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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

UDF Press Release On The Unbanning Of Political Organisations

2 February 1990

This is only a preliminary response to the State President's speech today. We will have to follow it up after our own regions have discussed in depth the contents of this speech.

We happily welcome the present steps which have been taken by the State President and which include the unbanning of the African National Congress, the South African Communist Party and the Pan Africanist Congress. The release of some of the political prisoners, the lifting in part of the State of Emergency, which also includes the lifting of the restrictions on the UDF and the suspension of executions of those who have been sentenced to death. These steps are a direct result of the struggles which have been waged by our people, particularly in the last few years'.

While we concede the boldness of some of the steps of the government, we insist on the fulfilment of the total conditions of the Harare Declaration. The country needs negotiations immediately and we are not prepared to allow any obstacles which can be removed immediately to continue to block the path towards a political resolution.

The State President has said that there is today free political association in the country, but we hold a different opinion. There remain a large number of laws which curtail political activity. For instance, the State of Emergency remains in place, which means people can still be arrested under these regulations

The Internal Security Act remains in force, and that means members of our organisation can still be subjected to Section 10 detention, be charged with terrorism and even sentenced to long prison terms. Many of our comrades who are in exile cannot come back to the country; they have not been offered immunity from arrest and that places many limitations on the freedom of political activity. It means that if Comrade Oliver Tambo were to return to South Africa today, he would immediately find himself under arrest. He cannot be in a position to participate in any political process that seeks to establish a democratic constitution for the country.

Over and above these, apartheid remains in place. The government has not removed some of the laws which constitute the pillars of the system. For instance, the Group Areas Act, the Land Act, the homelands system - all this amounts to is that the policy of apartheid will continue to bedevil political relations in this country.

Our own objective is a single non-racial democratic state and we believe that the country can begin to move towards that objective only if a vehicle capable of producing a non-racist and democratic constitution can be set in motion. It is our view that such an organ would be a constituent assembly in which the various leaders of the people participate. We consider that an organ such as a constituent assembly is the only proper one that could take our country towards a democratic solution. That constituent assembly would have to consist of the truly democratic leaders of the people of South Africa.

On an occasion such as today, it is important for us in welcoming the return of the ANC to South African political life that we must address a word to our Afrikaner compatriots in particular, but the whites in general. We urge them, we urge our white compatriots, to shed the fears of the past, to welcome the return of the ANC to our political life as a public participant. Over the years the government and its spokesmen have drummed into the minds of the white compatriots the notion that the ANC is a threat to them, is their enemy. We want to appeal to them to shed those notions. Take a new look at the situation and see the ANC as part of those constructive parties which want to shape a better future for all of us.

To the mass of our people we say that freedom is now in sight. Now, more than ever before, there is greater urgency to intensify the struggle on all fronts. Through our mass actions we ensure that the process that began in parliament today becomes irreversible. We commit ourselves to dictate the pace of change from the townships and villages of our country.

To this end we call on our people to build afresh those organisations which have been damaged by the State of Emergency and other repressive legislation. We must rebuild the trade unions, the civic organisations, and so on to ensure that total liberation is achieved.

We salute the African National Congress and we call upon the international community to recognise the ANC as the authentic representative of the people of our country. We also call on the international community to provide material support for the struggling people of this country. Now is the time to pressurise the De Klerk government to move rapidly towards democracy. To this end the sanctions campaign must be intensified. To lift sanctions now would be to run the risk of aborting the process to democracy ...

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.