Issue No. 51
President Mandela's Last State of the Nation Address
11 February 1999
An Account and a Tribute
“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”. These were the words of Nelson Mandela when he was standing in the dock at the Rivonia Trial, in the face of a possible death sentence or life imprisonment.
And these were the words of his long-time friend and comrade, former ANC President, Oliver Tambo: “that Mandela is imprisoned not for his personal defiance of apartheid law but because he asserted the claims of a whole people living and dying under the most brutal system of race rule the world knows.”
Before that, the late Tambo said of Nelson Mandela: ” His inspiration lives on in the heart of every African patriot. He is the symbol of the self-sacrificing leadership our struggle has thrown up and our people need. He is unrelenting, yet capable of flexibility and delicate judgment. He is an outstanding individual.
President Nelson Mandela – The Person
- Nelson Mandela has never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality and learning. Despite terrible provocation, he has never answered racism with racism. His life has been an inspiration, in South Africa and throughout the world, to all who are oppressed and deprived, to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation.
- To millions of people around the world, Nelson Mandela stands, as no other living figure does, for the triumph of dignity and hope over despair and hatred, of self-discipline and love over persecution and evil.
- Nelson Mandela is one of the great moral and political leaders of our time: an international hero whose lifelong dedication to the fight against racial oppression in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency of his country in 1994. Since his triumphant release in 1990 from more than a quarter-century of imprisonment, Mandela has been at the centre of the most compelling and inspiring political drama in the world.
- As president of the African National Congress and head of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, he was instrumental in moving the nation toward multiracial government and majority rule. He is revered everywhere as a vital force in the fight for human rights and racial equality
- His life story is an epic of struggle, setback, renewed hope, and ultimate triumph, which has, until now, been virtually unknown to most of the world.
His Achievements as the President of the first Democratic and Unitary South Africa
- It is through the selfless, self-sacrificial and devoted efforts of Mandela, and others like him in the ANC, that today the notions of equality, the right to vote in free and fair elections and freedom of speech, many of us take for granted.
- In 1994, some 30 per cent of South Africans lacked access to a safe supply of water near their homes. Today, after three million people have benefited from the government’s water supply programme, that has been reduced to 20 per cent.
- In 1994, less than 40 per cent of South African households had electricity. Today, after more than 2 million connections, 63 per cent of households are connected to the electricity grid.
- In 1994, about a quarter of homes had telephones. Today, after 1.3-million have been connected, 35 per cent are linked to the telephone system.
- This means that every day on average, since 1994, has meant another 1300 homes electrified; another 750 telephones installed; and another 1700 people gaining access to clean water. Every day!
- With the primary school nutrition programme reaching over 5-million children and the benefit of free health care, millions of children are growing healthy and unstunted.
- Within the framework of our Integrated National Disability Strategy, today we have a government whose concern for the needs of the disabled is unprecedented in the history of South Africa.
- The words of Ms Gladys Nzilane of Evaton who received keys to her new house last year ring true from the heart: “I hear people on radio and television saying the government has failed; but I do not believe that… [This government] has given us life”. In this, she was echoing the feelings of millions, including Mama Lenah Ntsweni of Mpumalanga who was the 3-millionth person to receive safe and accessible water a few weeks ago.
Jobs, Houses, Education and Crime – ANC 1994 Election Manifesto Promises
- Under the careful and capable management of the people’s President, the Government hosted a highly successful Jobs Summit, from which new initiatives have emerged, in a splendid partnership between business and government, to start major projects that will employ, house and empower poor people.
- President Mandela took an unprecedented pay-cut in 1994, after insisting that he be paid less than the previous presidents. Still, this year he pledges to give a full day’s salary to an initiative of the trade union movement meant to create jobs for the unemployed. He committed his entire Government to follow suit. The ANC in Parliament followed his lead as well.
- The business community set out to raise more than R1 billion for special projects in tourism and skills development. This will take tourism beyond the impressive 8.2 per cent of Gross Domestic Product that it has already achieved, to create hundreds of thousands of jobs. A prime example of Government and its social partners co-operate around a necessary common agenda. Every group in the country want to contribute to transformation, development and empowerment, except the erosion-prone NP and DP
- The ANC Government set a target of one million houses in 1994. We have succeeded in delivering 15 000 houses every month
- The construction of sports facilities reached new levels in 1998 and the establishment of Community Arts Centres exceeded the target.
