The special conference on southern Africa, convened by the Socialist International in Harare earlier this year, took place against a favourable backdrop of positive developments towards independence for Namibia, and chances of a durable peace in the People`s Republic of Angola. The optimism we shared in Harare was interspersed with an anxiety based on our knowledge of the dishonesty of the apartheid regime. Regrettably, subsequent events have vindicated these suspicions.

Today, despite its treachery and bloodletting, Pretoria has been forced to concede a formal withdrawal from Namibia. We look forward to a great triumph to be accomplished after November 1st. Yet, precisely because of this possibility, Pretoria has been unsparing of money and schemes in its attempt to disfigure the character of independence. We are all called upon to exercise the utmost caution in addressing that situation. We have to rise to the assistance of SWAPO, which is being assailed from all sides by the racist regime with a view to depriving it of an electoral victory. If these efforts fail, plans are already afoot to destabilise independent Namibia. We look to those who have supported the liberation struggle in southern Africa to attack and expose this vile intrigue against the Namibian people.

Pretoria Threatens Independent States

It is imperative that we also underscore the reality that the Pretoria regime has not withdrawn its commitment to destabilise the Frontline States through bandit groupings and surrogates such as UNITA and the MNR. The countries of the region continue to live under constant threat of direct aggression which has already wreaked havoc, spread carnage and held back development, especially of the SADCC member States, through the destruction of priceless material and human resources.

A news despatch from Lusaka in Zambia reports that yesterday, for example, two separate bomb blasts rocked Lusaka, tearing to pieces an unidentified Zambian male and severely damaging offices of the ANC in Emmasdale, a suburb of Lusaka. The report goes on to say that the scene was a grisly sight of severed limbs flung over a radius of 100 metres, blood among the debris of broken glass. Such are the results of the continuing destabilisation that the Pretoria regime has assigned itself in southern Africa.

Two weeks ago, P.W. Botha declared that he would not hesitate to send his forces back into an independent Namibia, if Pretoria considered that its security was being undermined. Ten days ago, the state of emergency was reimposed throughout South Africa. The apartheid structures, though shaken and weakened by the forces for change, are still in place; people`s organisations remain restricted and proscribed, while political activists are still being restricted, detained, murdered or hanged, and censorship of the media remains stringent.

On what basis can we take seriously the statements by de Klerk, as he aspires to the presidency, that the National Party has recognised that the time has come for apartheid to go? Have we not heard this before? P.W. Botha promised "power-sharing", and now he is going out having orchestrated authoritarianism; B.J. Vorster, before him, once asked for six months to remove apartheid and he went to his grave having reinforced the system. Now de Klerk says apartheid will go, and in the same breath assures his supporters that one person one vote is not acceptable and that "group rights" are not negotiable.

Fundamental Issues Remain

Yet we have been surprised to find that the general election in September, in which of course no African will be allowed to vote, is being perceived in some quarters as a historical turning point for our country. In the face of Pretoria`s propaganda offensive promoting the regime as the agent of imminent change, it is appropriate to remind ourselves of what the issues are in South Africa.

In his last major speech on southern Africa, before the People`s Parliament against Apartheid, held in Stockholm, the late Olaf Palme remarked that the Pretoria regime, faced with an avalanche of opposition and resistance at home and abroad, resorts to a window-dressing exercise couched in terms such as reforms.

"The truth," he said, "is that apartheid in South Africa cannot be reformed as the regime is trying to assert in its advertising campaigns. A system like apartheid cannot be reformed, it can only be abolished."

These words ring true to this day, and stand as an injunction to all those who feel that they have a role to play in the transformation of the system in South Africa.

Our Aim is Full Equality

The struggle of the people of South Africa is not directed towards amending the apartheid system, but at destroying it. Liberation must entail a shift in power relations such that all South Africans can engage in the political process on the basis of full equality, and collectively shape society, establish the institutions of government and adjudicate on how the resources of our country and the product of our labour should be used for the common good.

The bantustanisation and fragmentation of our country and the division of our people can only be brought to an end in a united South Africa. Our commitment to a nonracial society cannot encompass any division by law of the South African people along lines of race or ethnicity nor the exercise of political rights through separate institutions of government defined in similar terms. The rights of all South African citizens can and will be guaranteed in a Bill of Rights.

Our democratic system must provide for the equal participation of all South Africans in decision-making. There can be no doubt that the franchise at all levels must be for common political institutions on the basis of one person, one vote, one constituency.

These demands of the South African people are no different from, or more than, what is universally understood as democracy. There can be no justification for any suggestion that as South Africans we are entitled to less.

The reforms that have been promoted by the Pretoria regime are not a translation into policy of these aspirations of the majority. The changes that have been made do not arise from any desire to dismantle apartheid, but are an expression of the ideas of the ruling group acting in the interests of the white minority in order to deflect domestic and international pressure.

Central to all the reforms made and proposed is the concept of group rights. We reject both the concept and the premise upon which it is based: namely that South African society is composed of mutually incompatible peoples, whose survival and freedom is dependent on political and geographic segregation.

Our People Reject "Reforms"

Experience has shown that democracy can only flourish when rights and obligations are vested equally in all citizens. These rights are negated when their exercise is linked to membership of racial or ethnic groups, for thereby the rights of all citizens are diminished. The concept of group rights, which provides a minority with a veto over the wishes of the majority, carries with it the seeds of continued division and conflict, and hence cannot provide lasting peace or security for either the minority or the majority, whereas a nonracial and democratic system provides a basis for building an enduring security for all South Africans.

There is thus a clear and fundamental divide between the demands and aspirations of the oppressed majority and the reforms put forward by Pretoria.

By their very nature, the changes we seek can only be brought about through the struggle of the oppressed. The steadfast refusal of the majority of South Africans to be coopted into the reform process; the continued resistance notwithstanding ever greater restrictions, detentions and violent repression; the courage and willingness to sacrifice life itself; all testify to the determination to continue to struggle until our objectives have been achieved.

All the evidence indicates that, as yet, Pretoria`s interest is limited to seeking the involvement of black agents in the implementation of apartheid and thereby perpetuating white domination. The regime has singularly failed to take even the preliminary steps that would begin to indicate that it is seriously contemplating negotiations directed at dismantling apartheid.

No Climate for Negotiations

There can be no climate for negotiations in a state of emergency, or when the people`s leaders remain in prison and their national organisations are banned or severely restricted. There is no genuine commitment to negotiate a solution where no freedom of expression, opinion or organisation is permitted, and where even to peacefully seek fundamental change outside of parameters set by Pretoria is held to be treason.

Negotiations are not an end in themselves; they can be a means to the realisation of our objectives, but they must involve the genuine representatives of the South African people and can succeed only when it is possible for all parties to enter into discussions on the basis of equality and with agreement on the objectives to be achieved.

The ANC has over decades expressed its preference for a resolution of our country`s problems through these means, but our repeated calls have always been shunned.

There can be no viable political settlement that falls outside these parameters, for any agreement would not meet the demands of the people, and the "solutions" would be transitory and an even more bitter conflict ensue.

Pretoria persists in its refusal to dismantle apartheid and countenance the establishment of a nonracial democracy in a united South Africa. Experience has shown, however, that every policy shift or even reform, and the divisions among the ruling whites, have come about as a consequence of domestic and international pressures. We therefore call upon the international community to apply effective pressures and to deny the regime the political, financial and material resources to continue to implement apartheid and maintain itself in power. Quite simply, what the situation demands is an intensification of the struggle inside South Africa, as well as the imposition of comprehensive and mandatory sanctions.

We need help also, to stop hangings and judicial murders. South Africa imposes more death sentences per head of the population than any other country in the world, except two.

We ask you to block attempts by banks and international financiers to rescue Pretoria by agreeing to reschedule its foreign debts.

We ask you to take the initiative in forcing the regime to decolonise Namibia and ensure genuine independence before the end of the year.

ES Reddy