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Home  > Nations & Nationalism  > The Strength of an Idea > Nelson Mandela, Non Violence & Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister

Nelson Mandela, Umkhonto we Sizwe & Non-Violence

"...Umkhonto we Sizwe is a new, independent body, formed by Africans. ... the people's patience is not endless. The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices: submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means within our power in defence of our people, our future and our freedom. The government has interpreted the peacefulness of the movement as weakness. The people's non-violent policies have been taken as a green light for government violence. Refusal to resort to force has been interpreted by the government as an invitation to use armed force against the people without any fear of reprisals. The methods of Umkhonto we Sizwe mark a break with that past..." - Nelson Mandela: The Struggle is My Life - His Speeches and Writings, p122


Sri Lanka Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar in a question and answer session on  Saturday, 31 October 1998 on Sri Lanka national television network Rupavahini's 'Janamandali' :

Q. "What has been the response of the South African Government to your show of concern. I remember President Kumaratunga appealed to the people of South Africa during the Durban summit about the LTTE's plan to shift to South Africa."

A. "The South African Government I am convinced is taking serious note of our concerns... We are just saying to them there is a serious problem. We have information that the LTTE is trying to make a base in South Africa. Please do not allow that to happen, and remember that the LTTE is totally different from the ANC. President Mandela was one of the great exponents of non-violent political struggle. That was his great strength. But the LTTE is exactly the opposite...."


From "Nelson Mandela: The Struggle is My Life - His Speeches and Writings" - Third Edition, 1990, IDAF Publications at page 122:

ARMED STRUGGLE

On 16 December 1961 acts of sabotage marked the emergence of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) which was later to become the armed wing of the ANC. Mandela was a founder member and Commander-in-Chief of Umkhonto. The explosions were accompanied by the distribution of the Umkhonto we Sizwe manifesto. (ANC observes 16 December as Heroes' Day, commemorating those who have lost their lives in the struggle against apartheid)

UMKHONTO WE SIZWE MANIFESTO, 1961

Leaflet issued by Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) on 16 December 1961.

Units of Umkhonto we Sizwe today carried out planned attacks against government installations, particularly those connected with the policy of apartheid and race discrimination.

Umkhonto we Sizwe is a new, independent body, formed by Africans. It includes in its ranks South Africans of all races. It is not connected in any way with a so-called 'Committee for National Liberation' whose existence has been announced in the press. Umkhonto we Sizwe will carry on the struggle for freedom and democracy by new methods, which are necessary to complement the actions of the established national liberation organisations. Umkhonto we Sizwe fully supports the national liberation movement, and our members' jointly and individually, place themselves under the overall political guidance of that movement.

It is, however, well known that the main national liberation organisations in this country have consistently followed a policy of non-violence. They have conducted themselves peaceably at all times, regardless of government attacks and persecutions upon them, and despite all government-inspired attempts to provoke them to violence. They have done so because the people prefer peaceful methods of change to achieve their aspirations without the suffering and bitterness of civil war. But the people's patience is not endless.

The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices: submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means within our power in defence of our people, our future and our freedom.

The government has interpreted the peacefulness of the movement as weakness. The people's non-violent policies have been taken as a green light for government violence. Refusal to resort to force has been interpreted by the government as an invitation to use armed force against the people without any fear of reprisals. The methods of Umkhonto we Sizwe mark a break with that past.

We are striking out along a new road for the liberation of the people of this country. The government policy of force, repression and violence will no longer be met with non-violent resistance only! The choice is not ours; it has been made by the Nationalist government, which has rejected every peaceable demand by the people for rights and freedom and answered every such demand with force and yet more force!

Twice in the past eighteen months, virtual martial law has been imposed in order to beat down peaceful, non-violent strike action of the people in support of their rights. It is now preparing its force - enlarging and rearming its armed forces and drawing the white civilian population into commandos and pistol clubs - for full-scale military actions against the people.

The Nationalist government has chosen the course of force and massacre, now, deliberately, as it did at Sharpeville.

Umkhonto we Sizwe will be at the front line of the people's defence. It will be the fighting arm of the people against the government and its policies of race oppression. It will be the striking force of the people for liberty' for rights and for their final liberation! Let the government, its supporters who put it into power, and those whose passive toleration of reaction keeps it in power, take note of where the Nationalist government is leading the country!

We of Umkhonto we Sizwe have always sought - as the liberation movement has sought - to achieve liberation without bloodshed and civil clash. We do so still. We hope - even at this late hour - that our first actions will awaken everyone to a realisation of the disastrous situation to which the Nationalist policy is leading. We hope that we will bring the government and its supporters to their senses before it is too late, so that both the government and its policies can be changed before matters reach the desperate stage of civil war. We believe our actions to be a blow against the Nationalist preparations for civil war and military rule.

In these actions, we are working in the best interests of all the people of this country - black, brown and white whose future happiness and well-being cannot be attained without the overthrow of the Nationalist government, the abolition of white supremacy and the winning of liberty, democracy and full national rights and equality for all the people of this country.

We appeal for the support and encouragement of all those South Africans who seek the happiness and freedom of the people of this country.


From "Nelson Mandela: The Struggle is My Life - His Speeches and Writings" - Third Edition, 1990, IDAF Publications at page 194:

On 31 January, the State President of South Africa, P.W.Botha, speaking in Parliament, offered mandela his freedom on condition that he acknowledged that he 'unconditionally rejected violence as a political weapon.'... Madela's response... was read out by his daughter Zinzi to a mass meeting in Jabulani Stadium, Soweto on 10 February 1985:

"I am a member of the African National Congress. I have always been a member of the African National Congress and I will remain a member of the African National Congress until the day I die....

I am surprised at the conditions that the government wants to impose on me. I am not a violent man. My colleagues and I wrote in 1952 to Malan asking for a round table conference to find a solution to the problems of our country, but that was ignored. When Strijdom was in power, we made the same offer. Again it was ignored. When Verwoerd was in power we asked for a national convention for all the people in South Africa to decide on their future. This, too, was in vain.

It was only then, when all other forms of resistance were no longer open to us, that we turned to armed struggle. Let Botha show that he is different to Malan, Strijdom and Verwoerd. Let him renounce violence. Let him say that he will dismantle apartheid. Let him unban the people's organisation, the African National Congress. Let him free all who have been imprisoned, banished or exiled for their opposition to apartheid. Let him guarantee free political activity so that people may decide who will govern them.

I cherish my own freedom dearly, but I care even more for your freedom. Too many have died since I went to prison. Too many have suffered for the love of freedom. I owe it to their widows, to their orphans, to their mothers and to their fathers who have grieved and wept for them. Not only I have suffered during these long, lonely, wasted years. I am not less life-loving than you are. But I cannot sell my birthright, nor am I prepared to sell the birthright of the people to be free. I am in prison as the representative of the people and of your organisation, the African National Congress, which was banned.

What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? ... Only free men can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts. ...I cannot and will not give any undertaking at a time when I and you, the people, are not free. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated. I will return."

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