Saturday, February 16, 2013

(TALKZIMBABWE) Dr J Nkomo’s speech at Lancaster House 1979

Dr J Nkomo’s speech at Lancaster House 1979
This article was written by Our reporter on 14 February, at 18 : 47 PM

IN 1979, leaders of the Patriotic Front (of Zanu and Zapu) participated in a Constitutional Conference at Lancaster House, London. The purpose of the Conference was to discuss and reach agreement on the terms of an Independence Constitution for Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). The Conference opened on 10 September under the chairmanship of Lord Carrington, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. The Conference concluded on 15 December, after 47 plenary sessions. Below is a statement made by Dr Joshua Nkomo on behalf of his and Mr Robert Mugabe’s delegation.

Full Text of Speech

Mr Nkomo: Mr Chairman, first I would like to apologise to the Conference, through you, that we in the first place requested that we had some time, as given in our letter, and secondly that we still were late. We apologise for that to the Conference.

Mr Chairman, the Patriotic Front is going to give a statement that represents the Front. Mr Mugabe and myself are presenting this statement on behalf of our group.

The Patriotic Front, deeply conscious of the need to bring an end to racism and colonialism which continue to plague the people of Zimbabwe, welcomes the British Government’s stated aim to assist in this task of decolonisation. We have come to London to attend this Conference in response to the invitation recently extended to us by you, Mr Chairman, on behalf of the British Government. For us our presence here is by itself an act of immense sacrifice. The scarce material resources we have had to divert and the manpower we must of necessity tie down in London for the duration of this Conference should be enough evidence of our seriousness and good faith. We have always said that we will leave no stone unturned in our struggle for the total liquidation of colonialism in Zimbabwe.

In particular we welcome the fact that the British Government now states that it is prepared to help bring genuine majority rule to our country, Zimbabwe. We are anxious to discover whether that is in fact the intention. Equally we wish to make our position absolutely clear and understood in order to facilitate frank and meaningful discussions.

The unique reality of the situation is that for many years now a major war of national liberation has been raging in our country. This arose from the single tragic fact that Britain failed to meet her decolonisation responsibilities even in the face of the continuing of flagrant illegal acts of the secular minority which challenges the people of Zimbabwe to take up arms and decolonise themselves. Thus we are faced with the task of a peace Conference.

British secular colonisation in Zimbabwe presented special problems which did not disappear by being ignored for decades. The war is an additional special problem and cannot be ignored if it is to end.

To achieve decolonisation comparable to that in other Commonwealth states we must first achieve the basic conditions for the movement to independence which existed in those countries. That was peace, safety and security for all, in the context of which an independent state would be governed according to the agreed constitution by a government elected by a people who were essentitally free and secure when they chose their government. That essential preliminary situation does not yet prevail in Zimbabwe and even an accepted and agreed constitution will not create it. It is our basic task here to create those conditions.

Mr Chairman, the extent and character of the war of national liberation must be made perfectly clear. Ninety per cent of the country is covered by this war: the towns and cities are surrounded by and often penetrated by the armed struggle. Parts of the country the regime has written off and abandoned: these we term the liberated areas. In other areas the regime can only achieve a temporary daily presence with punitive raids on the villages: these we term the semi-liberated areas. The remaining contested areas include the towns and the citadels of the regime which we are poised to conquer. Thus the Patriotic Front has now responsibilities not only to fight but also to ensure peace, order and good government – the ‘problem of success’ – inside Zimbabwe.

Clearly it is not our purpose in coming to London to betray or abandon any of these victories of the people of Zimbabwe who have partly liberated themselves and are continuing the task precisely because Britain failed to carry out her responsibilities.

This Conference is not only unique in British colonial history because it must achieve peace as well as a future constitution: it is unique because this is the first time that two decolonising forces have to co-operate in this task. The Patriotic Front representing the people of Zimbabwe are here as the effective decolonising factor, while Britain is here asserting her diminished legal authority. In this connection it must be pointed out that Britain, despite its claimed experience in decolonisation has had no success in Zimbabwe or did not give any determined effort. The task has had to be undertaken by the people themselves. Through their sweat and blood the process is well on its way. The most positive proof of this is the admission of Britain’s agent in the form of the declaration of martial law in over nearly 90 per cent of the total area of the country.

Yet we are more aware than any of the destruction and tragic toll of our struggle, of the regime’s continued ability and increasing determination to wreak havoc and mass destruction. It is thus our vital responsibility to achieve genuine independence, thereby bringing about peace and putting an end to the prevailing anarchy and chaos. This is no longer a solely British responsibility; we must – and our presence here demonstrates our will to do so – work together with Britain.

We have stated before and we repeat the fact that the Patriotic Front and the achievements of the Zimbabwean people are essential factors in the decolonising process. We have to do this together. This is vital.

The task of this peace Conference is to ensure through an indivisible comprehensive agreement the irreversible transfer of power to the people of Zimbabwe. This is one continuous interdependent process. It is complex but does not lend itself to piecemeal treatment. The critical period leading to independence is as vital as the independence constitution itself. In practice the task of creating a suitable constitution for the crucial transitional period will serve the ultimate task of agreeing a constitutional model for independence for our country and assist us in that undertaking in understanding one another’s constitutional preferences. There must be no doubt about the freedom and fairness of the context of pre- independence elections. As the recent history of our land so eloquently demonstrates, treachery, tribalism and mass murder is all that can result from a false solution. To accept such a Zimbabwe would be a betrayal of our people, of our principles and quite simply (since dead and detained men can neither canvass nor cast votes) a betrayal of ourselves. We must remember here that it has always been, and it remains, the basic objective of the Patriotic Front to ensure that government of a genuine free Zimbabwe is based upon free and fair elections. We have said this, Mr Chairman, several times. We were the initiators of the principle of universal adult suffrage in Zimbabwe, in the face of its constant rejection by Britain herself and the minority regime in that country.

Zimbabwe must be a sovereign republic in which the sovereign nation pursues its own destiny, totally unshackled by any fetters or constraints.

The sovereign Zimbabwean people must, acting through their own freely chosen representatives in parliament, be free and fully vested with the power to exercise complete dominion over resources from time to time as need arises. They must be free to reorganise the social, political and economic institutions and structures and be free to shape their own destiny as a nation without having to pander to any racial, ethnic, tribal, religious, social or other interests or differences.

The safety and survival of the republic must be the sacred trust of the Zimbabwean nation, not the pawn in the hands of mercenaries and other alien adventurers and agents. We are irrevocably committed to the position that the Zimbabwean people, by whose blood and sacrifice colonialism was exorcised from the land, must themselves be the perpetual guarantors of sovereignty in the face of all challenges, domestic or foreign. Liberation and the process leading thereto must, once agreed, be irrevocable and irreversible. We know no other way of ensuring this than strict adherence to the principle that the people and their forces who have toppled minority rule must be entrusted with the task of ensuring that colonialism, under whatever guise, will not return to plague the nation once again.
Justice will not occur by accident in a sovereign Zimbabwe, nor will its administration and dispensation remain in the hands of privileged minority. It must conform to the social and cultural values of the Zimbabwe people themselves.

The socio-economic system must conform to the people’s sense of justice, democracy and fair play.

These and similar goals, cherished vigorously by our people, and for which thousands now lie in mass graves throughout Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana and Angola must not be betrayed or compromised. In the past many people present here in Lancaster House, but who are now our antagonists cherished them too. It is personal ambition and greed that propelled them into betrayal and treason. We are sworn not to follow their example.

At this stage, Mr Chairman, having seen both the British proposals and yesterday’s statement by Lord Carrington, we find the British proposals are too vague for us to judge whether they are adequate to our comprehensive task. The British Government must now be prepared to take us into their confidence and show us what their real proposals are. This is very essential if we are to discuss with clarity of mind. The present outline states no more than some of the elements of any constitution but contains also certain aspects which are very different from the normal British pattern and are also seriously retrogressive as compared with earlier British proposals such as the Anglo- American proposals.

It avoids the real issues which should be brought before this Conference and solved. Only by dealing with them can we hope to leave here and return to freedom and the prospect of peace and tranquillity in our country, Zimbabwe.

The essential questions we have posed constantly to ourselves and which we insist must be understood by all seriously concerned with a solution include the following:-

1. Will the people of Zimbabwe be really sovereign and be able to exercise their sovereign authority?
2. Whose army shall defend Zimbabwe and its people? It must be noted here that 60% of the present white army are mercenaries.
3. Whose police force shall protect the people of Zimbabwe?
4. What type of administration and judiciary shall serve the people of our country, Zimbabwe?
5. Will any ethnic, religious, tribal or other group be able to hold the rest of the people of Zimbabwe
6. How do we create the situation for the holding of free and fair elections?
7. Whose laws will govern such elections?
8. In particular, apart from the British supervisors and the Commonwealth observers, who will administer the elections and ensure the safety of the voters and candidates?
9. What will be the future of the people’s land?

These and similar issues are those which should be placed on the agenda of this Conference and before the world if real peace is to return to our beloved Zimbabwe. The time for evasion is long past and we insist that the final phase of decolonisation be seriously pursued now by the British and by ourselves.

We have won that position by our own sacrifice, our own struggle, our own blood. We are not requesting anybody to bestow this right on us. We have done it ourselves. We continue to do it.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

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