May I begin by expressing the thanks of the African National Congress and of my own self to the Greater London Council (GLC), the leader and chairman of the GLC, for arranging this press conference.
We owe this day to a massacre that took place in Sharpeville, South Africa, many years ago now. It shocked the world because although there had been killings, pursued in the interests of preserving the apartheid system, nothing on that scale had occurred since the accession to power of the apartheid regime.
The record of events in southern Africa from Sharpeville to, shall I say, Nkomati, is a record of killings, massacres, armed aggressions by the South African regime, the use of armed bandits in African independent States. It has included invasions of independent African States. It has involved the destruction and devastation of people, the economy and property. And it has led in its own way to the agreement which was signed on the borders of South Africa and Mozambique a short while ago.
The fountainhead of the problems of southern Africa is, of course, the situation in South Africa, the apartheid system. And therefore, the way to resolve the problems of that region is to address that situation in South Africa. It is a situation which has been in the focus of world attention, the United Nations, represented here by Ambassador Sahnoun, of the anti-apartheid movements throughout the world, principally the British Anti-Apartheid Movement. It has been the subject of debates in parliament. The whole world has organised and mobilised to face this apartheid system.
Today there has been much talk about peace in southern Africa, and I believe questions related to peace in southern Africa will feature in the discussions we are going to have here today. The African National Congress has been at the heart of the struggle in South Africa, and because of the policies of the South African regime with regard to southern Africa as a whole, the African National Congress has been at the heart of the struggle in the whole of southern Africa. It has reacted to current developments about peace and security by releasing a statement, portions of which I shall read for the purposes of the discussions we are going to have.
I will be elaborating more on these issues in my statement tonight at the meeting called by the GLC. The African National Congress has stated, and I read from our statement:
"A just and lasting peace in our region is not possible while the fountainhead of war and instability in this area of southern Africa, the apartheid regime and the oppressive system it maintains in South Africa and Namibia, continue to exist. The Botha regime knows that no peace has broken out. Rather, it has resorted to other means to continue its war for the domination of southern Africa. The situation in our region continues to point to the correctness of the decisions of the Maputo Frontline States summit which was held in March 1982. That summit observed that the armed actions and the struggle generally by SWAPO and the ANC must be intensified. It went on to commit the Frontline States to 'intensify their material and diplomatic support for the liberation movements, SWAPO and the ANC of South Africa, so that they can intensify the armed struggle for the attainment of the national independence of their peoples'."
Now that statement was made in full recognition of the fact that the destruction of the apartheid regime and the liberation of South Africa and Namibia constituted the fundamental prerequisites for stability and uninterrupted progress in our region. The commonly agreed position reaffirmed the obligation of the people of South Africa under the leadership of the ANC, to escalate their offensive using all means, including armed action, for the overthrow of the criminal apartheid regime and the transfer of power to the masses. The statement goes on to say: "We remain and shall remain loyal to this perspective".
In this Anti-Racist Year proclaimed by the GLC, we are confident that those who support the elimination of the apartheid system and who seek lasting peace in southern Africa will double and redouble their efforts in seeking to isolate that regime, put pressure upon the regime and above all support the peoples struggling for justice, freedom and independence in southern Africa, especially the people of South Africa and Namibia.
I have read this statement in anticipation of the fact that you may be interested in some aspects of current developments in southern Africa, and perhaps this is all I need to say by way of laying the basis for your questions.
John Battersby (Rand Daily Mail): Mr. Tambo, statements by senior members of the Mozambican Government and the heads of the Mozambique armed forces, and also recent statements by President Kaunda of Zambia, indicate an attempt by the Frontline States to redefine the role of the ANC as a civil rights rather than a liberation movement in southern Africa. It is argued by them that South Africa is an independent country and a member of the UN, and therefore the ANC should assert the principle of peaceful negotiations. Could you comment on that?
TAMBO: Yes, thanks for the question. This is correct. We have been aware of the growing insistence on South Africa being an independent, sovereign African State. The people of South Africa do not regard this regime as presiding over an independent sovereign country because that independence and sovereignty is restricted only to the white population, a small minority of the people of South Africa. Therefore, if you see South Africa as simply a white country of 4½ million people, then indeed it is independent, it is sovereign.
You can enter into agreements with it. But then you are proceeding on the basis that 26-27 million people just don't exist. We reject that, totally. We say South Africa is one country. It has some 30 million people, but it is being run as if it was two countries, the one colonising the other. And among these 27 million are people who are now and again given "independence", indeed, as if they were colonised people. So we don't accept that.
Now, in regard to civil rights. You can have civil rights in this country, or in the United States, because the constitution caters for everybody. The South African constitution excludes the blacks. They are outside the constitution. There is nothing they can do about decisions, policies of the South African regime. They don't belong. They are fighting from outside this white State. That is not a civil rights struggle at all. If we were part of the constitution, if we were citizens like any other, then of course there would be rights to fight for, as there are rights to fight for in the United States. But in South Africa the position is different. Our struggle is basically, essentially, fundamentally a national liberation struggle.
Ms. Letterer (Associated Press): The journalists who covered the Mozambique-South African agreement did in fact write about it as not perhaps a first step towards peace, but certainly as a disappointment for the ANC, and the fact that the ANC was now going to be kicked out of the country that it had been using most prominently to launch its activities against the South African Government. I would like to know what in fact the ANC is going to do now that this agreement is in effect.
TAMBO: Yes, well, first of all there is nothing in the agreement and certainly nothing has been said by the Mozambican Government to suggest that the ANC is going to be thrown out of Mozambique. On the contrary, the Mozambican Government has insisted that it will continue to support the struggle led by the ANC and support the ANC itself politically, diplomatically and morally.
Secondly, it is not true, it simply is not true, that the African National Congress has been launching attacks on South Africa from Mozambique. There is not a single occasion when we did. Of course, we went through Mozambique, an African country, as we have gone through other African countries, to reach our own country. We were allowed to do so. But we launched nothing out of Mozambique. We have launched no attacks from any country into South Africa. This is South African propaganda.
What are we going to do about this non-aggression pact which forbids Mozambique to allow transit to South Africans going back to their own country? Well, we have had many problems like that in the past and that is how we relate to it - as a problem to be solved. What we do know is that our actions have been planned and staged in South Africa. We will continue to do that. We will find a way of intensifying those actions. In fact this agreement is a challenge to the victims of the apartheid system. If we are required to stand alone, fight alone, as the British once did, faced with an offensive from the Nazis, then that is what we are going to do. We are absolutely confident about it. Our people are ready to meet this challenge. It has never been the policy of the African National Congress to burden the neighbouring States of southern Africa with sacrifices that have to be made in order to destroy the apartheid system. They hate that system, and they have supported us out of their hatred of that system, knowing that while it lasted there was no freedom for them, no independence, no sovereignty, no peace, no stability, no progress. And if they are placed under constraint which restricts their capacity to support that struggle, a just struggle, a struggle of the peoples of the world, then the ANC will not complain. We understand.
Representative of Caribbean Times: How do you view the impact of the United Democratic Front?
TAMBO: It is a flowering of a great desire on the part of our people to unite in struggle. It is a very fitting response to attempts by the regime to perpetuate itself through the constitutional proposals or the new constitution. Our people have understood what this means, and they are fighting these attempts and demanding not amendments to the constitution, but its complete abrogation and the emergence of a new society - true democracy in South Africa, power for the people of South Africa of all races, not a white minority. So the UDF is the response of our times to attempts at the perpetuation of a crime against our people and against humanity. It has had a tremendous impact and has reinforced our confidence in the certainty that the apartheid regime will be destroyed by the people of South Africa with the assistance of peace-loving, right-thinking peoples throughout the world.
C.D. Patel (New Life): It is all very well talking to friends like the GLC, but while you are in this country are you expecting to see Mrs. Thatcher or anybody in the Tory Government.
TAMBO: Well, of course I hope that since you are here you are doing something about influencing them to support our struggle and stop supporting the criminals who have brought crime over the whole region of southern Africa. I myself would have liked to meet the Government of the United Kingdom, meet the Prime Minister and find out what she thinks about southern Africa and what Britain can do about that situation, but there are no arrangements for such a meeting...
(Name of journalist unclear): Could you comment on the boycott campaign?
TAMBO: The interesting thing about the sports/cultural boycotts is that they have succeeded so far where other forms of sanctions have not been a success. They have demonstrated that if South Africa is effectively isolated then it will be in the interests of the people in South Africa who support the apartheid system, the electorate, ordinary people, white workers, it will be in their interests to do something about this system. So in the sports field a lot of apartheid barriers have crashed. Not all, but the fact that many have as a result of the boycott is a justification of the correctness of the cultural and sports boycott and we ought to intensify it. We ought to see that we are winning and should put on more pressure. The sports and cultural boycotts prove the correctness of the policy of isolating South Africa, imposing sanctions. What we have not succeeded in doing is to make the economic sanctions and other forms of isolating the regime effective. When they are, the regime will make the kind of adjustments the international community is demanding.
Martin Bailey (The Observer): Do you think that Mozambique could justify the signing of the agreement given its security and economic factors, or do you think it was not necessary to go as far...
Secondly, I wanted to ask you a little about how ANC strategy will develop. You talked of the transit facilities; what other facilities are there for transiting ANC into South Africa...?
Ken Livingstone: I am certain you are not seriously asking Mr. Tambo to discuss the movements of that nature at a press conference?
TAMBO: Now that the second question has been embarked upon, I shall deal with it first. I did say a little earlier that we have had many problems of this kind. It has never been easy. We have made progress notwithstanding. But we don't rely for the development of our struggle in South Africa on the activities of those who are outside of South Africa. They are engaged in international solidarity work, which is vital. We are inside South Africa and I think time will prove that it doesn't help for South Africa to force countries to sign agreements which set them against the liberation struggle in Africa. It doesn't help, because the people who are fighting the apartheid system and that kind of crime are in South Africa, and this is where our strength lies. But as to the extent to which we can reinforce from outside, as ANC and as South Africans, the struggle within, we will solve that problem, and as I say time will show that the agreement has had no effect as far as that is concerned.
I don't feel disposed to discuss what the Mozambican Government should or should not do in a given situation. They must take their own decision in the matter and take positions and pursue them as far as they think necessary from their point of view. I am not sure that in their position I would have gone quite as far as they have, but it must be accepted that the South African Government, the South African regime, had decided to destroy Mozambique, to kill it as a State, and got pretty close to doing so. Mozambique, the leadership of Mozambique, were forced to choose, as it were, between life and death. They chose life, and life meant talking to the butchers of southern Africa, it meant hugging a hated hyena, and they had to do that. For the rest of us, we must accept that position, but defend our own positions, defend our struggle.
The international community has to recognise that Mozambique felt that they had to do what they have done. The international community must not forget that this is not an agreement about the apartheid system in South Africa. That system is there, it is not a subject of this agreement. From the point of view of Botha, the agreement seeks to protect apartheid and we must make sure that apartheid is placed under increasing attack. The Botha regime will want to use this agreement as a stepping-stone to other agreements in southern Africa, and use southern Africa as a stepping-stone into acceptance by the international community. We must resist that. This is a new challenge, therefore, to the international community - to put the regime back into isolation. They are trying to climb out of it, they are trying to put the ANC into isolation instead, and we are calling on our friends to stop them. We are going to stop them by our actions inside South Africa, but we need much greater international support than we have had. And the Frontline States need that too, because if they had been supported adequately politically, materially, militarily, they would not have had to do what they must hate doing. Therefore, this agreement is a clarion call to all those who are the friends of southern Africa, of the Frontline States, to all those who are the opponents of the apartheid system, to do what they have not done so far, that is to come out in solid support, to move their governments to act against the apartheid system and in defence of the countries of southern Africa.
2 President, Anti-Apartheid Movement
3 Mahomed Sahnoun (Algeria), representative of the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid
4 Robert Hughes, M.P., Chairman of the Anti-Apartheid Movement