The State of Emergency has finally been lifted — except in Natal of course.
It is our view that it was not necessary for the government to impose the State of Emergency in the first place. It is sad that the National Party — of which FW de Klerk has long been a member — took five years to realise and accept this.
In these long years — since July 1985 when the emergency regulations were first introduced — thousands of people, including children, were detained without trial; our organisations and hundreds of people were banned and restricted; many were killed and some disappeared without trace.
Also, many newspapers and journalists were harassed and some were even banned. Like other media organisations, we at Learn and Teach Publications were raided, our publications were seized — and were not returned to us! In many cases, we were not able to report events and valuable information to our readers.
In spite of all these problems we continued to publish. And it was thanks to our sellers that our publications were able to reach our readers. Learn and Teach sellers ran great risks when selling the magazine — many had their magazines taken away by the police and some were even arrested. But they never gave up!
We welcome the lifting of the State of Emergency and the release of some prisoners. These are the results of our struggles and pressure on the government. Our determination and courage never failed us — we waged successful campaigns and defied apartheid laws. We also unbanned ourselves and our organisations. The sacrifices we made paid off. Therefore it is a victory for us.
But, it is a victory with a heavy price: Our comrades went on long and painful hunger strikes lasting many days in their efforts to make sure that they were released from detention and that the State of Emergency was lifted. Many of the scars of those hunger strikes and many months in detention have not yet healed. And, therefore, credit for the lifting of the state of the emergency should go — not to de Klerk — but to the people.
We believe, however, that the lifting of the State of Emergency is a step forward. It contributes towards a climate suitable for the holding of negotiations. But the ball remains in the government’s court to take more steps and bolder steps so that the negotiation process can start. The government should stop dragging its feet. As the ANC says, piecemeal and partial solutions are no answer.
Like many other people, we call on the government to lift the remaining emergency regulations in Natal and, above all, to fully meet all the demands in the Harare Declaration.
It is our view that it is not difficult to do so. Now is the time. FW de Klerk must act, and act decisively!