Address by President Nelson Mandela at the 150th anniversary of Old Mutual

17 May 1995

Mr Levett, Chairman of Old Mutual;
Deputy-President De Klerk;
Honourable ministers;
Members of the diplomatic corps;
Your Worship the Mayor of Cape Town;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen.

I am delighted to share with you this celebration of the 150th anniversary of Old Mutual, and honoured to be in such distinguished company. That so many leaders from the world of business and government have come together for this occasion, tells us much about the place of Old Mutual in the affairs of our country.

Few things are more important at this time than mobilising the savings of our people and channelling them into productive economic activity. Old Mutual is our country's largest institutional holder of individual savings. It also draws foreign investment funds into South Africa on an increasing scale. Through its management of these investment resources, it has a major impact on economic growth.

The institution whose 150 years we are celebrating has, therefore, a substantial capacity to bring benefits to its estimated four million members in a direct way, but more broadly to the whole of our society.

Command over such resources brings special responsibilities. This is particularly true at this moment in our country's transition.

The achievements of our first year of democracy are substantial. They include the establishment of the Government of National Unity with a remarkable degree of legitimacy and firmly in control of the country's affairs.

The broad national consensus which emerged through the period of negotiations has become an active unity of purpose to transform society and build a better life for all.

This progress in government and civil society gives us confidence, as a nation, in our capacity to solve our problems by working together.

A framework for such a partnership of government and business, as well as other sectors of civil society, has been established.

Government has demonstrated its commitment to measures which are favourable to the thriving of business and sustained economic growth. These include the determination to maintain fiscal discipline. The abolition of the dual currency system is a precursor to further easing of exchange control regulation as circumstances allow.

On the part of business, this period demands that it rises to a series of challenges. These include helping shape a strategy for sustained growth, both individually and collectively, through the National Economic Development and Labour Council. It means making investment decisions which put a high priority on production undertakings that create jobs and generate sustainable growth. It means seizing the new international moment by identifying export opportunities and rising to the challenge of International competitiveness. It means welcoming foreign investors as contributors to our future.

There is also great scope for the private sector to contribute more directly to community needs, in co-operation with government. This includes assistance in such fields as housing, education, health, arts and culture, to name but a few.

All of us are mindful, on this day, of how many lives have been lost or diminished through accidents at work. I ask you to join me in observing a moment of silence, in memory of those who died at Vaal Reefs Gold Mine, and to rededicate ourselves to the urgent task of to improving health and safety at work throughout our economy.

Ladies and gentlemen.

The stability we have achieved is critical to the successful reconstruction and development of our country. It is therefore of the utmost importance that all of us accept responsibility for contributing to its maintenance.

In this regard, government's deployment of resources to combat crime should be matched by an active partnership of communities and business to help bring about a substantial decrease in levels of crime. This includes both the violent crime that threatens the security of communities and the white-collar crime which costs our economy billions of rands.

As we enter this second year of democracy, intent on turning plans into visible change, much depends on the capacity of everyone to put the national interest above sectional concerns.

Old Mutual's record in combining the interests of its members with norms of social responsibility, puts it amongst the leading corporations in this regard. It is already rising to many of the challenges that I have touched on.

In congratulating you on your 150th anniversary, I am confident that we can continue to count on your making a significant contribution to the South African economy and to the well-being of our people in the future.

I thank you

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation