Mr. Chairman, Sir,
Today, we, black and white, peoples of many nationalities and continents, representatives of different social systems, are met here as one. For us, this is a wonderful occasion. It is wonderful for us who have grown up and matured in conditions which foster always and continuously to reckon in terms of race, colour and nationality, in terms of black jobs and, lately, Zulu jobs and Tswana jobs, and white jobs; black locations and white suburbs; the black oppressed and the white oppressor; and even unto death, black cemeteries and white cemeteries - always and continuously race, colour, nationality.
It is wonderful for us who live cheek by jowl, and under the iron heel of an all-pervading and consistent racist terror, shut up behind the iron curtain of apartheid South Africa, where every day we have to bury hundreds of black infants, black juveniles, and black adults, all normal, every day black victims of a stupendously anti-human and murderous machine. This one born dead, that one starved to death, the other shot dead by a policeman or whipped and clubbed to death by his employer, another his life knocked out of him in a prison dungeon, and yet another hanged by his neck until he is dead - exactly for proving human enough to succumb to the pressure of this society which could not but turn him into a criminal anyway. It is wonderful for us to be here because we draw strength from the knowledge that dark and hellish though our condition may be, in our strivings to change it, the great humanity is with us. For we are met here today as one because we all have identified a community of interests and aspirations and declared a coincidence of purpose, namely the destruction of racism, apartheid, and national oppression.
It was, Mr. Chairman, a measure of the importance of that purpose in man's many-sided struggle for a better world that this Committee, whose tenth anniversary we are marking today, was set up by the United Nations General Assembly, charged with the task of uninterruptedly pursuing the goal of the destruction of apartheid. It is equally, Mr. Chairman, a measure of the strength, the tenacity and seriousness of purpose of the racist forces in South Africa and abroad and, correspondingly, the relative weakness of the anti-racist forces in South Africa and abroad that we are meeting here, ten years after the establishment of your distinguished Committee, not to hail and celebrate a great international victory against the enemies of mankind, but rather and yet, to plan further, to prepare to fight, and to fight harder, for the victory which has thus far proved elusive.
That said, Mr. Chairman, we take this opportunity to express our unequivocal appreciation of the work done by this Committee in the critical period of the past ten years. Its record can only be described as outstanding, thanks to the militant combat spirit with which it has tackled its tasks and the support it has drawn from the overwhelming majority of the United Nations Member States and mankind as a whole. We particularly welcome the importance which the Secretary-General, Mr. Kurt Waldheim, attaches to the work done by this Committee in pursuance of the decisions of the United Nations General Assembly and in the service of mankind. We recall that the Secretary-General's predecessor, His Excellency U Thant, an uncompromising opponent of the apartheid policies of the racist government of South Africa, consistently underscored the important role of the Special Committee on Apartheid in the struggle for the liberation of the oppressed people of South Africa.
We would like, on this occasion, to pay tribute to the devotion and dedication with which successive Chairmen, Secretaries and distinguished members of the Special Committee have, individually and collectively, applied themselves to the fight against apartheid.
We note with deep satisfaction, Mr. Chairman, that the countries presently represented on this committee, and not the least of them your own country, the great Federal Republic of Nigeria, are each and all foremost opponents of apartheid and white minority rule. The task of planning and directing United Nations action against this apartheid regime and its international allies devolves worthily on this high-powered Committee. We of the African National Congress attach a special significance to the occasion which brings us here today, for we were privileged to play an active role in the deliberations which led to the formation of this Committee.
Our association with the Committee was further strengthened by the fact that three months after the establishment of the Committee, the historic Rivonia arrests took place in South Africa when the national leaders of the oppressed people, topmost fighters against apartheid and for social justice and human dignity, were brought to trial as so-called "criminals" and faced death at the hands of a regime that had been condemned as a notorious perpetrator of a heinous crime against humanity. The historic resolution adopted by the 18th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1963 demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Nelson Mandela and all other political prisoners held by the apartheid government of South Africa was a great triumph for the Special Committee on Apartheid.(1)
Today, the national leaders of Rivonia fame, saved from the gallows by their great courage and by the solid support they received from the entire world community, continue to serve their harsh imprisonment on Robben Island and elsewhere in South Africa but they remain strong in spirit, convinced as ever before that the just cause for which they and thousands of others have suffered, for which they are prepared to continue suffering, will yet triumph.
As at Sharpeville, so at the time of Rivonia and since, apartheid South Africa has been facing increasing isolation from the vast millions of the world's peoples. The racists feel their isolation and the world's hostility to apartheid with so acute a level of desperation that they regard every inconsequential communication between them and the rest of the world as a significant breakthrough, but all their attempts to whitewash and sell apartheid to the world public through such agencies as the South Africa Foundation, have failed to break the isolation of the regime. Likewise, all attempts to use African independent States, members of the OAU, as agents and propagandists for apartheid, have failed. Attempts have been made to withdraw the issue of South Africa from international politics and to present it as a purely domestic matter. These attempts have also failed. But apartheid can be relied upon to go down fighting.
And so a new effort to break out of the isolation is now underway, conceived and jointly directed by racist South Africa and her Western allies. Leaders of African ethnic and regional communities in South Africa have been forced into the paradoxical and unenviable positions in which they seem to see the salvation of our people in the defeat or failure of the world anti-apartheid movement and in the further strengthening and perpetuation of the exploitative system which holds our people in virtual enslavement. From these positions, they set out to call for more international backing for apartheid. It is not that they are at fault; it is rather that in its desperation, apartheid is fighting for its own survival, with all the means, methods and persons at its disposal. But these new efforts will, like all others, fail. The world's forces ranged against apartheid and racism are continuously growing in number and strength.
Mr. Chairman, in spite of the undoubtedly notable achievements of the world movement against apartheid, this obnoxious system persists. Indeed, South Africa is today economically stronger than she was ten years ago, and as we have always known, that greater strength has meant the greater impoverishment of our people, a greater suffering, intensified destitution. It is a greater strength used with the aim of extracting even greater wealth from the pitiless toil of the great labouring black masses of our country.
This Committee, in countless valuable publications, notably the publications of the Unit on Apartheid, has documented this fact enough and more to show all honest men that even the economy is not a neutral social sphere affecting all either ill or well indiscriminately. Rather, it conforms to the social order and is indeed the base on which has been built the whole edifice of apartheid South Africa with its lying doctrine of racial supremacy and the brutal practice of extreme national oppression and the consistent dehumanisation of, especially, the African people.
South Africa has accumulated that strength, in no small part, as a result of her continuing and increasing investment - financial, trade and technological links - with certain countries which have chosen to defy not only the United Nations, but also the mass of their own peoples. Today, South Africa's defence force, police, the intelligence agencies and the armaments industry are stronger than they were ten years ago. Coupled with this, the last ten years have seen an extension of that country's anti-democratic repressive legislation, and an intensification of its application, which already at the 22nd session of the General Assembly in 1967, was condemned by the United States delegation as constituting defiance of the United Nations and as being a brutality which was leading to violence in South Africa.
Again, Mr. Chairman, South Africa has accumulated this strength through her continued contact with certain countries which have chosen not only to provide South Africa with the material economic base to defeat the intentions of the United Nations, but also to defy the Security Council's arms embargo; countries which have sat down and counted the cost of observing that embargo and computed that there is profit in the continued misery of our people, that there is profit in arming the racists to gun us down in our countless thousands in future. It is on the basis of her accumulated strength that racist South Africa has in the last ten years become increasingly more defiant of the international community not only by intensifying the system of apartheid domination, but also by refusing to recognise the United Nations termination of their mandate over Namibia, and by building up and underpinning, in the words of the General Assembly, "the entente between the governments of South Africa and Portugal and the illegal racist regime of Rhodesia, the activities of which run counter to the interests of international peace and security".
With South Africa losing her international positions, Ian Smith and his clutch of rebels would never have dared their unilateral declaration of independence because then there would be nobody immediately at hand to give them aid and comfort and to serve as a conduit to the rest of the world. More, without South Africa's continuing support, Smith would not have dared embark on his aggressive policy of confrontation with the Republic of Zambia, which has resulted in the disruption of Zambia's economic life and continuing loss of Zambian lives. Without the backing of the South African racists, the will and the ability of the Portuguese colonialists to continue their wars of domination in Africa would be significantly reduced. South Africa's continuing intercourse with certain countries, Member States of the United Nations, has seen to it that the South African racist enemy we have to deal with today is stronger than the enemy that we had to deal with ten years ago.
Are we, then, Mr. Chairman, saying that the efforts of your esteemed Committee and the practical actions taken by the majority of the United Nations Member States against apartheid have all come to naught, that the declarations by the vast majority of mankind against the continuation of apartheid have all been to no avail? No. That we cannot say. To be sure, there has been, so far, failure to dislodge the apartheid regime, but the failure cannot be blamed on the Special Committee on Apartheid, but rather, and firstly, on the United Nations and its Member States. Some countries, permanent members of the Security Council, have in the last ten years, continuously and contemptuously betrayed the mandate vested in them as principal defenders of the principles embodied in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They have done so, not merely by acts of omission, but more by deliberately promoting and encouraging the policies of the apartheid regime in South Africa. By refusing to break their ties with the apartheid regime, and hypocritically pretending to take action against the South African regime in Namibia and the other white minority regimes in Southern Africa, they have sought to annul the effectiveness of any action taken by the international community against these regimes.
Secondly, the blame must be placed on the failure of the international community to recognise that external pressures are of limited effectiveness if they do not go hand in hand with substantial and all-round practical material assistance to the liberation movement, the sole force capable of bringing liberation to an oppressed people. Finally, failure must be blamed on the liberation movement itself, and the masses of the oppressed people who carry the main burden and responsibility for the conquest of freedom and independence in South Africa.
We shall not, Mr. Chairman, attempt, at this session, an analysis of the forms which international action has taken against apartheid, and the lessons to be drawn from the successes and failures of that action. We propose to combine such analysis with a consideration, later in the course of these meetings, of the trends in the resistance against apartheid in South Africa. We have no doubt, however, that the main lesson to be gleaned from the experiences of the past ten years is the inevitability of the defeat of the forces of apartheid, racism, and colonialism in South Africa and in the rest of the African continent.
Thank you, sir.
1 General Assembly resolution 1881 (XVIII) of 11 October 1963