Address by President Nelson Mandela in the President's Budget Debate, Senate

18 June 1996

Mr President; Deputy-President,
Honourable Senators,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I stand before you fully conscious of the historic significance of this moment. South Africa has reached a watershed in the democratisation of our society.

In a matter of weeks, we expect the final constitution to be certified. And this may therefore be the last time that I personally have the honour of standing before this august body to account.

This naturally invokes sadness. But the dark sentiment is overwhelmed by the sense of joy that we are proceeding as a nation to higher forms of political relations and representation. The dissolution of the Senate is not the falling off of an appendage. It is the rebirth of a body better empowered and better constituted to take our democracy to new heights.

The adoption of the constitution and events since then have thrown up many and varied challenges. Some of them compel us to come back again and again to the question: what is nation-building and what is the New Patriotism abroad in our land! I will return to these questions in my address today because of the special role of the Senate and the future Council of Provinces; because of the implications of references to individual and collective rights in the new constitution; and not least, because of aspects of the recent Western Cape local government elections.

As we address these question we should remind ourselves that nation-building is not something new. It has been continually forges in the struggle for freedom. Enforced division has engendered in our people a powerful urge towards unity as a condition for freedom and peace. The struggle against apartheid was an act of building unity amongst the oppressed and democratic forces on the basis of a vision of a free South Africa in which, as the Freedom Charter says: 'South Africa belongs to all who live in it - black and white'.

Not sufficiently recognised, but important to acknowledge as a powerful force for nation-building, is culture.

Our country has given birth to many outstanding artists, musicians, writers and performers who are celebrated for their unique contributions to world culture. They come from every sphere of our society, and their achievements are drawn from the great diversity of our cultures.

Amongst our acclaimed musicians are people like Abdullah Ibrahim and Basil Coetsee, their talents inspired and nurtured by the vibrant musical tradition of the Western Cape which takes to the streets at New Year, Mimi Coertse, an Afrikaner, has given European opera a special South African flavour, and has in turn helped identify a new generation of South African opera stars. Few South Africans have not been moved by Miriam Makeba's haunting melodies that have given voice to the pain of exile and dislocation, at the same time as inspiring a powerful sense to hope. And many have been inspired by the strains of hope and despair woven into one, in the powerful renditions of Vusi Mahlasela and Johnny Clegg.

Bangodi ba rona ha ba hlahella feela ka mahetla lefatsheng empa ba bile ba re thusa ho itlwisisa bohloko le nyakallo maphelong a bao re neng re arohantswe le bona. Kajeno ba re thusa ho betla kutwisiso ya rona ya mehla e fetileng esita le yona pono e kopanetsweng ya bokamoso.

Hara mehlale e metle, motho o ka thonya Solomon Piaatje. monna ya tlisitseng mathata a ho amohuwa ka sheshe kelohlokong ya South Africa le fatshe ka kakaretso qalong ya ngwaha-kgolo ona.

We think of Nadine Gordimer, who won international acclaim as our first winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, and whose writing was enriched by the cultural kaleidoscope of our country; of Adam Small who has placed on the literary map a form of Afrikaans that many speak but which has till now been largely denied artistic recognition.

Our artist and writers have combined a fierce attachment to the particular culture in which they are rooted with an equally strong love of the South African nation as a whole. In turn our nation takes pride in them and reveres them. Afrikaans poets like Dirk Opperman and Antjie Krog are part of the heritage of us all. In our national anthem the words of Langenhoven resonate with the verses of Sontonga.

The names of our distinguished writers, singers, dancers, actors and other cultural workers are legion. No less vital to our sense of ourselves as a nation is the brilliant artistry of everyday life in the countryside, and in the streets and factories of our country.

One could speak for days and scarcely begin to name the artist and cultural workers - the living and the dead - who are so powerfully contributing to the building of our nation. These are part of the legion of our New Patriots, the foundation stone of a nation coming of age, a nation united in its diversity.

Mr President,

Also part of nation-building is the achievement of broad consensus on the crucial issues that face our country.

The adoption of the National Crime Prevention Strategy and the announcement of the police Plan of Action represent much more than publication of documents. Collectively they constitute a harnessing of national resource, in a co-ordinated way and on a well-considered and practical basis. They are part of the practical programme of action, to deal a lasting blow against crime and bring to South Africans the safety and security which the constitution guarantees, and which is their right. The criminals must beware: the battle against crime is joined!.

In adopting the macro-economic framework last week, Government brought to its conclusion a process of investigation, deliberation and consultation through which South Africa sought how best to speed up transformation. We do know that enduring economic balance cannot be an end in itself; rather it should be for purposes of rapid growth, job-creation and delivery of better services to the people. We know too well that our democracy will lack substance and our unity remain fragile if we do not act to reduce the wide socio-economic differences which we have inherited.

Now the broad frame work has been decided upon. And the task is not to bury our heads in theoretical treatises, important as theory might be. The challenge of the moment is for all sectors to set shoulder to the wheel and make things happen.

It is heartening that the last of local government elections in the Western Cape were conducted successfully. Problems there are, yes. But we are confident that the leadership in this province will resolve them to the satisfaction of all.

We keenly look forward to the successful completion of the process in KwaZulu/Natal, and would take this opportunity to urge all political parties to do their utmost to ensure a peaceful, free and fair election. The recent initiatives embarked upon in the province give us hope that his will be accomplished.

Before I deal with certain matters pertaining to the recent Western Cape elections, I wish briefly to refer to one of the significant developments within government since the adoption of the constitution, and that is, the withdrawal of the National Party from the Government of National Unity.

We have made many pronouncements on this, particularly emphasising our fervent wish that the NP will be a vibrant opposition, within the bounds of our constitution, and loyal to the interest of the country as a whole. On the whole, the wheels of government continue to roll, now with better focus on the objective of achieving a better life for all.

What concerns me personally though, is the departure from public life of outstanding personalities such as Roelof 'Pik' Botha, Leon Wessels and Chris Fismer - leaders who worked hard and played a critical role in building national unity and preventing the revival of racism both within parties and in communities where they work.

We regret their departure from cabinet and parliament, and hope that they will continue to be of service to the nation.

Mr President,

What then are the aspects of the recent local government elections which deserve the attention of all those concerned for democracy and national unity?

Ek verwys hier na ontstellende voorvalle waar sterk opposisie oorgegaan het in onverdraagsaamheid, deur aanhangers van beide die ANC en die NP. 'n Mens dink ook aan die oomblikke waar ou denkpatrone nog herhaal is. Politieke partye het 'n verantwoordelikheid om hierdie booshede van onverdraagsaamheid en rassisme onder hulle aanhangers te bekamp.

Die verkiesing statistiek stel ons voor 'n uitdaging wat veel dieperliggend is as die analises van politieke kits-kenners en die eerste uitsprake deur politieke partye. In die Wes-Kaapse Metropolitaanse area, waar die woongebiede nog hoofsaaklik die geboortemerke van die Groepsgebiedewet dra, dui die statistiek aan dat die betrokkenheid van die Bruin gemeenskap laer was as ander dele van die samelewing - dit blyk asof die meerderheid nie enige party waardig genoeg ge-ag het om voor te stem nie.

Dit is 'n uitdaging vir alle politieke partye om selfkrities te wees, want geen deel van ons samelewing behoort so vervreem te wees dat hulle verkies om op die kantlyn te staan nie. Hierdie is vrae en lesse wat al ons provinsies ter harte moet neem, aangesien 'n gesonde demoratiese kultuur noodsaaklik is vir nasiebou.

Geagte Senatore,

Ons program van nasiebou is nie daar om ons verskillende gemeenskappe ondegeskik te stel aan die oorheersing van enige ander groep nie. Dit is veel eerder om individuele regte te verseker en om die omstandighede te skep waar almal geborge kan voel, en hulle kulturele, taal en godsdienstige regte ten volle kan uitleef.

Ons nuwe Grondwet verklaar onomwonder dat almal hierdie regte sal geniet: in die erkenning van kollektiewe regte; en in die skepping van die Kommissie vir die Bevordering en Beskerming van die Regte van Kulturele, Godsdienstige en Taal Gemeenskappe. Ons verwag ook dat die Pan Suid-Afrikaanse Taalraad, wat deur die Senaat ingestel is gedurende die afgelope jaar, 'n belangrike rol sal speel.

Ek wil graan hierdie geleentheid gebruik om die versekering te gee dat dit steeds regeringsbeleid is om 'n Raad van Tradisionele Leiers te skep. Die aangeleentheid sal verder opgeneem word.

