Item 1096 - Speech Delivered at MPD Dinner, 29 February 1992, Wits University

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ZA COM MR-S-1096


Speech Delivered at MPD Dinner, 29 February 1992, Wits University


  • 1992-02-29 (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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MPD Dinner

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  • English

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Speech delivered at MPD dinner
29 February 1992 - Wits University

Comrades and friends

I am honoured to be here with you tonight.

The referendum

It is not necessary, at this stage of our history, for me to harp on the extent to which the vast majority of our people have been excluded from participation in the organised political life of our country. There was no pretence, under apartheid, of basing government on the consent of the people, leave alone on their will.

The reason is very clear. The idea of the 'people' was limited to less than 15% of our population. Even when the concept of the tricameral parliament - surely one of the most obscene journeys on which apartheid embarked - was mooted, the government of the day could not trust the two sections of our people on whom the doubtful privilege of voting for a racially organised house was conferred, to express their agreement. As a result, only the government knew that the Indians and the Coloureds would have rejected with contempt what was being offered. As for the citizens of the Bantustans there was no vote for them, except as so-called citizens of Bantustans.

Which brings me to the way the first Bantustan was created in 1976. There was no referendum of the people of South Africa when the basic constitutional decision to partition South Africa was taken. Neither was there any attempt to identify the will of the Bantustan populations before their South African citizenship was taken away.

The referendum, therefore, has historically been used only as a tool for consulting the white minority. It has never been used in the past as a democratic device for consultation among equals. It is not being so used now.

Mr. De Klerk's decision to consult white voters only on 17 March follows the old style of apartheid 'consultation'. Once again, the vast majority of our people are excluded.

We have been told that it is necessary to consult our white brothers and sisters because a promise to do this was made four years ago to the white electorate. It is therefore said to be necessary to test the waters before white South Africa embarks on the road to democratic transformation.

But such an approach ignores the more important and basic promise: the undertaking to all our people that, with all our differences of culture, language and religion, we are part of the larger South African nation, with the vision of a common citizenship.

What the referendum does is to practise, once again, the politics and morality of exclusion.

The referendum once again postpones the coming to terms with democracy in our country. Democracy demands that the electorate is seen as an indivisible whole, without the racial fragmentation laid down in the infamous Population Registration Act.

The debate about the future of our country can no longer be resolved by a small part of our population. March 17 may provide a mandate for Mr De Klerk from a minority of the population; such a mandate may be necessary for him as we enter the decisive stage in the negotiations. He may need the largest possible support for this, but we must remember that this referendum is tainted by racism. Mr De Klerk's mandate remains a racist mandate - he has no mandate from the majority of the people of South Africa.

Yet it is clear that we must not allow any organisation or any process to halt or to retard the progress we are making in CODESA where an attempt is being made to bring about a South Africa we can all be proud of. Thus, whilst we reject the notion of an ethnic referendum we would hope that white South Africans will use this last opportunity to choose above the majority of the people …. To choose wisely and justly.

Protection of minorities

There is much debate about how the minorities in our country -will be protected let me say from the outset that the ANC offers the challenge of non-racialism which has been abiding strength of our struggle and our movement.
It would have been tempting and easy to have responded to white racism with exclusive emphasis on the needs and rights of blacks.

Instead, throughout the history of the African National Congress, we have emphasised the unbreakable golden thread of non-racialism which has motivated our struggle. In practical constitutional terms, we were the first liberation movement anywhere in the world which, as early as 1943, laid stress on the need for a bill of rights as providing the minimum protection for all South Africans, including those adhering to the perverted, bigoted and authoritarian ideology of state sovereignty.

We have built on the foundations of 1943, of the Freedom Charter of 1955 and the Constitutional Guidelines of 1988. Our vision of a free and democratic South Africa does not threaten anyone. Instead, it offers a vision of governance firmly rooted in a written constitution beyond the reach of a chance majority in Parliament of a Bill of Rights which forms an integral part of- the constitution, and checks and balances which will never give as much power to an executive as the State President has today.

But this, it appears, is not enough. There is a sentiment abroad among the white minority that they must be given concrete protection, as a group, under the constitution. Now, I must say that this is a paradox. Whenever, as in other parts of the world, minorities have sought protection, such protection has been sought against the power of a dominant majority. In our country, it is the minority which exercises dominance in the areas of security, the economy, the institutions of the state and in most facets of life.

However, we in the African National Congress are conscious of the need for nation-building. We cannot embark on the task of reconstruction if a strong minority remains unsettled, sullen, troubled and excluded. It is a political duty, virtually a burden of history, to ensure that all our people accept, if not embrace enthusiastically, the new constitutional order which we are creating. Our approach is an inclusive one which attempts to ensure that far from threatening all that people hold dear - their culture, religion and language - the law and practice will not only protect these values but enhance them. We also recognise that the mosaic of parties and interests should be adequately represented in the legislatures of the centre, region and local-governments. Hence, we were the first major political formation to come out in support of proportional representation, a surer way of ensuring minority representation than the present apartheid first-past-the-post system, which has worked so well in maintaining white interests.

I wish to make mention here of the fact that there are many South African leaders who verbalise their ideals for a multi party democratic system, we support this ideal, we must however point out that we are perplexed by the fact that verse and action are often not in concert with the actual events on the ground. We are still facing a situation where we are not free to organise and to hold meetings of the ANC. The ideal for a multi party democracy must go hand in hand with political tolerance and the ability to interact freely with the masses.

Unlike other constitutional arrangements in our country which were imposed on the voteless majority, we are attempting to reconcile the different interests by negotiating the basic principles of the constitution through CODESA, leading to a legitimate constitution adopted by the constituent assembly. To protect minorities, we have unilaterally agreed that the constituent assembly will only have the power to decide on matters through a two thirds majority.

We are not, therefore, coming as victors after a war to lay down a set of prescriptions to be accepted by the vanquished. Instead, we are trying to forge a partnership governed by law, not by might and power. But we must always remember that the grievous wrongs, distortions and inequalities established and maintained by apartheid have to be addressed, redressed and removed in an orderly fashion. To impose artificial and rigid formulae of government, abstracted from foreign countries which have no relevance to our situation is to disempower the majority and to ensure that a future government will be hostage to an arrangement leading to disaster. We have had the tyranny of the minority in South Africa. No-one in the ANC wants to replace this with the tyranny of the majority. But majority rule, within the constraints of our constitutional vision, offers the hope of change.

We are attempting to ensure that further confidence building measures are identified which will ensure a smoother transition to democracy. There are those who believe that the only identifying feature of their existence is their ethnicity. They are surely mistaken as all of us carry with us different sets of loyalties - as teachers, lawyers, workers, believers or nonbelievers, golf players or members of different cultural bodies. It is your right to associate, freely, that we must protect.

However, there are other confidence - building measures which may help to allay the anxieties or the fears - however mistaken or fallacious they may be - which we are prepared to address. I therefore request my sisters and brothers - across any of the self-created divides which have been so assiduously cultivated - to join us in the African National Congress to look at these confidence-building measures.

By exorcising these fears, we shall remove that which sustains racial hatred in our country. We must reject those who will deny us hope by subverting the negotiation process. We have reached a stage in our history where there is a genuine prospect of peacefully removing apartheid and ushering in democracy. There should be no outsiders in this process. We should all be on the inside track, even those who reject the hand of friendship which the liberation movement has held out throughout its history.

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 12/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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