Address by mr Harry Oppenheimer to the South Africa Club Savoy Hotel, London. Wednesday 17th April 1984

This background briefing emphasises that reform should come about peacefully. Violent means and peaceful means are not alternative ways of reaching the same objective; they lead to different results. South Africa’s problems are uniquely difficult, and the National Governments bears responsibility for the worst features of the South African system and the current situation. Progress can be measured by comparing the present situation with that of 1976; the recent changes, while inadequate, cannot be dismissed as cosmetic only. Yet in spite of these developments, discontent among urban blacks is worse than before, paradoxically because conditions have improved. Another reason for the violence is the economic recession. Any policy of sanctions would increase unemployment and violence. South Africa is a heterogeneous country, and a better society cannot be determined by one group, but must be a compromise, which can only be achieved within a federal constitution. Peaceful change has to be worked out by South Africans themselves, and all should be able to freely earn their living, share South African citizenship, and take part in the government. These are not easy concepts for the Government to accept, but the State President is thinking in much broader terms than before. South Africa should be concerned with the birth of a new sort of country; the prejudices and preconceptions of the past have made it impossible to tackle new problems on a truly national basis, but we have to meet the historical challenge.