Address by Nelson Mandela at the 85th anniversary celebration of the African National Congress (ANC) at Botshabelo Stadium

12 January 1997

It is a great pleasure to address you today as we celebrate the 85th anniversary of the ANC. What I am going to say to you today is a summary of the January 8 statement of your movement.

We are now just over half way through the first term of the ANC's national electoral mandate. It is important that we use this January 8th anniversary to assess where we are and to chart our way forward.

85 years of struggle and commitment of the ANC have wielded the beginnings of real democracy and there is no turning back.

We are on the path to transforming our country.

But fundamental change is not easy. It is about making you a full part of national life. It is about giving you opportunities to change your own lives for the better.

A democratic revolution is underway. In the last two-and-a-half years we have steadily strengthened democracy. We have implemented electoral democracy at all three levels. We have adopted one of the most progressive constitutions in the world.

The tasks of reconciliation and nation-building have long been central to the mission of the ANC and its alliance. In the past two-and-a-half years we have made sweeping gains on this front.

A new nation has started to take root in all spheres of life, including sports, the economy, and in the fight against crime.

Reconciliation does not mean forgetting the past. It does not mean neglecting the plight of the millions of victims of apartheid. We support the work of the TRC and are pleased that the truth about the past is starting to come out. We as the ANC do not fear the truth. And we do not apologise either that we sacrificed for freedom.

But comrades, our task is not just about building a new sense of nationhood. It is also about building the material and social conditions for a single nation.

The huge inequalities between townships and suburbs; between black and white; between workers and the poor on the one hand and the rich on the other; between women and men; between rural and urban areas - all of these inequalities, magnified a thousandfold by apartheid hamper the possibilities of building a common sense of nationhood.

This is why the RDP is so central to the historic nation-building mission of the ANC. The 20 big projects, presently underway and each costing more than half-a-billion Rand, from Richards Bay to Saldanha Bay, are part of this. The Maputo Development Corridor, one of the biggest projects of its kind in the world, is another example. These are not just economic projects, they are an integral part of building our nation, and building our region.

Perhaps even more significantly, away from the limelight of the national media, 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 been slow, housing construction is now starting to come on stream. We are not always moving as fast as we would like. We have reverses and make mistakes. But everywhere there is now visible evidence of a new South Africa in the making.

We have, of course, made mistakes. On occasions we have been too defensive. I have recently made this point in regard to how we handled Sarafina 2 and the issue of funding for the ANC. 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 above all to learn from and quickly rectify weaknesses in our work.

The ANC has long traditions of placing the organisation above individuals. We have proud traditions of collective leadership, and of mutual respect for each other.

We have survived and we have defeated apartheid because we have always tried to build the collective, to build each other. We must re-affirm these conditions.

But we all know that a great deal of energy has often been consumed on leadership rivalries, personality squabbles and factional disputes within the ANC. Your situation in this province is the mot obvious, but not the only example of this problem.

This year we must, together, re-dedicate ourselves to building ANC cadres. At every level ANC activists must be built as leaders, in places of residence, in schools, places of worship, in the work-place, on the sports-field, in government and legislatures.

In re-affirming our cadreship, we will have to overcome tendencies in some places to bureaucratic or merely technocratic ways of working.

Local councillors must serve their communities. However, they must do so as loyal cadres of the ANC. They must serve communities guided by our moral vision and overall goals. There is nothing contradictory about that.

In this year, 1997, we call on ANC members, wherever they are, to work together to build and advance the national democratic revolution.

We call on workers to work hard to build our economy, to become more productive, to improve their own skills. We call on them to build trade unions and particularly a powerful COSATU.

We know that thousands of our own cadres have been recently promoted into senior and middle-level management positions, both in the public and private sectors.

We call on you to assume full responsibility for your new powers. Use the new possibilities that you have, to redirect our society and its institutions towards meeting the broad social needs of our people. You are not ANC cadres only "after hours".

We call on the rural poor, the unemployed, and those who are under-employed, surviving as best they can in the so-called "informal sector". Most of you are black, still the victims of apartheid, many of you are young. Your hopes, your energies, remain critical to the overall transformation of our society.

To realise these expectations requires discipline, organisation and a common effort. As the ANC, in and out of government, together we shall lead that effort.

We call on the youth to re-dedicate themselves to the ongoing struggle for transformation in our country. Your energies, your moral vision, your dedication is required more than ever. We call on you to use this period of your lives to prepare yourselves for the efforts that lie ahead.

We call on you to take studies seriously, to gain experience, to broaden your capacities.

We call on women to assume your full role within our movement. We should admit as the ANC that, because of internal squabbles within the League, we have, in the recent period, failed the women's movement and the cause of building a non-sexist society.

This year we must settle these problems and ensure that the League emerges from Conference to occupy its rightful place at the head of a progressive women's movement.

We call on those active in religious institutions, on those involved in cultural work, on those active in the media.

A revolution is not just about material changes. It is also about a moral vision, about values. We defeated the old apartheid system because of our moral convictions.

The new struggle for transformation requires new visions, new narratives, new songs, new images. We call on our cadres active in these areas to understand the challenges and possibilities that our reality poses. We call on you to respond to these challenges without fear.

We call on the thousands of ANC cadres now serving in elected positions, in national and provincial legislatures, in local councils. A heavy responsibility rests on you. You need to be active in your structures. But you also have to be active in your constituencies. Your presence amongst the people who have elected you must be visible.

We call on the full-time staff in ANC structures. We salute you for the often strenuous efforts that you have devoted over the past years.

The ANC is proud to be the leading formation of the tripartite alliance and of the broader mass democratic movement.

We address ourselves on this 85th Anniversary also to the activists in the SACP and COSATU and in the broad mass democratic movement and progressive NGOs. We believe that you are strengthening by your allegiance to the ANC, but we, in turn, are strengthened by our common unity.

You have a major role to play in advancing our national democratic revolution.

Above all, as we move in 1997 to the ANC's crucial December National Conference, let us put politics above personalities, programmes above individualism. Let us resolve to do hard work on the ground instead of embroiling ourselves in paralysing factionalism.

As last year's November National Executive Committee meeting of the ANC we resolved on a broad programme of action for 1997. In particular, we have decided that we must ensure that the RDP is driven by the people. You are not passengers, but drivers of the RDP.

We all have a challenge to make Masakhane succeed. Payment for services and the payment of rents in indeed very important. But Masakhane is not simply a payments campaign. It is about your all-round active participation in the RDP.

To this end we are planning Masakhane weekends in the coming months, for communities to take part in school renovations, community clean-ups, anti-crime drives, and so forth.

We plan to deploy all ANC MPs and MPLs in the process. We also plan, through our local councillors, to introduce the practice where people take part in budgeting at local level.

By this we mean the active participation of communities in developing local budgets and in setting priorities.

All of this will only be possible if we have a strong ANC, a strong alliance and strong MDM branches.

Our organisation will grow and our cadres will develop in action, not just in meetings. Our programme of action for 1997 is therefore of building the ANC cadre.

In this way we shall ensure that the ANC emerges as the organiser of the South African people, the force that mobilises them to become active agents of the historic changes that our country needs, the leader of the struggle for a better life for all.

Our own actions as ANC leaders, members and active supporters will justify the trust that the people placed in us in the years of struggle, and in the 1994 elections.

Long Live The ANC!


Maatla Ke a rona!

Source: South African Government Information Website