South African’s National Liberation Movement

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National Conference​


Political Report of the NEC, to the 49th National Conference by President Nelson Mandela

18 December 1994

Comrade Chairperson;
Officials and members of the NEC;
Fellow delegates;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Distinguished Guests:

“There is no doubt that the road to Union Buildings and Tuynhuis has become the shorter”. With these words we concluded the 48th National Conference of the ANC in Durban barely over three years ago. It was the first constitutional National Conference of our organisation held within South Africa in over three decades.

Then, we were celebrating the unbanning of the African National Congress, and struggling to secure normal political activity, including the release of many political prisoners who remained behind bars.

And so we assemble today, at this the 49th National Conference of the African National Congress, converging from Union Buildings and Tuynhuis; from parliament and regional legislatures; from ministries and provincial governments – as the majority organisation in the first ever democratically-elected government of our country. We have converged from the shop-floor and informal settlements; from places of worship and learning; from urban and rural areas; as business-persons and professionals – African, Coloured, Indian and white – a microcosm of South African society.

For the first time in the history of our country, we have under one roof, sharing the same vision and planning as equals, delegates from every sector of South African society, including those who hold the highest offices in the land. This in itself vividly captures the qualitative change our country has undergone: a dream fulfilled and a pledge redeemed.

That pledge, made in this mother-city of the ANC 83 years ago by yet another representative gathering, was to transform South Africa into a non-racial and democratic society. As we meet in the environs where they planted the seed, we can proudly say to the founders: the country is in the hands of the people; the tree of liberty is firmly rooted in the soil of the motherland! This Conference is the first such assembly after our momentous elections, the convention which signals the closing of a painful and yet glorious chapter in the history of our country and our organisation, and the opening of a new chapter of freedom, dignity and prosperity. On behalf of the National Executive Committee, I welcome you all – delegates, observers from allied organisations and our friends representing governments across the globe. On your behalf, I wish to express our gratitude to the Free State Province of the ANC for the hospitality accorded us; and to the National Conference Preparatory Committee for the excellent organisation that should help make this Conference the success that it promises to be. We congratulate all the delegates and the Regions and branches for the seriousness with which they have prepared for this historic event. Yesterday, December 16, was the anniversary of that bloody battle on the banks of the river Ncome, as warriors sought to stave off the persistent incursion into ancestral lands, into their freedom and their dignity. Many perished in honour, as have thousands before and after them. Even as we met in Durban in 1991, massacres underpinned by the same bent to impose white supremacy, were continuing. A great many patriots, some of whom were with us at the last Conference have passed away. Oliver Tambo, former President of the ANC who steered our organisation during difficult moments; Chris Hani, the outstanding people`s soldier who was gunned down in cold blood; Elias Motsoaledi and our former Treasurer-General Thomas Nkobi. We also fondly remember Reggie Radebe, Lambert Mbatha, Helen Joseph, Susan Keane, Firoza Adams, Elijah Barayi, Sam Ntambani, Oscar Mpetha and many more leaders and cadres who contributed in no small measure to the victory we celebrate today. In honour of these martyrs, I ask you to stand and observe a moment of silence. Indeed, as we get down to the business of Conference, we need always to remember that, the stroke of good fortune that has allowed us to be there and at the helm in the democratic transition, is at the same time a grave responsibility to ensure that the ideals for which these heroes perished and the cause which consumed their lives, finds concrete realisation in a better life for all our people. For, proud as we should be of the achievements made, the reality is that democratic forces in our country have captured only elements of political power. South Africa is not yet out of the woods. We have assembled at this Conference precisely to chart the way forward to a truly free and prosperous nation. The real measure of success or failure of this Conference will be whether we will emerge motivated and stronger than before, and whether the decisions we take bring practical relief to the millions who so graphically demonstrated their confidence in the ANC and in democracy last April. Their eyes are trained at this Conference, and their ears strain to hear our decisions. They wait expectant that we will bring new hope and justify their trust. Comrade Chairperson and Delegates: As we met in July 1991, the apartheid regime was well-entrenched, relating to the liberation movement with arrogance, as if we were hapless petitioners. The talks-about-talks aimed at freeing the political environment were grinding along at a slow pace; political violence against the people was on the increase; and many political prisoners were still behind bars. The rulers of our country were confident that they could drag out the process, undermine the ANC and impose a political settlement that would leave the essence of apartheid intact. It was therefore natural that our debates had to focus on the advisability or otherwise of negotiations and the fate of the four pillars of our struggle in a changing South Africa and a changing world. Our conclusion that the regime was in crisis and unable to rule in the old way; that it was forced to unban the ANC and yet sought to delay the transition; inspired us to pursue negotiations combined with mass action as well as strengthening our organisational and military capacity. This was reinforced by our assessment of the new international order characterised by the general pursuit of multi-party democracy and human rights and the collapse of the socialist world. We also had to adopt a new approach to our own relations with the international community, to ensure that the world supported change in a manner that strengthened the forces of democracy in our country. The decisions of the 48th National Conference created the basis for the ANC to take the lead on all fronts. Yet, while we can confidently say that the transformation that has taken place vindicates this conclusion, we should also admit that, in the process we did also falter. What is crucial though is whether we were able to learn from our mistakes and to adapt our approach to a changing and dynamic situation. Soon after National Conference, the National Executive Committee reviewed progress in the talks-about-talks and, as instructed by Conference, recommitted itself to the content of the OAU Harare Declaration. However, it was agreed that a review of our approach to the phases of the process was required. You will remember that we had then identified the achievement of free political activity, including release of all political prisoners and an end to the violence, as necessary conditions for substantive negotiations to start. In our discussion, and in consultation with a number of leaders on the continent, we came to the conclusion that we needed to proceed apace to real negotiations. Given that the apartheid regime was inherently violent, and given that it sought to drag out the transition, we felt it necessary to deprive it of the initiative it was exercising over the process. While we continued to pursue the removal of all the identified obstacles, we then started to prepare for an all-party conference, the central aim being to curb the monopoly of power of the apartheid regime itself, the real obstacle to the democratic transition. This tactical flexibility on our part, popularly known as the “strategic shift” laid the basis for the holding of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa I) in December 1991. The adoption, at that Convention, of the Declaration of Intent, committing virtually all political players to a democratic settlement based on internationally-accepted principles, was a historic landmark in the evolution of South Africa`s entire political life. By this time, too, we had started examining the actual meaning of the concept of interim government to supervise elections for a Constituent Assembly. This culminated much later in narrowing the mandate of such a transitional mechanism to areas specifically to do with normal political activity and the conduct of free and fair elections. In the same period, a wide variety of forces had come to realise that violence posed a serious threat to the process and that joint efforts were needed to eradicate it. In particular, the religious community initiated a process which led to the National Peace Convention and the adoption of the National Peace Accord. Debate will continue on the actual impact these structures made to contain political violence, as well as the approach underpinning the regime`s participation in them. Yet it can be said, without any shadow of doubt, that, to the extent that the NPC created a moral and structural basis for dealing with the violence; to the extent that it monitored incidents and identified the causes; and to the extent that its wealth of experience informed the electoral process as well as concrete proposals regarding the introduction of community policing, it was an important contribution to the transition, uniting a wide range of forces and expressing the sentiments of virtually all South Africans. In this context, it also became the forum through which the international community launched its observer missions. On our part, we actively took part in these structures to help protect the people. We also saw it as our task to harness community efforts to defend themselves. This was not made easy by the fact that the same forces responsible for the violence were at the centre of maintaining apartheid legality. Yet, in the overall, while there were many weaknesses of organisation, discipline, infiltration by state agents as well as minimal capacity on the part of communities, we can say that community self- defence, with the participation of many cadres of Umkhonto we Sizwe, combined with local political initiatives, was the cutting edge in preventing worse disaster. Both to strengthen forces of the oppressed and democratic forces, and to deny the regime fertile ground to pit these forces against one another, the ANC took the leading role in initiating the broad patriotic front. This reinforced earlier efforts to bring into the fold of democratic opposition the various bantustan and tri-cameral parties and to reinforce co- operation with hundreds of civil society formations. The basic platform for this initiative was the central demand for a sovereign Constituent Assembly and the steps required to reach that goal. The Broad Patriotic Front Conference in October 1991 as well as the strong working relations that developed both within and outside negotiations vindicated the correctness of this approach. Even in fora in which participants in apartheid structures constituted the majority, the regime and its allies found themselves isolated. In the period leading up to the Broad Patriotic Conference and immediately thereafter, it became clear to us that the leadership of some so-called liberation movements had either not done sufficient work among their members or failed to appreciate the strategies required to bring fundamental change to our country. This lack of leadership, coupled with the tendency to pander to populism, undermined our efforts to ensure that these forces play a significant role with us in the transition. The aim here is not to denigrate any self-professed patriotic organisation. Rather, it is to record the tragic fact that, as previous experience had shown, a blind pursuit of cheap popularity, has nothing to do with revolution. The April election results demonstrated in no uncertain terms that the masses themselves are able to distinguish between serious conduct of struggle and petty politicking. The lesson needs to be kept in mind especially in the current period when we have to contend with serious difficulties of governance and delivery, that the solution lies in involving the people through all stages of the process and honestly explaining to them the difficulties we face and the reasons behind some unpopular decisions we may have to take. This is the best antidote to attempts by opportunists of all hues to gain popularity on the basis of radical-sounding but impractical propositions. All these developments were taking place in a period in which the international community was redefining its own role with regard to our struggle. Proceeding from the decisions taken by Conference, the NEC consulted first and foremost the Front-line States and the OAU, to work out joint strategies aimed at ensuring a phased lifting of sanctions in accordance with progress in the negotiations process. As a result, at the Harare Commonwealth Summit of October 1991, and later at the United Nations and other fora, the ANC`s perspective was adopted; thus undermining attempts by the regime to weaken international opposition to the system of apartheid. Because of these initiatives and due to its own conduct, the ANC`s standing improved in all capitals of the world. It became accepted among all forces, including political and business, not only as a major player to be reckoned with, but also as the custodian of the democratic transition. It was in the context of this unfolding situation that the ANC and the democratic movement as a whole started to take both the strategic and tactical initiative. As recommended by Conference, the