Address by President Nelson Mandela before Free State leaders

17 September 1994

Comrades and Friends,

More than 82 years ago, leading African men and women from across the length and breadth of South Africa gathered in this city.

At the end of their deliberations they had founded the ANC as a vehicle with which to unite our people in the struggle for freedom. As we streamed to the polls on 27 of April, we realised their yearning for a democratic political order.

I am truly proud to stand in your midst as one among their progeny who have lived to see the realisation of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.

The new status which we assume in South African society, carries with it an immense responsibility to establish clean, efficient and transparent government: a government that enjoys the confidence of the people because it works with them and cares about their plight; a government that will never subject any section of the population of our country to the hurt and humiliation which generations of blacks have known.

By this, we also mean a government clean of corruption and nepotism, one that respects merit and at the same time acknowledges the needs of the lesser and weaker members of our society.

We have impressed upon the nation the need for reconciliation. But it is not enough to urge people to forgive an unfortunate past. As long as the unfortunate conditions created by the old order remain, the people will remain restless; their discomfort will give rise to waves of instability.

The challenge before all of us is to create conditions which begin to transform their conditions of living and give them new hope of a better future. This is the philosophy behind the RDP.

Freedom should not be understood to mean leadership positions or even appointments to top positions. It must be understood as the transformation of the lives of ordinary people in the hostels and the ghettos; in the squatter camps; on the farms and in the mine compounds. It means constant consultation between leaders and members of their organisations; it demands of us to be in constant touch with the people, to understand their needs, hopes and fears; and to work together with them to improve their conditions.

I hold the firm belief that the collective leadership that you provide to various communities in this province before, during and after the elections, will assure us of success in the task of reconstruction and development.

I urge you to adopt a new attitude - one that sees one people out of the various segments that apartheid rule imposed on us. I know that with the leadership you have elected, and the parties now in the Government of National Unity, no obstacle can prevail before your relentless march.

I do not have to remind you that there is need to make urgent preparations for the local government elections next year. This demands hard work, honesty and commitment to the ideals of the the ANC and the rest of the democratic movement. It demands mobilisation of communities, not only as voters, but as masters of their own destiny. We must strengthen the alliance of democratic forces and ensure that we march together, inspired by the vision of those great patriots who founded the ANC and those heroes who laid down their lives so that all of us can enjoy a better life.

The leadership of the ANC has selected the Orange Free State and Bloemfontein in particular as the venue for the 49th Conference of the ANC. This is in great measure a reflection of the confidence that we have in you. I am confident that you possess the wisdom and the skills to ensure that the democratic movement fulfils the objectives it has set itself.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation