Closing address by President Nelson Mandela in the President's Budget Debate in the National Assembly, Cape Town

20 June 1996

Madame Speaker;
Honourable Members;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Tomorrow Parliament rises for the winter recess.

I am certain we will all agree that we have had lively, productive and fulfilling engagement in these past five months.

Quite often, our national Parliament has become the centre of attention. But alas, not seldom this has been for the wrong reasons.

I am personally convinced that the session in this first half of 1996 has been different in more ways than one. Even when Parliament has not been the dynamo of the nation's pulse, it has reflected that pulse in the content of its discussions, in the depth of its investigations and in the decisive manner in which it intervened on many a matter of national importance.

And so tomorrow Honourable Members go back for that prolonged and invigorating interaction with their constituents, in the full knowledge that they are not only making a positive mark on the course of South Africa's history; but also that this is steadily but surely being acknowledged by all and sundry.

Teen die tyd dat ons weer vergader, mag dit wees dat die Grondwetlike Hof al oor die nuwe Grondwet uitspraak gelewer het. Dan sal ons verder versterk wees in ons taak om ons samelewing te omvorm ter beswil en voordeel van almal. Terselfdertyd, sal ons in verskeie opsigte weer 'n nuwe en verdere reis moet aanpak op weg na die herskepping van politieke instellings om aan te pas by die bepalinge van 'n nuwe Grondwet. Die doel en die oogmerk van al hierdie ondernemings bly steeds om ons jong demokrasie onomkeerbaar te versterk en te vestig.

Ongeveer veertig dae gelede, in hierdie gewyde saal, was ons as Grondwetlike Vergadering by-een, en het ons tesame die hoeksteen gele van die Suid-Afrikaanse demokrasie, mense-regte-kultuur en regspleging; en beslag gegee aan die inhoud en styl van regering waarna ons strewe. Toekomstige geslagte sal met waardering en bewondering praat van hierdie span wetgewers - uit die Senaat en die Nasionale Vergadering - as die grondleggers van die demokratiese republiek hier aan die suidpunt van Afrika.

Die Afrikaanse digter Van Wyk Louw het jare gelede in 'n gedig gevra:

"o wye en droewe land, alleen onder die groot suidersterre, sal nooit 'n hoe blydskap kom deur jou stil droefenis?

'n grootsheid van so suiwer glans, dat mense in 'n verre land wat van jou naam die melding hoor, met wilde en helder oog sal staar?"

Vandag kan ons waarlik daarop aanspraak maak dat daar wel so 'n grootsheid plaas gevind het in die vestiging van demokrasie in ons land. En wat ookal die verskille ten opsigte van besonderhede wat daar tussen die politieke partye mag gewees het; dit is gepas dat ons aan al die lede van die Parlement se: veels geluk op 'n groot taak wel gedaan!

Madama Speaker;

When we had the honour of opening Parliament at the beginning of this year, we observed with confidence that South Africa was on its way to a better life; and we noted the determination among all sectors of society, infused with a new patriotism to build South Africa into a winning nation.

Our conviction today is even more unshakeable. To invoke a popular phrase, we can say without any shadow of doubt that, within and outside government, things are falling into place. The sense of purpose and direction that our country evinces is more than just a matter of political optimism. It is real; it is palpable; it requires to be harnessed for even better performance in all areas of life.

When, Friday last, the National Assembly concurred on the contents of the Macroeconomic Strategy for Growth, Employment and Redistribution, you put the final nail on the coffin of any scepticism about the capacity of South Africans to rise to the occasion. You confirmed once more that the confidence placed on you by the electorate - the rich and the poor, the young and the old, women and men - is not mirage in the imagination. You confirmed that national consensus on the most basic questions facing the country is a living reality.

This you did because you keenly appreciate that no greater challenge faces government and the private sector than the creation of jobs for the unemployed.

Jobs, jobs, and jobs are the dividing line in many families between a decent life and a wretched existence. They are, to many, the difference between self-esteem and helplessness.

In broad economic terms, the creation of jobs is, and should be, the basis of a growing economy. Jobs are, in socio-economic terms, the major means of income distribution.

In terms of governance, jobs and critical for service delivery and payment. Within the context of peace and security, jobs are critical in the efforts to eliminate crime.

Yes, the progress of our economy, the success of our democracy and the safety and security of citizens rely in large measure on whether or not society has afforded its members a means of livelihood and peace of mind about where their next meal is going to come from.

The Macroeconomic Framework and the many programmes that you had occasion to discuss during the Budget Debates do just this.

I wish to congratulate the teams in the various ministries for the conceptualisation of this clear path for our nation; for a strategy that is as much an expression of our new patriotism as it is the platform on which this patriotism can fully express itself in the blast furnace of hard work.

Now the framework has been set out. And it enjoys the broad support of the overwhelming majority among various sectors and political schools of thought. And through it, we can pursue growth and development with even more vigour; we can realise the objectives of the Reconstruction and Development Programme with a clearer vision about the economic balances that have to be struck in order to succeed.

Honourable Members;

Let me reiterate that the goals of the nation have not changed. We seek a better life through reconstruction and development.

We seek to create an environment in which citizens can enjoy their human rights and enjoy a safe and secure existence. We are committed, together with communities, to bring better health facilities and better education, to build houses and to provide the services and amenities that citizens deserve.

Our desire to mobilise society to meet the objectives of the macroeconomic strategy and other related programmes of government derives from our commitment to the well-being of all citizens.

But we know that programmes, and frameworks, and strategies are just that beautiful works of art and science that can count for nothing if they are not brought to life by a determined people, bound together and inspired by a single purpose. This is the test that our nation faces; and we hope that all sectors of society, particularly the major role-players in the economy, have earnestly started to examine the various ways in which they can contribute to the realisation of this strategy, so that together we can unleash the growth potential of our economy.

We all know where we want to go. The milestones have been outlined with lucid and convincing clarity.

Yet we would be less than candid if we did not acknowledge that, reaching the major summit we have identified for the turn of the century will require some deliberate investment on the part of all those involved in the mainstream of the economy. We use the world investment, in this sense, guardedly, because to invest entails a measure of sacrifice and risk.

It is to invest in the future and in productivity, for employers to contribute to the training of the work-force. It is to invest in lower prices and increased demand, in restructuring and competitiveness for tariffs to be reduced.

To exercise moderation in wage and salary increments is to invest in greater capital injection, and thus create possibilities for hundreds of thousands to be absorbed into the mainstream of the economy.

An approach to wages and salaries, and thus prices, which takes into account the recent depreciation of our currency, will benefit society as a whole.

I raise these matters - and these are only some of the more critical ones - because we should all frankly acknowledge that there will be sacrifice. And what needs emphasis is that such sacrifice applies to all, in an integrated fashion - and no one should seek to exploit the co-operation of others for narrow selfish interests.

Madame Speaker;

It is to invest in better utilisation of our taxes, to restructure the civil service in such a way that it is leaner, less burdensome and more efficient. This will allow for more funds to be used for purposes that have direct social benefit. It is to invest in better utilisation of public funds, to ensure that there is stricter control of spending and not to allow things to continue simple because they have always been there.

And let me emphasise that this framework calls for increased public expenditure on investment rather than consumption, from the local level to national government; from the departments to the parastatal companies.

The matter of the restructuring of state assets has been the subject of great interest. Let me whisper to Honourable Members, beyond the earshot of Minister Stella Sigcau. She warned me strongly that I should not under any circumstances steal her thunder; because she is due to make a statement in her budget debate tomorrow. She also warned me about not creating exaggerated expectations, and muttered something about volatile markets, that I did not fully understand.

What is clear though is that the fundamental principle of restructuring - including privatisation or some enterprises, strategic equity partner for others and organisational restructuring - all these are government policy. I am informed that substantial progress has been made in negotiations with the unions. In any case, the decisions taken regarding Mossgas and the SABC regional radio stations, as well as progress in the telecommunications sector are a pointer to the many and varied forms that restructuring will take.

As in any government action, the aim here will not be to undermine any role-player, nor to disadvantage communities who need and deserve services at affordable prices.

From the reports I get from all the ministries whose tasks are directly related to the macroeconomic framework, I am fully confident that government has geared itself for the challenge.

The Public Works Department which is to finalise agreement soon with unions on the guidelines for employment in Public Works Programmes; the Labour Department which yesterday released the report of the Labour Market Commission; the Trade and Industry Department which is working hard on tax incentives, measures to assist restructuring and productivity, competition policy and so on; the Constitutional Development and Provincial Affairs Department which is co-ordinating the infrastructural investment programme - from all these and other departments there is a sense of urgency in what they are doing.

In general terms, we need to continually improve the mechanisms of government to ensure better co-ordination, more integrated programmes such as the Maputo Development Corridor, and improving capacity within the Presidency to ensure such integration and efficiency.

All these are matters that the Presidency is seized with, so as to ensure that the services we render the cabinet and government as a whole are in keeping with the demands of the moment. In co-ordination with the Foreign Affairs Department and others, we also have the responsibility of ensuring that the goodwill and positive ground-swell we currently enjoy are fully taken advantage of, including in the President's visits abroad.

I also wish in this regard to issue a challenge to all South Africans: including political leaders, business-persons, visitors and employees abroad, that our success in portraying who we truly are to the world depends on all of us.

