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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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

ANC NWC Special Meeting  April 26

MINUTES OF N.W.C. SPECIAL MEETING 26th APRIL 1986

1. Present: President, T.G., S. Makana, Sizakele, Mac, Cassius, Makathini, Thabo, Reg September, Pallo, Ruth, Jele, Slovo, Joe Modise, Joe Nhlanhla, James Stuart

2. Cde Thabo gave a briefing on developments in relation to the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) and the enemy's tactics in trying to put ANC on the defensive.

(a)     The EPG is due to report by June 15th at the latest. It may recommend that the Commonwealth take the steps agreed to in the Bahamas.

(b)     When the EPG saw P.W. Botha they set him a deadline of 29th April for some form of action indicating movement on the 4 points set out in the Nassau Accords.

(c)     According to discussions held with EPG in London by Cde Thabo (and others), while they were in South Africa:

§     No restrictions were placed on whom they could see and places they wished to go to.

§     They were struck by the evil nature of the apartheid system. Lord Anthony Barber claims that he had never seen SA until this occasion.

§     They were impressed by the level of democratic organisation, which is uniformly high.

§     That the churches were playing an important role including in the UDF.

§     The leadership of the UDF is under severe repression.

§     It was evident to them that the youth have lost patience with moderation.

§     They were struck by the overwhelming popularity of the ANC, whose leadership is generally accepted as the leaders of the people.

§     They noted divisions in the Botha cabinet between soft-liberal group – consisting of Pik Botha, Gert Viljoen, Barend du Plessis, and a hardline conservative group – consisting of De Klerk, Heunis and Magnus Malan.

4. Gen. Obasanjo, Fraser, Nita Barrow – the advance group saw Mandela. When the entire group went to SA they all saw him. They, as a group, were very impressed by Mandela.

5. They (EPG) saw ministers in Botha's cabinet. Pik Botha had tried to keep them from speaking to P.W. Botha. In discussions with P.W. Botha they presented the following positions to him:

§     Negotiations can only take place in the absence of violence;

§     Botha to take steps to begin the dismantling of apartheid.

§     To do this Botha must move away from group-concept of the SA population and adopt a non-racial concept.

§     Practical measures that must be taken include abolition of pass laws; lift bans on illegal organizations; and repression; remove troops from the townships; suspend detention with trial.

In order for the ANC to accept a truce, the idea of negotiations or dialogue, the ANC must be able to speak credibly to its constituency. This requires that it must have something to hold before this constituency, especially the youth, as a positive gain from the struggle.

Botha (PW) was unyielding. He offered nothing and was completely negative. The EPG considers P.W. unwise in his obduracy towards change and his attitude towards the crisis his regime is in.

6. The EPG did not meet Treurnicht, but they met Buthelezi, Mabuza and Hendrickse. Buthelezi said nothing new.

7. Meeting with Mandela

The EPG met Mandela alone among the ANC leaders. Throughout the conversation a Brigadier from the Prison Services was present, taking notes. Mandela generally recounted for them ANC's efforts to bring about change peacefully. The ANC is fully conscious of the destructive nature of war and has therefore always preferred negotiation. If ANC is to enter into such negotiations, they have to be proper and must be honourable. In general, the ANC has never been the stumbling block to negotiations it has always been the other side.

The EPG did not require Botha to give them any immediate answers. They would begin drafting their report from mid-April, hence 29th April deadline. They (EPG) are determined to keep to June 15th deadline for completion of their work.

8. Subsequent information received (from an unspecified source/s):

(a)     "Botha will respond in a manner that will be satisfactory to the ANC." The EPG suggests that the acceptability of Botha's response can only be judged in relation to its acceptability to the ANC, i.e. only if the ANC finds it acceptable can they (EPG) judge it as acceptable.

(b)     Once that hurdle has been crossed, it will be up to the ANC to set out the steps that are necessary for the carrying out of the negotiating process.

(c)     There was/is a debate in Botha's cabinet which concluded – they (racists) must not be seen to have torpedoed the EPG's efforts. At all costs they should not carry the can for its failure. Two positives are said to have crystallized.

(i)     That racists accept conditions placed before them by the EPG subject to the restoration of law and order in the townships. The ANC must effect the restoration of law and order as a precondition.

(ii)     Law and order can be imposed on the townships by the army and police. After this has been effected they can call off the army – their position on EPG conditions is not known.

(New Information Concluded)

(Editorial addition by recorder)

Position (i)     amounts to the demand that the ANC acts as Botha's police force which has lost its ability to maintain order in the townships.

(Information continued)

9. Likely response of Botha regime to EPG is

§     They (racists) have begun the process of dismantling, but it takes time, but they have already set things in motion by action on the passes; special parliamentary session in August; special party congress; etc.

§     On other issues – they only possibly act if ANC calls a moratorium, then they can deliver on these.

(Information concluded)

10. Cde Thabo reports:

Two arguments are being presented by "some of our friends" (unspecified)

(a)     The ANC declaring a moratorium which then holds and is effective will demonstrate our power; the authority of our movement; our real organizational capacity on the ground. This could be for 3 months, if Botha does not deliver we have made our case and can resume armed action.

(b)     If Botha accepts EPG conditions, he creates a situation in which action against him becomes inevitable, unless he delivers. The ANC therefore has everything to gain from such acceptance and nothing to lose from moratorium.

We can anticipate pressures to take this chance and declare a moratorium. If the EPG sees what they perceive as forward movement they will come back to us and we will be expected to respond.

Botha keenly wishes to place the blame for failure of the EPG on the ANC and avoid having to assume it himself.

(Briefing ends)

11. (Additional information by Johnny Makathini)

(a)     The regime's tactics seek to avoid blame for the failure of this project J. Mak; F. Meli; Solly Smith had meeting with British F.O. in London. Met one Reeve, the replacement for John Johnson.

Brits stressed the confidentiality of the meeting. They wanted to hear the ANC's thoughts, in order to convey these to Pretoria, on what we would consider conditions for negotiation. What would the ANC insist on for the cessation of violence? They said as far as they can see the regime has not yet employed its full capacity for violence. (Editorial by recorder) In other words things can get worse for us and our neighbours.

(b)     Hawke, (Australian P.M.) held press conference after briefing meeting with Thatcher. Hawke expressed "his optimism" about the results of the EPG project.

Ramphal (Commonwealth Secretary) went on record to say he did not share Hawke's views.

(c)     British Labour MPs say that EPG will only be ready to report in July. Thatcher tactic to avoid House of Commons debate on the report and British reaction.

12. (Additional comments from comrade S. Makana)

Had conversation with Frank Casey (Chairman of IBM) who serves on Schultz Advisory Commission on South Africa. Casey posed a key question:

(i)     How much control does the ANC have on the situation on the ground?

(ii)     Can the ANC in fact credibly call for an end to the violence and effect it?

(iii)     Violence (as they see it) in the final analysis is not a real solution.

(iv)     Which parties, organizations, groups do we think should be part of the negotiating process;

(v)     What do we think should be changed in US foreign policy.

(vi)     What is the ANC's reaction to the EPG.

(vii)     Does the ANC have any clear picture of how we envisage the process of negotiation; how (through what phases) do we see it unfolding.

(viii)     they (Schultz Commission) are not a think tank but a blue ribbon commission to make policy recommendations.

(ix)     Anti-apartheid sentiment in the US is coupled with anti-Cuban sentiment.

13. Discussion:

(a)     Comrade Joe Modise enquired which friends of ours were presenting the arguments presented by Cde Thabo? (note 10 above)

(b)     Cde Thabo responded by saying these were the general anti-apartheid circles in Europe – one comes across it in Sweden for example. He appealed to Cde Makathini to assist him.

(c)     Cde Makathini added that he had had this from journalists in the main.

(d)     Stuart – Casey had also mentioned that there might be the need for a third party to bring the two sides together. What was our feeling on this? He mooted the idea of KK acting in such a capacity.

