Address by President Nelson Mandela at the inauguration of GENCOR's new head office and the celebration of GENCOR's centenary

29 September 1995

Mr Brian Gilbertson;
Mr Derek Keys;
Deputy-President De Klerk;
Honourable Ministers;
Members of provincial governments;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure, as well as an honour, to share with you an occasion which is at once a celebration of Gencor's first 100 years and an affirmation of its confidence in our country's future.

The growth of Gencor into one of South Africa's industrial giants is intimately bound up with our country's history. With its roots in the early mining industry, Gencor has gone through phases and transformations closely tracking those of our economy and our nation.

The establishment of democracy in South Africa and our acceptance in the international community created a radically changed environment for business in this country. Gencor has not lagged behind others in rising to the challenges. Indeed its success in turning itself into a world-class metals and minerals resources group has been remarkable. And its espousal of our country's new social and economic objectives has placed it amongst business leaders in that regard.

These qualities will be much needed as our nation undertakes the task, barely started, of transforming our society in order to address the legacy of apartheid.

Little more than a year since the establishment of democratic government, we are blessed with a degree of political stability that few expected, firmly rooted in national consensus.

This has allowed our new institutions to take root and show their capacity to secure our democracy. The negotiations over the Labour Relations Bill vindicated the vision of Nedlac's founding compact. And the judgements of our Constitutional Court have confirmed its impartiality and competence as the final arbiter in constitutional matters.

The partnership of civil society with government is assisting us in combating crime, one of our highest priorities. Action to bring down crime rates is taking effect. But the levels remain unacceptably high, and the Government of National Unity is determined to take whatever firm action is needed to deal with law breakers and bring safety and security throughout our country.

The consensus we enjoy has also allowed us to establish an economic policy framework that is conducive to sustained growth and development. Fiscal and financial discipline; the rational use of public resources; the opening of our economy; and reduction of foreign exchange controls are key elements in that framework.

The increased economic growth and investment flowing from these developments and policies are encouraging. But we cannot rest satisfied with them. If the lives of our people are to be improved as they deserve, we must achieve a higher level of sustained growth.

The Government has therefore felt the need for an even more intense national focus on the achievement of economic growth. Amongst other things this will require steps to build our capacity for macro-economic management, and it will need a more strategic approach. For example, Investment in such areas as infrastructure, housing, training, communication, agriculture, and tourism need to be accorded priority. And the industrial restructuring which will boost our exports and competitiveness must be built on our greatest strengths.

Ladies and gentlemen;

These challenges for government are equally challenges for our social partners. None of our goals are achievable by government alone.

The contributions which business can make vary from sector to sector. But large corporations in the mining sector and minerals sector are well-placed to contribute in a significant and substantial way to building a better life. Amongst other things this will need continued commitment to steps of the kind on which Gencor has embarked.

The mining industry's most precious asset is the people who work in it, and the industry's future will turn on investment in its people.

Because mining is so central to South Africa's economy, the legacy of apartheid is inevitably deeply etched on labour relations in the industry. The steps already taken in this area are commendable, but much more remains to be done. The challenge is to extend and accelerate the process. The Labour Relations Act provides a new opportunity for management and labour to work together to put labour relations in the industry in tune with our democratic society's aspiration towards social justice, and with the requirements of competitiveness. It should also be used to lend even more urgency to making the industry safer for those who work in it.

The industry needs to become more representative of society, at every level. This requires employment policies to bring in new people, human resources policies to upgrade the skills of employees and deliberate steps to open the industry to entrepreneurs who have been previously excluded.

The corporations command substantial resources which can contribute more directly to the realisation of our broader vision of a better life. Gencor's Development Trust has set a commendable example. In particular I would like to highlight Gencor's practical and generous response to my own request for it to build schools and clinics in the Northern Provinces - nearly 6,000 pupils will benefit.

The ways in which economic growth and development in South Africa can be promoted are many and varied. But two matters deserve attention in this context.

Mining companies could contribute significantly to the economy by promoting downstream activities. Gencor's massive investments in Alusaf, like that in Columbus Stainless Steel, is a towering example of what is possible. But we would encourage a further development of the process, with vigorous strategies for further beneficiation and promotion of a sustainable aluminium products manufacturing industry in this country. Such downstream activities enhance the value of our exports, have the potential to create opportunities for small and medium enterprises, and could create a significant number of jobs.

Another major challenge we face is that of finding ways of combining the economic and competitive advantages very large corporations, with the need to sustain an environment which encourages competition and is welcoming to new companies and investment. The publication of draft legislation will provide the opportunity for informed public debate and a solution in the national interest to this complex question.

Ladies and gentlemen;

This is an occasion which encourages us to look forward with boldness.

This new headquarters office stands on the very site of Gencor's origins a century ago. It stands in the city which, like the company itself, was built out of the natural resources beneath the ground, by the enterprise of business and by the labour and skills of countless workers.

It represents a substantial investment in our future and, I am confident, a commitment to share in the transformation of our country.

It is now my great pleasure to declare this new Gencor Head Office open.

I thank you

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation