Item 1103 - ANC National Policy Conference : Address by President N. Mandela

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ZA COM MR-S-1103

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ANC National Policy Conference : Address by President N. Mandela

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  • 1992-05-28 (Creation)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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ANC National Policy Conference

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  • English

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TRANSCRIPT

Members of the National Executive Committee,
Delegates and observers,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Comrades and friends,

It is with great pride that I greet you and welcome you to this conference. This gathering is yet another important milestone in the history of our organisation and, indeed, in the history of our country. Our coming together here is the culmination of a very important process of the formation of policy, involving the membership of the organization as a whole. Today we can justifiably be proud to say that we have come some way in realising this.

We know full well the difficult circumstances under which democratic organisations have to function. Since our National Congress, the levels of violence have escalated dramatically. Many local leaders have been assassinated. In many parts of our country it has become extremely hazardous to meet so that much of the discussions which will inform our deliberations here, have taken place while townships were under vicious attack. We have witnessed an intensification of attempts to destabilise the ANC, to limit our capacity to organise and to project our vision. The continued existence of state covert operations with their sinister agendas which includes formal assassination plans, are reminders of the odds which we are up against.

Yet all of our regions have held very successful regional preparatory conferences. This in itself is a remarkable victory.

We are proud of the fact that most of our submissions to this conference will be informed by opinions and views of South Africans both in the ANC and outside of it. We have gone out of our way to ensure that the submissions to this conference are of such a nature that we will emerge from here with a vision which will enable us to fulfil the historic role of the ANC- the liberation of our country which must be accompanied by a programme, by policies which will mean an improvement in the quality of life for all South Africans.

Over the past few months there has been intense discussion within our organisation in preparation for this conference. In all parts of our country, from some of the remotest rural villages to the plushest urban suburbs, branches of the ANC have been discussing the myriad of draft policy documents prepared by the various departments. It is from these gatherings and the regional preparatory conferences that delegates have been sent to this conference as the bearers of the hopes and aspirations of the thousand of our members for whom a whole new world has been opened in discussing policy questions which they have had previously considered to be the sole preserve of highly skilled academics. It is this remarkable feat that makes this policy conference such a singularly important event- it truly marks a high point in the earnest endeavour of the ANC to democratise policy formulation.

In addition, we were all engaged in mandating our delegates to CODESA II, an event in which the agenda of the National Party regime was unmasked for the whole world to see. However much some observers may have wanted to reduce the deadlock to ‘a question of 5 percentage points’, the inescapable reality is that the regime laid bare its fundamental contempt of democracy and its unmitigated desire to hang onto the levers of power.

Notwithstanding their earlier espousal of support for an elected constitution0-making body, they blocked a comprehensive agreement when the CODESA was presented with opportunity to take our country along that path. They did so even after the patriotic front allies had bent over backwards to draw them into striking an accord.

Their insistence that a CODESA drafted interim constitution should in fact be the new constitution, bears testimony to their preference for undemocratic practices.

The ANC is participating in CODESA and will use that platform to create the conditions for setting our country on the road to democracy. For us, there can be no compromise from the need to engender participation in the process of formulating a constitution which, for the first time in South Africa, will be respected by the majority of our people.

CODESA II really exposed the duplicity of the National Party regime. CODESA II convened against the backdrop of a variety of exposures of the NP agenda which include:

  • The establishment of secret bases from which attacks were launched on the lives of some of our most respected activists. The flimsy grounds on which the courts chose to prevent the publication of further details merely strengthens our view that the courts are not neutral and that the police and army remain responsible for fomenting the violence in our country. The police admitted in court that these were indeed their bases, yet we have not been informed that these death camps have been shut down.
  • There is undeniable proof that the SADF had ordered the assassination of some of our finest leaders in the Eastern Cape. Those responsible have since been promoted and there is as yet not even the hint that they will be brought to trial for these dastardly acts, the regime has raised the prospect of amnesty for these criminals, without them having to face charges.
  • The release of policemen by the former Minister of Law and Order in a manner which shows complete disregard for the findings of the courts. Could it be that they were acting under his instruction or with his knowledge in executing these heinous crimes?
  • In addition the worst and most unashamed corruption was exposed with the theft of billions of rand which were destined for the poorest and most disadvantaged. The civil servants responsible have been rewarded either with golden handshakes or with promotion in other departments. These are the jobs which President De Klerk has undertaken to protect at all costs during the negotiations. The successive political heads of the now-disbanded Department of Development Aid have escaped unscathed. By the way, do we know the real reasons for the sudden flight of the former Minister of Finance?


In the face of all of this, so many of our cadres remain incarcerated for deeds which fall well within the scope of what has been defined as political offences. The time has come for CODESA to act decisively to remove these obstacles.

Some may ask why, when the agenda and corruption of the regime stand so exposed, do we remain in CODESA? The answer to that question is quite easy. We are in CODESA because we have never harboured any illusions about the agenda of the regime. We are in CODESA because we have defined negotiations as a site of struggle. We are in CODESA because the minority regime must be denied the right to rule our country. We are in CODESA in fulfilment of our historic mission, namely, the transfer of power to the people.

Some have asked whether CODESA has failed. The answer is that it is not CODESA which has failed. The answer is that it is the National Party which has failed. The National Party has failed to come to grips with the cry for democracy which is echoing through our land. We cannot allow the failures of a minority party to dictate success or failure for us.

We should not feel defeated after the failure of CODESA II to deliver in terms of the timetable which we have proposed, if anything that reality should spur us on to strife for the deadlines which we ourselves have defined. We remain convinced that time is of the essence. We remain convinced that we need change sooner rather than later. We remain convinced that the timetables which we have submitted are realistic and attainable. We stand by our proposals.

It is because of these new obstacles that this conference assumes even greater significance.

This conference is essentially about preparing to govern. We are here to say to ourselves and to the world that we understand and that we are ready and capable of taking responsibility for the process of reconstruction in our land.

We are here because we are mindful of the fact that we have yet to win our freedom. We are here because we understand the link between clear policies and victory. The ANC must emerge from this conference with clear policy proposals for a future democratic government. So let us be spurred on to even greater levels of seriousness at this conference.

The policies with which we emerge, must inspire the broadest possible cross section of South Africans. Most importantly, our policies must provide hope for the most poor, the most downtrodden, those who have borne the brunt of apartheid oppression and exploitation.

Our conference needs to address the demands articulated by the organisations of our people. Let us listen to the cries of our people in the civics, the trade union movement, the sports organisations, the religious bodies and the many other bodies which have been formed by our people.

Let our conference speak to even those who have benefited from apartheid. Let us provide them with a vision of the future- a vision of a single nation, a vision of an ANC government which will be able to govern competently and inclusively.

Let us inspire all South Africans with a belief in our capacity to create stability and to generate wealth for the benefit of all in our country. Let us also be mindful of the fact that the processes and the outcome of this conference is eagerly awaited throughout the world

On the one hand, our struggle, and the leadership of the ANC within it, represents hope to democrats and struggling people throughout the world who are perturbed by the so-called new world order; this new unipolar approach which seems to be so opposed to development and which will result in an ever widening chasm between rich and poor. There are great expectations that our conference will reassert that the role of government is to protect and advance the interests of the most vulnerable. There are also those who are keen to see the ANC abandoning precisely this developmental perspective which we hold so dear. They will be disappointed.

There are also investors who are waiting to get the first tentative signals about the capacity of the ANC to create a stable economic climate where they can invest with confidence. Our policies will establish social justice and democracy. Democracy is our best investment for stability.

Some have asked whether the approach of the ANC is ideological. There is a measure of curiosity in certain quarters about whether we are social democrats, Marxist- Leninist, liberal or what ever. We are unconcerned about labels. We are concerned about developing a programme which will systematically eradicate the ravages of apartheid. Obviously this tilts our policies in favour of the most disadvantaged.

We are also committed to putting into place policies which are sustainable, polices which will ensure systematic growth. To meet these important goals.

The fact that we are a national liberation movement which brings together people across the political spectrum is a strength which we cannot abandon. The very fact that we manage to bring together such a diverse group of South Africans on the basis of their commitment to their country has laid an invaluable basis for a new patriotism.

The fact that we can defend the right of every person to articulate their views, is a lesson in political tolerance which is rarely found in South African politics. The fact that such a wide range of South Africans see the ANC in its current form as the most viable vehicle to realise their hopes and aspirations, is a tribute to our organisation and to those who have constantly sought to make the ANC even more broadly based our conference must contribute more to this.

The basic objectives of ANC policy are:

  • To strive for the right of all South Africans, as a whole, to political and economic self-determination in a united South Africa.
  • To overcome the legacy of inequality and injustice created by colonialism and apartheid, in a swift, progressive and principled way.
  • To develop an economy and state infrastructure that will progressively improve the quality of life of all South Africans; and
  • To encourage the flourishing of the feeling that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, to promote a common loyalty to and pride in the country and to create a universal sense of freedom and security within its borders.


To the extent that some may choose to attach a classical epithet to such an espousal, we are prepared to accept that our approach is ideological. Our appeal, however, is that there should be greater concentration on the contents and that the label, in this instance, can be safely ignored.

The mission of the ANC, as set out in the Freedom Charter, is about creating the conditions which will improve on the quality of life of all South Africans.

In respect of the majority of people, those living in the squalor of the informal settlements without access to sanitation, water and electricity, who have been denied formal education and who now find themselves virtually unemployable in a failed economy, the import of a major improvement in the quality of life is beyond question. The corollary of this point is that those who have had all the advantages now live behind high wall with electrified fences, are guarded by ferocious dogs and rapid response armed guards and are afraid to leave their homes. Undoubtedly, they too are in need of a significant improvement in life quality and also stand to benefit from the policies of a democratic government in South Africa. The significance of the conference, therefore, is that the policy guidelines which we will adopt at this conference are for the entire nation and not only for the ANC.

We must emphasise the fact that we will not be adopting a rigid blueprint for the future South Africa.

These guidelines will describe the framework which will later be filled by detailed policies in respect of each sector. This conference brings together the views of the membership of the ANC, many of whom have only just been exposed to the technical detail of policy formulation.

Our method of policy formulation is important because it creates transparency in the policy environment. A much greater percentage of our membership now understand the resource constraints that an ANC government will face and that there will therefore be no quickfix to decades of apartheid destruction.

Important as this part of the process is, it does not substitute for the technical detail which will have to be worked at after this conference. We can say with pride that the ANC has the capacity within each department to develop the necessary detail to support the mandate which the policy departments will be assigned by this conference. We are also inspired by the many offers from outside our ranks from throughout the world, to provide whatever backup we may request.

The guidelines which we will adopt will describe the legislative, economic and institutional framework necessary to transform society into one which will serve the interests of the majority. The institutions thus created will have to be staffed by persons who are trained and competent, by civil servants committed to democracy, accountability and a people-centred approach, and by staff committed to clean and efficient administration.

The component of our preparation for governance cannot be put on the back-burner until we are already in government. The creation of a diligent and professional civil service is a task which is already long overdue.

There will have to be changes in the existing civil service in line with our commitment to affirmative action and our commitment to the establishment of a slim state. We accept that there are fears amongst those currently within the civil service. Changes in the civil service are unavoidable and those who are qualified, competent and diligent obviously have far less to fear. We repeat that changes will be made in the most humane fashion possible.

