Address by Nelson Mandela at meeting of Western Cape Alliance, Cape Town

7 December 1996


1. The task of our alliance in the Western Cape are enormous. We probably face here some of the most important challenges in the country for our alliance. This is for the simple reason that we still have the National Party wielding power in this province.

Transformation under way

1. In the last two-and-a-half years we have steadily consolidated the democratic breakthrough of April 1994. We have implemented electoral democracy from national to local level. We have piloted one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, now certified by the Constitutional court. The National Assembly is functioning, more and more, as a robust tribune of the people.

2. We have made sweeping gains towards nation-building and reconciliation. We have prevented a descent into civil war. We have acted firmly to reduce political violence in KwaZulu/Natal to a minimum.

3. For us, being in government is mainly about building the material and social conditions for a single nation. We have far to go, but we are making progress. Already the lives of millions have been improved by gaining access to such basic necessities as clean water, electricity, school-feeding and health-care. We have turned the economy from stagnation into a long-term upswing.

4. Perhaps more significant still, communities throughout South Africa are beehives of activity. Streets are being tarred, refuse collection improved, schools are being renovated, clinics are being built and upgraded. Even on the housing front, where progress has inevitably been slow, construction is coming on stream.

Let us not be defensive

1. Our achievements, as the ANC, are very significant. We often fail to claim our own victories. At the same time, however, it is the mark of a serious political movement that we are prepared to be open, honest and self-critical where necessary.

2. We have, as the ANC-led alliance, learnt much these last two-and-a-half years. Our movement should act as a forum for collective learning, in which we share experiences, learn from each other, assess what has been happening, and empower each other. This also means there must be space for debate within our ANC and between the ANC and its allies.

3. We have, of course, made mistakes. On occasions we have been too defensive. The question is not so much whether one makes mistakes or not, but rather whether, as an organisation, we are prepared to admit mistakes, and to learn from and quickly rectify them.

Organisation is key

1. We would all admit that the organisational state of affairs in the ANC and its allied formations often leaves much to be desired. No doubt, the large-scale re-deployment of thousands of cadres over these last two-and-a-half years has helped weaken organisational capacity.

2. But we all know that a great deal of energy has been consumed on intro-organisational leadership rivalries, personality squabbles and factionalism. Of course, healthy competition between individuals for election to posts is a natural part of any democratic organisation. But when personal competition starts to absorb all one's energies, when political programmes are forgotten, and when solid grass-roots work is neglected, then matters become very serious.

3. I am, however encouraged at the mature way in which the alliance here is dealing with problems that have arisen. I urge you to carefully develop a programme of transformation that remains central to activities of the alliance in this province, and to deal in the same mature way with any problems that emerge in relation to the programme.

A clear programme of action for 1997

1. The recent NEC meeting endorsed important proposals for campaigns in the coming year. In particular, we decided that Masakhane must be greatly broadened in its scope, to include the active participation of our people in reconstruction and development.

2. The Masakhane weekend planned for early next year will help mobilise people to become involved in development work - school renovations, community clean-ups, anti-crime drives, and so forth. All leaders will be deployed in the process. Our local councilors will help to introduce the practice of participatory budgeting at the local level, so that communities can help develop local budgets and set priorities.

3. All this will happen only if we have functioning ANC, alliance and MDM structures on the ground. We also know from our years of struggle, that it is precisely around such concrete programmes that organisation is renewed and sustained.

4. We need to establish dynamic processes and fora for consultation and co-operation between members of the alliance in the province. The current relationship of the alliance leaves room for improvement. Let us, while we remain independent members of the alliance, act in ways that strengthen the alliance and not play in the hands of our detractors who wish to weaken or at best severe this strategic marriage.

The recent local government elections

1. It is important for us to reflect as an alliance, on our performance in the recent local government elections. We made important progress. And we gain valuable experience. The election results highlight some important consideration for our alliance.

2. The first concerns our capacity to mobilise our supporters to come out and vote. While there were some administrative problems (registration problems; queues at voting stations and difficulties with transport) we cannot pretend that our own organisational weakness do not exist, and we need to address them.

3. We must ask why the turnout in local government elections was so low when our message was that local government is critical for democracy, delivery and community upliftment! The reality is that sustained interest in elections will only be forged if communities are not simply passive recipients of change, but actually take part in decision-making about delivery.

4. A second point relates to our profile in the so-called "minority" areas, particularly white and coloured areas. The importance of an ANC presence in these areas relates closely to our programme of nation-building, based on our deep commitment to non-racialism. We need to develop a well conceived strategy to address our weaknesses in winning these areas over to the democratic alliance.

Challenges for the ANC

1. Dit bly een van die grootste uitdagings vir die ANC in die Wes-Kaap om ons self ten volle te wortel in die lewens en ervarings van die mense van hierdie provinsie.

2. Met die Plaaslike Verkiesings was daar 'n groot deel van die Kleurlinggemeenskap wat nie aan die verkiesing deelgeneem het nie. Dit blyk dat hulle vervreemd gevoel het van alle politieke partye, insluitende die ANC. Ek het ook die indruk gekry dat 'n hele aantal van diegene wat vir die Nasionale Party gestem het - maar ook sommiges wat vir ons gestem het - dit maar langtand gedoen het en nie werklik oortuig voel dat hulle bepaalde ervarings en vrese aangespreek word nie.

3. Dit stel 'n groot uitdaging aan ons almal in die ANC en die alliansie. Dit beteken dat daar werklik potensiaal is vir die groei van die ANC indien ons bereid is om werklik ten volle betrokke te raak in die kleurling gmeenskap. Ons moet die besondere vrese rondom regstellende aksie, onderwys, verarming, behuising, werkloosheid aanspreek.

4. Baie keer word die vrese uitgedruk in terme wat 'n rassistiese kleur het en daar is politieke partye wat natuurlik altyd probeer om die vrese uit tebuit en rassisme aanblaas. Maar onderwyl ons rassisme en geen onduidelike terme moet verwerp, moet ons ook erns maak met die onderliggende gevoelens van onserkerheid, en met 'n gevoel dat die ANC nog nie werklik beskermende tuiste vir die kleurlingemeenskap is nie.

5. One example of our failure to be sufficiently involved is how we were caught unaware by the powerful swell of community anger against crime. The ANC and the alliance did not give sufficiently strong political leadership from the start with the consequence that certain groups were able to exploit the anger over crime for their own purposes.

6. However it is encouraging that the ANC has begun to play a more active role. The anti-crime summit in September and the anti-crime week were positive developments. In particular the role of comrade Dullab Omar in this connection deserves recognition. But there is still much to be done if we are to be able, as an organisation, to give leadership in so vital a matter. Each of us must be active in our communities; on the street; and in our community policing forums.

7. We need to visibly involved, on a daily basis, in addressing the problems that affect each and every community. We cannot just become active and visible on the eve of an election.

A better life for all

1. At the end of the day, the mission of the ANC and the broader movement it leads remains the transformation our country. We have to give concrete meanings to our slogan: "A better life to all".

2. The opportunities are great and challenges are real. The ANC and the alliance have only partially realise their full potential.

Issued by: African National Congress

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation