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Black and White Fighting Oppression in Southern Africa
The rulers of South Africa and Rhodesia have attempted to buy time for their racist governments by laying new plans to stop their opposition—the people of their countries. The war drums beaten by these rulers echo their precarious position and sound the death knell for their form of rule.
South Africa has send its army plowing across borders of Botswana, Zambia, Angola and Namibia to eliminate the forces of SWAPO (the Southwest Africa Peoples Organization, leaders of the liberation struggle in Namibia, formerly known as Southwest Africa) and their bases. Killing of women and children by the SADF (South African Defense Forces) swells the body counts since, as in Vietnam, a dead body is automatically counted as a guerilla or terrorist.
The hottest battlefront has been in Namibia which has been controlled for years by South Africa, mostly for its rich natural resources. Over 60,000 white South African troops have been moved into Namibia to carry out offensives against liberation forces. And while the SADF has been claiming victories on the front, the ruling class back in South Africa has been claiming their own "victories." Recently they traded in Vorster, their oldline racist prime minister, for a new one, unbendingly committed to the policy of a apartheid. Prime Minister Botha stated, after his "election," that, "I intend to carry out the racial policies of my party with all of its consequences." The South African government has wavered on UN-supervised elections in Namibia, depending on whether they thought they could control the outcome. Now, with growing numbers of SADF troops in the country, Botha is "advising" Namibia to go ahead with elections.
Another proof of "electoral politics" in action is found in Rhodesia which has solved its problem of majority rule by executive decision. Even though a four member bi-racial committee was established seven months ago to supervise the transition from minority white rule to majority rule, Prime Minister Ian Smith, Head of the Committee, has announced that no elections will be held in Rhodesia (they were scheduled for the end of December in 1978). He claims that his government has won what amounts to recognition by countries such as the U.S. At the same time, over one half of the country was placed under martial law while South African troops helped white Rhodesian forces mount an offensive against revolutionary forces in Rhodesia and Zambia. The swift action was necessary; the racist rulers saw a growing support for real majority rule and support for the peoples' revolutionary forces, not for the sham version of majority rule that Smite and his Black cronies were pushing on the people of the country.
While South African and Rhodesia work together to continue their reigns of oppression, and rule with iron fists government leaders around the world who denounce apartheid, do nothing! These countries, including the U.S., send their peacemakers scurrying around in circles mumbling about negotiations and talking about "human rights violations." No move has been taken against the outrageous acts of these racists because of the common bond of profits which have tied the existence of these white governments and apartheid rule to profits of British and U.S. businesses based in the countries ripping off the rich resources to be found there.
For example, an effective boycott against Rhodesia and South Africa would quickly run the economies of these systems into the ground and probably topple the racist power structures. Western leaders, however say that such a boycott would hurt the Black majority more than the white rulers and will not take such drastic action. They glibly speak of their concern for Blacks and all they have to lose—like the 13 cents per hour pay and life on government reservations—while they avoid mentioning that a boycott might mean losing access to the strategic minerals like gold, uranium and chrome.
Against this background, the white minority in South Africa (Azania) and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) are not deaf to the clamor of war or blinded to the atrocities' committed by the armies that preserve the racist rulers. To fight a war, you need an army, and the people have begun to build resistance movements against being used for cannon fodder. Much like the U.S. government during its venture in Southeast Asia, the governments in Southern Africa face increasing numbers of draft dodgers and deserters—unwilling to fight a war that only benefits the rich. Unlike the rulers of the countries, the resisters can see that the future of their countries cannot lie in white minority rule.
Just like the U.S. government had to take strong action against resistance to their war in Southeast Asia, the governments of South Africa and Rhodesia have to attempt to suppress resistance and resisters. Rhodesia has put into action a plan to conscript young Africans to fatten up their overstretched armies. Tens of thousands of Blacks are affected and a movement has begun to fight government conscription. A petition, circulated and signed by university students stated: "We will not, willingly or under force, expose our families, the majority who are in operational areas, to the dangers of being killed by the nationalists forces because we, their sons, will have tuned class traitors to the cause of the masses of Zimbabwe." No longer can the Rhodesian leaders count of Blacks accepting their role as enforcer of a system that oppresses and kills their brothers and sisters.
South Africa has taken stricter measures to maintain their army because the problem of dissent is more widespread and severe. For the first time in 20 years, more white (the backbone of the SADF) are leaving the country than entering. Those who cannot afford the cost of leaving on a plane are crossing the borders of Botswana and Angola seeking refuge and political asylum as draft resisters and deserters, refusing to fight for a system which they loathe. There is no alternative for service in the South African military—you go when they call you or face their brand of justice. Advocating conscientious objection can be punishable by death under the Terrorism Act; it is illegal to talk about the draft, and deserters, if caught, can be expected to spend ten years in prison at the least. Yet, these harsh sentences did not keep 4,000 men from refusing to report for duty in 1976 (the last year for which the South African government gave out figures) or stop the growth of a war resister's movement in South Africa.
Throughout South Africa, war resisters have banded together in an effort to help those who want to escape the racist military. Once outside the country, these resisters have built the beginnings of international support for dissenters. In july, South African resisters and supporters demonstrated in London against the showing of the film "Wild Geese" to voice their disgust with the film that glorifies the role of white mercenaries who fight for the SADF. They brought to the public the real issues that make the movie glosses over. OMKEER, a paper for call-up age South Africans, is run by war resisters to help build the resistance against minority rule. The paper has been used to create dissention in South Africa by providing the truth of what apartheid rule is and how it is kept in power. One group here in the U.S., the South African Military Refugee Aid Fund (SAMRAF) is not only building support for dissenters but is also fighting for deserters and CO's who seek asylum in the U.S.
The coordinator for SAMRAF is Don Morton, a South African exile. After exposing police torture in South Africa in 1971, Morton fled the country to continue his anti-apartheid campaign. When asked how does one come out of South Africa not a die-hard racist, he replied, "There is no way one can rise out of that mentality without permanent stains and scars of years of racism except by steeping oneself in the liberation struggle."
SAMRAF recently sponsored a speaking of tour by Michael Morgan, a South African deserter. Morgan spent one year of required duty in the army and was discharged. Three months after his discharge, though, he was drafted and sent to Namibia for duty. During a two week leave he deserted to Britain and began to speak out against apartheid rule and the products of their war. While in Namibia he witnessed the results of military training—hands cut off bodies to be sent back to Pretoria for fingerprint checks, men looking forward to the search and destroy murder missions, and the policy of not taking prisoners. "During training, the military puts you though an intensive brainwashing program," he said. "The idea is to tear us down and rebuild us to their liking. There was lot's of tearing down and a little rebuilding."
"We were taught that SWAPO guerillas were frothing-at-the-mouth terrorists and beasts...", but the "beasts," he came to learn, "were white commandos intent on proving their manhood by killing."
"For years I had been participating in something I did not believe in. Now I am doing something I do believe in."
The resisters' organization has for aims:
Create a climate of resistance inside South Africa;
Provide military information to SWAPO and the Patriotic Front;
Educate war resisters and exiles.
One of the chief problems faced by deserters is political asylum. "No western country offers asylum to the South Africans," Morgan stated. "After all, South Africa is fighting an illegal war in Namibia. What if a man says he will not fight the illegal war? Will the U.S. or Britain force him to do so by extradicting him back to South Africa?"
PAN AFRICANIST CONGRESS OF AZANIA
PERMANENT OBSERVER MISSION TO THE UNITED NATIONS
Telephone (212) 986-7378
211 EAST 43rd STREET
NEW YORK, N.Y. 10017
17th November. 1978.
Vietnam Veterans Against the War
Chicago, ILL. 60620
On behalf of the Central Committee, the members of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania and the Azania Peoples' Liberation Army, the armed wing of our vanguard movement and indeed in the name of the entire oppressed people of Azania we salute our comrades-in-arms of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War for their solidarity and revolutionary assistance accorded us through the gift of sneakers, boots and fatigues recently donated to our movement. We are happy to inform you that these have been sent and have since been received at our External Headquarters in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania for distribution to our cadres who are poised to intensify the armed struggle of the people of Azania, under the leadership of the PAC, and confront the counter-revolutionary violence of the racist regime with the revolutionary violence of the people.
Whilst we continue to request and welcome gifts of all kinds for the execution of our struggle, the revolutionary symbolism of your donation reflects your understanding of the nature of our struggle and the method for its waging. Please be assure that these gifts will be utilized in the manner for which they were collected and donated. With the intensification of our struggle we will continue to need this solidarity. For our part, we assure you that we will vindicate the confidence reposed in us be dealing death blows to the racist regime that has usurped the birthright of the Azanian masses, thus making our contribution to the struggle of the people of the world against imperialism and super-power hegemony.
Kindly convey our revolutionary greetings and solidarity to our comrades of the VVAW. Our thanks go to all those who worked so hard to make this donation possible.
Yours for the revolution,
ELIZABETH R. SIBEKO.
Representative in the USA &
Member of the Ventral Committee, PAC.