Address by President Nelson Mandela at the launch of the Chris Hani Memorial Water Supply Scheme Project, Sabalele

9 April 1996

Honourable Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry;
Members of the National and Provincial Legislatures;
Community Leaders;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is deeply moving to be gathered here to launch this project, on what could otherwise be a forgotten hillside. The architects of apartheid relegated Sabalele and countless villages across the country to barren and neglected dumping grounds.

It was from the dust of this neglected village that a giant of our nation, Comrade Chris Hani, rose. So it is befitting that three years after his cowardly assassination we converge here in Sabalele. Seeing the plight of this area is enough to make one understand the sacrifices that Chris made in order to help destroy a system that was doing such harm to his people.

Dear Friends;

The loss to you as a community and to our nation as a whole, with the sudden departure of Comrade Chris, can never be made good. His death was a national tragedy because the entire nation lost a leader, a friend, and a fighter. We still feel it within the Tripartite Alliance. But it cut deeper here in Sabalele, the broader family that nurtured him.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission will no doubt help in uncovering the full facts behind this cruel death. In so doing it will help heal the wounds we still feel. Through the loss cannot be made good this project, which brings the life-sustaining gift of water, is part of our nation's reparation to the community which gave us a leader and lost a son.

At his funeral, I remarked that the village of Hani's birth had no access to running water. Despite the fifty years that had passed since Chris's birth, nothing had changed. When the windmills once installed by the apartheid regime fell into disrepair no attempt was made to replace them. The communities were left to fend for themselves.

Our democratic government took up that challenge. It made it part of its national task of helping bring clean water to the 12 million South Africans who had been denied it. Within the first two years of the People's Government, the people of Upper and Lower Sabalele have been freed from walking long distances to fetch water.

The true memorial to Chris is not this project alone. There is a national memorial to all those who like him gave their lives for our freedom. It consists of thousands of projects all over South Africa. Each one helps make a reality of the ideals for which our heroes perished. Each one helps give freedom real meaning.

Honourable Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The village of Sabalele is the first to benefit from a second wave of RDP water projects. The first phase of RDP projects, the Presidential Lead Projects, included water supply schemes through which 400 000 people across the country have already gained access to clean water.

The RDP Office charted the way for every sector of government to contribute in a co-ordinated way to the reconstruction and development of our country.

The Office has splendidly succeeded in its task, in that its functions can now be fully absorbed by all the other ministries. In this new phase the Ministries, and the provincial and local governments, along with communities, will be even more prominent in the planning and implementation of RDP projects.

The project we are launching today has been a model of partnership. The people of Sabalele formed a Project Steering Committee of community and local government representatives who have worked with the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry.

By employing villagers in the construction work the Steering Committee created jobs and opportunities for skills training. It has welded the community closer together. In itself, this community-driven development is a tribute to Chris Hani's collective style of work.

This project is just the beginning of the improvement of Cofimvaba District. Co-operative leadership of the kind demonstrated by the people of Sabalele will be the foundation for future success.

It will also become the basis for the development of effective local government. Just as democracy at national level has brought government policies for addressing the legacy of apartheid, democratic local government will open the way for communities to turn those policies into real improvement in their well-being.

We therefore place the highest premium on measures to get the newly elected local authorities working. Provinces need to mount concerted programmes to build the capacity of the new councils; and traditional leaders should give them all their support and co-operation.

Let all our communities roll up their sleeves and get down to work. With your new democratic local authorities, you should take the driving seat for the development of our country.

In doing so we shall all be honouring the memory of our fallen heroes.

Today, with the launch of this project we can say with pride that Chris Hani lives. But our words must find even greater resonance in the progress we make in job-creation, in educating the young, in affordable health-care and other services - here in Cofimvaba and further afield. They must find resonance in our successes in working together to build a better life for all.

Thank you.

Issued by: Office of The President

Source: South African Government Information Website