Global Viewpoint: Convinced that apartheid is crumbling, the European Community no longer wants sanctions against South Africa. Now that the South African government has repealed the apartheid laws, what is the African National Congress' stand on trade and investment sanctions?
Nelson Mandela: Our stand is very clear and constant. The first and most crucial objective of sanctions is to ensure that every South African, black and white, has the right to determine his own destiny.The second objective of sanctions is the total eradication of apartheid.
Neither of these objectives has been achieved. Therefore, our position is that sanctions should be maintained.
GB: So, until the legal pillars of apartheid come down and there is universal franchise, you advocate the continuation of all trade and investment sanctions?
NM: That is correct. There is, of course, a qualification. Sanctions should be removed only when a new democratic constitution for South Africa has been accepted. However, we understand that it is not easy to work out a constitution acceptable to all South Africans and it may not be fair to wait until that moment (to call for the repeal of sanctions). It may be necessary for us to act in good faith on a declaration by the government committing itself to a democratic constitution for South Africa.
But that depends on mutual confidence between black and white - and in particular between the ANC and the government - which does not exist at the present time.
GV: What effect will the recent repeal of the legal pillars of apartheid have on those who have been economically and politically disenfranchised under apartheid?
NM: Since we demanded the removal of this legislation, its repeal is a victory for the liberation movement. And a move for which the government must be congratulated. But the mere repeal of these laws does not give the disenfranchised the capacity to take advantage of the repeal. We must also be given the means, resources to enable blacks who have been disadvantaged to buy land.
There are also those who have been driven from their land, and we feel the government must allow these people to return. Also, there is the fundamental question of fair distribution. At present, 87 percent of the land is owned by the white minority.
GV: The government's stand at this point is "Let bygones be bygones. From this day forward there will be no more discrimination based on race. But we don't have the financial resources to redistribute the wealth."
NM: We agree with the principle "let bygones be bygones" because that is the only basis on which we can move forward.
But of course, "let bygones by bygones" is a mere slogan. And although all parties will repeat it many times, there are certain practical problems which must be attended to. We cannot ignore the fact that blacks today constitute the overwhelming majority of the population; that they are disadvantaged; that they haven't got the capital and that, therefore, they must be provided with the means whereby they can actually translate the principle "let bygones be bygones" into practice.
We cannot avoid taking into account the fact that blacks in this country do not have land by virtue of previous government policies. We must rectify that injustice. And the only way of doing so, in my view, is to ensure that land is fairly distributed and that people are given the resources to be able to afford land where it is available.
GV: Critics charge that this kind of redistribution approach hasn't worked in the rest of Africa, or in Eastern Europe, for that matter.
NM: What we are calling for here is not the common ownership of land. We are calling for individual title to land. I don't see why it won't work if I am given a piece of land which I would be able - if I have the resources - to make profitable so that I could earn my livelihood.
I think the error is created because people think that when we are calling for a fair distribution, we are thinking of the common ownership of the land, as has happened in Socialist countries. We are not demanding that. We are merely saying that each individual should be given a piece of land which he can regard as his own.
GV: You may not be calling for common ownership of land, but redistribution will certainly be at the expense of the white minority.
NM: In a general way, yes. But in actual practice, no, because you have vast tracts of land in this country which are not occupied. And you have people owning land which they can NEVER properly develop.
In any case, where you try to rectify the evils of the past, some people must suffer. But we are not calling for anything which would completely deprive people of what they own.
But we do say that redistribution must be undertaken if there is going to be justice as far as the ownership of land is concerned.
GV: What is the major impediment to renewed talks with the government?
NM: At the present moment, of course, it is the question of violence. We have now lost close to 10,000 people since September, 1984.
In the first place, you must understand that this violence has been misrepresented by the government and the mass media as strictly black on black. It is partially correct, because there is that element. But there are also a number of trained professional death squads who are rummaging around the strife-torn areas committing murder.
GV: In addition to charges of death-squad activity on the part of the government, the ANC has also charged that the government is not doing enough to stanch the flow of blood in the townships between blacks. What more should the government be doing?
NM: It should be ensuring that there are enough policemen to patrol the strife-torn areas. We know the source of this violence. It comes from the hostels, which accommodate migrants.
If the government wants to put an end to the violence, all they have to do is cordon off the violent hostels, do not allow any people to leave the hostels armed and do not allow residents to enter the hostels to attack.
Of course, they have now agreed that they are going to do this, but we want them to deliver the goods.
GV: And if they deliver the goods, the ANC is willing to restart negotiations on a new constitution?
NM: Well, we also have other demands. We want the total banning of all dangerous weapons throughout the country. What the government has done thus far is to ban them only in the strife-torn areas. The result is that these elements just go to the other areas.
We have also asked for the police to use civilized methods of crowd control. We have asked for the arrest and conviction of all people who are found guilty of having committed a crime. We have asked for the appointment of an impartial commission of inquiry. We have asked for the dismissal of (Defense Minister Magnus) Malan and (Law and Order Minister Adriaan) Vlok. None of this has been done.
GV: Where does your willingness to compromise with the government for the sake of conflict resolution end?
NM: We, the ANC, are the architects of negotiations and we want to succeed. We are also worried about the effect of sanctions on our economy. We would like to save our economy and we know sanctions are threatening it.
That is why we are so keen that the process of negotiations be speeded up. Unfortunately, the government, in spite of all that it says, does not seem to share our concern for saving our economy.
But because I want negotiations with the government to succeed, I continue to insist that all obstacles be removed. Prisoners should be released. Exiles should be indemnified. Political trials should end.
But I am optimistic that we will be able to resolve and remove these obstacles.
GV: When do you envision a popularly elected government taking power in the new South Africa?
NM: All that I can say is that we are clear that it should take place as soon as possible.
GV: Do you hope to be South Africa's first democratically elected president?
NM: It is for our people to decide.
1991 New Perspectives Quarterly
Dist. by Los Angeles Times Syndicate