Address by Nelson Mandela at HJ Heinz Company Foundation Distinguished Lecture, Pensylvania - United States

6 December 1991

First of all, I would like to thank Tony O'Reilly most sincerely for inviting us to deliver this lecture and, thus, joining other speakers more distinguished than ourselves, who have spoken on such occasions.

I take it that this is in recognition of the importance which he and his colleagues attach to the question of South Africa and a statement of their own commitment to continue acting together with all other people of conscience to help us end the apartheid crime against humanity. For this, we would like to express our profound appreciation.

As though to reaffirm the correctness of the saying that "nothing is permanent except change itself," our world is transforming itself in front of our very eyes. Old truths are being swept aside by a breathtaking tide of events which is sometimes difficult to comprehend.

Established states and social systems are demonstrating a fragility and an ephemeral quality which the most incisive intellectual enquiry could never convey with the fullness of drama which life itself provides. Clearly, a new world is being born.

But what world shall it be? We can only address this question from our perspective as South Africans. We cannot but be struck and inspired by the coincidence that we speak today in the State of Pennsylvania which played a major role in the emancipation of Africans who had been enslaved.

Our country too has been the victim of a social order that is a relic of the past, a social order which condemned the Africans to a modern form of slavery. How much a relic is demonstrated by the fact that we can find a resonance and a relevance to our situation in the words of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address of 1863, which is reproduced on the wall behind us. We, too, must say that our nation "shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." We must say this because indeed our nation is having a new birth, having engaged in its own great Civil War - which, also dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, unhappily is not yet concluded.

That Civil War broke out during the course of the struggle to end the system of apartheid and to transform South Africa into a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist country. Whatever form this struggle might have assumed today, it continues still to pursue this great and noble objective.

A historic document of our struggle adopted in 1955, the Freedom Charter, contains the ringing words: "South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white and no government shall claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people."

It is these goals that we aim to achieve, of turning South Africa into a common patrimony of all our people, who must have the equal right and opportunity to participate in its government and to shape its destiny.

We are suing, therefore, for the earliest adoption of a democratic constitution which must enshrine the principle of "one person, one vote" on a common voters roll. We want to ensure the emergence of a constitutional system in which there is no distinction among our people on grounds of color, race, gender or creed.

We are also determined that the fundamental human rights of all South Africans should be protected. We, therefore, propose that there should be an entrenched and justiciable Bill of Rights, protected by an independent and non-racial judiciary. We have already put to the people of our country a draft of such a Bill of Rights which we will take into the negotiating forum.

We are also in favor of political pluralism which will enable the existence of a multi-party system. Similarly, we stand for a constitution which will provide for regular elections, with those elections conducted on ~he basis of proportional representation to ensure the free expression, of the widest possible spread of political opinion.

Repeatedly, our opponents in the ruling National Party raise the issue of the need to protect minority rights and propose various formulae which they say are designed to achieve this objective.

The ANC recognizes the fact that South Africa is a multi-ethnic and a multi-cultural country, as this country is. We are proud of this reality and have no desire to see the people reduced by some form of social engineering into one undifferentiated mass. But, at the same time, we shall continue to insist that a Person's color, language or culture should not be used to determine his or her place in the political structures of the country.

There should be no weighing of votes or structuring of the political system which would result in compromising the fundamental democratic principle of majority rule. And here we speak not of racial or ethnic majorities, but of a political majority, regardless of the polyglot of languages and the variety of colors of the rainbow it might represent.

We are aware of the fact that we are dealing with a situation in which there coexist white fears and black aspirations. The process of change demands that both of these must be addressed.

We believe that the political structures we have already described address both of these issues. The Bill of Rights that we have spoken of would, for instance, protect the rights of the individual in such matters as language, culture and the freedom of worship.

Our own draft Bill of Rights goes further, to provide for the right to property. Borrowing from the German Constitution, we, however, also make provision that the state may, in the context of a defined national interest, acquire property through due process of law and with just compensation.

We believe that provisions of this kind, appearing in an entrenched Bill of Rights and, therefore, not subject to arbitrary and whimsical alteration by the legislature, are adequate to address the issue of white fears without our seeking to construct a constitutional order which would, in fact, perpetuate the divisions of the apartheid system by creating racial or ethnic political ghettoes.

These are some of the basic political propositions that the ANC has placed before out country and the international community which are advanced with the sole purpose of contributing to the process of transforming South Africa into a non-racial democracy. We believe that they are just, unimpeachable and critical to the solution of the political problems facing our country and people.

The ANC will be celebrating its 80th birthday on January 8, 1992. Throughout its life it has argued and fought for a negotiated resolution of the problems of our country. During all those decades, successive white minority regimes refused to heed this call. Confident of their might and steeped in the arrogance of a deep-seated attachment to notions of white racial superiority, they responded to this just demand by gunning down and imprisoning those who had the temerity to make it. In the end, however, and as a result of struggle, they have been obliged to accept that they must get together with us to arrive at a negotiated settlement.

Later this month, the Convention for a Democratic South Africa will meet in Johannesburg to begin the process that will lead to the adoption of a democratic constitution. This will be an epoch-making gathering which will decide such questions as the, constitutional principles under which the new South Africa will be governed, the forum which will negotiate the new constitution, how the country will be governed during the transitional, period and the time frames for this transitional period.

We have put forward the concept and demand that there should be formed an interim government of national unity which should govern the country during its transition from an apartheid to a democratic society. This would be a government that would end the monopoly of power exercised by the white minority and, therefore, enjoy the support and confidence of the majority of people.

It would in itself be a confidence-building measure reinforcing the process of arriving at a peaceful settlement. Furthermore, it would be entrusted with such delicate tasks as, in terms of our proposals, the supervision of elections to the constituent assembly which would be charged with the task of drawing up the new constitution.

From all this, it ought to be very clear that the formation of this interim government would mark a decisive step forward in the process of the transformation of South Africa. It is our own resolve that this government, which will be discussed at the convention a fortnight from now, should be installed as soon as possible, to clear the way for speedy movement forward to the adoption of a new constitution and the election of a new government.

If it is obvious that South Africa cannot emerge out of the crisis in which it is enmeshed without its transformation into a non-racial democracy it is equally clear that this new democracy can neither achieve stability nor be assured of permanence if nothing is done to effect an economic transformation of the country.

South Africa is confronted by the reality of a disastrous economic situation, itself the direct result and expression of the system of apartheid. Millions of people are afflicted by endemic and dire poverty. Levels of unemployment are estimated at 40 percent and more. The majority of the urban African population live in shacks and squatter camps.

Millions are landless because of previous policies which reserved 87 percent of the land for the white 15 percent of the population. The most important killer diseases, as far as the black population is concerned, are diseases of poverty. In other words, millions of people die simply because they are hungry and ill-fed.

At the other end of this equation is, of course, the reality that the bulk of the income that the economy generates accrues-to the white minority, which also owns virtually all productive wealth. There are many figures we can quote to show this gross maldistribution of income, wealth and opportunity between black and white.

Suffice it for our purposes today to mention merely that at least 75 percent of the shares quoted on the Johannesburg stock exchange is owned by four conglomerates which are completely white-owned and white-managed.

All of these economic questions have to be addressed as part of the process of the creation of the new South Africa. We do not pretend that they can be dealt with easily or that quick solutions can be found. Nevertheless, the great task of the economic reconstruction of South Africa must begin.

Today, the South African economy is in decline. Measures must be taken to ensure that it grows. These must include: a sharp rise in the rate of investment, the growth of the domestic. market, the growth of exports of manufactured goods, the expansion of the domestic market, the raising of skill levels to increase labor productivity, the inflow of foreign capital and the achievement of technology transfers (especially to build a modern and competitive manufacturing sector), redistribution of wealth to ensure the upliftment of the millions of deprived black people and the creation of opportunities (including through affirmative action) to ensure black empowerment.

We are convinced that the private sector must and will play the central and decisive role in the struggle to achieve many of these objectives. Contrary to what you might have heard or read,-let me assure you that the ANC is not an enemy of private enterprise or the market system.

Without the involvement of the private investor, the South African economy will not grow and will, therefore, not be able to address the needs that confront the masses of our people. Equally we are aware that the investor will not invest unless he or she is assured of the security of their investment. This and other things have to be guaranteed to ensure that the necessary levels of investor confidence are attained.

As you are undoubtedly aware, the South African economy already has a fairly large public sector which plays an important role in the economy. What we have said about this is that the question of what happens to this sector should be left until the democratic transformation has been achieved.

Detailed discussions will be required in a democratic setting to see whether any of these assets should be privatised, commercialised or left as they are. These determinations will be made not in furtherance of any ideological imperatives but in the context of the elaboration of policies aimed at growth and equity.

Let me further make the point that the ANC has no ideological commitment to nationalization. This provision appears in policy documents of the ANC adopted more than 35 years ago, at a time when the word "privatisation" was not in anybody's vocabulary.

This matter was raised to address the obscene racial imbalances in the distribution of wealth to which we have referred. This issue is now under discussion throughout our ranks and is being approached in a pragmatic manner which takes into account both the experiences of other peoples since the 1950s and the present-day realities of South Africa.

In summary, what we visualize is a mixed economy which, led by the private sector, will include a public sector, small business and cooperatives. Once the detailed work of elaborating an economic policy has been concluded - and we do hope to do this by March - this mix may be no different from the mix that exists in such countries as Germany, France and Italy in which public enterprises constitute 9, 11 and 15 per cent of the economy respectively.

The rates of economic growth we seek cannot be achieved without important inflows of foreign capital. We are determined to create the necessary climate which the foreign investor will find attractive.

We are also determined that economic sanctions should go as soon as possible. For this reason, we have said that these should be removed as soon as an interim government is in place. And, we believe that this government should be in place within a matter of months as a result of decisions that will be taken at the convention which begins its work only a fortnight from now.

Therefore, I am here to say "yes" to American trade and investment as soon as that interim government is in place, even before there are free elections.

And, as I have said, there is no reason why an interim government should not be formed during 1992 to take charge of the country until a democratically elected government is formed.

Indeed, why delay? The divisions of the Cold War were swept away in a matter of months. We, too, must strive to sweep away the crime of apartheid with similar speed.

And you in this country as you helped us by imposing sanctions, can help us to achieve this and to rebuild our society.

We will need both public and private sector investment to create a new South Africa that will not just be politically free, but economically prosperous as well.

Addressing myself specifically to the business leaders in this audience and throughout the United States, I invite you to explore investment opportunities in South Africa now, so that you are ready to invest as the opportunity arises in the near future.

Ours is a land blessed with a vibrant people, natural resources and a beautiful climate. South Africa, so long neglected And mismanaged, can prosper with democracy and a dynamic blend of public and private enterprise, in keeping with what the World Bank, in its development report of 1991, sees as "the interaction between governments and markets" and goes on to point out that, "it is not a question of state versus market - each has a large and irreplaceable role."

South Africa also belongs to a region which will evolve into a common market of more than 100 million people. This is a region which is also endowed with enormous natural resources and extraordinary opportunities. With the solution of the problems confronting South Africa, Angola and Mozambique, it will be a good place to be for any investor who familiarises himself or herself with its particularities.

Let us all, Americans and South Africans, act together to build a partnership for democracy, for peace and for prosperity. We are pleased that this University is already helping us to prepare for the future. If we all follow this example, as we can, we should have made an important contribution to the creation of the new world of which Lincoln spoke when he talked of a new birth of freedom.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation