Item 291 - Address by President Nelson Mandela to the 1995 National Conference of Institute for a Democratic South Africa (IDASA)

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Address by President Nelson Mandela to the 1995 National Conference of Institute for a Democratic South Africa (IDASA)


  • 1995-08-18 (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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1995 National Conference of IDASA

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  • English

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Ladies and gentlemen,

One of South Africa's most valuable assets is the vibrant civil society that its people forged in the struggle for freedom. On its continued vibrancy depends the future of our democracy.

I am therefore most honoured to share your annual conference with you. All the more because I know that my presence here does not signify any relaxation of your vigilance in monitoring the actions of government.

IDASA's contribution to democracy in South Africa is a distinguished one, marked by a readiness to confront challenging situations. This is vividly expressed in your theme for this conference in the Western Cape. You are right to confront the difficult issues which our divisive history has posed for the community which forms most of this Province's population.

You do the cause of nation-building service by laying bare for frank discourse, issues that many would prefer to whisper in corridors.

Ladies and gentlemen;

Countless individuals, of all colours and backgrounds, have contributed to our achievement of liberty, justice and democracy.

Many are from the Coloured community, which has nurtured a long tradition of struggle against oppression. It has given our nation outstanding leaders whose contribution and sacrifice for the ideal of non-racial democracy has been immense. In the past they helped shape resistance politics, through each of its phases. Today they represent our nation as a whole, in parliament and provincial governments, leading the transformation of our society.

Our newly established democracy is the culmination of decades of struggle and the beginning of an era of hope and promises.

The special abuses under apartheid laws which the Coloured community suffered - Group Areas and Mixed Marriages in particular - are a thing of the past. Under our democratic constitution all South Africans enjoy the right to be protected and not abused by the law.

South Africa shall never, ever, repeat the horrific abuses of detention without trial. Never again will our nation be at war with itself. Imam Haron, Basil February and Ashley Kriel will be remembered as towering monuments to this, our commitment.

Freedom, justice and fairness are ideals for whose full realisation we must strive. But already all our people, from whatever sector, feel the dignity and pride of a nation which freed itself in the elections of last year.

Non-racialism is one of those ideals that unite us. It recognises all South Africans as citizens of a single rainbow nation, acknowledging and appreciating difference and diversity.

Turning ideal into living reality will, amongst other things, require undoing the consequences of discriminatory practices of the past, in particular in employment and education. Affirmative action is a strategy of corrective action to bring previously disadvantaged people to the same competitive levels as those who have been advantaged.

This policy has awakened fears amongst sections of the Coloured community. It is sometimes said to be intended to benefit only Africans, and there are claims that there are a few employers who misinterpret it in this way.

It is necessary therefore to repeat categorically that anyone who says that affirmative action reserves jobs or opportunities for Africans only, is grossly distorting the policy of the government and the ANC. Anyone denied an opening in this way is denied a right that belongs to all who have been disadvantaged, and they should take it up with the authorities.

The RDP is sometimes the subject of similar false claims. Again, a look at the facts will show that this is not so. The Presidential Lead Projects and RDP forums have benefited a range of projects in Cape Town and the rural areas of the Western Cape, too many to detail here. They bring direct and indirect benefits for the Coloured community.

Having said that, we need to do more. One of the main obstacles to systematic progress and proper involvement of communities in the RDP has been the absence of democratic local authorities. In this regard the local government elections are of critical importance.

Democratic local authorities will help us to join hands to heal the social fabric of our communities, damaged by the enforced divisions of apartheid.

The government has already urged an end to racism in the workplace. But we need to go further. We need as a nation to strenuously combat racism wherever it raises its ugly head.

Some say that some Coloured people have not yet entered the new South Africa and are prone to using racist language encouraged under apartheid. Where this may be true, we should emphasise that it is not unique to sections of the Coloured community. Racism is found in all spheres of our society. This is aggravated by the fact that we have inherited a society in which racism is configured with geometric precision in the maps of our residential areas.

Racism is a nation problem in search of a national solution. And we are right to look forward to a future in which we shall have South Africa communities in our residential areas; not racial groups closeted in racially-defined "group areas".

De-racialising South African society is the new moral and political challenge that our young democracy should grapple with decisively. We need to marshal our resources in a visible campaign to combat racism - in the workplace, in our schools, in residential areas and in all aspects of our public life.

I use the word "campaign" advisedly. As with all our goals, de-racialising our society requires active co-operation between government and civil society, including Non-Governmental Organisations and voluntary associations.

Ladies and gentlemen;

It is understandable that each sector of South African society should have concerns unique to its history and circumstances. For some within the Coloured community, perhaps the most pressing concern is the fear of being marginalised.

If unattended, this fear can undermine the vary foundation of the non-racial democracy we all have struggle to achieve. If parties which seek to encourage and exploit this are not challenged, they will succeed in perpetuating divisions of the past.

We have favourable conditions for dealing with these anxieties. One year since the elections brought democracy, people can make a more realistic assessment of what the transformation of our society means. Those who prophesised doom and an early end to reconciliation have been proved wrong. The benefits of the democratic order have become more tangible.

What is called for is a strengthening of the developing partnership among all communities, in the spirit of reconciliation and renewal.

For its part, government is committed to an unqualified observance of the principles of non-racialism and equality. We are very clear about our goals and plans; and we shall always be sensitive to the apprehensions any section of our people might feel.

For the Coloured community, as with every other community in our varied land, it means becoming part of the majority by embracing our new society. It means building our South African nation and a better life for all.

Ladies and gentlemen;

In the past, the issues on which IDASA concentrated our minds had great significance for the future of our nation. We are convinced that this is the case today and that you shall always carry this banner. May you fare well in your deliberations. And may IDASA continue to challenge us in public office.

I thank you.

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Acquisition method: From website ; Source: ANC Website. Accessioned on 16/11/06 by Helen Joannides




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