Address by President Nelson Mandela at the switch-on of the Soshanguve Electrification Project, Soshanguve

2 December 1997

Master of ceremonies; Distinguished Guests; Residents of Soshanguve.

It is a great honour to join you in celebrating a milestone in our journey towards a better life for all, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for inviting me.

When we voted as a nation for democracy in 1994, we gained the opportunity to address the basic needs which had been denied to the majority in our country. With our freedom won we faced the even greater challenge of rebuilding our country and improving our quality of life. Achieving this goal is a long and difficult task. But we can proudly say we have made a start.

The election of democratic local government was a great step forward. It is the local councils that must ensure the delivery of services in the areas where people live. Though central government can provide a framework for this, the real changes must come at the local level.

But we do also know that the financial and human resources available to local authorities for improving the delivery of services to residents are very limited. If South Africans are to have quality services on a sustainable basis then their councils need to find new ways of providing them.

Today's electricity switch-on is proof that this local council is rising to that challenge.

By establishing a private company, as provided for by local government legislation, you have ensured that even more houses are being supplied with electricity than was originally planned; that this service is being delivered months ahead of schedule; and that million of Rands are being saved and ploughed back into even more services for the community. The project is also promoting the goals of our newly-won democracy by the involvement of the community in planning and implementation, by the empowerment of small contractors and by the creation of jobs.

This is indeed an exciting way of providing a high standard of service at an affordable cost to the community. The work by the council is a shining example of the power of partnership to create a better life for all. It also represents what is happening across South Africa as people of every persuasion work together to improve their lives. Away from the limelight and the headlines, communities are joining hands with government and the private sector to better their conditions.

Today we turn on the electrical infrastructure which will soon provide electricity to 24,000 houses. In doing so, we are adding to delivery of water and sewerage facilities to thousands of homes in Soshanguve and the building of low-cost houses as well as the tarring of main roads.

What is happening in Soshanguve is a concrete contribution to our national effort of reconstruction and development: this has seen 1,000 people gain access to clean water on average every day since April 1994, it has seen 1,000 electricity connections each day and 1,000 houses completed or brought into construction every two and a half days.

We can be proud of these achievements. We know they are only the start of a task that will take many years to complete, before everyone has the amenities they deserve. We know that success will require much hard work, patience and discipline.

The Northern Pretoria Metropolitan Council is showing us what is possible. What is being achieved here would not have been possible without the generous financial contributions of the Pretoria Metropolitan Council and the National Electricity Regulator.

And most important of all are you, the people of Soshanguve, who have been deprived of electricity for so long. You have come a long way by working with your council to improve your own lives. This is in the spirit of Masakhane, which is not only about councils delivering the services you need so badly. It is also about communities sharing responsibility for uplifting themselves; protecting the amenities that have been created; and meeting the cost of services provided.

Mr Mayor; to you and your Council, to Tswaing Electricity; to all the donors; to the small electrical contractors who were trained on this project and all the people of Soshanguve, we say: Congratulations!

Electricity plays an important role in any society and through your hard work, you have made life that much easier for thousands of people.

I am proud to be taking part in the official switch-on of this electricity project.

In the results of your efforts we can truly see that the foundation for a better life has been laid.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website