Item 1267 - Notes for Opening Address by President Nelson Mandela at the ANC Local Government Workshop

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ZA COM MR-S-1267


Notes for Opening Address by President Nelson Mandela at the ANC Local Government Workshop


  • 1995-02-18 (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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Local Government Workshop

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  • English

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I. Introduction:
1. Welcome all delegates including members of the NEC present. Congratulate for prompt organisation and good response - a reflection of the appreciation of the tasks that face the movement at this critical juncture.

2. On this workshop and on practical work that ensues from it, literally resides the future of democracy in South Africa. As in the past, the ANC is called upon to give leadership and ensure that the sacrifices of millions over the years finds fruition in a decisive victory of democratic forces. We cannot afford to fail.

II. Importance of Local Government:
3. Yesterday we opened the second session of our democratic parliament. We referred to the welcome process of deepening democracy as reflected in the work of parliament, the Constitutional Assembly, and formation of the Constitutional Court and Human Rights Commission. We also referred to the many challenges that we face in the areas of socio-economic development, dealing with crime and so on.

4. From experience over the past 9 months both in national and provincial governments, it has become patently clear that, without democratic local government, we cannot speak of any systematic implementation of the RDP. The best of intentions and programmes at national and provincial levels will remain essentially good wishes and little more if there is no active, RDP┬Čoriented and democratic local government.

5. Local government is not only important for RDP delivery but also for normalising the social fabric of our communities:

5.1. It is at this level where we have to systematically deal with the de-racialisation of South African society.

5.2. The sense of community solidarity and sewing back the tattered social fabric requires legitimate local government working together with civil society.

5.3. Problems of crime, police-community relations, day-to-day educational matters - all these and more can only be adequately handled at local level.

6. Therefore, in many ways, the local government elections are a continuation of 27 April. They are a crucial step in making every inch of South Africa democratic; crucial to addressing the many socio-economic questions affecting communities.

III. Immediate Strategic Questions:
7. Our central task is to ensure that the overwhelming majority of South Africans over 18 years of age should take part in these elections. We cannot allow a situation in which, by default, we have weak and misdirected local government.

8. Among the most urgent challenges is the situation in Natal. As we emphasised yesterday, we cannot and shall not allow anyone, no matter their status, to prevent our people from exercising their rights. This is no idle threat. Practical measures are already being worked out to deal with this situation.

9. We should also note that similar problems, though to a lesser extent, are manifesting themselves in other areas. We have to deal firmly with them; and like with Natal, do so in a manner that isolates those whose intention is to subvert democracy. This should be combined with patiently explaining to traditional leaders as we have done before, that democracy is in their immediate and long-term interest.

IV. The Most Urgent Challenge:
10. The problems raised above are, in a sense, external to the process; and we are finding solutions to them in government. But within the elections process itself, there is the urgent challenge to act speedily and with deliberate purpose to ensure that the overwhelming majority of South Africans - and particularly our constituency - register for these elections.

1 1. Last year, during the national elections campaign, we were concerned that, without voter education and motivation, people would vote wrongly or not go to vote at all. Even if we resolved these problems sometime down the line, as we did last year; the reality is that, even when motivated and educated, people will not be able to vote if they have not registered. This will be a tragedy of grave proportions in our history of struggle.

12. The one concern is that people will lynch us for not adequately bringing this to their attention! But, more fundamentally, this will affect the outcome in all areas. In fact, we can, by default, lose these elections in many areas. This applies even more so to the strategic urban centres that we have said we need to control. Take for instance Pietersburg or Port Elizabeth: while our performance in the rural environs of these towns was in the 90's (%), in these towns we scored around 60%. If then, the constituency on whom we rely fails to register and to vote in large enough numbers, then we are certainly going to be in a minority in these councils!

13. I hope the workshop will receive reports on progress, plans and difficulties regarding the registration process. Out of this should then be worked out a clear line of march, a practical programme to make this the single-most important task that the ANC undertakes in the next 70 days or so.

V. Some Lessons From the Past
14. In the previous election, we were at an early stage able to narrow down our message; a message that dealt with the future, with people's most central concerns, and with nation-building. We can no longer delay this, including proposals on how to adapt such a message to local conditions.

15. It is a matter of common knowledge that our April victory hinged, above everything else, on massive African support. How to broaden our base is a central question that we need to answer, and ensure that we fulfil our historic mission of giving leadership to the nation as a whole; and speed up the de-racialisation of South African society.

16. In narrow strategic terms, achieving this objective stands between us and winning such major centres as Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. In conjunction with this, we simply cannot avoid addressing the question - what went wrong in Natal and the Western Cape! - with brutal honesty. To scratch at the surface of this problem will bring us the same defeat that we suffered in these provinces.

17. We should as a matter of urgency, and not only a few weeks before election day, work out a programme of deploying senior cadres to help the mobilisation effort in all areas. We are in a better position, now that we have this large pool of organisers who are in the national and provincial legislatures. Plans must be properly defined and scrupulously adhered to in this regard.

18. Two other major issues need serious attention:

18.1. We have to work out a clear financial strategy for this election. Its core should be local fund-raising and it should be underpinned by strict expenditure and accounting rules. At all stages we should ensure that we do not live above our means.

18.2. We should ensure the same democratic and transparent process of selecting candidates, with the decisive input of local communities. At the same time we need clear strategies regarding the best candidates that we need to deploy in the major centres; taking into account especially our vulnerability in most of these areas.

VI. Some Campaign Challenges
19. We should take full advantage of the fact that we are in government to stamp out any acts of intimidation, fraud and inefficiency in the running of elections. We should also be able to demonstrate our capacity and actual work to put into practice the plans that we announced during the last elections. This we should do without undermining the central message that successful implementation of the RDP depends on successful performance of the custodians of this programme - the ANC - in the local government elections themselves.

20. But being in government also means that we will suffer the critical judgement of constant public scrutiny: around issues of slow delivery, perceived corruption and "fat cat" syndrome. We need to work out strategies to communicate the actual reality to the people in a dispassionate and convincing manner.

21. The issue of alliances is crucial to this campaign:

21.1. I have been informed that successful consultations are being held with SANCO to clarify this issue and move to actual practical work. The challenge is not so much agreement among leaders, because this in any case has never been a problem in the past. The task is to ensure that these agreements are taken down to local leaders and ordinary members. The tensions that have reared their head from time to time in a number of areas cannot be allowed to continue.

21.2. Clear reports on co-operation between the ANC and its tri-partite allies need to be given in order that we rectify any weaknesses and improve performance. It is critical too that we know the actual situation on the ground with regard to the Broad Patriotic Front allies - including any of the political parties that might still be in existence - so that we work out clear strategies in this regard.

VII. Conclusion:
22. I have raised these questions in order to help ensure that at the end of this week-end, we shall leave here ready to get down to work. I am confident that we have the capacity to achieve our objectives. But then capacity does not an election win! We need to release the energies of all our members and supporters to achieve a decisive victory.

23. The future of South Africa's democracy is in your hands. Let us not squander this historic opportunity. I am confident you will meet this challenge.

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 22/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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