Item 1373 - Address by President Mandela National Press Club

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ZA COM MR-S-1373

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Address by President Mandela National Press Club

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  • 1994-10-07 (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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National Press Club

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  • English

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TRANSCRIPT

Chairperson,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

May I first express my profound and heartfelt appreciation for the honour of being here today before this distinguished gathering of the doyen of American journalists and other eminent guests.

I would like also to express our collective thanks, as South Africans, for the support which our struggle for democracy received from the United States media as a leading component of the international media. In the darkest days of apartheid and political repression, when our organisations were banned and thousands of South Africans faced imprisonment, torture and even death, and when our local media was severely censored, the international media laid bare the terrible conditions in our country and kept the world alive to the issue of apartheid.

When our voice was silenced you lent your voices to our demand for freedom of expression and information, and gave support to South African writers, artists and journalists who were persecuted for daring to use their skills against tyranny, and in support of freedom. The South African media, journalists and publishers alike, are indebted to you for that sustenance.

Our media now enjoy rights that democratic societies like yours have taken for granted for many years. These rights are written into our Constitution. The Constitution also guarantees that all media financed by, or under the control of, the State, shall be regulated in a manner which ensures impartiality and the expression of a diversity of opinion. Our experience of repression and of persecution has only strengthened the commitment to the rights of freedom of information, freedom of expression and freedom of the press, not merely as constitutional rights, but as a daily reality.

Our country has come a very long way from the dark days of oppression and conflict. An enduring national consensus has been forged, founded on a deep and shared conviction that the only way forward is to unite our people on the basis of reconciliation and reconstruction. The Interim Constitution and Reconstruction and Development Programme reflect that consensus in clear and concrete terms. It is on these basic principles that the legitimacy of the Government of National Unity is founded.

Among our most urgent tasks in South Africa is consolidating democracy. However, unless we successfully start addressing the question of economic growth, development and the equitable distribution of wealth and income to end the inequities of apartheid, we would not in any convincing manner be able to speak of social stability and justice.

Yesterday before Congress, I thanked the United States for its generous assistance with reconstruction and development in South Africa. But I also made it clear that while such aid does make a valuable contribution to our development, it cannot solve our economic problems.

We are not looking for handouts. Rather, we seek to build a partnership with the United States Administration, business and other sectors to benefit both our nations.

Our economy has started showing signs of recovery and all indications are that this will be sustained. This is in great measure a result of the political achievements we have made, particularly, the setting up of legitimate structures which are a fundamental departure from the era of apartheid mismanagement. This, however, will not be easy.

But, precisely because our programmes are based on sound economic policies, including the expansion of our economic and fiscal base, they are bound to give a spur to economic growth. The government is creating, with a great measure of success, an environment in which small and big businesses can thrive. We are committed to fiscal discipline and prudent management of national resources.

Our efforts are underpinned by the commitment to involve society as a whole in reconstruction and development. We are, therefore, building an enduring partnership among all social structures, including government, business and labour. 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 to which not only the government, but also organised business and labour are committed, and which underwrites our newly formed National Economic, Development and Labour Council. This Council, involving government, business and labour will be the blast furnace of joint strategies for sustained economic growth and equity.

I have stressed this, because it is something that has been left out of the picture which has been portrayed by some sections of the media. According to this one-sided picture, South Africa is buckling under the weight of labour unrest. In actual fact, the reality is that the collective bargaining system in our country is a healthy one, and the most strategic industries have this year resolved their disputes without resorting to strike action. Besides, in bringing our labour legislation up-to-date with the new political realities, emphasis will be placed on efficient and effective dispute- resolution mechanisms.

We also know that through the complex filters of the international media, the public in the United States may have a perception of our country as one in which crime and lawlessness loom large. Crime is indeed a serious problem and one which concerns us deeply. But the most important development in this regard is the transformation of a police force regarded by most South Africans as illegitimate into one based on community policing. Impressive progress, which has multiplied the successes of our police services, has been made.

However, in the overall, what is required is deliberate speed in implementing the Reconstruction and Development Programme; to remove the causes of the instability and mistrust of the past. This, the government has started undertaking in earnest, in close co-operation with all sectors of the population.

The logic of the change through which South Africans are going demands of each and every institution an examination of the part that it can play. This, naturally, includes the media, and if I may suggest it here, includes the international media.

I was struck by a recent remark of a leading American businessman in South Africa. He said that there were two things that bred an extraordinary caution in potential US investors in South Africa:
- "They know all about South Africa's past; they know what the country has been through to achieve its miracle. But they also know the history of Africa!"

It is crucial that an objective and even critical appraisal of South Africa, and Africa as a whole, should not be based on a pessimistic reading of the past. Rather, it should be a full and accurate reflection of the hopes, the aspirations and optimism of the present. It should also be a reflection of the fears and even apprehensions as they currently prevail. In this way, the magnitude of the achievements South Africans have made will come out in bold relief. In fact, any problems that we may have would fade into insignificance against this background: they will be understood in the context of the real miracle playing itself out on the southern tip of the African continent.

The international media can play as crucial a role in the rebuilding of South Africa and the rebirth of Africa as they did in the struggle for freedom and democracy.

During the course of my visit, I touched on the multilateral interest South Africa takes in international issues. These include the following:
- prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;
- promotion of democracy and human rights;
- economic development based on mutually-beneficial relations; prevention of the international trafficking in narcotics; and
- global environmental issues.

During my visit to the United Nations on Monday, I had occasion to sign a number of treaties on human rights and socio-economic issues. In this regard, South Africa is taking her rightful place among the community of democratic nations.

With regard to the US in particular, I should emphasise that we have made great progress during the course of this visit, regarding issues such as trade, joint efforts to mobilise funds for investment in South Africa, assistance to black entrepreneurs, co-operation in matters of human rights, including the judiciary, and so on. In other words, a new partnership is being born between our two countries and governments.

We are indebted, in particular, to the Clinton Administration, for the unprecedented co-operation and understanding evidence before, and during, the course of our visit.

We in South Africa are determined to succeed in our endeavours. And we are confident that, with the assistance of the international community, we will do so.

I leave the United States of America with many fond memories, and confident that we have laid the basis for full and mutually- beneficial relations.

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 29/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata

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