Item 1507 - Address by Former President Nelson Mandela at a Luncheon Hosted by Brait

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ZA COM MR-S-1507


Address by Former President Nelson Mandela at a Luncheon Hosted by Brait


  • 2000-11-01 (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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Luncheon Hosted by Brait

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  • English

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Mr Mervyn King
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

We meet this afternoon at a perhaps more favourable moment in terms of the business mood in South Africa than has been the case for some while. It is quite encouraging to observe the generally positive response to the pronouncements of the Minister of Finance in Parliament this week as well as the increased confidence that followed certain policy statements by the President.

Your meeting to discuss and review investments in South Africa is therefore quite timely. It is a great privilege to be here with you and participate in your deliberations.

To be hosted to lunch by such an esteemed gathering of the captains of international finance is a singular privilege for an unemployed pensioner. It is not every day that an ex-President has the chance to rub shoulders with such luminaries, and I thank you very much for the honour and the lunch.

The two greatest challenges South Africa faces are poverty and HIV/Aids. The Aids pandemic places us before one of the gravest threats humankind has ever faced. As a country we have to mobilise and combine all the resources and energies we can to combat this scourge. It was one of the other greatly encouraging aspects of Minister Manuel's speech that he announced substantially increased amounts for this purpose.

Investors like yourself have an important role to play in our national attempts at eradicating poverty. We have to grow our economy in sustainable fashion and create jobs and prosperity for all. We have from the start recognised that a key ingredient to success in that regard is attracting foreign investment and particularly direct foreign investment.

That this has not been forthcoming on the scale that we would have hoped for continues to be a source of some disappointment and bafflement. It underlines how much perceptions play a role and determine decisions in this field. And we are happy that an organisation like your own can and do set out to project an image of the country truer to the reality of what we have sought to achieve here.

The human memory is sometimes remarkably short. We just need to reflect back to what this country looked like in the beginning of the Nineties to be reminded how far we have travelled and how remarkably different we are now.

The country was going from one state of emergency to another and there was a low intensity civil war with the repressive machinery of the state pitted against the resistance energy of the majority of the population. The economy was stagnant with no or negative growth for more than a decade. Inflation was running out of control and the state was borrowing the country into virtual bankruptcy. South Africa was the phariah nation of the world.

How far have we not come since then! Under the leadership of the liberation movement but through the combined will of all South Africans we averted the predicted bloodshed and negotiated a peaceful resolution to our conflict. Not for nothing, the world hailed that achievement as a miracle. The way South Africans overcame centuries of racial division and strife was an encouragement and inspiration to the entire world at the end of a century in which humanity had started to loose faith in idealism.

We understood the new political dispensation to be only the start to the longer term process of reconstruction and development. We negotiated amongst ourselves as South Africans a constitution based on the will and national consensus of the people. That constitution, hailed as one of the most progressive democratic documents in the world, became the supreme law of our land and the guarantee of the inalienable rights of every single citizen. That political base would be the platform from which we would seek to build a better life for all our people, particularly the poor and disadvantaged.

We made no wild promises. In the run up to each of the elections we pointed out to the people that reconstruction and development would be a process. We did not promise wild spending on the part of government but explained the need for fiscal discipline and prudent macro-economic planning.

As we set out to establish a stable political environment, we also built a sound macro-economic framework.

While South Africa of the early Nineties was wracked with internal political division, tension and conflict we today can claim to be a reconciled nation living out its political differences within the framework of our constitution. Whatever criticisms people may bring against South Africa, no one can claim that our political order is under any threat. The white right-wing that was once feared for its disruptive potential have become a constructive part of our political dispensation. The violence that was tearing one of our provinces apart has abated and disappeared with the erstwhile political opponents now partners in government. Racism, once the scourge of the country, is a disappearing social phenomenon, with South Africans living, learning, playing, working and doing business together.

If there are problems in the country they are social of nature rather than political. Without thereby minimising those problems, we can say that we have become a normal society with the normal range of social problems. The high level of crime is one such example. It is in the nature of our new democracy with its transparency and its encouragement of its citizenry to report and highlight their problems, that crime has become more visible than in a previous period. Statistics do not help or console victims but it is also true that the battle against crime is being won by the police and that there is a steady turn around of trends.

What investors would have taken the greatest heart from, one imagines, is the manner in which the South African economy was being managed by the new government. Given the background of the liberation movement and the lack of experience in government, these achievements must truly be hailed as exceptional.

The South African economy has shown sustained growth for the first time in more than a decade. No doubt, the growth has not been of the volume we would have hoped for and it was not sufficiently accompanied by job creation. The achievement of that turnaround was however significant and the direct result of the advent of a democratic government.

Important benchmarks were laid down and achieved, like reducing the deficit before borrowing, bringing down inflation significantly, steadily dealing with the debt inherited from the apartheid government, developing a medium term expenditure framework, committing to not increasing the tax burden of South Africans while enhancing revenue collection, and so forth.

The South African economy dropped its protectionist measures and entered the global economy in the spirit of free trade. This was often tough on a small and emerging economy but we understood the demands of the new global economy and were prepared to take up our place in that market.

South Africa has the biggest and most sophisticated economy in our region and we set out from the beginning of our democracy to be a role player in the integration of the Southern African Development Community. In that regard too we have achieved much to date. The South African economy is to the investor also a gateway to the Southern African economy.

Mister Chairman, we had hoped that the achievement of democracy and political stability in our country will be the beginning of accelerated economic development for the benefit of all our people. There were some expectations amongst our people that a post-apartheid dividend would accrue to the country with the international world investing assertively and massively in the future of democracy in this country and sub-region.

This has not been forthcoming to the degree we had hoped for. We remain confident, though, that as we have passed the first founding years of our democracy, that development will accelerate. There can be no doubt about the stability of our political order, nor about the soundness of our economic fundamentals and the management of our economy.

I thank you for listening to me, but even more so for investing in our country and helping us to achieve a better life for our people. It is only through that route that democracy can be secured.

I thank you.

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation. Accessioned on 15/02/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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