Item 995 - Speech at South Africa Excellence Award

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Speech at South Africa Excellence Award


  • 2002-11-12 (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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Annual SAEF Excellence Awards Conference on 12 November 2002

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  • English

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Mr Nick Buick
Mr Hendrik Dieckman
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a source of great pride to be present at this event and observe how we South Africans are striving in various fields to attain excellence and to perform in ways that are comparable to best practices and standards across the world.

We are currently working on our memoirs dealing with the years leading up to our democratic elections and with the years of our first democratic government. This gives us occasion to revisit those years of transition and to be vividly reminded of how we as a nation were enthused with the excitement of that achievement and a sense of national excellence in the manner of our transition.

We were confidently looking forward to build our new nation as a winning nation, proudly taking its place amongst the nations of the world, competing and excelling to the fullest of our national potential.

The realities of the world in which we live have taught us the difficulties of always or immediately realising all those goals and objectives. Yet, eight years into our new democracy we can confidently say that South Africa retains the commitment to be a winning nation, to be recognised as globally competitive, to strive for excellence.

We were amused and impressed to read in a recent newspaper article on South Africa's foreign policy achievements the comment that as a country we punch above our weight in the international arena. And that is what we would wish for every aspect of our national life.

The realisation of those national objectives starts with each and every one of us as citizens and individuals. A nation's excellence resides in and is created by individuals and organisations and communities in that nation striving for excellence in whatever they do or are involved in.

We often make the point that leadership is crucially important in achieving goals. Once more, we can refer to that so-called miracle of our political transition. If it was not for the courage and wisdom of political leaders from all parties and sectors of our society we would not have had the peaceful and orderly transition at the time it occurred. Amongst all communities there were those who for quite understandable reasons would have been opposed to such a negotiated settlement; it required the example set by leadership to persuade the various communities and formations and eventually the entire nation to choose that rational and winning route.

Today as we set about the task of transforming, reconstructing and developing our society, leadership of excellence remains as important, becoming even more important.

This emphasis on leadership's role does, however, not in any way mean that individuals and individual members of organisations can sit back and delegate the commitment to excellence to leaders. Another point we often make is that we are all leaders. In every single activity we are engaged in, we lead. The excellence with which we perform our task, no matter how small or even menial, sets an example and inspires others around us or in our team.

The public service is a particular case in point. The South African government under the leadership of President Thabo Mbeki has consistently emphasised its commitment to excellence in public service and the President has been insisting upon such excellence from public servants, failing which he would act decisively and firmly.

The same commitment is of course required from leaders in the private sector. Once more we should be seen to conform to the best practices of governance and business performance globally.

We have much to be proud of and on which we can build. The management of our economy is universally recognised as being sound and exemplary. Amongst the emerging markets and in the developing world our economy is of the most sophisticated and our policies match that sophistication. Corporate governance compares with and even outstrips that of developed countries.

Our constitutional order and our polity are advanced, progressive and stable. As already mentioned, we are a respected and significant presence on the stage of international affairs. On our continent we are prominent part of the leadership for the regeneration of Africa, its economies and political order.

The challenge is to build on those foundations and to make sure that the excellence demonstrated in those large areas permeates every organisation and every activity in our national life.

This will require from leaders in all of those sectors to set concrete and specific standards and criteria of excellence. It should be clear to every individual and member how that excellence can be achieved and how it is measured. And it will require of leaders themselves to be inspiring and visible demonstrations of excellence.

We speak frequently about the fact that we live in a globalised world. The relevance of that for our quest for excellence is that we must be able to measure ourselves against global standards and benchmarks. There are many historical disadvantages suffered by people from the developing world; acknowledging that does not mean, however, that we should set lower standards for ourselves. The first value emphasised in the preamble to our Constitution is that of dignity. We establish and build our own dignity by insisting on only the best from ourselves.

We congratulate you on this initiative and we have confidence that there are enough men and women of excellence in all sectors of our society to build ourselves into a truly winning nation.

We congratulate the finalists and trust that they will go forward to even greater heights, in the process serving as role models and inspiration to others to follow them.

I thank you

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Acquisition method: From hard drive ; Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation Prof J Gerwel. Accessioned on 21/01/09 by Razia Saleh




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