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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
This communiqué of the Second National Consultative Conference of the African National Congress, was presented by President Oliver Tambo at a press conference in Lusaka, Zambia, on June 25th, 1985.
The Second National Consultative Conference of the ANC has taken place. It opened on June 16th, the ninth anniversary of the Soweto Uprising of 1976 and closed on the 23rd. We had originally planned to finish on the 26th of June, our Freedom Day, which this year is also the 30th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter. But so extensive and thorough were the pre-Conference discussions among the members that it was possible to conclude our work three days earlier than originally planned.
The venue of the Conference was Zambia. We would like to take this opportunity to thank H.E. President Kaunda and the Central Committee of UNIP most sincerely for allowing us to hold our Conference in this country. We are especially grateful for the invaluable assistance that they extended to us at very short notice to ensure that we had all the material requisites for a Conference of the size that ours was. We shall forever be indebted to the Zambian people and their leadership for this outstanding contribution to our struggle.
The Conference was attended by about 250 delegates representing our entire organisation. They came from every country in the world where we have members. They were drawn from all the national groups of our country. Among them were the leaders of our movement, all our diplomatic functionaries - the chief representatives, commanders and other members of our army, political organisers, trade unionists, administration, production, health and cultural workers, propagandists, students and other members who are employed outside the ranks of our organisation.
We met under the theme: 'From the Venue of the Conference to Victory.' Therefore the central tasks of our Conference were to assess our situation especially inside South Africa and agree on the measures we need to take in order to achieve victory over the apartheid regime. We characterised the Conference as a council-of-war for the obvious reason that even as we opened our meeting, the continuing massacre of our people loomed large in our minds, highlighted by the criminal invasion of Botswana and the murder of innocent people in Gaborone. Whether we wanted war or not, the Pretoria regime was telling us in action that the only way we could stop the blood-letting was to go to war.
Our Conference was fortunate to be addressed by our leaders who are in prison and whom Botha is still refusing to release. Shortly before it opened, we had received a message from the leaders on Pollsmoor and Robben Island Prisons signed, on their behalf, by Nelson Mandela. Here is what our leaders said:
"We were most delighted to hear that the ANC will soon have another Conference. We sincerely hope that such an occasion will constitute yet another milestone in our history. It is most satisfying, especially in our present position, to belong to a tested organisation which exercises so formidable an impact on the situation in our country, which has established itself firmly as the standard bearer of such a rich tradition, and which has brought us such coveted laurels.
"As you know, we always try to harmonise our own views and responses with those of the Movement at large. For this reason, we find. it rewarding indeed to know that, despite the immense distance and the years which separate us, as well as the lack of effective communication channels, we still remain a closely knit organisation, ever conscious of die crucial importance of unity, and of resisting every attempt to divide and confuse.
"We feel sure that all those delegates who will attend will go there with one central issue uppermost in their minds: that out of the Conference the ANC will emerge far stronger than ever before. Unity is the rock on which the African National Congress was founded; it is the principle which has guided us down the years as we feel our way forward.
"In the course of its history, the ANC has survived countless storms and risen to eminence partly because of the sterling qualities of its membership, and partly because each member has regarded himself or herself as the principal guardian of that unity. All discussions, contributions and criticism have generally been balanced and constructive and, above all, they have been invariably subjected to the overriding principle of maximum unity. To lose sight of this basic principle is to sell our birthright, to betray those who paid the highest price so that the ANC should flourish and triumph.
"In this connection, the positions taken by Oliver Tambo on various issues and also stressed by Joe Slovo inspired us tremendously. Both drew attention to vital issues which, in our opinion, are very timely. They must be highlighted and kept consciously in mind as we try to sort out the complicated problems which face the movement, and as we try to hammer out the guidelines for future progress.
"These remarks are the clearest expression of that enduring identity of approach of members of the movement wherever they may be, and a summary of achievements of which we are justly proud. In particular we fully share the view that the ANC has raised mass political consciousness to a scale unknown in our experience. It is in this spirit that we send you our greetngs and best wishes, We hold your hands firmly across the miles."
And so Conference "hammered out the guidelines for future progress." And what are those guidelines?
Our Conference agreed unanimously that the Botha regime is still determined to defend the apartheid system of White minority rule by force of arms. Accordingly, it agreed that there was no reason for us to change* our broad strategy, which pursues the aim of seizure of power by the people through a combination of mass political action and armed struggle.
It however agreed that the possibility of victory was greater now than at any other time in our history. This requires that we should step up our all-round political and military offensive sharply and without delay. The masses of our people have been and are engaged in a struggle of historic importance directed at making apartheid unworkable and the country ungovernable. They are creating the conditions for the escalation of our attack leading towards the situation where it will be possible for us to overthrow the apartheid regime.
The delegates agreed that it was vital that we take all necessary measures further to strengthen the ANC and Umkhonto we Sizwe inside of our country exactly to meet the demands of our people and our situation for a heightened and co-ordinated political and military offensive.
The Conference also resolved that we cannot even consider the issue of a negotiated settlement of the South African question while our leaders are in prison. It agreed that we should continue with the campaign for the immediate and unconditional release of these leaders.
In the situation which obtains within the country in which the crisis of the apartheid system has become endemic, Conference agreed that the Freedom Charter provides the basis for the satisfaction of the aspirations of the overwhelming majority of our people. In this regard, the participants agreed that it was important that we should win as many Whites as possible to our side. We should also adhere to our opposition to and our struggle against the Bantustans as well as the apartheid tricameral parliament and related institutions. We must continue to pose the alternative of a united, democratic and non-racial South Africa.
The Conference endorsed the view advanced by our imprisoned leaders about the importance of unity. In a Call to our people inside the country, the delegates said:
"Those of us who are true liberators should not fight among ourselves. Let us not allow the enemy's dirty tricks department to succeed in getting us to fight one another".
Conference noted and paid tribute to the contribution that the United Democratic Front has made towards the strengthening of the unity of the democratic forces of our country, and condemned the arrest and prosecution of its leaders and activists.
The participants also agreed that this unity must find expression in the mass activity of all our people against the apartheid regime. Consequently, it is important that all our people should be organised and mobilised, in the towns and the countryside, including those in the Bantustans.
The Black workers are of special importance in this regard and are, as we have said before, the backbone and leading force in our struggle for national liberation.
Conference also assessed the international situation. It agreed that we should further expand our system of international relations and reach out even to regions, countries and governments with which we might not have
had contact before. It urged the international community to "declare the apartheid White minority regime illegitimate."
Addressing itself to the specific question of the planned New Zealand Rugby Tour of South Africa, Conference reiterated that "if the tour takes place, responsibility for any adverse consequences to New Zealand, her reputation and her future participation in international sport, as well as any threat to the lives of the players themselves, will rest squarely on the heads of the New Zealand Rugby Board." While saluting the opposition of the New Zealand government to the tour, it also urged this government to take further action to stop the tour.
Among other things, the Conference also addressed special greetings to each one of the Front Line States, Lesotho, the OAU and Swapo among others. It also agreed on an appeal to the international community.
The Conference was honoured with messages of solidarity from the international community, originating from governments and organisations from all corners of the globe. They included messages from the Presidents of Botswana, Algeria, the German Democratic Republic and Guinea Bissau, the Foreign Ministers of Finland, Ghana and Zimbabwe, the Central Committees or the equivalent committees of Zanu (PF), the Frelimo Party, the British Labour Party, the Swedish Social Democratic Party, the German Social Democratic Party, the Communist Parties of the Soviet Union, Romania, Bulgaria and others, trade unions, students', women's, youth, religious and solidarity organisations and the peace movement.
Naturally, we also discussed questions related to our structures and the personnel re4uired to implement the historic decisions taken by Conference. Constitutional guidelines were adopted which lay down that we should meet in Conference at least once in five years and that the National Executive Committee should hold office for the same period. Conference confirmed the position taken in earlier constitutions of the ANC that membership is open to South Africans of all races who accept the policies of our movement.
The Conference also decided to increase the size of the National Executive Committee to 30 members and gave powers to the Executive to co-opt an extra five members if the need arises.
The Conference re-elected 19 out of the 22 members of the outgoing National Executive Committee. Of these three, one did not stand for re-election. Conference therefore elected 11 new members of the NEC. Among these are one White comrade, two Indians and two Coloureds. The three most senior officials of the ANC, the President, the Secretary General and the Treasurer General were all returned unopposed and unanimously.
We have emerged out of our Conference more united than ever before. As our people and the international community observe South Africa Freedom Day tomorrow, June 26th, the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Freedom Charter, the ANC will be among them greatly strengthened, of one mind on all questions and determined to take the battle to the enemy and persist in struggle until victory is won.
Source: Sechaba, August 1985