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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

1992: UN debate on South Africa

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Nelson Mandela's Speech

Mr President, distinguished members of the Security Council, Your Excellency Dr Boutros Boutros Ghali, Secretary General of the United Nations, Ministers and ..., ladies and gentlemen.  First of all we would like to express our appreciation to the Security Council for agreeing to convene on the question of South Africa.  We would also like to thank you most sincerely for giving us the opportunity to address you.

The United Nations has been sitting with the question of South Africa for the past 45 years.  The reason for this is that our people have been subjected to the policy of apartheid which the United Nations has determined is a crime against humanity.  The decision which has been taken by the Security Council and the General Assembly on the question of South Africa has been directed at ending this apartheid crime against humanity and helping to transform our country into a non-racial democracy.  This objective has not yet been achieved.  South Africa continues to be governed by a white minority regime.  The overwhelming majority of our people are still denied the vote.  They remain deprived of the right to determine their destiny.

Representatives of the South African government will also address you today.  However sweet sounding the words that they may utter, they represent a system of white minority rule to which the United Nations is opposed.  They continue to govern our country under a constitution which the Security Council has declared null and void.  Precisely because its efforts have not yet been achieved the United Nations must remain (concerned) with the question of South Africa.  It must continue to look for ways and means by which it can help us to (move forward with) the process leading to the democratic transformation of our country.

In the meantime an extremely critical situation has arisen.  Whereas, in the Declaration of Intent adopted at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa, CODESA, on the 21st December 1991, we all committed ourselves to set in motion the process whereby a constitution would be drafted and adopted for a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa.  The process is that with regard to this matter the problem is that the ruling white minority government continues to look for ways and means by which it can guarantee its continued exercise of power regardless of its electoral support.   The regime insists that the political majority, no matter how large, should be subjected to veto by minority political parties.  Unless the government is forthcoming with a firm commitment to full democracy, based on accepted international principles, and an acceptance of the sovereign and democratic constitution making body, the process will not move forward.

But the Council meets today because this process has been brought to a halt by the carnage in the black townships.  Over the last five to six years at least 11,000 people have died as a result of this violence.  During the month of June 1992 alone there have been 373 deaths and 395 injuries.  1806 have been killed and 2931 injured during the period January 1992 to June 1992.  Control of state power by the National Party regime allows it the space to deny and cover up its own role as well as those of its surrogates and the state security forces in fostering and fomenting the violence.  Our memorandum of the 9th July 1992 to Mr F W de Klerk, which has been made available to members of the Council, sets out the evidence of numerous acts of omission and commission which bear out government involvement in the violence.  In particular we draw your attention to one annexure to the memorandum entitled, and I quote, "Involvement of the security forces in the fomenting and escalation of violence", and another entitled, "South African government support for the Inkatha Freedom Party."

Mr President, many years of struggle both inside and outside of South Africa, brought us to the point in 1989 when in its consensus declaration on apartheid and its destructive consequences in Southern Africa, the General Assembly concluded that circumstances existed for a negotiated resolution of the South African situation.  In that declaration the General Assembly said that such negotiations should, as a result of agreement that would be entered into by the liberation movement and the government, be conducted in an atmosphere free of violence.   We were and are in full agreement with this position.  They were adopted by the General Assembly precisely because it was correctly foreseen that the process of negotiation could not succeed while a virtual civil war raged in the country.  (Working up) to this objective in August 1990 the ANC decided to suspend all armed action.  We did this unilaterally, both as a demonstration of our good faith and to help create an atmosphere free of violence.  At the same time it was expected that for its part the regime would carry out various measures which would remove obstacles to negotiations and that it would ensure that a proper climate for negotiation is (attained).

Instead, as we see, we have been confronted with an escalating spiral of violence and independent, social, political and development agents known as Community Agencies for Social Empowerment, CASE, has prepared five reports with regard to the pattern of violence.   One of these reports comes to the conclusion that: "The violence appears to be switched on and off at strategic moments."  It continues, "Behind the tail of brutality is the clear evidence that the violence erupts at a point where it most weakens the ANC and its allies and dies down dramatically when it would most harm the government of F W de Klerk."   It then goes on to say that, again I quote, "Two political parties have clearly benefited from the Reef violence.  The first is the National Party government.   The second major beneficiary has been Inkatha."

Another report deals with certain attacks on funerals, on funerals which took place on the Reef between July 1990 and July 1991.  This study concludes that there is, I quote, "An overwhelming predominance of acts of aggression carried out by supporters of the Inkatha Freedom Party.  Those attacks moreover are carried out with active or passive support of the South African Police."

It is more than clear to us that the violence is both organised and orchestrated.  It is specially directed at the democratic movement whose activists, members and supporters make up the overwhelming majority of (the South African people).  It constitutes a cold blooded strategy of state terrorism intended to create the conditions under which the forces responsible for the introduction and entrenchment of the system of apartheid would have the possibility of imposing their will on a weakened democratic movement at the negotiation table.

However, as has been foreseen by this organisation, this violence also has the effect of making those very negotiations impossible.  Already in April 1991, when this campaign of terror grew to new heights, we were left with no choice but to suspend the bilateral negotiations with the regime until it took various measures to address the question of violence.   It is now common cause that the agreement the government reached with the ANC in May 1991, aimed at curbing the violence, has not been carried out by the regime.   Faced with the horrendous escalation of the violence as evidenced in the Boipatong massacre or carrying on the context of the negotiation settlement, the ANC has been forced to withdraw from the multilateral process of negotiation which had been taking place in the Convention for a Democratic South Africa.  The blame for this lies squarely at the door of the regime.  It and nobody else has the law enforcement (capacity) and the legal authority to stop this violence and to act against the perpetrators.  As the government authority it has the obligation to protect the lives and property of all the people.  It has failed dismally to do this.   The regime's actions in curbing its persistent efforts to shift the blame for the violence and the responsibility to act against it to political organisations have served to ensure the escalation of the carnage.

Though the causes of this violence are many and complex it is important that we should all have a clear perception.  It is the regime which controls state power with the capacity to bring the violence to an end.  Complicity of state security forces is established by the evidence which emerged in numerous court trials, inquests and commissions and has been confirmed by the Goldstone Commission as well as reports of international fact-finding missions.  It is also clear that the central thrust of the violence is to weaken the ANC and the democratic movement of the country.

In the face of this situation it is also true that there are instances of counter-violence by members of the democratic movement.  At the same time it is a matter of public record that the ANC policy stands opposed to the promotion of violence.  We remain firmly committed to this position but our task of ensuring that this policy position is fully and completely adhered to is made more than difficult because of the practice of the state security forces, it's surrogates and the fact that it is the police control by the regime who remain in charge of investigating the violence in which the state security forces are implicated and bringing the perpetrators to book.  The ANC maintains that the government's culpability for the violence extends to acts of commission as well as omission.  The International Commission of Jurists and Amnesty International has blamed the government for failing to act against the violence.  Amnesty International notes the government, I quote, "Government failure to bring to justice all but a tiny proportion of those involved in human rights violations."

Judge Richard Goldstone in his report dated 6th July 1992 complains of several instances where the authorities have ignored the recommendations of his commission.  Not a single person has been convicted in connection with the 49 massacres that claimed the lives of at least ten people in each of the incidents that have occurred in the past two years in the Transvaal.  Where there have been proper investigations and vigorous prosecution has resulted from the Trust Feed massacre of December 1988.  Convictions have been secured.  Those convicted were policemen.  In 1985 Matthew Goniwe and three other Eastern Cape leaders were murdered.  In May this year a document, whose authenticity has not been challenged, a message from the South African Defence Force Military Intelligence Chief, General G P van der Westhuizen, proposed that the State Security Council, that this body should authorise, I quote, "the urgent removal from society" of Goniwe and the others.  No move has been made to suspend Van der Westhuizen from his position.  No action has been taken to suspend the head of the South African Police Forensic Laboratory, General Lowther Neethling, after a Supreme Court civil case finding in January 1991 that his involvement in the poisoning of activists was, on the balance of probabilities, true.  Yet despite a judicial commission finding implicating several military personnel of the Civil Co-operation Bureau, the CCB, in political violence, none has been charged.  At least twenty Bureau members and probably many more remain on the South African Defence Force payroll.  Others have been offered or received a huge pension.  Several have demanded immunity from prosecution.

In February 1992 it came to light that local white policemen based at the Ermelo Police Station encouraged and actively helped a gang of vigilantes.  No policeman concerned has been suspended.  In an official operation in 1986 the South African Defence Force gave military training in Namibia to 400 Inkatha members who were later absorbed into the KwaZulu Police.  Several trainees claimed to have been trained in offensive warfare.  The regime has dismissed this incident on the grounds that these IFP members received VIP protection training.  Some of the trainees have subsequently been implicated in the violence in Natal.  No action has been taken to control and limit the powers of the KwaZulu Police.  Extensive evidence exists of KwaZulu Police partiality and involvement in the violence in the province of Natal.

However, as recently as July 1st 1992 the powers of the same KwaZulu Police have in fact been sanctioned.  From that date the South African Police's internal stability units will only act on unrest in KwaZulu if called on to do so by the KwaZulu Police District Commission. In 1990 the Pretoria regime issued specific proclamation legalising the carrying of dangerous weapons in public.  This repealed the prohibition which has been in force since 1891.  In other words, after the ANC and other organisations were unbanned in 1990 the Pretoria regime has created a situation in which hordes of men would spill out into the streets and enter public places carrying the most dangerous weapons. The government is unable to say why it virtually gave people the licence to kill and maim.  It has never explained why its police and army regularly accompany these killers to places of safety after many murderous rampages and arrested nobody.  We charge without equivocation that there is a rational basis for this act of omission on the part of the South African government.  The hard fact of the matter is that the South African government has never relented in its war against the democratic movement of our country.

Recently a covert police unit operating in the area around Boipatong came to public attention.  It, and ten others operating in other regions of the country, existed for the purpose of suppressing the democratic movement which the government still regards as the enemy and for so called national security.  Former officers and men of the security forces have been redeployed into these clandestine networks.  There are persistent allegations that members of this unit as well as those in special force units composed of foreign nationals, such as Angolans, Mozambicans and Namibians, are engaged in covert operations that include the assassination of leaders and activists of the democratic movement.  They are also implicated in carrying out acts of terror against the population at large.

In order to confuse the issue and evade its responsibility the government insists that the source of the violence is rivalry between the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party.  The fact of the matter, however, is that the Inkatha Freedom Party has permitted itself to become an extension of the Pretoria regime, its instrument and surrogate.  Its activities have been financed by the South African government.  Its members have been armed and trained by the South African government.  There is an abundance of evidence that it continues to benefit from covert co-operation with the South African government.  It, therefore, becomes unclear when its members act as an independent force or as an agency on behalf of the South African government.  However, it is not an independent force with whom the ANC must enter into an agreement to end the violence in the country, as the Pretoria regime says.   The documentation we will give to the members of the Council details all the points we've raised, all of which concern the criminal failure of the government properly to address the question of political violence which has claimed too many lives already.  It's tearing our country apart and making the process of negotiation impossible.

We would like to recall earlier decisions of this Council to help the people of South Africa to transform our country into a non-racial democracy.  We believe that this commitment places an urgent obligation on the Council to intervene in the South African situation, to end the carnage.  The very interest of the Council to see the negotiations resumed so that a peaceful solution can be found, a solution that will be in keeping with the democratic principles contained in the General Assembly Declaration on Southern Africa of 1989 and the resolutions of the Security Council itself requires of the Council that it acts on this matter of violence in South Africa firmly and with necessary speed.  We believe that this violence, like the system of apartheid itself, is a direct challenge to the authority of the Council and the subversion of its global task of furthering peace and promoting the objectives contained in both the United Nations Charter and the Declaration of Human Rights.  Failure on the part of the Council to act firmly and decisively cannot but undermine its prestige and authority at a time when the Council and the United Nations as a whole have been called upon to play an even more active role in the ordering of world affairs.

We would, therefore, urge that the Council should request the Secretary General to appoint a Special Representative on South Africa.  This Representative should move speedily to investigate the situation in South Africa with a view to helping the Council decide on the measures it should take to help us end the violence.  The Council should then take the necessary decision to implement such measures in the continuous monitoring of the situation to ensure the effectiveness of such measures as it would have undertaken.

I am finishing off, Mr President.  We would also like to bring to the notice of the Council, for the purpose of its information, that we have required of the government that it also complete the process of the release of political prisoners as well as the repeal of oppressive legislation.  Again, these are concrete facts visualised in the United Nations Declaration to create a climate conducive to negotiation.  That these matters remain on the agenda more than two years after we entered into a formal agreement with the South African government that they would be attended to, demonstrates the problem concerning the reliability of the government in terms of international agreements.

I would also like to take advantage of this opportunity to reaffirm our own commitment for the process of negotiation and to have a genuinely democratic country.  In this regard we would again like to inform you that we are still to convince the government that it also should be committed to such a democratic outcome, accepting such ordinary concepts of the democratic system as majority rule and the absence of veto by minority parties.  We, therefore, still have to offer ... so that the process of negotiation ... as conducted within the Convention of a Democratic South Africa can succeed.

Mr President, distinguished members of the Council, we came here for the opportunity you have given us, to address the Council and hope that you respond to our appeal to help us end the carnage in South Africa with the understanding of the gravity of the situation which I know you share.  Our people look forward to a decision with great expectations.

Extract from SABC News Broadcast on the day of Mandela's Speech

... and speeches condemning the violence and urging a return to negotiations.  At the initiative of the OAU the Council is considering a draft resolution which proposes that a special representative of the United Nations Secretary General be sent to South Africa to assist in ending the political deadlock.  So far more than forty speakers have addressed the Council.  These included the President of the ANC, Mr Nelson Mandela, the PAC President, Mr Clarence Makwetu, who both launched strong attacks on President F W de Klerk's government and questioned its commitment to ending violence.  The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Pik Botha, will speak this afternoon.

Earlier the President of the ANC, Mr Nelson Mandela, appealed to the Security Council to appoint a special representative in South Africa who could investigate the situation in this country and help the Council decide on measures to help end the violence in South Africa.  He said that once such measures had been decided upon the Security Council could take the necessary steps to ensure that they were carried out, such as continuous monitoring of the South African situation.  In his address to the Council Mr Mandela referred to a long series of incidents, court verdicts and witnesses that he claimed implied that the South African government was directly responsible for the violence in this country.

The PAC President, Mr Clarence Makwetu said he wished to invite formally the United Nations to send an International Commission to South Africa to recommend measures to end the ongoing violence.  He accused the government of responsibility for the violence through acts of commission and omission and said the United Nations should supervise the disbanding and expulsion of foreign mercenary forces.  Mr Makwetu said the lifting of sanctions had been premature.  Selective voluntary sanctions should be strengthened and a moratorium on sports contacts should be imposed until peace and democracy had been achieved through the electoral process.  He said CODESA had been unrepresentative and undemocratic and the only legitimate and democratic forum for the transfer of power would be a Constituent Assembly.  Mr Makwetu also accused the government of massive recruitment of white immigrants, especially from Eastern European countries, to increase the white population.  He called on the Security Council to pass a resolution demanding that the government stop recruiting immigrants until a new constitution was in place.

The United States said it would do all in its power to further the negotiations process and proposed a goodwill visit to South Africa by a UN Mission under the offices of the Secretary General.  The United States said it had full confidence in the Goldstone Commission and supported the fullest implementation of all parties of the Commission's findings on violence.  It also supported the efforts of the National Peace Accord Forum that these efforts would bear fruit only if the parties themselves resolved to control the violence.  The United States said a goodwill mission to South Africa could offer its services in bringing the parties closer together but should not seek to supplant the negotiations process.

Britain has expressed its support for the idea of sending a Special Representative of the United Nations to confer with all appropriate parties in South Africa and decide what constructive role the UN can play in this country's future.  The British view is that the international community should try to help and not be prescriptive.  For this reason Britain believes that European Community ministers should come to South Africa later this year to discuss ways to resuming the negotiations and combating violence.

Egypt's Foreign Minister called for a resumption of the CODESA negotiations as soon as possible and said all parties should be called upon to join them; that the government was squarely responsible for facing up to acts of violence and should immediately take measures to curb forces fighting against democratic change.  However, this should not be used as a pretext to return to a state of emergency.  The co-operation of all parties in this process was also a prerequisite.

The Indian Representative urged blacks in South Africa to continue to engage in negotiations to achieve their political objectives.  It said he expected the anti-apartheid forces to be the most interested in resuming the negotiation process but that negotiations could be conducted only in an atmosphere free of violence.

Formal charges have been made against the ANC and the PAC for alleged contraventions of the National Peace Accord.  The complaints put before the National Peace Executive in Johannesburg were lodged by the National Party and the Inkatha Freedom Party.   The charges against the ANC include those relating to the distribution of a pamphlet by the ANC Youth League accusing State President F W de Klerk of being a murderer, to the allegations of ANC weapons stockpiled in Angola and a recent arrest of ANC members with police and army uniforms in their possession.  One of the charges against the PAC was a slogan emerging among its supports in the black towns to the effect that policemen should be attacked.  The charges will be brought before the National Peace Committee next week.

Comment from radio today (SABC)

Before the debate at the UN Security Council began last night South African Foreign Minister, Pik Botha, was asked whether he thought the UN was likely to pass a resolution on direct UN intervention.

Pik Botha: The Security Council is hesitant to get too deeply involved.  They stand on the side.  They are interested, they are concerned but they realise they can't take over the job of the government, or the South African parties involved, and this is the basic position of the South African government.   I am very pleased with what I've heard so far about the possible resolution that might now be ready.  We have made various representations to various members of the Security Council and as far as I'm concerned virtually all our representations have been well and sympathetically received and unless the resolution again changes, at this time of speaking to you I am very happy with it.

Foreign Minister, Pik Botha, speaking before the start of the UN debate last night.  Mr Botha will be addressing the United Nations Security Council later today.   In his address to the UN Security Council ANC President Nelson Mandela listed a number of incidents which he said supported the ANC's charge that the South African government was involved in the violence.   He also said that the Inkatha Freedom Party was an agent of the government and he called for urgent intervention by the world body to create conditions for democratisation of South Africa.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.