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View the documentSouth Africa Church leaders call on EC to help end violence in their country
View the documentILO's 1992 World Labour Report

South Africa Church leaders call on EC to help end violence in their country

A group of prominent anti-apartheid campaigners from South Africa's Churches flew to Brussels in Deœmber for talks with European Community officials and European nongovernmental organisations about the situation in their country. The group was led by the Most Rev. Desmond Tutu, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, representing the Kagiso Trust, an organisation in receipt of funding from the EC Commission which works to promote the economic and social advancement of the people of South Africa. After a meeting with Jacques Delors, President of the EC Commission, the delegation said it had satisfactorily resolved some concerns over the level of consultation between the EC and the Trust over its programme.

Addressing a joint meeting of the European Parliament's Development Committee, its Foreign Affairs Committee and the European members of the ACP-EEC Joint Assembly on 2 December, Archbishop Tutu expressed his people's deep appreciation of the support the Community had given in the struggle against what he described as 'one of the most vicious systems since Nazism', and thanked it for aiding the South African people through the special programme for the victims of apartheid, which had provided many young people with education, detainees with legal assistance and c their families with material support.

South Africa, the Archbishop said, had touched bottom in terms of violence. It was a complete misnomer to describe this as black-on-black violence, or tribal or ethnic, or even, in the case of the random killings on trains, political. Responsibility lay with a third force. 'The military in South Africa have had an interest in fomenting this violence and it almost always happens at specific times. (...) Because there are now talks in the offing, the violence has escalated again, as if there were someone who was able to turn it on and off at their whim.' Archbishop Tutu appealed to his hearers to exert as much pressure as possible on all the politicians in South Africa to get them to stop playing games which were costing lives and destroying the economy.

The date of 1994 set by the State President for elections was too far away, the Archbishop said. 'We would want to move rapidly to a situation where there is an interim government widely accepted by the people of South Africa and we should have a constituent assembly, democratically elected, and we should ultimately have a government that the people of South Africa have chosen freely.' Violence was not likely to end until there was multi-party control of all the security forces, including those of the ANC, Inkatha and others.

Archbishop Tutu continued with an appeal. 'Please don't be over-hasty in saying things have changed to such an extent in South Africa that apartheid has ended. Apartheid has not ended, and even when the legal support for apartheid has been removed the apartheid status quo remains... because, for the victims of apartheid, hardly anything has changed - Nelson Mandela does not vote, almost all of us here, who are black, don't vote.' He hoped, too, that his hearers would react strongly to revelations of the extent of government corruption in South Africa, as well of abuses in the ANC, both of which the Churches had condemned. Europeans should press South Africa for political change as soon as possible.

The Rev. Allan Boesak, co-founder of the United Democratic Front, then briefed the MEPs on the talks under way between the ANC and the South African Government. To halt the violence, he stressed, there must be free and fair elections before 1994, leading to a constituent assembly, parliamentary elections and South Africa's first democratic government. Economic decay and social decline were leading to deep political instability, a process which could only be halted when there were negotiations leading to concrete results. However, the Government's increasingly clear collusion in the violence was having a negative impact, Dr Boesak said. Its renewed interfererœ in Angola, too, showed that it had reverted to the pattern of destabilising the region as well. A body like the European Community should keep the whole context of the region in mind when deciding its response to the situation in South Africa itself.

Among MEPs who spoke, the chairman of Parliament's Development Committee, Henri Saby, considered that, curing South Africa of its sickness would need care and patience. The EC should step up its financial aid to further that process. The joint chairman of the ACP-EEC Joint Assembly, Maria Luisa Cassanmagnago Cerretti, called for all the different components of South African society to work together and urged President de Klerk to move further and faster.

The Secretary-General of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, Brother Jude Pieterse, made clear that funds under the EC-financed programmes of the Kagiso Trust were not given to projects submitted by political parties or the so-called homeland governments.

Archbishop Tutu said one result of apartheid was that South Africa had never had a culture of tolerance. Those holding opposing views were met with vilification, detention, even assassination. South Africans needed to learn a lesson which the Archbishop's father had taught him: 'Improve your argument, don't raise your voice.' In negotiations people did not get all they wanted, so all parties would be advised to compromise. Even the ANC was calling for a government of national unity, to reassure the fearful, even if one party won a majority in elections. The most effective incentive from outside for progress and an end to the violence was to promise massive investment in return, not to threaten sanctions if nothing happened. To allay fears about the future, it was not true that democratisation was inevitably accompanied by violence; recent events in Benin were the proof. Blacks were not out for revenge: in Zimbabwe, the white minority leader Ian Smith had even remained in Parliament after majority rule. The transition to democracy in Namibia was a recent example in Africa of tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation.

In conclusion, the Archbishop said: 'It is not a trick on our part to say we want a South Africa that is non-racial. We are not trying to please you. It is for us a deeply religious matter, and that is why we fought against apartheid, and I want to tell you we will fight against any other injustice and oppression, whoever perpetrates it. And I have gone round Africa as the President of the All Africa Conference of Churches and told them evil is evil whoever perpetrates it. (...) What we are working for is not a black South Africa. We are working for a truly democratic South Africa where people are people because they are people, created in the image of God, and are members of the family of God and our sisters or brothers whether they like it or not.'

R.R.