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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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

'Summary of ideas on negotiations and the way forward ; by...

The past few weeks have seen renewed debating effort within the ANC on questions of negotiations and forward movement to a democratic, united non-sexist and non-racial South Africa.

The debates have been sharpened by two contributions - a discussion document of the ANC Negotiations Commission that is entitled "Strategic Perspective" and the well publicised document by Joe Slovo on possible compromises (we stress that neither of the two documents represents ANC policy).

This is displayed by the degree of criticism both documents attracted from within and outside the ranks of the movement.

The two documents are closely related, they both make suggestions for compromises whose intention is to achieve:

a) a breakthrough in negotiations.

b) the demobilisation of counter- revolutionary threats and the defence of democratic gains.

The compromises are based on the premise that there exist a balance of forces in the country which compels the liberation movement to consider these alternatives. Considered in their detail, the compromises entail:

     some form of power-sharing with the National Party.

     reaching an understanding with the security establishment (the SAP and the SADF) and the white civil service through the National Party whose cumulative effect is to leave these power structures intact; even post-apartheid.

     entering into some form of bilateral agreement with the regime on the question of regions - an emotive and crucial issue which the liberation movement has always correctly described as the province of the Constituent Assembly.

The ANC Youth League is not persuaded that the suggested compromises will yield any breakthrough, if anything, they remove fundamental requisite elements of what, in the terms of national liberation, would be known as a breakthrough.

A study of the short record of negotiations does not give evidence that we have made any gains by making compromises, instead we have suffered set-backs. When the ANC suspended armed struggle in August 1990, the response of the South African government was to escalate violence against the ANC and the black people in general. This is but one example amongst many. What emerges consistently in the conduct of the regime in the negotiations is its tendency to perceive compromises to be a sign of weakness. Furthermore, there cannot be said to be a glimmer of good faith in the way the regime has been negotiating.

There is more evidence which points to the fact that all the breakthroughs we have made so far have been as a result of unrelenting struggles. This not only relates to constitutional negotiations, but to even other forms of negotiations. The recognition of SADTU, the suspension of mtrenchmentof coloured teachers in the House of Representantives' Department of Education and Culture, the reinstatement of dismissed hospital hospital workers by TPA, and of course the celebrated Record of Understanding, are examples of victories that have been brought about by struggle in the face of fierce and, in most cases, violent opposition from the regime. This is the regime we are today told has common objectives with the national liberation movement.

Let us remind ourselves of positions of the regime hardly a year and half ago:

     it rejected an interim government out of hand;

it rejected the idea of a democratically elected constitution-making-body;

it arrogantly held the view that there were no political prisoners in SA;

it said no to international involvement in the resolution of the South African conflict.

Where is the regime today?

Nobody will convince us that the ground so far covered in relation to the above four issues has been facilitated by generous concessions by the liberation movement. It has been the intensification of our struggle.

The other intended objective for suggesting the mooted package is to neutralise what is perceived as a counter-revolutionary threat, whose main base is supposed to be the SADF, the SAP and the white civil service.

This position leads to the following questions:

Is it true that counter-revolution can be neutralised by making the suggested concessions? Isn't this proposal an over-simplification to a point of neglecting the ideo-logical and political designs of any counter-revolutionary threat? If this is recognised, then the suggested compromises are not only problematic, but could lead to a major strategic perversion, given the nature of the proposals.

Untampered with or barely tampered with security forces will effectively impose the ideological designs of counter-revolution. In fact, the SADF, the SAP and the SA civil service have the capacity, if not partially or totally dismembered, to turn the Contituent Assembly into a paper churning institution.

Is it indeed true that counter-revolution will of necessity emerge from the security establishment and the civil service?

The history of third world revolutions points to a tendency where counter-revolution has the indigenous population as its major source of personnel. In this regard the proposals are deficient in not making suggestions on formations that are today already behaving in a counter revolutionary fashion Inkatha and the other repressive bantustan regimes.

Counter-revolution has always fed on opportunistic elements which, prior to transferral of power, would have been perceived to have been on the side of the people. The South African struggle is fraught with such examples. The PAC, AZAPO and the other fringe organisations are stars in this category. Is it true that possibilities of counter-revolution will be arrested by entering into an agreement with the National Party per se?

Recent events point to a disintegration of what used to be the ruling bloc and dispersal of potentially counter-revolutionary elements. This, however, does not suggest a minimalisation of the counter-revolutionary possibility.

The primary objection to the proposed moves is centred on the capacity of these proposals to abort democratic change. Carefully couched in these suggestions is the comparison of Interim Government to power-sharing.

We do not agree that by accepting the notion of Interim Government for the period of transition, the ANC has accepted the notion of power-sharing per se. Shared power with the National Party, which has the cumulative effect of denying the winner of democratic elections the right to form a government and throw the loser into the opposition, is completely distinguishable from a multi-party IG whose main task is to take the country into a democratic order.

Similarly, the gestures of reconciliation which liberation movements have made in other countries by including former foes into a new government cannot be equated to power - sharing either.

The reason for this is that the prerogative has always been and should be with the winner of elections to decide who should be included inpower structures.

The ANC Youth League is critical of and opposed to a negotiations approach that is premised on compromises being the catalyst for forward movement. This has the attendant danger of elevating negotiations to the key strategic answer towards the attainment of our goals and not part of a whole whose primary element is the masses of the people. The view of the Youth League is that, as we (the alliance) have ably demonstrated in the past few months,' mass struggles of the people are the key to breaking deadlocks or logjams in negotiations and advancing our goals.

It is through struggle that the threat of counter-revolution should be weakened. It is not pieces of paper and carefully crafted agreements that are going to defend the revolution, but the masses of people of South Africa. The counter-revolution that is ravaging Natal and the PWV is not going to be appeased by pious declarations by the President of the ANC. Its resolve is to crush him, his organisation, and his people so that it can achieve its ideological objective, the retention of the status quo. Our people are defending themselves by physically repulsing this onslaught and waging the struggle for democracy.

In addition to escalating struggle,greater unity of the anti-apartheid forces is necessary. The reconvening of the Durban PF to achieve maximum unity of the oppressed and thereby reduce the base from which this feared counter revolution may recruit is therefore paramount.

The mass struggles and consolidated unity of all oppressed should be complemented by an intensified campaign of international solidarity with democratic positions. The last Security Council decisions are an example of the extent to which the international community can take action if consistently and consciously mobilised.

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.