Address by Nelson Mandela at the Business Leadership Meeting, New York - United States

21 June 1990

Mr Chairman,
Leaders l United States Business Community,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

We are indeed very pleased to have the opportunity to spend these few moments with you.

We are grateful to you all that you could make available some of your time to attend this also too brief meeting.

We would like to thank the port authority of New York and New Jersey and the New York partnership for co-sponsoring this important meeting, in cooperation with the African- American institute.

The message that we bring to you today is a simple one.

It is that we look forward to the time when you will join hands with our people to form a partnership of freedom and prosperity for these peoples of South Africa and the United States of America.

We hope that this meeting will begin the process of consultation among ourselves to determine what needs to be done in order to turn that partnership into reality.

You all know that life’s work is not yet done.

We have still not attained our objective of transforming South Africa into a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist country.

Our struggle therefore continues and will continue until freedom dawns.

The kind of freedom we seek is not difficult to define.

Its fundamental principles are not different from those which you hold dear in this country.

We want to see everybody enjoying the right to vote.

The basic human rights for all our citizens have to be protected and guaranteed, to ensure the genuine liberty of every individual.

The law, before which all should be equal, should rule supreme.

The racial and ethnic divisions and discriminatory practises that constitute the apartheid system have to be ended completely and without qualification.

We want to see the millions of our people build one South African Nation whose integrity will be secured by the fact of the freedom of all its members to decide their destiny, speak the language of their choice, enjoy their culture and engage in any religious practice according to their conscience.

We cannot say with any precision how soon we will bring this democratic society into being.

What however seems clear is that the road we still have to travel is immeasurably shorter than the part we had to cover to arrive at the point where we are today.

We are certain that the victory of the democratic cause is at hand.

Let me also that one of us seek to ignore or underestimate the fact that if today we speak of victory being in sight, as we do, it is because our people have waged a hard and long struggle to end the system of apartheid.

The international community has also made an important contribution to this struggle, not least through the imposition of economic and other sanctions.

We believe, and trust that you will agree with us, that since we have not as yet achieved the democratic transformation we all desire, then pressure must be maintained, both internally and internationally, to bring about this result.

The process leading to a just and lasting political settlement has started.

At the meeting held at the beginning of last month with President De Klerk and his colleagues, it was agreed that the obstacles to negotiations that we had identified would be removed.

We believe that these will indeed be moved.

It will then be possible to take the process further on, to identity the parties to the negotiations and ultimately to draw up a new, democratic constitution and a bill of rights that would be entrenched and justiciable.

We so not, of course, underestimate the difficulties that still lie ahead of us.

We are fully conscious of the fact that our interlocutors, the ruling National Party, have up to now been a party of racism, whose reason for existence was to advance the interests of the Afrikaners specifically and the Whites in general, at the expense of the Black majority.

Even now, as it talks of a non-racial democracy, this party has not a yet fully abandoned the notion that the South African population should be divided into separate racial and ethnic political compartments.

It is still toying around with the idea of a white veto or a constitutional arrangement which would give the white minority exclusive power over various elements of social activity.

In addition, there are many among our White compatriots who are opposed to democratic change, either because of outright adherence to raw and unbridled racism of because they fear democratic majority rule.

Some of these are armed. They are to be found within both the army and the police.

Outside of these State Agencies, other Whites are working frantically to establish para-military groups whose stated and specific aim is physically to liquidate the ANC, its leadership and membership, as well as other persons or formations which these right-wing terrorist groups see as a threat to the continued existence of the system of White minority domination.

Despite all these negative and worrying factors, we are still of the view that change will come sooner rather than later.

The overwhelming majority of our people, including the Whites, are in favour of change.

The internal and the international cost of maintaining the apartheid system has become too high.

De Klerk and his colleagues in the leadership of the National Party, have understood that they must act together with us and all other representative political forces, to bring about a new reality.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation