Closing address by President Nelson Mandela in the debate on the State of the Nation Address, Parliament - Cape Town
24 February 1995
Madame Speaker and Deputy Speaker;
President and Deputy President of the Senate;
Deputy President FW de Klerk;
Ministers and Deputy Ministers;
Honourable Members of the Assembly and Senators;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
It was to be expected that in a society as politically vigorous as ours; a country with such a rich history; and a society which has experienced such trials and tribulations; there should be a vibrant parliament.
I therefore wish to express my sincere appreciation for the excellent, exciting and eventful debate on this year's State of the Nation Address.
It was a joy to listen to the contributions of all the speakers, even in instances where one did not agree with their points of view. Each one individually, and all collectively as parties, sought to make their mark on the renaissance of the South African nation unfolding before our very own eyes.
At the end of this debate, one can say that all of us, in our own humble way, are making that mark; contributing to nation-building and reconstruction. I am told that even those who sought to make their point strongly by suspending their active participation in the national parliament, did so after utilising much of the time allocated to them in this debate. We congratulate them for that.
We are heartened by the commitment expressed by all the parties in this chamber to work together for the good of the country. We welcome this commitment, too, from those who did so in qualified manner; and I will return to this later.
Necessarily, and perhaps actually by design, much has been made of the actions of the Inkatha Freedom Party. It is therefore appropriate that we deal with this first, before delving into the serious business of implementation of governmental programmes.
As we have already stated, we strongly disapprove of this action. Because it is here in these chambers where the blast furnace of policy formulation is located. It is here, that ideas should be pitted against one another and differences ironed out.
Yet we should acknowledge that in a vibrant democracy, it is the right of any party or individual to walk in and walk out of parliament. As long as this does not mean abandonment of the democratic ideal. As long as it does not mean withdrawal from the institutions that the nation founded in April of last year.
We disapprove of this behaviour from the point of view also of the interests of the country as a whole; it does not reinforce confidence on the part of our people and the international community in the capacity of leaders to use democratic institutions to resolve differences. But our concern goes particularly to those who voted the IFP into these institutions.
In this context I wish to address them directly:
You elected these IFP representatives into parliament to articulate your interests and pursue what you hold dear to your hearts. You did so also because you were convinced that they are not cowards who would exit from these hallowed chambers at the slightest hint of a problem. You had confidence that they would stand their ground in the National Assembly and the Senate and, within the rules, assert your point of view.
None of the problems they have raised will be resolved by means of walk-outs. It is your responsibility to call them to order. In the tradition of Shaka, Makhanda, Cetshwayo, Moshoeshoe, Ramabulana, Sekhukhuni and Nghunghunyana, send them back to come and slog it out here in parliament and not to run away!
Let me once more reiterate the principles which guide the ANC's approach to the issue of international mediation, which has been raised, ostensibly, as the reason for this irrational behaviour.
Firstly, the ANC has stated over and over again that it is committed to the agreement which was reached on 19 April 1994. It is precisely for this reason that a sub-committee was formed to look into the matter.
Secondly, sheer logic tells us that, to invite any eminent persons to undertake this task, requires that there should be clear terms of reference. This is precisely what the tri-partite sub-committee was discussing.
Thirdly, we are examining any steps that might be needed to deal with the issue. On the part of the ANC, we will delegate Deputy-President Mbeki to take this matter up as soon as he returns from his trip abroad. In the mean-time, I will this afternoon meet Chief Buthelezi at Genadendal in order to explore possible solutions to this problem.
Fourthly, the ANC - and I believe other rational parties - would not want to be party to an approach that seeks to treat a matter pertaining to the King and Kingdom of KwaZulu-Natal as if the King did not exist. Neither would we accept attempts to arrogate to any political party the right to speak on behalf of any King or Kingdom.
Let me however make one issue very clear. While we do recognise the right of people to undertake any action within the limits of the law; while we are committed to political solutions to this problem; we cannot and must not, as a nation and as a government, allow threats and the actual perpetration of violence to go unchallenged.
We are confident that South Africans of all political persuasions, including the media, will support the right of government to carry out its obligations to the nation as prescribed in the constitution; that they shall not approach this matter in a manner that encourages irresponsibility, lawlessness and blackmail.
The measure of the progress our nation is making should be the extent to which we set the stage for actual implementation of programmes. It should be measured by our success, as elected representatives, in involving the people in policy formulation and implementation.
This is the real foundation for the consensus that binds South Africa society. It is a consensus not confined to us in these chambers nor to the national or provincial executives. It is, above everything else, a living partnership of social structures united in pursuit of common goals.
NEDLAC, which we launched a day after the opening of parliament, the historic agreements in the area of housing, the debates in the field of health which should culminate in such consensus, the successes in the area of education and many others - all these are a vivid expression of a nation united in an effort to improve its lot.
To lose sight of this would be an act of disrespect towards those ordinary South Africans who are themselves ready to assume their responsibilities.
A number of Honourable members reported on the impact that socio-economic programmes are making on citizens, especially the poor.
We cannot fail to recognise the progress in these projects - be it urban and rural renewal, supply of water, free medical care or the nutrition programme. Certainly the pace of launching these programmes may not have been as rapid as we had intended. Certainly, there are many teething problems. But a start has been made. And there is a definite commitment to make visible change one of the beacons of the government's operations this year.
Indeed, in many other areas, the planning process has yet to be completed. But, working together with communities, we will ensure that there is a sense of urgency in our handling of these matters. We will ensure that there is a little delay as possible between the completion of the plans and their actual implementation.
Many issues raised in the debate bear testimony to the seriousness of the problems we face; concerns that you, as elected representatives, bring from the ground. A few of them deserve special mention.
As I indicated last Friday, the Minister of Safety and Security and the Commissioner of Police have been instructed to take immediate steps to deal with the problem of crime and violence. At their disposal is a police service already well on the path to transformation. The basis of the Government's approach is that we must all of us, as institutions, as communities and as individuals, take responsibility for the war against crime.
On its part, the government has made clear its intention to address the matter of the unacceptably low pay for the lower ranks of the police, and the shocking conditions under which they work. In addressing society's socio-economic problems, we are also conscious of the fact that these problems are at the root of this scourge.
However, too often the word "crime" is taken too narrowly when there are calls for action against it. There is a kind of crime that is much less visible but whose existence is well-known. White collar crime and theft committed within businesses cost the country enormous resources; and they need to be combated with equal vigour.
Inversely, references to the government's commitment to stamp out anarchy and lawlessness in mass protests is interpreted broadly to mean union-bashing and suppressing people's rights. Let us make it clear once more, that our recognition of the right to protest and to strike is unshakeable. These are rights guaranteed by the constitution itself. What we shall deal with firmly - and this is no idle threat - is the breaking of the law through acts of vandalism, taking of hostages, blockades of roads and damage to property.
Understandably, the issue of corruption loomed large in this debate. The threat that corrupt norms implanted by apartheid may survive and overwhelm us as we set about building on new values, is one that alarms us. It is a threat that, as government, we are determined to forestall. The Cabinet is finalising a Code of Conduct for its members, a code that shall be firmly applied.
However, if the sanctions against corrupt practices are not carried out in every corner with equal fervour - government and civil service, political parties, private business and non-governmental organisations - this scourge will remain with us.
Having said this, we repeat our insistence on due process. If we were to abandon the principles of justice, we would be subverting the very basic values that underpin our democracy.
It is understandable that the issue of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission featured highly in the debate. Even within these hallowed chambers, stark were the emotions that this discussion evoked.
This underlines, on the one hand, the absolute need for such a Commission. Condemnation of this process, bluntly put, is an insult to the memory of the victims of the gross violations of human rights and their relatives.
On the other hand, the passions around by this debate should send a clear massage to us as leaders, that we have got a responsibility to manage this process in a sensitive manner.
We are confident that parliament will handle this matter with the maturity it deserves: to ensure that the truth comes out into the open; to guarantee even-handedness; and to bring about reconciliation. At the end of the day, we are called upon to sew together the seams of a divided nation, without leaving the dirt of the past embedded in its body politic.
Therefore, it behoves all of us, from whichever side of the political divide, to give leadership to our constituencies and ensure that there is full co-operation with the work of the Commission.
Alongside the warm support for the goals set out in the opening address, goals which are the declared objectives of the Government of National Unity, there was a second theme running strongly through some of the contributions. This other voice professed doubt that the goals could be implemented because, it said, the ANC's constituency was not fully behind the programme of the Government of National Unity.
The ANC recognises the responsibility it has to mobilise people in all their organised formations everywhere, in every sphere of life. We have always taken on that task without reservation. The political forces which were united in removing oppression from our land will bear with equal effect on the task of reconstruction and development. We need no urging on this.
As the majority party we have the responsibility to lead by example. Where problems do arise within our ranks, we will address them frankly and openly so that we can fully and effectively defend democracy.
It is to be hoped that the doubt concerning capacity to implement the RDP, coming so forcefully from some speakers, does not betoken a readiness to stand back. We hope it does not reflect a readiness to undermine the implementation of the RDP, in the belief that there has been found what one speaker to my left called the "Achilles heel" of the ANC.
All parties, especially those participating in the Government of National Unity, have a responsibility to work together for the goals which have become the common ideals of our nation.
Society as a whole has a responsibility to work for transformation. Partnership is central to our success.
Society also has the right to take its destiny into its own hands, at every level. That is the significance of the local government elections, and that is why we are determined that no-one should be denied the right to vote.
I would like to take this opportunity to call once more on our people in their millions, of every persuasion and party, to register themselves for the local government elections.
In that connection, religious leaders, teachers, traditional leaders and other community leaders, as persons of standing in their communities, have an especially valuable role to play. In particular it is imperative that traditional leaders co-operate in this campaign and contribute to changing our country. I am confident that discussions on issues pertaining to traditional authorities will conclude in ways satisfactory to everyone involved.
With local government elections, the most important barriers to programmes for transformation will fall away. Each and every community will be able to participate without restraint in the planning and development of projects in their localities.
The speed with which South Africans have turned from division and conflict to knitting the fabric of a normal society, has become a source of pride to us as a nation.
There have been unavoidable conflicts and tensions. They are inherent in such a process of change. But they have been mercifully few, far outshone by the steps signalling transformation and progress.
One of the steps which brought us where we are today was the boycott of local authorities by communities, determine to assume their share of responsibility for their own liberation.
Thanks to the political transition to which that action contributed, we have been able already to establish within government the capacity to implement programmes of change. We have started to address the most urgent needs of our people.
We have been able to do so because we are a government of all the people of South Africa. But far as we have come, we face immense challenges as we week to build a better life for all South Africans, a long road on which we have only just set out.
Our history cast government and people in hostile roles. Such a history inevitably set a brake on the speed with which communities could embrace government, above all local government, as their own.
But the process of democratisation is irreversible. The time has come to accept in our hearts and minds that with freedom comes responsibility.
It is the responsibility of participation and partnership. The responsibility of each of us for one another. The responsibility captured in the saying: "Masakhane" - "Let us build one another".
On the part of government this means ensuring efficient and frugal use of resources, providing services to all the people, carrying through the transformation of government structures towards reconstruction and development.
It means improved services and infrastructure. Housing subsidies must reach the people they are intended for. People have the right not only to hear about change from their leaders, here in Parliament. They have a right to see change on their doorsteps.
On the part of business, it means drawing on its resources and managerial ability to help transform South Africa efficiently and productively. It means providing for training and skills development. The pledge by the financial institutions of 50 000 bonds for low income housing sets a standard to be emulated by other sectors of the business community.
Investment opportunities need not always lie in Sandton and Rosebank - they make sense in Soweto and Khayelitsha too.
For these things to happen, communities must themselves create a climate which is conducive to investment, and an environment in which government will have to live up to the high standards of honesty, efficiency and openness which our country now expects of public officials.
Communities must take responsibility for projects which are meant to serve them. The disregard for a community's assets - its schools and clinics and parks - must be consigned to history.
The urgent task is to instil everywhere a culture of payment for services rendered. There are still many places where housing and services are not being paid for. These are not organised boycotts with a political purpose, designed to hurt apartheid. Non-payment today hurts those who have nothing and who are waiting for houses, electricity and sewerage. It hurts neighbours who must carry an unfair burden.
Whatever is withheld is kept out of our investment programmes for housing and services. Although we are putting massive resources into these things, we cannot continue doing so if money does not come back into the system through payment.
We do understand that many people are struggling financially, and may have difficulty in finding money to pay for services rendered. But we need to reprioritise our family budgets, just as the government is having to reprioritise in order to bring a better life for all South Africans.
We must pay in the spirit of Masakhane, so that we can build together.
The Masakhane campaign is backed by the Government of National Unity. It is supported by religious and community leaders across the country and it has benefited substantially from business support.
The time to build has arrived. The time to build together, and to build each other.
We have, as elected representatives, set out in full view of our people and the world the challenges that face us as a nation. We have solemnly committed ourselves to programmes that will set South Africa firmly on the road to prosperity and a better life for all.
This task is definitely not an easy one to fulfil. But, conditions throughout the world and within our economy are favourable for us to make a resounding success of our programmes. Let us seize the moment!
Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation