We meet in the wake of great international gatherings concerned with the building of a future of peace, progress and friendship among the peoples comprising the world community. Within the course of the last two months, there has taken place the historic Oslo Conference concerned with world support for the national liberation struggle against colonialism and apartheid in Africa,(2) the tenth Summit of the Organisation of African Unity, a new and growing force for progressive change in the world; and more recently, the epoch-making International Trade Union Conference on Apartheid, held in Geneva,(3) which brought into the united struggle against injustice the organised might of the working peoples of the world.
These great meetings are part of a trend which is increasingly focusing the international conflict between oppressed and oppressor on the situation in southern Africa and Guinea-Bissau. This region of the world, this part of Africa is assuming new dimensions as the battleground in the bitter struggle between justice and injustice. This is firstly because of the new dynamism and movement which marks the present stage of liberation struggles in Africa, and secondly, because of the escalation of international concern at the persistence in Africa of the twin evils of colonialism and white minority rule.
In South Africa, the long stalemate since Rivonia is undeniably over. Everywhere in southern Africa our struggles are gathering a new momentum and our peoples are striking out in several directions against the apartheid and colonialist regimes. There is no peace anywhere for the enemy. They live in a state of apprehension, doubt and fear. They no longer strut about with arrogant confidence in the permanence of their power. Instead, they are now frantically directing their energies into repairing the floodgates which menacingly threaten to burst open in revolution throughout the southern African region. They are a minority subjected to increasing isolation by the formidable and growing world progressive forces supporting the cause of liberation and independence. Their diminishing circle of friends consists of a small coterie of Western governments with their big international corporations who have so far succeeded in maintaining the yoke of Portuguese colonialism and racist minority rule on the people of Africa.
June 26: South Africa Freedom Day
This meeting has been called to commemorate two significant events in the history of the peoples of Great Britain, Portugal and Africa.
On 26 June 1950 the opponents of colonialism and racism in South Africa rose in united action against a regime installed in their country by British governments claiming to act on the authority of the British people. We lay at the door of successive British governments the responsibility for the perpetration of racist crimes against the peoples of Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
26 June has become a rallying call for determined struggle until freedom is won - freedom from all the cruel consequences of British colonial and current policy, and for the naked inhumanity of apartheid rule. When that day comes, there will also have come, for Africa, the end of colonialism and white minority rule, and a new relationship will have been struck between the British people and the African people.
In June 1373, the governments of England and Portugal entered into an alliance for the pursuit of a common cause. Nothing illustrates the enduring character of this alliance more truly than the 500 odd years of Portuguese domination of the peoples of Guinea-Bissau, Angola and Mozambique, and the 300 odd years of white domination of the peoples of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
The alliance persists. The determination of Portugal to meet the demands of the African people with military force, has its counterpart in the determination of the British Government to feed economic strength to the Vorster regime, thereby enabling the latter to meet the demands of the people of South Africa and Namibia with force.
In the light of this record alone, Britain's intimate and apparently irrevocable commitment to colonialist, racist and illegal regimes, which have as much contempt for change as they have for human life, is impossible to explain in terms of a residual concept that continues to see the African as being basically an object of European domination and exploitation who must be forcibly subjugated and then exploited.
But in the profound changes characterising the alignment of forces today there is an important lesson for all those involved in shaping the destiny of mankind. The resounding victories of the peoples of Indochina have buried for all time the myth, so assiduously cultivated by imperialism, that superior military power is a decisive force in the making of history even when confronted by a determined people fighting for a just cause. Vietnam has demonstrated that the old imperialist policy of force can no longer ensure continued enslavement of peoples. The world forces fighting for national liberation, independence and against exploitation of man by man have proved their supremacy in the field of armed conflict. This has set in motion the great changes in the world scene which further confirm the inevitability of defeat for the forces of reaction.
Special significance was given to South Africa Freedom Day when, in 1955, the South African liberation movement held a mass conference in Johannesburg to adopt what came to be known as the Freedom Charter - the first major programmatic statement of aims and policies which has since guided the African National Congress and its allies in their united struggle for the liberation of the African and other oppressed people, and the construction of a new and free South Africa for all the people who live in it.
In the course of this long struggle, we have come to know that our enemy resides not only in South Africa, but also in London, in Paris, in Washington and elsewhere; that our right to self-determination and independence, no less than that of our brothers elsewhere in Africa, is usurped not merely by the small white minority class who hold the reins of power over us, but also by the powerful boards of company directors based in the capitals of certain Western countries, who, encouraged and protected by their respective governments, have managed to foster and serve a particularly brutal form of colonialism in our country.
Southern Africa: the Focus of the Conflict
I have suggested that southern Africa is becoming the new battleground in the conflict between the oppressed and the oppressor, and that all our enemies are joined together in an international colonialist conspiracy whose aim is to maintain the status quo in our region. For this reason alone, we of the liberation movements are objectively required to recognise the mutual interdependence of our struggles in South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Angola, Guinea-Bissau and other parts of Africa. This mutual interdependence equally derives from our historic responsibilities to complete, in collaboration with independent Africa and our friends in the world, the liberation of the African continent. The OAU Summit recognised this responsibility when it stated, in its solemn Declaration of Policy:
"The struggle to eradicate the last vestiges of colonialism and racism - those scourges which are a constant threat to world peace and security - this is the greatest contribution by the peoples of Africa to the efforts being made by the peoples of the world to establish justice, freedom and peace."
The OAU went on to declare its "conviction that for this struggle to be effective, the liberation movements (of southern Africa) must present a united front against the common enemy."
The spread of the struggle as simultaneous actions erupt in different parts of the region serves to generate pressures for increased operational unity between the liberation movements. Every action in one part of the southern Africa creates a new consciousness among the people in other parts of the region. The sense of unity deepens as it finds expression in joint struggle against the common enemy for the common cause. The objective necessity for united struggle compels coordination of activities and mutual support in various forms. All our movements hold to the strategic perspective of armed struggle and this in itself is a strong force which unites all of us.
For these reasons I welcome this opportunity to share the platform with my brother, Marcelino dos Santos of FRELIMO, and to reaffirm our fundamental unity of purpose and our common determination to meet our responsibilities to our peoples, to Africa and to the cause of world freedom and justice.
In asserting our unity and our common cause we do not of course ignore the diversities and historical and other factors peculiar to our respective countries, which not only determine the conditions and tactics of struggle, but also influence the pace of progress in each sector of conflict. One of the peculiar features of the South African situation is the advanced level of production relations in an economy which is part colonialist in character. This has inevitably given considerable importance to industrial action in the struggle for national liberation.
But the essence of our position is that whatever the disparities in our objective conditions, all our peoples and movements throughout the region must as a matter of policy confront the common enemy in continuous struggle everywhere. Unless the enemy is so engaged, he will succeed in concentrating his forces to liquidate our national liberation movements one by one. Hence, if our movements are to counter and destroy the strategic policy of apartheid South Africa, which construes southern Africa as a military unit and whose defence line is the frontier zone stretching along the Zambesi to the Indian Ocean, then we must give battle everywhere, undertake struggles of many forms and force the southern Africa regimes to disperse and so weaken their ability to rule over our peoples. The need to do this is recognised by all our liberation movements and they do not accept the notion that the liberation of southern Africa is only feasible through a piecemeal process of step-by-step advance from the north to the south.
The South African Struggle
The march to the summits of political and economic power in South Africa is no easy walk, as Nelson Mandela so aptly observed. The arrest of ANC leaders in Rivonia on July 11, 1963, was the signal for a decade of the most violent and the most intense repression known in the history of the national liberation struggle in South Africa. And yet it was precisely during this offensive that our people continued in struggle and faced up to savage torture and tyranny. In the historic armed clashes of 1967 and 1968 large quantities of arms, ammunition and military equipment of various types were captured from Rhodesian and South African troops and in the fullness of time will adorn Africa's museums as a monument to the supreme cause for which the people of South Africa and Zimbabwe fought together. To be sure, we have sustained severe setbacks in this period. But what is important is that the ANC fought back and the masses never lost heart.
For ten long years, year after year, trial has followed trial as our militants were captured by the enemy, tortured viciously and then dragged to jail via the farcical formality of court judgments. Today, only three weeks before the 10th anniversary of the Rivonia arrests of our leaders, six avowed enemies of the criminal and wholly inhuman system known as apartheid have been sentenced to terms of imprisonment of up to 15 years.
