Opening address by President Nelson Mandela at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government Summit

28 August 1995

Mr Chairman
Distinguished Heads of State and Government;
Heads of Delegations
Distinguished Ministers;
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is an honour and a great privilege for us, as the newest member of the Southern African Development Community, to host the Summit of Heads of State and Government. In this, the Community's fifteenth year, we warmly welcome you all to our newly democratic country.

The Community was conceived in the struggle to freedom in Southern Africa, and born of the courage of its leaders in setting out to create a new reality. As Front Line State you were in the forefront of the struggle for the liberation of Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa. Perhaps thanks are misplaced between those who fought and suffered together for a great and noble cause. But on behalf of the people of South Africa we must record the profound debt of gratitude we owe you for your support.

Our victory, is your victory also. Welcome home!

The liberation of South Africa and the end of Southern Africa's destabilisation brought great possibilities for the development of our region. We must translate those hopes into reality. We must plant the seeds of Africa's economic rebirth in the soil of Southern Africa, and see them flower to help bring comfort and a better life to all on our continent.

Our greatest need today is to eradicate the scourge of poverty afflicting the great mass of our people. Only then can we fulfill the dream of Africa's liberation in the health, happiness and well-being of its children.

The SADC's mission reflects the reality that Southern Africa has long passed the stage of lamenting the privations of the past. The challenge is to find within ourselves the resources to overcome this legacy, with the co-operation of the international community. We need to adapt to the demand of a rapidly changing world economy and to develop the skills needed to compete internationally.

Ladies and gentlemen;

Our concern for national sovereignty and national interest need not prevent us from planning seriously for regional growth and development - indeed they dictate that we move in that direction, because our fortunes are so interdependent. None of us can achieve sustainable growth and development, or peace and stability, in isolation.

The developments of the past year have greatly enhanced the prospects for such an enterprise. Freed at last from the grip of the apartheid system, we took great strides towards regional peace and stability, with political systems based on tolerance and democratic practice.

The positive political climate made for substantial progress in building on the foundations for integrated regional development which SADC laid in its earlier, more difficult, phase.

A joint approach to regional infrastructure has become a reality. We can feel well satisfied at the progress with regard to the Southern African Power Pool and Shared Water Course Systems. They are shining examples of what can be achieved, and set the scene for further advances. No less significant is the progress in tourism towards pooling our assets and collectively exploiting them for our mutual benefit.

Work on preparing for the progressive integration of our trade and financial markets is now well under way. South Africa supports the goal of full economic integration of the SADC region. All those engaged in manufacturing the trade in our subcontinent will benefit by having unfettered access to a market of 100 million people, as will our people.

The consensus that has been reached on the need for a phased approach to this goal reflects the complexity of the situation. If we move with undue speed towards the noble ideals of full integration and trade liberalisation, negative migration trends in capital, skills and labour might well set in. We would wish to see balanced and equitable development throughout the region, to the mutual benefit of all its people. Trade liberalisation has to be complemented by measures to address the historic imbalances between and within countries.

Our vision for the SADC region is therefore one of the highest possible degree of economic integration consistent with socio-economic and political reality.

Our task as governments is to provide the environment that will release the creative abilities of our people to produce wealth and cause development themselves.

The directions have been marked out across our region: political stability based on democratic governance and human rights; disciplined approaches to fiscal and monetary matters; large-scale infrastructural development; and massive investment in people in order simultaneously to improve their lives and to enhance our human capital.

SADC provides a framework for translating the imperatives of reconstruction and development onto a regional plane. In so doing it enhances the degree to which, individually and collectively, we offer a climate for sustained growth and development. Achieving the growth that this makes possible will require business also to rise to the challenge, through investment and active participation in the shaping of our region's development.

Such a partnership, of governments, business and other spheres of society, can help build SADC into a powerful force for development.

To the extent that we succeed in doing so, we will strengthen our influence, as individual countries and as a region, in a world increasingly defined by the formation of regional economic blocs. We will be also be shaping a building block for a continental economic community.

We have set ourselves an ambitious agenda, necessarily more so than the one that the SADC defined for itself at its birth in 1980. In a sense it is even more challenging than the goal of national liberation that sustained us through long years of struggle. But the conditions for regional co-operation and integration have never been as favourable.

We look forward with confidence to today's Summit. This derives not only from the far-reaching issues on the agenda, but also from the fact that the SADC can at last commune in a home once fenced off by the folly of an inhuman system.

Ladies and gentlemen;

It is now my great privilege to declare the 1995 SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government open.

Thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation