Item 1538 - Nelson Mandela, Reply to the debate on his first address to the National Council of Provinces

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ZA COM MR-S-1538


Nelson Mandela, Reply to the debate on his first address to the National Council of Provinces


  • 1997-08-29 (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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Received from Tony Trew as part of the TPY Project.

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  • English

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The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Chairperson, I am encouraged by the remarks that have been made here, especially the complimentary ones. [Laughter.) As an old man, it is always pleasing to see that young men can pay compliments to one. But I always take this in the context of my past experiences. I have heard young men, as they have done here, complimenting me in my presence, and once I turn around, they say, "Kêrels, die ou man het baie twak gepraat." [Guys, the old man was talking a lot of nonsense.) [Laughter.]

A number of important observations have been made here. It will be my duty to draw the attention of the Cabinet to such observations. Also, a number of concerns have been expressed. I can assure Gerald that not only Madiba but also the President of the Republic of South Africa has taken note of those concerns. [Laughter.] I have also noted the concerns expressed by Maj Gen Groenewald, Mr Moorcroft and Mr Wiley.

We do appreciate the concern that has been expressed almost throughout the country as far as the issue of crime is concerned. It is a source of grave concern to the Government as well. Without going into any details, I just want to say that we have an extremely capable Minister for Safety and Security, assisted by an equally capable and committed national commissioner, who has four deputies who are equally capable officers, who are doing their best to address this issue. We also have nine provincial commissioners, also equally committed and who are determined to take the war to the criminals.

Of course, it is no consolation to somebody whose car has been hijacked, whose relatives have been killed by criminals, children and women who have been abused, to quote statistics. People respond to these matters in accordance with their own experience. However, I do want to say that the Government and its structures realise how serious this matter is.

In addition to other precautions that have been taken, we have appointed a businessman to look into the management of the Police Service. He is a man who has shown his ability in business and who took over the management of a company which was almost insolvent. Not only did he turn it around but he has been able to establish about 40 flourishing branches in various parts of the world.

We are confident that he will make a contribution which will allay the concerns of the public in this regard.

Gerald also raised the issue of equity and questioned some aspects of it. I must point out that when one is engaged in the process of transformation there must be problems. It is fortunate that sometimes we have crises because they tend to sort out the real leaders of the community and of the country - people who can anticipate that certain problems are going to arise, some of them very fundamental, but who always have the confidence to lead and who are able to draw attention to those things that are positive and constructive. As we go through this transformation the real leaders of the country are emerging.

We must bring about equity, and that process will create problems, especially for the privileged groups who are now seeing the process of trying to introduce equity as depriving them of a privileged position which they previously occupied. This is the consequence of transformation in regard to equity.

1549 FRIDAY, 29 AUGUST 1997 1550 I agree with the views that have been expressed by Premier Tokyo Sexwale with regard to the death penalty. However, in addition to this, we must remember that the highest court in the country, the Constitutional Court, has addressed this matter very carefully and fully. They have held that the death sentence is unconstitutional, and it is not easy for the Government to ignore the considered view of such a tribunal. There are also other reasons which have caused the Government to be firm in the position that it is not prepared to reopen this matter at all.

Maj Gen Groenewald has pointed out that not much progress has taken place with respect to reconciliation. I have noted his views, but the important thing is that South Africa is no longer the South Africa that we experienced before 1994.

That alone is a significant achievement. The process of reconciliation in this country is going apace, at times beyond our expectations. I will not go into detail except to say that, in so far as his reservations about the TRC are concerned, we were very careful in setting up this body. We made sure that all tendencies, political and otherwise, were represented.

We have brought together men and women of the highest integrity who are doing their job efficiently.

It is not only the chairman of the TRC who must be complimented. It is also the vice-chairman as well as all the other members of the TRC. Of course, they were not appointed for the purpose of pleasing anybody. They were appointed for the purpose of ensuring that the gross human rights violations which were committed are made known to the country, because there can be no reconciliation unless we know what happened to the victims of these violations. The TRC is carrying out its job very well. Indeed, the Government is satisfied with the way in which the TRC is functioning.

There is a perception that a particular community is the target of these investigations. Nothing could be further from the truth. Individuals are appearing before the TRC, not a community. We would like to point out that we regard any other view as a gross misconception. If a number of people belonging to a particular community have been called before the TRC, it is not because there is any persecution of that particular community.

