This Conference, organised by the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement, is of tremendous importance to the struggle for national and social emancipation of the oppressed black majority in South Africa, and indeed southern Africa as a whole.
This is for two essential reasons;
Firstly, this is the first time that the collective role of the financial, industrial and military institutions, together with their political representatives in the EEC countries, will have come under critical examination in their support of the racist white minority regimes.
To date the African National Congress, together with the anti-apartheid movements and solidarity organisations in the EEC countries, have assiduously exposed the economic, political, diplomatic, military and cultural collaboration between individual member countries of the EEC and the racist South African regime. Undoubtedly, the unmasking of this collaboration has been a vital first and important step for the mounting of political campaigns condemning such support for the racist regime; for isolating the regime and its allies within these countries, and for winning support for the African National Congress and its programme of struggle.
The task in itself is continuing. Each passing day throws more light on the character and scope of the collaboration and of the support enjoyed by white supremacy rule amongst ruling circles in these countries.
At the same time the scope and level of the campaigns in solidarity with and in support of our people's struggle, numerous and successful though they have been thus far, need to become more intense and, above all, need to draw in wider and wider sections of the democratic, anti-racist and progressive forces on the side of the national liberation forces headed by the African National Congress.
This Conference aims to broaden our knowledge, understanding and consciousness to a qualitatively higher level by seeking to examine the collective role that the EEC plays in the maintenance and support of white supremacy rule. This task is of fundamental importance precisely because the EEC has already as a collective pronounced intentions and measures in regard to certain aspects of the struggle in South Africa.
The second reason for the significance of this Conference is that Ireland, as a member country of the EEC, is going to assume the Chairmanship of the Council of Ministers of the EEC from July onwards. In this role the Irish Government can either continue the strategy thus far enunciated by the EEC in regard to South Africa - and basically this places the EEC firmly on the side of reaction and white supremacy rule - or it can seek to influence existing policy in a radically different direction - on the side of the National Liberation Movement in the struggle for a nonracial and democratic South Africa. We sincerely trust that the latter is going to be the direction chosen by the Irish Government. In this direction lies anti-racism, anti-fascism and popular democracy as well as the long-term interests of the mass of peoples in the EEC countries and no doubt, the Irish people. On this road lies the continuation of the anti-colonial tradition of the Irish people who themselves fought against centuries of oppression and exploitation by British colonialism for democracy and freedom.
In any event, this Conference bringing together as it does the forces of democracy, anti-racism and progress who have and are actively supporting the just struggle of the people of our country, will undoubtedly serve as a sharp reminder to the Irish Government of the scope and breadth of the movement against the barbarous tyranny of white domination with its bloodshed, want and poverty imposed on the black majority.
It can only serve to underline emphatically the just nature of our struggle and the worldwide support it enjoys.
Mr. Chairman and delegates,
The African National Congress is in no doubt whatsoever about the importance of this Conference.
We welcome the initiative taken by the Anti-Apartheid Movement of Ireland in convening it.
The more so since the struggle for national and social emancipation in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe has reached a crucial stage, and precisely because increasingly, the decisions and policy positions adopted in the individual capitals of the EEC countries will find collective expression in the pronouncements and actions emanating from Brussels.
The choice confronting the peoples of the EEC countries is simple: To accept passively the support that the finance-industrial-military interests in their countries give to the apartheid regime or to actively oppose this collaboration and side with our people and their organisation, the ANC.
Comrade Chairman and Comrades,
The revolutionary struggle of the peoples of Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa against white supremacy rule and imperialism has been gaining in momentum and depth over the last few years.
This process has been underlined by rapid developments with lightening twists and turns often bewildering to those outside of the immediate arena of conflict.
It is important that we outline the main features and trends of the conflict at this stage.
During the course of the last year, the regimes in South Africa and Zimbabwe have carried out and further intensified their aggression against the neighbouring African states of Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana and Angola. Their criminal raids against peaceful refugee settlements in these countries have accounted for hundreds of innocent victims killed and injured and thousands maimed for the rest of their lives. Among the victims are nationals of the independent African countries which have borne the attacks of the fascist Rhodesian and South African hordes.
Inside Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa repression against the people and their progressive movements has mounted. Prior to the attacks against Zambia, hundreds of leaders of the Zimbabwe African People's Union were arrested; in Namibia the South African fascist regime cleared the ground for its so-called general election by arresting virtually all the internal leadership of the South West Africa People's Organisation. In South Africa, the arrest and intimidation of patriots, members of the African National Congress, has continued and during the period under review hundreds have appeared in the courts of the law and long terms of imprisonment have been passed on scores of them. The South African Gestapo has continued to torture and murder many of the patriots in detention in various police stations and prisons throughout the country.
What conclusions are we entitled to draw from the brief and general picture which emerges above? The activities of international capital in southern Africa which are said to be contributing to the elaboration of solutions of the colonial and racial problems have instead inspired the racist-fascist regimes with more confidence and determination to resist the oppressed peoples' will to freedom and independence.
This has laid bare the real counter-revolutionary intentions of their activity which is aimed at creating further obstacles for the revolutionary forces in the area so as to clear the ground for the victory of the neo-colonial forces. Smith and his gang of traitors in Zimbabwe are camouflaging their treachery behind high-sounding aims of a so-called "government of national unity". This is obviously intended to confuse public opinion both internally and internationally as well and further isolate the truly patriotic and revolutionary forces in Zimbabwe mobilised within the Patriotic Front.
At the same time, the vicious campaign denigrating the assistance given to the oppressed peoples in Africa and everywhere else by socialist countries has been vigorously maintained. The aim of this campaign has always been clear. South Africa's allies seek to break the bonds of solidarity that bind our people with those of the community of nations in order that we should become easy prey for the belligerent forces of imperialism. The progressive forces of Africa are determined that this will not come to pass.
The policies of intensified external aggression and internal repression pursued by the fascist regimes of southern Africa have further hardened the political attitudes of the revolutionary forces in both Zimbabwe and Namibia to the imperialist solutions. SWAPO in a statement issued on the 22nd September 1978 reminded the people of Namibia that there were only two choices - either "a protracted war of national liberation, on the one hand, and capitulation to the forces of fascism, racism and imperialism, on the other". The president of the Patriotic Front (ZAPU), Comrade Joshua Nkomo, has repeatedly stated that the idea of an all-party conference on the basis of the so-called Anglo-American proposal is dead and buried. The only option open before the people of Zimbabwe is the intensification of the armed struggle.
Thus we can say with full confidence that with the present development of the revolutionary struggles of the peoples of southern Africa and in the background of the new successes of revolutionary Africa and the further deepening and expansion of the anti-imperialist liberation movement, the question of the complete elimination of colonialism and racism is on the agenda of the present political life.
In South Africa, the sound of gunfire directed by the revolutionary forces of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the African National Congress, against enemy positions has been heard with increasing frequency lately. In one such engagement which was but a little more than 100 miles from Pretoria, the seat of reaction, our forces inflicted considerable losses on the enemy. There is no longer any doubt that this form of struggle will develop even to higher levels in the future.
We have clearly demonstrated to Vorster and his gang of criminals that their repeated assurances that unlike in Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and other places, there was no possibility of armed struggle ever developing on the territory of South Africa, were nothing but illusions and daydreaming. Organs of the fascist state security now justifiably moan that the much feared African National Congress is everywhere in South Africa.
The decisive feature of South African political life is that strategically the initiative has shifted into the hands of the movement for national liberation, headed by the African National Congress. This has forced the white minority regime into a position of permanent and strategic defensive. This factor governs everything that is happening within South Africa as well as internationally with regard to the question of apartheid. The appointment of Pieter Willem Botha as "Prime Minister" constitutes a public declaration by the racist regime that military might must now take open precedence as the decisive "solution" to the problems besetting the regime. The racists are forced into this situation by the developing strategic realignment of forces that we have mentioned. We expect therefore that there will be greater militarisation of South African society, increased military contacts between the apartheid regime and the military and intelligence establishments of the West, more acts of brutal suppression of the liberation movement both within and without South Africa, and more and worse acts of aggression against the independent African states, particularly of southern Africa. It is therefore a development which emphasises yet again the importance of intensifying our all-round offensive against the Botha-Vorster regime to shorten its lifespan, to reduce its capacity for murder and destruction and sooner rather than later to overthrow it.
The crisis facing the apartheid regime has become a matter of grave concern within the boardrooms of the monopoly and multinational corporations with their vast economic stakes in South Africa as well as efforts by the political representatives of capital to escalate their support for the regime, both overtly and covertly. And the ruling circles within the EEC countries are playing a vital supportive role in this respect.
Besides the political and diplomatic manoeuvres to ease the position of the regime within the international community, where increasingly the voices of progress and democracy have been clamouring for the total isolation of the regime, two crucial elements of support for the racist regime remain part of the strategy of the Western countries, especially the EEC, to maintain and perpetuate the rule of racism and fascism in our country. These elements are economic and military collaboration. And the EEC countries - particularly West Germany, France, Britain and Italy - have become the dominant partners of the regime of terror in our country.
Despite the imposition of a mandatory arms embargo against the South African regime the issue is by no means dead. Much needs to be done to implement an effective arms embargo. The decision taken so far by the Security Council under Chapter VII of the Charter is very important indeed, but it is only a beginning.
It is therefore imperative that this Conference, in addition to its other deliberations, insist that the EEC countries and other major Western governments enact effective legislation, enforceable by law, to strengthen the arms embargo. This Conference should demand a more comprehensive and stricter United Nations embargo.
Of equal importance should be the demand that licences, patents, technology and equipment necessary for arms production in South Africa be prevented and that those already granted be withdrawn.
The transfer of technology and scientific know-how in this sphere must be totally prohibited. Finally it is only through the vigilance and actions of progressive forces within the offending countries that the arms embargo will become a factor in the policies of these countries. The campaign to expose and highlight the sanctions-busting in this sphere in every form that it manifests itself has to be vigorously pursued.
Intimately linked to the issue of military collaboration is that of the proposed rapid nuclearisation of South Africa.
The ANC of South Africa has produced convincing evidence about the nature and extent of external nuclear collaboration with South Africa. The countries most deeply involved in building up South Africa's nuclear capability are France and the Federal Republic of Germany, though other Western countries are also involved both directly and indirectly. These countries make the claim that their nuclear collaboration with South Africa falls within the category of "normal commercial trade" and that in any case the equipment and technology supplied is only for "peaceful purposes". It is remarkable that such a claim can be made when it is some of these very powers which have in the past stated that it is virtually impossible to make any meaningful distinction between peaceful technology and that useful for producing atomic weapons. Besides, it is the major Western powers who, in August 1977, urged South Africa publicly not to proceed with its planned atomic explosion in the Kalahari desert. South Africa has postponed that explosion but no one today believes that the Pretoria regime does not have nuclear capability of a military nature: the disagreement is more about the level of its capability. Who has provided South Africa with the capability to explode a nuclear device if it is not certain of the major Western powers?
Because of the low level of public awareness and concern in the EEC countries about nuclear and military collaboration with South Africa, it is important to mobilise public opinion on this issue in order to end all such collaboration.
It is equally clear that economic collaboration with the South African regime cannot be separated from the issue of South African militarisation or the question of the strengthening of the apartheid regime.
If an effective arms embargo is to be operated and the proposed nuclear programme of the regime is to be frustrated a minimum requirement for this is mandatory economic sanctions.
We are wholly opposed to foreign investment in South Africa. Multinational corporations have invested billions of dollars in the South African economy. These funds have stimulated industrialisation without any improvement in the economic, political and social status of the black people. On the contrary, the more industrialised the country becomes the bigger is the gap in living standards, incomes and power between the white minority and the black majority, the greater is the degree of exploitation and oppression of the majority. Industrialisation under the present regime has contributed enormously to the building up of the racist armed forces and the repressive apparatus for the defence of white minority autocracy. The multinational corporations are already engaged in the production of armaments in South Africa. The weapons they produce are already being used to shoot down the black workers of our country, to kill our children in cold blood. These weapons, produced through the technical-industrial base created by foreign investors, are being used to keep in bondage the people of Namibia and Zimbabwe, to commit acts of aggression against the peoples of Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola.
In what way can all this be said to be in the interests of the black workers of South Africa and the workers of the EEC? Leading politicians and the mass media have elected to be the spokesmen of the forces in the EEC that are striving to ensure that the South African Reich lasts for a thousand years. No amount of demagogy can disguise this fact. We expect the workers of the EEC to demonstrate their rejection of these positions, to use all means in their power to ensure that the EEC cuts all economic links with racist South Africa. If in the process some workers in the EEC lose their jobs, they will by that act have saved the lives of many black people in South and southern Africa. That surely is not too high a price to expect of West European peoples.
It is with this context that we have to examine the Code of Conduct to EEC companies operating in South Africa.
It is interesting to note that this Code, like others emanating from the capitals of other Western countries deeply involved in the super-exploitation of black workers in our country, was rushed through in the wake of the Soweto mass upsurge of confrontation by the black people. More significantly, the murder and repression unleased by the regime of white terror against innocent, unarmed men, women and children in the black ghettos, only drew a response from these centres when the black workers came out in militant and magnificently organised political strikes, thereby threatening the very arteries and heart of the exploitative system in South Africa.
It is precisely to forestall such radical actions in the future that the Code of Conduct was conceived.
It is clear that the Code of Conduct was drawn up to achieve a threefold purpose:
- To put pressure on the white minority regime in South Africa to grant limited political and economic reforms to the oppressed people in order to stem the tide of revolution which is sweeping through southern Africa, and thereby to preserve South Africa as a haven for Western investment.
- To diffuse anti-apartheid pressure from African countries to protect growing European investment and trade in these areas.
- By posing as the genuine friends of liberation in South Africa, to confuse and undermine the anti-apartheid struggle in Europe. The newspapers in the West virtually admitted this at the time the Code was adopted. The London Financial Times wrote that the EEC Code was adopted by the big powers to forestall pressures for the EEC to take stronger measures of economic sanctions against South Africa.
All the Codes of Conduct have the same essential features. They remain silent about the system of apartheid in South Africa, and about those issues which fundamentally determine the position of black workers. They say nothing about political rights for black people, or of the pass laws, segregated housing or unemployment. Only the EEC Code specifically calls for trade union rights for all workers in South Africa, and it is precisely on this crucial question that the Code is ignored.
More importantly, these Codes of Conduct, unless given the force of law, will remain irrelevant and meaningless in the struggle by black workers for better working conditions, equitable wages and the right to belong to recognised trade unions with all the rights inherent to such associations. Left to themselves individual companies, whose aim of maximising profits is in direct conflict with the workers' demands, can, as most of them are doing now, ignore the codes.
Finally in this regard two other points have to be borne in mind:
Firstly, these Codes are attempts to counteract the demands by the African National Congress for complete severing of economic links with the racist regime and in particular the demand for mandatory economic sanctions.
Secondly, it is an attempt to disarm the solidarity organisations within the EEC countries on their support for and solidarity with the demands by black workers for political and economic rights. In the final analysis one fact must be made clear in regard to the argument that economic sanctions will harm the black people most. And this is that our people are not interested in demonstrating to the world how well we can endure apartheid. What we are interested in is ending the system!
Mr. Chairman and delegates,
Let me on the other hand welcome the positive call by some governments within the EEC for stopping the execution of that young freedom fighter Solomon Mahlangu, who, even as this Conference is in progress, is under threat of execution in Pretoria.
Let this Conference add its voice to the worldwide voices of protest and demand for saving his life, and demand, in common with caring humanity, the release of all political prisoners in South Africa.
At the same time we highly value and appreciate the call made by the nine members of the EEC constituting the European Political Cooperation to the South African regime "to complete the release of all those imprisoned or restricted because of their beliefs".
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, the public in the EEC and other Western countries must be mobilised to build up powerful lobbies in their respective countries for:
- Total isolation of the regimes of terror in southern Africa, in particular the multinational corporations must be made to feel that they are working against the vital interests of peoples in their own countries if they continue to buttress the regime of terror in South Africa whose growing potential for aggression poses a very real threat to world peace.
- The exposure and condemnation of the attempts to destabilise the political life in the frontline African countries through repeated acts of aggression by the terrorist regimes which must be exposed and condemned by the people of Western Europe.
- The challenging of the policies of military intervention in Africa by Western countries which should never go unchallenged by militant public opinion, particularly in Western Europe.
- Urgent campaigns calling for the release of political prisoners and saving the lives of those who have already been condemned to death should be intensified. We must remember that Solomon Mahlangu's life is still in grave danger in the South African death row.
- It is essential that public opinion be mobilised to support the programmes of the genuine representatives of the oppressed people and not dubious settlement schemes that are designed only to confuse world public opinion and isolate the movements fighting for genuine revolutionary changes.
The African National Congress is convinced that marching side by side with the powerful forces of progressive and democratic movement whose continued assistance we highly value and appreciate, the peoples of South Africa are bound to win.
I have pleasure in joining the Foreign Minister of Ireland in declaring this important Conference open.
Mr. Michael O'Kennedy, T.D., Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland and Mr. Tambo made opening statements at the Conference.