Item 077 - Address by President Nelson Mandela to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Conference

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Address by President Nelson Mandela to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Conference


  • 1996-07-10 (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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South African Government Information Website (

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  • English

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Mr Chairman;
Prime Minister Major;
My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I have had the rare pleasure in the short time that I have been in the United Kingdom to savour the hospitality of the British people, particularly its highest representatives in Buckingham Palace.

The warmth of the welcome, the gracious attention to guests and the keen interest in developments in South Africa - all have inspired me to turn around a famous phrase in circumstances of war, into a gesture of appreciation: I came, I saw and I have been conquered by your understanding of the efforts of South Africans to build a new society based on the most noble of human ideals.

Some three years ago, I had the opportunity to share views with the Confederation of British industry.

Then, I was a freedom fighter, the head of an organisation which was to many an anathema; a former convict battling to establish his credentials with an audience that fully grasped the morality of our cause, but still harboured doubts about the capacity of South Africans to effect change without debilitating conflict, in a polity cleft by racial tension and suspicion.

Then, we had to grapple with questions about the ability of the prospective new democratic government to manage an economy which, though discriminatory and exclusive, contained in some sectors such as finance, elements of the best in the world.

The insights gathered during that engagement remain deeply etched in my heart, and I have fond recollections of the clear message of support that, on balance, was the outcome of our discussions.

Today I stand before you as a representative of a nation being born; a rainbow people defining their being in the recognition of each other's worth, and in the joint efforts to reach for the stars. Indeed, the irony of our late-coming into the court of free nations is that we are able to appropriate the best in human civilisation, to discard the worst, and to synthesise the rich experience of humanity with the specifics of our own unique past.

That past, historically for good reason and bad, was so fashioned that British industry was and would remain a major foreign player.

I stand before you in awe at the interest that developments in our country continue to enjoy, now that we have harvested the curse of the successful; that, to be peaceful, to be constructive and to start people's quality of life, is to consign a nation to the ranks of the least regained when real or imagined difficulties rear their ugly head, and that it is by those difficulties that a new image may be forged.

I stand before you in profound appreciation that British interest in our country continues to find concrete expression in practical deeds by British industry and Her Majesty's Government to build relations to mutual benefit between our two nations.

Before, during and after the highly successful visits by Her Majesty the Queen and Prime Minister John Major to South Africa, a great many bilateral agreements were sealed to create an atmosphere even more conducive for British investors and trade partners to conduct their business with and within South Africa. These practical efforts of the British government are keenly appreciated by our people.

History so decreed that we would have in South Africa, part of the British soul, and to that extent and more, our cultural relations and sporting contacts are extensive. And in as much as we were able, during the Rugby World Cup final, to avenge your defeat in the semi-finals, we fully appreciated your generous support in that occasion.

Most critical for us, as we set out to eradicate the disparities created by apartheid, is the fact that investments by British industry have increased to about 12-billion pounds in the key sectors of mining, manufacture and telecommunications. Total trade between our two countries has, since our meeting 3 years ago, almost doubled. For a country such as ours, heavily reliant on imported capital goods for the growth of our economy, it is a matter of pride and an expression of Britain's openness to our country, that our exports have grown at an even faster pace.

All this signifies the critical fact that, in the British government and in British industry, we have friends on whom we can rely. Along with industrialists from other developed nations, you have made our re-entry into the global economy a pleasant soft landing.

Over the years, in prison and outside, we had often wondered at the passion of the British people for our cause: and at each turn, the temptation to doubt the real intentions would be dispelled by concrete deeds. Today, this is represented by the phenomenal growth in economic relations - activities that certainly provide appreciable returns for yourselves; but activities, all the same, that entail a measure of risk on your part.

The central message that I bring you this morning is that we should build on what exists. It is a message infused with urgency precisely because, beyond the profound political changes, the iniquitous system that we set out together to destroy, is still alive and well. The poverty, decay in the social fabric, and profound inequality that are the product of the past, can only be eradicated with your co-operation. Thus, we can build a truly non-racial and non-sexist society and ensure that our achievements in the political transition become more than formal declarations in constitutional and legal documents.

We do appreciate, that the task of eradicating these problems rests on our shoulders as South Africans.

As government, we have taken deliberate steps to ensure that we spend within our means, and reduce the fiscal deficit as rapidly as is possible. We know that government has a critical role to play in the provision of such services as health, education, housing and other needs; but we have made it our task to creatively change budget priorities without unduly increasing the burden on the fiscus.

Our government fully comprehends that the resources we command, in the form of public corporations, have to be restructured to become more efficient, to provide affordable services, to inject new technology and to promote the overall growth objectives of the nation. In this regard, firm decisions have been taken to privatise some of them: to acquire strategic equity partners for others: and to redefine the role of the remaining ones.

Our intent in this regard, and the consensus that has developed across the board, are in no doubt. As I speak, the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications is touring a number of countries, accompanied by trade unionists and management of our telecommunications company, to study the experience of other countries and acquire a strategic partner for this industry. We aim to complete this process by the end of the year.

Similar processes are being launched in the airlines and general transport industries. We are determined to handle all these initiatives with the same expedition as we have attended to the decision to sell some of our radio stations and other utilities such as in the gas industry. And we are confident that, from Britain, there is a lot that we will learn.

These are just some of the examples of the recent measures that we have undertaken to speed up growth and job-creation.

Mr Chairman:

In the two years after our democratic elections, the South African economy has shown robust renewal. With growth at an average of 3%; with a marked increase in fixed investments; with inflation at a 20-year low; and with the manufacturing industry in a buoyant mood - there has not been any doubt that our economic fundamentals are in perfect order.

Yet, it was clear to us that the rate of growth was insufficient to create the required number of jobs and provide the necessary resources to deal with the poverty afflicting million. Combined with the depreciation of our currency in the first half of the year; this reality made it even more urgent for us to elaborate a macro-economic framework to improve the conditions for investments and work towards a growth rate of 6% by the year 2000.

In addition to the measures I have just described, we have taken new steps in the relaxation of foreign exchange controls; we have introduced new incentives, including tax holidays for investments that create new jobs. Though we are well within the targets of the World Trade Organisation, we are addressing the issue of further lowering tariffs with a new determination; and we have worked out a complex of measures to ensure certainty with regard to the value of our currency.

The three main partners in the economy - government, business and labour are discussing the issues of wage-increase moderation, rewards for productivity, skills training and labour market policies which will promote the objectives of the macro-economic framework; and we are confident that they will find appropriate solutions to these complex problems.

Difficult as some of these decisions may be, there is an appreciation among all sectors of our population that some sacrifices will have to be made to attain the greater and common good over the long-term; to create jobs, to improve the skills in and competitiveness of, our industries, and to generate resources for social services. Steadily but surely, a partnership of all sectors is emerging in the crucible of day-to-day practical work.

We dare not underplay the tensions that will emerge from time to time as these measure are introduced. But as they showed in dealing with their political challenges, South Africans are not of faint heart in making difficult choices.

The same applies to the challenge of guaranteeing the safety and security of citizens.

You may well be aware, that the Province of KwaZulu/Natal on our east coast, notorious for inter-communal conflict that had gripped it for more than a decade, conducted its local government elections a fortnight ago in the most peaceful manner. At last, with co-operation among political leaders, the security forces and the population at large, the seeds of lasting peace have been sown; and we are confident that the situation can only improve.

This is the same partnership that we have found within our society in dealing with the scourge of crime.

In the final analysis, it will be our success in dealing with issues of poverty, inequality, and improving the moral fabric of society, which will be critical in eliminating crime. But at the same time, all sectors of the population have united in the campaign to make the government's short- and medium-term programmes succeed.

In brief, Mr Chairman, South Africa, like any society, particularly those in transition, does have its problems. But without throwing our humility out of the window, we do pride ourselves with the remarkable manner in which, as a nation, we are able to frankly examine these problems and together to seek and find solutions.

My task today and in this visit is made easier by the presence among you of South African business-people and ministers of great calibre; outstanding ambassadors of young democracy. You will be able to hear from them, the sense of urgency with which we are tackling our challenges; the sense of urgency with which they will want concrete deals struck to increase investments and opportunities for trade.

You will hear from them too, about the centrality of these programmes not only for our country, but also as part of the integrated efforts of the Southern African region to make the continent's renaissance a reality.

For we know that by strengthening our relations with British industry, we shall also be contributing to the regional co-operation that today characterises relations between the European Union and the Southern African Development Community.

If three years ago, I spoke to you of hope and apprehension as we plunges into the unknown; if, as a freedom-fighter I had to establish my credentials; today, I bring you the message of certainty and confidence in the economic and political affairs of our country. I place before you the credentials of a nation, united in a New Patriotism to pursue rapid economic growth, equity and the consolidation of freedom, transparency and an abiding culture of human rights.

We are confident that, with you as reliable partners, South Africa can and will succeed.

I thank you.



Paragraph: "keen interest in developments in South Africa - all have inspired me to turn around a famous phrase in circumstances of war, into a gesture of appreciation: I came, I saw and I have been conquered by your understanding of the efforts of South Africans to build a new society based on the most noble of human ideals."

This sentence doesn't have a beginning. Left as is from website.

Found correct version on ANC website, it reads:
"The warmth of the welcome, the gracious attention to guests and the keen interest..."

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Acquisition method: From website ; Source: South African Government Information Website. Accessioned on 8 Nov 2006 by Helen Joannides




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