It is those individuals who are involved. I think the TRC established a record of being even-handed.

No political organisation, no individuals have been respected. All the people the TRC believes should answer have been called before it. I would like to appeal to all hon members, accepting that their reservations are genuine, to co-operate with the TRC and to take account of the fact that it is fully representative and is composed of men and women of the highest integrity.

The point has been raised by Mr Moorcroft about the role of the opposition, and that there are some reservations which have been expressed by people in Government. One must not expect us to speak with one voice on public issues. The essence of democracy is that we should be free to differ on any particular point. But at the same time we must remove the perception that it is only the opposition that is entitled to criticise the Government and that the Government cannot reply, and that if the Government replies and criticises the opposition then one says the opposition and democracy in this country is threatened. If one does criticise, one must expect those who criticise to reply. Those who have a delicate skin and frail nerves will complain when we reply to their criticism. [Interjections.] I do not think that Mr Moorcroft wants to depict himself as someone who has frail nerves.

Democracy is a robust exercise and we must be able to criticise one another. There is no threat against democracy in this country. I would like to assure hon members that this is not only the view of the President. It is the view of the entire Cabinet, the entire majority party. I would urge Mr Moorcroft to sleep very peacefully. Ulale kakhuhle. [Sleep well.] [Laughter.]

The question of race has also been raised. It is unfortunate that when there are difficulties people should seize on the question of race, and I think we should discourage that. I agree with him. But at the same time, it is the duty of every political party to ensure, especially having regard to our background, that they do nothing which can encourage the view that there is racism.

When one has a political party in the National Assembly whose members are drawn from one ethnic group, then one is looking for trouble, because when human beings look at any government structure, they want to see if they are represented in that particular structure. If they see that only one ethnic group is represented, one is tempting them to say that this is on the basis of racism. Those of us who are in close contact and who interact with such political parties, accept the integrity of the people who represent that party, even though they come from one ethnic group. We regard them as people who are committed people of integrity.

But one must understand that we are dealing with the nation as a whole, with the public as a whole, and they have not had that experience of interacting with such a political party whose members are drawn just from one ethnic group.

Therefore, it is reasonable for them to have reservations about such a party.

One may have a party which has a decoration in that it has drawn some people from other political groups, but when it comes to the exercise of real power, that power is confined only to the members of one ethnic group. Such situations are bound to provoke very negative views and very negative comments. Therefore, it is in the interests of the entire country for all of us to co-operate not only from the point of view of rhetoric, but also from the point of view of the way in which we set up our own political organisations. If they are not truly representative one will find people complaining, whenever there is controversy, that some of the motivating factors arise purely from racism.

Regarding the question of the seat of Parliament, we have been discussing this and I hope all members will appreciate that this is a matter that will be handled with great care. It is a very sensitive matter. The only time I saw members of the ANC in the Western Cape agreeing very fully with the members of the NP was on the question of the seat of Parliament. [Laughter.] The Transvalers also speak with one voice on the question, saying that Parliament must be shifted to the Transvaal. Even my name has been involved. When we heard that the Pretoria City Council had said that the President was in favour of Parliament shifting to the Transvaal, I instructed my director-general to write to them to say that I had expressed no opinion on this question. Nevertheless, in spite of that, they continue with this propaganda.

This is a matter which must be discussed calmly, because the existence of two capitals is very costly to the country from the point of view of the resources it demands, from the point of view of Government efficiency and from the point of view of the difficulty it imposes on members of Parliament. We must accept the fact that there should be one capital in this country. As to which one it should be, that must depend on the reports of the relevant committees that have been set up.

It may be Cape Town. I will be happy if that is so, because I have spent 27 years in this area. [Laughter.] It may be Pretoria. I will be happy if that is the position, because that is the province in which I live. It may be Bloemfontein. As the chairperson here will say, Bloemfontein is the safest of all these places, because Gauteng, as he has pointed out, is full of mine holes and can collapse any day. [Laughter.] I will therefore be happy also if we move to establish our capital in a safe place like Bloemfontein.

The dominating picture that I am taking away from here is that we have leaders of excellent quality who are able to think about problems and suppress their personal feelings in order to think of the country as a whole. This is the dominating impression I am taking away from here. It has confirmed my position that in all the political parties in this country, without exception, we have good men and women who put the welfare of the country before their personal interests. [Applause.]

[Debate concluded.]

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