About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Search Loading

Response to PW Botha's 'Rubicon' Speech

ANC PRESS STATEMENT PRESENTED BY OLIVER TAMBO LUSAKA, AUGUST 16, 1985

Last night, the people of South Africa and the rest of the world were treated to an arrogant reaffirmation by P.W. Botha that the apartheid system will continue unchanged. At a time when every thinking person in our country and abroad is saying apartheid must end now, the ruling group could not help but show itself for what it is - a clique of diehard racists, hidebound reactionaries and bloodthirsty fascist braggarts who will heed nobody except themselves.

Systematically, Botha rejected each and every measure whose implementation could be construed by some as possibly contributing to the solution of the South African problem. He prescribed the same solutions which have produced the crisis that is now devouring the lives of our people daily.

In particular, while falsely and cynically claiming to be a democrat, he scorned the very notion of the right of all South Africans to vote for the government of their choice. He pledged to perpetuate the criminal Bantustan system, further to Balkanise our country and to continue the land dispossession of the African majority, which is confined to a little more than ten per cent of South Africa.

With his hand over his heart, he projected himself as the great defender of so-called minorities while making an unequivocal commitment to the oppression of the overwhelming majority of our people. As part of this objective, he undertook further to refine the system of influx control, to modernise the pass laws and make them cost-effective so that more families can be broken up and more people deported to the desolation of the Bantustans.

Botha reiterated his determination to keep Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners in jail, offering to consider their release if they accept conditions which they have already rejected and will continue to reject. Rather than bow to the demand of our people and the international community to release and talk to these genuine leaders of our people, Botha promised to negotiate with his salaried employees whom he pays to help him administer the criminal apartheid system.

Posturing like a pathetic dictator in the mould of his predecessor and mentor, whose fascist rule was brought to an end 40 years ago, P.W. Botha stood last night pretending that he can withstand and defeat all the forces at home and abroad that are engaged in struggle to end the system of white minority domination.

He promised our people more brutal repression, boasting of the might of the murderous apartheid armed forces on whose behalf he spoke and whose views he reflected so faithfully. He who is responsible for the massacre of so many people throughout southern Africa had the cheek to blame the victims of state terrorism for the violence of the apartheid system.

He has flung an insult in the face of his best friends internationally, tolling them in no uncertain terms that he has no use for their advice.

Those who have tied themselves to the policy of so-called constructive engagement are now reaping the fruits of a policy which has encouraged the obduracy and arrogance of the apartheid regime.

To all those whom he seeks to hold and herd back into the white laager, he cracked his whip. Let there be no one, he held forth, who dares to think of any other way out of the South African crisis.

There is only one road ahead - the Botha road. The media too were treated to dark hints of reprisals if they do not fall completely in line with his prescriptions and his perceptions of the current situation in our country. Claiming that he does not want to prescribe solutions, his "manifesto" nevertheless places a ban on all lines of thinking that do not conform to his own.

Botha has confirmed what we have said many times before - apartheid cannot be reformed. The Botha-Malan road has already brought our country to the brink of the biggest conflagration in our history. The only solution that is viable and accepted by the masses of our people centres around the Freedom Charter and the strategy of the ANC. The masses of our people are showing that there is only one item on the agenda: action. The task before the ANC and our people is clear. The Botha regime has to be destroyed as a matter of the greatest urgency.

The armed struggle must and will be stepped up. The masses of our people against whom the Botha-Malan regime has declared an all-out war must and will escalate the popular offensive to destroy the apartheid organs of government, to make the criminal racist system unworkable and to make South Africa ungovernable. We must unite as never before and defeat all provocations to divide us as we saw in Durban only a few days ago.

Many white people will lose their lives, as the black people have been doing already. Much property will be destroyed. Botha must take the blame for these inevitable consequences. We, for our part, would be less than human if we were to sit back and accept that we should continue to be oppressed and exploited.

Those among our own people who have pinned their hopes on Botha changing heart and conceding that there is an urgent need for change must abandon all their illusions. They have to act against the Botha regime to realise the objectives which they have enunciated and which this regime has now rejected with utter contempt. I refer here to the business community of our country, the professionals and the intellectuals, the religious community and others. To these we say, your own interests demand that you join in the struggle to destroy the monstrous apartheid Frankenstein.

The time has come that the Western world should abandon all pretence that it has any way of influencing change in South Africa other than through the imposition of sanctions. Faced with fascism in Europe fifty years ago, all those who were interested in the defence of human dignity took arms to defeat a Nazi dictatorship. Basic human decency demands that the entire world community cut all links with the new Nazis who are so wedded to crime that they hold out the prospect of more massacres as the answer to the crisis afflicting apartheid South Africa.

The imperatives of the apartheid system compel the Pretoria regime to march on blindly to its own downfall, leaving a scorched earth in its trail. We who are its victims are ready to make any and all sacrifices to achieve justice and democracy based on the principle of one man, one vote in a unitary South Africa.

South Africa has crossed her Rubicon. 1 From: ANC leaflet

http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/pr/l 980s/pr850816.html 2/5/2006

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.