The Spear of the Nation

Statement by OR Tambo to the People of South Africa on the 10th Anniversary of Umkhonto we Sizwe

16 December 1971

Now let us talk of Freedom,. Everywhere in the world today, the oppressed and exploited masses of people are up in arms. They are fighting against the forces of colonialism and imperialism. They are making great sacrifices to redeem their human dignity and fundamental liberties from the shackles of bondage. They are revolting against oppression, against foreign aggression, against the usurpation of their land; against human degradation. They stand for peace and justice: they clamour for an end to imperialist wars; they yearn for the birth of a new order. And to uphold their convictions they are prepared to pay with their own lives.

These men, women and children whose lives are massacred in the struggle for liberation are in Vietnam, in Laos, in Khmer, in Thailand; they are in Palestine, in the Sinai peninsula and other Arab lands under Zionist occupation. There are fierce struggles being waged in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau; there are battles in Zimbabwe and Namibia; in Comoro and other islands in the Indian Ocean. Yes, there is a life and death struggle against United States imperialism and its lackeys throughout the Latin American continent. And in our fatherland - South Africa - the fascist monster of apartheid is resorting to more and more draconian tortures and murders in a vain attempt to extinguish the fires of struggle that are also aflame there.

We call upon all the oppressed and exploited black masses of the people of South Africa to unite and close against the apartheid monster.

We call upon the miners deep down in the bowels of the earth; we call upon the labourers in the Boer farms and on farm jails; we call upon the workers in the factories, in the shops. In domestic employ; we call upon the men who keep the railways going, and on those who bear heavy loads at the ports and harbours; we call upon the men who keep the towns and cities clean; we call upon teachers, nurses, doctors, sportsmen; we call upon all working people and peasants throughout the length and breadth of our country to rise and demand the Freedom, of the black majority.

Get Armed

Ten years ago on the 16th December, the first salvos of our demand shook the enemy. On that day we spoke to the white oppressor in a new way; we blew up the hated symbols of oppression with our homemade bombs. In 1967 we made our voice quite clear in the battlefields of Zimbabwe. There the white oppressor learnt the lesson which we must teach him again and again - that a bullet kills a white man too. And out of the barrels of guns and homemade bombs let us go on showing Vorster and his Gestapo that we are determined to smash apartheid; to end racism: and to liberate the oppressed black people of our country. We are many and the white oppressors are few; our cause is just and white domination is condemned everywhere. The hour to talk Freedom, has come. And Freedom, means struggle against every form of injustice, against every instrument of oppression - against low wages and high taxes, high rentals, high bus fares, high hospital fees, high school fees; it means struggle against the police, against the army, against police informers; it means getting yourself armed to resist the apartheid regime.

Resist the apartheid regime in the towns and cities; in the villages and farms; in the factories and mines; in the townships and slums; in the detention camps and jails. Resist the apartheid regime in the Urban Bantu Councils, in the "Bantu", Indian and Coloured Advisory Boards; yes, even in the bantustans resist the apartheid regime, for Freedom, is indivisible. There can be no freedom in those bantustans, unless it extends to all black people wherever they live in South Africa. Freedom cannot be confined in bantustans: just as Hitler could not provide freedom in the ghettos; just as United States imperialism cannot provide freedom nor peace in the hamlets of Vietnam. Refuse to be hoodwinked by empty promises. Fight for Freedom, throughout our country; smash apartheid and the vile system of racist oppression of the blacks.

New Order

The African National Congress of South Africa has remained faithful to the cause of Freedom. It leads the national struggle for the emancipation of all oppressed and exploited black people. It stands for a new order in South Africa where racism shall be a thing of the past and human dignity and equality shall prevail in the life of our country.

But before that new order shall be born, many lives will be lost. We are ready to meet the challenge. The ANC and its military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe and all revolutionary opponents of the political system represent the unbreakable will and determination of the African people of South Africa to spare no effort or life in order to attain our goal - the total liberation of South Africa from white racist domination and imperialist exploitation. To achieve such a noble goal; to fight for the realisation of such a lofty ideal no sacrifice could be too great.

It will not be easy to accomplish this task. Initially the white oppressor enjoys land, air and naval power. He is backed by a mighty industrial-military machine whose bedrock is international imperialism. But the same white oppressor has a very soft underbelly. He depends on cheap black labour to keep the wheels of the economy turning. Let us now mobilise our black power to liberate ourselves from alien bondage. It is our power that sustains the life in South Africa. Let us fight for Freedom.

Let us arm ourselves with the willpower and fearlessness of Shaka: the endurance and vision of Moshoeshoe: the courage and resourcefulness of Sekhukhuni; the tenacity and valour of Hintsa; the military initiative and guerrilla tactics of Maqoma, the farsightedness and dedication of S.P. Makgatho, Sol Plaatjies, Langalibalele Dube, Isaka ka Seme. W.B. Rubusana, Meshach Pelem, Alfred Mangena, Paramount Chief Letsie II of Lesotho and all founding-fathers of the African National Congress. Let the dream of Moshoeshoe who cherished a great alliance of African people to resist their separate conquest come true in our lifetime. Let us fight for Freedom. The white enemy in South Africa can and must be defeated.

Our Bedrock is Unshakable

Our bedrock is the support of our own black masses; it is the support of all national liberation movements in Africa, Asia, Latin America; it is the support of democratic forces in Europe, Scandinavia, North America; it is the stirring conscience of humanity that is at last echoing from worldwide religious organisations; it is the consistent anti-imperialist support that the entire socialist camp renders to our liberation struggle. Our bedrock is unshakeable; it is international solidarity that so firmly rejects apartheid and race oppression. Today, December 16, 1971 we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe. This is not a day of festivity. It is a solemn day of rededication to the struggle to liberate our fatherland - South Africa.

This is the day when we pause and reexamine ourselves and our organisation. Are we living up to what is expected of members of a revolutionary and fighting organisation? Is the OATH we took of any meaning and substance to those who swore to fight until freedom is won? We must unite and follow in the footsteps of our martyrs - in the footsteps of the men who fell in the frontline in South Africa and Zimbabwe and in other countries - men such as Molefe, Mini, Khayinga, Mkaba, Bongco, Solwandle, Saloojee, Imam Haroun, Paul Petersen, Patrick Molaoa, and yesterday Ahmed Timol. What hope do their children have? What hope do all oppressed black children have? Let us think of all the patriots languishing in Vorster`s dungeons - Mandela, Mbeki, Motsoaledi, Bram Fischer, Ahmed Kathrada, Goldberg. Others like Mrs. Florence Matomela, Alpheus Madiba, Caleb Mayekiso were killed in prison. And many more have been killed and continue to die in jail. They go unheralded but confident that we will avenge their death.

Let us rededicate ourselves to the struggle to liberate South Africa and smash the apartheid monster. Let our courage and inspiration spring from those fallen heroes who have already set us a good example on the battlefield.

Eternal glory to the martyrs of freedom!
To battle, Comrades, to battle!

Mayibuye! Mayibuye! Afrika!!
Tokoloho ka nako ya rona!!
Freedom Now!!

«back