SOME ASPECTS OF LIBERATION

Extracts from a speech given by President Julius Nyerere at Oxford University, 19th November 1975.

‘Tanzania’s interest in the freedom movement of Southern Africa does not arise out of any belief that our people have a God-given mission to free others. If that were the case the world would rightly look upon Tanzania as the African danger to its peace; Messianic concepts of duty have done more damage to real liberty in the world than any deliberate evil intention. And, as I hope to make plain before I finish speaking, we have not yet solved the problems of making freedom a reality within our own borders. Yet we are free in one sense. We govern ourselves. We elect our own government and Parliament; we determine the direction of our own development. We make our own mistakes and achieve our own successes … We benefitted from the fact that colonialism had become unacceptable to the world; its inconsistency with the principles of human equality and freedom had become widely acknowledged. And even now, our continued independence owes more to broad acceptance of the principles of national freedom than it does to any defence capacity of our own. So anything which strengthens the acceptance of the principle of national independence is important to us; anything which weakens it is of concern to us.

‘Thus, as we see it, the right to independence either exists for every nation or it does not exist for Tanzania. Tanzanians have no superhuman virtues which are denied to the people of Tanzania … and black men in Dar es Salaam or Lusaka or Lagos have neither more nor less right to human dignity than those of Pretoria or Johannesburg or Capetown. What we claim for ourselves we have to accept as the right of others. While others are denied such rights our own hold over them must be insecure.

‘But although our weakness and our blackness makes obvious our responsibility to support other Africans when they struggle for freedom, the same connection exists for other nations and peoples of other colours. Europe has had the evils and dangers of racialism terribly demonstrated within its own borders …. Africa is not unique in its problems. Nor is it any more possible to confine them to Africa than it was to limit the effects of the European conflict to the borders of that continent. Racialism and colonialism in Africa are of world wide relevance. The question which has yet to be clearly answered is how the rest of the world is going to react to the freedom struggles in Southern Africa.’

Nyerere went on to stress that the peoples of Rhodesia, Namibia and South Africa have tried every peaceful means of redress. ‘Serious people are very reluctant to revolt against their government, however unrepresentative and unjust it may be …. But when all hope of change is denied because the very principle of freedom and equality is denied, and when the laws prevent the peaceful expression of opinion, then the people are confronted with a clear choice. They either acquiesce in their oppression and humiliation, or they commit themselves to an armed struggle.’

The President described the Lusaka Manifesto of 1969 as ‘a twelfth hour offer to talk’. It was ignored by the governments of Rhodesia. South Africa and Mozambique. So the guerrilla struggle intensified. ‘Independence in Mozambique appeared at first to achieve what the Lusaka Manifesto had failed to do. The Government of South Africa indicated a willingness to talk on one subject, on the basis we had set out – that is on the basis of how, not whether, majority rule would come in Rhodesia. In accordance with the Lusaka Manifesto the Governments of Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana therefore accepted the responsibility of acting as intermediaries with the Rhodesian Nationalists, with Vorster ‘accepting a similar function with the Smith regime. It is these discussions which gave rise to talk of a detente by South Africa, and our denial of detente.’

In theory, said Nyerere, Rhodesia is a British colony and Britain should deal with it. ‘But in fact … it is quite obvious that the issue in Rhodesia will be decided on the basis of comparative power. and the contenders are the minority regime of Ian Smith backed by South Africa, and the nationalist movement backed by the other independent states of Africa and non-racialists elsewhere in the world.

When the South African government let it be known that it was willing to accept the principle of majority rule in Rhodesia and implied that it would use its influence to that end it was therefore logical for the free African border states to investigate further ….. I do not need to go through the twelve months of alternate optimism and realism since then. It has become quite clear that even now Smith is not prepared to negotiate meaningfully. He has not accepted the principle of majority rule in Rhodesia. And it would be absurd to expect that South Africa will fulfil Britain’s responsibility, and will use force to bring about majority rule. South Africa is still refusing even to apply economic sanctions against the illegal regime.

‘Unfortunately, but inevitably, the armed struggle in Rhodesia will have to be resumed and intensified until conditions are ripe for realistic negotiation. We very much regret the need for war. It can only bring dreadful suffering to the people of Rhodesia – both black and white. It will therefore leave a heritage of bitterness which will make the eventual development of a non-racial democratic society in that country very much more difficult. But we can no more refuse support for the Rhodesian Freedom Fighters now than Britain could have refused support to the Resistance Movements of Europea during the 1940s.’

Nyerere then turned to Namibia, where he pointed out that South Africa could herself bring about independence without any complications from an Ian Smith. ‘It has now become clear, however, that the South African Government is not thinking in terms of true independence for Namibia. It is not willing to relinquish control to the United Nations; it is not willing to negotiate with the nationalist movement of the country. Instead South Africa is intensifying its attempt to divide the people along tribal lines; and it is trying to retain control of Namibia at the same time as posing as a convert to the cause of anti-colonialism. ‘The evidence for this assessment has mounted in the last few weeks. For South Africa has been using Namibia as a base for its troop incursions into Angola, and as the staging post for mercenary activity in that country.’

Thus, the President declared, it was plain that the armed struggle will have to be intensified in Namibia too. But what about South Africa itself? ‘South Africa is an independent state. It is absurd to pretend otherwise. And the whole world has accepted – at least in theory – the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of independent states . Nevertheless, Africa in general, and Tanzania in particular, claims that the world cannot ignore what is happening within South Africa, and that it should act to secure change within that independent state.

This is not just because South Africa is a tyranny, for ‘it is not the only tyrannical police state in the world, nor even in Africa. There are too many of them. Yet we do not urge external intervention in these other states; on the contrary we have bitterly opposed it. At the height of Tanzania’s expressed hostility to the atrocities and the injustices in Uganda, we made it clear th8t we would nevertheless condemn external intervention’.

There then followed the passage cited in the Introduction to this Bulletin in which Nyerere makes it clear that he is not claiming that Tanzania is Utopia. ‘But we are seriously trying to build a democratic and socialist state … I think we have some thing we can show for our democracy; and something we can show for our socialism.’ When Tanzania is criticised it is ‘for failing to live up to the principles which we ourselves have proclaimed. We believe this is true of Britain, the USA, the USSR, China, India and all other countries which call themselves democratic – however they define that word. Our self criticisms, and the criticisms of others, are related to the ideal we proclaim and to which our nations are committed.

‘South Africa has no such gap between its principles and its actions – or if there is such a gap it is one about which all free men rejoice. For the South African government is the only one in the world which has, as its fundamental purpose, the separation of men according to their physical characteristics, and the perpetuation of domination by one race over another. It is colour, an accident of birth, and the only thing over which no human being has any control, which is the basis of South African tyranny .. In this way, and in no other way, South Africa is unique. Yet this singularity is so fundamental that it cannot be disregarded.

‘If you think a man has smallpox you do not mix with him, treat with him, and ask him kindly to cure himself without passing the disease to you. However sorrowfully, you isolate him; and if he refuses to take medicine for his disease you force it down his throat for your own protection. No other single nation state has the right to intervene militarily in South Africa, and certainly Tanzania is not planning a Liberation War against that country. But the racialist government of South Africa is, by its daily actions, preparing the conditions for an internal revolution .. We in Tanzania believe that those who are genuinely opposed to racialism should help those who fight racialism. Because South Africa is an independent state, some governments and organizations may feel inhibited from direct support of those who seek to overthrow the South African system. But nothing in international law demands that the rest of the world should support the South African government in this conflict of principles .. At the very least they should refrain from strengthening the supporters of apartheid. Yet all those who invest in South Africa, or trade with South Africa, or otherwise treat it as a respectable member of the international community are giving support to apartheid … Opponents of apartheid .. have no honest choice but to isolate South Africa. That seems to be the least which a non-racist can do to help those who are, and will be, fighting racism on our behalf with great cost to themselves.’

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