Address by President Nelson Mandela at the 3rd annual Nedlac Summit, Johannesburg

16 May 1998

Executive Director, Jayendra Naidoo;
Cabinet Ministers;
Distinguished participants;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to welcome you all to this summit. I had the privilege in 1995 of officially launching this critically important institution.

All of us will recall our hopes then as we ushered in an era of social partnership and consensus-seeking in labour legislation an in social and economic policy. We will remember the sense of history as we set the seal on the direct engagement of key sectors of our society in formulating policy. And we will not have forgotten our recognition, even then, that success could not be assumed in advance,

As Nedlac enters its fourth year both our hopes and our realism have been borne out.

It is one of those institutions that has helped weave the fabric of our democracy, through a period of momentous change and daunting challenges. It has contributed to the stability that has confounded the sceptics.

There have indeed been times when the differences playing themselves out in this forum might have seemed to loom larger than the factors that made for co-operation. But managing those differences has precisely been one of Nedlac's functions. It has served us all well in this regard, despite the critics and those who are wont to see a national crisis in each dispute.

We have received regular reports at Cabinet on many of your activities, indicating the agreements between the social partners and issues on which consensus has been reached.

Government for its part is committed to genuine consultation with all stakeholders. That is the foundation for a genuine partnership.

Today you are once again assembled to receive report from the Executive Director, Jayendra Naidoo, on Nedlac's activities for the past year.

It is my hope that the council's work will continue well into the future, and that its constituencies will sustain their commitment to finding sustainable consensus on important issues of social and economic policy.

If I may, I would like to take this opportunity to thank delegates for their contribution. I am conscious that this is one of few statutory bodies that does not pay participants for their participation. I know too that difficult issues can sometimes bring long days, and even nights, of discussions. We need such commitment more than ever.

Though we rightly take pride in what has been achieved, we now face even greater challenges. Your debates this morning will have left no doubt on that score.

Foremost amongst the challenges is employment creation. Our democratic gains will remain fragile and our freedom shallow, if they do not bring real improvements in the lives of our people, especially the poor. All of us do recognise that job-creation is critical to the alleviation of poverty.

The forthcoming Jobs Summit therefore has exceptional importance. It provides an opportunity, and a challenge, to find practical ways of addressing unemployment.

Like Nedlac itself, its success is not guaranteed in advance. That will depend on effective preparations by each of the constituencies. It will need in abundance that overriding commitment, whatever the differences, to seek a consensus that puts the long-term interests of all above short-term considerations. I am confident that you will spare no effort to contribute to the success of the Jobs Summit.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today the statement on behalf of the Government will be made by the Minister of Labour, Mr Tito Mboweni.

It is my pleasant task, and my privilege, to declare the Summit open and to wish you a successful outcome.

Thank you

Source: South African Government Information Website