Address by President Nelson Mandela at SAFMarine's 50th anniversary celebration

21 June 1996

Master of ceremonies;
Chairman of Safmarine
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and gentlemen;

The achievement of democracy has brought dramatic changes to the environment within which South African business operates, and for our economy as a whole. The impact is felt with particular force in those sectors with the greatest exposure to world markets, and there can be few industries of which this is more true than shipping.

Achieving the shared goals of our democracy also demands of South Africa a break from business as usual, in order to put our economy on a path of sustained growth, job-creation and redistribution. Our macroeconomic strategy provides a framework in which we can all join hands to do just that.

Safmarine is therefore celebrating its fifty years of achievement at a moment of tremendous opportunity and challenge. I feel deeply honoured to share the moment with you, as leaders who have helped bring the company to where it is today, and in whose hands its future lies. It is also a great pleasure to be with our distinguished foreign visitors - we warmly welcome you to our country, as guests and as partners in development.

Safmarine certainly has come a very long way from its humble beginnings with three converted wartime transport vessels. My heartiest congratulations on your 50th birthday!

It is heartening that you are once again registering your ships in South Africa, now that our country is accepted by the international community. It is to be hoped that as a country we will be able to entice international ship owners to fly the South African flag of which we are all so proud.

We do understand that this will require some changes in government policy. No doubt, the very good working relationship between Safmarine and our Department of Transport will help bring a sound policy framework for the industry. There is no reason why government and the shipping industry should not succeed in their joint endeavour to make South Africa a force to be reckoned with in international shipping.

It seems that you are losing no time in seizing the opportunity to take South Africa's national shipping line into a new era of development. Your bold investment in the European shipping arena, through the formation of a joint venture with CMBT of Belgium and the purchase of new bulk cargo ships are steps in that direction. Such endeavours should help generate both the goodwill and the foreign exchange our country needs.

The growth of Safmarine in its fifty years of operation from its fledgling days into a national institution has been remarkable. But it is through extensive saving in foreign exchange that Safmarine makes its most meaningful contribution to our country's development.

Even though only a relatively small percentage of South Africa's exports is carried in South African vessels, Safmarine is able at present to generate as much as R500 million foreign exchange annually. The potential is clearly very much greater. I would like to issue an invitation to our exporters to consider this situation when making shipping decisions in the future.

I have deliberately focused on foreign exchange earnings. Amongst the premises of our macroeconomic strategy is the need to break the balance of payments constraint on growth, employment and redistribution.

At the same time the strategy will foster an environment that helps companies to realise their potential to contribute to a strengthening of our balance of payments.

The new framework does also require its sacrifices from every sector of our society. In the case of shipping companies this should mean, amongst other things, contributing to education and training programmes that will address the crisis of skills within the industry. Continuing efforts to assist in the development of the merchant marine will boost our national effort to create jobs. It is also important that labour relations in the industry embody the ideals of our new democracy. In the end, all such steps represent an investment from which all will benefit.

Our corporations do also have the resources to contribute directly to the upliftment of our people. In this regard Safmarine has made its mark as a responsible corporate citizen. Your efforts, in particular the provision of badly needed infrastructure in the form of classrooms, clinics, crèches and resource centres, show how actions do speak louder than words.

In conclusion, I would like to express my gratitude at your decision to share your birthday joy with others, in particular two organisations of which I am patron. I refer to the Red Cross Society, who are celebrating their centenary, and your decision to provide the National Sea Rescue Institute with a new rescue craft in East London.

I am personally touched by your decision to build a Resource Centre in memory of my son Tembekile, who was born in the year of Safmarine's birth and is very sadly no longer with us. This gesture is most sincerely appreciated.

Ladies and gentlemen;

May I extend to Safmarine my best wishes for the next fifty years. Let us work together to build South Africa into a winning nation!

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation