Item 249 - Notes for President Nelson Mandela's closing address on the occasion of the President's Budget Debate

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Notes for President Nelson Mandela's closing address on the occasion of the President's Budget Debate


  • 1995-05-03 (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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President's Budget Debate

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  • English

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Madame Speaker;
Deputy-President FW de Klerk;
Ministers and Deputy Ministers;
Honourable Members of Parliament;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Yesterday in opening this debate I outlined the socio-economic and security issues which constitute our government's urgent challenge. We are in this second freedom year required to achieve significant and visible progress.

We will succeed for we are borne on the tide of a nation now united, beyond all expectations and across all sectors, to address the legacy of poverty, deprivation and gross material inequality we have inherited.

After our first year of democratic government the responsibility which is on our shoulders is, therefore, a very heavy one.

I have, as always, been most impressed by the debate in this National Assembly. I have listened attentively to all that has been said. The passion and conviction of our nation's representatives are indeed, as strong as ever.

At the time one could not but observe that some of the contributions reflected a preoccupation with issues, which, if not approached within the perspective of the real concerns facing the nation, could deflect us from our central task. At times it was impossible not to wonder if party advantage was at work rather than the national interest.

Before I deal with the matters which merit special attention, there is one matter which has been dealt with elsewhere, but which I will refer to here since it has been raised in this debate.

It would not be right to comment on the particulars of the matter of any particular individual, but I would like to reaffirm the imperative of due process.

Government needs to be most circumspect in drawing conclusions from informal procedures in such cases. It is, therefore, necessary to consider carefully whether, in advance of the completion of possibly protracted formal investigation, any initial private investigation merits a final decision by myself.

If not, then we would not be in a position to take a final decision concerning any official appointment. At the same time we believe it is only fair and just that such formal investigations should be completed as soon as possible.

On a second matter, more needs to be said. While political violence is a thing of the past in most of our country, this is not the case in parts of KwaZulu-Natal. A reduction of tensions in that province is one of the most urgent priorities faced by politicians.

In this context the provocative statements by some leaders in the province are a matter of concern. To call on members of the provincial government to 'rise and resist' national government, is to test the bounds of what is legal and legitimate. To call on people, in such a context, to fight national government for their freedom does the same.

As President I have the task and duty to protect the Constitution and the democratic foundation on which it rests. Not to act when there is a threat to overthrow the constitution would be a dereliction of duty.

I therefore again wish to issue a timely warning, before matters develop still further in this direction, that the Government would not allow public funds at the disposal of the province to be used to finance an attempt to overthrow the Constitution by violent and unconstitutional means. Nor would it allow the use of such funds for the promotion of a reign of terror.

Central government does not have the Constitutional power to withhold funds from a provincial government working within the constitutional framework, and to do so would be contrary to my own democratic ideals. Our political culture embraces differences between political parties and between different levels of government.

But the Constitution does not protect attempts, using government funds or in any other way, to promote lawlessness and anarchy, or foment divisive and bloody war against fellow South Africans.

We hope that matters will not reach such a fearsome eventuality; and that all matters generating tension will be resolved in a mature and peaceful manner.

I must add that I have briefed leaders of political parties on the latest developments in KwaZulu-Natal. This is against the background of more then 20,000 innocent people - men, women and children - who have been slaughtered in this senseless violence since 1984.

Since my release from prison I have tried to the best of my ability to discuss problems with the leaders of the IFP.

Madame Speaker;

As all our institutions set about defining the part they should play in our new society, there will be moments of difficulty and uncertainty. An institution as central as the mass media, is bound to encounter such moments.

In this regard we must commend the vibrancy of public criticism and scrutiny of the working and performance of government at all levels. Here we see the constitutional right freedom of opinion and information taking life. In its appraisal of developments the government looks upon the critical media as partners in the enterprise of building a new society.

At the same time government has to consider its own obligation, in a democracy committed to openness and transparency, to communicate to the public what it is doing.

In exploring options as to how best to meet this obligation, there is no wish to infringe on the independence of the news media.

It is within the same process of institutional change that the status of our languages, (in particular that of Afrikaans), can become a sensitive issue.

Our Constitution provides for the equal status of all the official languages. The task is therefore to find ways of changing from a situation in which there was inequality, without downgrading the status of any language. The challenge which this poses in the case of our public broadcaster is immense.

While the constitution provides an ultimate resort in this as in many other issues, an enduring solution requires consultation amongst all interest groups. It call for sensitivity on the part of all.

It might be well to bear in mind that in the case of education, where emotions concerning the future of language ran high, a framework for the accommodation of all interests has emerged through consultation.

Madame Speaker;

Given the deep national concern about levels of crime in our country, it was to be expected that the remission of sentences which I announced on Freedom Day would receive attention in this debate.

Those who have committed crimes are not lost to society. It was in this spirit that I decided to use my powers as President to shorten the sentences of most prisoners to mark the first anniversary of our democracy, thereby bringing forward their release by some weeks or months.

They now have the opportunity to become law-abiding citizens of our democracy and to contribute to its reconstruction and development. They should also know that the government's commitment to deal firmly with those who break the law is unshakeable. Those who do not mend their ways will face swift action, without the hope of similar remission on a future occasion.

But there is also a larger message to all of us. To the extent that society assists released prisoners to assume useful roles, we will be acting to reduce the problem of crime. Rehabilitation and re-integration must form part of our approach to crime.

The main thrust of the government's action for safety and security, however, will be aimed at prevention of crime and measures against those who break the law. You may rest assured that the government regards this matter with the same urgency as was expressed in many of the contributions to the debate.

I have already referred in my opening address to the Community Safety Plan. In addition, in February this year I appointed a Ministerial Committee comprising the Ministers of Justice, Safety & Security and Defence in order to address crime through a national plan of action and to form an interdepartmental task group to co-ordinate efforts in this regard. Initiatives which result from their work will, like the Community Safety Plan, depend ultimately on the co-operation they receive from communities and organisations of civil society.

Such plans and campaigns are necessary in order to bring immediate relief to communities from the current levels of crime. Furthermore, stability and security are essential for reconstruction and development, for the economic growth and the creation of jobs.

It is for this reason that government wishes to encourage communities to see their responsibility for their own safety and security as linked to reconstruction and development.

It is only right that we should reflect on these difficulties. But we should not lose sight of what we have achieved. We live today a life of freedom in an open and democratic society, based on respect for one another's languages, cultures and religions.

Rights formally inscribed in our constitution have taken on life in a freedom of expression and association which we have never known before.

The unity of purpose a year ago has become an active partnership which has given birth to such institutions as the Housing Forum, the National Economic Development and Labour Forum, Police Community Forums, to name but a few. Each of these institutions binds former antagonists in a common pursuit of solutions in the national interest.

Such partnerships give expression to a deeper unity of social forces. It has laid the basis for us to move beyond the first steps of social transformation.

Taking note of these changes at the same time reminds us that they are only a beginning. It serves, too, to remind us that with regard to some of the larger challenges, in particular unemployment, the impact of our policies is yet to be felt on a significant scale and that the solution will be measured in years.

Reminders of how much has been achieved and how much is still to be done abound. Soon to impact on us is the Rugby World Cup. Not long ago it would have been unthinkable that the world would be coming to our country to participate in such an event. Or that the members of the team would publicly proclaim their allegiance to the ideal of national unity. This event, with its powerful message of international acceptance and national reconciliation, also brings an unparalleled boost in tourism, and with it revenue to our country and jobs to our people.

It speaks to us, too, of the longer road to travel. For our sports teams, like most of our institutions, are yet to become truly representative of our society as a whole.

Reminding ourselves of how much is still to be done, should not cause despair but rather a renewal of determination and commitment. We have reached a point where we can dare to move forward in a focused and purposeful manner.

On the part of government, the executive is rising to this challenge of effective governance in the ways I indicated in my address yesterday. The debate indicates that this legislature intends do so. I am confident that all spheres of government will do the same, including the new local authorities to be democratically elected in November.

History expects no less of us, of business, of organised labour, of communities across the country.

Let us all join together in order to ensure that we build on this first year, which was principally one of preparation.

Let us make sure that after our second freedom Year, we can say with conviction that we have achieved significant and visible movement towards the goal of a better life.

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Acquisition method: From website ; Source: ANC Website. Accessioned on 15/11/06 by Helen Joannides




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