Closing address by President Nelson Mandela following debate on State of the Nation Address, Cape Town

15 February 1996

President and Deputy President of the Senate;
Madame Speaker and Deputy Speaker:
Deputy President Mbeki and Deputy President de Klerk;
Ministers and Deputy Ministers;
Honourable Members of Parliament.

Debate in our democratically elected parliament is always exciting and rewarding.

The two days which have just passed were no exception. I would like to express my appreciation of your collective response to the State of the Nation Address. With the opening of this, the third session of our democratic Parliament, the contributions were as lively, and as enriching, as during the first session.

And yet I would dare say there was something new.

Whereas the opening of the first session saw threats from one party to withdraw from the Government of National Unity; and the second session the withdrawal of another from Parliament; no such developments marked this debate.

Yes, a New Patriotism is abroad in our land, a patriotism which should increasingly express itself also in the respect for the institutions defined in our constitution; an appreciation that, while we might differ as parties, we should express those differences through the legitimate channels that our democracy has established. We should express them in peaceful engagement rather than conflict; in rational debate, rather than invective and disdain for the constitution.

We hope that, soon, those who left the Constitutional Assembly, will be back in their seats, pursuing the interests of their suppor- ters, and persuading South Africa and the world to understand what it is that leaders of our country cannot resolve among themselves.

Honourable President;

We may reflect with some satisfaction that this debate evinced a discernible sense of purpose and determination, to address in con- crete and practical detail, the legislative and policy requirements for decisive transformation. Yours, Honourable Members, was the voice of those who have passed through the early stages of a testing transition, confident in their capacity to deal with all new challenges.

In that sense, though with some qualification here and there, there was consensus in this chamber, acknowledging and reflecting the New Patriotism among our people. From the contributions of all the parties, what is clear is that there are leaders emerging on all sides of the political spectrum - leaders who see the challenges of the country from the point of view of South Africa as a whole, rather than those of a privileged few.

Before addressing some of the important points that were raised, there is perhaps something more to be said about this new sense of a common national identity.

The New Patriotism of the new South Africa is not something that government or politicians can create or wish into existence. It is a powerful feeling amongst our people in every walk of life, and in every community. Indeed, we politicians might well be far behind the ordinary men, women and children of our country. It is they who are leading us towards becoming one nation, at a pace beyond all expectation.

This new patriotism has made itself most visible around the achievements of our sports people. But it is something that citizens also feel as they are freed from the constraining divisions of the past. South Africans are entering a wider world of relationships with their fellow compatriots, free to be who or what they really are.

Increasingly there is an immense pride in being South African, and it is closely bound up with the progress we have made in overcoming the enforced divisions of the past. It nurtures the conviction that, by working together, we can overcome the problems we face.

This is not something created by politicians. In the context of this people-driven process, I believe that political parties can do one of three things:

Firstly, they can harness the energies of the people into a living campaign for a better life.

Secondly, they could continue with business as usual and miss the opportunities that the current moment offers.

Or thirdly, in sectarian self-interest, they could strive to hold back their supporters from this growing tide towards a united nation, away from pulling together for the common good.

As elected representatives we must justify the trust which has been put in us to oversee the transformation of our country. It means asking ourselves, not just as individuals, but as political parties: what are we doing to advance nation-building and reconciliation; growth and development; safety and security; justice and human rights.

Honourable President;

We do note the voices expressing anxiety that this process is not all-inclusive. This is something we are called on to take most seriously, because, to the extent that it is articulated in this manner, it subtracts from the national objective, leaving our nation the weaker, and our ideals the more difficult to attain.

Dit was veral segspersone vir Afrikaners wat hierdie gevoelens van kommer verwoord het. En terwyl ek dit weer wil stel dat ons geregverdigde en gegronde vrese baie ernstig opneem, moet ek ook ten opsigte van Afrikaners vermeld hoe dikwels dit my tref dat hulle opmerk dat die nuwe Suid-Afrika hulle 'n gevoel van bevryding gee noudat ons almal 'n breer wereld van verhoudings met al ons mede- Suid-Afrikaners kan betree.

Daarom moet die van u wat in posisies van leierskap onder Afrikaners staan ook groot sorg aan die dag le dat u nie die mense weerhou van daardie ervaring van bevryding deur valse vrese aan te wakker en aan die lewe te hou nie.

Die opwindende uitdaging van die nuwe patriotisme is nie een van 'n keuse tussen Afrikanerskap en Suid-Afrikanerskap nie. Inteendeel - dit gaan juis oor die helende versoening van Afrikanerskap met ten volle Suid-Afrikaner wees.

Die bevoorregting wat hulle in die verlede geniet het, het Afrikaners onder andere toegerus met 'n ryk skat aan vaardighede, kennis en kulturele middele. As diegene wat voordeel getrek het uit 'n vorige program van regstellende aksie, behoort Afrikaners beter as enigiemand anders te besef hoe so 'n program kan bydra om middele daar te stel waardeur 'n samelewing meer produktief kan raak.

Is dit dan, vra ek my af, nie 'n meer skeppende opsie vir Afrikaners om hulself te sien en uit te leef as 'n onmisbare kundige deel van die proses om ons nuwe samelewing te bou; 'n onmisbare bron van kundigheid waardeur groei en ontwikkeling bewerkstellig kan word in diens van 'n beter lewe vir alle Suid-Afrikaners?

We welcome the positive anticiaption from all sides of the imminent unveiling of the National Crime Prevention Strategy. I have no doubt that those who have been working on it for several months, will be greatly encouraged by the commitment of all parties to work together and make a success of it. Ensuring that all our citizens enjoy the safety and security to which they are entitled, deserves this kind of commitment.

The rights of ordinary citizens and the integrity of the law also need to be protected from those who seek, systematically and deliberately, to undermine the operation of the criminal justice system. I wish to say again that I am determined to deal firmly with all violent actions and challenges to the law-enforcement agencies. As I indicated during the opening, existing regulations prohibiting the carrying of dangerous weapons are being examined, as a matter of urgency. In a matter of days, a notice remedying the limitations will be issued.

And let me make it abundantly clear, that anyone who elects to defy the laws of the land, will be punished fully.

People claiming to be supporters of the ANC in Richmond held a demonstration demanding of the Attorney-General to grant bail to individuals awaiting trial, and threatened more action if this demand is not acceded to. I wish to reiterate that we will ensure that the country's law-enforcement agencies are left to do their work without undue pressure.

We welcome the undertaking from all the parties that none of us seek confrontation with the democratically-elected government. Yet it behoves us to express our concern, that in this democratic South Africa, veiled threats are issued that, if such and such does not happen, then there would be violent conflict. Indeed, if there are defects in the democratic system that prevent people from exercising their will, then these should be identified and dealt with. But we cannot allow ourselves to operate under the shadow of threats of violence and instability.

We should also emphasise that the success of our common efforts depends on co-operative interaction among all tiers of government. We cannot attain the objective of a better life for all, if national, provincial and local government pull in different directions. This is not a matter of theory; but one of the real and critical needs of, especially, the poor.

Honourable President;

These challenges - completing our new constitution; ensuring safety and security; and nurturing our new found sense of national identity - are no less important than those to which I now turn: promoting economic growth and development, and especially, the creation of jobs.

Our programme for reconstruction and development was chartered for our first democratically elected government to set in motion the achievement of a better life for all South Africans. This is the over-arching mandate for this government in all areas of endeavour.

Lest we need such prompting, the recently published study on indicators of poverty in our country should spur us on, to make the attack on poverty our guiding objective. It reinforces beyond debate the need for more than "business as usual" if South Africa is to realise its potential to banish poverty and ensure equity. A society in which wealth remains so unequally shared, cannot sustain sufficient growth. At the same time, without growth, it will become more and more difficult to sustain our socio-economic programmes.

The challenge therefore is that, in implementing the RDP, we should elaborate a growth an development strategy which will take us out of the quagmire of "jobless growth".

There is no doubt that, in this process, we shall have to make many difficult choices. For instance, how do we define our labour standards in a manner flexible enough not to block entry by the unemployed? I am happy that the union movement and the ministry dealing with public works have reached consensus on one major aspect of this complex question.

In the same vein, business is faced with critical challenges regarding matters such as beneficiation and processing industries, raised so eloquently during the debate, as well as a commitment to invest in the country, premised on more than just the pursuit of large returns. Indeed, can we be justified in transferring enterprises to other countries, simply because such countries pursue repressive labour policies!

Difficult choices will also have to be made in government. For, we cannot hope to give leadership to this process, if we continue with the structural mechanisms inherited from the old order. The new challenges require new, bold and innovative thinking.

The need for the growth and development strategy was one of the most strongly voiced aspects of the consensus which informed the debate of the past two days. That will add urgency to the elabora- tion of the strategy, and to bringing it into the public domain. The executive fully accepts that challenge.

Let all of our political parties take it upon themselves to give free rein to the creative energy of our nation, so that we can indeed answer each day the question: what have we done to mobilise our supporters to work together to improve their quality of life!

This is the attitude that should also inform our approach to international relations. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and other speakers incisively identified South Africa's challenges on these matters. As we draft the relevant discussion Documents, government will welcome concrete proposals on how to improve our approach in general, as well as in dealing with urgent matters in Africa and further afield.

The question of new parties, reborn with new values also featured in the debate. Perhaps the most relevant comment that can be made in this regard is that the voters will be the best judges. They know their conditions; they know their needs; they know their aspirations. And they know the values required to meet these needs and attain these aspirations.

We should therefore dispel the notion that, when the majority of the people coalesce around the common perspectives articulated by any given party, this becomes a threat to democracy; a harbinger to the advent of a one-party-state or autocracy. What such protestations actually suggest is that democracy is a threat to democracy. Parties will, by their own actions, define themselves as being attractive to the majority of voters or to a minority.

Honourable President;

We have come to the end of the debate reinforced in our conviction that South Africans have readied themselves to seize the moment. But we also have a leadership, drawn from all political parties represented here, that is prepared to rise to the occasion.

Much more could be said in response to the many other questions raised. But, when all is said and done, the essence of this debate is best captured in the resonance of our shared intent: Let us get down to work!

Thank You.

Issued by: The Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website