Question: The ANC lays great emphasis on unity. How do you see the question of unity with such groups as PAC and other small groupings inside South Africa?
TAMBO: The ANC has always encouraged the unity of our people inside the country. We have campaigned ceaselessly for united action. We have called on our people in the various organisational formations, in different political units, to fight on their own fronts; but also to address the common enemy, and to do so in unity with everybody else. That covers all political organisations, all ideological trends. It addresses the workers, the South African people as a whole who are opposed to the racist system of education. That is why the ANC was pleased, to say the least, when the UDF was formed because that created a platform exactly for united action.
Now and again there are slight differences, but by and large the ANC pursues the position that whatever we differ about, let us be united in defeating and destroying the apartheid regime. Some organisations, for example, don't quite accept every word that the Freedom Charter says. We accept that. We continue to try to convince them that the Freedom Charter poses the alternative to the apartheid system; that there is no other answer. But, even when they differ with any article in the Freedom Charter they still believe that the regime should be overthrown. On that basis we say - let us act together.
Question: Your statement says that Conference resolved the struggle must escalate. In the light of the SADF aggression in Botswana, will the ANC be able to secure itself from such attacks?
TAMBO: When we decided on armed struggle we accepted its consequences. It was a declaration of a readiness to sacrifice. On the other hand, when the regime persists in its apartheid system in the first instance, and also in killing our people, subjecting them to a succession of massacres, it also must accept the consequences of its actions. We have declared war on apartheid. The regime has declared war on all opponents of apartheid. But we declared war because apartheid was war against the people anyway.
From 1948 when the Nationalist Party came into power it pursued policies which were a declaration of war on the people, on the international community. This has been particularly manifest during the last decade when the leaders of our region have complained of an undeclared war against their countries. So, the region is unavoidably in a state of continuing war of one degree or another, and it will be in that state of war until the war is ended. The war will end when the Nazis of our region are defeated by our people and the international community, which knows about Nazism.
Question: The regime has been making changes to some of the laws that govern the system - the Immorality Act, etc. Do you think that the changes taking place in South Africa will have an effect on the freedom struggle vis-a-vis the scaling down of the freedom struggle?
TAMBO: Apartheid expresses itself in may ways. Small ways, big ways. There is something fundamental about apartheid; there is something superficial. Not so long ago we were not allowed to go into the same lift.
When I say we, I mean blacks - non-whites, as we were called. That restriction was removed. That was many years ago. Since then the struggle has waged on - apartheid has continued killing, it has even crossed its own borders and killed freely in Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola, Seychelles and in this country - it has continued despite the removal of that restriction, because the removal of the restriction of going into a lift was not what we were fighting about. We are not asking to be allowed to go into a lift with anybody. And the same thing applies to trains; now you can go into any compartment. That has nothing to do with what we are fighting about.
But if anything, this is a demonstration that the regime cannot rule in the same old way and is trying to appear different by ruling in a slightly different way, which is superficial and unrelated to the apartheid system which remains as vicious, as murderous, as aggressive as it ever was - as defiant of international opinion as it ever was, proceeding to install puppets in Namibia in the face of the opposition of the international community. That has not changed.
These are manifestations that the regime cannot stand still any more. But it is not moving in any substantial way. We have to ensure that it moves. It is beginning to have doubts about the permanence of the system after all. It is hoping to perpetuate it nonetheless. It must be convinced that it cannot succeed and the struggle must develop and escalate to convince the regime that there will never be an end to this struggle until the system is abolished and a new system rises to take its place.
Question: Do you see the difference between the terms nonracial and multiracial? You use the term nonracial.
TAMBO: There must be a difference, that is why we say nonracial and not multiracial if we wanted to. There is a difference. We mean nonracial, rather than multiracial. We mean nonracial - there is no racism. Multiracial does not address the question of racism. Nonracial does. There will be no racism of any kind and therefore no discrimination that proceeds from the fact that people happen to be members of different races. That is what we understand by nonracial.
Question: In the escalating struggle, how do you see the question of sanctions?
TAMBO: The South African regime is illegitimate in relation to the majority of the people in South Africa. It has imposed itself on them. It is white minority rule that is imposed on the majority of the people. Therefore the regime is illegitimate and we want this to be recognised with all its consequences. If anything, the declaration of the regime as illegitimate is a justification for action to be taken to allow the people of South Africa to have a legitimate government of their own choosing. So it goes back to the question of the removal, the abolishing, the destruction, of the apartheid regime and hence the isolation of that regime and all the measures that constitute pressures on the regime - sanctions, disinvestment, cultural, other economic pressures and other acts of isolating the regime. The regime has imposed itself as a kind of colonial power over us, but that is not enough.
It is also criminal and is perpetuating a crime against humanity. We are making the point here again that power in South Africa must be held by the people of South Africa as a whole, not by a white minority, not even by a black majority but by a majority of the people of South Africa as a whole. Such a government will be legitimate; it will derive its mandate and authority from the people.
Question: There have been reports in the run-up to Conference, some allegedly well-sourced, which say that ANC Conference might reconsider the movements's hesitancy in the past about hitting militarily what are termed soft targets. Did Conference arrive at any closer definition of what it would regard as a legitimate military target?
TAMBO: I will summarise the position taken by the Conference in these terms: that the struggle must be intensified at all costs. Over the past nine to ten months at least - at the very least there have been many soft targets hit by the enemy. Nearly 500 people have now died in that period. That works out at about 50 a month, massacred, shot down, killed secretly. All those were very soft targets. But they belong to this sphere of the intensification of the struggle because when people were killed they did not run away, they kept on at all costs, and went back into battle at all costs. In the process some innocent people were killed, some white some black. What we have seen in the Eastern Cape and places like that is what escalation means for everybody. The distinction between "soft" and "hard" is going to disappear in an intensified confrontation, in an escalating conflict. And when the regime sends its army across the borders to kill people in Botswana, including nationals of that country, and nationals of other countries, they are hitting soft targets - very soft, and not even in their own country.
That is not the end of the story. Exactly because of that the regime must be removed, at all costs. Therefore the struggle must be intensified, at all costs. The question of soft targets was quite out of place during World War II, to mention a big war. Ours will be a small one, but we are fighting the same kind of system. It was Hitler who attacked, it is the apartheid system here which attacked, and we are fighting that system, our own version of Nazism. I think the distinction between hard and soft targets is being erased by the development of the conflict. I am not saying that our Conference used the word soft targets. I am saying that Conference recognised that we are in it. It is happening every day. It happened two days before we started our conference - a massacre in Gaborone. We did not complain that soft targets were being hit, because they have been hitting them, as I say, all the time. What we did was to recommit ourselves to intensify our struggle until that kind of massacre, until the system which makes massacres and conflicts necessary, is abolished by mankind, and we stand ready to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve that objective. We call upon the African people everywhere to stand ready to play their role. We call on Africa and the international community to come to our aid and also play their part in getting rid of a system which is abhorrent to themselves. The struggle will be escalated.
Question: I have two questions. One, the excuse that has been given about not imposing sanctions against South Africa is that some of the Africans from the neighbouring States, about 1.5 million, who work in South Africa, would suffer, including some of the blacks in South Africa itself. What does the ANC have to say about this? The other question, Mr. President, is on the new members of the ANC (NEC) - one white, two Coloureds and two Indians - you talked about. Do they hold any specific positions in the movement?
TAMBO: Well, for a long time now, of course, we have heard this question of the Africans in South Africa being the first to suffer; the African States in our region being the first to suffer, if sanctions are imposed on South Africa. Let us assume that this was true, as indeed it is. So what do we do - do we fold our arms! The Africans are afraid to suffer and so they surrender to the apartheid system and to their enslavement! The African States are afraid to suffer and so they must continue to have this aggressive, dominating regime in their midst! No. We accept that we will sacrifice. It is part of the struggle. It is not suffering. Suffering arises from feelings of pity, fear. These people who are involved in the struggle - the workers who get dismissed every day because they have gone on strike continue to go on strike, notwithstanding, until they have got what they want - know what sacrifice means. It is the only way to do it. It is not a genuine proposition. It is used by those who are in fact likely to suffer most. That is, those who are getting the best out the status quo, out of the system - they will suffer.
But typically they push us forward and say no, it's the slave who will suffer if we end slavery. No. The countries of southern Africa have made their position clear. They are not going to ask for sanctions, but they will not oppose sanctions. They won't go to the United Nations and argue against sanctions because they agree that although it will cause problems for them, it is a correct strategy. And we are talking about countries which know suffering, which have lost thousands of their fellow men, women and children in struggle, in an armed struggle, which was a correct strategy to gain freedom. There is no country in this region which can say "I'm afraid to sacrifice for freedom", because every country has witnessed how thousands of people were murdered - thousands in Mozambique, in Zimbabwe, hundreds in this country, thousands in Angola - all fighting for liberation. No country here can say we are afraid to sacrifice, we are afraid because our economies will be put into difficulties. It is more than economies which have been put into difficulties. Lives have been lost in struggle and it was a struggle basically against that kind of system that we are facing today.
Of course South Africa now and again gets representatives of these countries to say we'll be affected. But they are not saying there must be no sanctions, that the apartheid regime must stay put. Some of our own people are campaigning around, virtually defending the system, saying don't hurt Pretoria, no disinvestment. They are not speaking in the interests of the liberation of our country. They are speaking in their own interests.
The second question: No, the National Executive Committee was only elected at this Conference. There are only three people who are elected to definite positions, that is the President, well, I hold that position, the Treasurer General, Thomas Nkobi, was elected to a position; the Secretary General, Alfred Nzo, was also elected to a position. The rest will be assigned their portfolios, if you like, or tasks in due course. So far they don't hold any positions. We have been a movement that has been united in our actions. Some of those who have been newly elected, not just the white ones, but the Africans as well, have been holding positions of one kind or another. They will be assigned afresh, either to different positions or to the same position. So far no decision has been taken.
Question: On your strategy of fighting: So far the ANC has been attacking only buildings and... and offices, but avoiding attacks on the whites themselves. Do you intend to change this strategy and start attacking the whites...?
TAMBO: That's not quite the correct presentation of our position. We have not been avoiding hitting whites as whites. There was no policy of hitting buildings instead of whites. This is not the distinction that we have been making. If we have made any distinction it has been to avoid hitting people. But what I have said here is that in the course of intensification of the struggle the distinction between soft and hard targets - buildings and people - will naturally disappear. In the intensified situation, in the intensified conflict, in the course of escalation, that is not going to be avoidable. It has already (happened). Amongst the 500 people I'm mentioning, there are many whites who have been affected.