Message by President Nelson Mandela to the Conference of Community-based Organisations

27 July 1995

Distinguished Delegates;
Comrades and friends.

I feel great disappointment that I cannot be with you in person at this important occasion. Community based organisations are playing a critical part in the evolution of our new democracy, as they did in the years of resistance to apartheid. I am however thrilled by the endeavor you are making to be part of the monumental task of reconstructing the country.

This conference is about matters of development, which the entire nation has embraced in the Reconstruction and Development Programme. The evolution of the RDP into a concrete policy document and, finally, a government programme, was enriched by the participation of nongovernmental as well as community based organisations.

I am confident that you will rise to the challenge that is facing all of us, and that is the improvement of the lives of our people. Community based organisations, government, the corporate sector and other stakeholders owe it to the people to create the mechanism and climate in which every South African can be part of the national reconstruction effort.

You share the responsibility with all of us to make the RDP a programme which every South African can assimilate, and in which all can take part. In our forward march, it is always important to halt for a moment and reflect on the path we have already traversed. It would there be worthwhile for the conference to draw lessons from your experiences of the last fifteen months on how we have fared in our efforts.

At the opening of parliament, we pointed out that the time had arrived to move beyond planning. Change has to begin in earnest to be visible.

The implementation of the RDP will enhance job opportunities in communities. The programme of rebuilding schools, clinics and upgrading of roads as well as the urban renewal of rural development programmes should create job opportunities for the masses of unemployed people.

Yesterday Cabinet confirmed the holding of local government elections on November 1 1995. Successful elections on the scheduled dates is not important solely for the purpose of concluding the democratic cycle that we commenced on April 27 1994. On these elections hinges the implementation of RDP.

We have to pull together in making the Masakhane campaign a success. I am aware of certain communities that are torchbearers in breaking the culture of non-payment. The government is investigating a method of rewarding those communities which have set this example, with the aim to further enhance their developmental programmes and also to encourage those lagging behind to emulate their example.

Where they are located, community based organisations are in a position to act as catalysts in the campaign against crime. This is a scourge which is a threat to the much - needed stability required for development to take place. The role that should be played by your organisations is no less than that which shall be played by the law-enforcement agencies.

I have noted with dismay acts of financial indiscretion among certain government officials in the recent past. This is even more disturbing because members of the mass democratic movement are implicated. I applaud the swift actions that have been taken by the authorities in the respective provinces to deal with these kinds of misdemeanors. I am raising this point because the development programmes will entrust many of us with considerable amounts of public funds. The cancel of financial abuse must not be allowed to take root among our people. Our people have placed us in positions of responsibility because they have confidence in us. We cannot let them down.

I want to reiterate that I will always advocate strong action against any culprit that is involved in this kind of conduct, more especially for those who belong to the majority party.

A challenge is facing all of us to end the carnage in KwaZulu-Natal. The primary cause of the strife is that province is poverty and destitution - a legacy of the apartheid past. The government is evolving a protracted strategy to deal with the situation. Community based organisations from KwaZulu - Natal and the rest of the country are called upon to pick up the challenge of defeating this scourge. We cannot afford a wasteland in any part of our country.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation