Address by Nelson Mandela to the Summit of the Patriotic Front

24 November 1993

Comrade Chairperson,
Patriotic Front Leaders and members of the respective delegations.

The Patriotic Front as a whole can truly be proud of the results produced in the negotiations process. Our country at last has put together through negotiations a package of instruments which enable all South Africans, black and white, to put aside the past and travel the high road to democracy.

Through the four bills including the one setting up the TEC, which were enacted by Parliament earlier, we have the necessary instruments to ensure that free and fair elections take place. We have made certain that the De Klerk government is not both player and referee. This was one of the first objectives contained in the Declaration of the Patriotic Front adopted in Durban in 1991.

It is now up to us to use these instruments to level the playing fields, guarantee free political activity and enable the country to hold free and fair elections.

In the recent decision of the Plenary meeting the Constitution for the transition has taken shape. This Constitution provides for a Government of National Unity which would govern the country for a maximum of five years. This government will be the outcome of elections to be held on 27th April 1994. Through this means we can now say firmly that the votes of the people will enable us to remove the architects of apartheid from the seat of political power. This was another objective the Patriotic Front set for itself.

The Constitution for the transition also provides that while the country is governed by a government of national unity, the Constitutional Assembly will sit in order to draft the final constitution of a non-racial, non-sexist democratic South Africa. This was a third and central objective of the Declaration of the Patriotic Front.

In this way, the mandate we gave ourselves is being fulfilled. The negotiations process has produced an interim Constitution which opens the road for South Africa to move without interruption to a true democracy in which majority rule prevails.

We have reached this point through immense effort and steadfastness of purpose. We have produced a package which all South Africans can be proud of. In the course of negotiations there has been much give and take. Whatever we have given has been done in the interests of the country and without sacrificing our principles.

I would like to pay tribute to all members of the Patriotic Front for the way in which we have worked together to register these achievements. The lesson of this co-operation should not be minimised. In the negotiations process we took on the might of the apartheid state. We produced an outcome which lays the basis for uniting our country and our people into one nation.

Whatever our problems, we must take encouragement and re-double our efforts to work together so that on April 27th we finally and completely put paid to white minority rule and launch our country on a path of peace, reconstruction and democracy.

The road ahead is not going to be easy. The forces which tried and failed to stop the negotiations process have not given up. In fact, many of them are becoming even more desperate. To handle these problems we must have confidence in ourselves. We must have confidence in the capacity of the Patriotic Front to work together as a united force. Above all, we must have confidence in the people whose servants we are.

There are formations in the extreme right - and here I include both white and black - who cannot face the test of the electorate. They, especially the white right, pose a serious threat. They know they cannot stop the change. They however do have the capacity to create all sorts of destabilisation.

We are able to deal with this threat. In the first place, we must find the correct political answers which will leave them as an isolated tiny minority. We must never allow them the capacity to grow and develop into a social force. We must be flexible and firm at the same time. We must be willing to accommodate without abandoning our principles. We must be ready to adjust our tactics and never lose sight of our main goal.

One of the main reasons why this extreme right poses a real threat is because the De Klerk government has always recoiled from acting with firmness against them. The same is true about the way in which the De Klerk government has failed and refuses to act decisively against those who are fomenting violence.

In addition to our own strength as a people we have managed to keep the support of the international community on the side of our struggle for democracy. Despite the changes that have taken place on the international scene, we have maintained their support not only for the purposes of eliminating apartheid but also to help us in the reconstruction of our economy and society.

We now have to fix our eyes firmly on the immediate period ahead. This is from now until the elections on the 27th April 1994. The central focus of this period is the forthcoming elections. All the other parties in the elections have one thing in common. They share a common platform of being anti-ANC. They want to stop a run-away victory for the ANC.

The ANC has been the architect of multi-party democracy in South Africa. And yet these parties have come to put a unique meaning to multi-party democracy. They are trying to sell the idea that it is good for the country if there is not an overwhelming majority party. They know that they are gong to lose the race so they want to plead with the electorate not to give a verdict which will overwhelmingly underscore the unity of our nation. And yet, what this country needs for its transition is the un-equivocal evidence that the people as a whole are united behind the one organisation which has been the champion of unity, peace and democracy.

We are facing a no-holds barred battle. The parties ranged against the ANC are going to stop at nothing to reduce our strength. They will do everything in their power, they will use fair means and foul means, to confuse the electorate, to scare them away from the ANC and its allies. They will do all they can to drive wedges between us.

As certain as we are of victory we cannot take our people for granted. We must carry our message to every corner of our land. The elections of April 27th are going to be the most highly developed form of mass action in which our people participate.

The Constitution for the transition provides for strong central government and strong provincial government. One of the greatest dangers we face is that we may focus our minds on capturing central power and by default leave provincial power in other hands. This would be a terrible mistake. It would weaken the centre and leave it cut off from the masses. In terms of the Constitution good governance, the delivery of socio-economic upliftment will depend and be perceived by people to depend on their interaction with provincial government.

Our aim must therefore be to win power at the centre, to win power in all nine provinces and to provide the forces who will establish effective local government. In deploying ourselves we must never lose sight of all three tiers of government. None of these can be left to accident or chance.

I am confident that we will be able to reach the people and convince them to support us. I am convinced that whatever tricks the National Party has in store we can out-manoeuvre them. From our foundation in 1912 we have learnt one cardinal lesson in mobilising support: never misled the people. Speak to them with honesty and with clarity. Understand their concerns and find ways to address these. That is the road to victory.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation