Item 1274 - Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Local Government Elections Summit

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ZA COM MR-S-1274


Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Local Government Elections Summit


  • 1995-03-14 (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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  • English

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Honourable ministers;
Premiers of our provinces;
Representatives of local government structures;
Members of the diplomatic corps;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen.

The sheer size of this conference, and the weight of structures of government and civil society represented here, speak of the seriousness and the urgency of the challenge we have come here to address.

The historic task of building democracy in our country is half done. How it is completed depends in large measure on this conference and its follow-up.

The triumph of last year's elections ushered in a truly democratic national framework. Elected provincial government's have since acquired many of the powers they need to serve the people of their provinces. The culture of human rights is being deepened through the establishment of such institutions as the Constitutional Court and through the Constitutional Assembly's work in writing a permanent democratic constitution.

But still there are no democratically-elected local authorities through which communities can address their needs.

The central challenge facing our country today is to complete the process started in April last year. We must create legitimate and efficient democratic local government. We must now work to bring democracy to our door-steps and put government in the hands of the people. The local elections will cement the new democratic order that we have fought for.

The ground work for the launching of elected authorities has been laid. Through negotiation in inclusive forums, the old illegitimate councils have been replaced with interim non-racial, appointed councils which will run communities and towns in the run up to the elections, and prepare for the elections themselves. With this first step completed, we are ready to hold elections for new, fully representative local governments.

It is natural, given our past, that there is for many of our people a great distance between them and local authorities. Local government was used as an instrument of control and oppression, the front-line in the administration of apartheid, ranged against the communities' own organisations.

We need legitimate local government working together with civil society in order to address the pressing needs of communities. The experience of the past nine months has shown that the absence of legitimate local government is the most serious obstacle to socio-economic change and specifically to any systematic implementation of the RDP.

It is also at the local level that we have to deal systematically with the deracialisation of our divided society and the normalisation of the social fabric of our communities.

National and provincial policies and programmes will remain merely good intentions without active, RDP oriented and democratic local government. You do not build schools, clinics, houses from the Union Building in Pretoria. You do not provide water, electricity, sewerage and refuse removal from the buildings of Parliament.

These things must happen where our people live out their daily lives. Problems of crime, police-community relations, day-to-day matters in education, housing, services, roads, sporting facilities and other amenities - all these and many more can only be properly handled at local government level.

The crisis of legitimacy in local government has crippled many of our communities, with poor quality of services or their complete collapse in many areas. National and provincial governments are expected to provide these services, but cannot do so without the help and cooperation of local government.

To improve the conditions under which people live, therefore, we need democratic local councils.

Let us make absolutely clear, however, that starting to improve conditions and services is not something which can be deferred until after the elections The process of democratisation is now irreversible and all communities should be ready to embrace local government as their own. But local government must play its part.

When we call on everyone, through the Masakhane campaign, to pay for the housing and services they receive, that implies a commitment on the part of government to do all it can to improve the delivery of services and the efficiency of administration. Fulfilling that commitment is necessary to restoring confidence in local government. It is a challenge that all transitional local structures should take up as a matter of urgency.

To complete the democratisation of our country and to empower local communities to address the socioeconomic questions affecting them, we must work all together to build local democracy.

It is absolutely vital that all voters take part in these first democratic local government elections ever in the history of this country. And for that to happen voters must first be registered, since no-one can vote unless their name is on to the voters' roll. The first and most important step, therefore, is to ensure that all our voters are registered.

The voters' rolls now being compiled are new, non-racial voters' rolls. This means that everybody needs to register afresh, including those who were registered on the voters' rolls of the old South Africa.

People have asked why they have to register their names and reveal their addresses for government files somewhere! The answer is straightforward.

Firstly, a voters' roll will ensure genuine local democracy by only allowing those who live in an area or pay municipal charges there, to vote in that area. Only people with a direct interest in an area can vote there.

Secondly, a voters' roll means you can ensure that elected representatives of an area are from that area. Representatives can be held locally accountable, and will be sensitive to local issues.

Thirdly, a voters' roll stops people voting twice, Once somebody has voted, their name is crossed off and they cannot vote again in the same election.

Lastly, voters' rolls help to plan for elections, to make sure there are enough polling stations in the right places.

The voters' rolls are, therefore, necessary only to assist in planning the elections and ensuring genuine local democracy. There is no danger at all that the voters' rolls will be used by government for devious ends. This is out of the question. They are required only for the reasons I have mentioned. The rolls cannot be used to tell how any person voted. Each person's vote remains their secret.

The last day for registration is 28 April 1995. We say to the voters: Time is running out! Make sure that you do not miss out on your chance to help bring democracy to your community.

It is no secret that the pace of registration is slow. This has led to some speculation that there will be a delay in the registration process or even of the elections. Let me say now, and in categorical terms: the government is determined not to delay the democratisation of local government, The country and our people cannot afford this.

To focus the collective energies of the country, the government has committed itself to do everything in its power to ensure that we have local government elections on Wednesday 1 November 1995, There will be elections on that day for local governments throughout the country, from the large metropolitan areas to the rural villages.

Given the importance of this day for the democratisation of our country, the government is examining the possibility of making it a special national public holiday. This will give people time to vote, and it will free up schools, crèches, courtrooms and other venues to be used as polling stations. It will relieve the security forces from their normal duties so that they can assist with the elections.

The challenge of these elections cannot be met by Government alone. It requires a national patriotic effort, a partnership which stretches from, government, political parties, businesses, trade unions and NGOs to the stokfels, burial societies and every home in the country.

Every organisation or person with influence in their community should muster their resources and go out into the communities, in the cities, towns and villages, from the suburbs to the farms. Teachers, religious and traditional leaders and other community leaders all have a special role to play in ensuring that every citizen is able to exercise their democratic right.

Let us remember that the future of South Africa's democracy depends on this collective national effort to ensure the success of the local government elections on 1 November this year.

Those of you at this Summit have a special responsibility to give leadership in this historic process. It is a responsibility which embraces the registration process and administrative preparations for the elections, as well as immediate steps to restore confidence in local government. It includes taking whatever, steps are needed to ensure the conditions for free and fair elections.

Kom ons registreer nou en stem op 1 November om demokrasie en dienste tuis te bring en die HOP te laat werk!

Let us bring democracy and services to our communities and let us make the RDP work by registering now and voting on 1 November!



Part of the speech in Afrikaans

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 25/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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