Maar bowe alles vertrou ons nuwe grondwet die Raad van Provinsies toe met verreikende verantwoordelikhede as die beskermer van nasional eenheid in diversiteit.

Die logika van die transformasie van die Senaat tot 'n Raad van Provinsies is ondersteun deur alle partye. Ek wil in die sterkste moontlike terme benadruk, ingeval daar enige twyfel onder die publiek mag bestaan: die voorgestelde transformasie dui nie op 'n gebrek aan vertroue in die Senaat of die Senatore self nie. Die teenoorgestelde is waar: hierdie veranderinge is 'n aanduiding van 'n meer sentrale rol vir die Tweede Huis en dit help om die ernstige vrae rondom die mandaat en kontrak met provinsiale regerings aan te spreek. Hierdie is probleme wat die Senatore self ge�dentifiseer het.

Die Senaat het twee rolle gespeel: die van 'n Ho�r Huis wat wetgewing oor die algemeen hersien het, en tweedens as 'n Huis met spesiale verantwoordelikhede om provinsiale belange te beskerm.

Indlu yezigele, isebenza iyodwa noma ibambisene nesishayamthetho sikazwelinke, yenze umsebenzi oncomekayo ngokubuyekeza kanye nokuhluza imithetho sivivinyo. Umufi uSigele Mchune wayethanda ukathi yindlu yezigele ekwazi ukuhlolisisa ngobuciko nangomoya ophansi izihloko akwisihayamthetho.

Mangithathe lelithuba ukwethulela isigqoko izigele ezihloniphekile ngomsebenzi eziwenzile ekwamukelweni kwemithetho emisha ebe yisisekelo sohlelo lokuqala lwesishayamthetho sikahulumeni wabantu. Indlela enobuciko lendlu esebenze ngayo kulesisikhathi esifushane ikhona iyancomeka kakhulu kanto futhi yelekelelile ekuthuthukiseni inqubo elandelwa yiphaiamende lakithi. Singabalula lapha ukesibenza ngokuzimisela kukaMongameli wezigele uKobie Coetzee kanye nephini lakhe uSigele Govan Mbeki.Kumthetho-sisekelo omuska sesisungule umkhandlu wezifundazwe esikhundleni sendlu yezigele. Lokhu sikwenzele ukuba kube nomkhandlu ozomela kangcono izifiso zezifundazwe ezingeni likazwelonke kanti futhi udidiyele ndawonye izimfuno ezahlukahlukene zezifundazwe.

Composed in the main of provincial delegates, the new Council of Provinces will not mirror the National Assembly, replicating the same divisions, and animated by the same national considerations. Rather it will infuse these considerations with direct provincial mandates.

The Council will make the national political sensitive to the different, social, economic, democratic and cultural circumstances pertaining in each province.

It will exist at the heart of our Constitution and be a factor in the creation of national consensus. It will symbolise our project of marrying national purpose with regional diversity. Inversely, it will discourage isolated provincialism or short-sighted competition among provinces, and between provincial and national government.

In short the Council of Provinces will have distinct political powers and constituencies that will articulate their interests through it. It is to be a critical element of our uniquely South African political system.

As President, it will be my task to decide on the phasing of the implementation of the Council of Provinces. That will be done on the advice of Senators, Provinces through the Inter-Governmental Forum, and the Cabinet. Like any transition, this one must be implemented in a way that is sensitive to the needs of all role-players.

Many of you will sit as the first members of this body, once more pioneers in an exciting project of creation. I have every confidence that, in the way you have discharged the business of the Senate, the Council of Provinces will meet this more formidable challenge with distinction.

For the same reasons, our Provincial legislatures will be immeasurable enriched by the inclusion of those of you who will be taking their experience and dedication closer to the people.

For Roman times, Senates have been associated with the idea of a forum of elder statesmen, whose task it is to bring wise counsel to the body politic. Notwithstanding the evident youth of many members of this body - and perhaps because of the role of women - it has brought our nation such counsel.

Indeed, we can say with confidence that in this Senate we see side by side, leaders of our generation and the emerging leaders who will guide us into the future.

From you, we shall continue to expect, and indeed find practical answers to the question: what is nation-building and how do we consolidate the New Patriotism!.

I thank you.

Source: South African Government Information Website