(e)     Slovo – our attention must focus mainly on our strength inside SA and not on the opinions of external friends. Namibia has lost steam because too much emphasis on the international arena. The people are not our puppets. They follow us today because our politics reflect their aspirations. Once they feel they do not they will cease to follow us. A moratorium would mean throwing away all our aces. Violence is not inspired by us, it is defensive, it's the regime that provokes it. Can we in any case effect a moratorium under these circumstances? If we called one would we then say the people should not fight back? Without the mass activities what weight do we have at the negotiating table?

(f)     Mac – At this point the diplomatic track has assumed an importance equal to the mass struggle – internal track. But the internal track at all times decisive. The mass struggle – internal has created the present climate; negotiations, diplomacy etc must strengthen and reinforce us on the internal mass struggle. We are in a dilemma because the mood of the people has outstripped our capacity to move the armed struggle at a commensurate pace. EPG says that Botha must give us something credible to hold before our people. We must use that to keep up the pressure. It is not sufficient to restate our old positions on the diplomatic front, it is necessary to out-manoeuvre the regime here as we have on the ground at home.

(g)     Pallo – agrees with and supports Slovo and Mac's arguments. Stress on EPG formula on acceptability (see note 8 (a) above). We said to EPG it is not a question of Botha offering too little but a question of power. Therefore we must define what is acceptable in the same terms. We must be seen to move and can't restate old positions. If we call moratorium we are letting the struggle lose momentum, that would spell defeat. Botha, EPG et al are moved by mass action, without it no movement. The question of moratorium came first with the businessmen (Relly, De Beer, Bloom, etc.) so we know where it comes from. At the end of the day US, Britain, FRG, etc will come to save Botha from total destruction. What emanates from that quarter must be judged by that yardstick. It is essential we keep up the momentum.

(h)     Nhlanhla – do not employ conventional criteria to judge SA struggle, it has its own very specific features. We do not have army inside but the mass support we enjoy no other movement in this region had comparable. On moratorium – we must put the ball in enemy's court. It cannot be one sided, we accept it if the enemy accepts it. We can demand SADF/SAP out of townships and their replacement by MK. We must stress that this is a period that can only end with the dismantling of apartheid. We can again require the regime to grant safe conduct passes to delegates to see the leadership in prison.

(i)     Reg – I have seen a document of ours which speaks of the confinement of SADF to barracks. That to my mind is insufficient, we should demand its disbandment. We should say we are even more interested in a moratorium than the "friends" because we have always wanted peace, but at the same time stress it cannot be one sided.

On Frank Carey (Chairman of IBM) – we should say to the likes of him that we are far more concerned with the preservation of the infrastructure than he or anyone else, after all we built it and we want to inherit it.

(j)     Ruth M – Our struggle is for the seizure of power we must insist on the original conditions of Nassau Accord as the basis for a climate for negotiations.

(k)     Cde President – I will focus on the EPG. It is absolutely true that the present international climate was produced by the mass upsurge at home. What came out at Nassau was very disturbing. Not only did Thatcher abort the efforts of the Commonwealth, she also bought Botha a way out of the tight corner he was in.

The chief danger we have to guard against is the EPG getting us entangled in negotiations just when we are getting on top of the situation. In deference to our friends we decided not to shoot the EPG down.

We sat down with the EPG on the understanding that they will come back to the sanctions agreed to in Nassau if Botha does not respond. Botha now has to assume a posture that will prevent or forestall the imposition of sanctions. In our discussions we asserted that we have a right to interpret Botha's actions. We must be in a position to say to the EPG that Botha has not met your conditions and therefore the struggle has to continue. We must therefore equip ourselves with the right arguments and facts to back them up.

On the question of sanctions we must be prepared to differ firmly, even with our friends.

We must pin the EPG down to the original understanding of Nassau – all the conditions must be met – only then can we move towards a reduction of violence by both sides. This means we shall clearly spell out what we understand by a cessation of violence by the regime.

We must at all costs avoid a quid pro quo situation in which we are expected to make reciprocal moves in response to the enemy's moves. On negotiations – we stick to our position that negotiations are not dependent on the cessation of hostilities. We stress too, that it is the other side who are not ready. What will make them ready is the power of our struggle, just as it has pushed them thus far.

Discussions concluded. DIP and DIA will monitor developments.

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.