Address by Nelson Mandela at meeting with Western Cape business community, Cape Town

6 December 1996

Importance of business

It is a great pleasure to meet with you this evening. Some of you were present at the Mount Nelson when I addressed business people on the eve of the local government elections, and it is most encouraging to see you again.

One cannot over emphasise the contribution that business people can make, nor only to growth and development in the Western Cape and the country as a whole, but also to the political life of the region and the nation.

Achievements and challenges

When we look back on the first two-and-half years of democratic government, it is clear that though we still face enormous challenges, we have laid a solid foundation for achieving our central goal of improving the quality of life of all South Africans.

The certification of our new democratic constitution, and the unity of our once divided in conflict, are things in which every South African can feel great pride. Putting behind us the last of the uncertainties about our constitution will release still more of our nation's creative energies.

The birth of a democratic society, combined with our disciplined economic policies and far-reaching plans for reconstruction, has already brought economic benefits. Stagnation has been replaced by growth of 3 percent and the economy is in a long-germ upswing. The recent trade figures point towards the prospect of sustained export earnings.

Now we can set our sights still higher. To create more jobs - 400, 000 a year by the year 2000 - and produce more resources for the improvement of living conditions - we need a 6 percent growth rate by the end of the century. Our macro-economic frame work provides the environment for government, business and labour to work together to achieve these aims.

Challenges for business

A hurdle we need to overcome in attracting international investment, is to improve the marketing of our country by local business. Our business community often seems reluctant to project the great potential of our economy. This is something that the international investment community has begun to remark upon.

But there have recently been encouraging signs that such negativity is becoming a thing of the past. We think for example of recent statements by Anglo-American and Sanlam executives that South Africans should stop speaking ill of our own country, but work together to promote it and show our real strength. Foreign business and government delegations which visited our country recently with some negative perceptions, left greatly encouraged by what they saw for themselves.

New opportunities bring new challenges. The desperate shortage of skills that is the legacy of apartheid education needs to be overcome. Business in particular can play a major part in the massive training programme that forms part of the macro-economic strategy for growth.

We need all businesses to throw their weight, as many are doing, behind the National Crime Prevention Strategy. This includes fighting fraud and corruption within the business community itself, as part of the government's greater campaign to deal with corruption wherever it occurs, including in government and the police.

Affirmative Action and Economic Empowerment

Today we share common goals of growth, prosperity and economic development in this province. The ANC does not support the advancement of one group over another.

Affirmative action as it was intended by the government and the ANC is aimed at providing opportunities for all those previously disadvantaged by apartheid: Africans, Coloureds, and Indians. We are totally opposed to it being applied for the benefit of Africans only.

Nor should it be used to disadvantage those whites who were formerly advantaged. It should create opportunities, not take them away; it is a tool to redress past wrongs, not to create new ones. Properly implemented it will release the immense potential of our people which apartheid left untapped.

The progress made by the Saldanha Steel project in delivering genuine economic empowerment to historically disadvantaged people is very encouraging, and so are the joint ventures between EMS and Pro-man, and between Norwich and emerging black investment companies in the Western Cape.

On the other hand, it is a matter of concern that the Western Cape Tender Board, to date, has not accepted the Government's new ten point procurement plan which aims specifically at providing African, Coloured and Indian businesses with opportunities previously denied them. United action by the Western Cape business community could rectify this.

Seizing the opportunities

Hierdie provinsie is eintlik, gemeet aan baie van die ander provinsies, goed bedeeld. U het reeds die grondslag om op voort te bou vir ekonomiese ontwikkeling.

Die streek het dus potensiaal en geleentheid. Terselfdertyd staar u besondere uitdagings in die gesig. Dis miskien hier waar die sogenaamde "national question" sy hardste toets sal ondergaan. Dit is so maklik vir ras-etniese- en taal-verdeling om hier kop uit te steek. Alle sektore van die provinsie is geroepe om dit teen te staan en te beveg.

U as sakegemeenskap kan u bydra lewer deur te verseker dat daar sterk ekonomiese groei en ontwikkeling is. Dit kan u doen deur ondernemingsgees aan die dag te le; deur vernuwende geleenthede te soek en te skep; en veral deur toe te sien dat alle sektore van u samelewing die kanse kry om deel te neem aan die ekonomie. En ook toe te sien dat die vrugte van ontwikkeling deur almal gedeel word.

Die sake wêreld is egter nie een waar mens kan wag dat dinge vir jou gedoen word nie. Eie ondernemingsgees is van kern belang. En, om die onthalwe van 'n beter lewe vir ons almal, word daar 'n beroep op u almal gedoen om met energie in te spring, geleenthede te soek en oor te gryp. Niemand behoort toe te gee aan die versoeking om een kant te staan nie.

The opportunities in the Western Cape are enormous, and it is up to all of us to help realise the potential. There are problems, yes, but together we can overcome them. Let us work as one to build the economy in the Western Cape, in a way that brings benefit to all the people.

Peace, tolerance and unity are blessings in themselves. They also bring conditions which promote the flowering of the great potential that is in every person. They bring out the best in us. In creating a better society free of tension and conflict, we change ourselves for the better. We make space for the emergence of new men and new women who exemplify the noble ideals for which we are striving.

Now is the time to join hands to work for a better life for all.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation