We wish to express our sincere appreciation to the Government of Venezuela for receiving the delegation of the African National Congress. We must thank you for the consideration we have received and the excellent arrangements that have been made for our stay.

Four years ago, we came to Caracas to receive on behalf of Nelson Mandela, the newly established Simon Bolivar Award for Peace. Since then, the situation in southern Africa has deteriorated. Nelson Mandela and other leaders are still imprisoned and there is no immediate prospect of their release, while there are thousands of additional political prisoners and detainees. Winnie Mandela, having defied the restrictions which confined her to the remote town of Brandtford, is now permitted to live in Soweto, but is not allowed to leave the country.

Following a referendum among the white electorate, the regime amended the constitution of the country, entrenching the exclusion of the African people from the South African polity and retaining white domination and racism. All sections of the black majority rejected this ostensible reform, and set in process a nationwide campaign to make apartheid unworkable.

Many of the institutions used by the regime to administer apartheid have been destroyed and parts of the country rendered ungovernable, as the people organised themselves into local and national organisations. To meet this challenge, the regime declared one state of emergency after another. Tens of thousands were detained, the black townships placed under military occupation and rigid press censorship introduced. But two years later, Pretoria has still not succeeded in regaining control of the situation.

Last May, Botha called a new "whites only" election, from which he claims to have received a mandate to destroy the extra-parliamentary opposition, in particular the ANC, in order to gain acceptance for the nominal reforms to apartheid that he intends to introduce. Another state of emergency has been imposed and repression further intensified, with thousands detained and tortured. Many hundreds of these are children - some as young as 10 years old. Some are released, only to be re-detained. The whereabouts of others are unknown, and parents live with a desperate hope that they may still be alive.

Notwithstanding the repression, the violence, the daily toll of lives, the oppressed people are resolute in their determination to pursue the struggle until apartheid gives way to a nonracial, democratic, united South Africa. The escalating conflict in our country has overflowed across our borders, with the prospect of engulfing the entire region of southern Africa in a bloody interracial confrontation and seriously threatening world peace.

Already the cost has been high: Since August 1984, more than 3,000 people have been killed in South Africa. In the last decade, hundreds of thousands of people in the States bordering South Africa have been killed and thousands more displaced, as a consequence of Pretoria`s aggression and destabilisation. Over US $ 15 billion worth of damage has been inflicted on the economic infrastructure of the region, while all of Namibia and parts of Angola are still occupied by the racist military forces.

Only determined and effective intervention by the international community can help to limit the scale and duration of the destruction that will precede the demise of the apartheid system. Faced with this appalling prospect we look to friendly and sympathetic countries to help avert the catastrophe.

We have appreciated the role played by Venezuela in the United Nations Security Council. Earlier this year, you voted in favour of a resolution seeking to render mandatory the sanctions package contained in the United States Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, 1986. As usual, a United States and United Kingdom veto frustrated this initiative. We also attach great importance to Venezuela`s vote in favour of the Security Council resolution seeking to impose comprehensive mandatory sanctions on the Pretoria racist regime in the face of its refusal to cooperate in the implementation of Resolution 435. Though once more, the United States and the United Kingdom exercised the veto, your vote ensured that the resolution had the support of the majority of the members of the Security Council.

We hope that Venezuela will now join with us in helping to mobilise the international community to impose sanctions on a local and regional basis pending the imposition of mandatory sanctions by the Security Council. Your own deep commitment to democracy and anti-racism encourages us to ask that Venezuela take the initiative in raising the question of apartheid and action against the racist regime within the Organisation of American States, in both bilateral and multilateral relations. Some Latin American countries have already begun to form Associations of Parliamentarians against Apartheid which are establishing links and cooperating with similar groups in Asia and Europe. This is a particularly welcome development which needs to be extended, and which can be one means of expanding support in this region for the struggle against apartheid.

Despite the General Assembly resolutions calling for an oil embargo and the stated policies of OPEC and OAPEC, the racist regime has continued to obtain supplies of oil, and has thus been enabled to fuel its military occupation of our townships, the continued war in Namibia and its repeated aggression against our neighbours. As an oil-producing country, we hope that Venezuela will lend its expertise to facilitate the monitoring and enforcement of the oil embargo.

The key to a solution in southern Africa lies in the ANC`s objective of a nonracial democratic and united South Africa, which has the overwhelming support of the oppressed majority and a small but growing number of white South Africans. Instead of responding to this demand, Pretoria tries to play upon the fears of the white population and prevent our views and objectives being known among them. Despite this, more and more whites are seeking out the ANC in their search for a solution. Last week, a group of nearly fifty whites, including leading Afrikaners and former supporters of the ruling National Party defied Botha`s strictures and met with a delegation of the ANC in Senegal, in order to talk through our differences as fellow South Africans.

The regime`s recalcitrance stems from a belief that it will continue to be sheltered and the persistent use of the veto will prevent international pressure from being effective.

It is therefore vital that pressure on the regime is intensified. It is only when such pressures begin to make apartheid unworkable and indefensible that the regime will be compelled to seek alternatives and move towards meeting our people`s just demands.

In this endeavour, we are confident we will have the continuing support of the people and government of Venezuela.

Thank you, once again.

ES Reddy