I salute you all from a land far away on this great occasion, the relaunch of the African National Congress Women's League. I should have been with you, but even though I cannot be with you physically, my spirit is with you.

We are together today because of your struggles over decades, your resilience, and your defiance, because of the courage with which the women of South Africa responded so magnificently to the calls made by the African National Congress.

For us it is particularly moving to know that your meeting brings together - openly and inside our own country - those who have had to work underground with those who have worked in exile, women who, if they had any opportunity to come together, had to do so clandestinely or in far away countries.

Your meeting today is an historic occasion, in every way - for the women in the African National Congress and for the organisation itself; for all the women of South Africa; and for South Africa as a country which is on the threshold of liberation from national oppression and about to enter a period in which the social emancipation of our people will become possible.

For the women in the ANC the relaunch of the ANC Women's League marks the end of three decades during which repression made it impossible for it to carry out its tasks openly. They were three decades during which women risked and often suffered arrest, torture and imprisonment for carrying out tasks assigned by the ANC, as women and as revolutionaries.

During these years we have lost many of our women, among them Lilian Ngoyi and all those heroines before and after her who fell in struggle. I ask you to observe a minute's silence in their memory.

For the ANC as a whole your action in relaunching the Women's League is of the utmost importance.

Some of you were present at the conference of ANC women held outside South Africa in 1981, and may recall that I observed then that, "If we are to engage our full potential in pursuit of revolutionary goals, then, as revolutionaries, we should stop pretending that women in our movement have the same opportunities as men."

A decade later, in May this year, our National Executive Committee, in its statement on the Emancipation of Women in South Africa, reemphasised the fact that women are not present in sufficient numbers in the structures of our organisations, especially at decision-making levels, and that as a consequence we have not as yet fully integrated women's concerns and the emancipation of women into the practice of our liberation struggle.

The decision of the NEC to take steps towards redressing this problem will only bring concrete changes if women themselves organise and act so as to bring about the changes in attitudes amongst both men and women that have perpetuated the situation.

In 1985 I and President Sam Nujoma made a joint pledge to the women of Namibia and South Africa, that we would not consider our objectives achieved, our task completed, or our struggle at an end until the women of South Africa and Namibia are fully liberated.

The existence of a strong mass women's organisation is necessary for the achievement of this objective - and a strong ANC Women's League will be essential to make that a reality.

The women of South Africa have played a vital part in the mass mobilisation, and in the armed struggle, which, together with the solidarity of the international community, made possible your meeting openly and "legally" today. The struggle must now be taken forward to ensure that the gains which have been made lead to further advances.

The realisation of our objective of a nonracial and democratic South Africa is dependent on the extent to which we can address and mobilise all the people of South Africa, both men and women. The ANC Women's League, bringing together the most advanced organisers and activists, has a mission at this critical moment in the liberation of our country, to mobilise and organise the women of South Africa into the liberation struggle, from every section of society.

I have one personal request to make to you. When this conference ends and you disperse to your various regions and take your places in your various formations, what will the task of each one of you be?

How will you address the burning issues that face our people? How will you address the question of the children and guide their every day lives?

As workers, how will you address the question of workers rights?

How will you address the question of violence which threatens our people?

How will you address the issues which face us on the path towards a democratic constitution? How can you help bring about an elected constituent assembly to ensure that the outcome of negotiations is indeed the democratic, nonracial and non-sexist one which we seek?

In other words, I am asking you to take action to help ensure that the future of our country matches the aspirations for which our people, and particularly our women, have struggled for so long.