Address by President Nelson Mandela at opening of Presidential Jobs Summit, Johannesburg

30 October 1998

I feel deep regret that pressing matters which could not be delayed have kept me from being with you today.

The government has had no illusion about the massive social problems that our new democracy has to deal with. We know too keenly that government alone cannot address these problems.

Taken as a whole job creation impacts on virtually every facet of these social ills. Such is the importance of this Jobs Summit. Indeed, it is the most important event since the holding of our first democratic elections. The mass of the South African people are perfectly correct in expecting a ray of hope from our deliberations and decisions. They know that the Jobs Summit will not proclaim miracles. But they do expect leadership on matters which are, to millions, a matter of life and death.

The reports I have received on the preparations for this Summit indicate that you have all been hard at work doing precisely that. The process has been tough and frank. But it has been guided by a spirit which puts the long-term interests of all above short-term considerations.

I have every confidence that you have laid a solid foundation and that this spirit will prevail on this critical day.

In recent weeks we have as South Africans again been demonstrating our capacity to join hands in order to meet challenges and difficulties. The Rural Summit on Safety and Security; the launch of the Partnership against Aids; the Morals Summit and the Masakhane Focus Week, are all, I believe, encouraging precursors of today's summit.

This summit itself is born of the resolve of government, labour, business and communities to create the conditions for a better life for all.

The urgency of our coming together has only been emphasised by the impact of the turmoil in international financial markets. If we have weathered the storm compared with many other developing economies, it must be attributed to factors of our own making.

They include the robustness of an economy geared towards ambitious programmes of reconstruction and infrastructure development; a sound financial sector; the political stability which we achieved in defiance of the prophets of doom; and the consistent application of economic policies which address the imperatives of sustained growth and development.

Despite our having escaped the worst, our best efforts, like those of many others, have been set back by events originating far away. We dare not forget the need to consolidate and enhance our capacity to withstand these shocks.

We therefore meet very conscious of the fact that we are called upon to be innovative and creative; to evaluate and adjust; and to place at the foreground of our efforts, the well-being of those to whom pangs of hunger have become their daily bread.

We are aware that there are still important differences amongst us, including issues of job security, approaches to industrial action and others relating to the labour market. It is in the nature of our society that there will always be differences. Our purpose in convening this summit is not to eliminate these in one fell swoop. Rather we should set up the necessary mechanisms to resolve them.

In doing so, we should remember that those who place their confidence in us wish to see us succeed. I am confident that we have gone far enough in this direction.

This shows itself in the concrete and wide-ranging proposals and programmes which, if adopted and implemented, will bring tangible benefits - not overnight, but visibly within a reasonable time and increasingly over the longer-term.

It shows itself in the strengthening of a common commitment to work together to mobilise all the people and the resources of our nation, towards overcoming the legacy of our divided past.

On your shoulders, as leaders of constituencies that embrace the whole of our people, rests a great responsibility.

It is to work with government to ensure that whatever the difficulties and constraints imposed from outside, we shall make the most of our opportunities to improve the lives of our people, especially the poor.

Issued by: Office of the President, 30 October 1998

Source: South African Government Information Website