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Twenty seven years is a very long
time in the life of a human being. Long enough for a child to grow into
adulthood; long enough for a generation of peers to pass away; long enough for
once renowned acts of courage and defiance to recede into vague memories; long
enough for the names of those who committed those acts to be forgotten and
buried with the past.

this is what the Pretoria regime hoped would happen to Comrade Nelson
Rolihlahla Mandela when it condemned him and seven of his colleagues to imprisonment
for the rest of their natural lives. That this intention was never fulfilled
owes nothing to the apartheid regime and its ringleaders. It is thanks to the
determination and struggle of the South African people, supported by the
overwhelming majority of humankind, that Nelson Mandela has never been
forgotten. He has instead achieved the stature of the best-known political
prisoner this century. He has already garnered a host of awards and honours,
bestowed upon him by the peoples of the world who recognised him as a symbol of
the struggle for liberation being waged by the people of our country.

It was
during the years of the Second World War that a small group of young Africans,
members of the ANC, banded together under the leadership of Anton Lembede.
Among them were William Nkomo, Walter Sisulu, Oliver R. Tambo, Ashby P. Mda and
Nelson Mandela. Starting out with 60 members, concentrated around the
Witwatersrand, these young people set themselves the formidable task of
transforming the ANC into a mass movement, deriving its strength and motivation
from the unlettered millions of black workers in the towns and countryside, the
peasants in the rural areas and the radical intelligentsia.

chief contention was that the ‘old guard’ leadership of the ANC, reared in the
tradition of constitutional struggle and polite petitioning of the government
of the day, was proving inadequate to the tasks of national emancipation. Their
strategy, these young Turks contended, rested on a misconception of the actual
power relations in South African society, consequently the tactics they had
evolved failed to galvanise the masses of black oppressed. In opposition to the
‘old guard’, Lembede and his colleagues espoused a revolutionary African
Nationalism grounded in the principle of national self-determination. In
September 1944 they came together to found the African National Congress Youth
League (ANCYL or CYL).

impressed his peers by his disciplined work and consistent effort. He was
elected to the Secretaryship of the Youth League in 1947. By painstaking work
campaigning at the grassroots and through its mouthpiece, Inyaniso (Truth),
the CYL was able to win support for its policies amongst the ANC membership. At
the 1945 annual conference of the ANC, two of the Youth League leaders, Anton
Lembede and Ashby Mda, were elected on to the National Executive Committee. Two
years later another CYL leader, O R Tambo, became a member of the NEC. At the
1949 annual conference, the Programme of Action, inspired by the Youth League,
was adopted as official ANC policy. The adoption of the Programme of Action
marked a quantum leap in the politics of the ANC. To ensure implementation of
this new programme, the membership replaced older leaders with a number of
younger men. Walter Sisulu, a founding member of the Youth League, was elected
Secretary General. The following year Mandela himself was elected to the NEC at
national conference. It was this set of youthful leaders and the thousands of
members who supported them who prepared the ANC for the decade that followed,
the ‘Fighting Fifties’, during which the ANC led massive non-violent campaigns
and became the acknowledged leader of the movement for liberation. It was the
struggles of that decade that tempered Nelson Mandela into a national leader.

On 9th
October, 1963, ten leaders of the ANC, including Nelson Mandela were put on
trial for their lives. On 20th April, 1964, Nelson Mandela led off the case for
the Defence with a statement from the dock. Rather than pleading for mercy, he
transformed the character of the trial by charging the regime with crimes
against humanity. He calmly explained how he and the other leaders on trial had
come to the conclusion that taking up arms against apartheid was the only
honourable option.

‘At the
beginning of June 1961, after long and anxious assessment of the South African
situation, I and some colleagues came to the conclusion that as violence in
this country was inevitable, it would be wrong and unrealistic for African
leaders to continue preaching peace and non-violence at a time when the
government met our peaceful demands with force. It was only when all else had
failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that the
decision was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle, and to form
Umkhonto we Sizwe … The government had left us no other choice’.

years after they were first spoken, those words still carry the weight of great
conviction. The years have not detracted one iota from their accuracy. In the
nearly three decades he has been condemned to endure in the prisons of
apartheid, the international stature of Nelson Mandela has grown. Around him
has been built a massive international campaign for the release of all South
African political prisoners and detainees. As a result of the intense pressure
from the outside world, the unrelenting struggle of the South African people
and the solid support it has received from the entire African continent, in
October 1989, the newly-elected racist President, Mr. F W de Klerk, took the
decision to release eight political prisoners, six of them co-defendants in the
Rivonia Trial together with Mandela.

It is a
matter of record that over the last three years, Comrade Nelson Mandela has
been engaged in a series of meetings involving himself and a team of
representatives of the Pretoria regime. The exchanges that took place ranged
over a number of issues, finally focusing on finding a way out of the deadlock
occasioned by the regime’s insistence that the ANC meet two principal
conditions: a renunciation of armed struggle as the means of bringing about
change; and the renunciation of its alliance with the South African Communist

When it
became clear that P W Botha himself would meet with Comrade Mandela, during
mid-l989, Mandela prepared a written statement which would be transmitted to
Botha in preparation for such a meeting.

We are
publishing that statement to make it more widely accessible to the ANC
membership, the South African people and the international community, who have
made so impressive a contribution to the fight for his release from prison. It
is a testament of his political faith and beliefs after more than a quarter of
a century in the dungeons of the Pretoria regime. We are certain that, like his
speech from the dock during the Rivonia trial, this statement from prison will
be remembered as one of the most outstanding.

his discussions with the representatives of his jailers, Comrade Mandela made
it clear that he was not engaged in negotiations. Such a course could only be
undertaken by the elected leadership of the African National Congress or its
accredited representatives. His role, he made clear, was to act as a
facilitator, exploring the difficult terrain together with the state’s
representatives, by explaining the ANC’s policy on a number of thorny issues.
It is our considered view that there could not be a better exposition of those
policies than this statement.

It is
proper that all who read this document recall that it was written by a
courageous man while still a prisoner. Imprisonment has not diminished Nelson
Mandela. His is a voice that deserves to be heard consistently and clearly
regarding the future of South Africa.

Tuesday 14 June 2011 14:13

My task is a very limited one, and that is to bring the country’s two major political bodies to the negotiating table

The Mandela Document

The Full Text of the Document Presented by Nelson Mandela to
P W Botha before their meeting on 5 July 1989

deepening political crisis in our country has been a matter of grave concern to
me for quite some time and I now consider it necessary in the national interest
for the African National Congress and the government to meet urgently to
negotiate an effective political settlement.

At the
outset I must point out that I make this move without consultation with the
ANC. I am a loyal and disciplined member of the ANC, my political loyalty is
owed, primarily, if not exclusively, to this organisation and particularly to
our Lusaka headquarters where the official leadership is stationed and from
where our affairs are directed.

Organisation First

In the
normal course of events, I would put my views to the organisation first, and if
these views were accepted, the organisation would then decide on who were the
best qualified members to handle the matter on its behalf and on exactly when
to make the move. But in the current circumstances I cannot follow this course,
and this is the only reason why I am acting on my own initiative, in the hope
that the organisation will, in due course endorse my action.

I must
stress that no prisoner irrespective of his status or influence can conduct
negotiations of this nature from prison. In our special situation negotiation
on political matters is literally a matter of life and death which requires to
be handled by the organisation itself through its appointed representatives.

The step I
am taking should, therefore, not be seen as the beginning of actual
negotiations between the government and the ANC. My task is a very limited one,
and that is to bring the country’s two major political bodies to the
negotiating table.

Release not the Issue

I must
further point out that the question of my release from prison is not an issue,
at least at this stage of the discussions, and I am certainly not asking to be
freed. But I do hope that the government will, as soon as possible, give me the
opportunity from my present quarters to sound the views of my colleagues inside
and outside the country on this move. Only if this initiative is formally
endorsed by the ANC will it have any significance.

I will
touch presently on some of the problems which seem to constitute an obstacle to
a meeting between the ANC and the government. But I must emphasise right at
this stage that this step is not a response to the call by the government on
ANC leaders to declare whether or not they are nationalists and to renounce the
South African Communist Party before there can be negotiations. No
self-respecting freedom fighter will take orders from the government on how to
wage the freedom struggle against that same government and on who his allies in
the freedom struggle should be.

To obey
such instructions would be a violation of the long-standing and fruitful solidarity
which distinguishes our liberation movement, and a betrayal of those who have
worked so closely and suffered so much with us for almost 70 years. Far from
responding to that call my intervention is influenced by purely domestic
issues, by the civil strife and ruin into which the country is now sliding. I
am disturbed, as many other South Africans no doubt are, by the spectre of a
South Africa split into two hostile camps; blacks (the term ‘blacks’ is used in
a broad sense to include all those who are not whites) on one side and whites
on the other, slaughtering one another; by acute tensions which are building up
dangerously in practically every sphere of our lives, a situation which, in
turn, preshadows more violent clashes in the days ahead. This is the crisis
that has freed me to act.

Views Among Blacks

I must add
that the purpose of this discussion is not only to urge the government to talk
to the ANC, but it is also to acquaint you with the views current among blacks,
especially those in the Mass Democratic Movement.

If I am
unable to express these views frankly and freely, you will never know how the
majority of South Africans think on the policy and actions of the government;
you will never know how to deal with their grievances and demands. It is
perhaps proper to remind you that the media here and abroad has given certain
public figures in this country a rather negative image not only in regard to
human rights questions, but also in respect to their prescriptive stance when
dealing with black leaders generally.

impression is shared not only by the vast majority of blacks but also by a
substantial section of the whites. If I had allowed myself to be influenced by
this impression, I would not even have thought of making this move. Nevertheless,
I have come here with and open mind and the impression I will carry away from
this meeting will be determined almost exclusively by the manner in which you
respond to my proposal.

It is in
this spirit that I have undertaken this mission, and I sincerely hope that
nothing will be done or said here that will force me to revise my views on this

to Negotiation

I have
already indicated that I propose to deal with some of the obstacles to a
meeting between the government and the ANC. The government gives several
reasons why it will not negotiate with us. However, for purposes of this
discussion, I will confine myself to only three main demands set by the
government as a precondition for negotiations, namely that the ANC must first
renounce violence, break with the SACP and abandon its demand for majority

of Violence

position of the ANC on the question of violence is very simple. The
organisation has no vested interest in violence. It abhors any action which may
cause loss of life, destruction of property and misery to the people. It has
worked long and patiently for a South Africa of common values and for an
undivided and peaceful non-racial state. But we consider the armed struggle a
legitimate form of self-defence against a morally repugnant system of
government which will not allow even peaceful forms of protest.

It is more
than ironical that it should be the government which demands that we should
renounce violence. The government knows only too well that there is not a
single political organisation in this country, inside and outside parliament,
which can ever compare with the ANC in its total commitment to peaceful change.

Right from
the early days of its history, the organisation diligently sought peaceful
solutions and, to that extent, it talked patiently to successive South African
governments, a policy we tried to follow in dealing with the present


Not only
did the government ignore our demands for a meeting, instead it took advantage
of our commitment to a non-violent struggle and unleashed the most violent form
of racial oppression this country has ever seen. It stripped us of all basic
human rights, outlawed our organisations and barred all channels of peaceful
resistance. It met our demands with force and, despite the grave problems
facing the country, it continues to refuse to talk to us. There can only be one
answer to this challenge; violent forms of struggle.

Down the
years oppressed people have fought for their birthright by peaceful means,
where that was possible, and through force where peaceful channels were closed.
The history of this country also confirms this vital lesson. Africans as well
as Afrikaners were, at one time or other, compelled to take up arms in defence
of their freedom against British imperialism. The fact that both were finally
defeated by superior arms, and by the vast resources of that empire, does not
negate this lesson.

But from
what has happened in South Africa during the last 40 years, we must conclude
that now that the roles are reversed, and the Afrikaner is no longer a freedom
fighter, but is in power, the entire lesson of history must be brushed aside.
Not even a disciplined non-violent protest will now be tolerated. To the
government a black man has neither a just cause to espouse nor freedom rights
to defend. The whites must have the monopoly of political power, and of
committing violence against innocent and defenceless people. That situation was
totally unacceptable to us and the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe was intended
to end that monopoly, and to forcibly bring home to the government that the
oppressed people of this country were prepared to stand up and defend

It is
significant to note that throughout the past four decades, and more especially
over the last 26 years, the government has met our demands with force only and
has done hardly anything to create a suitable climate for dialogue. On the contrary,
the government continues to govern with a heavy hand, and to incite whites
against negotiation with the ANC. The publication of the booklet Talking with
the ANC … which completely distorts the history and policy of the ANC, the
extremely offensive language used by government spokesmen against freedom
fighters, and the intimidation of whites who want to hear the views of the ANC
at first hand, are all part of the government’s strategy to wreck meaningful

Not Ready for Talks

It is
perfectly clear on the facts that the refusal of the ANC to renounce violence
is not the real problem facing the government. The truth is that the government
is not yet ready for negotiation and for the sharing of political power with
blacks. It is still committed to white domination and, for that reason, it will
only tolerate those blacks who are willing to serve on its apartheid
structures. Its policy is to remove from the political scene blacks who refuse
to conform, who reject white supremacy and its apartheid structures, and who
insist on equal rights with whites.

This is
the real reason for the government’s refusal to talk to us, and for its demand
that we should disarm ourselves, while it continues to use violence against our
people. This is the reason for its massive propaganda campaign to discredit the
ANC, and present it to the public as a communist-dominated organisation bent on
murder and destruction. In this situation the reaction of the oppressed people
is clearly predictable.


South Africa must accept the plain fact that the ANC will not suspend, to say
nothing of abandoning, the armed struggle until the government shows its
willingness to surrender the monopoly of political power, and to negotiate
directly and in good faith with the acknowledged black leaders. The
renunciation of violence by either the government or the ANC should not be a
precondition to, but the result of, negotiation.

by ignoring credible black leaders, and imposing a succession of still-born
negotiation structures, the government is not only squandering the country’s
precious resources but it is in fact discrediting the negotiation process
itself, and prolonging civil strife. The position of the ANC on the question of
violence is, therefore, very clear. A government which used violence against
blacks many years before we took up arms has no right whatsoever to call on us
to lay down arms.

South African Communist Party

I have
already pointed out that no self-respecting freedom fighter will allow the
government to prescribe who his allies in the freedom struggle should be, and
that to obey such instructions would be a betrayal of those who have suffered
repression with us for so long.

We equally
reject the charge that the ANC is dominated by the SACP and we regard the
accusation as part of the smear campaign the government is waging against us.
The accusation has, in effect, also been refuted by two totally independent
sources. In January, 1987 the American State Department published a report on
the activities of the SACP in this country which contrasts very sharply with
the subjective picture the government has tried to paint against us over the

essence of that report is that, although the influence of the SACP on the ANC
is strong, it is unlikely that the Party will ever dominate the ANC.

The same
point is made somewhat differently by Mr. Ismail Omar, member of the
President’s Council, in his book Reform in Crisis published in 1988, in which
he gives concrete examples of important issues of the day over which the ANC
and the SACP have differed.

He also
points out that the ANC enjoys greater popular support than the SACP. He adds
that, despite the many years of combined struggle, the two remain distinct
organisations with ideological and policy differences which preclude a merger
of identity.

observations go some way towards disproving the accusation. But since the
allegation has become the focal point of government propaganda against the ANC,
I propose to use this opportunity to give you the correct information, in the
hope that this will help you to see the matter in its proper perspective, and
to evaluate your strategy afresh.

between the ANC and the South African Communist Party goes back to the early
‘twenties and has always been, and still is, strictly limited to the struggle
against racial oppression and for a just society. At no time has the
organisation ever adopted or co-operated with communism itself. Apart from the
question of co-operation between the two organisations, members of the SACP
have always been free to join the ANC. But once they do so, they become fully
bound by the policy of the organisation set out in the Freedom Charter.

As members
of the ANC engaged in the anti-apartheid struggle, their Marxist ideology is
not directly relevant. The SACP has throughout the years accepted the leading
role of the ANC, a position which is respected by the SACP members who join the

Established Tradition

There is,
of course, a firmly established tradition in the ANC in terms of which any
attempt is resisted, from whatever quarter, which is intended to undermine
co-operation between the two organisations.

within the ranks of the ANC there have been, at one time or another, people –
and some of them were highly respected and influential individuals – who were
against this co-operation and who wanted SACP members expelled from the
organisation. Those who persisted in these activities were themselves
ultimately expelled or they broke away in despair.

In either
case their departure ended their political careers, or they formed other
political organisations which, in due course, crumbled into splinter groups. No
dedicated ANC member will ever heed a call to break with the SACP. We regard
such a demand as a purely divisive government strategy.

It is in
fact a call on us to commit suicide. Which man of honour will ever desert a
lifelong friend at the instance of a common opponent and still retain a measure
of credibility among his people?

opponent will ever trust such a treacherous freedom fighter? Yet this is what
the government is, in effect, asking us to do – to desert our faithful allies.
We will not fall into that trap.

ANC is

government also accuses us of being agents of the Soviet Union. The truth is
that the ANC is non-aligned, and we welcome support from the East and the West,
from the socialist and capitalist countries. The only difference, as we have
explained on countless occasions before, is that the socialist countries supply
us with weapons, which the West refuses to give us. We have no intention
whatsoever of changing our stand on this question.

government’s exaggerated hostility to the SACP and its refusal to have any
dealings with that party have a hollow ring. Such an attitude is not only out
of step with the growing co-operation between the capitalist and socialist
countries in different parts of the world, but it is also inconsistent with the
policy of the government itself, when dealing with our neighbouring states.

Not only
has South Africa concluded treaties with the Marxist states of Angola and
Mozambique – quite rightly in our opinion – but she also wants to strengthen
ties with Marxist Zimbabwe. The government will certainly find it difficult, if
not altogether impossible, to reconcile its readiness to work with foreign
Marxists for the peaceful resolution of mutual problems, with its
uncompromising refusal to talk to South African Marxists.

The reason
for this inconsistency is obvious. As I have already said, the government is
still too deeply committed to the principle of white domination and, despite
lip service to reform, it is deadly opposed to the sharing of political power
with blacks, and the SACP is merely being used as a smokescreen to retain the
monopoly of political power.

The smear
campaign against the ANC also helps the government to evade the real issue at
stake, namely, the exclusion from political power of the black majority by a
white minority, which is the source of all our troubles


my own personal position, I have already informed you that I will not respond
to the government’s demand that ANC members should state whether they are
members of the SACP or not.

because much has been said by the media, as well as by government leaders
regarding my political beliefs, I propose to use this opportunity to put the
record straight.

political beliefs have been explained in the course of several political trials
in which I was charged, in the policy documents of the ANC and in my
autobiography, The Struggle is my Life, which I wrote in prison in 1975.

I stated
in these trials and publications that I did not belong to any organisation
apart from the ANC. In my address to the court which sentenced me to life in
prison in June 1964, I said:

Today I am
attracted by the idea of a classless society, an attraction which springs in
part from Marxist reading, and in part from my admiration of the structure and
organisation of early African societies in this country.

It is
true, as I have already stated, that I have been influenced by Marxist thought.
But this is also true of many leaders of the new independent states. Such
widely different persons as Gandhi, Nehru, Nkrumah and Nasser all acknowledge
this fact. We all accept the need for some form of socialism to enable our
people to catch up with the advanced countries of the world, and to overcome
their legacy of poverty.

Views Still the Same

My views
are still the same. Equally important is the fact that many ANC leaders who are
labeled communists by the government embrace nothing different from these
beliefs. The term ‘communist’ when used by the government has a totally
different meaning from the conventional one. Practically every freedom fighter
who receives his military training or education in the socialist countries is,
to the government, a communist.

It would
appear to be established government policy that, as long as the National Party
is in power in this country, there can be no black freedom struggle, and no
black freedom fighter. Any black political organisation which, like us, fights
for the liberation of its people through armed struggle, must invariably be
dominated by the SACP.

attitude is not only the result of government propaganda. It is a logical
consequence of white supremacy. After more than 300 years of racial
indoctrination, the country’s whites have developed such deep-seated contempt
for blacks as to believe that we cannot think for ourselves, that we are
incapable of fighting for political rights without incitement by some white

accusing the ANC of domination by the SACP, and in calling on ANC members to
renounce the Party, the government is deliberately exploiting that contempt.


government is equally vehement in condemning the principle of majority rule.
The principle is rejected despite the fact that it is a pillar of democratic
rule in many countries of the world. It is a principle which is fully accepted
in the white politics of this country.

Only now
that the stark reality has dawned that apartheid has failed, and that blacks
will one day have an effective voice in government, are we told by whites here,
and by their Western friends, that majority rule is a disaster to be avoided at
all costs. Majority rule is acceptable to whites as long as it is considered
within the context of white politics.

If black
political aspirations are to be accommodated, then some other formula must be
found provided that formula does not raise blacks to a position of equality
with whites.

majority rule and internal peace are like the two sides of a single coin, and
white South Africa simply has to accept that there will never be peace and
stability in this country until the principle is fully applied.

It is
precisely because of its denial that the government has become the enemy of
practically every black man. It is that denial that has sparked off the current
civil strife.

Political Settlement

insisting on compliance with the above-mentioned conditions before there can be
talks, the government clearly confirms that it wants no peace in this country
but turmoil; no strong and independent ANC, but a weak and servile organisation
playing a supportive role to white minority rule, not a non-aligned ANC but one
which is a satellite of the West, and which is ready to serve the interests of

No worthy
leaders of a freedom movement will ever submit to conditions which are
essentially terms of surrender dictated by a victorious commander to a beaten
enemy, and which are really intended to weaken the organisation and to
humiliate its leadership.

The key to
the whole situation is a negotiated settlement, and a meeting between the
government and the ANC will be the first major step towards lasting peace in
the country, better relations with our neighbour states, admission to the
Organisation of African Unity, readmission to the United Nations and other
world bodies, to international markets and improved international relations

An accord
with the ANC, and the introduction of a non-racial society, is the only way in
which our rich and beautiful country will be saved from the stigma which repels
the world.

central issues will have to be addressed at such a meeting; firstly, the demand
for majority rule in a unitary state; secondly, the concern of white South
Africa over this demand, as well as the insistence of whites on structural
guarantees that majority rule will not mean domination of the white minority by

The most
crucial task which will face the government and the ANC will be to reconcile
these two positions. Such reconciliation will be achieved only if both parties
are willing to compromise. The organisation will determine precisely how
negotiations should be conducted. It may well be that this should be done at
least in two stages. The first, where the organisation and the government will
work out together the preconditions for a proper climate for negotiations. Up
to now both parties have been broadcasting their conditions for negotiations
without putting them directly to each other.

The second
stage would be the actual negotiations themselves when the climate is ripe for
doing so. Any other approach would entail the danger of an irresolvable

the Current Deadlock

Lastly, I
must point out that the move I have taken provides you with the opportunity to
overcome the current deadlock, and to normalise the country’s political
situation. I hope you will seize it without delay. I believe that he
overwhelming majority of South Africans, black and white, hope to see the ANC
and the government working closely together to lay the foundations for a new
era in our country, in which racial discrimination and prejudice, coercion and
confrontation death and destruction will be forgotten.


The last
part of the document containing the idea that there could be an exchange
between the regime and the ANC on the question of what steps each side could
take to create conditions for talks was considered by the National Executive

National Executive Committee was able to convey its thinking to Comrade Mandela
on this question; he fully accepted the organisation’s insistence that before
talks could take place the preconditions contained in the Harare Declaration had to be met by the government.