Item 1365 - Address Delivered by the President of the ANC Comrade Nelson Mandela to the Special Congress of COSATU

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ZA COM MR-S-1365


Address Delivered by the President of the ANC Comrade Nelson Mandela to the Special Congress of COSATU


  • 1993-09-10 (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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Special Congress of Cosatu

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  • English

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Comrade Chairperson,
Comrade President of Cosatu,
Honourable delegates and observors attending the Special Congress of Cosatu,

This Congress is being held at a very special moment in the history of our country.

The negotiating process has broken through a psychological barrier. Despite the spoilers and the Doubting Thomases, the process has shown that it has the capacity to arrive at clear decisions.

During the past two weeks four important agreements have been adopted. These agreements, taken together with the April 30 decision which set the 27 April 1994 as the date for the first ever one-person ┬Čone-vote national elections, point in a single direction: South Africa's appointment with destiny is firmly on course.

The elections will take place on the 27th April! The installation of the Transitional Executive Council is the beginning of the end of apartheid rule. The elections will mark the end of that rule and the beginning of non-racial and non-sexist democratic rule. The Time is now! Sekunjalo! Ke Nako!

The forces of darkness, of lawless Apartheid rule and mindless violence, are being forced into retreat. They dare not show their faces in public. On Thursday, 2nd September, at noon, a silence descended on our land which spoke louder that any words. Black and white, children, women and men, from every walk of life, linked hands to produce a silent symphony for Peace.

Inexorably the nuts and bolts of the process of transition are falling into place. A national consensus embodying a vision of Peace and Democracy is taking hold of all our people, black and white.

I sketch these larger contours of life because it is easy to overlook their emergence as we live through the agonizing birth pangs of a future society.

I do so too because those who cling to the past, who seek to stem the tide of history by raising the spectre of ethnic strife, of violence and anarchy, must be made to know that they serve a lost cause. The time has come for them to cease living in the past, to reconcile themselves with a future of Peace and Democracy.

We call on the spoilers to return to negotiations. Let us resolve our differences around the table. The country expects this of us. And so too, does the whole world. Those who talk of civil war do not care for the lives of our people and for the economy.

We stand at the gateway of democracy; an era of opportunity and challenge.

Gathered in this hall today are not just 1,600 delegates representing 1,2 million organised workers of South Africa. You represent millions more. You are the voice of the deprived and the destitute. Apartheid took hold of your colour, class and gender and forged them into chains to keep you permanently in the margins of society.

I have read with great care your report on the Current Situation and the Role of Cosatu.

I am struck by the confidence and sense of responsibility with which Cosatu, together with the other Alliance partners, is rapidly adjusting itself to shoulder the immense responsibilities in preparing for democracy and governance. There is a clear realization that we have to broaden the political defeat of apartheid into a process of empowerment and the reconstruction of the socio- economic life of the people.

The content and form of the change in our country which we are undergoing are critical issues which must be addressed in a way that empowers the people and ensures that they increasingly become part of the process of change.

It is this approach which has guided us in insisting that the final constitution must be the product of a democratic process where elected delegates of the people draft and adopt it. We want a unifying constitution which the people see as their own. It is for this reason that we have successfully maintained that a constituent assembly, now referred to as the Constitutional Assembly in the Multi-Party Negotiating Process, be elected at the April 27 elections.

The Government of National Unity which comes into being as a result of the April elections would be faced with an enormous challenge. A challenge firstly to dismantle apartheid in all its forms. This in itself is going to be a formidable task. At the same time dismantling apartheid cannot take place except in the context of a process of reconstructing society as a whole. The challenge therefore, is to draw all the people into shaping a Reconstruction and Development Programme. Above all, this programme can only be realised in practice, if it's implementation draws in all organs of society.

The different needs, the different aspirations of all the strands that make up the fabric of our society, have to be woven together in the common vision of a nation united for Peace and Democracy.

The April 27th election must therefore open the road for a continuous transformation of society. This cannot happen unless it is underpinned by a Reconstruction and Development Programme which unleashes a dynamic process of change in the condition of life of all our people. The ANC is unequivocally and totally committed to such a programme and stands full-square behind COSATU and our people. Such a Reconstruction and Development Programme flows naturally out of the historic Freedom Charter which encapsulated the aspirations of our people.

For this to take place in the context of empowerment, the highest priority must be given to the rights of workers. The ANC is fully committed to ensuring that these rights find their place in a Bill of Rights as well other legislation. This is a necessary condition to ensure that industry is invested with a foundation for continuous growth. Without the continuous growth of the economy, it will not be possible to improve the living standards of every person in our country, especially the black majority, who have been compelled to survive in conditions of homelessness, hunger and unemployment.

It is therefore imperative that the role of the Reconstruction and Development Programme is fully understood. Without such a programme, the democratic transformation ushered in by the April 27th election, will only bring the formal aspects of democracy.

In this context, we welcome the ideas which are being generated within the Alliance about a Reconstruction Accord. Debate and discussion are the lifeblood of democracy. We fully support the open debate taking place within the different constituents of the Alliance.

The tendency towards negotiations has acquired an overwhelming momentum. As your report correctly notes, there are possibly more than thirty forums already in existence at the national, regional and local level. Each of these have come into being under specific conditions and in many cases around specific problems. They share the common feature of their potential for empowerment and create space for the emergence and strengthening of organs of civil society. Most of them are centred around key problems and bring into play the direct experience of the people. The existence of these forums presents new challenges. It is not easy to pre-determine how these challenges should best be met.

But we do have certain guidelines which should inform our thinking. Firstly, our vision of democracy as a dynamic and continuously empowering process, places great reliance on the development and independence of organs of civil society. These have a special capacity to breathe life into our vision of participatory democracy. Their involvement in the numerous forums that have emerged offers the possibility that some of these forums could become useful mechanisms for involving civil society in the process of decision-making and the implementation of those decisions. As such, they necessarily raise questions about the survival of some of these forums into the future, and how they could be brought into a healthy and constructive relationship in the process of State policy development and the implementation of those policies.

Few institutions in our country are equipped to deal with these challenges. In this regard the Tri-partite Alliance has a unique experience.

The first principle upon which this Alliance is based is the independence of each of the partners in the Alliance. This framework of independence is the context within which a healthy and constructive interaction takes place and enables us to arrive at common goals and a unity of purpose.

It is a unique experience in the South African scene. It is an experience which equips us to meet the challenge of helping to build dynamic structures of civil society and to find correct answers as to the future of some of these forums. We must employ this experience with creativity, flexibility and an open-ended agenda.

It is an experience, too, which we must bring to bear when we look into the future role of the Alliance.

A democracy with continuous empowerment of the people; an economy based on sustained growth and systematic improvement in the well-being of the people; a society at peace with itself - these are the over-arching goals which should give us a common purpose so that we can unite the entire country.

Despite the powerful message which came from the National Peace Day on the 2nd September, violence shows no signs of abating. Indeed many are beginning to question whether violence has not already become so endemic as to become a permanent feature of our society. This is a legitimate concern, While we are clear about the causes of violence, and about the way in which it is manipulated to arrest and destabilize change, we cannot avoid the special responsibility that flows from preparing for governance.

From its very beginnings, our struggle has been about the indivisibility of Peace and Democracy. We have always been guided by the vision of a South Africa where all our people live in peace, harmony and friendship. We cannot allow those evil forces who are determined to destroy the fabric of our society to succeed. Our commitment to the pursuit of peace is without qualification.

It is therefore incumbent upon us at this stage to ask searching questions about ourselves, and to ensure that at this moment of victory in the struggle for democracy, none of us conducts ourselves in such a way as to reduce it to a hollow victory. The message must go through all our ranks: do not allow ourselves to fall into the trap set by the forces who want to make violence a permanent feature of our society. And, if there are any amongst us who succumb, who are so misguided as to pursue tactics and strategies which deepen divisions, which set our people at war with each other on the basis of race and ethnicity, let us ensure that there is no place for such individuals in our ranks.

Above all, the time has arrived for us to redouble our collective efforts towards bringing about peace. Let us take into account the various instruments we have created to curb violence, develop our strategies, and fashion additional instruments in such a way that they will ensure the entrenchment of peace at the grassroots level.

The process of transition is entering a most difficult period. The defence of the gains we have made and the advance to Democracy and Peace, will come from none but ourselves. The gains made belong to the entire democratic movement. Together, we must face the challenge, and make the future the property of the people. More particularly we count on the unqualified support of COSATU to ensure that the ANC-led election front wins the election decisively. In this regard the call upon COSATU to make available people who will serve in the Constitutional Assembly, the Interim Parliament as well as government structures and institutions so that, together, we can ensure that democracy is entrenched.

Comrade President, fellow delegates, the African National Congress will follow your deliberations with keen interest and in the secure knowledge that you will marshal' all your resources to make this Congress a major initiative which will guide us to victory on the 27th April, which will enable us to dismantle apartheid and reconstruct society, which will enable the Constitutional Assembly to give South Africa a living constitution and which, above all, will advance the cause of peace.


Forward to Peace and Democracy!
The time is now! Sekunjalo! Ke Nako!

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 29/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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