Address by President Nelson Mandela at Sifikile Village, Rustenburg

18 October 1997

Premier of the North-West Province;
President and Secretary-General of the National Union of Mineworkers;
The community of Sifikile;


The opening of a mine near to where people live calls for celebration in nearby communities. A celebration because job opportunities are created people's standard of living improves and local economic activity is boosted.

Today I wonder if we can say the same about Sifikile. Yes, the mines around you might have brought some of these benefits. But in the last few months they also brought pain to this community. Lives have been lost as a result of violence that emanates from conflicts on the mine.

The government is extremely concerned about this. For us, one loss of life is one too many. I came here today, not only to show our concern, but to say: Enough is enough!

Violence militates against development

The Greater Rustenburg area is a good example of what can be achieved when local, provincial and national government co-operate under conditions of peace. Many development projects have taken root since 1994. We think for example of residents of Boitekong who were trained by the Tsholofelo Community College, and electrified their own village.

A variety of programmes have been started to ensure that development throughout the Northwest Province reaches more people. I have heard of the remarkable idea by the local government in Rustenburg to use empty factories as spaces for training unemployed youth. This is an important and creative contribution to one of our biggest needs. I am sure that the young people of this community will take up the challenge and eagerly lap up the knowledge and skills that these centres will provide.

This and many more other changes and achievements we should be proud of. However, some communities are being dragged into a vicious cycle of violence that undermines our efforts to improve the way we live.

South Africans have worked hard for democratic change, especially mines workers, who continue to make an important contribution to the economy of our country. This is all the more reason for us to create a peaceful, stable and safe environment, so that miners and the communities to which they belong can enjoy to the full our hard-won freedom; and so that we can use the rich resources of our nation to produce the things people need.

There is no reason why we should not work together to end this violence. Sifikile community leaders should get involved in attempts to bring conflicting parties together talk peace. It is difficult to imagine who gains from this violence. What is certain, however, is that mine workers themselves are losing by it. No legitimate interest can be served through fanning the flames of violence.

Workers must unite for common good

There is no place in our new democracy for people to organise through violence and terror. Workers on the mines, who are still labouring under conditions that need improving, must be vigilant.

It is clear to all of us that the NUM is being targeted fro a vicious campaign by forces who do not want change in South Africa. They hate the NUM for its principled stand against apartheid; for its constructive contribution to change in our country; for its determination to fight for workers' rights.

In examining this violence, we must look behind the poor workers who are being used against their own interests. We know there is a hidden hand which preys on tribal sentiments; a hidden had which seeks to use blacks to undermine our new democracy.

I call on all mineworkers to refuse to be used as pawns against their own good. Yes, all of us have the right to free association. But that is not a right to use violence; it is not a right to kill and to maim. I must assure those who rely on violence that they will be dealt with severely.

We will deploy maximum security measures to uphold the law and to protect lives and property. We will ensure that those suspected of murder and related offences are hunted down and brought to book. We will not allow anyone to take the law into their own hands, or to use violence and murder to achieve their selfish ends.

However, lasting solutions cannot be found by security measures alone. Workers themselves, employers and members of the affected communities must see the need for peace and all become part of the efforts to bring back stability and security in their own places of work and dwelling.

Importance of the mining industry

We are interested in the resolution of these problems because we do not want to see lives lost. In addition, we must find solutions because it is our duty to protect our mining industry. We know that employers in the mines benefited from apartheid. But they have an important role to play today in creating a new society. Many mining companies are contributing to creating a new culture in the mines. Many are assisting in projects to build schools and clinics in the rural areas.

I appeal to all employers on the mines to contribute to peace in this area. I appeal to all of them to work with the NUM and other unions to find creative ways of addressing the problems of unemployment and mass retrenchments. Training of workers in other skills, and expanding investments in new industries are but some of the solutions that we should all work for.


Greater Rustenburg has achieved impressive growth rates. This brings great opportunities and enormous challenges. We need to ensure that growth benefits all. Together we must develop and implement programmes that improve the lives of ordinary people, especially workers, and at the same time create new employment. As we succeed in this area, we will slowly but surely be taking forward the national programme of reconstruction and development.

Your presence here today sends out a strong message: that the people of Sifikile and the North-West Province will not succumb to backward agendas.

Together, we have laid the foundation for a better life.

Together, let us move forward in peace.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website