Item 170 - Address by ANC President, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, to ANC Business Summit

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Address by ANC President, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, to ANC Business Summit


  • 1994-03-30 (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 Website

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ANC Busines Summit

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  • English

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Mr. Chairperson,
Distinguished participants

This summit departs from tradition in more ways than one.

Firstly, in the hustle-bustle of a hard-fought election campaign, it stands out as a forum for calm, rational debate about the challenges business that the ANC face.

Secondly, we are confident that this summit will serve as a ray of hope, a spur to major economic players to act with decision to resolve the complex problems that beset our country.

Since 1990, we have often said that South Africa has entered a new terrain of debate. In Dakar, Davos, Paris, and on countless occasions within the country, we sought occasions to understand one another.

This summit is no different. Today, we are continuing along the same road in search of meaningful partnership; raising our discourse from one premised on ideology to one that derives from a common identification of national needs and goals.

We thank you all for finding the time in your busy schedules to be here with us. We particularly want to congratulate "Finance Week" for its keen sense of timing and organisational capacity.

During the course of the day, the experts will share with you the evolving detailed policy positions of the ANC. Mine is the relatively easy task of talking in general terms.

Important historical moments always have their surprises. I will try to fit the bill by sharing with you some information the ANC has not made public. And I trust you will come to my rescue when I am castigated by constitutional structures of the ANC.

I deliberately refer to "evolving" details of policy. Because we would not have been the movement we are, if we did not temper our approaches to take account of the views of those we consult. At the end of this summit, we will summon all the ANC experts present here to find out how they and the ANC have benefited from this encounter.

For any organisation to govern it should appreciate the needs, aspirations and fears of the nation as a whole. For, to govern means translating varying viewpoints into a harmonious national effort. We do not pretend that we are capable of ironing out all differences. The contradictions will always be there. But we are duty-bound to act in a manner that demonstrates sensitivity to the needs of society as a whole.

The ANC is confident that South Africa will make it. We have been part of a historic paradigm shift among forces which were at each others throats - in politics and in economics - to understand that national consensus is possible.

Over the past year or so, such an emergent consensus has found expression in many areas: within the National Economic Forum, the Housing Forum, the TEC Sub-council on Finance, and in the joint missions abroad. There, we have acted as South Africans first and foremost, pursuing a common national agenda. And there is no doubt that, if we get our act together, we will achieve a great deal for the nation as a whole.

This is of course conditional on one central factor. That is, our ability to resolve our political problems in a manner that our people and the international community can say: there is a legitimate arrangement to support.

No matter how hard we try to convince potential international investors and financiers about the discrepancies between TV screen images and reality; no matter how loudly we proclaim our commitment to find lasting solutions; as long as we are not seen to be acting together on these issues, their doubts will persist.

Every rational person appreciates that our country is on the verge of fundamental change, the most important expression of which will be the elections on 26, 27 and 28 April.

The country has successfully negotiated rules of the transition which will culminate in the drafting of a new democratic constitution. These rules, encapsulated in the interim constitution and electoral laws, might have their defects. But central to these rules are basic principles of democracy and a constitutionally-guaranteed mechanism for working together in a Government of National Unity.

Much has been made of the pet subject of federalism, turning words upon themselves until they lose all meaning. Most unfortunately the telegraphic nature of news reports on the debate the fundamental issue that what we have now is an interim arrangement is all too often missed.

We have already made numerous adjustments to provincial powers as a means of accommodating the White extreme right. But, to the extent that the new constitution will be drafted in a context of elected structures, it will be much easier to examine these questions in a more rational manner.

Let me pause to share a secret. In my discussions with our regions and the provincial candidate premiers, I have found a persistent leaning towards ensuring that the powers of the provinces are amplified - not as a tool for blocking national programmes, but to facilitate national development closer to where the people are.

What we are saying is that it is highly irrational to make a life-and-death issue of the interim constitution. This interim constitution makes room for the political approaches of the widest spectrum of parties, including the possibility of a volkstaat. Of course, what it does not do is to guarantee any political leader or party a status independent of the will of the electorate.

It would be wrong to compel anyone to take part in elections if they choose not to do so. But our argument is that even those who choose to abstain should not seek to undermine this national consensus by means of violence.

There is a serious danger that by being silent on these problems, we might be seen by the perpetrators of violence, by our own people and by the outside world as succumbing to the ancient dictum that might is right. Especially for the private sector, it is not helpful to the national economic consensus we seek, that a perception takes root among the majority, that while business appears keen to challenge the ANC on issues such as the double ballot; it fails to speak out when major obstacles to the transition are created.

The past fortnight has witnessed some of the most dramatic developments in our political history. There was the uprising in Bophuthatswana, the events in the Ciskei and the revelations in the Goldstone Commission report.

I do not personally have a penchant for uprisings or exposes. I had personally hoped that the Bophuthatswana government would co-operate with the transitional process and find a respectable role for itself. The objective of free political activity and the whole transition in this area could have been attained without unrest or bloodshed.

Except for local structures which kept in touch with events, there was no direct ANC participation in the fall of President Mangope. That is a matter of record. Until the eleventh hour we had hoped that negotiations and the phenomenal offers we were making to the Bophuthatswana administration would resolve the problems. However, our life-line was rejected and the Bop administration became victim of its own intransigence.

I would want to commend leader of the Freedom Front General Constand Viljoen for his maturity. We profoundly disagree with him on the issue of a volkstaat and we shall continue to differ with him in coming negotiations. But he has had the foresight to seek a peaceful settlement.

To the ANC, what is at issue is not whether a particular administrator stays in office for another few days or not. The question is ensuring free and fair elections.

We remain very apprehensive about the unfolding events in KwaZulu-Natal. As everywhere else, we would prefer the administration to accept the people's right to express their political views either way. An attempt to postpone the elections or drown them in blood cannot be countenanced. Allowing such an eventuality would be sending a terribly wrong signal about ourselves as a leadership and as a country: that might is right.

The ANC will continue seeking the least painful solutions to the crisis. We are aware of the genuine fears of the Zulu King and we shall continue seeking a meeting with him to clarify what we believe is a misunderstanding about his future status and role.

We do appreciate that the KwaZulu administration is different. Now this is no secret. The most recent report of the Goldstone Commission helps to piece together what has been more or less an enigma to many. If we recall, the motivation of the Security Police who engineered Inkatha funding in 1990, was that the apartheid state could not afford co-operation between Inkatha and the ANC during the transition. The revelations about co-operation between Generals at SAP Headquarters and this party confirms society's worst fears. This is what makes the KwaZulu administration different, not the anthropological analyses that seek to take us to pre-historic times.

Decisive steps need to be taken without delay. The South African government should exercise its jurisdiction to end the carnage and ensure normal political activity.

We should build a provincial consensus in Natal: a consensus that includes business, political parties, religious leaders and others, for a right of choice. If the forces of peace act together, we might yet be saved from what would be a mutually-debilitating conflict.

The ANC is convinced that such initiatives are in the interest of the country in general and our economy in particular. As politicians, we accept our responsibility to create the conditions in which the economy can thrive.

The thrust of our programme is to forge the emergent consensus into a dynamo for a national effort to build a better life for all.

There are many problems that we have collectively and variously identified that need resolution in the medium and long-term. Often, we set each other up for acrimonious exchanges by the ideological manner in which we identify these problems.

Our country suffers from:

-a unacceptable under-utilisation of its productive capacity
-an underdeveloped human resource base
-a structural dependence on the mining industry
-an underdeveloped manufacturing sector which is in no position to compete internationally
-a skewed agricultural sector that relies in the main on a few enterprises while the majority are condemned to chronic debt and landlessness
-a sharp urban-rural divide which is bound to explode in even worse urbanisation crises
-an industrial and commercial structure that is top-heavy and views small and medium-size enterprise with derision.

We could go on and on. The sum-total of it all is the disparity and attendant socio-political problems. We need to kick-start the economy in a joint national effort. This should be within a clear framework with national goals. It should be people-centred.

This is the premise of the ANC's Reconstruction and Development Programme: our Public Works Programme, Education, Health, Housing and other policies.

In the past we have often engaged in what is essentially an academic debate: what comes first, growth or delivery! But it is now part of the national consensus that these processes must proceed together and should in fact complement each other.

It is also part of our common understanding that these problems cannot be resolved in a shot-gun manner: let everyone fly in their own direction hoping they will reach some target.

We believe that the state should set the framework allowing for private, autonomous activity. It has an important role to create the environment within which business can thrive. It has an important role to ensure that there is full national participation in the economy, including the creation of opportunities for small business. It should direct public finance towards more investment spending rather than consumption.

The ANC's plan is conscious of the need for macro-economic balances. We emphasise more efficient utilisation of resources and thinning down the bureaucracy of apartheid duplications; closing the gaps for corruption; and ensuring an efficient tax collection system. In government, effective and open performance auditing will be the priority.

And to share with you the real secret that even top leaders of the ANC do not know: Minimal as its contribution would be, we intend to ensure that political leaders themselves set an example. Going through the salaries and perks current politicians pocket, leaves a sour taste in the mouth. This applies to the Presidency, ministers and parliamentarians. And I intend to ask my colleagues in the ANC executive and parliamentary lists to consider reducing these salaries and ensuring that everyone pays tax. The time has come that politics should be seen as a service to the people rather than as a means to self-enrichment.

The ANC's approach to tax is that we should examine the system as a whole, foster the rule of law and recognition of rights and responsibilities. All this has to be conducted within acceptable macro-economic balances. The aim should be to ensure increased revenue through growth and efficiency rather than increasing the tax burden. In particular we do not seek to increase central government spending above its current level of 25%. Government borrowing should not rise above current levels.

Our proposal for a reconstruction fund should be implemented in a manner that does not stifle individual business initiative. Emphasis will be on elements of the reconstruction programme that can generate funds.

What about a reconstruction levy, prescribed assets and foreign exchange controls? The ANC does not want to be prescriptive. Our preference is that, if national consensus on economic goals and a partnership between business and government take root, then government laws and policing should become redundant.

As the ANC, we are committed to creating a macro-environment for economic growth and to assist business to be competitive internationally. We will pursue sound monetary policies, guarantee the independence of the Reserve Bank and improve South Africa's credit rating. Our programme sets out broad parameters which we believe should stimulate the thriving of enterprise and initiative.

The fundamental question is, how the private sector proposes to play its role in this national effort! We would strongly argue that partnership between business and an ANC government should find expression in a commitment from the private sector to the country's future. This means investing in the country and developing its human resources. It means working together in various sectorial forums to hep build the economy and add to national wealth.

We believe that such a partnership is possible. Especially if we both shed the ideological baggage that has so undermined national debate, and pursue things as they are, not as interpreted in some manuals.

This should be the message that together we send out to society. On both sides of the apartheid divide, people wish to see practical efforts to improve the situation for all South Africans.

That is why we are concerned about some of the distortions we are coming across in the election campaign, aimed at exaggerating ANC support.

This is a particularly clever and dangerous campaign. The aim is to create a hung parliament and a government unable to implement reconstruction programmes.

The ANC does not pursue a two-thirds majority as a matter of principle. We are committed to ensuring that policies are worked out in consultation with all role players which genuinely seek a solution to the country's problems.

It makes sound economic and business sense to say that South Africa needs a decisive government; that governmental paralysis will naturally result in an unguided drift and continued economic hardships. We believe that it is in the interest of business that the reconstruction and development programme, tempered by our consultations, should be implemented.

I hope that this encounter will bear the kind of results that will move us from debate to practical action. There is a common challenge. Let us work together to find a common solution.

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Acquisition method: From website ; Source: ANC Website. Accessioned on 13/11/06 by Helen Joannides




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