Item 1104 - Address by Nelson R. Mandela at Union Buildings at Pretoria

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ZA COM MR-S-1104


Address by Nelson R. Mandela at Union Buildings at Pretoria


  • 1992-08-05 (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 Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare

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  • English

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Our country is passing through the most important phase in its history. The passing of the old order of apartheid rule and the birth of a new era of peace, democracy and justice is marked with trials, tribulations and immense sacrifice.

The general strike on Monday and Tuesday is unquestionably one of the greatest events in our history. More than 4 million workers stayed away. Millions more of youth and students, housewives, business people and civil servants participated. It is time for all of us to read the lessons correctly.

What makes 4 million workers stay away from work, forgo their wages in the midst of rampant unemployment, poverty and when fear stalks their lives in the townships? A sacrifice of such immense magnitude by the most downtrodden sections of our people, who have acted in the name of Peace and Democracy, requires an answer that measures up to the responsibility that this places on our shoulders.

Let us congratulate the people for the disciplined and peaceful way in which they have conducted the General Strike. That is why it succeeded. They did not allow themselves to be intimidated by the government and all those forces who did everything in their power to defeat the action of the people. Nor did they allow themselves to be misled by the barrage of misinformation and false propaganda.

Nothing can detract from the fact that this general strike was peaceful. Those who still cling to the idea that the success of this mass action was based on intimidation do themselves an injustice. Because this could only be true if they believed that the ANC and its Allies have the power to intimidate so many millions of people.

Let us congratulate all those employers, big and small, who responded to the call for peace and democracy, who closed their enterprises, and who committed themselves not to victimise their employees for staying away from work. They aligned themselves with the forces of democracy at great sacrifice. We say this advisedly because we know that they have to survive in an economy which is stagnating because of decades of apartheid rule, mismanagement and corruption.

The success of the General Strike is also due to the way in which all the structures of the Alliance, of Cosatu, the South African Communist Party and the ANC, persevered with the formidable task of organising the strike. In this regard, we congratulate all the democratic formations including the Civics, the religious, students, teachers, women's, youth and cultural organisations. It is of special significance that the coloured and Indian communities overwhelmingly participated in the stay away. They all acted with a unity of purpose which made the General Strike a decisive blow for peace and democracy.

We congratulate the international community for rallying to our cause. The presence of the small United Nations Monitoring Force played no small role in ensuring that the democratic right of our people to engage in mass action was realised in practice.

This is not a victory for the ANC or Cosatu or the SACP. It is a victory of the people of South Africa. It is a victory for peace and democracy. All South Africans, Black and White, want peace, economic stability and a happy future for their children.

Viva Peace and Democracy!

The ANC and its Allies, in embarking on mass action, did not act in order to score points for our organisations. The objectives behind the mass action are too serious to allow anyone to play party politics with the future of our people and the country.

Together all have struck a blow for peace and democracy.

It is in this spirit that we are all obliged to see the period ahead. We have not come here to gloat. We are here to take South Africa along the road to Peace and Democracy.

If the government of the day responds in this same spirit, our action will have been the best thing that could have happened for the negotiations process. All the people of our country and the entire international community await the response of the government.

It should now be clear to all that an Interim Government of National Unity is an urgent and critical step to take our country forward. Such a government can only be based on the political realities which reflect the sentiments of all South African citizens. Unless our country decisively moves forward to the establishment of an Interim Government there will be no progress.


The creation of an Interim Government of National Unity has to be linked to a vision which ensures that our entire people will have a direct say in the drafting and adoption of a constitution which embodies democracy. This means that there must be a commitment to a sovereign, democratically elected Constituent Assembly.

It is critical that practical steps are taken by the government to curb the violence which is ravaging the lives of our people in the townships. These three categories of demand constitute the 14 demands we have made to the government. Unless they are met satisfactorily by the government negotiations cannot be resumed.

It is time for the government to abandon the path that it has been following. While pursuing negotiations, it simultaneously sought to weaken the ANC and the democratic forces. Along this direction it also sought to build alliances with all sorts of dubious political formations in the hope that this will add to the process of weakening the ANC. This has been one of the gravest mistakes it committed in the current period. The time has arrived for it to abandon this path.

The ANC and its Allies remain committed to the search for a negotiated resolution of the crisis facing our country. We have engaged in Mass Action with the clear objective of ensuring that the outcome of the negotiations is a democratic future for our country. What happens next, and what form the campaign for Peace and Democracy takes, depends on how the government responds to our demands which address the crucial obstacles in the path of negotiations.

History will not forgive any of us if the search for face-saving formulae prevents us from finding the correct responses which facilitate negotiations to be resumed and to be successful.

The outcome of the mass action campaign must not allow any of us to become dizzy with success. Our people have shown that, in the midst of poverty, unemployment and economic crisis, they remain firmly committed to act for peace and democracy. The millions who have shown this commitment need to be organised.

The campaign for Peace and Democracy must become a tidal wave which will thrust our country into a future where justice prevails, peace is assured and democracy becomes a way of life.

Let unity, discipline and peaceful action become the hallmark of everything we do.

Viva Peace! Viva Democracy!

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 13/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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