Ambassadors and Heads of Diplomatic Missions, 
Distinguished delegates and special guests from the world anti-apartheid movement, 
Leaders and activists of the South African democratic movement, 
Comrades and friends,

It is indeed with great pleasure that I welcome you to South Africa, to Johannesburg and to this historic conference, on behalf of our President, Comrade Nelson Mandela, the rest of our leadership and membership, the democratic movement as a whole, and the millions of the people of our country who regard you as true friends, allies who are tried and tested and dependable comrades-in-arms.

Regrettably, President Mandela cannot be with us this morning as he has been advised by the doctors to rest. He however sends you his warmest greetings. He has also asked us to inform you that he will most certainly be able to see all of us before the conference comes to a close.

Dear friends,

We meet in the land of apartheid to discuss what next we should do finally to end apartheid. It would perhaps have been right for us to meet in Pretoria, firmly to make the point that soon the country will be under new management.

We have reached this point thanks to the heroic struggle all of you present in this hall and many others besides have waged to end the apartheid crime against humanity.

To those of the participants who have come from outside South Africa, we say you are here today because by your actions you have brought the system of apartheid to its knees.

It is not the visas you were issued which enabled you to enter the country. It is your steadfast opposition to racism and racial domination which opened the gates at the frontiers so that you who stand for justice could be here today.

You will all remember the times when the champions of racism in this country displayed a breathtaking level of arrogance as they defied the world and steadily built a system which was a direct challenge to all norms of acceptable human behaviour.

You will remember the contempt with which they responded when, one after the other, international organisations in all walks of life expelled the representatives of apartheid and committed themselves to the perspective of a free and democratic South Africa.

And as the actions and the words of condemnation by the peoples of the world grew stronger and more stern, so did the brutality of the Pretoria regime grow more bestial, as though reason and justice could be expunged by the baton, the gun and the hangman's noose.

This should never be forgotten that at the door and, hopefully, on the consciences of the architects of apartheid rests a frightful record of the murder of the innocents, the imprisonment of the best among our people, the exile of tens of thousands, a great swathe of death and destruction which cuts across the whole of southern Africa and the ultimate insult born of the ideology of white supremacy which decreed that all black people everywhere were only a tithe removed from the beasts that roam the wilds.

It may be that the beginnings of the world movement against apartheid appeared then as but a small and lonely voice of protest.

When India spoke at the United Nations against apartheid at the end of the 1940s she alone stood up to speak.

When those who did began boycotting Cape grapes and wines and Outspan oranges and picketed supermarkets, they were few in number.

Their governments, accustomed to treat with the apartheid regime as a legitimate entity, neither saw nor heard those demonstrators.

When we needed to fight with arms in hand, there were few countries even in Africa which had the possibility to extend assistance to us.

When those in exile had to travel the globe to inform the peoples about the apartheid crime, it was a battle to find the means merely to live and a thankless task to generate the resources to fight against this crime.

And yet, because apartheid is truly evil and because there are men and women of conscience such as you who are gathered here, who would not connive at the perpetration of a crime by refusing to act against it, the anti-apartheid movement grew into perhaps the strongest international solidarity movement of this century, bringing together citizens of all countries, governments and international organisations.

This very conference reflects precisely the depth and breadth which this movement attained. Among us we have anti-apartheid activists who have worked selflessly for decades.

We have trade unionists, cultural workers, professionals, students, civil servants, parliamentarians, representatives of governments and international governmental and non-governmental organisations.

I am especially pleased to see so many women here who, by their presence and participation, further the common struggle for the emancipation of women.

With your permission, I would like to mention a few names of those who are among us.

We have outstanding international statespersons, such as our dear brother and friend, Kenneth David Kaunda; the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, Joseph Reed; the champion boxer, Riddick Bowe; the chess grandmaster, Anatoly Karpov; the Mayor of Amsterdam, Ed van Thijn; admiral of the fleet, Rosa Coutinho; Anneke Visser of the Netherlands Police; and a comrade-in-arms of the late Martin Luther King, Jr., the Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker; Mayor Antoneli Spaggeri of Reggio Emilia; and last but not least the Pier Shan (?) of Sweden, the land of the late Olof Palme.

In the end this broad movement against apartheid struck a mighty blow against the system of apartheid, gave enormous strength to our liberation movement, sustained and helped to free those who were in prison, maintained those who were in exile, enabling us to build such lasting monuments to international friendship and solidarity as Mazimbu and Dakawa in Tanzania and has brought us to the point where we can now say that victory is in sight.

Within the next twelve months and hopefully before the end of this year, the people of South Africa - all the people of South Africa - will participate in an historic and watershed election which will mark our break with the past and the beginning of the process of transforming our country into a nonracial and nonsexist society.

Out of that process will emerge a sovereign Constituent Assembly charged with the task of drawing a democratic constitution. There will also be formed an Interim Government of National Unity incorporating parties that will have demonstrated that they have significant support.

In other presentations, my colleagues will explain in greater detail the process of negotiations and other matters relating to the transition from apartheid to peace, democracy and development.

