” Some had the grace to look embarrassed.On one occasion I said to some of my comrades that there was so much work to do they need not fear that I would want to do their work too.
Often the little conflicts were completely unnecessary. My specific role was to speak to as many and as wide a variety of audiences in Britain and internationally about our struggle and I needed lots of our excellent publicity material. Very often invitations to these speaking engagements would emerge with very short notice and it became a battle to get the information material from the publicity section. “Why do you come at the last minute? You can have the stuff tomorrow!” “Tomorrow I will be in America or Greece or Italy, or ...” “You can’t have it!” I could not understand why it should be kept looking nice and neat on the shelves when it was intended for audiences to build solidarity with our struggle. Maybe it was hidden jealousy. Yes, I was in the limelight, but it had cost 22 years of my life to open up the ears and eyes of people to our struggle. I could not understand their envy when it was to our advantage to use my political credibility for our cause.
Many of our Chief Representatives in numerous countries did a wonderful job of representing the struggle for freedom in South Africa. However some who spoke on behalf of the ANC made you cringe. There were so many others who could do it better. Perhaps it was because in exile the ANC was mother and father and employer and protector of everybody. Therefore there was no possibility of firing those who were less capable. All that pettiness was abhorrent and it affected Ez and me too because only to her could I rail against the personalised internal antagonisms which had no political basis. After many months Ez said she had wanted to warn me but knew I would have rejected her opinions because I did not want to believe that they could be true. They were true and I am grateful to her for letting me find out for myself and dealing with and overcoming those obstacles. Like all exile movements we were not immune to internal quarrels and personal animosities. When I was travelling so much I had little to do with all that and those conditions.
During the previous 20 years apartheid had become a worldwide issue. From the wave of arrests in the early nineteen sixties our Movement was crushed for nearly a decade. During this time the external ANC was the only overt sign of resistance together with the growing external pressure upon the South Africa regime. These two elements were possibly the dominant forces against it until 1973 when the strike by African workers in Durban led to the emergence of the modern trade union movement. That and the rebellion of the school students in Soweto in 1976 led to an international public outcry. The formation of civic associations and many other groupings that became the United Democratic Front (UDF) in 1983 made the internal struggle again very important. In 1985 the UDF had three million affiliated members with the most solid support coming from the trade unions affiliated to Cosatu (Congress of South African Trade Unions). The UDF signalled its policies when it adopted the Freedom Charter and when it adopted, amongst others, the eight of us sentenced in the Rivonia Trial as Patrons. The movement of antiapartheid literature and communication through Radio Freedom into South Africa, was important.
The works of the South African writers, such as the Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer, and the broadcasts of Radio Freedom into South Africa were significant. The ANC’s transmitters functioned for more than 20 years from bases in Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, Ethiopia and Madagascar. The broadcasts began with machine gun fire and a voice over that said: This is Radio Freedom, the voice of the African National Congress and its military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe. Listening to these broadcasts could result in a prison sentence of up to eight years. We had comrades based in Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana and other neighbouring countries so there was a coming and going between internal and external forces that laid the groundwork to be able to move forward together.
Those internal developments strengthened the international support for the struggle against apartheid. Activists in many countries through words and protests compelled their governments to publicly take positions against racism and apartheid. In the USA for example both major parties had to take into account in the long run the Congressional Black Caucus’ policy on apartheid in South Africa, and the question of disinvestment, because the Caucus held the balance of power in Congress.
I travelled in many countries in Europe, Scandinavia, the United States and Canada, meeting wonderful caring people from religious organisations, workers, civil servants, and academics, members of socialist, communist, liberal and conservative, parties, some of whom were in my view somewhat reactionary in their own countries‘ politics but gave strong support to the anti-Apartheid movement. The struggle against the immorality of Apartheid inhumanity transcended practically all ideological position.
These developments encouraged us and I met very capable ANC representatives in various countries who did excellent work. The ANC Chief Representative in Denmark, Aaron Mnisi (the pseudonym of Themba Kubeka), was a remarkably astute Representative who knew the ins and outs of Danish politics, trade unions and ngos. He opened many doors to get me to where I could persuade influential people to support our cause. He had said that every time someone bought a Granny Smith apple they were buying a bullet to kill our people. I quoted him often and his saying became the theme of the documentary Fruits of Fear made for the British Anti Apartheid Movement to publicize the fruit boycott against apartheid South Africa. It was made by a young Nigerian woman who had recently graduated from film school in London.
I seemed to be always in planes and trains travelling the world, speaking at meetings, doing radio and television work, working in the London office of the ANC. The UN General Assembly declared Apartheid a Crime Against Humanity in December 1966 and people everywhere accepted that. The UN General Assembly established the UN Special Committee on Apartheid in November 1962. The Governments of the major powers such as the US, UK and France used their veto power in the UN Security Council to protect apartheid South Africa against resolutions calling for action against apartheid. Our task was to press for the imposition of all the sanctions provided for in Chapter 7 of the UN Charter against South Africa as a threat to international peace and stability. Kader Asmal, a South African who was Professor of International Law at Queens College Dublin, and other lawyers, wrote influential papers in academic journals and the mass media.
The UN Special Committee against Apartheid observed a Day of Solidarity with South African Political Prisoners on 12 October 1987 and I represented the ANC. I wrote and delivered the following speech:
This gathering is truly a solemn event, convened to mark the international Day of Solidarity with South African and Namibian Political Prisoners. We wish to thank the Special Committee against Apartheid, and especially its Chairman, Major-General Garba, for the work it has done to make known the situation in South Africa and in southern Africa and to mobilize opinion against the apartheid regime.
We wish to honour those already executed by the apartheid regime for their actions to achieve the national liberation of the colonially oppressed mass of the peoples of South Africa and Namibia. That goal, the right to self-determination of peoples enshrined in the United Nations Charter, and their actions, including armed struggle, are politically right and lawful in terms of international law. We would cite an article by Kader Asmal entitled "Reagan Administration betrays the new laws of war," published in The Legal Front recently in New York.
Yet those heroic comrades of ours have been executed. Those known to us and those we wish to honour are our comrades Vuyisile Mini, Khayinga and Mkaba, Solomon Mahlangu, Jerry Mosololi, Simon Mogoerane, Marcus Motaung, Benjamin Moloise, Lucky Payi, Xulu Sipho, Mawasi, Matsepane, Jantjies and Mielies, who were executed just a couple of days ago, as we have heard.
We call upon the world to act - and I would stress the word "act" - to put a stop to executions for political and military acts against the illegitimate racist regime and its collaborators. Right now on death row, as far as we can ascertain, there are 30 or 31 of our heroic comrades. I shall not read the full list of names. In prison at this time are some hundreds of political and military activists whose so-called crime has been their opposition to the internationally recognized crime against humanity of apartheid. Some of our comrades have been imprisoned for a quarter of a century, but even those who have been freshly imprisoned are entitled to our support. The most famous of the political prisoners are, of course, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni and Elias Motsolaedi, all sentenced in the Rivonia trial in 1964, as well as Wilton Mkwayi, sentenced in December of that year.
We call upon the world to act now to achieve the unconditional release of these comrades of ours - outstanding people not only in the history of South Africa but in the struggles of all peoples throughout history against tyrannical oppression. We call upon the world to act now to achieve the unconditional release of all political prisoners in South Africa. There are untold thousands of people, mainly young boys and girls, sentenced to terms of imprisonment under laws which make them criminals for their politically motivated actions against the apartheid regime. Their acts are acts of conscience. They, equally with those sentenced in overtly political trials in the racist courts, are prisoners of conscience.
We call upon the world to act now for the release of these comrades of ours. Since the most sustained and widespread uprisings in our history began at the end of 1984 and since the imposition of a state of emergency tantamount to martial law, some 30,000 people have been detained by the police and military forces of the regime. The Detainees Parents Support Committee has estimated that one third of them, some 8,000 to 10,000 people, are under 18 years of age. Some are as young as 8 or 10 years of age. They are called "threats to the security of the State."
Torture is the norm in the interrogations [by] security police of the racist regime. A study conducted by experts at the University of Cape Town reveals that 83 per cent of those interrogated by the security police had been tortured. Beatings, electric shocks to the genitalia, suffocation, injection of drugs and physical brutality dreamed up in the nightmare minds of the interrogators are the order of the day. And this does not take into account the psychological torture imposed by the system of detention without trial. The former South African ambassador to Britain, Mr. Worrall, conceded in a press interview that child torture occurs in South African prisons. He added, disingenuously, that this was against Government policy. He did not say that it was also against the law. He did not explain why it continues, despite being against Government policy. The implication is clear: torture is not only tolerated, it has been encouraged by successive Ministers of Justice and Police Commissioners. How otherwise do they explain the secrecy provisions in the legislation enabling detention for the purposes of interrogation?
It is impossible to know the exact number of those murdered under interrogation in South Africa, which must be taken to include the pseudo-independent pseudo-homelands or Bantustans. Our estimates are that well over 100 of our comrades have been murdered while in police hands since 1963. My comrade Looksmart Ngudle was among the first, in 1963. We have since seen such famous names as Steve Biko, Dr. Neil Aggett, Andries Raditsela and many others.
We call upon the world to act now to put an end to these tortures. The recent Conference on Children, Repression and the Law in Apartheid South Africa, held at Harare, Zimbabwe, heard direct testimony of the systematic torture of children while in detention. Inevitably, many have died. Almost all survivors require psychotherapy to enable them to overcome the trauma in their young lives. With Archbishop Huddleston, we can say that a regime which wages its war of oppression against children is morally bankrupt. It must be overthrown.
We should ask: Why a war against children? We must answer that the people of South Africa, men and women, have not been cowed, have not been broken, by the repression and the torture. This is a regime that seeks out quite consciously the most vulnerable - the weakest, the children - in its effort to intimidate the adults determined to be free. We call upon the world to act now to put an end to the ceaseless destruction of young lives.
The apartheid regime has also murdered and abducted our comrades in defiance of international law through their actions in neighbouring States. Our comrade Ishmael Ibrahim Ishmael is now on trial, having been brought before the court after being kidnapped in Swaziland. Our comrade Priscilla Njanda was also kidnapped in Swaziland and seems to have disappeared. Nobody knows where she is. Our comrades Paul Dikeledi and Cassius Make were recently brutally murdered in Swaziland by agents of the apartheid regime.
I did not know the works of our comrade [Dumile Feni, added DTG] that are hung here today. They show far more graphically than any words can describe what prison means. They show the distortions of life; they show a mother and her babies in prison. They show a people in prison but on their feet, not cowed, not broken - their lives distorted, true. Despite all these actions by the apartheid regime, it has not been able to stop the people's movement towards the overthrow of the apartheid system, the movement towards people's power in this the seventy-fifth anniversary year of the founding of the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC). The ANC has named this year, 1987, the Year of Advance to People's Power.
We must always bear in mind that apartheid is very much more than the brutalities practised by the apartheid regime in its desperate attempts to maintain itself in power. Apartheid itself is a denial of human rights and dignity. In their daily lives - we cannot in all conscience call them "ordinary lives" - the majority of the people of South Africa live lives which the philosopher Hobbes would have described as "nasty, brutish and short." Our people live under a virtual military and police occupation. Death squads, euphemistically called vigilantes, are not only tolerated by security police but are actively encouraged by agencies of the Apartheid State.
Apartheid is a system of State terrorism. South Africa is an imprisoned society. Our people, in destroying the apartheid system, will put an end to that State terrorism. They are tearing down the walls of that prison. Our people will be free in a united, democratic, non-racial South Africa.
We call upon the world to act now to help free our comrades literally in prison and the whole of our people from the prison which is apartheid. No - we do not call upon the world: we demand that the world - and especially those Western countries such as the United States of America, Britain, the Federal Republic of Germany, and their allies Israel and others, which actively support the apartheid regime and protect it through diplomatic and other means - act now.
Do not tell us to wait for reforms. Do not tell us to wait for the apartheid cancer in our society to prescribe its own cure. Ernesto (sic: Eduardo) Galleano cites a Guatemalan Foreign Minister saying over 100 years ago that asking the United States to solve the problems of Guatemala was asking a cancer to cure itself. Who shall know better than President Reagan that a cancer must be excised?
Do not tell us to be non-violent. Tell the apartheid regime to stop its violence against our people. Do not tell us that sanctions will harm the oppressed people of South Africa. In the darkness of the suffering caused by the system of apartheid in the daily lives of the people and the suffering caused by the State terrorism employed to maintain the system, it is an impertinence to say: "We will not impose sanctions so that you will not suffer." It is an impertinence for the United States and the United Kingdom to veto Security Council draft resolutions intended to impose mandatory comprehensive sanctions. It is an impertinence to equate the legitimate violence of a people struggling to be free with the State violence of the repressive apartheid State. We demand of the world to impose mandatory comprehensive sanctions now. Do not tell us that the trifling sanctions that have been enacted are ineffective. You unwillingly enacted them, are lax in applying them and then tell us they do not work. You trifle with the lives of our people.
We demand an end to the apartheid crime against humanity. In relation to Namibia we demand mandatory comprehensive sanctions to enforce compliance with Security Council resolution 435 (1978) and an end to apartheid South Africa's illegal occupation of that country. In relation to apartheid South Africa's continuing aggression against Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana, action is required urgently. We demand of the world the full application of all the provisions of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter to bring an end to that aggression. Nuclear-armed apartheid South Africa is already at war with its neighbours and is a threat to international peace and security.
We wish also to express our solidarity with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and with the people of the Sahraoui National Liberation Front, as well as with people everywhere fighting for their freedom from national oppression. This is a solemn meeting of solidarity with political prisoners in South Africa and Namibia. It should also be a joyful occasion on which we celebrate the triumph of the human spirit, of endurance, of determination to destroy the evil apartheid system. In the words of the prologue to our Freedom Charter, "these freedoms we will fight for, side by side, throughout our lives, until we have won our liberty."
I have not talked about my own experiences. We have heard from our comrade, Dean T. S. Farasani, what torture means. It is much more difficult for me to strip aside all the protections one builds up over 7,904 days of imprisonment. But what we know is that we will fight side by side all our lives until we have won. I would only say in closing: "Amandla Ngawethu: Maatla ke a rona: Jana Shakti!" Power to the people!
Being based in London, most of my work was in Britain and Europe.
The Anti Apartheid Movement in Britain had achieved a huge response by remaining a single issue campaign based on the inhumanity of apartheid. It appealed as did the ANC itself across class lines to people who simply believed in the equality of all people. Many British people had strong family connections to South Africa because so many had settled there during the colonial era and after both World Wars. British investors held the largest share of foreign investment and had the lion’s share of trade with South Africa. That the founding segregationist constitution, The Union of South Africa Act, was a law passed by the British Parliament was a matter of conscience for many.
My first public encounter was on 26 June 1985 when I was asked to speak at an AAM rally commemorating our Freedom Day. The podium was on the plinth of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square. A large array of speakers including Neill Kinnock, the Leader of the Labour Party, spoke that day and I was quite overawed by the occasion. I was called to the microphone and simply stood there savouring the moment. I had not previously been a public speaker and here I was facing perhaps as many as thirty thousand people. I knew what I would say to describe apartheid and the systematic brutality of the regime. I had after all had a long time to prepare myself. Because I don’t like demagoguery I decided when I came out of prison to appeal to people through a simply stated logical argument. Naturally an appeal to emotions of abhorrence of the brutality of aparth