Address by President Nelson Mandela at Bleskop Stadium, Rustenburg

18 October 1997

Premier of the North West Province;
President, and Secretary-General of the National Union of Mineworkers;
Miners of Bleskop;

When I visited the area of Rustenburg two weeks ago, I left here with powerful mixed feelings. Much of what I saw and heard gave me great hope for the future. But there was also cause for great concern, and I decided that I must return.

Much has been achieved

It is a great joy to be amongst the people of one of the fastest growing towns in the North West province; a town in which bold and inspiring development programmes have taken root because of the way local, provincial and rational governments have worked together.

It is inspiring to learn of how the graduates of the Tsholofelo Community College worked with the residents of Boitekong to bring electricity to their homes. This is part of our national success story over the past three years, with some 1,000 electricity connections being made every day.

We are encouraged by the progress being made in this area and this province to ensure that more and more people enjoy the basic amenities that were denied them under apartheid. This adds strength to our national efforts in which two clinics are being built every week on average; and 1 000 houses brought into construction or completed every two and a half days.

In Rustenburg and its surrounding areas, as in our whole land, there are many reasons for us all to come together to celebrate as communities and as a nation, as men and women; young and old; as workers and employers.

Violence and disunity

Through these real achievements we have started on our journey to a better life.

And yet, how often do the people of this area have to come together, not to celebrate, but to mourn the unnecessary loss of the lives of our fellow South Africans!

Mine workers played a key role not only in the building of our economy, but also in the struggle for the democratic gains in which our nation today takes so much pride. It is because of those democratic gains that today we have laws like the Labour Relations Act and the Mine Health and Safety Act which have brought real advances for all workers. It is because of those gains that there are other laws before our Parliament which will bring further major improvements in the conditions of millions of workers.

None of these laws will have any significance unless workers are united and use the laws effectively to change their lives for the better. In this regard, I am dismayed at the continued violence on the mines in this area, where workers are divided for reasons that remain elusive.

Violence threatens the gains we have made. It diverts energies from the task of reconstruction and development. Not only does it take the nation a step backwards, but it also robs mine workers of the opportunities which our democracy and the new laws bring to improve their working conditions.

We regard the workers of South Africa as central to bringing change in our country. It is you we rely on to lead the struggle against poverty, unemployment and destitution. It is you we depend on to help transform our country into a non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous democracy.

Violence has no place in the new South Africa

We must all act to bring an end to this violence. There is no place in our democracy for people to organise through violence and terror. Workers on the mines must be vigilant in their pursuit of unity.

I have returned to Bleskop to urge you all, indeed to challenge all of you, and especially the leaders amongst you, to make a pledge to work together for peace and stability on the mines. Let us work together to expose the hidden hand of those who want to take us back to the days of apartheid. Refuse to be used against your own brothers and sisters!

Let us all agree here and now, that there will be no more intimidation, no more roadblocks, no more curfews, no more no-go zones. We cannot allow our society to be run by gangsters. Let us pledge that all workers shall enjoy their right to freedom of association and their right to join any unions that work within the framework or our labour laws, which are properly registered and use legitimate ways to recruit members.

It is our duty, wherever we are, to support those who suffered with us under apartheid; and those who today contribute to the building of a better life. It is our task to ensure that they are not targeted for destabilistaion by sinister elements. The brutal assassinations of union members are to be condemned in the strongest terms. The government will not tolerate the building of any organisation on the corpses of mineworkers.

The full might of the law will be used to bring the perpetrators to book, and steps will be taken to ensure that there is no dragging of feet by anyone within the law-enforcement agencies.

But decisive action on the part of the security forces to uphold and to enforce the law will only succeed in bringing lasting peace if the whole mining community - workers and management - accept their major responsibility for creating a safe and stable working environment.

That means refusing to allow people to take the law in to their own hands. It means co-operating with the police to identify those among us, who commit criminal offenses. It means being prepared to testify in court when charges are brought. And it means assistance - by workers, by mine management and their security - to those charges with monitoring implementation of any peace agreements reached.


In these ways we can defeat the few individuals who are benefiting from the tensions and the violence that harms everyone else, those who claim to be supporters of democracy but whose actions threaten to take us back to the old ways.

We cannot allow criminals to rob us of our chance to build a better life.

The achievements in Rustenburg and the North-West Province show what can be done. The foundation for a better life has been laid.

Let us join hands for peace and stability, for economic growth and reconstruction. Forward ever!

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website