Your Excellency, Vice President Bell Lemus
Cabinet Ministers
The Rector of Los Andes University
Ladies and Gentlemen


The great leader Simon Bolivar believed that the freeing of slaves in Venezuela and Colombia was an integral part of the struggle for liberation.

Bolivar was also convinced and believed that all races are equal and should be treated as such. Driven by his high regard for human life and, believing in the ideal of human rights, he was instrumental in freeing the slaves in these two countries, even before the slaves of the USA and the British colonies were emancipated. Many of these free slaves identified with his ideals on human rights, and the high regard he had for all human life.

In 1999, my country, South Africa, hosted the Eleventh International Anti-Corruption Conference in Durban where I had the priviledge to meet your Vice President Bell Lemus. During our brief discussions it became clear that our two nations had a lot to share with each other and to learn from each other.

It was therefore a great honour, indeed it gave me great pleasure, therefore to accept the Vice-President's invitation to visit this beautiful country. I would also like to thank the Rector of Los Andes University, for affording me the opportunity and privilege of addressing this gathering.


Colombia is a very active member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and an ally in the building of a consensus of the South, in the quest for equitable and sustainable development solutions in an increasingly globalising world.

As an immediate past Chair of NAM, Colombia is a member of the NAM Troika together with South Africa, the current Chair, and Bangladesh the incoming chair and hosted the very successful XIII NAM Ministerial Meeting in Cartagena in April last year.

Our countries hold the common view that the NAM continues to be central to the search for and the attainment of a global consensus on the establishment of a new and equitable world economic order, in which both developing and developed countries have an evenly balanced share of challenges, opportunities and rewards.

It is therefore with great pride and conviction that we can state here today, that our countries maintain very warm and cordial relations and co-operate very closely in all matters relating to the NAM and in other areas in the multilateral arena.

"Conflict Management And Resolution"

We have held extensive discussions with President Pastrana, with Vice-President Gustavo Bell Lemus, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Commissioner for Peace during our visit. These were particularly insightful and further demonstrated the need for co-operation and sharing of experiences and ideas between our two countries, particularly in the area of conflict management and resolution.

Indeed our deliberations with President Pastrana yesterday gave us a unique insight into the magnitude and complexity of the problem at hand, and the clear resolve of the government to works towards stability and peace in this country.

Our own experience in South Africa taught us that, this total commitment by all parties to the conflict was a necessary precondition to the attainment of a lasting peace settlement. The presence of a total commitment in all parties involved in the conflict ensures that no hurdle is ever considered insurmountable and that each party to the conflict does all it can to ensure that a solution is found.

Lasting peace is simply not possible without a strong commitment from all parties involved. The desire and the belief in one party's capacity to defeat one's opponent is outweighed in the long run by the constant possibility of the opponent regrouping so you have a recurrence of the conflict.

In our country we had a unique situation in that both the liberation movement and the government were ready to speak at the same time due to a realisation that the conflict situation could not be allowed to continue any longer.

As a liberation movement we had been ready to talk to the government for years. Government had no choice but to negotiate because even the military had recognised that the South African conflict was 80% political and only 20% military, and therefore a political solution was more appropriate.

During the 80's a process of engagement with the Afrikaner intelligentsia was intensified. Various groupings including business, the academia, religious bodies came to meet the African National Congress (ANC) outside South Africa, which by this time had mobilized both the people within the country as well as the international community against the inhuman system of apartheid.

They were interested in understanding what we stood for, what programmes we proposed and what we had to offer as an alternative to the apartheid rule of the South African government. These groups also came to ascertain if the ANC was ready to govern.

These contacts had come about because the business and academic communities in South Africa had come to accept that the unjust and system of government in South Africa could no longer be sustained.

The government was under tremendous pressure both internationally and internally where it had to deal with unprecedented levels of mass protest that had rendered the country ungovernable.

In the meantime, the war it waged against the Angolan government was increasingly becoming difficult to maintain and it was clear that they were facing eventual defeat.

"Harare Declaration"

This was the context in which the Harare Declaration was produced, a document drawn by the ANC, adopted by the Frontline States and the Organisation of African Unity. The Declaration stated that: "Together with the rest of the world, we believe that it is essential, before any negotiations take place, that the necessary climate for negotiations be created. The apartheid regime has the urgent responsibility to respond to this universally acclaimed demand and thus create this climate." The ANC thus had an opportunity to articulate its position once again.

The Declaration essentially stated the commitment of the Organization of African Unity and the people of Africa to peace and justice and that there could be neither while the system of apartheid existed.

It reaffirmed the recognition of the rights of all people, including those of South Africa, to determine their own destiny and reaffirmed its continued support for all South Africans who pursue this noble objective through political, armed and other forms of struggle.

It allowed us a chance to further influence international opinion because it restated one of the central principles of the ANC which said: "The people of Africa, singly, collectively and acting through the OAU, are engaged in the serious efforts to establish peace throughout the continent by ending all conflicts through negotiations based on the principle of justice and peace for all."

By rallying the support of the frontline states, the ANC was able to articulate its position as a liberation movement, using the OAU as its mouthpiece. The ANC struggle was transformed into an African struggle.

While we need to acknowledge that the change of leadership in the government of South Africa was a positive and contributing factor towards the process of negotiations, it is also important to understand clearly, as we have stated above, that this was not just an act of good will.

South Africa had become a pariah state internationally and the people in SA had rendered the country ungovernable. The armed struggle was making it impossible to continue to maintain the myth that apartheid could be maintained through force and South Africa's involvement in Angola had eroded the myth that the South African Defense Force (SADF) was invincible.

This myth was resoundingly crushed by the humiliating defeat of the SADF in the battle of Quito Cunavale, in the South of Angola by the Angolan army (FAPLA) supported by the internationalist Cuban forces.

"Groote Schuur Minute"

While our political organisations were banned there were still obstacles to the holding of negotiations. A discussion needed to be held to deal with these obstacles. The historic meeting that took place in Cape Town and produced what was called the Groote Schuur Minute, was the first formal meeting between the African National Congress and the government and was co-chaired by our former President Nelson Mandela and the then president of South Africa, F.W. De Klerk.

Among the issues that constituted the obstacles were the following:

The release of political prisoners
The safe return of our people from exile and
An end to the state of emergency that was in force in the country
The resultant agreement aimed at removing these obstacles was the first major agreement between the South African government and the liberation movement and it is this agreement which finally laid the firm basis for the negotiations.

At this meeting a working group was established to make recommendations on a definition of political offences in the South African situation. It had to discuss, in this regard, time scales, and to advise on norms and mechanisms for dealing with the release of political prisoners and the granting of immunity in respect of political offences to those inside and outside South Africa.

Agreement was reached that the proceedings of the working group would be confidential as well as on specific time frames for the completion of this task.

Agreement was also reached on the urgent need to consider temporary immunity from prosecution for political offences committed prior to the meeting, of members of the ANC Executive Committee and the facilitation of their return into the country so they could assist in the establishment and management of political structures within the country.

This was necessary so that they could assist in ending violence and take part in peaceful political negotiations. The government undertook to review existing security legislation to bring it into line with the new dynamic situation developing in the country and reiterated its commitment to work towards the lifting of the state of emergency.

Efficient channels of communication between the two parties would be established in order to curb violence and intimidation from both quarters effectively.

Accordingly liaison committees were then established at regional and district level to ensure that these conditions were created at all levels across the country.

"The Convention for A Democratic South Africa"

For our agreement to hold and be respected by all political groupings, it was important for all political parties in the country to be involved in the negotiations so that in the end they would all own the final product.

The final question that remained centred around who would chair the negotiations. We were all in agreement that we did not want outside mediators. We wanted South Africans to conduct their own negotiations and therefore we searched for eminent persons within South Africa whom we regarded as having the necessary credibility to carry out the task effectively and objectively.

There was agreement that this person also had to be neither from government nor from the ANC. Due to our particular history we settled on two South African judges, one white and one black to ensure that they would be acceptable to all.

The next step was to agree on the process of reaching agreement. It was agreed that there would be no voting due to the imbalance in the size of the political parties represented in the negotiation process.

This would have had the effect of allowing some parties to dominate the process, therefore it was agreed that sufficient consensus would be used as a measure of agreement. The judges would make the final pronouncement on whether there was indeed sufficient consensus. This way the smaller parties would feel included in the process.

"Pretoria Minute"

For any negotiation to succeed, all the parties in conflict should be ready and committed to negotiate and resolve their problems.

They should put the interests of the country and the people above the interest of their individual political parties. There should be honesty and no attempt to manipulate or act with hidden agendas. There should be trust because a lack of trust can be a serious obstacle to reaching agreement.

At this point, the ANC had not suspended its armed struggle. At a meeting held in Pretoria, in August 1990, the ANC, in the interest of moving as speedily as possible towards a negotiated settlement, and to create the conducive atmosphere for peaceful negotiations to take place, announced that it was suspending all armed actions with immediate effect.

When the ANC, which was formed in 1912, moved from non-violent engagement to armed struggle in 1961, when all avenues of peaceful protest and negotiations had been closed, it was with the express objective of creating a situation were the government would be compelled to reach a political settlement with the liberation movement.

Therefore even at this point, the ANC was certainly prepared to continue the armed struggle, for as long as was necessary for the liberation of our people.

At the meeting in Pretoria, which produced the Pretoria Minute, the government and the ANC recommitted themselves to the Groote Schuur Minute and declared their conviction that what the parties had agreed to could become a milestone on the road to true peace and prosperity for south Africa.

Issues relating to the granting of indemnity for certain categories of persons were agreed upon as well as the process of releasing political prisoners and the granting of indemnity, which was to be completed by 30 April 1991.

Agreement was reached on the repealing of provisions of the Internal Security Act and on the need to reduce the levels of violence and intimidation amongst sectors of the South African population.

