Item 1372 - Johaanesburg Press Club's " Newsmaker of the Year" 1994 Award Ceremony

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ZA COM MR-S-1372


Johaanesburg Press Club's " Newsmaker of the Year" 1994 Award Ceremony


  • 1994-09-29 (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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Johannesburg Press Club's "Newsmaker of the Year" Ceremony

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  • English

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May I first express my profound and heartfelt appreciation that the Johannesburg Press Club has for a second time elected me as one of two Newsmakers of the Year.

That the same two persons from such widely divergent political traditions have shared this honour twice, over a period of four years, speaks to us of how long the road has been from a state of conflict to where we now stand. It also demonstrates the magnitude of our collective achievement as a nation.

The Award is therefore a tribute not so much to an individual but to all those who played a critical role in bringing about justice and democracy. It is an accolade to the people of South Africa and to the Government of National Unity. It acknowledges the pain and suffering of apartheid and the struggle to eradicate it, at the same time as it recognises the contribution of those who, like my Deputy President, Mr. FW de Klerk, realised the need for national dialogue to end this system.

Without diminishing the importance of looking forward, a retrospect on the period between the two awards has value as a measure of the distance we have travelled.

Then, we were only half way through. Thirdly, introducing changes in the administration of justice in such a way that it can reflect the new mores and inspire confidence within the population as a whole.

Fourthly, ensuring that, in the drafting of the new constitution, we consolidate and deepen the culture of human rights that is starting to take root in our country.

Above all, we do appreciate the fact that democracy would be hollow if it did not entail fundamental socio-economic changes. None of us can find acceptable the way in which the old order lives on in so many important areas - in the form of unemployment, disparities in income, lack of housing, inadequate health care, poor education and other scourges.

These are the challenges that the Government of National Unity has set out to tackle head on and with determination. Free health care for pregnant women and children under six, the urban and rural renewal campaign, and the primary school feeding scheme are examples of the more immediate and visible measures that we have undertaken. These projects are crucial for the launch of the RDP as a whole: more particularly, as a means to change the focus of the whole government towards the task of fundamental transformation of society.

Precisely because this effort affects society as a whole, a partnership among all social structures, including government, business and labour is crucial for the success of the RDP. This is a partnership that should see to the restructuring of our industries to make them more competitive in international markets, improved productivity in the work-place and imparting of skills to employees. It is a partnership that should see to the eradication of racism in our schools and places of work and entertainment, including the introduction of corrective measures to deal with past injustices.

The positive indicators on the economic front do show that we are emerging from the woods. But in each area, be it foreign investments, inflation or foreign currency reserves, the stark message is that it will not be easy to accomplish our objectives. On its part, the government is committed to creating the environment in which both small and big business can thrive; an atmosphere in which ordinary people can start to enjoy the benefits of social equity. We are committed to fiscal discipline and prudent management of national resources.

It is to be expected that, in the course of our efforts, there will be extremes to contend with. I refer here, on the one hand, to the tendency to abuse political rights by engaging in such activities as hostage-taking and blockades of roads. This has to be dealt with firmly, so as to ensure that an exercise of rights does not degenerate into lawlessness. On the other hand, we need to challenge the notion that nation-building and reconciliation should mean pandering to the temptation to leave the socio-political status quo intact.

All of us have to act responsibly, conscious of the fact that a better life for one requires a joint national effort for the good of society as a whole.

The logic of change is such that each and every institution in society will be called upon to examine the part it can play. This, naturally, includes the media, which today have the opportunity to enjoy rights that democratic societies have for years taken for granted.

On the part of government, this requires a commitment to media freedom not just in word, but in actual practice. Transparency in the manner in which government and parliament work, as well as the introduction of legislation on "freedom of information" are among the measures that we consider fundamental. Further, we will need to create conditions for more commercial and community voices to emerge, particularly among the disadvantaged. On their part, media establishments need to address those factors, inherited from the old order, which constrain their capacity to reflect the diversity of views in society as a whole.

It is this commitment to media freedom and a culture of decency, especially among public officials, which has occasioned the cabinet decision. Though the pre-negotiations phase of our transition, just emerging from a protracted deadlock over the implementation of the Pretoria Minute. It was not the last of the problems which rendered the transition difficult, and at times stormy.

However, the joint award then was a sign of your confidence in the emerging consensus cutting across racial and political affiliations. In a sense, today's Award serves to validate that optimistic prognosis.

The Interim Constitution and the Reconstruction and Development Programme embody our national consensus in clear and concrete terms. They underpin the legitimacy of the Government of National Unity.

We can therefore rightfully feel pride and joy, as a nation, in what has been achieved. However, we do so without denying the differences of emphasis and approach that exist amongst us. What is crucial is that these differences play themselves out within the context of a truly democratic system.

As we start to grapple with the challenge of redressing the deprivation sufferred yesterday regarding the ugly fracas at the SABC studios in Durban last Sunday. While we are committed to national reconciliation, this can never be allowed to take precedence over the basic principles without which democracy would be a hollow shell. It is crucial that especially at this early stage, we root out any tendencies that can sow the seed of rapacious license on our body politic.

I should once more thank you for this prestigious Award accorded to me and my colleague, the Deputy President. I am certain he will agree with me that, as the nation succeeds in its endeavours, there will be many more newsmakers out there, who, as a result of their ordinary but practical accomplishments to better their own lives and those of other South Africans will make them better candidates for this Award. Such should be the Newsmaker of the Coming Years.

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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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