An essential element of our democratic policies must be geared towards transforming society, with a special emphasis on transforming the power relations in policy making structures, in the implementation of those policies, in the workplace and in the residential areas. The policy guidelines which we adopt must be able to withstand the rigour of scientific test and they must be able to be defended by every ANC members. Above all, the guidelines we adopt must be sustainable.

I wish to appeal to delegates to studiously avoid the red herrings which have been conjured up by those who would wish to constrain our policy options. It is however necessary to counsel caution. The third world is littered with the relics of liberation movements which have successfully liberated their countries from the yoke of colonial oppression, only to be defeated at the polls in the first post-colonial elections.

These unfortunate defeats are not a consequence of the personalities in those movements. The defeats have more often than not been a consequence of unfulfilled promises, insufficient transparency in policy making, and the direct consequence of the adoption of policies which could not be sustained by the economies of those countries. These experiences have many valuable lessons for us in South Africa.

There are understandably high expectations that democracy will put the changes in place rapidly. These expectations are not about opulence. Our people’s expectations are about acquiring basic essentials like housing, electrification, water, sanitation, decent education and jobs. These are the very issues which are set out in our Bill of Rights, and in the Freedom Charter. One of the threads that runs through all of our policy documents is the unimpeachable commitment of the ANC to direct resources towards precisely those ends.

We remain totally convinced that these objectives are attainable, what we will need to clarify is the timeframes within which we shall be able to deliver these basic goods and services to those most in need thereof. We are challenged to construct a bulwark against unrealistic expectations and to define a sober set of priorities. Moreover, we are challenged to involve our people in democratic processes to be part of the process to set priorities. This is fundamentally what our gathering over the next four days is charged with.

We must leave this conference with a clear idea of the needs, the prospects, and the constraints. This understanding cannot however be the exclusive property of those delegates who would have had the privilege of attending this conference. It must be reported back in detail tot eh structures which mandated the delegates. This conference would have been wasted if the information remains in the confines of ANC structures. The task of every branch is to develop creative outreach programmes, and to redefine the roles, duties and responsibilities of each member.

We must leave this conference with an unambiguous commitment to proudly spread the decisions taken here to all South Africans- black or white, rich or poor, urban or rural, young or old.

It is in this assignment that we begin to see the direct interconnection between the future and the present. The guidelines which we will adopt relate primarily to a future democracy, simultaneously it is on the strength of these guidelines that we will be able to win the struggle for democracy in our country.

The ANC remains unequivocally committed to both growth and redistribution. A failure to secure these in the shortest space of time will result in the further degradation of the social fabric in our country. The costs of this are far too high. The growth path which our country needs is impossible to achieve without the democratic institutions of governance in place. It is imperative, therefore, that CODESA delivers soonest- within the deadlines which we set out on 8th January this year.

Our country cannot be held to ransom by the intransigence, selfishness and megalomania of the National Party regime. These have, in fact, been the hallmarks of the National Party since 1948.

The ANC has never allowed itself to be intimidated by this regime, we have no intention of doing so now@ The process now underway is one that we initiated. The regime does not own CODESA. We must forge ahead to secure agreements on constitutional principles, on a democratically elected constitution-making body and on time-frames.

In the interests of all the people of our country and of struggling people across the world who are looking to the ANC to redefine the practice of democracy, we must break the deadlock. We know that the masses of our people is on most reliable deadlock breaking mechanism.

We have said that negotiations are a site of struggle. Consequently, the negotiations underway at CODESA must be supported by other means of struggle. A draft alliance programme of action will be discussed in this conference.

A special commission will seek to link the negotiations process with the policies of this conference. This conference will consider activities to break the intransigence of the regime. The draft proposal has earmarked July as the deadline.

The policies which we will adopt will only assume life if we secure democracy soonest. We may not fail the many patriots who have sacrificed so much to bring our country to this point. Nor may we ever fail our people. We bear their hopes and aspirations.

We are the future!
Amandla! Ngawethu!

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 13/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata

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