Negotiations Commission was constituted to plan and prepare for negotiations and conduct them in close consultation with the NEC, the Regions, branches and the broad patriotic forces. Comprised of senior and capable leaders of our organisation, and constantly seeking the mandate of the broader movement, the negotiating team acquitted itself well. And we should congratulate them for a job well-done. In time, the movement emerged as the driving force both of the content and form of negotiations. This naturally frightened the regime and other counter-revolutionary forces. The process collapsed at Codesa II, because these forces feared the advent of democracy; they were worried about the pace of change; and for the ruling National Party in particular, misled by their seemingly universal popularity at the instance of the whites-only referendum in March 1992. So confident were they of their fortunes that they calculated that they could delay the process that much longer, and in the intervening period, disorganise, weaken and discredit the ANC. By then, it had become clear to most South Africans that one of the regime`s main weapons in this regard was Low Intensity Conflict against black people, particularly in Natal and the PWV. With the Boipatong massacre, the ANC felt obliged to call off negotiations and call for decisive steps to deal with the violence and to secure a commitment from the regime to real democracy, a sovereign Constituent Assembly and definite time frames. With the advantage of hindsight, we can safely conclude that the regime`s behaviour in the first half of 1992 constituted its most serious strategic miscalculation, the beginning of a process which saw it permanently lose the tactical initiative. Comrade Chairperson and Delegates; Perhaps we should pause here and reflect in depth on four particular issues which affected the entire transition and still contain strategic relevance in the current situation. The first is the question of violence. Between January and June 1992, political violence had so intensified that 1,806 were killed and 2,931 were injured. The African National Congress had in 1990 already stated its view that this violence was organised and had deeper roots than the so-called “black-on-black” analysis churned out by the media and the regime`s spokespersons. Incontrovertible information now available to the public shows that indeed there was a network of senior members of the security services responsible for this. We are convinced that these actions had the backing of some leaders of the National Party; and that those who were not directly responsible, did, by omission, abet these crimes, hoping that this would weaken their main adversary, the ANC. In so far as Natal and the PWV are concerned, the earlier approach had been to bolster and build an alliance with the IFP against the ANC, and later, to blame both the ANC and the IFP and seek to make political capital out of it. Yet built into this strategy were many inherent contradictions. For a start, it undermined the economy and therefore generated wider opposition than the regime expected. As time went by, the involvement of the state became more and more obvious, thus further undermining its legitimacy. This Conference will need to reflect on this issue to the extent that it affects the security of democracy today. In some areas political violence still persists, though much reduced. This includes the ugly phenomenon of taxi violence which has also been linked to the counter-revolutionary strategy. It is no secret that much of the network responsible for this violence still exists, either burrowed in the nooks and crannies of the state apparatus or in private front companies. We will also need to take into account the fact that the extreme right-wing, both black and white, sought to use certain issues to mobilise a social base around themselves. In this regard, we should examine the question whether there are such issues which can still be used for reactionary mobilisation, depending on how we handle them. In Natal, particularly, a desperate struggle by elements within the IFP to maintain a power-base among traditional leaders as an extension of the party does pose a danger of an eruption. The challenge for us in this regard is to ensure that traditional leaders are themselves liberated to become non-partisan servants of the people. We should also, while meeting the commitment to international mediation, challenge the notion that any party anywhere in South Africa can arrogate to itself the status of being representative of any King or Kingdom. Our political initiatives should be combined with clear measures to ensure the dismantling of the counter-revolutionary network and firm law- enforcement. We should be firm on violence wherever it comes from. It is our responsibility as ANC to ensure that the people of KwaZulu-Natal, like those in other parts of our country, do not continue to live under tyranny. We should, at this juncture, reiterate our recognition of, and respect for, the institution of traditional leaders in all parts of our country. We should also emphasise, as many of these leaders would agree, that restoring this institution to its respected role does not mean that the right of citizens to determine their destiny or for communities to exercise democracy, should be subverted, simply because they happen to live in rural areas. The second major question pertains to the role of the international community. We refer to the issue of international mediation conscious of the fact that the international community has always held the view that it is here, within South Africa, where the repository of potential solutions to our problems reside. This has been our approach as well. It is in this context that, when negotiations broke down in 1992, we sought increased international involvement to help reinforce initiatives that South Africans themselves were engaged in. Assisted by the OAU, we managed to raise the profile of UN and other agencies within the country, particularly after the Security Council debate in July of that year. We should take this opportunity to thank the international community for the magnificent role they played in helping steer our transition. Without their scrupulous mechanisms of monitoring and bold pronouncements; without their wise counsel away from the public eye and without their material support; our transition would have been that much more difficult and costly. It was in recognition of the importance of their involvement, that Conference instructed us to organise a summit of anti-apartheid forces, which finally took place in February 1993. The decisions taken by representatives of the international community at that summit, pertaining to measures to help speed up the negotiations process, support for the election campaign and plans to assist the process of reconstruction and development contributed immensely to much of our current successes. Among other things, we also called for preparations to start for the post- sanctions era. In this regard, our experts also started to interact with relevant government departments on matters pertaining particularly to facilities offered by the IMF and negotiations for debt rescheduling. The third major area is the issue of the relationship between negotiations and mass mobilisation as well as the capacity of both ourselves and the regime to qualitatively shift the balance of forces. This arose particularly after the Boipatong massacre, and in the context of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy. Out of that campaign, we were not only able to secure our central demands as reflected in the Record of Understanding. We also managed to activate and thus strengthen our organisational structures, the Tri-partite alliance and relations with mass democratic structures. The supremacy of the ANC as the foremost political representative of the majority of South Africans was asserted beyond question. At the same time, we dare acknowledge that in these actions, we also learnt the need for tighter discipline and better assessment of situations to avoid errors of the Bisho type. As we proceeded to break the logjam, we had to more earnestly address the questions: if mass action helps to shift the balance of forces, to what extent; would our objective be to so shift this balance that we exact a negotiated surrender on the part of the regime; at what cost would this be achieved; and were there any alternatives? This inspired an open debate, continuing what had long been taking place within senior organs of the movement. Emerging from this was the Strategic Perspectives document on government of national unity, approach to the civil service and the issue of provinces in the transition. The ultimate product of this is Government as we have it today. It might be a moot point to debate whether these conclusions and decisions were based on a correct assessment of the strategic balance; or whether we are today reaping the whirlwind of a terrible misjudgement. Yes, we did make compromises. But there can be no gain-saying that the approach to use the negotiations process to capture beach-heads within the power equation; and then proceed to strengthen our forces from a new vantage point, helped speed up the process to the great achievements we celebrate today. The challenge we face, which we will reflect on later, is whether we are utilising the new positions we occupy effectively to bring about fundamental transformation. The fourth major area is the relationship between the ANC and the National Party. This arose particularly from the fact that we chose deliberately to resume negotiations with the NP government first, before multi-party discussions. Much speculation and accusations were also fuelled by the adoption of that Strategic Perspectives document. Our decision to proceed in this manner was premised on the understanding that the ANC and the NP government were the major players in the transition. This was because, on the one hand, the ANC was the premier liberation movement; and on the other, the NP was the administration in power. The two parties differed fundamentally on the basic questions facing the country. Yet, they had to co-operate to ensure implementation of decisions the NP government was forced to agree to in negotiations. The situation had to be handled in such a manner that we could tactfully persuade the leading forces within the NP that the transition was also in their interests; to assist them in appreciating the need to close a treacherous chapter in South Africa`s history. Transition with the minimum of disruption required their co-operation. This did not mean a submerging of the fundamental contradictions; but it helped pave the way for the final settlement. In broad terms, this principle helps to define the current relationship in the Government of National Unity. The situation has markedly changed, tempered by the electoral results, the fact that the ANC is the leading organisation in government and that we do not need a mediator to deal particularly with the various layers of the state machinery. We have, as before, to skilfully broaden and deepen the areas of consensus, which today include essential elements of the Reconstruction and Development Programme, and ensure that all parties, especially those in government, co-operate in the realisation of this programme. We should accept that it is the necessary thorny crown of leadership that, like a suitor, we have to patiently bring in line elements whose own sense of self-importance lies in making a relationship tempestuous. We have to understand the reasons behind this, at the same time as we challenge the false notion that the Government of National Unity arrangement is God- given, and therefore, that governance and investor confidence would collapse without the participation of forces other than the majority party. Comrade Chairperson and Delegates: When negotiations resumed in the multi-party negotiations forum, it was easier to streamline discussion and move with speed to the desired agreements. New forces had made their entry into the process, but they could not prevent speedy movement to the final objectives. Our basic aim was to move quickly to transitional mechanisms that would deprive the NP of the monopoly of power and secure free and fair elections. It was with this aim in mind that we approached the heinous murder of Chris Hani, outstanding leader of the ANC and General Secretary of the South African Communist Party. In channelling popular anger and managing what was a national crisis of great proportions, we sought to turn this tragic event into a platform to hasten movement to democracy. We hope that, by attaining an election date that became sacrosanct, we paid worthy tribute to this fallen hero. Within a few months, comprehensive agreements, including the interim constitution and structures to supervise elections, were reached. After years without legitimacy, the regime formally surrendered its legality as the tri-cameral parliament passed the transitional legislation and accepted the new centres of power in the Transitional Executive Council and related bodies. However, lurking in the background were the extreme right-wingers whose politics of desperation centred around crude maintenance of the status quo, racism, tribal chauvinism and violence. Their alliance, though representing a small fraction of society was made the more dangerous because it included elements in the state apparatus, bantustan power bases and, with some of them, potent issues to mobilise backward forces within society. Our approach to engage these forces helped weaken their cohesion and resolve. In so far as the white right is concerned, we persisted with discussions which culminated in compromises offering them a feeling of security and a constitutional channel to address their apprehensions. The more far-sighted among them do realise that it was not all in vain, and they are co-operating with us in search of a stable and prosperous future for all our people. We have already referred to the issue of international mediation as it affects the IFP. In so far as Ciskei and Bophuthatswana were concerned, the former could not sustain its resistance once the process gathered momentum; and the latter collapsed in shame at the instance of a popular uprising. In engaging these forces, we had also noted that prominent forces within the regime`s security establishment either hid behind the extreme right- wing or themselves engineered some of the disruptive actions. We can today reveal that, especially in the build-up to election day, we had to engage some of these elements and secure a commitment that they would act in defence of the process. We did so to save lives and secure our people`s right to a democratic election. It is fitting at this juncture, to single out our Elections Commission and related structures at regional and branch level for the splendid and professional manner in which they led the ANC`s campaign. When history is finally written, tribute will go to the unsung organiser who trudged the campaign trail to educate our people and prepare them for election day. Tribute will go above all to the people themselves who grasped the historic opportunity with both hands and braved the threats from all kinds of quarters. For, it is on those momentous days that the saying rung truer than ever before: that the people are their own liberators. The content of the ANC`s election campaign reflected our strategic objective of the political and social liberation of South African society. It set the tone for an inclusive approach to the task of nation-building and helped create the basis for the smooth post-elections transition. From the very beginning, we adopted an approach that underlined our serious intent and respect for the views of the mass of the people. We committed ourselves to concrete programmes, worked out professionally and based on the needs of the people. Thus we nipped in the bud any attempts by the parties of apartheid to fudge the issues. We were fully aware that we had established a yardstick by which the people would judge our performance in government. And we wish to reiterate today, that we remain true to those commitments; and we shall assert our authority wherever we are, in order to realise the objectives we articulated in the election campaign. As we stated on countless occasions then, we are mindful of the fact that this will take time and much effort. We are also aware that it will require maximum co-operation among all sectors of society. For this to happen, the people should know and understand what government is doing. The ANC and its allies have a crucial role in this regard, as part of our task to ensure that the process of deepening democracy, including reconstruction and development, is people-driven and people-centred. We have over the past months outlined in our discussion documents the initial assessment of the election results and their implications for nation-building and reconstruction. Suffice it to emphasise that our characterisation of ourselves as an organisation representing the oppressed people and other democrats was vindicated by the results. At the same time, serious weaknesses in a number of areas were exposed. One of them, whose significance transcends narrow interests of the ANC, is the extent to which particularly poorer sections of the Coloured and Indian communities found solace in the racist mobilisation of the National Party, and voted in a manner that demonstrated fear of their counter- parts among Africans. For a start, this demonstrated weaknesses in our message and organisation. It also brought out in sharp relief a reality that we barely wished to admit. In class terms, it is a tragedy that working people from these communities should respond with fear to the prospect of their brothers and sisters attaining equality. Like a predator at the smell of blood, the National Party latched onto this, and it continues to do so today, an exercise which can only widen the racial chasm. It is also a challenge to us that, while many whites recognised the legitimacy of the ANC and correctness of its positions, they chose to vote on the basis of racial sentiment. This therefore makes the challenge of deracialising South African society one of the most important campaigns we have to undertake. Our nation shall never truly come of its own, if the racial compartments apartheid has imposed on us, both in our way of thinking and physical areas of abode, are not eradicated. Much has been said about the reasons behind our defeat in KwaZulu-Natal. We are proud of the fact that, despite the security problems, over a million voters in this Province braved all odds to put their cross next to the ANC. Our support in the major urban areas was massive. It is not a secret that with better supervision and security, the outcome would have been markedly different. But it is doubtful whether we would have won a majority, given our weaknesses of organisation; problems of divergence of approaches among the leadership; and weak presence in the rural areas – all of which we were unable to rectify in time. These are some of the challenges that we will need to keep in mind as we move to Local Government elections. It is quite clear, without pre- empting discussion in the relevant commissions, that we should not allow any political provocation to distract us from our central message that, together, we should build a better life for all. This is even more crucial because many of the weaknesses in the implementation of our objectives arise from the absence of legitimate local government. We are the custodians of the RDP, and we have to ensure that those who know what the RDP is; why it is needed and how it should be implemented, are elected into local government. In this sense, the Local Government elections are a continuation of April 27, because there cannot be full democracy without democratic local government. Chairperson and Delegates; No doubt we shall be judged in these elections on the basis of how we perform now rather than simply on our message. It will therefore be crucial for Conference to apply its mind seriously to issues of governance, taking into account the background we have outlined in earlier parts of this report. In this respect, we need to avoid two extremes. The one is to conclude that we are merely in political office – weak, tied hand and foot by some terrible agreements that we reached in negotiations. This then leads to a tendency to pander to the resistance to change by the NP, IFP, DP and other parties and elements in the state machinery. The other extreme is to create the impression that we are all-powerful, ready to realise each and everyone of the programmes we would like to implement. This then leads to populist and ambitious pronouncements that have nothing to do with objective reality, only to retreat in embarrassment down the line. South Africa has undergone its most fundamental political transformation in centuries. But the socio-economic problems arising from colonial domination remain as stark as they were under apartheid. To refer to the 5-million unemployed, the 7-million without real housing and the millions who are illiterate, is to state the obvious yet daunting challenges.

What April 27 means is that we have attained crucial elements of political power: a new, interim constitution; a democratic parliament in which we have a convincing majority; dominance in the executive at national level and all but two provinces; and formal authority over state structures such as the army, police and intelligence services. Yet, pending its full transformation, and despite genuine pronouncements of loyalty, this state machinery is to all intents and purposes not representative of society and it is premised on previous values and norms.

While we have achieved support across the board for the RDP, we have to contend with rear-guard resistance from the parties of apartheid and white privilege, from influential elements within the civil service and the security establishment. In addition, the networks which ran Low Intensity Conflict continue to exist. These include agents infiltrated into the ANC and the rest of the democratic movement, universities, the media and other institutions.

Our socio-economic problems are compounded by the fact of the serious economic crisis, and that the funds to accelerate reconstruction and ensure economic growth are concentrated in a few white hands. Thus, we also face serious problems regarding attempts to discourage new entrants and foreign investors because the cartels over-charging society fear competition. We also have to deal with tax evasion and issues of competitiveness of our industries and productivity of our work-force.

Within government, the litany of corruption, self-enrichment, and a lop- sided skills base within departments is only now coming to the open, exposing the decay of an NP edifice that presented itself as efficient; as well as the rampant pillaging of public funds in the last days of apartheid rule. Combined with the level of crime, our society became one in which the dividing line between the legal and the illegal had become blurred. Added to this is the non-payment for services which was directed against illegitimate local government structures.

This is the mess of apartheid we have inherited. Yet, as we have stated on countless occasions, to lament over it does not help eradicate it. We must all get down to work to build a better life for all.

The central challenge as we got into government in May 1994, was how to ensure a smooth transition, given the balance of forces we have referred to above; and how to do this in such a way that we do not postpone change. Above everything else, we relied on support among the people, the legitimacy of the new structures locally and internationally, and the fact that our moral appeal went far beyond our support-base.

The approach to reconciliation and nation-building was, and still is, premised on the need to harness the goodwill of all society behind the new tasks. Reconstruction and development cannot be realised in any meaningful way without peace and stability. Thus it was crucial that we deny the counter-revolutionary forces the platform from which to mobilise openly against the new government. In other words, reconstruction and reconciliation are not separate programmes directed variously at specific racial groups. They are mutually-reinforcing tasks in the national effort to change South African society for the better.

It is, in the main, a measure of the political maturity of the ANC that we have had a relatively smooth transition. Perhaps because of this, we tend to take this achievement for granted; to wonder whether it was and is an exercise in “pandering to white fears” as some would describe it.

This approach created favourable conditions to start implementing the RDP; not to supplant it. On the basis of the policies that we had already adopted at numerous policy conferences, we proceeded to work on concrete plans, taking into account the realities that we found within government, as well as the inputs, especially of the NP and IFP – to the extent that such contributions did not contradict our fundamental approach. Among these realities was a budget already worked out by the previous administration, with minimum consultation.

It is thanks to the creativity of our ministers and the co-operation of the others that we were able, in a short period, to introduce changes that released funds for the launch of the RDP. The central aim was to ensure that we start re-orienting government expenditure to bring it in line with the new objectives. Preparations now under way for next year`s budget have already yielded many good decisions to achieve this aim.

From time to time, our reference to fiscal discipline, macro-economic stability and economic growth tend to irritate those justifiably impatient about change. Yet these are neither luxuries nor requirements foreign to the ANC`s own policies. Sheer logic tells us that our programme cannot be carried out in a sustainable way without a rational utilisation of the resources at our disposal.

The constraints imposed on us by the reality of an over-taxed society, arising from the regime`s efforts to mobilise funds for the defence of apartheid, are real. Neither can we rely on hand-outs from donors or on increasing government debt. Rather, we must operate within our means as we rearrange government spending and create optimum conditions for economic growth. In other words, for us, fiscal discipline means a responsible, sustainable and transparent usage of people`s resources by a people`s government. Further, basing ourselves on experiences throughout the developing world, our approach to donor funds is to seek to integrate them into our own programmes.

The tendency for ruling parties is to claim success for each and every step they have taken in government. Let us be honest and say that we would have been satisfied if more people could concretely feel the impact of social change. Let us be sincere and admit that perhaps the planning and introduction of necessary legislation took longer than the situation demanded.

Yet inherent to our approach to changing society is that we should ensure broad consultation. The more thorough the planning process, the better would be the final product; the less likely for us to commit fundamental errors; and the more lasting the changes. Ours is not a programme of quick hand-outs; but one for serious and lasting transformation.

It is in this context that we should be proud of the progress made in finalising policy decisions on reconstruction and development, including programmes such as urban and rural renewal, education, housing, health, land reform, labour relations, broad economic policy, intelligence matters and other areas. This includes the pending launch of the National Economic, Development and Labour Council which will lay the basis for joint strategies between government, labour and business and a social understanding around transformation. This is besides the opening up of our society and public institutions to a new culture of openness and adherence to basic human rights principles.

Throughout the country, as a result of the new health programme for children under the age of six and pregnant mothers and the school nutrition scheme, people most in need are starting to feel the real meaning of change. In a number of areas, the projects on housing and infrastructure, land restitution and resettlement, electrification, water supply and so on have been launched.

Needless to say, visible change will need to be the prime feature of government operations next year. This will have to be within the context of a clear industrial strategy to expand our economic base and provide jobs.

To succeed, we must transform the state itself into a more effective driving force of change. Reducing the budget deficit and eliminating wasteful expenditure are among our prime objectives. So are the steps that we have taken to tighten the belts of public officials and reprioritise expenditure. We are also assessing all state assets to determine how they can be used more efficiently to facilitate reconstruction and development. For us, the question whether to expand state involvement or to privatise or sell some of the assets and enterprises depends not on ideological imperatives, but on the balance of economic necessity.

The ANC will continue to urge that the belt-tightening measures and steps to narrow the wage gap which government has undertaken, is an example that should be followed by the private sector.

Restructuring of the state also means, more than anything else, transforming the public service into a representative, equitable and efficient arm of the government. The need for such change is acknowledged by all and sundry.

All ministers who have earnestly started changing their departments have, without exception, complained of the slow manner in which these matters are being handled. Conference will need to come up with solutions to this problem, including the possibility of legislative measures, within the constraints set out in the interim constitution.

In so far as the army and the police are concerned, we will all agree that urgent steps are required to firm up civilian control of these institutions. Progress has already been made in preparation for this.

There is no doubt that, had this been in place, the problems that beset the integration process would have been minimised. Though these problems are essentially resolved, Conference needs to examine the reasons for the weaknesses that played themselves out with regard to the behaviour of some cadres of the people`s army, Umkhonto we Sizwe. We also need to look at ways in which we can, as ANC, pre-empt any such problems in the future, including, addressing the blockages to the process of transformation.

The implementation of the plans to transform the police service will go a long way towards establishing community policing. Especially at local level, where the police interact with communities, the ANC should be in the forefront of building police-community forums and combating crime.

Immediate problems in the area of education need our special attention. Government has planned to start phasing in free and compulsory education from Grade I next year. How does the ANC mobilise communities, including the religious groups and business, to help implement this measure and prevent any possible disruptions? How do we mobilise for joint efforts to handle the problem of this year`s matriculants, particularly those who may not pass? This again is a matter that Conference should address, with the intention of launching a broad-based campaign, to work with government in dealing with the education crisis we have inherited.

The problem of corruption within the public and private sectors as well as non-payment for services, which we referred to earlier on, relate intimately to the question of proper governance and the nation`s morality. Apartheid nurtured the very opposite. We need to launch a campaign to set the country on a new moral footing; normalise governance especially at local level; ensure delivery of services and that people develop a culture to pay for such services. Such a campaign should involve all social sectors. In particular, the active participation of the religious community in this regard will be crucial.

The implementation of people-centred governance is a task that equally faces the Provinces. And it should be underlined that, despite explicable delays in the granting of powers due to them, Provincial Governments have taken the initiative to tackle many problems, effect plans of central government and initiate programmes on the ground. The impact of ANC leadership has also been felt in Provinces not under ANC-led administrations.

Yet we need to reflect on how the provinces handle matters of governance without undermining the unity and integrity of the country and the ANC itself. We have to approach this challenge conscious of the fact that we do not unwittingly promote the interests of those whose aim has always been to balkanise the country along ethnic and racial lines. Related to this is the question of inter-provincial relations, particularly between governments which are in fact led by the ANC.

The transformation that South Africa is going through has been aptly captured by the vibrant debates and decisions emerging from our legislatures and the Constitutional Assembly.

The ANC has been at the head of this process, including tabling proposals on the transformation of these institutions to make them more accessible to the people and open to the public. However, have we been effective in using these institutions to promote reconstruction and development? This certainly requires thorough planning and strategic interventions.

In so far as the Constitutional Assembly is concerned, we should emphasise that the drafting of the new constitution offers all of us a new historic opportunity, after the democratic elections, to shape our country`s future. Conference will need to give the necessary broad mandate on our approach in this institution, taking into account our strategic objective of democratic majority rule. On this perspective there cannot be any compromise. We should also identify the issues around which we are likely to achieve consensus and consider the question of possible alliances in case of need.

Above all, we should educate and mobilise the people to contribute to the ANC`s own positions and participate as fully as possible in the process of drafting the new constitution.

Comrade Chairperson and Delegates;

These are matters that affect the ANC wherever its cadres may be deployed, both within and outside government. In the same vein, the question of building a strong ANC affects all of us.

The Secretary-General will go into detail on the steps taken over the past three years to build the organisation and ensure the massive support and confidence that the people have shown in the ANC. Among the lessons that we have learnt, which will always stand us in good stead, is that we were able to carry out this task effectively when and where we had identified campaigns around which to mobilise the people.

Over this period we intensified the task of building a pool of skilled cadres at the same time as we prepared for governance. Our Policy Conference in May 1992 set the stage for an unprecedented process of consultation with the Tri-partite Allies, democratic sectoral organisations, business, experts and others in a protracted campaign to finalise what was adopted as the RDP in January of this year. Yet it was our interaction with the mass of the people, through People`s Forums and other platforms, which gave real life to the content of the programme.

Many of the cadres who were upgraded in this period are today to be found at various levels in the state. But compared to the actual demand, this programme was woefully inadequate. The challenge therefore remains.

At this juncture, we should congratulate the former cadres of Umkhonto we Sizwe and our Intelligence and Security Services who are now entering non-partisan service in government. We are confident that they will acquit themselves in this new role with even more commitment and distinction.

A number of broader questions are on the agenda of Conference: the character of the ANC now that it is also in government; whether we have in our ranks the cross-section of the working people and other sectors of society; and how we build an expanding pool of cadres grounded in the policies and traditions of the ANC. We do face a danger that many ruling parties have experienced: that the organisation could turn into a mere conveyer-belt of government decisions or, on the other hand, a force steeped in a resistance mode. Similarly, without a clear organisational strategy and cadre policy, we could end up attracting to our ranks merely those who seek careers in government.

One of the most spirited discussions at the last Conference was on visible and effective measures to ensure that women are accorded their deserved recognition at all levels, as part of a programme to bring about gender equality within the ANC and the rest of society. Both in our programme for social transformation and in the manner in which we constituted our new parliament, the ANC has made giant strides in this regard. This Conference should take this process forward, precisely because the inequalities of the past remain.

Similar consideration should be given to the conditions of the majority our youth, suppressed and denied opportunities by apartheid. Now that we are in power, we have tremendous possibilities to tackle these problems through governmental programmes and institutions. But this will only bear fruit if the ANC Youth and Women`s Leagues play their leadership role within these sectors of society.

Related to this is the issue of affirmative action, which, as we have stated on countless occasions, should benefit all those who were denied rights under apartheid: African, Coloured, Indian, women of all races, the disabled, the rural masses and so on.

What is needed is a practical programme to bring about equity for the mass of the people, not just resolutions and representation in leadership structures, important as these may be.

The financial state of our organisation is a matter of serious concern. This is one of the most important problems that Conference needs to address: it impacts on our very survival; it is a reflection of our state of organisation; it touches on the very issue of our capacity to mobilise the people to become masters of their own destiny. The Treasurer-General`s report will outline this in detail; reflecting, among other things, that, unlike before, we cannot rely mainly on international solidarity; that we have to be more creative at the same time as we eliminate any wastage and lack of financial discipline both at HQ and in the Regions.

Having defined our character and role as the ANC, we will also have to express ourselves clearly on what our strategic allies should be; what broad formations we should initiate or strengthen; and how we continually keep in touch with the people and their sectoral organisations.

Broadly-speaking, the basic motivation behind the Tri-partite Alliance with the South African Communist Party and COSATU remains, in that we still have to realise the objectives of thorough-going democracy and social transformation. This Alliance, the cutting edge in the struggle against apartheid, should be strengthened as we embark on reconstruction and development. But what forms it takes; whether it should be expanded to include, for instance, the civics movement, and many other questions are issues that Conference should decide.

Never before has the ANC had to address such crucial questions about itself. Seldom before, have we experienced such dislocation as in the few months after the elections. In this regard, we should be self-critical about the manner in which we conducted ourselves in this period. Ours was not a planned entry into government. Except for the highest echelons, we did not have a plan for the deployment of cadres. We were disorganised, and behaved in a manner that could have endangered the revolution.

It will therefore be crucial that delegates apply their minds seriously to all the organisational questions, conscious of the fact that the decisions we take will impact on the future of the organisation for decades to come.

In this regard, we should also examine the role that the ANC needs to play within the ranks of democratic forces across the globe. If in the past, we related to these forces with the primary aim of ensuring support for our struggle, we now need to strengthen our direct contribution to the international efforts to build an equitable, just and prosperous world. How we define this world, our tasks, and alliances that need to be built or strengthened are crucial questions of more than just passing importance.

We need to strengthen the ANC`s relations with sister organisations in southern Africa. Further afield, we cannot be found wanting in expressing our solidarity with friends in need in other parts of the world, including the people of Cuba, East Timor, Palestine and elsewhere. Everywhere across the globe, the flame of hope for dignity, human rights, national self-determination and prosperity burns in the hearts especially of those denied these rights. The ANC should always extend its hand to them, on the basis of our morality and the fact that we were ourselves prime beneficiaries of such human compassion. In this regard, and within the limits of our capacity, we have a commitment particularly to our brothers and sisters in Africa.

Comrade Chairperson and Delegates;

It is quite clear from the nature of the issues that this Conference has to address that we have entered a new and historic period. Such is the nature of victory that it poses new and more difficult challenges. The draft Strategy and Tactics document identifies these challenges; and we hope it will lay the basis for productive discussion.

83 years ago, here in Bloemfontein, pioneers braved uncharted waters driven by a noble ideal. Much in their vision has been achieved; but much more remains to be done. In a sense, the challenge we face is to surpass their foresight and creativity as we complete the mission that they bequeathed us.

In as much as we succeeded in mobilising the people for the victory we have scored; we have today the responsibility to mobilise them to become active participants in improving their quality of life; in defending and advancing our newly-won democracy. We have to inculcate among all our people the culture of taking responsibility for the task of reconstruction and development. Neither Government nor the ANC alone can realise these plans.

As delegates, we carry on our shoulders the responsibility of not only meeting the expectations of our members; but also of ensuring that the ANC emerges from here, reinforced to give leadership to the nation as a whole. This we can do effectively only if we are united around a clear vision – a vision that guides all of us wherever we are: within and outside government. We are one ANC; and we should carry out our historic mission as such.

Personally, I wish to thank all of you: members of the NEC, regional and branch leaders, members of the ANC and its allies and the millions the ANC represents, for the support you have given us in these turbulent and challenging times. I remember the past three years with fond memories and look to the future with confidence.

Amandla! Matla!