Item 028 - Speech of Nelson Mandela, Deputy President of the African National Congress, at the University of Pretoria

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Speech of Nelson Mandela, Deputy President of the African National Congress, at the University of Pretoria


  • 1991-04-29 (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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  • Afrikaans
  • English

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I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak at the University of Pretoria.

I am aware that this feeling may not be shared by all members of this University and there are undoubtedly many who will not welcome my presence.

I think this hostility and fear is not directed at me personally but at what I represent as a leader of the ANC - an organisation that many have been told threatens everything that you value.

If you value racism more than anything else in life then the ANC is to be feared.

We have vowed to rid this land of racism and bury it once and for all, with everything else that has meant dehumanisation for the majority of South Africans for so long.

If you value the privileges that go with racism, that depend on the blacks of this country being downtrodden, then you have reason to fear. We want equality and we will settle for nothing less.

But there may be more legitimate concerns. There may be people here who suspect that the ANC is going to do to Whites what Whites have done to Blacks for so long.

But there is no reason to fear that. The ANC is committed to non-racialism, to having all the people of South Africa live in peace and friendship.

The very first words of the freedom charter, our main policy document begin: South Africa belongs to all who live in it Black and White.

The ANC is as committed to National Liberation, to the ending of apartheid and freedom for all our people as it is to the type of society we want in its place.

We believe this society is one that should not hold fear, but hope for all who want peace in this land.

Whites are living on a volcano. They are deluded if they think they can continue to live as they have on the backs of Black South Africans. Surely you, the Afrikaner, who fought for your freedom from British imperialism would lose all respect for the African people and the Blacks in general if we just meekly accepted the denial of our rights?

Surely you understand that we are not prepared to live any longer as second class citizens in the land of our birth.

Surely you are appreciate that we are unwilling to accept gutter education, which was conceived to prepare us for inferiority?

The Bantu Education system is now in a crisis, that all acknowledge but which the state refuses to take adequate responsibility.

These are broad and general questions.

I have not come here to be provoked but to try and create a better understanding of why the ANC believes its policies and principles hold out the best prospects for a peaceful and just future for all.

I have said that we are committed to non-racialism and the can be very little evidence to doubt this. It has been part and parcel of ANC thinking for decades.

But let me get more specific and address matters that are generally raised as concerns of the Afrikaner people.

We are told that there is a need for protection of group rights. If this does not mean group privileges we are legitimate and of value to any community.

That is why we, as a movement, are totally committed to respect for the culture of all the peoples of South Africa.

The Freedom Charter declares.

All people shall have equal ,rights to use their own language and to develop their own folk culture and customs.

The ANC draft bill of rights makes extensive provision for the protection and development of cultural, linguistic and religious freedom.

This also elaborated in the discussion document:

'Constitutional Principles and Structures for a Democratic South Africa', prepared by the ANC constitutional committee.

Ons is veral besorg oor die Afrikaanese taal. Soos julle seker almal weet is die Afrikaans deur meerste Swaartmense as die taal van onderdruikking beskou.

Dit is die taal van die polisie en die taal van die tronk.

Dit is een van die twee amptelike tale van hierdie land, waar die tale van meer as 70 persent van die bevolking nie as amptelik beskou word nie.

Maar ons in die ANC beskou die Afrikaans taal nie net die taak van onderdrukking nie.

Dit is nie net die taal van wit Afrikaaners nie en daar is ook baie wit Afrikaaners wat nie rassiste is nie.

Ons beskou die Afrikaans wat nou in die proses van ontwikkeling is, die Afrikaans van die nuwe Suid -Afrika, as 'n taal van bevryding.

Hierdie taal moet ontwikkel as deel van 'nuwe demokratiese staat.

Ons wil ook 'n situasie skep waar daar 'n nuwe begrip van die woord patriotisme ontwikkel, waar ons patriotisme vertaan as iets wat al die mense van ons land liefhet.

Soos die vryheidsmannifes oor die onderwys se.

Die doel van die onderwys sal wees die jeug te leer om hulle mense en kultuur lief te he en om die broederskap van mense, vryheid verde te eer.

Dit is die tipe Suid-Afrika wat die ANC probeer bou.

Niemand wat belange van die mense van ons land op hul harte dra hoef te vrees oor hierdie toekoms nie.

We are now in a new phase on the way to the realization of these ideals.

It is no longer just a dream that we will have a new South Africa, where justice will prevail. It is in our hands to turn this dream into a reality.

We, in the ANC, have committed ourselves to seek a peaceful resolution of the apartheid conflict. We have met with the Government in order to create a climate where serious negotiations can take place in order to make a lasting constitution that will forge a new, peace-loving nation.

In the course of our talks we have been willing to make substantial compromises in order to keep this process on track. In particular, I refer to our decision last year to unilaterally suspend armed action. This is a decision that we have found very hard to explain to our members who feel that it is a compromise that has not been met with equal concessions on the side of the Government.

We made this compromise because we took responsibility for ensuring that the peace process did not break down. Even though we viewed the actions of UMKHONTO WE SIZWE as fundamentally defensive and reactive to apartheid violence, we did not want this to be presented as an obstacle that would hold up the release of prisoners, the return of exiles and other factors facilitating normal political action. We did not want the Government to be able to use this to delay the peace process as a whole.

Unfortunately, our gesture has not been met with a reasonable response.

In fact, we know that the period since our suspension of armed action has witnessed a massive carnage on the reef which is on a scale that is quite unprecedented, aside from there already being a continuing war in Natal for many years.

We believe that the state has not taken adequate steps to bring this violence to an end.

We believe in fact that sections of the state security forces are involved in the violence, who think there is something to gain from is continuing. They think the ANC is weakened by it and that the campaign of violence may actuality benefit organisations who are more sympathetic to their negotiations goals.

What we have then is an objection to armed action of the ANC as an obstacle to negotiations on the one hand, and on the other side, the use of terror against the communities as a factor in the negotiations. We believe that it is well within the power of this Government to end the violence, but that, short-sightedly, they are allowing and in some cases encouraging it to continue.

The ANC recently indicated that it was not prepared to let the negotiations flounder through this irresponsibility. We made demands that we consider completely reasonable, to save the peace process. We acted responsibly and we hope that all peace-loving South Africans will try to bring this Government to understand that is not the ANC ultimatum that crated a crisis. Rather our ultimatum was a response, an attempt to stop a crisis that was already threatening to derail any idea of a settlement.

Before concluding I want to briefly refer to one of the most pressing questions that we put before the people of South Africa in regard to the unfolding process.

This question is how the transition process should be managed and how the new constitution should be made. We believe that if we agree that there should a democratic constitution there needs also to be a democratic process that creates the constitution. Ordinary people so long excluded from any part in the major decisions concerning their lives, must now help to make the new constitution. This would be an important part of their liberation.

This we believe, can be done through election, on the basis of one person one vote, to a constituent assembly, which would draw up the new constitution.

Whichever party gets the most votes would obviously have a major say in deciding on the content of the new constitution. And that is what democracy is about. If its good enough for every other state that we profess to admire we do not see why should be denied it in South Africa.

The process is inclusive because any organisation has the opportunity to canvass support and elect representatives who would bring into the constitution-making process, ideas in line with theirs.

Something that still needs to be a addressed is the question of how decisions would be made in such a constituent assembly.

We have no firm view on this and it may be that we will have to consider a two thirds rather than a simple majority situation. I say this because the ANC does not want to create an 'ANC Constitution' but one that wins the loyalty of all.

If the constitution is made by a one per cent majority it obviously has little chance of winning broad support.

It is crucial that the process of transition to democracy is managed by a Government that has broad support and can be relied on to carry out that task.

The present Government is clearly unfit and we propose the establishment of an Interim Government, composed of major parties, which would oversee elections for a constituent assembly ensuring there is free political activity and all other factors necessary for completing this constitutional process successfully

We believe these are reasonable demands, just demands that will lead to the peace that we all long for. We ask you to join us in this quest for democracy, this quest to create a new country which we are all proud to call our own.

I want to conclude by urging you to consider these final words of the Freedom Charter: "Let all who love their people and their country now say, as here: these freedoms we will fight for, side by side, throughout our lives until we won our liberty."

Thank You



Paragraph beginning: "But there may be more legitimate concerns. "
Sentence in web text: "There may be people here who suspect that the ANC is going to do Whites what Whites have done to Blacks for so long"
Changes made: "to do Whites" changed to "to do to Whites"

Paragraph beginning: "Ons wil ook..."
Sentence in web text: "Ons wil ook ;n situasie skep waar daar 'n nuwe begrip van die woord patriotisme ontwikkel..."
Changes made: ";n" changed to "'n"

Paragraph beginning: "Dit is die tipe Suid -Afrika wat die ANC probeer bou."
Changes made: "Suid -Afrika" changed to "Suid-Afrika"

Paragraph beginning: "I want to conclude by urging you to consider these final words of the freedom charter: Let all who love their people and their country now say, as here: these freedoms we will fight for, side by side, throughout our lives until we won our liberty"
Changes made: "freedom charter" changed to "Freedom Charter" and add inverted commas to quote from it.



Mandela never got to deliver this speech. He was prevented from speaking by right wing students. See an account of this incident in Jonathan Jansen's book "Knowledge in the Blood: Confronting Race and the Apartheid Past " Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. ISBN 978-1-91989-520-8. pp114-117

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Acquisition method: From website ; Source: ANC Website. Accessioned on 6 Nov 2006 by Helen Joannides




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