Address by President Nelson Mandela at Beijing University, China

6 May 1999



Master of Ceremonies;
Chief Executive of Investec;
Distinguished guests,

The opening of this new headquarters building is rich in symbolism. It reflects the thriving of an important company in a sector of our economy in which South Africa justly takes pride. And in doing so it also symbolises much of what has only become possible with the coming of democracy to South Africa.

While Investec has changed and grown enormously as an increasingly international specialist bank taking advantage of the new opportunities, so too has our domestic financial environment developed and strengthened.

We have responded to the challenges of new democratic national policy goals; integration in the world financial markets; and the profound changes in the world economy that we have come to refer to as globalisation.

In 1994 when we addressed audiences, including in particular those in business, the main concern was whether an ANC-led government was capable of governing a complex modern economy. There were also open doubts as to whether our nation could really forego its violent and divided past. Globalisation on the other hand, was held to be rich in promise and our task was seen to discard outdated ideas and assert the new orthodoxy.

Today we all see things in a more complex light. The contagious turmoil that has been troubling world financial markets in recent times, shifting across the world with often devastating consequences for emerging economies, and affecting even the most powerful economies, has revealed too that the orthodoxies were too glib.

On the other hand, to the extent that we are weathering the storm, it can be ascribed it to a combination of domestic factors that includes our sound banking sector, of which Investec is a part. It includes the fact that government has a coherent and appropriate set of economic and social policies which it is consistently following. And it includes the political stability which our country achieved so rapidly, confounding the prophets of doom.

Much as we take pride in our achievements, we cannot rest on our laurels. Though our plans have inevitably been set-back by developments in the international economy, and forced on us an adjustment of our targets and the time-frame for achieving them, we remain firmly committed to our structural programmes.

We will not deviate from our plans to restructure our economy in order to meet the needs of our people on a sustainable and lasting basis.

By the same token we count on our banking sector to maintain the strengths and the disciplines which have served us well during this difficult period.

Fundamentally, within the framework of our broad macroeconomic targets we are determined to sustain the shift that we have achieved towards social spending that gives concrete meaning to the consensus pledge on which our negotiated transition was based, namely to work together to overcome the legacy of our past.

The final results of the Census published yesterday remind us, if we needed it, of the enormous social inequality and deprivation which our democracy inherited. We are past blaming apartheid for all our problems, but we should all of us keep in mind, including the investment community, the scale and the nature of the challenge which South Africa faces.

Amongst other things the census spells out in stark numbers the extent to which the majority of South Africans were denied proper education and the conditions under which to teach and learn. Thus, the task of transforming our country had to be undertaken largely by people who had been denied the experience of government or the training that would have prepared us for the task.

Against that background, our achievements as government and nation over the past four years, impressive by any standard, have been nothing short of remarkable. We would be the first to admit that it has been more difficult than we anticipated, and that we have made mistakes. But those doubts that were so evident in 1994 concerning our capacity are now heard from only a small and dwindling minority. What has been done in this short time is far beyond anything even attempted by previous South African governments.

This refers not only to our management of the economy, but also to the impact that is being made in the lives of millions of South Africans as they begin to gain access to basic amenities that were so long denied to them.

One could cite many figures to show this, but on this occasion one example, that of electrification, should suffice. In 1996, the census tells is, 42% of the country's nine million households lacked electricity. Bear in mind that by that time a million homes had been electrified since our first democratically elected government took office, and that about another million have been electrified since. This will indicate the scale of the progress that is being made, as well as the challenge that we still face in years to come.

Processes on a similar scale have been at work in access to health-care and housing, telephones and rural access roads, schools and clean water, to name but some.

Such changes improve the lives of millions of people. As business people you will appreciate how they also translate into increased productivity of our people, new opportunities, and increased demand for the products of our economy.

Together with the restructuring of our economy for export-oriented growth and massive infrastructural investment programmes, our far-reaching programme for socio-economic improvement contributes to the resilience of our economy and adds to the reasons for expecting economic growth to pick up again relatively soon.


None of our achievements are those of government alone, nor could they be. They depend on a partnership of all social sectors. It is in this sprit that South Africans are joining hands with government in partnerships across all social sectors to tackle the most serious problems we face, whether it be crime, corruption, unemployment. Government's determination to deal effectively with these matters will be clear from the actions we have been taking.

In these partnerships of all social sectors we count heavily on the private sector, whether it be through excellence in their chosen field of operation, through programmes to extend the skills of their sector to those denied proper education; or through the opening of opportunities to those in whose way the policies of the past placed barriers.

One of the most encouraging aspects of what is happening in our country is the willingness of established white-owned businesses to share resources with the disadvantaged through social upliftment projects in destitute areas.

Investec, in common with many other of our country's leading companies, is playing a significant role in these various ways in contributing to the building of our new nation.


It is therefore a distinct pleasure to share with you the official opening of this magnificent building.

As we contemplate it, we are conscious that for it to come into existence required a partnership of the same scope as that which is building our country. We are mindful too of those who lost their lives during its construction, and their families, and we look forward to the completion of the inquiry into the accident.

We should take this opportunity to wish Investec and all its staff continued success in their future endeavours, both in South Africa and abroad. Congratulations on your success to date, and for the domestic and international recognition which this has brought.

May you have a long life and a productive existence in your new abode.

It is now my pleasure to declare this building open!

Issued by the Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website