Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Gospel Church of Power of the Republic of South Africa Conference

10 September 1995

Bishop S.F. Dapula, Moderator of the Gospel Church of Power of the Republic of South Africa;
Premier Raymond Mhlaba;
Paramount Chief Tutor Ndamase
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

This is the second time in the past two years that I have had the pleasure of being with you. Again I am impressed by the genuine warmth with which you have welcomed me.

I must, from the outset, express my gratitude to Bishop Dapula for the invitation to share with you the 23rd anniversary of the Gospel Church of Power of the Republic of South Africa. I am sure that this church will celebrate many more anniversaries into the next century, because it has been built on a firm theological and leadership foundation.

When I first visited you we were still in the wilderness in search of the land of freedom that our forefathers sought to create when they organised the African National Congress in 1912. I spoke then of the role that leaders of indigenous churches played in the formation of the ANC and throughout the years. I challenged you to help us enter the promised land of peace and democracy by voting for the ANC, the only beacon of freedom in South Africa throughout the years.

You did not hesitate to endorse our cause and to walk the last mile with us. Unlike many religious groups and leaders, you courageously declared your support for the organisation that your forefathers created.

I am here to thank you in the name of the leadership and the members of the ANC.

I am even happier to tell you the obvious, that we have bound the evil system of apartheid hand and foot. We are casting it into the grave.

It is significant that I am able to tell you this good news in the Bisho stadium at the very site of the massacre of our people two years ago. There can be no greater evidence that your struggles, your courage and your prayers have ultimately borne fruit.

We have been working hard since we took over government to eliminate all discriminatory laws, and to set up structures that can provide efficient service to the people. We decided to start without delay to address the urgent needs of the most vulnerable segments of our society - young children, pregnant women and children at schools. We have now extended this to include the provision of water and electricity to communities.

It is very clear to us that we cannot meet our people's needs without efficient government structures. This is exactly why we need local government.

All communities must take control over their own lives and make decisions about everything that affects them. This is only possible if communities elect leaders with a track record of working with communities, leaders who are reliable and care about the people.

This means that the local government elections in November are as important as the elections in 1994. The ANC has nominated candidates that communities can rely on. With ANC-led councils communities will have the power to make our plans for a better life happen where they live.

Brothers and sisters;

The ANC is firm in its view that religious freedom must be enshrined in the new Constitution. What is not acceptable is the idea that the state must choose Christianity as the only religion that is recognised in South Africa. This would make us guilty of apartheid against other religions. All South Africans must be free to practise any religion of their choice. If we agree to discriminate in favour of the Christian churches, then the next thing that will happen is that, for example, one of the mainline churches will want to become the state church; that we should discriminate against you.

The religious groups that want to force their views on all citizens as if there are no other views than their own, are beginning to organise marches to Parliament in order to try and whip up emotions.

This is just one of the important issues which face you, as members of the church and as proud and free citizens.

I cannot complete my address to you today without referring to the tragic actions of some nurses in parts of the country. The government fully appreciates the difficult conditions under which they are working. That is why we are discussing all these issues in negotiations in the central bargaining chamber. In these negotiations we have conducted ourselves honestly and openly.

We are therefore surprised that when some progress is being made, some people decide to destabilise the situation. Those who have watched some the demonstrations, and seen the posters condemning the ANC and calling on people to vote for a party of apartheid, are right to wonder whether some of our people are not being used to sabotage change and undermine democracy. History will judge such people harshly.

We are confident though that these problems will be resolved to the satisfaction of all. There is no going back to apartheid.

Dear friends;

I am deeply touched by the gift you have presented me, and thank you with all my heart.

And I would like once again to thank Bisho Dapula. I have enjoyed the fellowship and the hospitality of the church and I hope that all of you have derived as much hope and optimism from it as I have.

I thank you!

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation