This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
Statement on the 26th Anniversary of Umkhonto
December 16, 1987 (1)
In our daily lives people have abundantly demonstrated that apartheid has become intolerable. At the level of united mass action our people are surging ahead. Every organised formation of our people - our workers, our women, our rural people, our youth and students, the township residents, preachers, congregations and leaders, our teachers and those in various professions, our progressive whites - all are beginning to act in concert. Revolutionary violence has become part of the arsenal of our people. It is imperative that all classes and strata, especially our workers and the rural population, should become part of the combat forces of our revolution. Our youth should not be left to shoulder this burden alone. This is the true significance of our call to the people: every patriot a combatant; every combatant a patriot.
We are witnessing today the masses steadily taking to arms. We are in the midst of a death-defying deed where combat groups supported by the people are erecting barricades, stringing barbed wire across roads, digging defence trenches, driving enemy forces into death traps, raining petrol bombs against armoured vehicles, arming themselves by dispossessing the enemy of his weapons, ridding our townships of informers and collaborators, eliminating enemy personnel. The full majesty of these actions lies in the determination of our people to lock in battle with the enemy forces and to annihilate them physically. MK units are today being welcomed and their leadership and guidance sought by our people. Side by side with this development, township after township is building the foundations of people's power which is transforming them into the fortresses of the revolution...
The cream of our youth have begun to mobilise themselves into mass combat groups determined to ensure that the regime will never again restore its control over the lives and destiny of our people. The enemy forces are being compelled to recognise that the only cause that they have to defend is the survival of a dying order; that given death, they can only die for the past and not for the future. They therefore only defend a cause already lost, whose path is increasing demoralisation. It is only in this framework that we who know how to die for the future can understand the majesty of our young lions who have taken to war, and side by side with Umkhonto we Sizwe, moved our masses to make people's war a reality. As a tribute to these heroic young lions who are daily losing their lives, it is appropriate that we in Umkhonto we Sizwe, the people's army, should pledge ourselves that they shall not die in vain and that our revolution in its triumph shall rebuild for them the childhood that they have lost.
At this moment, as we reach into the high tide of our revolution, let us remind ourselves that we face a vicious and inhuman soul. Our enemy is now committed irrevocably to a cause aimed at destroying the mass resistance of our people to the extent of perpetrating genocide. It has marshalled all its power to destroy Umkhonto we Sizwe, the ANC and its allies within and outside our country. It has firmly set its course on marauding the independent States of southern Africa in pursuit of reducing them to abject client States. It has exposed itself as a cancer in the body politic of our beloved continent and a threat to world peace. It has left independent Africa with no choice but to share trenches with us in the front line of battle. At this critical moment in our history we need to be ever vigilant against every manoeuvre, not only to annihilate our movement but to deflect our people from the realisation of our goals.
The forces of reaction and counter-revolution have already spelt out their strategy. Faced with the reality of our strength they seek to entice us with the possibility of peaceful change by demanding of the ANC that we renounce violence, that we abandon the alliance with the SACP and that we sever our links with socialist countries, in particular with the Soviet Union, the German Democratic Republic and Cuba.
What do these demands amount to? What is the fundamental lesson that comes out of 25 years of existence of Umkhonto we Sizwe? Our people have only been taken seriously, whether in Pretoria, London, Washington or Bonn, because of our armed activities. Combatants of Umkhonto we Sizwe, you are the guarantors of our future. Without you our people and the leader of our revolution, the ANC, would be a voice without force. Our history has taught us that people's power cannot come through a change of heart from the rulers.
Those who ask us to desert our allies ask us to forget the enduring bonds that we have developed together in the trenches. The SACP in particular is inextricably woven into the fabric of our struggle and by its commitment and actions has earned itself the honourable place of being a worthy and indispensable component of the national liberation movement. As for the socialist countries, let it be said unequivocally that they have proved by word and deed that they are true friends of our people's cause, that without them and other friends MK and our national liberation movement headed by the ANC would not have become the force that we are today.
On this historic occasion let us pledge ourselves once more to the unity of our struggle, commit ourselves again to defend the alliance and always uphold the fraternal bonds that unite us with the socialist countries, those Western countries which have unreservedly aligned themselves with our just struggles and the democratic and peace-loving forces throughout the world.
Let us repeat: we shall never allow MK to be emasculated. When we took the road of armed struggle we knew that there would be no turning back. Our leaders in prison have repeatedly been offered their release if only they would denounce so-called violence. Our commander, Nelson Mandela, firmly struck aside these overtures by getting to the heart of the matter. All the violence in our situation emanates from the racist regime. It is the racists who have to renounce violence, not us. When we resorted to the armed struggle we said in our Manifesto that this choice is not ours, it has been forced upon us by the violence of the apartheid State. Until our people have won their freedom there can be no turning back.
It was not by accident that we launched MK on 16 December. White South Africa observes that as Covenant Day. They celebrate the violence of a minority aimed at subjugating the majority of the people of our country, the violence of white over black. In reality it is a celebration of injustice and the inhumanity of man against man. We chose that day to show how different we were, to show that the part that has been forced upon us was in pursuit of the establishment of justice and humanity for all the people of our country, black and white. The racists celebrate December 16 in the name of a false god, a celebration of war in pursuit of an unjust cause. We celebrate December 16, our Heroes' Day, to underline our commitment that we are waging a just war in pursuit of freedom, democracy and peace...
Conditions have now matured in our country for us, together with our people, to mount an all-round offensive in order to advance to people's power. It is within this context that I now present you, our glorious people's army, with your battle orders of the day. I order:
Train, arm and lead our people into battle. Defend our people in town and countryside. Sever the enemy's lines of communication and power. Disperse and immobilise the enemy forces. Destroy the enemy's economic resources. Attack the enemy on all fronts and annihilate its forces. Make people's war flourish in all its dimensions in every part of our country.
Victory or death, we shall win.
Forward to People's Power!
(1) Radio Freedom, Addis Ababa, December 21, 1987 (BBC Monitoring Report); ANC News Briefing, London, December 31, 1987