Address by Nelson Mandelaat the Gauteng Community Leaders Summit

25 June 1995

1. Meeting the community leaders of Gauteng.

I am very pleased to have the opportunity of meeting the broad leadership of our democratic movement at local level in the Gauteng Province.

You are in daily contact with the people. You know their everyday needs and complaints. It is through you that we can gauge the popular pulse.

You are also the leaders on whom the ANC is depending as we approach the November local government elections.

2. Putting government in the hands of the community.

The importance of these elections cannot be exaggerated. Without democratic local authorities, our democracy has no base; and the RDP will not succeed.

Democratically elected local authorities will work with communities and community organisations to identify community needs. They will work with provincial government to ensure funding to address these needs. They will help manage reconstruction, allocate resources, and determine where services are improved and developed.

It is at the local level that the deracialisation of our country and the mending of our damaged social fabric becomes most concrete and most challenging.

3. Local Government Elections

Although these elections complete the task started by the April elections, they are a different kind of election altogether.

There is not just one big battle to fight, but hundreds of elections. Weakness in one area cannot be balanced by strength in another. You will therefore have to do your utmost to mobilise existing ANC support in each area and at the same time to draw in new support beyond our present limits.

Local issues will influence the outcome of the election, alongside broad national issues. Voters will look for the party which is sensitive to local needs and which can work with national and provincial government to meet those needs.

A process like the proposed Community Charter should enhance the ANC's effectiveness in giving voice to community needs. It brings to the fore the abiding quality of the ANC, which distinguishes us from everyone else, as the true representatives of the people, as the custodian of their interests. People's Forums during last year's elections were crucial in emphasising this unique quality of the ANC, and in guiding our programme in government. This will be even more relevant in the coming elections.

4. Selection of candidates

The selection of candidates for the local government elections should also reflect the approach of consultation with the people. In this way, we will ensure that the candidates are worthy of the responsibilities which local councillors will have. We must make sure that they are selected in a way that inspires confidence in our organisation.

Never select a person whose credentials are in doubt. To ensure that the council is close to the people and respects them, we must select councillors who are close to the people and respects them.

Candidates must be people of good community standing capable of inspiring ANC supporters and at the same time drawing votes from the broader non-ANC community. Acceptability within the ranks of the movement should not be the only selection criterion.

Our candidates must reflect the character of the local electorate, in terms of generation, race, occupation and gender.

5. Opportunities

At the end of our first Freedom Year, the standing of the ANC, as the leading force in the Government of National Unity, is high amongst almost all sectors of the population. Our readiness to work together and to encourage reconciliation has weakened the fears which tied some communities to parties of the past. The ANC's role in developing a plan for a better life and its capacity to bring that about is now more widely recognised.

Despite the terrible legacy of apartheid, our people have a clear understanding of the scale of the tasks we face. The spirit of Masakhane is strong amongst the people - communities are ready to take responsibility for improving their own conditions.

This creates the potential for an even greater victory than in last year's national and provincial elections. On the other hand, there is a real possibility for us to perform very badly. In addition to the 50-50 allocation of some of the seats among racial communities as defined in the Act, we are also faced with the danger of complacency in our own ranks.

To fully exploit the good potential we have, will require good judgement and hard work. As an organisation the ANC has a good record when it comes to analysis and decision-making. What is going to count is whether the decisions are followed by effective implementation.

6. Challenges for the campaign

We started campaigning when we encouraged people to register. So we are already in the electioneering mood. The Check Your Name Campaign is our next step to ensure that as many people as possible are able to vote in November. This is as crucial as the registration campaign itself. In addition, I hope that you have not stopped processing those who have not registered; because there is still a chance for them to be included on the voters' roll.

Our message in the elections should reflect the central concerns of the people. In Gauteng, there are issues we must take seriously - like housing, crime and lawlessness, and other locally-specific concerns of communities.

We must also be ready for the attacks which will be launched on the ANC in order to cast doubt and confusion. These attacks have already started. However, we should also avoid being diverted from our central message.

7. An ANC victory

You are of course aware of these tasks, because this is not the first election you have fought. But they must be addressed with the utmost seriousness - especially in this province where the fight is going to be hard and setbacks are possible.

We are counting on you, as community leaders of this province, to ensure a resounding ANC victory in the local elections. In doing so you will help to realise the vision of a better life for all, which the nation voted for in April last year.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation