Item 1545 - Reply in NCOP debate on the President’s Budget

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ZA COM MR-S-1545


Reply in NCOP debate on the President’s Budget


  • 1998-08-07 (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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Supplied by Tony Trew as part of the TPY project.

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  • English

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The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Mr Chairman, I had hoped that you would also tell everybody here that I am the only person, by virtue of my age, who can talk as long as he likes. [Laughter.]

I am very encouraged by the frank but constructive comments that have been made here by every speaker, comments which are excellent from the point of view of both the quality of their substance and the tone that has been adopted. I wish certain forums, some of which are not very far from this Chamber, could learn from the discussions here. [Laughter.] [Applause.] Nobody has screamed, nobody has burned tables, but the message has been effective, precisely because of that quality and that tone. I am very grateful to every member who has contributed.

But, at the outset, I must point out that there is one thing that has disturbed me very seriously, and I have to take precautions to ensure that those ideas are not implemented, and that is the remarks that were made by Dr Ngubane and also Mr Moorcroft about the devolution of power to the provinces.

We expected that to be voiced by the opposition, but I suspect that there is a greater demand for devolution of powers from the premiers of the ANC. [Laughter.] It is more dangerous when these things come from inside than outside. [Laughter.] I do not like the possibility of a combination between the opposition and the ANC. I have to make sure that these opportunities 6ccur as rarely as is possible. [Laughter.]

Regarding the comments that have been made here, I want to remind hon members, as I have done on previous occasions, that when making our comments we must put them in context of the reality under which we are working. One of the most striking features of the Government today is that these are men and women who have been taken literally from the bush and without previous training, and they have been asked to run the Government of such a highly developed country as South Africa. Our white compatriots have had the advantage, which has been denied to us, of going to school and university, getting training, and acquiring knowledge, skills and expertise.

They come from homes where the parents generally have a high level of academic performance and a child does not find any discrepancy between the atmosphere at school and the atmosphere at home, while the blacks, i.e. Africans, coloureds and Indians, find a totally different situation. It is a discrepancy between the environment at school and the environment at home where they cannot get real assistance from their parents.

When one is therefore assessing the achievements of the present Government, that is a very important matter to take into account. With whom are we being compared? To my mind, this Government has done far more than many people who are realistic and who are guided by objective facts would expect. These people are likely to take into account when making their observations that we are dealing with people, some of whom were in exile and suffered the hardship of working from abroad. The PAC, the ANC, Azapo- that is where the people come from. Some were working underground in this country under very difficult conditions. They have gone through detention without trial, whereas others have served long terms of imprisonment. Coming from these conditions, they were then asked to run South Africa. I do want people to bear that in mind.

I had expected comments here from people who wanted to defend privilege, but I saw nothing of that kind. That is another issue from which other forums can learn. What strikes one when dealing with some speakers elsewhere is that whatever they say and however articulate they may be, what they are really doing is to try to defend privilege. At some stage I addressed a meeting in Pretoria. I am not going to mention the name of the organisation, but it is an organisation that existed during the days of apartheid and its members had benefited from the apartheid regime. One of the things they said to me was that affirmative action was racism in reverse and that they were now being marginalised by the new Government. I asked them to produce some figures. They started consulting, for the first time, in order to answer that question. [Laughter.] I was told that they would prepare a memorandum on the matter. I told them that since they were criticising me at that time, I would have expected them as a responsible organisation only to criticise things that they had researched properly. It was, however, clear that they were criticising things without knowing what they were talking about.

I asked them to have a look at my staff, particularly at the people who were there with me. There was a certain Superintendent Van Eck. He was in charge of my security. There was a secretary, an Afrikaner girl called Elize Wessels. Where, therefore, were the marginalised of that community?

When one comes to any of the departments run by the ANC, one will find that all the population groups are, generally speaking, represented in our departments. I told them to go to the NP Ministers - because in those days the NP was still in Government - and they would find that there was no change whatsoever, except for menial jobs such as cleaning floors, making tea, and so on. I told them that that was where they would have found the black people. However, from the point of view of the staff who help with decision-making, the position is still exactly the same.

Many of the speeches elsewhere are concerned with defending white privilege, but if one examines what is happening in the departments controlled by the ANC, one finds a totally different picture. These are people who do not just talk. The institutions linked to those departments, one can see, are now representative of the composition of the population of the country.

In this regard I would like to refer to what Premier Morkel has said. He has said that the decision of this Government is to keep quiet now, but to remove Parliament from Cape Town to Pretoria after the elections. [Laughter.] I was tempted to say "Where do you get this information?", because I have explained before, in Parliament, what we decided as a Government. I raised this question at the very first Cabinet meeting, if I am not mistaken, asking what it would cost to have two capitals? What will it cost to have one capital? What does it cost, from the point of view of government efficiency for us to have an administrative capital, and then when Parliament opens, we pack files for about two days and bring them to Cape Town and spend two days unpacking them, and then we go back to Pretoria we do the same thing all over again? What does it cost, from the point of view of government efficiency?

We then set up a committee to investigate the matter, and we made it clear what the guidelines were going to be. We said that we wanted this committee to dig up the facts and bring them to us. We said that the procedure would depend on what that committee's findings were. We would then go to Parliament and Parliament would discuss the matter. It would be taken to the provincial legislatures. They would discuss the matter. It would be taken to the public, and when we had comments from all these sectors, the Government would then sit down and say: These are the views of the people of South Africa.

This is an emotional issue, however, and one can see that in the contribution of Premier Morkel, because he is not a naturally emotional person. The first occasion on which I saw Allan Boesak and Hernus Kriel jointly saying the same thing was that on which the removal of the capital was mentioned. [Laughter.] Not only that, but the names of the very Cabinet Ministers who had taken a decision that we must have no opinion whatsoever until this procedure had been complied with and the reports have come back to us, I now saw on a list which was circulating in the Western Cape, saying "Let Parliament remain where it is." [Laughter.] I called them and said I wanted an explanation. We have taken a decision here that we must not express any opinion on this matter. They said: No, we saw the names of members of the Cabinet of the NP on a list, and we were thinking, in terms of local government elections, that if we did not join ... [Laughter.] I then called Deputy President De Klerk and said: You know the decision. Your Ministers have now gone public and signed a petition that Parliament should remain in Cape Town.

He called his Cabinet Minsters together, and they said: No, we saw the names of Cabinet Ministers of the ANC on a list, and we decided also to join. [Laughter.] So I warned both parties that the strongest disciplinary action would be taken against them if they again came out in public and expressed an opinion on the matter. That is the government’s position on this matter.

I have been quoted as having said that I want Parliament to move to Pretoria. I have issued public statements refuting this, because I have no decision in this matter. I can tell hon members that if I were to make a decision, I am a Kapenaar- I have spent 27 years here ... [Laughter.] [Applause.] ... still I suppress my emotions. I have no opinion. [Laughter.] [Applause.] . . . but still I suppress my emotions. I have no opinion. [Laughter.]

On the matter raised by Mr Groenewald, I think he has forgotten the facts. It is quite genuine, but he has forgotten. A few weeks before the election I met Gen Viljoen and Ferdi Hartzenberg, and discussed this whole question of the Volkstaat. I said to them: "There is a problem here, because the two of you, together with Eugene Terreblanche, say you represent the Afrikaners, and that the Afrikaners want a Volkstaat." I told them that President De Klerk also said he represented the Afrikaners, and that the Afrikaners wanted no Volkstaat. I said that there therefore had to be a referendum among the Afrikaners to decide on this issue.

Secondly, I said that the results of the referendum would not necessarily bind me but that it would be an important consideration to take into account.

Thirdly, I said to them that we had to decide who an Afrikaner was. Is it a white man who speaks Afrikaans, or is it anybody -black or white - who speaks Afrikaans? I said that if those three conditions were fulfilled, I would be able to go to my organisation and say: "Let us consider the question of giving a Volkstaat to Afrikaners."

They accepted that, especially Gen Viljoen, who is a very honest person. He said:, “Mr President, you have solved my problem." But Ferdi Hartzenberg said: "No, no. I am not prepared to accept that. I want you now to make a categorical statement, and say that you will give us the Volkstaat, without condition." I said: "No, I cannot do that. I would be useless to you. If I made a statement like that to you, I would be doing so without authority, and I could be expelled by the AN C. I would be useless to you." [Laughter.] I said: "On this condition I can go back to my organisation and say that the Afrikaners have voted for a Volkstaat, and that we should consider the matter." Ferdi Hartzenberg then said to me that the plans to stop the election by violence would continue. He said so openly.

If Mr Groenewald agrees, as Gen Viljoen did, and carries out that agreement and agrees to a referendum by the Afrikaners, in the sense in which I have defined it, then we will be able to look at that demand. But as long as there is this division, where the Afrikaners themselves are not speaking with one voice on this question, it would be difficult for the Government to make a move.

Premier Morkel has said that we should treat the Western Cape as we do Richmond. It was a very short and simple statement. But precisely because of its brevity and simplicity, it has a lot of effect. The point here is that Premier Morkel knows the attempts that we as Government have made. We sent a special team to the Western Cape, because we realised that there was a problem.
The majority of the policemen and policewomen here are, as I have said, people of the highest integrity. They are doing their work very well. However, there are problems. There are elements who want to undermine the democratic Government. They are working with criminals, and are deeply entrenched. It is not easy to dismantle their network.

The first unit that was sent ran into difficulties, and the hon member knows that better than I do. We sent another unit. This very morning I met the Minister for Safety and Security and his deputy, together with Gen Fivaz and the command structure of the police in this country. They are, as I am speaking, in the Western Cape to investigate what should be done in order to address what is happening here.

However, apart from what the Government is doing, one of the critical things we can do to test the true leaders of the country is to look at what a person, as an individual outside Government, is doing to better the lives of the masses of the people. What is he doing? If one asks that question, one will see that the leadership of the ANC is in the forefront of trying, in their individual capacity, to deliver services to the people in the Western Cape.

I do not want us to personalise these things. I am merely replying to the question raised by Premier Morkel, which suggests that we may be treating Richmond favourably because Africans are involved there, but neglecting the Western Cape because the majority of the people here are coloured. I do not think that there is anybody in the history of this country who has shown respect for the coloured community as I have done.

My official residence was called Westbrooke - a colonial name. I called in coloured leaders and told them that the Western Cape was the stronghold of the coloured community, and therefore we could not have a name like that. I said we should have a name which reflected the history of the coloured people, and that is how we named it Genadendal. [Applause.] It was for that reason.

Who is my real boss in this country? It is a coloured person. There he is - Jakes Gerwel. [Laughter.] That is my boss. That is the man who runs my department. Who is my secretary? There she is - Virginia, a coloured person from the Western Cape. Who is our ambassador in Washington, one of the most important diplomatic posts in the world? It is a coloured person from the Western Cape, Franklin Sonn. The list goes on. Who is our Finance Minister? [Laughter.] It is Trevor Manuel from the Western Cape. Who is our High Commissioner in London? It is Cheryl Carolus from the Western Cape.

Which leaders are interested in getting scholarships for children from the Western Cape, whether African, coloured or Indian?

Who is doing that, and how many of the members here can boast that they have done so? I can boast that I have done so. How many of the members have ensured that schools are built here by the private sector? I have done that. Which one of these members has done that in the Western Cape? I do not want us to personalise this matter, but any suggestion that we are marginalising the coloured community, as there is propaganda to that effect, is absolutely false. None of the members here can stand up and substantiate that.

I do not think that that is what Premier Morkel was really saying. I am merely saying that this has left that impression. [Laughter.] If there is any suggestion that this is what I say he said, I must apologise with all humility. But I am saying that the perception that many people may get by listening to him is that we are drawing a distinction with regard to Richmond, because the majority of the people there are Africans and in the Western Cape the majority of the people are coloureds. If he says that this is not the position, I will be the first to concede.

In so far as the students are concerned, again, I do not think that there is a government that has gone out of its way to make provision for needy students in this country. We have set aside a large sum of money to assist needy students, but I must tell members that there is a great deal of abuse of the scheme. One university, whose name I am not going to mention, had 3 000 students failing in one year. That is what we are supposed to subsidise. In another university, students damaged property because they wanted R500 000 to buy liquor, i.e. beer and so on, for drinking, whilst the masses of the people in the country are starving.

We are now going to be selective. We are not going to waste public resources supporting students who are not serious. One student spent four years doing first year studies. [Laughter.]. Nevertheless, they are demanding that they should study for free. We will not do that, because poverty does not start today. We were poor - people like Cheryl Carolus were poor, but they were able to work and supplement the means of their parents, and get a degree while struggling. It is not the first time that this has happened. We must destroy this atmosphere of entitlement. [Applause.]

I told the principals right from the beginning that they must put their foot down. I told them to make everybody pay, and they would be surprised to see everybody being able to pay. For students to go to university and then say that they are not going to pay, is unacceptable. Some of them have parents who can afford the fees, while others take their money to the bank and then expect to study free of charge. The whole scheme is being abused, and if we are not firm, our institutions in this country are going to collapse. What is happening in this country requires firm action from all of us, the Government and the opposition.

I went to a hotel in Johannesburg and found young white people working there. I asked the manager why he was only selecting whites to work there and he said that blacks did not want the salaries offered. White students were accepting those salaries during holidays, but blacks were not. The result is that jobs which they should be taking are being taken by the children from Botswana and Zimbabwe. Our young people have become absolutely spoiled. This atmosphere of entitlement is beyond proportion and we must stop it.

However, we are not going to stop this scheme of helping the needy, because there are many of them who deserve it, appreciate it and do very well. But we have to be discriminating to make sure that those who merely want to abuse the scheme are not given that chance.

In conclusion, I want thank all members for the wonderful contribution that they have made. One of the things I have said before and would like to repeat because of members' contribution here, is the following.

Every night I go to bed feeling strong and full of hope, because I can see this rainbow nation, in spite of all the difficulties, emerging in front of our eyes. I see a nation where all our people, black and white -and I want to make it clear that when I say black, I mean African, coloured and Indian - Afrikaans and English speaking, are busy trying to contribute towards nation-building and the promotion of reconciliation. Leaders are emerging from all parties who are positive and constructive and who ensure that at the end of all the differences that we have, we emerge more united. That is what inspires me. [Applause.]

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