Mass action and ANC strategy

Issue 

PALLO JORDAN is a member of the African National Congress National Executive Committee. He is also an elected member of that body's executive, the National Working Committee. Born in 1942, and a graduate of the University of Sussex, he for many years headed the ANC's research department. He is currently director of ANC's Department of Information. He spoke to Green Left Weekly from Johannesburg about the ANC's negotiation strategy and the campaign of mass action.

How do you answer claims by the Pan Africanist Congress and some of the smaller South African socialist groups that the Boipatong massacre and the deadlock in CODESA illustrate the failure of the ANC's negotiations strategy?

It was very important for us to enter into a negotiating process because the aim of the ANC is to achieve full democracy in South Africa in as peaceful a way as possible. What the Boipatong massacre and the problems around the negotiations show is that the real question is how much pressure can we bring to bear on the National Party government to accept a full democracy ... whether the government can be bought to the point of realising that they have no other option but to do what is the correct thing for South Africa and that is to accept this full democracy.

While we remain committed to the principle of negotiations — both because it is a reasonable approach to the situation and we have to be careful that we don't damage the South African fabric to the extent that it cannot recover in the future — we will continue with this program of mass action until we can get an acceptance from the government of a full democracy.

There is no contradiction between our campaign of mass action and our commitment to negotiations in

the future. We don't believe that negotiations per se are a wrong strategy. The real problem lies with the intransigence of the government. We must make use of all different strategies to bring them to the point where they accept a full democracy.

Is there some truth in the reports that some ANC members feel that during the negotiations process so far the question of mass mobilisation and mass action of the people has been neglected?

There is an element of truth in that. Not all the sessions of CODESA, especially the different working groups, have been open to the public or media. The negotiations process has tended to become somewhat isolated from the rest of the community and many of the members of the ANC and other organisations like COSATU [Congress of South African Trade Unions] and the South African Communist Party felt that they were no longer part of this process. There was not a feeling of participation in the process of moving towards a future South Africa.

It was for this reason that our national policy conference [in May] decided that a campaign of mass participation in the negotiating process should be launched. Of course, when negotiations broke down and the violence became so much more intense, the decision for people to participate in this campaign of mass action was even more important. This campaign of mass action will continue ... until we get the government to accept a full democracy.

Can you comment on the press reports that speak of ANC youth being out of control. What is the real situation?

We believe that the vast majority of our people, including the youth, are committed to a peaceful negotiating process. They do not want to see South Africa descend into a spiral of violence. They have shown, through their peaceful participation and

discipline, that they are committed to a future democratic society that obviously also needs to be peaceful.

Obviously, there have been some incidents of intimidation from undisciplined members of the African National Congress. We are very deeply concerned about this. We are investigating such incidents and will take the necessary disciplinary steps. But the ANC has really gone out of its way to make sure that this campaign will be peaceful and democratic. We issued very clear guidelines to allow every person in this country to have the freedom to choose whether they want to participate in this campaign or not.

What can people in Australia do to help the struggle against apartheid?

We really appreciate all the efforts of the people in Australia, and throughout the world, to help us in our struggle. It is very important now to put as much pressure as possible on the de Klerk government to accept the basic demands of the ANC for democracy and peace. It is very important for the people of Australia to understand that President de Klerk is still, in the final instance, a ruler of a minority government. He still continues to try to secure white minority privilege for his supporters.

The people of Australia have got only one decent and democratic road to take as far as South Africa is concerned, and that is to support the democratic organisations in our country who have fought for many years for liberation and a full democracy, and, through their actions during the past week, recommitted themselves to those goals.

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