Statement by President Nelson Mandela on the National Party's withdrawal from the Government of National Unity (GNU)

9 May 1996

Deputy-President FW de Klerk informed me earlier today that the National Party had decided to withdraw from the Government of National Unity.

As you are aware, the leadership of the National Party has emphasised that their withdrawal is not an expression of Iack of confidence in our multi-party democracy, the rules of which are contained in the constitution which we together adopted yesterday.

On the contrary, it reflects the fact that the National Party recognises that our young democracy has come of age, and would need a vigorous opposition unfettered by its participation in the Executive. We respect their judgment on this matter; as well as the party political considerations which precipitated their decision.

As I emphasised yesterday after the adoption of the new constitution, unity and reconciliation within our society depend not so much on enforced coalitions among parties. They are Indelibly written in the hearts of the overwhelming majority of South Africa's people. This is a course that the government and the ANC have chosen to pursue in the interest of our country. It is a course that we will pursue with even more vigor in the coming months and years.

The policies that the Government of National Unity has been executing are premised on the needs and aspirations of all the country's people. This applies to all areas of endeavor, underpinned by the Reconstruction and Development Programme, to improve the quality of life of the people through sound economic policies of fiscal rectitude and other measures to promote growth and development.

These policies will not change. Instead they will be promoted with even more focus.

Though the Imperative of Government of National Unity was written into the interim constitution, the onus was on parties which attained more the 10% of the vote in April 1994, voluntarily to decide whether or not to take positions in cabinet.

As the majority party, the ANC welcomed the fact that the NP and IFP decided to take part in the Executive, especially in the early days of our delicate transition.

I wish to thank Deputy President FW de Klerk and his colleagues for the constructive role that they have played. I am confident that we shall continue to work together in pursuit of the country's Interests, and that their withdrawal will have the effect of strengthening, rather than weakening, their commitment to the country's political, security and economic interests.

Indeed, we are firmly of the view that the National Party has a continuing responsibility
to contribute to the process of eradicating the legacy of apartheid which they created. As
such. we hope that their decision to play a more active role as an opposition party,
does not mean obstructing the process of transformation or defending apartheid privilege.

In this regard, I also wish to reassure all South Africans that the course that we have undertaken as a nation is bigger than any party or individual.

Source: South African Government Information Website