Ladies and gentlemen,
Exactly eight months ago to the day, in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, Heads of State and Government of the Commonwealth countries assembled to debate the South African issue, strictly from the point of view of what the Commonwealth wanted to do to bring about an end to the apartheid system. The question was whether sanctions or no sanctions. Part of the reason why we are gathered here today is that that question has not yet been resolved. We meet to address the same question that the Commonwealth faced in the Bahamas. The invitation to us to address you on this occasion, which we greatly appreciate, and your presence, demonstrate the profound interest and concern of the Royal Commonwealth Society over developments in southern Africa.
It would seem to us clear that in the recent past a good deal of progress has been made towards the clarification of various issues. This relates not only to the issue of what should be done to end apartheid, but also the question of what should take its place. The current international debate hinges, therefore, on the question of how to make this country, Britain, take its proper position among the countries of the Commonwealth and the majority of the international community of nations.
As we know, in its recalcitrance, Britain is not alone. The problem of how to act effectively on the South African situation boils down to the question of how to win, how to compel the support of the United States, Great Britain and the Federal Republic of Germany for the cause of the victims of apartheid. The positions that these countries take are supportive of a crime against humanity, the permanence of white minority domination over the black majority.
Recently the debate has come to concentrate on the question of the effectiveness of measures to be imposed upon Pretoria in order to bring about as peaceful a resolution of that country's problems as possible. Questions are being raised about the effectiveness of economic measures, the possibility of their adoption universally, their impact on a liberated, post-apartheid South Africa, their effect on the independent sovereign States of southern Africa and related issues. All these questions are part of the ongoing debate.
But there are pointers, very clear pointers, to the direction that this debate is taking. I have referred to Nassau, the striking unanimity of the Commonwealth countries, save for the position of Britain. From Nassau came the Commonwealth Group of Eminent Persons. They were directed to examine that situation and see whether the Pretoria regime was ready to behave in such a way as to make it unnecessary, perhaps, to consider sanctions. The Eminent Persons have passed their judgment, and it is in the hands of the international public.
Twice in the recent past, the United Nations Security Council has met, again to consider action arising out of developments in southern Africa. Twice, resolutions intended to see the international community take action were defeated by the veto exercised against those resolutions by the United States and Britain.
Last week, a World Conference to discuss sanctions against South Africa met in Paris, attended by many countries of the world, with delegations led by foreign ministers. That Conference came to the conclusion that the demand of the situation in South Africa on those who want to see a resolution of that problem is sanctions.
Violence Perpetrated against Millions
And we think it is important that as we debate these questions, we should never forget that there is a horrendous situation in which violence is being perpetrated against millions of our people every day - as a matter of course. We refer here not only to the daily shootings, the bestialities inflicted on demonstrators and detainees and the vicious campaign of terror carried out against all who are opposed to the apartheid system - churchmen, whole religious communities, students, professors and teachers, workers, peasants, mothers and even children. No one is excepted.
Nor is this the end. It is certainly not the beginning. This is the situation we have endured since the beginning of the apartheid era. It simply gets worse and worse. Thousands, hundreds of thousands of people have perished under the apartheid system, and because of it. The suffering has been massive and it worsens day by day. The imposition of a state of emergency is evidence of a worsening situation.
And so in a sense the international community does not have the leisure to be taking its time, debating inconsequential issues such as the fact that action in the form of sanctions will affect all the people of South Africa, including the victims of the apartheid system.
It is idle, in the face of the destruction in terms of life which the apartheid system has caused, to be saying nothing should be done, because blacks will suffer. That kind of argument displays lack of knowledge, lack of appreciation of what apartheid has been and continues to be. It is the pain of apartheid that we want to stop by ending apartheid. We are not asking for pity for our suffering. We are asking to be supported for the sacrifices we are ready to make and are making. The burdens that sanctions will bring upon us are a sacrifice we are prepared to make.
The death that we suffer in the course of struggle is a sacrifice we are ready to make. We ask for no pity. We ask for support from those who, we believe, in our position would feel compelled to do what we are doing to seek to end the pain of apartheid.
It should also be remembered that as long as the apartheid system and the apartheid regime feel free to take their own time over what should be done, for so long shall we wait, before those of our people who have been consigned to prison for more than two decades, shall be released. Outstanding leaders of our people and many others are being held this minute as caged animals simply because they dared to demand the liberty of our people. They were caged, Mr. Chairman, when I came into this hall. This minute they are still there.
To their credit, their morale is as high as it ever was before, because they continue to have faith that the international community is on their side, not simply by way of declarations, but by using its great potential to change the fortunes of the apartheid system in favour of the majority of the people of South Africa and southern Africa as well.
We speak also of the inhuman burden imposed on millions of our people who have been banished to the bantustans, the countless numbers of children who die from sheer hunger, the tens of thousands at Crossroads and others like them who are being forcibly uprooted and literally shot and butchered to compel them to live elsewhere to satisfy the apartheid designs of the Botha regime. When we talk about sanctions, we are addressing the current, ongoing misery that these people must bear.
Our People Challenge the Apartheid Monster
In addressing the question "what is to be done", it should be borne in mind that as each day passes and no action is taken, so an extra day is added in the perpetuation of this crime against humanity. Those who refuse to act accordingly make the resolution of the South African problem more complicated. But because our people are not sitting passively, but are suffering bravely, they are challenging the apartheid monster. They are seeking to do and achieve what the international community would want to see - an end to the crime against humanity.
There is no need for us here to go over the ground that has so brilliantly been covered by the Commonwealth Group of Eminent Persons. It should suffice that we emphasise only some of its conclusions. These are that the Botha regime is determined to maintain the apartheid system of white minority domination by force; that its so-called reforms constitute an attempt to strengthen this system; that violence against the people is an inherent feature of this system; and that the firm belief that the leading Western Powers will not impose sanctions has encouraged the Botha regime to pursue its apartheid policy regardless of its complete rejection by our people and the rest of the international community.
The Group of Eminent Persons has also recognised the fact that, in the light of all this, we have no alternative but to fight and has correctly warned of an impending catastrophe of immense dimensions. To avoid that eventuality, the EPG has called on the Commonwealth, and indeed the rest of the world, to impose effective economic measures, which means sanctions, against apartheid South Africa.
One of the most pressing questions that arises from all this is what the British Government should do in response to this Report, to the situation which obtains in South Africa and to the demands of the public, both here and abroad. We believe that the British Government can no longer shirk its responsibilities to act decisively in support of the democratic, anti-racist forces of our country. The fact that this country also has the honour to be one of the permanent members of the Security Council imposes on its government an obligation to act for justice and peace in South and southern Africa.
Failure to do so not only lowers the prestige of the Security Council but also puts in question the usefulness to the world community of the institution itself. It surely cannot help to strengthen the Commonwealth, of which the people of this country are justly proud, that one of its leading members, the United Kingdom, should treat its collective view with contempt.
Call for Comprehensive, Mandatory Sanctions
What we are calling for, and have been urging for decades, are comprehensive and mandatory sanctions now. We are convinced, advisedly, that a long drawn-out conflict in South Africa will most certainly result in the destruction of the economy, to say nothing of the scale of death of which the EPG and leaders of the Commonwealth such as President Kaunda have so repeatedly warned.
The argument for selective and incremental sanctions is flawed exactly because it perpetuates Pretoria's belief that this country and South Africa's other trading partners will only act merely to defuse pressures for meaningful action. It is also an argument for imposing sanctions in such a manner that South Africa should be permitted the possibility to adjust and to weather the consequences of each specific action.
Take, for instance, the call for a ban on new investment. The fact of the matter is that new investment in South Africa has all but dried up because of the obvious crisis in the country and the related parlous state of the economy. Simply to impose such a selective measure would be to send a signal to the Botha regime that the British Government is still resolved not to act in any serious way.
The argument for comprehensive and mandatory sanctions is, of course, that such a massive blow would make it almost impossible for the apartheid regime to continue in power for much longer. Such comprehensive measures would naturally include financial and trade sanctions, an oil embargo, the termination of air and maritime links, ceasing of all cooperation in the nuclear field and the closing of all loopholes with regard to the embargo on arms and other materials related to the military capacity and the repressive State machinery of the Pretoria regime, as well as other measures within the sphere of comprehensive sanctions.
It will certainly be argued by some that we are being exceedingly unreasonable to make such a call. To this we can only reiterate the point that the alternative to all this is that we will be left with nothing but the inevitable choice to fight it out with everything we have. Indeed, we will always be doing this. The consequences of this are, as was once said, too ghastly to contemplate.
And yet, the prospect of something too ghastly to contemplate can be no deterrent to a people who are determined to have their freedom. It is not the power of the apartheid machinery, or even its efficiency, that is the determining factor. It is our humanity. It is the fact that we are people, we are human. We have decided to liberate our country and ourselves, to get rid of a crime against us and humanity. We will make all the necessary sacrifices to achieve that end.
Intervene on the Side of Humanity
Those who equivocate on the question of economic sanctions are preparing conditions which will ensure that what most people would want to avoid does in fact occur. It has been called a "bloodbath", "the reduction of South Africa to a wasteland". Prospects of a bloodbath and the reduction of South Africa to a wasteland will not stop this struggle. We would much rather that no blood was lost, that the country was left intact. But not at the expense of our continued enslavement. It is in the hands of the international community, perhaps today I should say in the hands of the Commonwealth, especially the head of the Commonwealth, to intervene on our side, on the side of humanity.
In the light of this it will not do to persist with arguments that the black people and the neighbouring States will suffer from the imposition of sanctions. We have dealt with that. The key factor is that in the absence of sanctions, the conflict with all its consequences will multiply itself a hundred-fold, and more. We believe also that the time has come for an end to the interminable debate about the effectiveness or non-effectiveness of sanctions.
Practice itself has answered this question. To add to this, the Pretoria regime has admitted publicly how much it fears sanctions, exactly because of their effectiveness. According to the Proclamation declaring a state of emergency earlier this month, it is an offence to "encourage or promote disinvestment or the application of sanctions or foreign action against the Republic". If sanctions were of no consequence and would have no effect, it would not have been necessary for Pretoria to adopt such a position.
We are at war against the apartheid system and its inhumanities, for the right to be human in a land of humans. We, therefore, are determined to fight, alone if necessary. In that sense we view sanctions as a complementary form of action to the struggle we are waging, and must intensify, within the country. We do not see sanctions by themselves as ending the apartheid system. We see them as aiding the speedy end of the apartheid system.
An important element in that struggle is the mobilisation of all our people, including our white compatriots, to act against the apartheid regime. The argument that sanctions would drive whites into a laager fails to take into account the fact that many whites are in fact joining this struggle. We are convinced that as the price for maintaining the apartheid system rises, so will it be clear to many more of these white South Africans that the time for change has come.
We are convinced that a consensus in favour of sanctions has emerged in this country. We are encouraged by the positions that various sections of the British public have taken, including some among the business community. We are convinced that given the political will there exists today the possibility to oblige the British Government to act in a meaningful way.
At the same time there still exists a great reservoir of opinion in this country which cannot be described in any other way than racist, I'm afraid. This was reflected in a newspaper yesterday which made bold to state that "African blacks, inside and outside the Republic, (are) for the most part so backward". "African blacks" means black people in Africa. Some, of course, are in South Africa. They are all "backward". And the point that is being made in the article is that the international community tends to forget the factor of race - they are "backward" because they are black. The writer concludes that they are backward and "white supremacy (in South Africa) is there to stay".
These comments are made in the context of explaining the positions of the British Prime Minister in opposing sanctions, and suggests that she appreciates this fact of "backwardness". But the writer also believes - we submit wrongly, we wait to be proved wrong - that the majority of the British public are also aware of this "backwardness" and therefore the permanence of white supremacy in South Africa. And if that is the position, who would want to oppose white supremacy, if it is going to be there forever? This is given in explanation of the position of the British Government. It is an opinion credited to the British public.
If the Commonwealth breaks up because of the intransigence of the British Government, it would be an unfortunate but inevitable conclusion that those who have the power to decide will have been influenced by such racist notions as were reflected in the newspaper to which we have referred. The impression we have, that the British Government considers as not very important the views of the Commonwealth as opposed to those of its NATO and EEC allies, emphasises the need for the British Government to act correctly if it is not to be seen to be contributing to the exacerbation of world racial tensions.
And we trust that the countries of the Commonwealth will not allow themselves to be dragged into an alliance against the people of Africa, however "backward" they may be, into an alliance against the people of southern Africa, into an alliance with apartheid. The time calls for great firmness.
Unconditional Release of Political Prisoners
We have, in the past, said that the unconditional release of all political prisoners is a prerequisite to any consideration on our part of a negotiated settlement of the South African question. Nothing has happened in this regard except a continuing and stubborn insistence by the Botha regime that these leaders, as well as the ANC as such, must renounce violence - and this in a situation in which the most massive violence against our people is being perpetrated every day, violence which is being hidden behind the most comprehensive news blackout that our country has ever seen.
We are convinced, as the EPG was, that the Botha regime is not ready for negotiations. Nevertheless, we remain of the view that the campaign for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners must continue to build up to even higher levels of intensity.
Surely it should be obvious to everybody that once these patriots are released unconditionally and the situation thus created for all our leaders, across the entire spectrum of the democratic movement, to come together and have the possibility of discussing the situation as it is today, and its demands, as well as the way forward, this would also provide the possibility for us to address even the question of negotiations as a leadership. Once this happens, we can then address the question of negotiations, on the basis that a demonstration has been made by the Botha regime of its seriousness about negotiations.
Those of us who have lived in southern Africa over the past ten years have experienced the attitude of the Pretoria regime towards negotiations. The record is dismal. It has never negotiated anything seriously, not with the Mozambicans, not with the Angolans, not with the Namibians. We do not want a repetition of so-called meaningful negotiations.
Pretoria must prove its bona fides. It is not possible to negotiate with someone you totally distrust in regard to his aims about negotiation. We will not participate in giving the Pretoria regime the possibility of extending its lease of life by pretending to be negotiating. But it can demonstrate its serious intention to negotiate. Its words do not add up to anything. It is its actions that must speak.
The next few weeks are very important to us because, by their concrete actions, the Government of Great Britain, the rest of the EEC and the United States will demonstrate whether they are ready and willing to take sides against apartheid by imposing sanctions or whether they insist on continuing to underpin white minority rule which prevails in our country.
If the Botha regime, as it claims, has not used a tenth of its might against those who want to see a new order in South Africa - a nonracial, democratic and united South Africa - if they have not used one tenth of their might against us, then neither have we used a tenth of our strength. We count on all who are present here to act in support of our cause; to push the British Government to join those who would want to stop the Botha regime from pushing South Africa over the brink.