- New ways of facilitating land restitution and redistribution are being implemented
- The Adult Basic Education and Training Programme has reached more people than was originally planned
- In the area of welfare, after the pain of restructuring, the reach and the efficiency of delivery has improved. In this Department alone, and due to the tough stance of the President and the Government on corruption, R350million is being saved a year by better management and eliminating corruption
- During this Year of Older Persons, Government has once again announced an increase in old age pensions and the disability grant, for the third time in less than a year
- Under the sterling leadership of President Mandela, many of those who received their education under trees or in dilapidated buildings have benefited from the R1billion spent on the construction or renovation of 10 000 classrooms. He ensured that the doors of all public schools are open, the higher education assistance scheme is reaching more students and the Matric results are improving
- The NP and the DP, have for the past five years continuously tried to run the country down. They have used crime and the economy as their tools of destruction. But they have not been honest, making selective use of statistics, to try and keep investment and tourists away. The Government has turned the tide against crime. Murder has declined by 10 per cent since 1994
- Tough laws have been passed to narrow the space for criminals, like legislation on crime syndicates, as well as minimum sentences and conditions for the granting of bail. A detective academy has been set up, and the skills gathered here are starting to be felt in dealing with crime syndicates
- Major steps have been taken to deploy police where they are needed most. Everywhere, except in the Western Cape, where the protection of affluent historically white suburbs, where crime is relatively low, still takes precedence over the protection of townships, where crime is rife
- On the economic scene, local and foreign fixed investments are on the rise, exports are increasing and our economy is becoming more competitive
- Telecommunications and tourism are growing at an impressive rate, road construction and Spatial Development Initiatives are expanding the economic base of regions that were ignored in the past and public works programmes have created hundreds of thousands of jobs
- One of the most significant achievements of Government is the Poverty Relief Programme that now runs into billions of rands
What does the future hold – the Legacy of a Legend
- Long after his retiring as President, the effects of Mandela’s magic touch will still be felt. There will be a dramatic expansion of the existing R5 billion government package of labour intensive programmes such as Working for Water, Land Care, Municipal Infrastructure and selected Welfare projects
- One major project on housing has already started, where public and private funds will be pooled to start a process that will speed up housing delivery at the same time as it creates jobs. The Umsobomvu Trust, which will be worth over a billion rand, and which is aimed at creating jobs, learnerships and business opportunities among the youth is another concrete upliftment project
- For decades to come workers will still benefit from the ANC Government’s regulation of the labour market. We now have some of the most progressive labour laws in the world, such as the Labour Relations, Basic Conditions of Employment, Employment Equity and Skills Development Acts
- President Mandela has left no stone unturned, no option unexplored and no road untravelled in his quest to uproot and eradicate corruption in both the public and private sectors. The Public Protector, the Heath Commission, the Auditor-General and the Office for Serious Economic Offences are a few of the measures Mandela’s Government has introduced to fight corruption
- A Public Sector Anti-corruption Summit was held last November. A National Summit will be held in March. This will be informed by the decisions of the Religious Morals Summit and the Public Sector Conference, where all sectors of society, including business and the trade union movement, will present concrete proposals to deal with corruption in a visible and meaningful way. The Public Service Bargaining Chamber has agreed to draft new disciplinary mechanisms to facilitate dealing with cases of corruption, mismanagement and incompetence in the Public Service
- Youth organisations have started to play a more visible role in initiatives such as the Jobs Summit and community service. They will have an increasingly powerful role to play in the critical campaign against HIV/AIDS. The Government’s crusade against AIDS can only be successful if youth participate, initiate and sustain concrete, visible and viable programmes in the campaign against HIV/AIDS
Tribute to a Great Leader
- It is near-impossible to brand this legend people came to know as President Mandela. His first name could be interpreted, prophetically, as “troublemaker”. Time magazine said of him: “perhaps the most generally admired figure of our age…”. His people call him Madiba
- Philosophers and some of our time’s best writers call him Mandela the Great
- In his own words his leadership finds expression in his modesty: “I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.”
- It was the patience, wisdom and visionary quality President Mandela brought to the struggle, and above all the moral integrity with which he set about to unify a divided people, resulted in the country’s first democratic elections and his selection as President.
- A great philosopher once said: when one man is in chains, the entire nation is enslaved. Mandela proved, through his own example, that faith, hope and charity are qualities attainable by humanity as a whole. Through his willingness to walk the road of sacrifice, he has reaffirmed our common potential to move toward a new age
- ANC President and South African President-in-waiting, Thabo Mbeki, said of Nelson Mandela in 1994: “We all see ourselves reflected in his glory. A glory that arises in his humility, his sense of forgiveness.”