Item 1159 - CDC Speech on the Need for Unity

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ZA COM MR-S-1159


CDC Speech on the Need for Unity


  • 1993-01-26 (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 Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare

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CDC Speech on the need for unity

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  • English

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Our country is now poised on the final phase of a long struggle whose achievements derive from the efforts of a multifarious group of forces. Our people's resistance against apartheid draws its strength from a still deeply held conviction in the ideals of democracy, non racialism , unity and non sexism. Cultural workers, in exile and at home have played a significant role in the events that preceded the unbanning of our political organisation, forging a Culture of Liberation which became the centre stage of manifestation in a land where all other avenues of expression were legally forbidden. In the ensuing period , when violence has at times eclipsed the process of negotiations we have at times seemed to be standing at the door, the knob in our hand, refusing to turn and let in freedom the unknown. We can delay no longer, we must devise now, with speed and deliberation a culture of reconstruction. We urgently have to take practical steps to implement the programmes that we devised at various conferences, Amsterdam, Gaborone, London, which were formulated to enhance the quality of life for all our people and to relegate the violence of apartheid to its proper position of ignominy and obsolescence.

In the midst of the violence that wracks our country, the degrading social conditions that the majority of our people experience and surrounded by duplicity , plots and conspiracies of our enemies who vainly seek to snatch victory from our hand, we have yet to say with spirit and verve that while the war is not over we have hand in hand won the major battles. Where we are meeting is perhaps symbolic of the path we have travelled. What we need to work for is that in our future meetings this citadel of exclusive white authority shall have been transformed into a democratic South African institution owned by the civil society to which it belongs.

It is pertinent and crucial that we must remember our recent history and all the unspeakable crimes that were committed in the name of apartheid. We must remain undeterred. In 1985, Oliver Tambo said:

"The overwhelming majority of our cultural workers have increasingly begun to play a more active role in he struggle for freedom. In the process of this struggle, our people have evolved a democratic culture of liberation, a distinctly South African culture which expresses our deepest aspirations and hopes."

Oliver Tambo presaged the unbanning of our movement, he strategized for this moment and we are responsible for his vision to be transformed into reality.

Perhaps as a contrast, we should enjoy a light moment from the quotation around the same time by the then Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Stoffel Botha.

"Recitals by national artists at which freedom songs are sung .. Are becoming prevalent … After certain theatrical performances, the audience is so emotionally charged that they will not calm down before everything in the vicinity, from buildings to cars, even other people have been attacked.

"What I am talking about is plays, focussing on themes of alleged oppression, policy brutality, alleged political and social injustices and the like …

"Can such plays have any other ends than creating a spirit of discontent, unrest, civil disobedience, insurrection and in the final instance, revolution."

Even more importantly, we must remember the incredible courage of our people and in particular, you, our cultural workers, who were their voice who wrestled the monster of apartheid to defeat, with song, poetry, theatre and the like.

The operative words in that period were "unity in action". It remains the imperative for this final push. However, there is a need to examine and reassess our position with candour and clarity.

In the context of extensive and ove repression, with the liberation movement declared illegal and in exile, and the mass democratic movement operating under stringent constraints, it was our Department of Arts and Culture which had the challenge to be the voice of culture in those difficult times. Policy programmes of action, declarations, may have emanated from exile.

But those were the joint product of the clandestine work, underground cells, secret meetings of protagonists inside and outside, linked by the common objective to eradicate apartheid.

Even then, the liberation movement always sought to represent the expressed needs of the oppressed, cultural workers at home. There was an attempt, at all times, to consult and express the most accurate demands of the oppressed majority.

The cultural projects carried out in exile were experiments and a training ground for the democratisation of South African culture. The embryonic beginnings of a demo. S.

The material conditions of struggle, e.g. press censorship, banning and other apartheid repressive laws, often dictated that the pronouncements should emanate from abroad. The success of our policies was yet entirely dependent on close working relations with those at home.

Some significant changes have occurred in the political arena since then, which demand that we take cognisance and adapt our roles accordingly. For example, we must take into account that the prerequisite for a democratic state and a democratic culture is concrete action. The major challenge is the creation of a vibrant civil society. Consequently what we should set as a priority, is the strengthening of the organisations of the different cultural disciplines.

The relevant question is "what is a strong organisation at this moment in history?"

I would like to suggest that a strong cultural organisation is one based on sound theoretical standards which manifest themselves in concrete programmes that directly affect the lives of more than their active membership. For example, the average African child has never seen a film in his life, nor does he/she have a TV in their home. Therefore, in addition to studying about film, debating about film and showing film to selected audiences, should not a film organisation have as its primary aim to show films to a wider audience. Should we not be advising venues in the urban ghettos, informal settlements and forgotten rural areas. And if practical projects to improve the quality of life for our depressed? Compatriots, shouldn't all the cultural organisations also be seeking to do the same?

There are some clear priorities in development, for a democratic South Africa. We all agree that housing, education and health are imperatives.

Shouldn't we, as cultural workers, have an integrated approach of linking our priorities to those, so that we can build an integrated civil society.

It is in this context that any appeal for unity can be made. On the one hand, the responsibility of the liberation movement is to interpreted accurately the mood of the cultural organisations, respect it, and take it into account when formulating policy.

On the other hand, the cultural organisations should use the power of their constituency to enrich the policies of liberation movement. We sadly note the absence of the National Arts Initiative who have chosen to sit here as observers.

There is no contest. We are on the same side. Illiteracy, lack of infrastructure and the institutions of apartheid which we have yet to replace with a new order, and the fragility and uninevitability of the moment require that we create a united front against our common enemy.

It is of great consequence that we make a distinction between the demands of the past and the expectations of the present. We need the humility to understand the adjustments demanded by this moment in history. In other words, the transition to democracy can only be initiated by ourselves and we must ask: Are we ready for transformation? Are we evolving a democratic culture which expresses the genuine social and political aspirations of our present political position?

Have we moved from sheer resistance and theory to nation building?

We recognise that this is a difficult moment, because the
elements of the past and the present are so mixed up and the situation is not immediately coherent.

But it is the vision of the arts that can demystify this moment. Not the arts in the ivory tower but the arts in and among the heroic people who have been our inspiration.

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 18/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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