Mandela tells ANC to support the army: On the anniversary of Chris Hani's assassination, the ANC president backs the security forces but accuses De Klerk of weakness

Click to follow
The Independent Online
NELSON MANDELA spoke of mice and elephants and Queen Elizabeth II before some 20,000 people gathered at a huge party in remembrance of Chris Hani, the African National Congress leader assassinated exactly a year ago yesterday.

The ANC president also lashed President F W de Klerk for failing to rein in the 'third force' and, in a novel development, called on ANC supporters to place their confidence and trust in the police and army.

Nothing he said could dampen the spirits of an ANC crowd gathered at Soweto's Orlando stadium as much to pay homage to the memory of Chris Hani as to celebrate Mr Mandela's imminent victory in 16 days' time when South Africa holds its first democratic elections.

Mr Mandela's arrival caused the usual cheerful pandemonium and forced Charles Ngcaqula, the man who replaced Hani as general secretary of the Communist Party, to abandon his speech in mid-stream. As Mr Mandela went on a victory lap around the stadium, a band accompanied by a high-voltage female backing group belted out wellknown local dance tunes from the main stage. The crowd sang, swayed, clapped. Teams of international observers, there nominally to keep the peace, just smiled and smiled and tapped their feet.

The occasion provided a reminder that the crisis provoked by Hani's death appeared at the time to hold more political dangers than the problems being generated today by Inkatha's refusal to take part in the elections. The words on everyone's lips then were 'racial war'.

Mr Mandela, who almost single- handedly defused that threat a year ago, began his address with a prepared statement. Then he went off the cuff and, as is always the case, communicated with his audience far more successfully. Stern father one moment, jovial uncle the next, he started, to much mirth from the crowd, by recounting details of his meeting on Friday with Goodwill Zwelithini, King of the Zulus, nephew and political accolyte of Inkatha's Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

'I went last Friday all the way to the Kruger National Park to see the King of the Zulus in order to find out what his concerns and fears were. He came . . . with an address which in, my view, was not very constructive. (Laughter) Nevertheless, I could not be diverted from my aim of searching for peace and for a solution with him. I offered him all the rights, privileges, status which are enjoyed by every monarch in the democratic world . . .

'He asked for an adjournment to consult with his people. He came back with a short sentence: 'I have considered your proposals. I find them unacceptable and I reject them.' (Jeers) I then asked him, 'What aspects of your concerns have we not addressed?' But I could not get a clear answer. I said, 'Do you want the same rights as Queen Elizabeth of Britain enjoys or do you want more rights than Queen Elizabeth enjoys?' I was unable to get a clear answer to the question. I asked the question three times. I could not get that answer.' (Jeers and laughter).

Mr Mandela then turned his attention to Mr de Klerk, whom he accused of being weak and indecisive in his dealings with the 'third force', those senior police officers accused of collaborating with Inkatha in the slaughter of thousands.

'He's conniving at the massacre of innocent people in this country and now he says to blacks, 'I want your vote]' We're dealing with a mouse. The National Party is a mouse and they think they can fight the ANC, an elephant . . . There can be no comparison between a mouse and an elephant.'

The polls, he said, indicated the ANC was losing some support to the NP. In a reference nobody in the crowd missed to the NP's trick of providing free food at electoral rallies, Mr Mandela said: 'If a mouse overfeeds itself it will gain weight. But it will remain a mouse.'

As if already assuming the burdens of presidency, aware of the critical role of the South African Defence Force and the police in ensuring a successful transition to democracy, he issued an appeal which ANC crowds in Soweto have never heard before: 'We must try to raise the morale of the security forces. As long as they are doing their duty, we will give them our full and undivided support.'

Rise again, Sophiatown, page 19

(Photograph omitted)