Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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1991 May 21 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

Speech at Ulundi

Document type: speeches
Document kind: Speech
Venue: Holiday Inn, Emandleni Ulundi, KwaZulu
Source: Thatcher Archive: press release
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: Embargoed until 2200.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 1106
Themes: Commonwealth (South Africa), Foreign policy (Africa)

Your Royal Highness, Members of the Royal Family, Mangosuthu ButheleziChief Minister, Honourable members of the KwaZulu Government and Legislative Assembly, honoured guests.

(Thanks for gifts.)

It is a very moving occasion for any one from Britain to come to this historic area of Africa.

So many people in my country have heard of a place called Isandhlwana: “the mountain that looks like a hut” .

On 22nd January 1879 Isandhlwana witnessed a great and terrible battle between a Zulu army led by Chingwayo and the British Army under Lord Chelmsford. Nature itself contributed to the sense of foreboding on that day, as there was an eclipse of the sun.

The British army suffered a shattering defeat. Nothing like it had happened before, in all of Africa. [end p1]

The courage of a tiny British contingent salvaged our honour a few hours later at Rorke's Drift.

That war ended here, at Ulundi.

Today I laid a wreath at the memorial, to commemorate the brave soldiers on both sides who gave their lives on that day. Both sides were convinced their cause was just.

The determined Zulu resistance to British rule in the last century has been matched in this century by a commitment to the freedom of all South Africans.

Chief Minister—a thread runs through the history of black resistance to apartheid—a thread spun in Zululand.

Chief Luthuli led the ANC with absolute integrity and great personal authority. So much so that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960. He was committed to the process of peaceful reconciliation between black and white.

If only the South African Government had listened to him then!

In the 1970's the apartheid reached its height. The minority government sought to force so-called “independence” on KwaZulu. [end p2]

You resisted that. You refused the sham of “independence” . And you stopped Grand Apartheid in its tracks.

You told first President Botha then President de Klerk that you would not join in constitutional negotiations while Mr Mandela remained in prison.

You insisted that politics had to be normalised, before the talking could, at long last, begin. You said that it was no use replacing oppression by one racial group with oppression by another racial group. Only a non-racial multi-party democracy would do.

Your arguments finally won the day. President de Klerk released Mr Mandela. He unbanned the ANC and PAC. He invited all political parties which renounced violence to take part in constitutional negotiations aimed at securing multi-party democracy.

This was a victory for principle and for common sense. A victory for those who want to give South Africa a better future. A victory Chief Minister, for you—and no one should forget that.

President de Klerk and his government have done what the founders of the ANC asked them to do seventy years ago: what Chief Luthuli asked them to do thirty years ago: what you have been urging them to do for many years. [end p3]

They have offered to negotiate. To sit down with black leaders and to work out a new constitution, based on one person, one vote.

The world expected to see the nation rejoice that the end of apartheid was at hand. Instead the world watched with concern, then dismay, as township violence has spread and intensified.

There is no precedent for violence on this scale. The numbers killed last year in political unrest in South Africa equalled those who died in Isandhlwana.

The violence is a discredit to black society here. It is a discredit to Africa as well. Africa desperately needs good news. All over Africa people have waited for this progress to start here. They want you to succeed.

The Government, of course, has prime responsibility for maintaining order. From my discussions with President de Klerk I have no doubt that he is desperately anxious to end the carnage.

All leaders have to shoulder the responsibility. They must give a lead to their supporters. A concerted effort by the black political leaders also is required at every level and in the townships themselves to set the example of peace. To bring home to everyone that fighting can only weaken their country. To show them that cooperation will make their country strong. [end p4]

I know that you and Mr Mandela both want peace. The talks that took place in January between the Inkatha Freedom Party and the African National Congress showed the way. Both sides showed a willingness to bury the past and look to the future.

That is the only way forward.

Chief Minister, you and your colleagues have made an extraordinary contribution, not only in your resistance to apartheid, but also in the way you have refused to adopt that left-wing demagogic rhetoric which wins cheers and loses investment.

You have nailed your colours to the mast of a multi-party democracy and a genuinely free economy. In its recent report on Southern Africa the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons agreed with you on those essential points.

The Committee stated that if Africa is to prosper, certain principles of government are essential: a multi-party democracy with genuinely free elections, freedom of the press, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, an efficient and uncorrupt government and civil service and a separation between the state and the party in power. “It should be brought home to the countries of Southern Africa that these principles are not options but essential for economic development. If they are permanently to emerge from poverty they will need to create wealth for all of their people, not only a section of them.” [end p5]

If a genuinely democratic constitution is achieved backed by a free market economy and sensible economic policies are pursued, investment will flow back into South Africa: otherwise it will not.

Whatever the difficulties—and there will be many moments when the process may seem to get stuck—I believe that you are destined to succeed. For all thinking South Africans—white and black—must realise that they cannot survive without each other.

There is no way out except through negotiations and I have no sympathy whatever for those who want to stop the world and get off and create the illusion that it is possible to go back to the days of Dr Verwoerd.

I have always been an optimist about South Africa. I do not believe that pessimists can get anything done. You have a combination unique in Africa of skills, infrastructures and resources and, despite the appalling crimes of apartheid, an extraordinary reservoir of good will between black and white South Africans. I am convinced that you can and will succeed. As true friends we wish you well in the great endeavour.

[Greeting in Zulu]