Item 1361 - Address of President Nelson Mandela at Cape Town Civic Centre

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ZA COM MR-S-1361


Address of President Nelson Mandela at Cape Town Civic Centre


  • 1993-09-13 (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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Our country is in the throes of momentous change. We are witnessing the painful birth of a united South African nation. What is being born is a nation of equal compatriots, enriched by the diversity of colour and culture of its citizens. The South Africa we have struggled for is one in which all our people, both black and white, will be one nation and regard themselves as one nation.

A democratic constitution is what we have fought for since the founding of the ANC. We have sought a constitution freely adopted by the people of South Africa and reflecting the totality of their aspirations. Since 1943, when the first Bill of Rights ever adopted in this country, was drafted by the African National Congress, justice and human rights have been at the centre of our concerns. This is what we have been struggling for.

The Freedom Charter, adopted as our policy in 1955, in its very first lines, placed before South Africa an inclusive basis for citizenship, at a time when the policy of racial exclusion, enforced with violence, was being pursued with a vengeance by the National Party. The culmination of that cycle of racist law enforcement was Sharpeville in 1960 and the massacre that took place here at Langa, in Cape Town. The NP government followed these killings up with the banning of the ANC and the imposition of a five month long state of emergency, setting the stage for our decision to resort to arms rather than submit to oppression.

In the 1980s the African National Congress was still setting the pace for the rest of the country. In 1988 we became the first major political formation in South Africa to commit ourselves firmly to the principles of a democratic order based on a multi - party system, with the promise that a free South Africa shall be a non - racial, non - sexist and unitary state. We also announced our commitment to a Bill of Rights, a set of basic rights for all South Africans, to be enforced by a non - racial, non - sexist, and representative judiciary.

As our distinctive contribution to the debate about our country's future, a draft Bill of Rights was published by the African National Congress in November 1990. That Bill of Rights was contextualised by a further document, the Constitutional Principles and Structures for Democratic South Africa published in April, 1991.

These documents, dating back at least seven decades, give concrete expression to an alternative vision of South Africa. They envisage a constitutional democratic political order in which, regardless of race, gender, religion, political opinion or sexual orientation, the law will provide for the equal protection of all citizens. A democracy in which the government, whomever that government may be, will be bound by a higher set of rules, embodied in a constitution, and will not be able govern us at its discretion.

The tragedy of this country is not, as the NP and its leader opine, that apartheid did not work. The huge disparities between Black and White, the social distance that separates one racial community from the other, the poverty that is the lot of millions, and the perilous state of our economy all testify to the success of apartheid. Nobody disputes that the political sub-ordination of the Africans, "Coloureds" and Asians is directly linked to colonial conquest. The political and social order erected by successive White governments since the inauguration of the Union in 1910 allocated privilege to persons on the basis of an accident of birth, such as race, and was deliberately calculated to repress talent and initiative. This basically racist policy thrust was refined and promoted with a fanatical determination by the National Party when it assumed office in 1948.

Apartheid, however qualified or modified, is the very antithesis of democracy. The end of apartheid will not guarantee the beginning of democracy. It is crystal clear, however, that until apartheid has been uprooted, there can be no democracy.

A democratic order must be based on the majority principle, especially in a country where the vast majority have been systematically denied their rights. At the same time the rights of political and other minorities must be safeguarded.

Therefore, the political order we seek to establish must be one where there are regular, open and free elections, based on one- person -one -vote, without any educational or property qualifications at all levels of government - central, regional and local. Also, there will have to be a social order which will respect completely the culture, language and religious rights of all sections of our society and the fundamental rights of the individual. Finally, a legal order that will assist, rather than impede, the awesome task of reconstruction and redevelopment of our battered society.

For this, we will need a written Constitution which, as the highest law of the land, will be a social impact guaranteeing the protection of the legal order.

But, a democratic political order is not based solely on the accepted principle of one -person-one vote. It must, in addition, recognise the constitutional rights of dissent and increase trust in society by ensuring that the majority is constrained by constitutional means. We reject however any suggestion to insert eccentric and racially motivated proposals, which would disempower a future government from embarking on the enormous task of reconstruction.

The ANC has made very bold attempts to address the concerns, fears, apprehensions and doubts of those who have withdrawn from the negotiation process. ln the sphere of regional boundaries and on the issue of the powers accorded regional governments we have sought to accommodate the parties and governments clustered around COSAG. We have done this because of our own commitment to finding a peaceful settlement. We have entered into discussion with each of the parties and governments in COSAG in pursuance of an accommodation. Even though these gestures have not been reciprocated we shall continue to explore all possibilities.

The threats of civil war, the orchestrated filibuster of the multi-party talks, the ill-conceived litigation designed to delay the outcome of the talks, all suggest an overzealous pursuit of sectional party interests. It is our fervent hope that now that its lawsuit has failed the IFP and the KwaZulu government will return to the negotiations. It is essential that all those of us who wish to arrive at a speedy settlement stand firm in our opposition to those who want to be spoilers. Given the profound divisions in our society and the tensions that bedevil it, irresponsible utterances and actions could easily ignite a conflagration that would plunge us all into the abyss.

We have repeatedly warned against the temptation to respond to these tactics with equally rash actions on the part of our supporters. We address that warning once again, especially to all those who have been disadvantaged and are justifiably impatient about the slow delivery of the promise of freedom.

Those who have been privileged by the policies of racial domination need to understand that a Bill of Rights cannot be a device for the maintenance of the status quo . While it will be an instrument to create stability, it must also be the agent to bring about change. A democratic constitution must address the issues of inequality, poverty, want, deprivation and their attendant consequences in accordance with international standards which recognise the indivisibility of human rights. A vote, without food, shelter and health care would be to create the appearance of equality and justice, while actual inequality is entrenched.

We do not want freedom without bread, nor do we want bread without freedom. We must provide for all the fundamental rights and freedoms associated with a democratic society while creating the basis for an expanding floor of entitlements so as to accord every citizen that measure of dignity intrinsic to being human.

The judiciary can then determine which rights are directly enforceable at the instance of individuals. We shall be surprised if such rights as the right to clean water, to minimum nutrition and to adult education cannot be enforced by the law courts. There will be other claims that pose challenges to the legislators, to local and regional authorities to adopt policies whose effect will reverse the discriminatory practices of apartheid and sexism.

Affirmative action is not a threat to either standards or to individuals. It is an internationally recognised method of redressing past has to be applied to favour all who have been disadvantaged, African, Coloured, Indian, Women, the disabled and those who suffered discrimination because of their faith or sexual preference. To reject this mechanism would amount to accepting an unjust status quo and ensuring that the fruits of war, colonialism, racism, sexism and oppression continue to be nurtured in our society.

We however remain committed to engaging in serious dialogue and debating the future South African economy with those who genuinely recognise the need to redress the balance of economic power and privilege. A commitment to substantial change must be the basis of such a debate. The options the ANC has chosen are determined by and reflect the needs and wishes of the majority of our people. As such we feel they must be taken seriously and cannot be brushed aside.

We have placed our vision of a new constitutional order for South Africa on the table not as conquerors intent on prescribing to the conquered. We speak as fellow citizens to heal the wounds of the past with the intent of constructing a new order based on justice for all. This is the challenge that faces all South Africans today, and it is one to which I am certain all of you will rise.

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 28/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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