Address by President Nelson Mandela at the opening of the South African Breweries Centenary Centre, Johannesburg

15 May 1995

Mr Meyer Khan;
Mr Graham Mackay;
Members of provincial governments
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure and an honour to share with you tonight's celebrations of South African Breweries' 100th birthday.

In celebrating the growth of SAB from its origin in 1895 into a South African institution and an internationally recognised industrial giant, we also reflect on our own provenance as an industrialising society.

The cradle of SAB's birth was the nascent gold-mining industry. It was the first industrial share to be registered on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Its own growth has stimulated activity and employment in packaging, retail, hotels and agriculture, amongst others. Its export drive has given impetus to our country's expanding export effort.

SAB was amongst those leaders of business who embraced the future, even when it was less fashionable to do so. It is of vital importance that this should continue, as the nation deals with the legacy of apartheid.

Government has a central role to play in transformation. Our commitment to the principles of fiscal discipline and the efficient use of scarce public resources will be maintained. For, this is not in conflict with reconstruction and development. Rather, it is an essential part of creating a better life for all, especially the poor.

So, too, is maintenance of the remarkable stability and national unity that we have achieved in our first year of democracy. We keenly appreciate the vital importance of a climate of safety and security. The Community Safety Plan will, therefore, be pursued with firmness and determination.

Our first year of democratic government was used principally for planning and preparation. The emphasis will now fall on visible change. Even at this early stage, the Reconstruction and Development Programme is proving a principal stimulant to economic growth.

Master of Ceremonies;

The part that business plays in creating a better life will require continued commitment to the kind of steps that have marked SAB's contribution to the process of change.

Corporations need to become representative of our society, at every level. This requires employment policies to bring in new people and training programmes to upgrade the skills of employees.

In procuring goods and services, deliberate efforts can create opportunities for entrepreneurs excluded by previous policies.

The Labour Relations Bill brings a new vision of relations between management and labour. Constructive discussion of the proposals will give us a system that will advance the national interest.

Above all, business needs vision and boldness in seizing the opportunities for productive investments. In that way it will reap benefits both for itself and society at large.

Looking more widely, business has the resources to contribute more directly to the realisation of that broader vision of freedom, equality and prosperity that all South Africans share.

This includes helping address some of the most urgent needs of communities. There is scope for this particularly in the fields of primary health care; education; welfare; small business development; and sport development. These are fields in which SAB has made its mark for some years.

On that score, SAB and the National Youth Development Forum should be congratulated for the launch last week of Operation Kick-start. Government heartily endorses the campaign to assist unemployed youth to acquire the skills to identify and start small enterprises.

On a more personal note, I was honoured on Saturday to have my name associated with the new international series of soccer matches being played between South Africa and top world teams.

Ladies and gentlemen;

The centre that is being opened tonight combines a number of positive aspects.

It is a major investment in Johannesburg and thereby gives tangible proof of your faith in the city and in the Gauteng Province.

As a part of the Newtown district, destined to be a centre for art, culture and history, it will perform invaluable functions.

It will broaden knowledge of the history and culture of the ancient art of brewing. Indeed, if used in moderation and by free choice, liquor can give innocent pleasure - though I do not use it myself.

This centre will also help to remind us of a history we neglect at our peril. Inevitably, a product as integral to the culture and economy of a society as is yours, traces in its won history, the history of its society. Among other things:

how, the early history of liquor in this great city was bound up with the fearful exploitation of the country's mineworkers and the degradation of their health and well-being; and

how, until the 1960's the majority of South Africans were prevented from acquiring certain types of liquor.

It is right, therefore, that the centre, by its representation of the then illegal shebeens, does help to recall that history.

People will also be reminded that, for all their hole-in-the-wall status, shebeens played an influential role in our cultural development, particularly in music and writing. This is where many of our top artists honed their talents.

But in addition to its instructive lessons, the centre will without doubt help promote tourism in this are and in Johannesburg as a whole. It is, therefore, a valuable addition to the economic assets of the Gauteng Province.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

It is now my great pleasure to officially open the SAB Centenary Centre, and to wish the company well for the next 100 years.

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation