AFRICA REPORT: To many critics, the African National Congress (ANC) looks like a failure. After 70 years, racism is more entrenched than ever. What is your response to those criticisms? Why does the ANC appear to be relatively inactive? Why are there not 20 bombings a day, 10 trains derailed, 50 policemen killed? Why are you responding to the violence of apartheid with isolated half measures?
TAMBO: There is a misleading appearance of apartheid that is painted by the amount of repression meted out against the people by the regime. It is a deliberate show of power intended to convince onlookers that apartheid is safe and sound. But it is this very repression that points to the fundamental weakness of apartheid. Apartheid can only survive through violence. Apartheid is cracking. Prime Minister Botha cannot use the same language used by former Prime Minister Strijdom some years ago when addressing his supporters. Today, rather than say, "I stand on the kaffir`s neck," he is forced to say that they must be prepared to adapt or die. And this is the result of the 70 fighting years of the ANC and the people of South Africa. The broad political front whose creation has always been central to the objectives of the ANC has today managed to divide and weaken the ruling clique. There is a political crisis within the ruling party on matters of policy. The ANC will continue to widen this rift. The pace of the struggle is not going to be determined by the ANC alone. There are two forces pitted against each other.
The amount of resistance by the apartheid regime is also a determinant of the tempo of the struggle. The intensity of the resistance of the apartheid regime and the depth of its support from the West are what they are exactly because the benefits of liberation will for us be as substantial as are the benefits of our oppression to the racist white minority and its Western allies.
We are active and not half-active, both militarily and politically. We have launched successful campaigns within the country. The most recent one was the anti-Republic May struggles
when the apartheid regime wanted to demonstrate that it has succeeded over the past 20 years to unite the people of South Africa behind its reactionary programme. We said no. South Africa is not united at all; any celebrations will be celebrations of our oppression, our exploitation, our humiliation. We called on the people to reject this insult and they responded by not only boycotting the festivities, but by going still further. They burned the so-called Republican flag, and defiantly hoisted the ANC`s national flag. Is this inaction? Are these half-measures? You talk of isolated military operations; the effects of these operations have not been isolated at all. The military budget of Pretoria is rocketing and security activity has reached psychotic dimensions. On the military front, the frequency of our operations is markedly rising to the consternation of the regime and its forces. We have concentrated not so much on the number of operations, but on their success and effect. We have succeeded and we mean to keep an improved record. We are making advances on the industrial and educational fronts. Are these indeed half-measures? The wrath of the people is growing and certainly in time, there will be more than 20 policemen and soldiers killed every day. We have warned that the people`s patience is not endless.
AFRICA REPORT: How has the ideology of the ANC developed? There were traditional links with the South African Communist Party: are they still extant? How would you describe your relations with the socialist countries?
TAMBO: The ANC was born as a parliament of the African people. The delegates at its founding conference in 1912 represented the entire spectrum of the South African, and the southern African, indigenous population, including the kings or paramount chiefs of the day, the intellectuals, workers, peasants, women , and so on. In time, the ANC has developed toward where it is becoming the parliament of all the oppressed people and the democratic forces of our country, without distinction of race or colour. Our people regard and speak of the ANC as the "mother body" of the liberation movement of South Africa. It is in this context that we must understand the ideology of the alliances it enters into. Our ideology is reflected in the Freedom Charter. One of our tasks as a political organisation is to popularise the demands contained in the Charter, to unite the people of South Africa in struggle for the realisation of those demands. To the extent that various individuals and sections of our community hold communist, Christian, Moslem, or other views, should one therefore expect to find that the Freedom Charter is supported by communists, Christians, Moslems, etc., and similarly that all these people are united with the ANC by the fact that they are fighting for a common cause, clearly and publicly defined in the Freedom Charter? The South African Communist Party supports and actively fights for the realisation of the demands contained in the Charter. It accepts the leadership of the ANC and therefore cannot but be an ally of the ANC as would any other organisation that adopts the same position.
Official contact between the ANC and the Soviet Union goes back as far as 1927, when a delegation of the ANC, led by its President, Josiah Gumede, visited the Soviet Union and came back convinced of the support that our struggle enjoys from the Soviet Government and people. Practical experience has shown our people and the ANC that President Gumede was not wrong in his assessment of 55 years ago. We stood together with the Soviet Union and the allied forces in fighting Nazism during the Second World War. True to those positions, the Soviet Union and other socialist countries stand with us to this day fighting the apartheid system, itself and its leaders direct pawns of Nazi ideology and practice. Having endorsed the armed struggle being waged by the oppressed people in Africa, including South Africa, the Organisation of African Unity has made repeated appeals to the socialist countries for the type of assistance proposed in numerous UN resolutions. The ANC will continue to work for the unity of the greatest possible number of people at home and abroad for the destruction of the apartheid regime and for the birth of a democratic, nonracial, and united South Africa. The greatest possible number will include South African communists and those of other lands, including South African Christians as well as the world Christian community. The greater that number and the firmer the unity among these diverse ideological strands in their opposition to the apartheid system, the closer the prospect of our victory becomes.
AFRICA REPORT: What are the basic aims of the ANC?
TAMBO: As we have said, the basic aims of the ANC are contained in the Freedom Charter. In brief, we can say that we fight for a genuinely democratic, united, and nonracial South Africa in which every adult person will have the right to vote and be elected to any and every organ of government, and in which we will use the wealth of our country and the diligent labour and expertise of its citizens to wipe out the terrible legacy of hunger, disease, and ignorance that the apartheid system has imposed on the majority of our people. We struggle for a South Africa that will uphold the cause of peace, live in harmony, and engage in mutually beneficial cooperation with its neighbours and the rest of the world.
AFRICA REPORT: How do you view other organisations - white establishment liberals, the Pan Africanist Congress, Inkatha, the Black Consciousness Movement, trade unions?
TAMBO: The ANC continually encourages the people of South Africa to engage in struggle, to become, as has been said, their own liberators. We encourage resistance and activity around all issues, be they broad national or local and immediate questions. We therefore expect that in response to this direction, our people will form organisations to translate their hostility to the apartheid system, in all its manifestations, into practical activity. Consequently, we welcome the formation of any organisation whose aim is to oppose oppression and racism, even if that opposition is in the first instance confined to specific issues such as high rents, low wages, inferior education, land hunger, the pass laws, the absence of freedom of worship, and the right to conscientious objection.
Our attitude to the organisations you mentioned is determined by these positions. For example, as early as 1973, our National Executive Committee issued a public statement welcoming the formation of the "black consciousness" organisations although we differed with them on certain questions. But we welcomed them because we were convinced that they see themselves as centres for the activisation of our people into struggle against the Pretoria regime. We welcome and encourage the development of democratic trade union movement for exactly the same reasons, in the conviction that the mobilisation of workers into united struggle is an important condition for the further advance of our struggle and indeed for our victory.
AFRICA REPORT: Doesn`t the bickering among such groups strengthen apartheid? What are the chances of your getting together with the Pan Africanist Congress?
TAMBO: It is not correct to say that there is bickering among groups fighting for the overthrow of fascism in South Africa. If there is any bickering at all it is between those groups that seek to hamper the process of the people`s struggle and the democratic front that continuously strives to point the way forward. We constitute part of this democratic front and a leading part at that, and we say the people are not divided and are not bickering among themselves. This was proved in the month of May when the people united in anti-Republic demonstrations. Anybody outside this front becomes irrelevant and at times becomes part of the problem. The ANC will strive to maintain and to nourish this unity. The ANC believes that any meaningful unity must be based on action and principle. We have never been opposed to anybody fighting for the overthrow of the apartheid regime. One of our basic aims has always been to unite the oppressed majority and other democratic elements in South Africa. Our success in this regard cannot be overemphasised. Once more, we say the people are united and the ANC has a historic mission to lead this united force to ultimate victory. This would include the PAC if the PAC were part of this force.
AFRICA REPORT: The United States has its own concerns in international affairs. It fears losing access to South African raw materials and is afraid of Soviet political influence in southern Africa. How do you respond to those feelings?
TAMBO: United States concerns in international affairs should be freedom, social progress, and peace and it should align itself with all the forces that strive to achieve these goals internationally. The ANC is fighting for the destruction of a violent and anti-human regime in our subcontinent, whose history is one of aggression and oppression not only against indigenous South Africans, but also against neighbouring States. Can the United States really be part of international concert, particularly in southern Africa, to strengthen and provoke aggression against those who fight for peace? What the United States should consider and very carefully is whether its role in that area is to get rid of racism as represented by Pretoria or to sup with the devil in the interests of profit and raw materials. Indeed the United States must accept that the Soviet Union is striving to liquidate the crime of apartheid in keeping with the OAU and UN resolutions and is supporting us in fighting for a southern Africa that will become a haven and a bastion of peace. United States access to raw materials in South Africa and indeed to the hearts and minds of our people can never be guaranteed by forming alliances with those who treat our people as animals and wild beasts.
AFRICA REPORT: What about American investment in South Africa? What will happen if the ANC has a dominant position when majority rule is established?
TAMBO: The broad basic positions of the ANC concerning the South African economy in all its major parts after liberation are contained in the Freedom Charter. What we say to foreign investors today is that they must pull out of South Africa because their investments inevitably help to strengthen the apartheid regime. We would therefore expect that if United States corporations have any regard for our voice, there will be no United States investments in South Africa on the day of liberation. If there are, that will mean that such investors will have elected to side with the minority racist regime against the democratic majority. They will have elected to become and stay friends with the enemy of our people. Consequently, when their friend goes, as he surely will, so will they be obliged to go. As for other investors who would want to participate in the reconstruction of South Africa, they would of course be welcome to join us as equal partners in arrangements that are mutually beneficial both to themselves and to us. South Africa is today part of the world economic system. After liberation it will continue to have international economic links, but no longer as a supplier of commodities rendered cheap and competitive by virtue of cheap black labour, and a source of disproportionately high profit because of the inhuman exploitation of our people.
AFRICA REPORT: What policy toward South Africa in 1981 is likely to serve the long-term interests of the United States? What can American individuals and organisations do to help?
TAMBO: We would like to see the American people categorically reject the positions taken by the Reagan Administration of dragging the United States into an ill-conceived and disastrous alliance with the racist regime of Pretoria. This is a principal challenge that confronts all right-thinking Americans. We believe that there are many initiatives that individuals and organisations in the United States can take to expose the actual brutality of the apartheid system, without waiting for Washington to impose sanctions against the regime that upholds and implements this system, and to render assistance to us who are not merely the daily victims of racism, applied as a matter of State policy, but also the main force that must wipe out this cancerous growth in world politics. In short, what we would like to see from the American people is practical action to isolate the apartheid regime and to support the ANC. Surely it ought to be obvious that the long-term interests of the United States in South Africa lie in making common course with the democratic anti-racist majority of our country, against the racist and anti-democratic minority. Considerations of "realpolitik", "power politics", or whatever, cannot justify the formation of an alliance with the self-proclaimed heirs of Hitler`s Reich. The American people who take pride in their Constitution, their democratic traditions, and their willingness to go to war for their own independence and freedom surely need no lectures from us about their obligation to stand on the side of the forces that fight for democracy, freedom, and equal constitutional rights in South Africa. Africa Report, New York, September-October 1981. These written replies were provided by Mr. Tambo in response to questions submitted by the editor ofAfrica Report, Anthony J. Hughes.