What I would however like to say with regard to these processes is that it is clear that the ANC, the national liberation movement of the people of South Africa, will emerge from those elections as the largest political force in the country.

The ANC therefore represents the hopes and aspirations of the majority of the people of our country. It represents the desire of our people for democracy. It carries the hopes of our people for peace.

It is the repository of the people's prayer for an end to racism, racial and ethnic antagonisms - the embodiment of the people's prayer for equality and national reconciliation.

It carries within itself the people's aspirations for human dignity, underwritten by freedom from hunger, disease, joblessness, homelessness and ignorance.

But the ANC also bears on its shoulders the responsibility to liberate the oppressors - to liberate them from fear of democracy and the future, to free them from a guilt-driven fear of retribution and to dissuade them from any foolhardy temptation to seek an ephemeral security by imprisoning themselves within an armed laager.

We approach all these tasks with all the seriousness they demand. Our programmes will have to address the desperate needs and concerns of the poor and the oppressed - those who were despised and denied the most elementary human rights.

At the same time, our programmes must address the central issues of national reconciliation, national unity and nation-building.

What we can certainly never be is black racists who turn their back on the philosophy which has inspired the ANC since its birth - the sacred undertaking that the cause we serve is the emancipation of all humanity.

Indeed, were we adopt any other position, it would be an insult to you and a betrayal of all those in this country and the rest of the world who sacrificed to secure the liberation of our people.

We joined hands across the globe to achieve the destruction of racism, represented in this country by the pernicious system of apartheid.

When, together, we fought against this system, we saw the imperative to do so because this was racism at its worst, the fountainhead of the same scourge that had borne the name Nazism.

As we progress towards the destruction of this system in this country, we see racism raising its vile head in other parts of the world.

The shameful war that is going on in Yugoslavia with its criminal campaign of so-called ethnic cleansing tells us that our struggle is not over. The racism that is manifest in Germany tells us that the beast still lives on.

The regression of Somalia to the most primitive levels of conflict in which societies are reduced to a collection of mutually hostile clans, each with its own quota of gunmen, says that we still have some work to do.

The challenge confronting all of us is to turn South Africa round - to make of her the opposite of what she has been. Where she has been the exemplar of racism and national antagonisms, we must turn her into the exemplar of nonracism and national harmony.

As our task will not end with the election of a democratic government, so do we believe that your task will also not end at that point.

We believe that we must stand together in creating the new South Africa. When our work is done, let all look at the new South Africa with hope and encouragement - hope and encouragement because she will have demonstrated that it is possible for people of different colours and different races and nationalities to live together in peace and friendship, sharing a common sense of nationhood and humanity.

We have requested you to visit us so that we could discuss all these matters together. Together, we must take South Africa through its transition, together fight against the political violence which continues to afflict our people and together fight to create a climate for free political activity, conducive to the holding of free and fair elections.

We must continue to be together as we sustain the pressure which will produce an internationally acceptable solution of the South African question, as visualised in the Harare and United Nations Declarations on Southern Africa.

We count on your continued material and political support to enable us to complete the first stage of our historic mission of ensuring that the millions of our people exercise their fundamental right of voting for a government of their choice.

The vision we share of a truly nonracial, nonsexist and democratic society cannot be realised if we do not address successfully the issue of development, in the fullest meaning of that word. We will therefore also want to discuss this issue with you.

I cannot close without referring to the armed conflict that UNITA has imposed on the people of Angola. This attempt to subvert and destroy the democratic process in that country should not be allowed to continue. Angola has a democratically elected government which is committed to peace, national reconciliation and development. It deserves our support in the same measure as we must join hands with the sister people of Angola and the rest of the region of southern Africa.

Equally, we must extend our support to the people of Mozambique and make whatever contribution we can to help ensure that the peace process in that country emerges victorious.

We also hope that the negotiations in the Middle East will resume soon and address the fundamental question of the right of the people of Palestine to statehood. We also take this opportunity to call on the Government of Israel to end its policy of deportations and allow the Palestinians who have been deported to Lebanon to return to their homes freely and without fear of persecution.

We also hope that the OAU and the United Nations will act in a determined manner finally to resolve the issue of Western Sahara.

Once more, a warm welcome to you all. I wish you success in your deliberations and have the honour to declare this International Solidarity Conference open.

Thank you. 


The International Solidarity Conference was convened by the ANC and held at NASREC Centre in Johannesburg from 19 to 21 February 1993. It was attended by about 650 international and 260 South African participants. Mr. Thabo Mbeki presided over the conference.

The conference received briefings by ANC on its perspective for the transformation from apartheid South Africa to a democratic society. It adopted a declaration in which participants agreed: (a) to mobilise the international community to ensure that the electoral process was genuinely "free and fair"; (b) to promote maximum possible material and financial resources to ANC to help secure a decisive majority in the Constituent Assembly committed to a new democratic future for South Africa; and (c) to work together, through new forms of solidarity, for the reconstruction and development of South Africa.