Address by Nelson Mandela to Workshop on Anti-Trust Monopolies and Mergers Policy convened by ANC

4 December 1992

Ladies and Gentlemen;
Comrades and Friends.

I have the greatest pleasure in welcoming all of you to this important workshop. I am greatly impressed by the outstanding panel of economists which the Department of Economic Planning has been able to assemble here. In welcoming all of you, I want to extend a very special greeting to the eminent panel of international experts for the effort which has gone into the long hours of travel in order to place your skills and experience at our disposal. We do also wish to record our sincere appreciation to individuals from the private sector and to academics who are not members of the ANC, for your presence and participation. When we, as the ANC, adopted our policy guidelines at the end of May this year, we declared that we are ready to govern. In saying this, we were signalling our willingness to assume the mantle of responsibility for the administration of a democratic South Africa. More importantly, we indicated that we want to change the culture of policy-making from the clandestine style of the past to an interactive and open style under democracy. At that milestone policy conference, we adopted a set of guidelines, the product of extensive education and debate within our ranks over a period of at least two years. We also committed ourselves to a further process during which detail would be added to the framework. This is the purpose of our gathering here today.

We are deeply concerned about the state of the South African economy. My major concerns at present are about the effects of inflation, rising food prices in particular, and unemployment on the lives of the majority of our people. I am shocked that only 3% of school-leavers will be absorbed into the formal economy at the beginning of 1993. I am concerned that the levels of investment are declining as rapidly as they are. I am all too aware of how this rapidly eroding economy will challenge a fledgling democracy. Hence we repeatedly appeal for a swift transition and the establishment of an elected interim government of national unity soonest.

The ANC spearheaded the adoption of the Freedom Charter in 1955 as a true expression of the needs and aspirations of all South Africans. Included in the Freedom Charter are thus economic clauses which emerged primarily as an expression of the exclusion of the majority from the ownership and control. Immediately after the adoption of the Freedom Charter, and even up to the present, there has been extensive debate about the intention of the clause which reads,

The people shall share in the country's wealth!

I was recently reminded that a year after the adoption of the Charter, I wrote "for the first time in the history of this country the non-european bourgeoisie will have the opportunity to own in their own name and right mills and factories," as my interpretation of that particular clause. The dictum was to shift over a period, thus I too later interpreted that clause to infer nationalisation. Let us be reminded that the objective of the clause was to address the feeling of exclusion of the majority from the economic mainstream. This remains one of our major concerns. We remain of the view that the economy is owned and controlled by a little white enclave and that this is entirely unsustainable given the South African socio-political landscape.

We have repeatedly been informed by prospective foreign investors that the South African investor environment is quite hostile because of the stranglehold of the conglomerates on the economy. Our own examination confirms this.

The ANC is thus attempting to define an instrument which would both inject competition into the economy and create new ownership opportunities, which will allow us to address the legacy of apartheid. It was in this quest that we struck upon anti-trust policy and thus included our commitment to the implementation thereof into our policy guidelines. We do not see this as a panacea for addressing all of the prevailing economic distortions, nor are we of the view that the experience of other countries can be transposed onto the South African situation. We are convinced that anti-trust policies are a useful instrument that will need to be fashioned to suit the local conditions, and that it be applied with a measure of flexibility because it will only be successful if there is a commensurate cultural change in the minds of those who presently control the economy.

In conclusion, I want to say that whilst this workshop has been convened by the African National Congress, its product will impact on all of South Africa, not just on the ANC. The range of participants gives credence to our commitment to open and democratic policy formulation. I am advised that the debate will be very sharp on some of the aspects under discussion, and I welcome this. I want to wish you well in your deliberations and express my profound gratitude to all of you participants for your preparations and your presence.

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation