Item 656 - Address by President Mandela to Foreign Correspondents Association

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Address by President Mandela to Foreign Correspondents Association


  • 1998-11-26 (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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ANC Website

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Address to meeting of Foreign Correspondents Association

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  • English

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Dr Werner Vogt
Members of the Foreign Correspondents Association
Ladies and gentlemen

A meeting with members of the Foreign Correspondents Association has become a firm and much valued part of our annual calendar, I have noted, though, that in some years I am given dinner and in others merely breakfast. I must have done something right this year! Perhaps as people with your professional ears to the ground you have been alerted to my achievement in reaching the age of eighty years!

As another year draws to a close, towards the end of the term of the first democratic government's term, and on the eve of a transition to a new President, there are natural pressures to engage in reviews of the past and speculation about the future. Indeed these are important and necessary functions. However, judging by what several newspapers said a few days ago about the shape of a future cabinet, one may have to keep the proverbial pinch of salt close at hand when unnamed sources become fortune tellers!

The principal danger of too great a preoccupation with what has happened and what may develop, is that we can lose sight of important current developments. With your permission therefore my emphasis will be less on the shape of things to come and things past.

For the same reason, although I was kindly invited to use this opportunity, if I so wished, to reflect on the role of the media and its relations with government. I will not do so. My inclination is that we should eschew the temptation to fill our pages with reflections on ourselves, lest we diminish the primary value of the media as a mirror to society and government.

Having said that I would like to take this opportunity to put on record our appreciation of your efforts to give the world a window onto South Africa's transformation. That is said with particular feeling at the end of a year which has brought home as never before the concrete reality of globalisation and the imperatives of interdependence. Your work, we have no doubt, has contributed to the understanding in the major centres of the world of the course we are charting and of our determination to maintain it.

Ladies and gentlemen;

Interdependence is one of the themes on which I would like to reflect. This is not so much as it affects relations between nations, peoples and regions, though that has been an intense focus of my own activities during this past year, but rather within our own society as it takes new shape.

Underlying our political transition was a consensus that could be taken as the founding pact of the new nation we are building. It included the recognition that we are one nation with one destiny, and that the differences amongst us, political or otherwise are transcended by the need to survive and prosper together. There was no other choice.

Such was the spirit that informed the establishment of our democracy and the launch of such vital institutions as NEDLAC. Such was the climate that saw a broad consensus on a programme of reconstruction and development in order to transform our society.

It was therefore disturbing some two years ago to note the re-emergence of the old fault-lines in our society, in how different sectors of our society perceived what was happening and where we should be going as a nations. Since then published opinion research has documented this divergence of perceptions. Political leaders, rather than seeking the common ground defined by our founding consensus, sharpened differences. The vigilance of opposition was not always kept distinct from mere point-scoring or the defence of privilege. National consensus in some important areas began to appear less as a point of departure than an aspiration.

This climate was exacerbated by challenges such as how to deal with the inhumanities in our past in a way that brings healing and reconciliation; decisive steps to deal with the imbalances of the past; and how to turn round the moral decay we inherited and which fans scourges such as crime, corruption and poor civic responsibility.

I has always been our conviction that in most important respects, ordinary South Africans are far in advance of their political leaders. Several developments during the past month or so has vindicated this belief.

Sectoral alliances and partnerships in very many critical areas have risen to the needs of the moment. It is no exaggeration to say that the number and importance of these initiatives constitute a significant development. They give expression to the recognition that there are indeed matters which stand above the cut and thrust of politics.

The Summit on Rural Safety and Security forged a common approach between farmers, government and our security services. It thereby made the security of the farming community the practical concern of the nation as a whole. Across the board, the assessment is that we are making real progress in this area.

The launch of the Partnership Against Aids every sector of civil society accepted the responsibility for turning the tide of a disease that threatens our nation with a crisis that could undo all our efforts.

The Morals Summit has mobilised our religious bodies and political organisations in joint leadership of the efforts to regenerate the morality of our society.

In doing so it has brought critical support to the government's programmes to combat crime and root our corruption, fraud and the evasion of tax.

The Jobs Summit signalled the fact that the most powerful organised forces in our society recognised their shared responsibility for harnessing the potential of all South Africans to create opportunities for a better life.

To these events one could add the reception by the media and the public of the results of the 1996 Census. They have been accepted as defining a common reference point that sets out the legacy and challenges of social inequality and deprivation.

One of the notable features of these developments has been that the centre stage has been occupied by organisations and structures of civil society; community organisations; business, big and small; trade unions; youth and women's organisations; and religious communities.

This bodes well for our prospects of dealing with the problems which gave rise to these responses, as well as others that some may think more likely to bring division and tension rather than reconciliation.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has given the nation an interim report which we must use to move further towards a common understanding of our past.

There will naturally be debate around the decision of the Human Rights Commission to investigate racism in the media. But we hope and are convinced that the investigation can contribute to a common understanding of the extent to which racism still plays a part in our national life.

We still face a difficult international economic environment, but it is now common cause that we have weathered the global financial storm better than most emerging economies, thanks to the strength of our fundamentals and the consistent application of the right polices. Whatever downward fluctuation there may be in the indicators, it is no idle statement to say that these are exceptions to the rule.

Nor finally, is there any reason why the approaching elections should not leave us, as did the first democratic elections of 1994, a stronger and more united nation, ready to surpass the progress that has been made in these first years of our freedom.

In this regard, we take encouragement from the gathering response of civil servants and other members of the public, to the call to ensure that registration is effective so that the voice of South Africa's people can be clearly heard in next year's elections.

Ladies and gentlemen;

As you seek to give the world an account of what has been achieved in these first four years of South Africa freedom, and what may lie ahead, I hope that you will find that my reflections today prove pertinent. I have no doubt that we will all benefit from your perceptions and analysis.

I thank you.

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Acquisition method: From website ; Source: ANC Website. Accessioned on 11/12/06 by Helen Joannides




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