Item 1182 - Statement of the President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela to the AWEPA/ AEI Conference

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ZA COM MR-S-1182


Statement of the President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela to the AWEPA/ AEI Conference


  • 1993-10-07 (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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  • English

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It gives me a great deal of pleasure to address a conference which clearly marks the transition of Southern Africa from a region subjected to cynical destabilisation by the apartheid regime, to a region moving rapidly towards democracy and, we believe, rapid social and economic development.

Organisations like AWEPA stood by the disempowered in the region, mobilising democratic forces against apartheid at a time when many Western governments preferred to look the other way. Without the support of our friends in the European parliament, in the parliaments of Europe, in the churches, trade unions, and other organisations which worked tirelessly to embarrass, weaken, and ultimately isolate the cruel Nationalist regime in South Africa, the struggle for freedom would have been drawn out much longer.

The struggle for freedom has reached a critical turning point, but we are not yet at the final bend. The achievement of political freedom, of democracy in our country, is only the first step towards the final and absolute eradication of apartheid.

Apartheid wreaked havoc on our society, which was already damaged by a vicious form of colonialism. Colonial South Africa was marked by a brutal forms of economic exploitation and deeply wounded by war upon war of conquest and dispossession. It was in the crucible of such brutality on the mines and the farms, that the system of racial discrimination was created and extended to every facet of society. Everything from the right to vote, the right to travel inside South Africa, the right to learn, to the right to buy land or own a business, and even the right to such basics as access to an ambulance was racially determined.

It would be foolish to underestimate the deep effects of years of oppression on our society. The commitment made on several occasions by the European Community in support of the complete eradication of apartheid is no small commitment. That is why the theme of this workshop: 'Development and Democratisation', is so appropriate.

Development and democracy are twins that will either succeed together, or fail in our region . Without democracy we shall not have development. For those in control and their supporters, totalitarian regimes like apartheid create islands of privilege. But the sea of discontent that surrounds them will inevitably surge over them. In other words, without democracy, effective development will not take place, and soon enough the society concerned will stagnate and plunge into deep crisis.

In Southern Africa we are moving rapidly towards democracy, but our democracy will be fragile unless we can deliver tangible social and economic benefits, and deliver them quickly.

There is no doubt that the end of apartheid will yield its own dividends. The energies of people oppressed and destabilised for many years will be released. I have no doubt that there is an enormous well of talent in our country and in our region that, when tapped, will bring forth a new dynamism. In the successful small farmers of Zimbabwe, and the fiercely competitive taxi owners in South Africa (for example), we find a desire for a better life underpinned by a zeal for self-improvement. In rural cooperatives and urban stokvels we find abundant evidence of the power of collective action even in our most deprived communities. But desire, zeal, and commitment will not be enough to overcome the fearsome legacy of three hundred years of colonialism, and forty five years of systematic discrimination and oppression.

This is why we are asking our partners against apartheid in organisations like AWEPA to become our partners in the struggle for social and economic development in Southern Africa. Europe can play a key role in the development and democratisation process in Southern Africa. Our European friends can help us ensure that a democratic election is accomplished in South Africa. Two immediate concerns are the process of voter education and mobilisation in South Africa.

Most South Africans, something in the order of 85 per cent of the electorate, have never voted in a formal election, and none have ever participated in a democratic election. We need to help our citizens understand the electoral process, and to understand the system of representative democracy, at a regional and national level. In this respect, voter education programmes can help pave the way towards democracy.

But voters need to believe that they will be allowed to exercise their freedom of choice in an environment free of coercion, intimidation and harassment. For this reason we need an extensive election monitoring system, supported by neutral outsiders who can assure all parties that free and fair elections will take place.

In both voter education and election monitoring, the European Community and its individual members can make an invaluable contribution.
But the election is just the first step towards democracy. The next step entails social and economic development. As soon as the election is over, if not sooner, mechanisms must be in place to enable our poorest communities to make social and economic progress. I am not only talking about providing fresh water and electricity to poor communities; I am also talking about activities which help build new institutions of social cohesion and development at the grassroots of our society.

Schemes like the European Community's Special Programme Against Apartheid have begun to help us rebuild communities torn apart by apartheid. We have only begun this task. Economic and institutional development at the grassroots level will be the key to nurturing democracy in our society. We hope that our friends in AWEPA and similar organisations can help us ensure that successful forms of cooperation between the European Community and South Africa, such as the Special Programme, are continued and strengthened during the phase of building democracy.

But assistance, whether economic or technical, will not be enough. We must ensure that Southern Africa develops the capacity to look after itself in all respects in the long run. The key to long-term development and democratisation is self-sustaining economic growth. One of the critical components of our region's long-term economic growth will be our deeper involvement in international markets for trade and investment.

At present South Africa is one of a relatively small number of countries which have extensive trading relations with Europe but no special trading arrangements. Currently, forty percent of our imports come from Europe and, excluding gold, thirty percent of our exports go to Europe. If South Africa is to grow and develop, the volume of trade between South Africa and Europe must rise and will rise. We would benefit from exporting more and more to Europe, and Europe would benefit too, not only through access to an efficient, reliable supplier, but because South Africa imports more capital goods and intermediate products from the EC than from any other region, the EC will undoubtedly get a major dividend out of our development.

We hope that the European Community will see its way clear to removing obstacles that might exist in the way of trade between our two regions. We also hope that the EC will facilitate the economic integration of our region by admitting products whose components originate from all southern African countries as per the rules of origin of the Lome Convention.

In whatever way our new trading relations with Europe are institutionalised, whether it is directly through the Lome Convention or through an institution more loosely tied to Lome, we hope that it will facilitate greater trade between our two regions.

The journey to democracy has now begun. The path is long, but we can see it very clearly now. Our final objective of a just and equitable society is visible, and we are certain that it is attainable.

One of the most important ingredients for success will undoubtedly be the deepening of cooperation and partnership between Southern Africa and the European Community. We are certain that those of us assembled here today can and will make a critical contribution to progress in this regard.

Finally, let me wish you success in your deliberations.

Thank you.

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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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