Guerrilla Group Vows to Step Up Anti-Apartheid Campaign Even if S. African Civilian Toll Rises
The African National Congress has vowed to step up its guerrilla war against white rule in South Africa even if that causes many more civilian casualties, ANC leader Oliver Tambo said Tuesday.
It is “high time we go to war to stop the bloodletting” by Pretoria, he said.
A communique also said the group’s previously all-black executive committee has added white, mixed-race and Indian members.
Tambo told reporters that the first executive meeting of the organization since 1969, held at a secret location in Zambia from June 16 to 23, resolved “to intensify the struggle at any cost.”
An intensified war, he added, will make it difficult for their guerrillas in South Africa “to distinguish between soft and hard targets.”
In the past, the group has said repeatedly that its policy was to limit sabotage to military and government targets, avoiding civilian casualties.
“We have declared war because apartheid has been waging war on our people, anyway,” Tambo said, referring to the white South African government’s system of racial segregation.
Asked whether the congress is changing its policy of avoiding civilian casualties, a congress official who asked to remain anonymous replied: “It has changed in the sense that we are not saying, ‘Civilians are not going to die.’
“In the past, we were saying the ANC will not deliberately take innocent life. But now, looking at what is happening in South Africa, it is difficult to say civilians are not going to die.”
He added, “More and more whites are getting armed, and getting involved in civil defense. It is becoming difficult to distinguish who is armed and who is an unarmed civilian.”
The official said that children are among those killed by South African police and soldiers in the unrest and asked, “Are children hard targets? They were definitely not.”
The congress has claimed responsibility for bombings at two mining companies that fired more than 17,000 black workers.
The organization’s information department in Lusaka said in a communique that the conference has agreed to expand its executive committee from 22 to 30 members. Five white, Indian and mixed-race members were added to the previously all-black committee.
They are Joe Slovo, a prominent white member of the Communist Party of South Africa, Mac Maharaj, an Indian who spent 15 years at Robben Island prison alongside former ANC leader Nelson Mandela, Aziz Pahad, an Indian who has been living in exile in London, Reg September, former head of the mixed race People’s Congress, and James Stuart, of whom little is known.
Congress sources said that among new African members appointed was Ruth Mompati, the group’s former chief representative in London.
The delegates reelected Tambo as president, Alfred Nzo as secretary general and Thomas Nkobi as treasurer general. Two members were voted out of office and a third chose not to run again. An official said none of the changes on the committee reflect any major policy shifts.
Message from Prison
The conference also received a message from their leaders who are imprisoned in South Africa, signed by Mandela, Tambo said.
The smuggled message read in part, “We share the aspiration and position taken by Comrade Tambo and the ANC leadership.”
Tambo and Mandela were law partners in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The organization, formed in 1912, was banned in 1960. It went underground, and the next year abandoned nonviolence in favor of an armed campaign against white rule.
Mandela was sentenced to life in prison in 1964 for plotting sabotage, and Tambo went into exile to take up leadership of the organization.