A South African judge, himself a hopeless captive of the same system, and guided solely by laws whose basis is itself criminal and inhuman, has found the Pretoria Six guilty of the so-called crime of going to Africa and Europe to study and acquire knowledge not available to Africans in South Africa, guilty also of another so-called crime of attempting to bring about an end to a crime against humanity and secure the emancipation of the people of South Africa from the racism which enslaves the whites no less than the blacks. This trial, like all its predecessors, was no more than an exercise in wanton persecution. The only appropriate reaction to this type of kidnapping of our people is for the world to demand the release of Theophilus Cholo and his five colleagues forthwith, as well as the release of all other men and women of our country who have been captured in this manner. For its part, the ANC notes this latest kidnapping act, and warns the South African regime that the act will not deter our people in any way.
The fascist violence of the 1960s has only helped to assert the invincibility of the liberation forces and the absolute certainty of ultimate victory for the oppressed. They have now recaptured the initiative and the struggle moves to the offensive.
The recent workers' strikes in South Africa are not an accident of time, they are an organic part of a process. They reflect a stage in the progress of the struggle. Ten years ago, the fascist regime would have opened fire on the strikers. Today to do so would be playing with fire. In desperation the South African regime might yet do so. But that will not be the end of the struggle. It is much more likely to be the beginning of the end of apartheid rule.
The strikes occurred in the context of militant political activity directed against the white supremacist structure in South Africa, and embracing not only the workers, but also the peasants, the middle strata, the churches and the youth and students. The aggressive mood of the masses manifested itself in the resuscitation of the powerful South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), the Natal Indian Congress, the establishment of the Coloured Labour Party, the Black Peoples' Convention and SASO (the South African Students Organisation). For the first time in the long history of apartheid repression, students in the white English-speaking universities became the victims of brutal police attacks in the course of actions taken in support of demands against discriminatory educational policies and apartheid generally.
It is common knowledge that the bantustan plan imposed on our people for the perpetuation of white supremacy in South Africa and lately in Namibia, is meeting vigorous opposition from the overwhelming majority of the African people. It is facing mounting opposition from the masses who are being herded into the congested reserves and who demand political power and land with growing impatience.
The African National Congress rejects the partition of our country, the fragmentation of our people into tribal groups, and will recognise no "territorial boundaries" within the country presently known as the Republic of South Africa. The ANC rejects the right of a self-appointed white minority to claim 87 percent of our country as its "homeland" and designate a tattered patchwork of barren land comprising a ludicrous 13 percent of South African territory as "homelands" for the African people. South Africa belongs to all the people of South Africa as their common homeland. The resources of the country are the common wealth of all its people.
The challenge that faces the liberation movement in South Africa is to galvanise the people into a more united force and lead them into more effective forms of struggle for power and for freedom. We have no doubt that we shall meet this challenge. On this anniversary of South Africa Freedom Day, and as our contribution to the general struggle against colonialism and imperialism, we pledge ourselves and our people to fulfil this lofty task.
Some Urgent International Issues
The new sense of movement in the South African situation which I have attempted to describe is matched by a sharpening of the international alignment between those who wish to maintain the South African status quo and those who are our friends. This at least was made clear in the International Conference on Colonialism and Apartheid convened by the United Nations in Oslo recently. The Conference was an important event; its proposals have been transmitted to the United Nations Secretary-General and will be discussed at the 28th Session of the General Assembly later this year. These proposals are certain to form the basis of a new United Nations programme of concerted international action to eradicate colonialism and apartheid. The conference was attended by participants from over fifty States, the Southern African liberation movements, the Organisation of African Unity, from specialised agencies of the United Nations and by specially invited experts. It was undeniably the most authoritative conference ever held on the Southern African question. I commend the proposals of the Oslo conference to you because I believe they represent a real turning point for international policy on this question. They deal not only with the legitimacy of national liberation struggle against Portuguese colonialism and apartheid, but also with the necessity to support that struggle both materially and by the mobilisation of national and international pressures against those countries and governments which support their regimes. Significantly, neither Britain, France nor the United States attended the conference.
However, it is to the current debate in Britain and elsewhere about the poverty levels of African wages and the role of foreign capital investment in South Africa's apartheid economy that I would like to devote some attention here. This debate, now the subject of an investigation by a committee of the House of Commons and which has elicited statements from the British and the American governments, is long overdue if only because it concerns what I see as the heart of the economics of South African colonialism.
The ANC has long called for the ending of all foreign capital investment in South Africa. This call arose from our analysis and understanding of the nature of the South African economic system. We see the economy as essentially structured by a colonial-type relationship between the white minority and foreign capital interests on the one hand, and the African people on the other.
South Africa is an attractive centre for profitable foreign investment, precisely because migrant cheap labour in abundance is organised and made easily available to business by the regime as a conscious act of policy. We know that British companies operating in South Africa are not motivated by any desire to bring employment to the African people or to improve the economic condition of African workers. They are moved largely by considerations of profit, their share of the market and the sources of the raw material supplies they require. South Africa provides British capital with a higher rate of return on investment than the rate earned either in Britain itself or anywhere else where British capital investment has taken place. Thus, those who argue that increased foreign investment in South Africa could become an engine for the reform of the apartheid labour system are not addressing themselves to the central issue in the South African situation. If they are, their clear intention is to protect South Africa for continued exploitation by British capital in collaboration with apartheid. The fact is that:
"The conditions under which the Africans live today as outcasts in the land of their birth are the direct result of the pyramidal structure of capitalist exploitation, which step by step, with diabolical ingenuity, has evolved with one purpose - to enslave the African peoples of South Africa for easy exploitation."
It is in this context that we should question the prevailing view that British companies could and should prove to be "good employers" and attempt to increase wage levels to what is called the Poverty Datum Line or the Effective Minimum Level. This indeed appears to be the line of the enquiry taken by the House of Commons Select Committee. And several of the suddenly conscience-stricken companies whose exploitative polices have been exposed by the strikes in South Africa and reports in the British press also appear eager to increase wages to within the range of the national Poverty Datum Line (PDL).
What is the Poverty Datum Line? It is in fact no more than the theoretical minimum income regarded as necessary for an African worker and his family to avoid death through starvation. It is to this minimum level which British companies are now being urged to increase wages. The PDL and other similar concepts to standardise wage rates should be seen for what they are. They are derived from the concept that African wages should not move outside the minimum level necessary for the worker to reproduce his labour and to survive - a concept which ruled in nineteenth century England before the rise of trade unions. As Basil Davidson wrote in 1962:
"Nowhere in the world today, perhaps, does there exist a greater contrast between reputation and reality than between the towering legend of the white man's civilisation and the grim truth of it for the African worker. But nowhere in the world, no less, does there survive a greater contrast between master and servant than survives between the mining company and the African miner."
In concluding my remarks, I must express my warmest thanks to the Anti-Apartheid Movement and the Committee for Freedom in Mozambique, Angola and Guinea for having organised this meeting and brought my brother Marcelino dos Santos and myself together on this platform to convey to you our determination to persist in struggle until our final victory, and to thank you for your support for our cause. The Anti-Apartheid Movement has worked well to build up a strong movement of solidarity among the British people. Through this work we of southern Africa have won important allies and friends in Britain. We consider the future direction of British policy to be of considerable importance to our people and our struggle and I therefore trust that the dynamic Anti-Apartheid Movement will continue its great work in this country and decisively influence the policy of Britain in favour of our cause.
We approach the problems of revolution and struggle in our country with both optimism and realism. We do not underestimate the power of our enemies. At the same time we will never be mesmerised by them nor will we cringe before their strength. On the contrary, we face the colonial and apartheid structures on our continent with the firm conviction, reinforced by history, that, armed with a just cause, flanked and backed by the ever-rising might of the world forces for freedom, peace and justice, nothing but victory shall be the reward for our endeavours. We know that this glorious end will not come without prolonged and bitter opposition by the few who thrive on the misery of the many. But the course of history is unalterable. The victorious end is a matter of determined and united effort. The year 1973 has ushered in a vigorous and determined movement in pursuit of victory. In this historical context, the struggle continues.
2 International Conference of Experts for the Support of Victims of Colonialism and Apartheid in Southern Africa, organised by the United Nations in cooperation with the OAU in Oslo, April 9-14, 1973.
3 International Conference of Trade Unions against Apartheid, organised by the Workers' Group of the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation in cooperation with the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid, in Geneva, June 15-16, 1973.