All of these processes finally opened the way for the start of substantive negotiations for a political settlement in South Africa. It is important to note that such was the commitment of all parties to the peace process that all agreed without any hesitation that the negotiations would be held within the borders of South Africa. It is important to note also that we negotiated a political settlement first and then dealt with the issue of a constitution -which is not usually the case in other countries.

"Transitional Executive Council"

The parties involved in the negotiations in the Convention for a Democratic South Africa negotiations took a decision to form a Transitional Executive Council (TEC) which would deal with the implementation of decisions taken during the negotiation process.

All the decisions of the TEC, which mainly related to the negotiation process, had to be endorsed by parliament for them to become legally and constitutionally binding.

This was necessary, as the process of drawing up of the interim constitution had still to be undertaken.

The TEC was tasked with the implementation of all the decisions taken at the multiparty negotiations, leading up to the first democratic elections.

"Government of National Unity"

At the multiparty negotiations agreement was reached on the need to establish a Government of National Unity (GNU) and on the formulation of an interim Constitution for this Government of National Unity. In the meantime, the National Assembly had the responsibility to draft up the new Constitution for South Africa.

The Government of National Unity and the National Assembly during this period were guided by the Interim Constitution. As all political parties had participated in the multiparty negotiations, the outcomes of the negotiations were owned by everyone, and this eliminated dissent to a great extent.

Amongst the issues that were agreed upon, was that each political party needed to have at least 5% support nationally in order to qualify for a seat in the National Assembly.

A specific percentage for parties to qualify to be in the executive was also agreed to during the negotiations. As a result of this agreement three parties namely the IFP, NP and the ANC formed the Government of National Unity.

A common thread that held together all those participating in the negotiation process was the principle of reconciliation. It was expressed in practical terms in the inclusive nature of the negotiation process, which allowed the representation of all political parties irrespective of their size. It was further expressed in the manner in which the interim constitution was crafted, particularly with regard to the constitutional imperative to establish a Government of National Unity.

"Truth and Reconciliation Commission"

As a further effort to enhance our process of reconciliation, a decision was taken to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The motivation was that for reconciliation to last and to be real, the truth had to be told of what had happened during the course of the conflict and that this had to be done by both sides.

We though it was important for South Africans to know what damage had been done to the humanity, the social fabric and the psyche of all South Africans from both ends of the political spectrum. And so that it should serve as a lesson for future generations to ensure that such an evil and inhumane system shall never again be allowed to exist in South Africa.

As our President said in his address to Parliament in February 1999:

"(this) was a serious effort to ensure that the political conflicts of the past do not become a major obstacle to our common efforts to create a non-racial and non-sexist democracy, committed to creating a better life for all, within a society guided in its development by the important concepts of national unity and reconciliation."

The TRC hearings were widely broadcast on radio and television making it possible for the entire nation to participate. Emotional scenes where communities and individuals came face to face with their persecutors who gave gruesome descriptions of the murders that they committed in defense of the inhuman system of apartheid.

Families of people who had gone missing without trace for years were able to achieve closure when they finally found out what had happened to their loved ones.

Also profoundly moving was the experience of observing South Africans, who had been used as killing machines by the apartheid government, confronting their horrendous past and seeking pardon for their deeds from their victims and their families.

The conditions for pardon were a full disclosure and proof of political motivation and political sanction. Many benefited from the process while many found this confrontation of their past difficult.

We remain convinced that the process was beneficial as a healing process to many South Africans who were afforded the opportunity to achieve closure. To know what had happened to their fathers, mothers, sons and daughters - where possible to lay their remains to rest and to move on.

President Mbeki, in acknowledging the work of the TRC, noted the success of the Commission with regard to:

The discovery and exposure of the truth with regard to may instances of gross violations of human rights;
The tracing of missing persons including their graves;
The encouragement of reconciliation between perpetrators and victims of human rights and
The cultivation of a spirit of remorse among those who had done wrong amongst others.
In recognition of the fact that reconciliation is a process and not an event, the TRC in its final report made specific recommendations and proposals in an attempt to contribute to the process of national unity and reconciliation.

This long and arduous process of multiparty political negotiations; the establishment of institutions that seek to strengthen the culture of democracy and respect of human rights; the Human Rights Commission, the Gender Commission, the Youth Commission, the Public Protector, an independent judiciary, to name a few, are the reason that we are confident that our hard won democracy, freedom and reconciliation is solid and sustainable.

As Simon Bolivar said in Venezuela in 1818,"we should all be concerned about the well being of the republic; just as we should hope to achieve all the goals we have set ourselves: it is not enough that our enemies disappear from our territories, nor that the entire world acknowledges our independence; we need even more, to be free under the auspices of liberal laws, emanating from the most sacred source - the will of the people."

The unity we pursue should, surely, seek to emulate that which the Great Liberator himself wanted for his people: the unity of countrymen, determined to succeed together, in conditions of equality and mutual respect.

Quick Links

Disclaimer | Contact Us | HomeLast Updated: 2 September, 2004 12:16 PM
This site is best viewed using 800 x 600 resolution with Internet Explorer 5.0, Netscape Communicator 4.5 or higher.
2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa