Address by President Nelson Mandela at launch of the Rural Anti-Poverty Programme

13 October 1998

Cabinet Minister;
Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Province;
Distinguished Guests;
Shobashobane community,

I am deeply moved and honoured to be here today. We first planned to come here in April to launch the Rural Anti-Poverty Programme. But in truth it is even more satisfying to be able to see for myself the progress you have made in implementing the programme on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal where the needs are so great.

Being here awakens feeling of both sadness and joy.

The name of Shobashobane recalls one of the most gruesome experiences of a province that has suffered untold and unnecessary pain as a result of political conflict and intolerance. It brings to mind the men, women and children who died in that incident, the families displaced; and the children left homeless. It reminds us of how conflict and tension only worsened the poverty that gripped the area.

But today we have cause for celebration, because communities are now working together to uplift themselves and rebuild confidence in the area. By doing so you are bringing back the businesses and the people who fled because of the violence. You are showing that you too have understood the lesson of our times, that peace is the most powerful weapon that any community or people has to bring about stability and development.

I would make a plea today that your practical message of peace should be heard by all.

I would in particular urge all political leaders and Amakhosi to work together for peace. The leadership in KwaZulu/Natal can take pride in the progress they have together brought for peace, and I would like to encourage them all to continue in their efforts and to speed up the process.

Events in recent months in this province tell us that those who seek to take us back to war talk and conflict are still at work. Let us not allow the province to slip back into political violence. We should not give even the slightest opportunity to the forces of violence to derail the peace progress.

We are therefore proud to be here today. We are not here to try and calm a volatile situation of the kind that feeds perceptions that Africa and Africans are somehow prone to violence, but rather to reinforce the message that Africa and Africans are united for social upliftment.

This official launch of the Rural Anti-Poverty Programme, and the opportunity to review its progress, is indeed a joyous occasion.

At the heart of our democratic Government's mandate is the reconstruction and development of our country, with the central objective of transforming our society in order to improve the lives of our people whose basic needs were so cruelly neglected by apartheid.

For that reason we are steadily shifting resources towards social services over a number of years and ensuring that our economy grows in order to sustain these improvements. At the same time we are also taking special measures to address urgent needs of the poorest of the poor. That included allocating R300 million towards Poverty Relief in last year's Budget, including R85m for the Rural Anti-Poverty Programme of the Department of Public Works.

It is for that reason too that this programme focuses in particular on KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Northern Province where so much of the poverty in our country is concentrated.

Equally important is the emphasis in the Rural Anti-Poverty Programme on opportunities for women; on participation by communities in their own upliftment; and on building the capacity of our local authorities to work with national and provincial government to meet the needs of communities.

These are the goals and the values that make up the spirit of Masakhane, and so it is highly appropriate that we are highlighting this programme during Masakhane Focus Week, when partnership and joint responsibility for upliftment are celebrated in communities across the country.

From the reports I have been give on progress in the implementation of the Rural Anti-Poverty Programme, it is clear that it is making a lasting difference where it really matters to our rural areas - by concentrating on such basic things as access roads; multi-purpose community centres; school buildings and infrastructure for agriculture, as well as training and capacity-building.

These are fruits of our young democracy, along with the electricity and clean water supplies; the health-care and telephones which are already changing the lives of millions, especially amongst those who live in the rural area.

Achievements of this nature are only possible through the joint partnership of government and communities.

It touches my heart to see how ordinary men and women have seized the chance that democracy brings to participate actively in shaping and building these projects. In doing so you are not only building assets for your communities and for your children. You are also building our nation and making a living reality of democracy by bringing government closer to the people it serves. This programme has already clearly strengthened this spirit of partnership on which the future of our country must be built.

I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank Premier Ngubane whose province is hosting us today, as well as the Premiers of the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape, for their contribution to the success of the programme.

I wish to pay a special tribute to all those in national, provincial and local governments, and to the communities and traditional leaders, who have worked together in designing, planning and implementing the programme as well as in securing the delivery of the projects.

Congratulations to you all!

If today we lay particular emphasis on the gains that have been made in partnership and co-operative governance, in training and capacity-building, and in the creation of infrastructure and productive assets, it is because we will need all these things as we continue to tackle the immense task of many years, to address the legacy of poverty that blights the lives of millions of our people.

Much as we take pride in our achievements, we are not resting on our laurels and are gearing ourselves for still greater efforts.

That is why in this year's budget we increased the Poverty Relief Funds from R300 million to R500 million, and altogether put R274 million in the hands of Public Works to spend especially on access roads in rural areas.

That is also why I personally continue to encourage the private sector to join with rural communities in meeting their needs. The response to my requests to business has always been positive, and as a result communities across the country today have schools, clinics or other facilities they would not otherwise have.

On all the major challenges facing our country, government is busy strengthening the partnerships of all social sectors that will allow our nation to meet its goals. This month alone has seen the Rural Safety Summit which will help eliminate the attacks in our farming areas; the launch of a Partnership against AIDS; and intensive preparations for the Jobs Summit which will strengthen our efforts to defeat the scourge of unemployment. We will also be having a national summit on fighting corruption.

Like rural development, these issues, transcend whatever political differences there may be among us. I would therefore in conclusion return to my appeal, that the transformation of Shobashobane from a symbol of the horrors of political violence to a lesson in development through peace, should be taken to heart by all.

Especially as we approach a new election, we should remember the fundamental importance of political tolerance and the spirit of nation-building, to our future. Whatever political party we belong to, IFP or ANC or any other, we should conduct ourselves so that we emerge from the election even more united as a nation in our determination to improve the lives of our people.

We have laid the foundation for a better life for all, and through programmes like the Rural Anti-Poverty Programme the building has begun. Together, let us turn South Africa into the land of our dreams.

I thank you all.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website