It is one thing for us to acknowledge our problems openly and frankly. Yet it is another to engage in the kind of self-serving scepticism that has the intended or unintended effect of discouraging prospective investors about the real prospects that our country has. Our strength as a nation lies in transparency and openness about our real difficulties and the solutions that we seek. But this is worlds apart from an attitude of "beggar-thy-economy", simply because there might be political and other differences on certain issues.

Agbare lede;

Ek het vandag die klem veral op die ekonomie laat val, omdat dit die uiteindelike toets-steen vir ons sukses of mislukking sal wees. Aan die ander kant, sal ons nie ons ekonomiese doelwitte kan bereik sonder doelgerigte en volgehoue vordering in alle ander beleids-rigtings nie. En in die verband wil ek ook graag weer beklemtoon dat die vyf maande sedert die opening van hierdie derde sitting van ons demokratiese parlement, belangwekkende tye was. Dit was inderdaad 'n bepalende moment in die geskiedenis van hierdie land.

Ons het, in besonder, groot en onomkeerbare stappe gedoen in die stryd teen die vloek van misdaad en geweld waaronder ons land so swaar gebuk gaan. Ons het 'n gans nuwe fase betree in hierdie veldtog; en ons kon dit doen vanwee verbeterde ko-ordinasie binne die regering; 'n toespitsing op dit wat voorkeur verdien; verbeterde intelligensie-vermoe; en die lofwaardige samewerking van die publiek.

Deur middel van die Nasionale Misdaad-Voorkoming-Strategie is 'n kragtige raamwerk daar gestel vir samehangende optrede deur die polisie, die howe, gevangenisdiens en die burgerlike samelewing. Die Polisie-plan wat verlede week aangekondig is, het die voorkeur-terreine vir doeltreffende polisie-optrede tydens die komende begrotingsjaar vas gestel - binne die raamwerk van die Nasionale Misdaad-Voorkoming-Strategie.

Ek wil herhaal dat sukses in hierdie oorlog teen misdaad die ondersteuning en samewerking van almal vereis. Hooghartige of afsydige swartgalligheid wat net kritiseer of met gevoude arms eenkant staan, ondergrawe die land se pogings om hierdie euwel hok te slaan. Die kanse op sukses kan net verbeter word deur daadwerklike deelname - dit maak nie saak hoe krities daardie deelname is nie. Daarom sien ons uit na die debat in hierdie Huis as 'n bydrae tot die verbetering van die stappe wat reeds in werking gestel is.

The situation in KwaZulu/Natal is still a cause for great concern. However there has been marked progress, particularly as a result of improved capacity for intelligence and the use of focused task-groups. But we dare not forget that the achievement of true peace in the province also depends on the political parties, and I would take this opportunity to urge them once again to do their utmost to ensure that next week's elections are conducted in a peaceful, free and fair manner.

The advances we have made would not have been possible without the dedication of the South African Police Service, and the support they have received from the SANDF. It is for this reason that government, on review, decided that the employment of some 40,000 members of the SANDF in support of the SAPS is still needed. The reasons for this decision were delivered yesterday to Madame Speaker and the Honourable President of the Senate.

I have taken note that the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence will be tabling its Annual Report today. I would like to commend the committee for the impartiality that it has displayed in this sensitive area.

Security resides also in knowing that never again shall our country be subjected to rule by terror. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is to be congratulated for the way in which it is conducting its difficult task. We are happy that all the major political parties have committed themselves to take part in this process, and look forward to the submissions they will be making during the coming weeks.

Still more important is the testimony of the victims. Their courage in recounting their experience is helping us, as a nation, to confront the harm that we did to each other in the past. In reliving their pain, they teach heartrending lessons to us all, particularly the younger generation, blessed with childhood and youth that is increasingly distant from such horrors.

For these reasons I would like to encourage all individuals who have accounts of such abuses to come forward freely and make a success of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's hearing work.

We can also approach the future with confidence because of the steps we have taken to address the needs of those who suffered most grievously under apartheid: children, women and the youth.

The National Programme of Action on Children, launched last month, gives concrete meaning to the injunction in our new constitution to make the best interests of the child paramount.

When I opened this session of Parliament I expressed the fervent wish that the session should not come to an end without the passing of legislation on the Youth and Gender Equality Commissions. The first has been passed and the Youth Commission will soon be able to begin its work. And I am given to understand that you are finalising legislation for the second.

Madame Speaker and Honourable Members;

I am confident that Parliament will rise for the winter recess content with the work that you have done, proud to be of service to the people.

On my part, I have found these debates both daunting and challenging; but above all a critical forum to account to you and the public, and a fountain from which to draw the insights necessary to make the vision of a better life a reality.

I thank You.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation