Twenty years ago last month, a minority of the white minority in South Africa, steeped in the doctrines Hitler sought to impose by force on mankind, seized political power from another section of the white minority and immediately embarked on a vicious offensive against basic human rights. Later that year, the accredited representatives of the world`s Governments, filled with the horror of Nazism and fascism, assembled at the United Nations and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Thus the year 1948 witnessed the crystallisation of two opposing forces: the one, resting on an international base, seeking to advance human rights in all parts of the world and the other, aiming at a studied destruction of human rights for all black people, and spearheaded by a clique of white-skinned men and women in South Africa.
It is fair to say that both forces have made great strides since that eventful year. On the one hand, hundreds of millions of people spread over Africa, Asia and the Caribbean Islands have won their independence and regained their human dignity. A new Africa is being built on the ruins of a colonial era, and a once dominated, oppressed and humiliated two-thirds of the world now forms an integral and acknowledged part of the international community of peoples. This is an indisputable triumph of the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
On the other hand, the bonds of bondage that bound millions of black people in South Africa twenty years ago have since been tightened to the absolute limit, the screws of oppression and exploitation have been driven in without mercy and racial discrimination permeates every sphere of South African life. Basic freedoms, few and far between in 1948, have been ruthlessly whittled away until today there are none worth mentioning. This, also, is an indisputable achievement for the doctrines of baaskap, superiority of the white skin and colonial domination, and is the more sinister because victory for reactionary forces is by definition the defeat of the forces for progress.
These achievements of twenty years of effort in two opposite directions lend special significance to the International Year for Human Rights proclaimed by the General Assembly and underscore the historic importance which the African National Congress of South Africa, together with its allies and sister political organisations and all genuine opponents of Nazism, attach to General Assembly resolution 2307 (XXII) adopted on 13 December 1967, authorising the Special Committee on the Policies of Apartheid of the Government of the Republic of South Africato "Special Committee against Apartheid". "to intensify its efforts to promote the international campaign against apartheid".
In view of the oft-repeated claim by the fascist Government of South Africa that there is peace and calm in that country, and by the big Western Powers that the situation in South Africa in no way constitutes a threat to international peace and security - claims persisted in despite constant warnings not only by the liberation movement in South Africa but also by the vast majority of United Nations Member States - it might be useful to refer to some of the developments in and around South Africa during the past five years.
Recent Developments in South Africa
The South African delegate to the General Assembly in 1963 presented South Africa as an island of peace in a turbulent world, with great strides being made not only in the general welfare of what are contemptuously termed "Bantu" but also in the direction of "Bantu self-government", the Transkei being cited as an example of guided progress towards independence.
Since then, however, the racist regime has had to present the world with the barbarous 90-day and 180-day detention acts invoked to legalise police torture and secret murder, in a desperate bid to suppress the liberation movement; there have been more political hangings and life imprisonments, as well as the greatest number of long-term political prisoners than during any corresponding period in the twenty years of fascist rule in South Africa; the State of Emergency in the Transkei, first proclaimed in 1960, is still in force in this so-called self-governing territory; the much-publicised policy of creating more bantustans in South Africa has ground to a halt in the face of the stubborn resistance of the people; to the unprecedented collection of draconian laws that besmirch the South African statute book, and despite the notorious "Sabotage Act", there has now been added the infamous Terrorism Act.
These measures are not consistent with the prevalence of a state of cordial relations between a white master and his black servant. Nor are they adopted merely to maintain a status quo ante or destroy a subversive liberation movement. They seek to contain a swelling tide of revolution and revolt by the masses of the people against the entire system represented by white racist minority rule. These measures are as inevitable in the short term as they are valueless and even disastrous in the long term - inevitable because those who set out to reverse the course of human history and change the basic nature of living man must need resort to methods that are increasingly offensive and intolerable to man; valueless because these methods must fail and are failing; disastrous because by their racialist orientation, purpose and brutality, their growing effect is to bedevil the future for the very white minority whose interests they purport to serve and protect.
Thus predictably, the logic of an economic policy founded on racial discrimination has forced the South African regime to further tighten the iniquitous Pass Laws by enacting legislation such as the Bantu Laws Amendment Act, more completely condemning the African population to the status of cheap migrant labour for white-owned industries. This law, the Suppression of Communism Act, the "Sabotage Act", the 90-day and 180-day detention laws, the Terrorism Act and numerous sections and sub-sections all combine to form a repressive umbrella under cover of which a reign of police terror has been unleashed and is sweeping through the towns and rural areas of South Africa. The people are being hunted and hounded out of their homes, from one segregated ghetto to another, deported from towns and cities to the countryside, and in the country subjected to house-to-house raids in the course of which weapons of every description are seized and confiscated. Intimidation and victimisation of opponents of apartheid has mounted.
In the meantime, the exploitation of people has become more ruthless as the economy flourishes in an unprecedented boom. While such diseases as tuberculosis are being eliminated among the whites in South Africa, they are taking a heavy toll of life among the Africans and other victims of white minority rule, and nowhere is this more evident than in the bantustan territory of the Transkei.
Armed Struggle for Freedom
It is these and similar conditions, inter alia, that are at once the cause and the effect of the escalating racial conflict between the ruling white minority and the ruled black majority in South Africa, and it is important to warn again and again that this escalation, born of a policy that is strictly inhuman, can only be accelerated, far from being slowed down, by lapse of time.
By the year 1961, it had reached a level which led the African National Congress and the oppressed population of South Africa to decide on armed struggle as the next phase of the fight for freedom. That decision which, it can now be said, will always constitute an important chapter in any analysis of the current political situation in the whole of southern Africa, was not taken lightly. The massive loss of life it entailed, the destruction of property, its implication for individual African independent States and for the peace and security of the whole of Africa and the world were not lost to the African National Congress and its leaders.
But no one familiar with the struggles of oppressed peoples against colonialism and racial discrimination, particularly in the period since World War II, no one conversant with the long struggle of the South African people, and no one who believes wholeheartedly in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can seriously question the decision of the oppressed people of South Africa and their allies to embark on a national revolutionary armed struggle for freedom. For any who may still be in doubt, it is necessary only to refer to the countless resolutions condemning and demanding the abandonment of the policies of apartheid which have been adopted over a period of at least two decades by the United Nations, by its many committees and agencies, by individual Governments, organisations, conferences and groups of men and women in every quarter of the world; to the numerous times that the apartheid regime has ignored and defied these resolutions and appeals; to the mountains of documents and paperwork embodying studies revealing the horrors of white rule in South Africa, all of which make our freedom struggle one of the most thoroughly documented in history; finally, we need only refer to the sustained and mounting violence with which our peaceful and nonviolent struggles were treated, including the series of massacres inflicted on our people when they sought, unarmed, the restoration of their human dignity.
Mahatma Gandhi, the great apostle of nonviolence who founded and perfected his methods of struggle in South Africa, often said that he preferred violence to cowardice, and we may here recall the words of Chief Luthuli in 1964, from the isolation of Groutville, Natal, when he explained the new phase of the freedom struggle:
"However, in the face of an uncompromising white refusal to abandon a policy which denies the African and other oppressed South Africans their rightful heritage - FREEDOM - no one can blame brave and just men for seeking justice by the use of violent methods; nor can they be blamed if they tried to create organised force in order ultimately to establish peace and racial harmony".
Conflict in Southern Africa
There have been other developments in the past few years bearing directly on the struggle against apartheid. The attainment of independence by Zambia, Malawi, Botswana and Lesotho has occurred side by side with the implementation of an expansionist policy by the Pretoria regime, which has for its aim the establishment of an empire ruled over by the white master-race, and consisting of a large number of small black bantustans extending over the whole of southern Africa from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. Zambia refused to be part of this empire or to stoop to the status of a glorified bantustan. Instead she threw her weight behind the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe and the rest of southern Africa. This led the South African regime to strengthen its ties with the other members of the unholy alliance, particularly Rhodesia. Ian Smith Prime Minister of the illegal regime in Southern Rhodesia admitted last year that if the South African Government had not given him assurances of support, he would not have proceeded with UDI Unilateral Declaration of Independence . In fact South Africa can be expected to have encouraged UDI to ensure the existence of a neighbouring white minority regime to which she is now in the process of exporting apartheid.
The rest of the independent African States bordering on South Africa are faced with a choice between supporting the racist regime and supporting the liberation movement and little evidence of neutrality. The masses of the people throughout southern Africa remain totally opposed to white minority rule and fully support the struggle of their brothers in South Africa. The attempts by the South African racist regime to blackmail and bully neighbouring African governments into allying themselves with it is a mean and selfish move to involve these governments in a bloody defence of its inhuman policies in the same manner that it has driven 200,000 whites in Zimbabwe into an unequal war with 4,000,000 Africans.
With the growing scope and intensity of the struggle against the apartheid regime and other members of the unholy alliance of Vorster, Smith and Salazar,Antonio de Oliviera Salazar, dictator of Portugal. the pressure on neighbouring States to become actively involved increases, and the conflict progressively takes on the character of a confrontation between colonial and white minority rule on the one side, and on the other, the combined numerical might of the supporters of majority rule in southern Africa. In this sense the armed struggle against apartheid is the struggle against white minority rule everywhere, and has become inseparable from the struggle of the people of Zimbabwe as well as being an essential part of the struggle for freedom from Portuguese colonialism.
It is these factors, among others, which explain the alliance that has been forged between the African National Congress of South Africa and the Zimbabwe African People`s Union.
The armed struggle launched by these two liberation movements in Zimbabwe has exposed not only the deep involvement of the Pretoria regime in the internal affairs of Rhodesia, but also its sinister designs against African States. Already the South African Prime Minister has repeated wild threats against Zambia. These threats have been followed up by the derailment of trains in Zambia, the blowing up of a bus, the bombing of civilians and very recently the blowing up of an important bridge. The existence of an active unholy alliance of which Vorster is a key member makes it unimportant which member of the unholy alliance is responsible for the attacks.
It is clear therefore that even at this very early stage of the armed conflict the situation in southern Africa, precisely because it now directly involves South Africa, is beginning to have serious international repercussions. When the conflict springs up and spreads, as it soon must, over South African territory, the desperation of the apartheid regime can be expected to make itself felt in the rest of Africa. But let it be emphasised that having started the armed struggle, we shall pursue it with increasing ferocity until the monster of racism and exploitation has been completely destroyed. The probability of an international crisis resulting from our struggle will not deter us.
Vorster`s threats have been triggered off by the fact that already, the South African regime is paying heavily in blood for the crimes it has perpetrated against our people under its apartheid policies. Scores of South African troops have been killed by ZAPU-ANC guerrillas in what are merely preliminary encounters in Rhodesia.
Isolate the South African Regime
So far we have omitted reference to the role of foreign capital and other financial interests of Western countries in the South African situation. This question, however, has been thoroughly canvassed in statements, memoranda and reports now in the possession of the United Nations. What remains to be considered is action which must be taken to induce these countries to withdraw their support for the apartheid regime.
We in the African National Congress have always believed that the honourable task of freeing South Africa rested firmly with the people of South Africa themselves. The task of international organisations was to assist the liberation movement. This still remains the fundamental position of principle from which all international action should be appraised.
We have in the past insisted on sanctions being imposed on South Africa. We believe this demand is more valid now when the armed struggle is in progress than at any previous time. We interpret United Nations resolutions acknowledging the legitimacy of our struggle and calling for moral and material support for it as meaning, inter alia, that member governments should honour and carry out United Nations decisions on South Africa, including termination of trade links with that country. The least the United Nations can do is to enforce compliance with its resolutions by all member States and to consider appropriate action against those countries which undermine these decisions.
Trade with South Africa by Britain, France, West Germany, United States of America, Italy and Japan is no moral and material support for the liberation movement but a deliberate act designed to perpetuate a racist regime in southern Africa. As such, it is a gross violation of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Other international pressures have been enforced in the past. It would be absurd for these to be in any way reduced at a time the struggle of our people requires that they be considerably increased. The impression that South Africa has been totally unaffected by international pressures is one which the well-financed information service of that Government has spent millions to induce. It is a massive international whistling in the dark which South Africa must not be allowed to get away with. The recent hullabaloo over the exclusion of South Africa from the Mexico Olympic Games is an indication of how much the advocates of white supremacy feel international pressure. Therefore the demands for political, military, social and cultural isolation of the present regime remain valid and must be pursued with greater effort, organisation and skill. Such pressures are now an important part of the armed struggle for the overthrow of apartheid by the people of South Africa and are a form of support for our people.
The South African Information Service has vast resources at its disposal and is supported by powerful lobbies in various key countries, through the radio, by means of glossy well-produced magazines distributed free, by means of films shown free whenever requested and, above all, by extolling an economy whose benefits are derived from the brutal exploitation of our people. It is essential that there should always be a worldwide campaign to win the masses of the people to the struggle for the complete eradication of racialism and apartheid.
Struggle will Grow until Victory
Any measures carried out by the international community are, however, only supplementary to the efforts of the oppressed people and their allies. The burden of conquering freedom is theirs. Our armed struggle begins, as always in such struggles, with the oppressed people weak materially, although powerful in the justice of their cause. But it will grow in strength like the triumphant struggle of the great and heroic people of Vietnam. Already in the armed clashes that have taken place, the white fascists have taken a severe beating from the ZAPU-ANC guerrillas. A worse fate awaits them in the coming years. The price to be paid in South Africa and far beyond its borders will be enormously high, but final victory will go to the defenders of peace and human dignity.