Item 021 - Nelson Mandela's address to rally in Bloemfontein

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Nelson Mandela's address to rally in Bloemfontein


  • 1990-02-25 (Creation)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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ANC Website

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Text in CAPITALS indicates where the address was delivered in Sotho.

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  • English

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My dear compatriots, I greet you in the name of our glorious movement, the African National Congress. I greet you in the name of our president, Oliver Tambo.

Let me express my pleasure and appreciation at the warm welcome you have given us. Your great numbers here are a clear indication that the ANC is alive and well here in the Free State.

The importance of today's rally is enhanced by the fact that Bloemfontein is the birthplace of the ANC. THE ANC IS A CHILD OF BLOEMFONTEIN. The umbilical cord of the ANC is buried here. Today, we are like children returning to their mother. The African National Congress was formed in Bloemfontein in 1912. In his opening address to the delegates, Pixley Seme, the first Secretary of the ANC, commented that the vast majority of our people were treated as 'hewers of wood and drawers of water'. He pointed out that most of our people had no voice in the making of the laws of the country. He emphasised that the ANC was formed to create national unity and to defend the rights and privileges of African peoples.

We salute the founding fathers and mothers of our glorious organisation. We proudly affirm that almost 80 years after its formation, the ANC remains firmly committed to the central vision of its founders; indeed we have extended the boundaries of their vision, embracing within our ranks Africans, Indians, Coloureds and Whites to become an organisation that is truly national. In this respect, we stand apart from every other political organisation in this country.

In these many decades of unremitting struggle, the ANC has established itself as the chief architect of national liberation, the embodiment of the aspirations of our people and the resounding voice of the oppressed which cannot be silenced. We have been unrivalled in our commitment to peace, justice and equality for all. We have guided our struggle to the point where our freedom from the chains of apartheid is not wishful thinking. It is the future which we demand for ourselves and make for our children.

Today, the Nationalist government envies the international acclaim which we have won. Our ambassadors and diplomats are received in the numerous capitals of the world, while those of the regime remain outcast in the community of nations. We praise the Organisation of African Unity for the steadfast support which they have given us in making known to the world the illegitimacy of the apartheid government. Their help will never be forgotten.

Today, our organisation stands as the most powerful symbol of the global rejection of racism. From very humble beginnings, from a meeting of only 100 delegates 78 years ago, we have become an organisation of hundreds of thousands, embodying the aspirations of millions, and an inspiration to yet more.

What have we done to win the respect of kings, presidents, prime ministers and millions of ordinary persons everywhere?

We have stood fearless before the guns of apartheid. The blood of our martyrs has stained the floors and walls of apartheid jails. Yet we have never faltered in our quest to create a South Africa where freedom, peace, justice and equality prevail. This is the noble mission of the ANC and one which we will never forsake.

The march to freedom has not been easy. Along the way we have had to develop organisational capacity, tactical flexibility, and a breadth of vision to keep our ship afloat on the stormy seas on which we have sailed. We began as a racially restricted organisation, articulating the demands of only Africans. The 1940s represented a crucial turning point in the history of the ANC. In that decade the ANC recognised that freedom was only possible when the masses were involved in the struggle for their own liberation.

Mass action became, and remains, a cornerstone of the ANC's commitment to transforming the political landscape of this country. Some of the leaders who effected that policy shift are still with us. I salute our President Oliver Tambo, and our veteran leaders Walter Sisulu and Govan Mbeki for their participation in the Youth League which spearheaded this important policy shift.

The formation of the people's army, Umkhonto we Sizwe, in 1961 is another major landmark in the history of our struggle. Umkhonto we Sizwe was formed to defend our people against the violence of apartheid. I salute our brave warriors. Your contribution to the struggle for peace is immeasurable. I salute all those who have fallen in battle. You have not died in vain. Martyrs to our cause, your courage enables us to remain unflinchingly committed to our goal of creating a non-racial democracy in a unitary South Africa. Let us observe a minute's silence for all those who have died.

I salute each and every one of you here today. It is due to your courage and steadfastness that I stand before you here, representing the ANC, an ANC which unites not only Africans as envisaged by the founding fathers - but all South Africans. Since the historic Morogoro conference in Tanzania in 1968 we are proud to be able to count within our ranks Africans, Coloureds, Indians and Whites. We are 'one nation in one country'.

Here, in one of the heartlands of conservative Afrikanerdom, I want to pay tribute to Comrade Bram Fischer, a heroic Afrikaner and a born son of the Free State. We call on all other peace-loving Afrikaners to join our ranks. Let the proud spirit that moved you to name this area the Free State in 1854 now guide you in the pursuit of a still greater freedom.

We in the ANC are committed not only to freedom within our country. We seek freedom from tyranny in the entire region. The evil hand of apartheid forces has been active in Mozambique. The government of South Africa has repeatedly allowed sections of its forces to violate the sovereignty of Mozambique. In spite of the Nkomati Accord, the security establishment has continued to support Renamo. Recently it has been claimed that the continued aid which Renamo receives comes from private sources in South Africa, and right-wing elements in the United States. I call on Mr De Klerk to demonstrate the same integrity which I observed around the circumstances of my release by passing legislation which makes the rendition of assistance to Renamo a punishable offence. The government of the United States should do the same.

More refugees have died attempting to cross the fence of death separating South Africa and Mozambique than died crossing the Berlin Wall. That fence must go. The people of Mozambique are our brothers and sisters. We must accept refugees from Mozambique in line with the terms of the Geneva Conventions and we must recognise that we have a special responsibility in this regard because of the regime's role in creating devastation in Mozambique. The South African government must cease to be the terror and scourge of our people and their neighbours.

The ANC is committed to using every method that may further the goals of peace on the sub-continent and national liberation. Negotiations with the regime are one of these methods. Through negotiations we hope to demonstrate to all parties concerned the moral superiority of our cause and the justness of our demands. At the same time, we hope to show more clearly our understanding of the genuine anxieties and fears of the other parties in this conflict. The end goal is to arrive at a democratic non-racial South Africa which guarantees equal rights, privileges and protection to all South Africans. Where there is true peace, everyone is a winner.

The ANC is committed to the process of achieving peace as set out in the Harare Declaration and which is supported by the international community. We note that the government has failed to meet all the pre-conditions set out in the Declaration. We hope, however, that in the preliminary talks soon to be held with the government, the regime will realise the necessity of meeting those demands.

We must be flexible in tactics but stand firm on principles. There may be some in our ranks who are sceptical of talks about talks. We say, however, that the ANC has nothing to fear about enjoying open debate with anyone who is genuinely prepared to listen. We must seize this opportunity to demonstrate the correctness of our views and to win more people over to our side. In this struggle we hold the moral high ground. We must maintain it. The long years of our struggle provide us with the experience and the skills necessary to steer a steady course at this time. Our hard-fought campaigns have steeled us.

Today I pay tribute to the valiant struggles of the women of the Orange Free State. In 1913 the centre of Bloemfontein was invaded by hundreds of women. Their cause: the much-hated passes for women. After numerous representations and petitions to the authorities, the women declared: 'We have done with pleading, we now demand!' Like wildfire, their protest spread to other towns in the Free State, from Winburg in the north and to Jagersfontein in the south. These early struggles paid off when, ten years later, women were exempted from carrying passes under legislation enacted in parliament. It was not until 1963, fifty years after their protest, that the government finally succeeded in forcing women to carry passes. Our women are still looking for freedom. In the forthcoming talks with the government we will echo their call, 'We have done with pleading, we now demand.'

In prison we were deeply moved by the plight of the 500,000 people, discarded, displaced, and dumped on open ground without shelter at Onverwacht, later called Botshabelo. In the ten years since then Botshabelo has become, after Soweto, the largest township in the country. We reiterate our commitment to providing a shelter for every head in this country.

In 1987, in further defiance of the laws of economic gravity, Pretoria attempted to incorporate Botshabelo into Qwa-Qwa. I salute the brave fight of the people of Botshabelo to remain part of South Africa. I salute your efforts to try to force the authorities to provide better social services and basic amenities like electricity, piped water, sewerage disposal, clinics and tarred roads. But the people of Botshabelo still seek an end to their poverty and distress. It is clear that there is nothing free about the Free State today.

The Orange Free State has abundant resources - gold, diamonds and a fertile soil. The food produced here fills the tables of people right across South Africa. Its gold and diamonds enrich many. Yet many of you, the people of the Orange Free State, live in poverty. The ANC remains committed to a more equal distribution of the wealth of this country. The people who work must enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Today I wish to pay tribute to the trade unions which, against all odds, have organised the workers into a force to be reckoned with. In particular, the National Union of Mineworkers has been a vanguard in the articulation and protection of workers' rights.

We condemn the absence of legal protection for farm workers and the opportunities for gross exploitation which exist on farms. The country recoils in horror at the repeated reports of farmworkers being beaten to death by racist farmers. It is painful for me to see that magistrates - officials charged with the execution of justice - consider a human life to be worth a fine of R100 or a suspended sentence.

Bloemfontein is the judicial capital of the country. I wish to reiterate here the ANC's total commitment to the rule of law. Sadly, but not surprisingly, this government has systematically undermined this time-honoured judicial principle of all civilised societies. Under the State of Emergency the police headquarters have taken over as the judicial capital. Not all judges and magistrates have defended and spoken out against those laws which constitute a travesty of justice. Their failure is a national shame. But, we praise those judges and magistrates who have defended the integrity and independence of the courts and whose enlightened judgements are beacons of hope for the future.

I understand that implementing apartheid laws has made it extremely difficult for many honest policemen to fulfil their role as servants of the public. You are seen in the eyes of many of our people as an instrument of repression and injustice. We call on the police to abandon apartheid and to serve the interests of the people. Join our march to a new South Africa where you also have a place. We note with appreciation that there are certain areas where policemen are acting with restraint and fulfilling the real role of protecting all our people, irrespective of their race. But we view with horror the moral decay within certain sections of the security establishment. The collapse of good conscience and the absence of accountability and public scrutiny have led to crimes against humanity and violations of international law. We call on Mr De Klerk to show good faith in this matter by suspending Mr Adriaan Vlok and dismissing General Magnus Malan.

The Free State is seen by our people as a bastion of white conservatism. We serve notice that this state of affairs must be remedied. Whilst we cannot yet say that we are satisfied, at least municipal authorities like those of Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town have opened their amenities to all South Africans. It is in the interest of the municipal authorities of the Orange Free State to contribute towards the creation of a conflict-free South Africa. Opening up amenities to all would be a step in the right direction. We urge you to do so without delay.

Comrades and friends gathered here today, you have urgent tasks ahead of you. Build democratic organisations through the length and breadth of the Orange Free State. Every youth, every woman, every worker, every township dweller must join organisations where they exist and, where they do not exist, they must be formed.

Finally, I look forward to the day when this city will welcome back Comrade Tambo, Comrade Slovo, and all our brothers and sisters from exile, as well as those who still languish in jail. The child conceived here in 1912 returns to its mother, older, stronger and wiser. The full-grown ANC leads our country to freedom.




Qwa-Qwa was one of South Africa's ten bantustans.
Adriaan Vlok was the Minister of Law and Order.
Magnus Malan was the Minister of Defence.

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Acquisition method: From website ; Source: ANC Website. Accessioned on 6 Nov 2006 by Helen Joannides




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