Address by Nelson Mandela to National Foreign Trade Council

3 October 1994

Mr Chairman, Directors and Members of the National Foreign Trade Council and the United States- South Africa Business Council, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

May I first thank you sincerely for giving us the opportunity to meet you and share views with the distinguished leaders of business in the United States gathered here tonight.

I would also like to extend to you our appreciation of the interest and concern for our country which you have demonstrated and continue to sustain, and which, I am convinced, will develop into an enduring partnership.

As I look around this room, I see many familiar faces. Some of us have met during my previous visits to your country, and some of us have met in South Africa.

Tonight, however, we meet under very different circumstances. South Africa's first democratically elected government has been in office for just over four months. For the first time in our history we have a government whose legitimacy is recognised by every section of our society and throughout the international community.

In our previously divided country, an enduring national consensus has been forged on the interim constitution and the broad objectives of reconstruction and develop-ment. It cuts across racial and political affiliations. It is founded on a deep and shared conviction that the only way forward is to reconcile our nation nd improve the well-being of all its people.

Our Government of National Unity is based on and expresses this consensus and shared commitment. It is operating well and is on course for the achievement of our national goals. After months of careful planning and preparation we have begun in earnest the reconstruction and development of our country.

These months of preparation and planning have been necessary because the legacy of deprivation bequeathed by apartheid is so widespread and so systematic. The RDP is an all-encompassing process of transforming our society to improve the lives of all South Africans. It requires reform of institutions so that they will be more repre-sentative and so that they will be more efficient and effective in the use of our national resources. Its feasibility depends on economic growth which generates employment, develops human resources, and provides increased revenue for the funding of the programme.

The government has marked out certain clear and unshakeable principles in its approach to the RDP. The criterion of affordability is central to this. Fiscal and fi-nancial discipline is therefore beyond argument. In order to use the existing resour-ces efficiently, we are restructuring government priorities and expenditure within the existing budget. Further resources for the programme will have to come from economic growth, and measures to promote growth are therefore essential elements of the RDP.

There is an intimate relationship between the processes of political and economic transformation. The success of the RDP is crucial to the survival and development of our newly-won democracy. Unless we successfully address the question of econo-mic growth, development and equitable distribution of wealth and income, the prospects for guaranteeing the stability of our democratic settlement will not be good.

The success of our RDP will also have an important impact on the whole of the Southern African region, and we have already gone a long way in establishing good relations with our neighbours.

What role can you play in these endeavours, which are based on values that we all share?

It is now some three years since we urged potential investors to begin serious preparations to enter the democratic South Africa whose advent was only a matter of time. Although we know it would still be some time before we had a democra-tically elected government, we recognised that such preparations needed to be made as early as possible.

The conditions are now ripe for practical work to start. We do appreciate that many companies have already taken major steps in this direction, and we urge that this should be accelerated.

This is not to say that foreign investments on their own will solve our economic problems. They will however play a central and valuable role in our economic development. And we do have confidence that you will join us in the partnership to help transform South Africa into a growing economy based equity.

Urging you to invest in our country we are not engaging in special leading. That is why I speak of a partnership, to signify a relationship of mutual benefit.

We are acutely conscious of the fact that the whole world is competing for investment capital. We are therefore keenly aware of the importance an economic and social climate that will create opportunities for investors.

Our Government of National Unity, founded on an unprecedented consensus and committed to the policies I outline earlier, provides such an environment. The Na-tional Economic, Development and Labour Council which are setting up expresses a new relationship of partnership between business, labour and government, and will promote joint strategies to ensure a vibrant and growing economy.

Within this broad framework the South African Government is further committed to the following: a stable and predictable policy and regulatory framework that promotes investment, reduces protectionism, and increase investment opportunities for all; the abolition of exchange controls and the dual currency system as soon as objective conditions allow; the rapid conclusion of tax agreements with the United States; and implementation of the results of the Uruguay Round on trade arrange-ments.

We are extremely encouraged by the expression of confidence and willingness to help, shown by the US Administration. This manifests itself in such areas as the admission of South Africa to the Generalised System of Conferences, and in the preliminary discussion between officials of the two governments on mobilising private sector resources to help in South Africa's reconstruction and development.
We are confident that, given our success in managing South Africa's ?, the American business community will not be found wanting. It is because we do appreciate that the causes of the conflict of the past are well-understood. In the same vein, the fact that these problems have now been largely removed would be well-appreciated.

I therefore submit that there is no longer any basis for reticence. South Africans have demonstrated with distinction their ability to manage political and economic change. All of you will, and should, make your investment decisions based upon the real opportunities you seek and find in South Africa, without allowing the past to obscure those opportunities from your sight.

Your relationship with South Africa in the past was shaped by opposition to apart-heid. To invest at this time in South Africa would be to express your confidence in the democracy we are establishing and at the same time to act as guarantor of its consolidation and development.

Finally, I would like to express my appreciation to the National Foreign Trade Council for its hospitality and for having had the foresight last year to establish the United States - South Africa Business Council. We also express our gratitude to the Council for the important work it does to promote trade and investment both here and in South Africa.

Source: South African Government Information Website