Events across the globe in the past twelve months have moved at a new speed, in some instances, a dazzling pace. The period from the Lisbon coup to the installation of a transitional government in Mozambique, representing a rapid process of demolition of a colonial system, was characterised by a breathless succession of a historic transformation. The competition for time between the forces for progress, pressing hard for victory, and the forces of imperialism, seeking to gain time, for regrouping and for counteroffensive, raised the whole tempo of conflict, and set a new urgency in the speed for executing political programmes - it introduced a kind of jet-era in the world of struggles for social transformations.
In relation to this new era of speed, we, the ANC, have to identify our position. Do we not belong to the past? Are we properly marching with the times?
I am glad to say that the ANC certainly has the potential if this meeting is anything to go by.
For at no time have we at brief notice assembled such a representative meeting attended by delegates from such remote places.
This is a sign of vigour and vitality, if it is a sign of nothing else. It means we can rise in unison to respond to a challenge, to give answer to a clarion call to attack with massive might as our people have done before, as our own MK has done in the recent past. It means that, at least politically, the ANC is yet a force - may be ill-managed, poorly directed and badly led - but still a force.
It is therefore with a feeling of strength and power that I wish, in the name of our beleaguered and fighting people, to congratulate you all for successfully solving all problems that stood in the way of your attending this meeting. Like an army of our people, you did not stop to reason why, you assembled as ordered.
I welcome you, comrades, to this meeting of the National Executive Committee. I look forward to being able, at the end of the meeting, to congratulate you, again in the name of the leaders of our movement who are not here - members of the NEC in jail or hospitals or elsewhere on duty, to congratulate you on successfully solving all the problems, that are before you, as broadly indicated by the agenda.
But while I am sure that we have the potential to keep in step with the tempo of our times, I am equally sure that we have not so far wholly tapped that potential.
To ask you to participate at this NEC meeting is part of the effort, on the one hand, to broaden the level of decision-taking in matters of policy, and on the other hand, to increase our capacity for the mobilisation of all our forces within the movement and internationally.
We must together assume responsibility for the leadership of our struggle and for the involvement of all our members and people. The ANC must be turned into an efficient and high-powered machine, able to lead a mighty and victorious struggle.
The Organisation of African Unity
Having analysed the situation and decided on the action to be taken, this meeting must address itself to the task of turning our movement into a power. The Revolutionary Council of the ANC met here last week. The Ministerial Council of the OAU meets in Dar next month. Both meetings focus exclusively on the struggle of our people in South Africa. The NEC must fortify and give political coverage to the former; it must give guidance to the latter.
This meeting, in its timing, has an element of inevitability: It proved impracticable to hold it earlier; it would have been irresponsible to delay it further. It had to take place this week, on the 17th day of this month, rather like the inevitability of an infinitely greater event on the 17th year of this century. Let me invoke the revolutionary genius, discipline, determination, vision and sheer hard work which went into the Great October Socialist Revolution in calling upon you at this meeting to gear our movement for the accomplishment of the hardest task that has faced any people in the colonial history of Africa - a movement entrusted by history with a glorious and noble task - the conquest of power for the people from the high concentrate of racists, capitalists, colonialists and imperialists who have turned our country into a veritable bastion of reaction.
A rapidly changing balance of world forces has shifted revolutionary battleground in Africa to our country, and has confronted us with an immediate challenge - complex in its content and global in its dimensions.
- Within our country, the meaning of a liberation struggle under arms, and the inevitability of its success has been demonstrated afresh by FRELIMO and other liberation forces, in addition to the examples of Vietnam, Algeria, Guinea-Bissau, Angola and the 1973 Middle East October war.
- The masses have seen the great possibilities of their own liberation movement and look to us for guidance and leadership into action.
- Our great workers are spearheading the offensive and increasingly harassing the exploiters as part of the struggle for the seizure of political power.
- A new generation of young revolutionaries, embracing all races, is beginning to take to the political battlefield.
- The bantustan policy is under challenge.
- Our gallant women are becoming restive, and those of them with us here have displayed a devotion to service which does great credit to the glorious record of our fighting women in South Africa.
- The demand for the release of the people's leaders from imprisonment has taken firm root in the country.
On the other hand, the white liberal politicians, ever ready to diffuse the tides of revolution, are sparing no energies in pursuing their accustomed reformist campaign - now given surprising encouragement from surprising centres in Africa.
An intensive, concentrated propaganda campaign with echoes in Africa, America and Western Europe, has been unleashed on our people, designed to make them relax to false hopes of "change" within the general context of a spirit of so-called detente, whereby, fascism, with all its unchanging nature, is expected by some miracle to make a voluntary and even unsolicited surrender of its power and domination in peaceful response to demands by some spokesmen.
But the fascist enemy, under the smoke screen of precisely this peaceful-solution talks - this talk of "development", "cooperation", "financial aid" and "detente", to mention but a few of its newly found slogans - is feverishly and rapidly strengthening its defences of the status quo in our country, recruiting allies from among our own anti-imperialist ranks, and moving out in a determined bid to break up, or sow confusion in, the international solidarity front which has contributed so massively towards the defeat of Portuguese colonialism and which has helped bring radical progressive transformations in other parts of the world.
In the situation which we thus find ourselves today - in the interval of time since the Lisbon Coup - it can be said our struggle stands at a temporary crossroads between, on the one hand, mounting an all-out and all-round offensive to carry forward and lead the struggle against the fascist regime, the mighty front of anti-imperialist forces which swept in our favour during last year; and on the other hand, yielding ground to the imperialist pressures symbolised in John Vorster, sponsored by the imperialists and now eulogised by his new admirers as a "peace maker", "the greatest diplomat in Africa". Is it within our present capacity to shift from the crossroads and embark on a level of struggle in our country worthy of this time in history, in the history of southern Africa?
This is not a theoretical, or rhetorical question. It is a practical question to which this meeting must seek the most objective answer. It is a question about:
- The objective facts of the situation in South Africa;
- Our tactics in relation to the main areas of conflict in that situation;
- How we build support for the struggle among our people and among progressive forces in different parts of the world.
It is a question about:
- How, as a revolutionary movement we are organised for this great task.
Nothing has happened to justify change in our strategy of armed struggle. Much has happened to necessitate a review of our total effort in pursuit of the strategic objectives.
Much is happening in Africa to require of us to restate the objectives of our struggle. In this connection, let me emphasise that in its essence, the forthcoming meeting of the OAU Ministerial Council is not a meeting about "detente". It is a meeting about the goals and future of our struggle, and future of a people colonised, oppressed, exploited and subjected to racial indignities. It is a meeting about the future of Africa.
From our point of view it is a meeting to initiate the onslaught on the stronghold of white minority rule in Africa. It is a meeting whose results will test anew Kwame Nkrumah's declaration, since adopted by all African States, that the independence of any one African country is meaningless, repeat meaningless, except in the context of the total liberation of Africa. This meeting of the NEC appropriately takes place before the OAU meeting, to let the voice of our people be heard on what we are fighting for, what support we need, and who we consider to be our comrades-in-arms and allies in that struggle.
We pay tribute to all our friends, supporters, brothers and comrades-in-arms, to the countries on the frontline of struggle who have sustained us and other liberation movements. We salute the great FRELIMO, President Samora Machel and the Mozambican people.
Our brothers in Tanzania, President Nyerere, TANU, the Government and people of this country no less than President Kaunda, UNIP and the Government of Zambia continue to enjoy our confidence, based on our experience of them in the past 15 years.
To say that our people are genuinely disturbed by current developments in which the South African regime features with such dangerous prominence is precisely to express this confidence and to appeal to them to leave the world and our own people, in no doubt as to their known commitment to the total liberation, complete Uhuru and majority rule in South Africa.
Having said this let me say once again, that we have the inescapable responsibility to make the sacrifices necessary to bring us the Uhuru we demand for ourselves. It is sacrifices which constitute the best definition of what we want, the most persuasive and irresistible appeal for support, and the highest inducement to our brothers and friends to supplement our sacrifices with their own.
Therefore, to you, remembering our leaders in prison, recalling our women's struggle, mindful of our youth, knowing the militant struggle of our workers; to you, sitting here over our destiny - in this year of destiny - when revolutionary Mozambique becomes independent across our borders, when we observe the 20th anniversary of the Freedom Charter and the 25th anniversary of June 26, to you I commend the business of this meeting.