Item 1165 - Opening Remarks to the Conference of IDASA and the ASPEN institute , entitled ' South Africa's International Economic Relations in the 1990's'by Nelson Mandela President of the African National Congress

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ZA COM MR-S-1165


Opening Remarks to the Conference of IDASA and the ASPEN institute , entitled ' South Africa's International Economic Relations in the 1990's'by Nelson Mandela President of the African National Congress


  • 1993-04-27 (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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Conference of IDASA and the Aspecn Institute

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  • English

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Distinguished international participants,

Allow me at the outset to express the gratitude of all South Africans to IDASA and the Aspen Institute for having taken the initiative to convene this important conference. This conference is clearly happening at an extremely difficult period in the history of our country, a period which is marked by grief and anger. Yet, it is at times such as these that the quality of leadership is tested. The challenge to the country’s collective leadership right now is to see through the haze and anger of today to what it will entail to build a better tomorrow for all South Africans. Yet, it would be foolhardy to ignore the anger of the present because it is so deeply rooted in the past history of denial.

One of the most pitiful sights which appeared on our television screens during the last period must surely have been that of youths battering brick walls with metal bars, with little apparent intention other than to destroy. The challenge is to all of the leadership is thus, what kind of future do we offer those young people.

In this context, the political transformation assumes an even greater urgency. Part of the frustration obviously results from the protracted negotiations which have, to date, delivered no tangible change in the lives of the majority. It is this, coupled with the perception that the security forces are not neutral, which necessitates the speedy announcement of an election date and the immediate installation of the transitional Executive Council. Sadly, all of this will fail to secure peace and stability unless the political transformation is rooted in and coupled with substantive economic restructuring and socio-economic reconstruction.

This conference will primarily examine the external environment which affects our domestic economy. The importance of our international economic relations cannot be sufficiently stressed. In the past, it has been ignored and the incumbent powers have opted instead to ignore the lessons emerging from a changing world. The economic management of South Africa remains premised on waiting for windfalls to accrue from increases in the gold price and of other commodity prices. These windfalls have been used in pursuit of the dreams of autarchy, without any consideration of the costs. This tendency is nowhere more aptly demonstrated than in the decision to proceed with the construction of mossgas which will be viable when the oil price reaches R35 per barrel. Throughout this century the price has been quite stable at around R20 per barrel. Even the most perfunctory scan of the external environment should have informed the state that such a project could never be viable. But of course, the attitude has been that the taxpayers would make up the difference.

There is little to suggest that the international environment received the necessary attention even of the drafters of the government’s normative economic model which was recently released. There is an obvious gap in the approach which must be filled.

Understanding the external environment, however, will not on its own provide all of the answers. Its merits are dependent on the extent to which such understanding can inform an approach to restructuring the domestic economy. If a restructured economy still fails to deliver substantial improvements to the quality of life of the majority, South Africa will never know stability.

There are examples of countries which are very poor, like Tanzania, yet they are marked by political stability. In Tanzania though, there is neither opulence nor poverty. In contrast, South Africa is one of the world’s most unequal societies- for as long as homeless, unemployed people perceive the economy to be owned and controlled by a little white enclave which has enriched itself at the expense of the majority, we should not expect either political stability nor industrial peace.

This problem will not disappear by shouting at it or by ignoring it, conscious and determined strategies will be necessary to fundamentally deal with both the perception and the reality of vast inequalities. Obviously, South Africa will not attract foreign investment until we have both political stability and a climate free of violence. This does present us with a profound challenge to prioritise correctly. At the same time, it is a reminder that we must take account of the domestic circumstances in considering future links.

We should also remember that to consider international trade without regard for ensuring that quality goods and services are available to South Africans at affordable prices, is fallacious.

The South Africa governed by a laager mentality has to be the South Africa of the past. We need to look ahead and see South Africa as a player in the global economy. In doing this, we need to constantly remind ourselves that we are indeed a developing country. This reality is obscured by some of the bland statistics in circulation, for example, to say that the per capita GDP in SA is $3 050, and that SA is therefore an upper-middle income country, is to ignore that the disparities in income distribution leave blacks with only $670 per capita. As an upper middle income country, we cannot have access to soft loans or to the most favourable trade agreements. We should therefore set this as one of the important elements of fashioning an approach to South Africa in the world. Likewise too, due focus should be given to our relationship with Africa, particularly with Southern Africa, to ensure that we can enhance the sustainability of growth south of the Limpopo.

Essentially then, we are looking at a series of balances. We have to balance the external and the internal environments. We have to balance growth and development, with a conscious tilt of development towards the disadvantaged majority, whilst conscious of the need to maintain the macro-economic balances.

Ours is a difficult task. We need to simultaneously communicate the realities of life in our country and we need to generate confidence in our capacity to pull the economy from the quagmire. We will only achieve this if we are bold enough, big enough and sufficiently informed of all factors which will impact on our ability to grow the economy.

There is a compelling urgency to reach agreement on an economic vision. It is in this regard that this particular conference is so important. We need to set ourselves the mission of proactively selling both the vision and assurances of our collective capacity to turn this vision into reality. With the will to stability and certainty, and the determination to democratise our country, we should not even think of failing.

I wish you well in your deliberations and I thank you for having listened to me.

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 19/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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