Address by Nelson Mandela to Codesa, Kempton Park

20 December 1991 

Chief Justice and Joint Chairpersons;
Leaders of Political Parties and Movements
Distinguished Observers from International Organisations;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Venerable Traditional and Religions Leaders of our People;
Comrades and Friends;
Last but not least - People of South Africa:

Today will be indelibly imprinted in the history of our country. If we, who are gathered here respond to the challenge before us, today will mark the commencement of the transition from apartheid to democracy. Our people, from every corner of our country, have expressed their yearning for democracy and peace. CODESA represents the historical opportunity to translate that yearning into reality.

For eighty years, the ANC has led the struggle for democracy in South Africa. Along the route traversed during this period, many sacrifices were made by thousands upon thousands of our people. In the arduous battle between the people and oppression, positions hardened and polarisation developed between the people and the state. Even when, in the absence of any other recourse, the ANC took up arms, our objective was to secure a political settlement in South Africa. In the past few years an environment more conducive to establishing mutual trust has been established.

South Africans of many persuasions recognise that this environment, and its constitutional product, CODESA, is the fruit of their sacrifices and struggle. They have a justifiable expectation that CODESA will set our country on the road to democracy.

Inasmuch as apartheid has been declared a crime against humanity and the problems of our country have engaged so much of the attention of the international community over decades, the presence of esteemed observers from the key international organisations as guests of CODESA is most appropriate.

We welcome the guests from the United Nations Organisations; the Organisation of African Unity; the Commonwealth; the European Economic Community and the Non-Aligned Movement. We trust that they will avail to the process now unfolding, their wisdom, insights and experience gained in many similar initiatives across the world.

All South Africans share the hope and vision of a land free of apartheid, where internal strife will have no place.

The ANC initiated the search for peace in our country. Since 1987 the ANC has intensively campaigned for an negotiated transfer of power. This campaign reached new heights in 1989 when the OAU, the Non-Aligned Movement and the UN General Assemble all adopted declarations supporting the position. All three declarations stated:

"...that where colonial, racial and apartheid domination exists, there can be neither peace nor justice."

In keeping with this spirit, CODESA must therefore lay the basis for the elimination of racial and apartheid domination.

It is only by decisive action in this regard that South Africa will be granted entry to the community of nations as a full member.

The strength of the CODESA initiative lies in the range of political parties and persuasions represented here. The presence of so many parties augurs well for the future. The diverse interests represented, speak of the capacity to develop consensus across the spectrum and of the desire to maximise common purpose amongst South African. Many parties here have already invested so much by way of preparing their constituencies for transformation. Above all else, the investment already made must spur us on to total commitment for the successful outcome of this convention.

Ons betrueur die feit dat daar nog partye is wat hulself uit hierdie belangrike proses uitsluit. Na Kodesa is die situasie in ons land onomkeerbaar. Die dreigemente met burgeroorlog is onvervantwoordelik en total onaanvaarbaar

Die tyd vir sulke praatjies is lankal verby. As hulle hierdie dreigemente uitvoer sal die wereld sien dat hulle die lyding van alle Suid Afrikaaners will verleng, en die soeke na vrede in ons land wil verpes.

Maar een ding staan vas: die proses tot egte demokrasie is onstuitbaar. Die geskiedenis bied vir ons almal 'n unieke geleentheid. Om hierdie geleentheid vir die lensiesop van lee, negatiewe bravado ter verkwansel, is om die toekoms to ontken. Ons doen steed 'n beroep op sulke partye om nou, selfs in hierdie laat stadium, by Kodesa aan te sluit.

Die boodskaap van die ANC deur Kodesa is eenvoudig, duidelik, en vir alle Suid Afrikaners, die tyd vir een in Suid Afrika, een volk, stem, een toekoms, is daar.

The National Convention in 1909 was a gathering of Whites representing the four British colonies. It was also a betrayal of Black people and a denial of democracy. The act of union entrenched colonial practises and institutions constitutionally. In its wake, our country has lived through eight decades of wasted opportunity. CODESA provides the first opportunity since to attempt to establish democracy in our country.

It is imperative that we also reach consensus on the definition of democracy. From the ANC's perspective, democracy entails:

That all Governments must derive their authority from the consent of the governed;

-No person or groups of persons shall be subjected to oppression, domination or discrimination by virtue of their race, gender, ethnic origin, colour or creed;

-All persons should enjoy the right to life,

-All persons should enjoy security in their persons and should be entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions, including the right to acquire, own or dispose of property, without distinction based on race, colour, language, gender or creed;

-All persons should have the right and express whatever opinions they wish subscribe to, provided that in the exercise of that right they do not infringe on the right of others.

This quality of democracy will indeed only be possible when those have the brunt of apartheid oppression exercise their right to vote in a free and fair election on the basis of universal suffrage. We can see no reason why an election for a Constituent Assembly should not be possible during 1992.

Ngesikhathi isimo sengcinezelo sidinga kuzatyalazwee uANC akazange ahlehlele emuva kodwa wakhomba umhlalandlela. Manje ngoba isimo seesiyavuma yiyona futhi iANC ehamba phambili ekuletheni uxolo kuleli lokhokho.

A kukhona abantu abadinga inkululeko e SOuth Africa abantu abamnyama bayadinga manje ngoba isimo sabo somnotho nehlalanhle siya siba sibi ngentsuku zonke.

Ilungelo lokuvota iyona nto ewumongo womzabalazo we nkululeko.

U 1992 unyaka wamanqqamu okufanele uluthe ukhetho lokuqala lwentando eningi eSouth Africa.

CODESA, on its own, will not deliver democracy. In recording this fact, there is no attempt to demean CODESA. Even absolute consensus during the life of CODESA will still leave an apartheid constitution in place. We need to reminded that this very constitution was declared null and void by the UN Security Council in 1983.

The invalidation of the prevailing constitution is the most persuasive argument in support of the view that the incumbent government is unsuited to the task of overseeing the transition to democracy must now compel it to make way for an interim government of national unity to supervise the transition.

This is the only cogent outflow from our deliberations at CODESA. The consensus which we arrive at will certainly have far-reaching implications for the birth of a new nationhood. None of us could be satisfied with circumstances where the consensus struck at this is not translated into full legal force.

An interim government, important as it may be, is but the product of agreement between ourselves as political parties and organisations. It will not be the outcome of full participation by the people of our country. Negotiations, to be successful, must be owned and supported by the majority of South Africans.

In the absence of full participation, we must commit ourselves to open negotiations to ensure that nations of secret deals do not arise. This process will also hinge on the confidence by each participating party that the communication of developments be absolutely non-partisan. Consideration therefore needs to be given immediate establishment of the necessary mechanisms to ensure that the state-controlled media accurately and fairlky represents the views of all participants. The means of establishing an interim government will not be participatory.

Therefore the consensus at CODESA should curtail both its mandate and its lifespan.

The ANC remains fully committed to the installation of a government which can justly claim authority because it is based on the will of the people. This reality will have to be underpinned by a constitution which both engenders respect and enjoys legitimacy. There is a compelling urgency about task. It is inconceivable that such a democratic constitution could be reached in any way but through the portals of an elected constitution-making body, namely a Constituent Assembly

It is tragic that our country, so well endowed with natural resources has been reduced to an economic wasteland by the system of apartheid, based on greed and mismanagement. It is also distressing to note that the deplorable violence has reached such alarming proportions, and others threaten still more. These features are a direct consequence of the determination of a minority to maintain the power and privilege accrued by apartheid. There are large parts of our country where free political activity is still not possible, where law and order is still ruled by the jackboot and a large number of political prisoners remain incarcerated. In the spirit of our Convention we call upon the government to proclaim and immediate CODESA amnesty before Christmas for all remaining political prisoners throughout the country.

Nothing could be more irresponsible than for those of us gathered here to deny our people the right to peace and freedom of association and deny our country its due economic growth.

As everybody here is aware, the ANC and the government have been involved in bilateral discussions since May last year. There are still some matters dealt with in these bilateral talks which have been finalised. We will continue these discussions, among other things, seeking to resolve the question of the control of armed formations in the country, including Umkhonto We Sizwe.

We can only reverse the correct situation if we set our sights on establishing true democracy. The national interest is far, far more important than the sectional interests represented by any party here. Everybody wants a place in the sun of a post-apartheid South Africa. No delegation here could possibly have been mandated by its constituency, however small, to attend CODESA in order to annihilate itself.

Recognising this, however we want to make a strong appeal to everybody present to place the compelling national concerns above narrow sectional interests.

History will judge us extremely harshly if we fail to turn the opportunity, which it now presents us with, common good. The risks of further pain and affliction arising from violence,homelessness, unemployment of gutter education, are immense. No approach which we adopt at CODESA must be fundamental inclusive. The price of CODESA's failure will be far to great.

We must not trample on the confidence which our people have in the successful conclusion to these negotiations. It would be foolhardy to spurn the world for its efforts in assisting to secure peace and prosperity for South Africa. Our people and the world expect a non-racial, non-sexist democracy to emerge from the negotiations on which we are about to embark.

Failure of CODESA is inconceivable, so too is consensus without legal force. There is absolutely no room for error or obstinacy. The challenge which CODESA places before each one of us is to unshackle ourselves from the e past and build anew.

CODESA can be the beginning of reconstruction. Let our common commitment to the future or our country inspire us to build a South Africa of which we can all be truly proud.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation