Unity in Action Decisive
Question: How would you assess the Lancaster House Conference on Zimbabwe, and the implementation up to now of what was agreed?
TAMBO: The decisions of the Lancaster House Conference on Zimbabwe, the fact that the Conference was held at all, represent a major victory for the forces of progress and national liberation in southern Africa and Africa as a whole. I say southern Africa, not to minimise the specific importance of this success for the people of Zimbabwe, but to emphasise the objective fact that the countries and peoples of southern Africa belong to one theatre of struggle in which it is impossible to isolate one front of combat from another.
Question: As Zimbabwe moves to elections and majority rule, how do you view the new regional situation? How will it affect South Africa`s own liberation struggle?
TAMBO: An independent Zimbabwe will, by the mere fact of its existence, by standing out as a product of the sacrifices that the people of Zimbabwe have made, affect our people as a material factor affirming that our own sacrifices will surely bring us liberation. Such was the effect also of the liberation of Mozambique and Angola.
However, it would be wrong to give the impression that because of the progress achieved in Zimbabwe, our struggle, and the continuing struggles of the peoples of southern Africa will thereby become easier. Indeed, the victories scored make the enemy more desperate. It is not by accident that the military has assumed leadership of the ruling fascist group in South Africa. The Botha strategy to set up a "constellation" of client States throughout southern Africa comes at this time as part of the enemy`s counteroffensive to the victories we have won in this region. The vicious military campaign to destabilise Lesotho and to overthrow the government of that country is also part of this counteroffensive. So is the sentencing to death of James Mange for being `obnoxious` to his fascist judge.
The open threat of the apartheid regime to invade and occupy Zimbabwe in the event of the electoral victory of the patriotic forces, the continuing stubbornness of that regime over the issue of Namibia, its explosion of a nuclear device in the area of the Antarctic - all these are indications of what the apartheid regime has in store for the peoples of southern Africa.
I would say that the victories scored on the Zimbabwe front must and will result in a heightened offensive to liberate the rest of southern Africa and call for greater efforts to secure the gains already won elsewhere in the region.
Yet, exactly because the forces of liberation are an immediate threat to apartheid South Africa itself, the very bastion of imperialist property and aggression in the region and in Africa, the new victories that are indeed certain, will become harder, will cost more lives throughout the region, but will also, by that very fact, lead ultimately to an unqualified defeat of the enemy and the genuine rather than a false liberation of our people.
Question: Briefly, what is the ANC`s strategy for liberation? And have any recent government moves, characterised as reforms, indicated a need to change this strategy?
TAMBO: The so-called reforms that have earned the South African regime an accolade in Western circles are neither intended to nor could they do anything to change the nature of that regime. It remains a white minority fascist regime, the same regime that massacred the children of Soweto. The so-called reforms that it has brought about are designed exactly to win the sort of accolade which British Prime Minister Thatcher has already voiced, as part of a whole campaign to extend the life expectancy of this enemy of humanity.
Our strategy for liberation from this tyrannical regime, given its nature, which it is now trying very unsuccessfully to camouflage, is based on the concept and the practice that our liberation can only come through the united mass action of the people, fighting as a united force under the leadership of the African National Congress. By this we mean a combination of united mass political action and people`s armed struggle for the seizure of power by the people themselves.
It is a strategy which aims to defeat and destroy the fascist dictatorship and not to reform the apartheid system or to make our oppression less reprehensible. The nature of the enemy has not changed. The nature of our oppression has not changed. We have no cause to change the nature of the instruments by which we will rid ourselves of our enemy and his policies.
Question: Recent trials in South Africa have shown the world that the armed struggle is intensifying. But is more happening than we hear of? What effect will an intensifying struggle have on South Africa`s military resources? What are the targets for Umkhonto cadres at present and are they likely to change as the struggle develops?
TAMBO: Indeed, armed struggle is intensifying and must intensify. Our people`s army, Umkhonto we Sizwe, has broken for all time the monopoly of modern weapons and the science of warfare that the enemy has sought to retain for a whole century. Our combatants have proved this time and again in many widely dispersed areas of our country. As he must, the enemy has tried to hide many of these operations. He has simultaneously sought to represent his losses as minimal and ours as catastrophic.
However, the extent to which the enemy reckons with reality despite his propaganda is shown by a number of extraordinary measures that he is undertaking. These include the linking of all white families to police stations and army posts by means of radio transceivers; financial incentives to white farmers to move back into their farmhouses, particularly along the borders of the country; the placing of armed soldiers among the African people as teachers, doctors, engineers, and other technical personnel; and measures to secure all police stations throughout the country.
I do not think I will be disclosing a secret if I say that military science, if not ordinary common sense, dictates that we must at this stage aim to achieve the position in which Umkhonto we Sizwe is present among our people throughout the country, trained and armed to carry out operations in all parts of our country, based among the people, fighting together with them, and, in the first instance, seeking to provide the means to reply to the enemy`s attacks against the people. The tactical and strategic objectives that Umkhonto pursues must therefore depend on its capabilities on the ground, inside the country.
Question: Recent labour movement victories, like that at Ford`s, have been heartening. How do you assess the importance of this aspect of the struggle?
TAMBO: It is most important to bear in mind that the economy of South Africa is the bedrock on which rests the apartheid State machinery, supplying the racist regime with the material means to perpetuate our oppression. It has, therefore, always been important that the black workers who keep this economy going should use the strike weapon as part of our total arsenal of weapons for liberation.
The militant explosion at Ford`s as other struggles before - such as the one at Fatti`s and Moni`s, at Rainbow Chicken, the bus boycott at Ladysmith and Port Shepstone and so on - are a confirmation of the readiness of the millions of black workers to take their destiny into their own hands. These struggles show exactly what the black workers of our country think of such deceitful schemes as the so-called code of conduct and the new trade union legislation.
It is clear that there is a new upsurge of militant mass struggles throughout the country. Already, among the rural people, the Batlokwa people in the northern Transvaal have raised high the banner of militant mass resistance to forced removals. A significant feature of the struggle at Ford`s, as at Fatti`s and Moni`s and at Crossroads, is the extent to which these struggles drew in other sections of our population. Though not directly affected, they nonetheless joined in support actions such as collecting strike funds, boycotting the goods of the affected firms, contributing funds for legal costs, and so on.
Question: What impact are the leaders of the bantustans and those who profit from the bantustan system having on black unity?
TAMBO: Even before the ANC was formed, during the period of the wars of resistance, our people were already striving very hard to achieve unity. Since then, the ANC has scored irreversible successes in the task of building up the national consciousness and unity of our people. Furthermore, our people have for a century shared a common experience of oppression and exploitation, brought together by the development of mining and manufacturing industry especially. In our millions we have fought common battles together, recognising quite clearly that our strength lies in our unity.
There is no way in which the enemy or his agents can succeed to unscramble what has been achieved. You can go anywhere among our people and ask them who their national leaders are and they will tell you it is Mandela, Sisulu, Mbeki, and others of our heroes. That also is a measure of how much they refuse to accept so-called leaders who are hand picked and paid by the enemy to perpetuate our oppression.
Question: How does the ANC view Chief Buthelezi`s Inkatha organisation? Buthelezi seems keen to imply an agreement with the ANC: Is there any truth in this? Further, new, legal black groups, under the umbrella heading of "Black Consciousness" have recently come into being in South Africa. What is the ANC`s attitude towards, for instance, AZAPO?
TAMBO: The African National Congress is continuously encouraging our people to organise themselves into all manner of formations to continue the struggle and to raise the level of confrontation. We, therefore, welcome the emergence of all organisations that seek to unite our people in the struggle against the fascist dictatorship. Our principal objective then becomes that of ensuring that such organisations are activised into struggle.
We always insist that what is of decisive importance is unity in action - action which draws the masses of the people into struggle against white minority domination and exploitation. Naturally we do everything in our power to bring this about.
This applies as much to Inkatha as to all other legal organisations, such as AZAPO, AZASO, COSAS, FOSATU, NIC, the Labour Party, and so on.
The strategic outlook we project and encourage is one which focuses on mass struggle against the apartheid regime for the liberation of our people. There can be no question of agreements with anybody outside of this framework. As we said before, our activists, whether functioning at the legal or the illegal level - and we have to function at both these levels - adhere to our strategic concept of drawing the masses of the people into conscious, organised, and united action. Functioning at both these levels, it is their task to win into one common front of united action all organisations that are opposed to the apartheid system and are fighting for genuine national and social liberation.
Question: What chances are there that the struggle will acquire a more international character? What role can the OAU and the non-aligned world have in the struggle? Will an African High Command, as some have suggested, have any function?
TAMBO: South Africa is a strong economic and military base of the transnational corporations, the most aggressive military circles of the West and the major Western countries in general. At this time, when the forces of liberation of our country are confronting the apartheid regime with such militancy as everybody can see today and with such certainty of victory, it is natural that the West should come to the defence of its offspring.
The South African question has always been international in character by virtue of the intimate involvement of the Western world in the strengthening of the apartheid system and the benefits accruing to the West from the oppression and exploitation of our people.
In the coming period a heavier burden is going to fall on the shoulders of our friends internationally to rebuff the inevitable attempts of the reactionary circles of the West further to shore up the criminal apartheid regime. This will call for more material and political support to the ANC, a determined struggle to increase the level of isolation of the apartheid regime, increased support to SWAPO, the leader of the people of Namibia, and concrete acts of solidarity with the independent peoples of southern Africa who will undoubtedly continue to be victims of the aggressive policy of the Pretoria regime.
It gives us great strength that on our side we have the OAU, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Socialist countries, the Nordic and other Western countries, and the vast anti-apartheid movement which enjoys the active support of millions of people throughout the world.
Africa specifically will have to find practical ways and means to come to the assistance of the independent African States that come under attack by the racists. If an African High Command would help in the accomplishment of this objective, then by all means let it be established.
Question: Will you be trying this year to get the OAU formally to recognise the ANC as South Africa`s sole liberation movement?
TAMBO: No, I do not think so. The principal task that faces the OAU is to raise the level of support for our struggling people. The important thing is liberation and it is on this question that we would like the OAU to focus its attention.
This year is the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Freedom Charter, the political programme of all the patriotic forces of our country. The ANC and its allies are observing it as the Year of the Charter. Among other things, we would like the OAU as well as the rest of the world to observe this anniversary which falls on June 26, as part of a universal affirmation of the commitment of the people of the world to support by word and by deed the genuine liberation of our country.
At a time when the enemies of Africa will be devising their own treacherous "solutions" to the problem of South Africa, the need will increase for Africa itself to be clear and united in its understanding of support for the objectives of our liberation struggle. 1 From: New African, London, March 1980