Address by President Nelson Mandela at a dinner hosted by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (FICCI), Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and Joint Business Councils (JBC)

26 January 1995

Ladies and Gentlemen.

May I express my heartfelt appreciation for this opportunity to address such a distinguished gathering of leaders of Indian business, and to share with you ideas about the development of trade and investment between our two countries.

But first, on behalf of all South Africans, I would like to salute all the leaders of Indian business, big and small, who stood, over so many decades, with the Government of India in opposition to the injustices of apartheid. By choosing to observe economic sanctions and thereby foregoing profitable opportunities that might otherwise have come your way, you helped translate revulsion at the crime of apartheid into effective support for the struggle for freedom.

Our country has now crossed the threshold to a new era of freedom, peace and democracy, able at last to address the needs of the majority of its citizens. In the space of less than a year we have achieved in our transition to democracy what many thought impossible for our nation with its long history of division and conflict. Our unity as a nation is embodied in the legitimacy enjoyed by our Government of National Unity, in the eyes of virtually every sector of society. our shared commitment to national goals is inscribed in the universal support for the Reconstruction and Development Programme.

This programme involves a transformation of our society in order to address the legacy of apartheid. Without socio-economic changes to improve the living conditions of especially the poor, our newly-achieved democracy would be hollow.

Precisely because the programme affects all of society, its success depends on a partnership of all social structures.

Because our national resources are limited, it requires a shifting of priorities in pursuit of a prudent and efficient use of our wealth. Fiscal and financial discipline are integral to the achievement of our objectives. Sustainable economic growth and development is an imperative, and with it the creation of a climate in which business, big and small, can thrive. Central to our economic strategy is the opening up of our protected domestic economy and the easing of our present exchange control regulations.

The national consensus which exists around these goals and policies provides a sound and stable framework within which we can tackle the tasks which face us. Amongst the most urgent are the following.

Consolidating democracy and entrenching the culture of human rights.

This requires that democracy be extended from the national level to democratically elected local authorities, and in particular organising and holding local government elections later this year. Popular participation is essential if communities are to take responsibility for the successful implementation of plans for a better life.

Democratisation requires, too, that our Constitutional Assembly should, with the participation of the public, write and adopt a permanent democratic constitution.

Bringing about visible change

The scope of the changes our people seek, and the scale of needs which have to be addressed, have required of us a period of preparation and planning. The people of South Africa understand that lasting changes and services of good quality do not come overnight. Nevertheless it is now time that the process of change becomes visible in its impact on the living and working conditions of every day life.

Securing peace and stability

The remarkable achievement of peace and stability in our country needs to be maintained and secured. The ending of political violence in almost every area provides an opportunity to deal with the problem of crime which we face in common with most countries. Democracy allows the establishment of a new relation between the police and community which will pave the way for an environment in which every citizen will feel secure in their home, in public and in their place of work.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

The achievement of these objectives will secure the framework for sustainable growth and development which will not only allow a better life for all South Africans, but will have a positive impact on the Southern African region as a whole and more widely in the African continent.

Our policies and approach also create a situation which is favourable for converting the historical relationship between our two countries, shaped by the necessities of the struggle for freedom, into a partnership in development, based on mutually beneficial co-operation. Foreign investment and trade cannot solve our economic problems, but they can make a significant contribution to the economic growth which is essential for the success of our programme of reconstruction and development.

There is much that favours co-operation between India and South Africa. There is an enormous fund of goodwill based on our linked histories of struggle for freedom, a shared commitment to democracy and affinity of culture and traditions. Such co-operation between South Africa and India will also be eased by the cultural links rooted in the presence in South Africa of one million people of Indian origin, the largest such community outside India.

There is much that our countries have in common in terms of economic development, and the kind of technology that is relevant to their needs. Our countries are both currently engaged in ambitious economic reform which, amongst other things, demand of our business communities great courage and inventiveness in facing the challenges of a harsh global marketplace. Each offers the other hitherto untapped markets and opportunities for investment.

Geography favours interaction between us.

The rapidity with which trade between South Africa and India has multiplied in the short time since the barriers of sanctions were removed gives some indication of the enormous possibilities. Total trade has more than doubled each year since 1992.

The South African Government and business community are eager to reach out to you - our Indian counterparts - to engage in mutually beneficial trade, the promotion of investment, co-operation in the field of technology transfer and tourism. To further these ends, there is slowly emerging a network of bilateral treaties between South Africa and India that, we hope, will convey to you a measure of the seriousness of the intent of our governments.

What is more, we should also explore the possibilities in the longer run for expanding such co-operation, trade and treaty arrangements, to include the other countries of the Indian Ocean Rim.

Our commitment, as founding members of the World Trade Organisation, to implement the measures required for compliance with the new GATT rules, can only enhance the possibilities open to businesses in both countries.

The commitment of the South African Government to creating a climate in which business can thrive is clear. The South African and Indian Governments will create a framework which will facilitate the development of business relations between our countries.

But in the end, it will be the business community which decides whether or not the potential is to be realised.

My government has issued a challenge to business leaders in South Africa to display boldness in seizing the opportunities for export which have opened with South Africa"s acceptance into the international community. We have in particular urged them to show imagination and innovation by entering "non-traditional" markets; those which, like India and Africa, were effectively closed to South Africa because of opposition to its apartheid policies.

I place before you today a similar challenge. It is understandable that South Africa's long history of division and conflict should have engendered caution regarding our capacity to successfully manage the transition to democracy. But there is no longer a rational basis for such misgivings. The favourable credit ratings we have recently received and the response to our bond issue testify to the credibility of our economic policies and to confidence in the durability of our political stability. It is time to put plans for trade and investment into action.

The solidarity which you expressed in the past by giving up opportunities for profit can now take forms which bring benefits to yourselves and the people of India as well as to the people of South Africa.

In conclusion, I should express our appreciation oouth African business leaders who have been instrumental in building the bilateral trade and investments we referred to earlier. In as much as we call for investment in South Africa, we are proud of the fact that our own compatriots are taking up the challenge of Prime Minister Rao to become good corporate citizens of India, in mining and other areas.

It is our intention that, in the near future, the Minister of Trade and Industry should head a high-level delegation to India so as to turn our good agreements into concrete programmes and our beautiful words into action.

History, geography and many common values dictate that this be sooner rather than later.

Thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation