Address by Nelson Mandela to the Confederation of British Industry

4 July 1990

Mr Chairman;
Leaders of the British 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 all too brief meeting. We would like to thank the leadership of the CBI for conveying this important meeting, which, as you know, is by no means the first between the ANC and yourselves and hopefully will not be the last.

Your economic interest in South Africa is substantial, both in terms of trade as well as direct and indirect investment. This very fact imposes on all of us an obligation to keep up our dialogue and provides us with the basis for a shared hope for, and a deep interest in the smooth transition of our country to a full democracy with a thriving and advancing economy.

The message 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 the peoples of South Africa and the kingdom. We hope that this meeting will consolidate the process of real consultation among ourselves to determine what needs to be done in order to turn that partnership into a reality.

You all know that our 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 no different from those which you hold dear in this country. We want to see everybody enjoying the right to vote. The basic human rights of 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 and divisions and discriminatory practices 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 say that none of us should 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. It is common cause that South Africa's difficulties of access to the world capital and loan markets has played a decisive role in persuading Pretoria that fundamental change must take place.

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. At the same time we would like to assure you that we too are very keen to see sanctions ended as quickly as possible, but in the context of ending the inhuman system which made these sanctions necessary in the first instance.

The process leading to a just and lasting political settlement has started. At the meeting we 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 removed. It will then be possible to take the process further on, to identify 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 do 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 as 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 our right adherence to raw and unbridled racism or 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 and working frantically to establish paramilitary groups whose stated and specific aim is physically to liquidate the ANC, its leadership and membership, as well as other persons of 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 international cost of maintaining the apartheid system has become too high.

President De Klerk and his colleagues in the leadership of the National Party, have understood that they must act together with a new reality. We believe that they hold this view honestly and are ready to implement such agreements as may be arrived at democratically.

The political settlement we have been speaking of will not, however, and by itself, end the massive poverty to which our people are heir. I am certain that all of us present here will be familiar with the catastrophe of misery which is the lot of millions of our people. I do not have to list for you the enormous needs of we are faced with in terms of jobs, housing, education, nutrition, health care, pensions and social security and a living wage for all our working people.

Naturally and correctly, our people expect that the democratic state will take all necessary measures to address these issues as a matter of urgency. The very fact that these masses will have political power in their hands will increase the pressure on the government, at all levels, to meet these expectations.

Indeed, because the political and economic haves are White and the political and economic have-nots are Black, the very stability of the political settlement depends on rapid and visible progress being made to improve the quality of life of all the people.

Private capital, both domestic and international, will have a vital contribution to make the economic and social reconstruction of South Africa after apartheid. It will be critical that the economy grows up rapidly and at rates that supersede population growth. This cannot happen without large inflows of foreign capital, including British capital.

We will also have to ensure that we achieve levels of productivity which will enable us to attain high per capita growth rates and to compete on the international markets successfully. As you know, an important requirement to enable us to achieve this, is that we must have access to the management skills, the body of technology and the risk capital which make for the success of your own corporations in both the domestic and international markets.

We are sensitive to the fact that as investors in a post-apartheid South Africa, you will need to be confident about the security of your investments, an adequate and equitable return on your capital and a general climate of peace and stability. That is why we share the common objectives of the total abolition of the apartheid system and the institution of a genuinely democratic system in an open society.

Further to this, it is also in our interest that all investors, like our own people as a whole, should have confidence in the stability of the society we will seek to build. They should know it as a matter of fact that whatever investment they make today, is not likely to vanish tomorrow, because of some arbitrary government action or a popular upheaval generated by continuing social injustice.

We do not have time to address other questions relating to our broad views about the future South African economy. We believe that it will be a mixed economy, though we have no blueprint as to make-up of that mix. We should however make the point that the market in South Africa does not have a self-regulating mechanism that would ensure growth with equity.

Clearly, a spontaneous trickle down effect would never be sufficient to redress the gross imbalances that are embedded in the South African economy, including the almost exclusive control of land and other productive resources by a small minority even among the Whites. The intervention of the democratic government, acting through an elected parliament, will also enjoy the right to collective bargaining and other privileges that are normal in any democratic society.

We are convinced that this economy will have to be restructured, so that it is able to serve the material interests of all our people, and not just the White minority. It is clear even today that the majority of the people are too poor to provide a growing market even for the productive potential that already exists. Ours will also remain an open economy, linked to the world economy in all its elements.

Ecological issues will also have to be attended to, among other things, to end the degradation of the soil, as has happened in many parts of the country, and the pollution of the atmosphere around many Black urban townships. We foresee the South African economy playing an important part in the regeneration and expansion of the economy of Southern Africa as a whole, of which it is an integral part.

We see this regional economy, so well endowed with human and natural resources, as an outstanding growth point in the world economy. Its good health would help to focus international opinion on the need for the rest of the world to join hands with the peoples of Africa as a whole to address the urgent needs facing the millions of people of our continent.

In summary, ladies and gentlemen, we count on you to take the decision that you will become an even more important part of the future South African economy. To reiterate what we said at the beginning, we hope this meeting will strengthen the dialogue among ourselves about the system of cooperation we need to improve the lives of the peoples of both our countries. Immediately, we believe that there are some other things that you should and can do.

You should continue to isolate apartheid South Africa. You should reflect on what further contribution you can make to encourage the peaceful process leading to the transformation of South Africa into a democratic country. You should help us with the material resources which will enable us to repatriate and resettle our compatriots whom the apartheid system forced into exile.

You should help us with the resources which will enable us to carry out the educational work among all our people which will encourage and enable them to participate in the process of negotiations. You should help us to train significant numbers especially of Black managers, both in business schools and at the work place. Together we should decide how to continue our dialogue intended to define the content and parameters of our partnership for democracy and prosperity in South Africa. Together, we must begin to plan for the future.

We apologise for speaking longer than scheduled, and therefore thank you for your indulgence and your attention. We trust that you will be kind enough to consider the issues we have raised, at your leisure, bearing in mind that they reflect the views of what is accepted to be one of the principal political forces in our country, without which no solution is possible.

We are very interested to discuss our common future with you, approaching all issues in a spirit of give and take, but bearing in mind that our people, as much as yours, value their freedom and independence. But, of course, we also know that that freedom and independence can only be exercised, and can only have true meaning, in the context of an interdependent world.

We thank you for your attention.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation