“ANC President, Nelson Mandela delivered an opening address to the September COSATU Special Congress. Having completed his prepared speech, comrade Mandela put aside his notes and spoke directly and spontaneously to the 1 700 worker delegates. He asked a question that was uppermost in the minds of many.” — The African Communist (1993)
COMRADES, I would like to make one more remark.
I fully believe the ANC will never betray the cause of democracy, the cause of the workers. We have a track record in which we have worked closely with workers’ movements. But your defence is not just the ANC, it is you, the workers yourselves. It is you who must take the defence of your rights, your aspirations in your own hands.
How many times has the liberation movement worked together with workers, and at the moment of victory betrayed the workers? There are many examples of that in the world. . . (prolonged applause)
It is only if the workers strengthen their organisation before and after liberation . . . (applause) . . . if you relax your vigilance, you will find that your sacrifices have been in vain.
You must support the African National Congress only so far as it delivers the goods, if the ANC government does not deliver the goods, you must do to it what you have done to the apartheid regime (prolonged applause, and shouts of “Buwa! Buwa!”).
The South African Communist Party, as well, must not be complacent. I do not think we will ever betray the South African Communist Party. It has been our ally for more than 70 years, we have fought and suffered together, our comrades have died together. Many of them remained in the battlefield and never returned. I don’t think with such a tradition, with such a background, it is possible for the ANC ever to betray the South African Communist Party. . . (applause)
But, it will be foolhardy for the South African Communist Party to become complacent and to rely exclusively on the bone fides of the ANC.
Who ever knew that the Soviet Union would disappear? Who ever knew that the eastern democracies would disappear from the scene, and become something totally different from a socialist society? That is an experience which requires the SACP and its leadership not to be complacent.
It is only if all the partners of the tripartite alliance take the defence of democracy in their own hands and co-operate with the broad democratic movement in that capacity.
This alliance is here to stay . . . (applause). It is this alliance, and not De Klerk, it is this alliance that is going to liberate you, and that is why we must prepare very, very efficiently, very effectively for the 27th of April, and make it in theory and in practice the day of liberation.
Nelson Mandela (18 July 1918-5 December 2013) was a revolutionary fighter against apartheid, who served as President of the African National Congress from 1991 to 1997 and President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. The text above was first published in The African Communist 134 (1993). It is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.